2019 Year In Review
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Kyle Gray: (00:37)
Hello, and welcome to The Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray. Today we’re going to look back at 2019, or I guess I’m going to look back at my 2019 and reflect on some of the big wins that have happened, some of the biggest lessons I learned, what I did working in my business and working on myself that has led to some fresh results. I want to explore a few failures, and I want to explore some of my favorite moments from the podcast over the last year, and maybe even a little bit beyond that. I’ll share a couple of my favorite clips, and then I’m going to share with you what I’m planning for 2020, what I’m excited about, and a few exciting opportunities that we have to work together, in 2020.
Kyle Gray: (01:28)
All right, let’s get started. 2019 has been a phenomenal year for me. I’ve been challenging myself in a lot of new ways. I have had a lot of new opportunities, and it feels like a lot of laying the bricks, the little bits of work that have been adding up over time are finally adding up and producing excellent results. Something very exciting. I’ve taken a holistic approach this year. I’ve wanted to take care of myself and my health, and I wanted to make sure I was building a business that was fun and exciting and freeing. And while focusing on these, you might think that that would lower my margins or income opportunities, but it seems like it’s helped explode it.
Kyle Gray: (02:21)
I was doing my books this morning, and I discovered that my business income had nearly doubled this year, it went up to 78%. It’s funny, I know things are much better in business, and I feel a lot better. Still, when you’re always reinvesting your income and making sure that all of the bills get paid on time, it’s kind of hard to notice the growth that has happened until you look back and really take a full glance of the year and so it was exhilarating to see.
Kyle Gray: (02:52)
I think some of the significant results of this growth in revenue this year have been getting new team members. I talk a lot about my team members in Three Things I Had To Let Go Of To Grow. I had to let go of this year, and so if you want to learn a little bit more about kind of my process of delegating even things that I was good at to grow more, check that one out. Another huge victory this year is finding an excellent niche. I’ve been focusing my efforts a lot in the functional medicine space. It’s transformed me personally. I’ve benefited a lot from a few functional medicine practitioners that have been able to help me with health issues that few people seem to have answers for otherwise, and it’s a niche that works well for me.
Kyle Gray: (03:53)
A lot of the skills that I have can help them sell more of their products, and so I’ve been focusing a lot on this, getting excellent speaking gigs in front of just the right audience. It makes such a big difference when you have clarity like, “Hey, I want to work specifically with these people. Where can I find them?” It’s hard, because for a long time, I’ve been more of a general marketer, or I help startups or small businesses, and there’s a lot of different kinds of small businesses. As soon as you can kind of hone in on that niche, opportunities start to open up, and it makes it so much easier to focus. But, it’s not only been a factor of finding the right niche and bringing on new team members, but I think there’s been a great deal of inner work on, not just on my health, but on my mindset.
Kyle Gray: (04:47)
One of the things that I’ve added this year, you might’ve heard it mentioned once or twice on the podcast already, but doing breathwork, I’ve done Wim Hof breathing, and it’s just a fantastic way to energize yourself. You shift how you feel, how not only inside your body but also mentally. I’ve gone from being super-tired after a long flight and not wanting to do anything to be able to, “Okay, I can work a little bit through the day.” Or having a morning where you’re just not feeling inspired and creative to feeling excited for the day, feeling a lot of energy, getting yourself up. It’s a fantastic experience, and I recommend you check that out. Thanks and a shout out to Jeremy Ginsburg, who taught me that and tons of different inner game work and things that I could do just to shift my energy.
Kyle Gray: (05:50)
I think it’s easy, as an entrepreneur, and maybe a lot of us feel this way to get caught up in negative energy. Possibly something weird will happen, and it’ll set us off for the whole day, or perhaps just how we interpret a situation or the things we’re afraid of or anxious about really can limit the opportunities we see. And there are lots of little ways that you can catch yourself doing that, shift your focus to something a little more positive, a little bit higher frequency and change how you feel in your body and what you can do and where you focus. Just learning how to make these small adjustments has helped me go from being anxious and beating myself up all the time to embodying myself and who I am. And being proud of me and not anything else that anybody expects me to be.
