James Swanwick has gone from being a celebrity interviewer to an anchor on SportsCenter for ESPN.
He is the author of ‘Insider Journalism Secrets’, and has sold millions online through various digital and physical products. James is helping people create amazing habits, sleep better and make money online.
He is also the founder of Swanwick Sleep which helps people sleep better through blue light blocking glasses. James is the founder of the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge and also the 47 Day Habit Hacker Program.
In this episode, we’ll be discussing how James interviewed Hollywood superstars including Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matt Damon with absolutely no credentials and no experience.
James shares his story of landing a job as an ESPN anchor on SportsCenter after bombing his first audition. AND how he was able to land it without any anchoring experience.
He also discusses the resources and mentorship he found to get started in digital publishing and e-commerce. And many other strategies and hacks for navigating entrepreneurial challenges.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Find out how James began interviewing movie stars.
- How James used the phonebook to access Jack Nicholson.
- James’ first big business crash and running away to Argentina.
- Why James decided to quit alcohol and work on his relationships.
- How James became an ESPN Sports Center anchor with no experience.
- Why James quit his job at ESPN to become an entrepreneur.
- How Ty Lopez became James’ friend and paid business mentor.
- The biggest take away James received from his business coach.
- Why you shouldn‘t try to make things perfect initially.
- How he created of the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge.
- James tells us about his e-commerce projects and successes.
- Reasons to embrace the chaos and just go!
- How James breaks his ‘comfort zone’ by meeting women at the gym.
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
James Swanwick Website – http://jamesswanwick.com/
James Swanwick on Twitter – https://twitter.com/jamesswanwick
James Swanwick on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jamesswanwick/
Swanswick Blue Blockers – https://www.swanwicksleep.com/collections/all-products/
James Swanswick Inner Circle – http://jamesswanwick.com/innercircle/
James Swanwick books on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/James-Swanwick/e/B00L7N8RB8
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – https://www.amazon.com/Never-Eat-Alone-Expanded-Updated/dp/0385346654
“JS: 2008 I made a stupid decision – well it wasn’t stupid at the time but it was a decision to create a PR company in LA. Started in for six months, I got a swanky office on Sunset Boulevard with a view of palm trees in the Hollywood Hills, I was driving around in a Jaguar. I thought I’d made it. Then I don’t know if you remember 2008, it was like financial Armageddon all of sudden and so these clients that I got, all of a sudden stop paying us and people that ordinarily would have become a client were like, “No, we’re not going to do it” because they’re all cutting cost. Within six months of opening I had to shut the thing down, I lost a lot of money.”
[0:00:43.8] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Fail on Podcast where we explore the hardships and obstacles today’s industry leaders face on their journey to the top of their fields, through careful insight and thoughtful conversation. By embracing failure, we’ll show you how to build momentum without being consumed by the result.
Now please welcome your host, Rob Nunnery.
[0:01:09.0] RN: Hey there and welcome to the show that believes leveraging failure is not only the fastest way to learn but is also the fastest way to grow your business and live a life of absolute freedom. In a world that only likes to share successes, we dissect the struggle by talking to honest and vulnerable entrepreneurs.
This is a platform for their stories and today’s story is of James Swanwick. From being an anchor on Sports Center for ESPN, to being the author of Insider Journalism Secrets, to selling millions online through various digital and physical products.
James is helping people create amazing habits, sleep better and make money online. He has been a print and TV journalist for over 20 years, writing for newspapers and magazines in the US, UK and Australia.
James is also the founder of Swanwick Sleep, which helps people sleep better thorough blue light blocking glasses. He’s the founder of the 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge and also the 47 Day Habit Hacker Program.
We