Kyle Gray: (06:50)
And again, it’s led to growth, which is incredible. I have also had the opportunity to coach hundreds of different entrepreneurs and health coaches this year. I was working with a couple of various great programs and workshops. Some of them met physically in person, and some of them were online. I’ve been coaching hundreds and hundreds of health and wellness entrepreneurs. Topics have included: how to write better ads, how to tell your story effectively, or how to get results for people with a straightforward narrative. It’s been a fantastic exercise in my creativity to see the different angles and all of the different approaches. Everybody has a slightly different story or plan to what they’re doing, and you’ve always got to find that unique angle for people. So getting to consistently flex that muscle has helped to refine my marketing coaching, speaking, and storytelling coaching. This is also bittersweet in its way. I was experiencing a lot of growth over this last year, and some of these programs started to take time, energy, and focus away from my own business. And a lot of times I’ve had to choose between do I want a consistent, reliable income, and be in a place where I can learn and grow? For a long time, that’s been a priority. But this year, due to the growth of my business, I felt it no longer served me. I had to step away from other companies to commit my business and my team fully.
Kyle Gray: (08:49)
It’s so exciting, and it’s so thrilling. It seems like such a simple piece of advice that you can say over a podcast. Still, it takes years of work. Personal work and niching down to figure out how to explain yourself. Not to mention to develop a valuable skill that makes an impact on the world. A lot of these gigs I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed the communities. I enjoyed the people I worked with a lot, but there came a time where you want to focus on your own business and give your all to it.
Kyle Gray: (09:23)
One of my favorite things to announce is, I’ve returned to traveling. I’ve been able to travel more. Now, there’s been a lot of work travel going to speaking gigs and workshops and whatnot, but the travel that I am excited to share with you is my personal travel. I spent a lot of time in Europe this year. I got to spend a few weeks in Switzerland. I got to hone my Portuguese or maybe not hone; I don’t know. I used to live in Brazil 10 years ago and worked for an airline out there, and I haven’t had a lot of practice since then, so it was stimulating to be able to use some of those words and that vocabulary and that language again.
Kyle Gray: (10:15)
And travel, for me, is where it all started. I remember living in South America and Argentina, and for the first time, hearing about people who had laptops and were traveling in the world, growing their businesses and doing fun and creative things. It inspired me and changed the course of what I look for in my life. I spent a lot of time traveling at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, working location-independent for a startup, which was where I got a lot of my content marketing skills and developed those, and I was living in Thailand. And let me tell you, trying to assimilate into Asian culture and trying to figure out how to do remote work at the same time. That was an adventure.
But it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to travel a lot. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of money or ability to travel without a business justification on it for the last couple of years. So to be able to go on more of a vacation or more of something personally introspective and fun is exciting and fun.
Kyle Gray: (11:27)
Okay. So, we’ve gotten a lot of wins on the board. That’s great, but it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. There is a particularly big fail this year that taught me a lot of good lessons, and that was the Selling With Story launch. Now, a lot of brilliant people are trying to convince me to change my perspective on this and see it as a victory or see the opportunities within it, and it’s probably true. They’re probably right, and I’m hoping to get there soon. But for now, I think it was a fail. I go into this pretty in-depth in another episode, which I’ll link to in the show notes, called Lessons From the Worst Typo of My Life. Still, long story short, the first five of six weeks of my book launch were by an Amazon technical glitch that made my book almost unfindable and anybody who wanted to find it very, very confused. I’ve got to say that I think the failure started a little bit before even the technical glitch happened.
Kyle Gray: (12:33)
I had grown very impatient with this book, which was not the right place to be in, especially around a book launch time. While my other books had taken me a couple of months to write, this one had taken me over a year and a half, so when the launch came around, I was pretty excited to get it out. I underestimated the work that would be necessary to create a good launch and a good launch experience, and I don’t think I entirely went about it the right way this time in getting the copies out to early readers. Ultimately, I didn’t spend enough time building up buzz for it to be as successful as it probably deserves to be. But it is true; a not-so-great launch does not mean a failure of a book. I do think it is an excellent book and will be working through 2020 to continue to share it and continue to share its message because it aligns with everything I’m doing, and I care about today.
Kyle Gray: (13:37)
Let’s talk about the podcast. The podcast has been a tremendous amount of fun and a way for me to connect with impressive and amazing people. I can’t even believe it, but in this year and a half of Story Engine Podcast, we have developed a massive amount of content. I spent some time looking back over some of my favorite episodes and looking at the numbers to see what you, the listeners, particularly loved. So, let’s start with the audience’s favorite, which is Design Hacking Funnels by Kathryn Jones. This is Episode 2 of the podcast and for a good reason. Kathryn Jones was one of the first people I wanted to interview. She’s a fantastic presenter, very, very smart and makes things like design feel very simple and very achievable. And she’s helped a tremendous amount of people. She also has an amazing YouTube channel that I get so jealous of every time I look at it because I’m like, “Ah, that’s so well done.” Those videos are amazing, so check her out. Here is a clip from Design Hacking Funnels.
Kathryn Jones: (14:53)
It’s like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, if it’s a good enough product, it will be fine.” But all these recent studies are showing that if your page does not have exceptional design, and that goes for anything from the structure of the page to words, fonts, images, colors, elements, whether that’s hyperlinks, buttons, spacing then it doesn’t matter. People won’t even stay on your page long enough to figure it out. So many of these people, when they came to me with their businesses to help automate, they’d asked me to help, and literally, it was almost always a design issue. I said, “You’re never going to be able to automate your sales because no one’s going to be staying on your page long enough even to see what you’re doing here.” So it was fascinating. That was primarily my work. It was helping these people to automate their sales by redesigning how they presented their information.
Kyle Gray: (15:54)
All right. Now onto the next top podcast episode, the most personally impactful to me. Now, it wasn’t exclusively because of this podcast episode or this interview, but the person that I interviewed has had a tremendous impact on my life over the last couple of years. His name is Pat Quinn, and his episode is called Secrets to Being a Better Speaker. I had the pleasure of working with Pat Quinn at the Advance Your Reach Signature Talk Execution Workshops in Milwaukee almost once a month over the year of 2019. He has a tremendous amount of information to share, and at every time I was at one of these workshops, he said something new, different, unique, and perfectly tailored to whoever was in the audience at the time. Seeing this and getting to chat with him has been one of the most significant impacts on my business and my personal life over 2019. It’s not going to take long for you to recognize his brilliance either, so let me share with you one of Pat Quinn’s intimate secrets from a clip from the episode.
Pat Quinn: (17:13)
The human brain doesn’t do anything that it doesn’t rehearse ahead of time. Get the audience rehearsing this engagement up early in your presentation is going to make them so much more likely to act at the end of your performance. On the other hand, if you don’t talk about what you do after the fact at all for the first 75% of your presentation, then you make the pivot and say, “Let me tell you about some ways that I help people,” the human brain switches. Now instead of trusting you, believing you and taking notes on what you do to help people, they’re listing with a skeptical brain, a non-believing brain, then they’re raising their objection. This can be as simple as referring to yourself by your first name in conversation. A couple of times in every presentation, you should say, “Hey, people come up to me all the time and ask, ‘Pat, what’s the best way to begin your presentation?’ and my answer is a story. Let me teach you how to tell that story. Content, content, content, content.”
Pat Quinn: (18:14)
What did I do there? I referred to myself by my first name in conversation and said, “People come to me and say, ‘Pat, what do we do about this?'” Or, “I was taking my garbage cans down to the end of the street the other day, and the neighbor was taking his down too, he shouted across the yard, ‘Pat, is today the day we put out recycling?’ and I said, ‘No, that’s next week.'” Again, there I did it. I referred to myself by my first name in conversation. You do that two times during your presentation when you’re telling your stories, anytime during the performance, and the audience will immediately begin having conversations with you in their head.
Kyle Gray: (18:49)
All right, now onto the best video podcast. I’ve got to talk about the video podcasts because they are so much fun to make. Whenever somebody I know that’s exceptionally interesting comes to Utah, I do an in-person interview with them. I put together a video team with my friend Jonathan Ramanujan, who is fantastic at this work, and create a; I don’t know, it almost feels like a talk show. It feels fresh, and I get to be on the chair and interviewing the guest. It’s amazing.
Kyle Gray: (19:23)
The very best, the very peak of episodes so far, is we did a double interview with Dallas Hartwig and Mark England. Dallas Hartwig is a bestselling author and a thought leader in many different areas, a fascinating person that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and have a couple of different conversations with over dinner or coffee. The bit of wisdom that has always stuck with me from Dallas that I just can’t help but think of him, which is the question that I was so excited to ask him on this episode, was around a simple rule for life that Dallas has known as Don’t Chew Your Chocolate. I will have the video clip on the show notes page and link to the full video interview, but let’s have a listen right here.
Dallas Hartwig: (20:20)
The discussion was around how much chocolate you can have, and the context was making nutrition recommendations to people and people being like, “Well, how much can I have? How do I know? How many calories, how many grams, how many servings, how much?” Chocolate’s one of those things where I think it’s neither good nor bad. I think it’s food like anything else; it has implications. So it’s not a function of good or bad, it’s a function of, what are the natural consequences here? The natural effects are also proportionate to how much you eat, so the question was, “Well, how much can I have?” It was sort of an offhand remark, but it was something that later kind of stuck with me and stuck with you. The answer is, you can have as much as you want as long as you never chew it. The thought process there was twofold. One, just pragmatically, it’s hard to overeat chocolate when you have to let it melt in your mouth. It goes slow. Especially if you’ve got an excellent quality, rich dark chocolate. It melts slowly, and the intensity of the experience and the richness of the flavors that melt in your mouth are vibrant and satiating and often include the natural built-in sort of checks and balances to over-consumption. So there’s the apparent piece of, it’s hard to over-consume chocolate when you have to let it melt in your mouth. Still, then there’s what you’re kind of getting at here is the more significant piece., To what extent does the experience of, in this case, eating influence and how much should that guide you.
Kyle Gray: (22:01)
Another area of the podcast that has grown and developed is the solo episodes. These episodes let me share a little more of my story, my quirks, and my vulnerability. The audience’s favorite is The Goal And The Journey. In this episode, I discuss the tension between my ambition and desire to achieve new goals. I have this drive to move forward and look into the future with the mindset, self-satisfaction, and appreciation for what I have at this moment. A very tough balance that I still struggle with from day today. So let’s hear a little bit about it. You know that old cliche, that journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step?
Kyle Gray: (22:54)
I’m the type that barely notices that first step and only looks to the 999.999 or whatever miles still to go. It’s good to be ambitious like this to an extent. It keeps you going, but if you only ever see how far there is to go and never acknowledge or celebrate your progress, however small it may seem, you end up burning yourself out. Even when you do complete that thousand-mile journey, you learn stuff along the way and come up with three more trips you need to take. Sure, I’ve got a book, but it’s not a New York Times bestseller. Sure, I’ve got a business and choose my hours, but it’s not fully scalable or systematized. Sure. I’m making more than I did last year. I’m maybe even on track to doubling it, but that’s still not enough to buy that dream house or a dream car or whatever the case may be.
Kyle Gray: (23:47)
I’m not alone in this. It’s common for most people with entrepreneurial ambitions. That wraps up the wins and a lot of the fantastic content that’s come out in 2019, but what is coming in 2020 of the most exciting things to me about 2020 is I feel I’ve completed a cycle. In some ways. I’m back where I started in my entrepreneurship journey. I told you a little bit about it working for a startup called WP Curve, and my main job back then was figuring out great content to create and great people to connect with through that content. Because I have an excellent team and it’s continuing to grow and help me with a lot of the work, I now have a lot more free time to spend once again, creating great content, thinking about awesome podcasts like this, and who can I connect with.
Kyle Gray: (24:47)
I’m also excited to create more presentations, speak on more stages, and continue to share my voice on stage this year. I think it’s one of the most fruitful areas for me and my business. This is where I perform and where I get the results for my agency in 2019. What’s exciting for me to share is that I’m creating a lot of enjoyable stuff for you to use and ways for us to connect. In 2020 in the first few months of 2020, I’m excited to roll out a group coaching program. I’m working out the details of what it will entail, but some of the core things that I want to do is get on live group coaching calls and work with people on getting clear on their audience, who they want to work with, and how to message them.
Kyle Gray: (25:43)
Developing an opening story that you can use to share who you are, introduce yourself, and create an emotional connection. A perfect tool to use during a presentation, a webinar, or a podcast interview. I also want to work with you on developing a proprietary process. This is a simple recipe framework that you create to explain what you do, here’s why I’m different, and here are the results that you can expect from working with me. It helps you tell what you do efficiently and simply so that people can’t help but want to know more from you and want to go deeper with you and your products. And if you know me and I’ve read my books, you know that I love creating actionable templates and worksheets, so for every group coaching session, we’re going to have a template or a worksheet available for you that we can work with and speak into live on the call.
Kyle Gray: (26:39)
I always think that this helps accelerate the results and helps people grasp the topics faster and easier than just coming up with everything on their own. This group coaching program is an excellent fit if maybe you’ve read the book, perhaps you’ve listened to some of these podcasts episodes, and you want some help getting started with your own story. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur in the earlier stage, a coach in the earlier stages of what you’re doing. I want to make this program affordable and accessible for a lot of people and make a significant impact on them. Another exciting thing in my agency is I’ve been developing a community of really brilliant, highly skilled people who all have their individual and exciting projects. They can use storytelling to spread that message.
Kyle Gray: (27:35)
And all of these people that I’ve been working with are so exciting and inspiring to me that I want to give them a chance to connect, to help each other find useful contacts, excellent opportunities for joint ventures, for speaking. I want to provide my clients, even if they’re not currently working with me, a chance to speak and strategize with me because I’m starting to feel more and more like a family with a tight-knit group of clients that we’ve been able to make a significant impact for. This is in the early stage and ambitious and exciting, and I have no idea how it’s going to come together yet, but I do want to say it here. I do want to announce it that with this mastermind group or possibly open to anyone interested, I’d love to have a retreat slash workshop happening this year, where I get together some brilliant minds.
Kyle Gray: (28:31)
We dive deep into how to improve our story, our sales, our conversions, both online and offline and give each other a chance to have fun and be creative. So if you’re interested in any of these things or have any questions about what you heard on this episode or want to learn more first, I recommend going to thestoryengine.co/2020 where you can join the waitlist for the group coaching and get informed as it’s starting to roll out. We’ve already been having conversations with a lot of people on the waitlist about what they want, what their goals are, and how we can create a better program for them. So I want to hear from you too if that sounds interesting. So once again, thestoryengine.co/2020. I am so excited about this coming year. If 2019 is a reflection of what’s coming down the pipe in 2020, there’s going to be a lot of exciting opportunities happening. I hope our paths cross either for the first time or again in 2020. Thank you so much for listening. You have made this podcast my business, my life experience better, and I want to thank you for that. All right, 2020, here we come.
Thanks for listening to the Story Engine Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned on this episode and every other episode at thestoryengine.co.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to use storytelling to grow your business, then check out my new book, Selling With Story: How to Use Storytelling to Become an Authority, Boost Sales, and Win the Hearts and Minds of Your Audience. This book will equip you with actionable strategies and templates to help you share your unique value and build trust in presentations, sales, and conversations, both online and offline. Learn more at sellingwithstory.co.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.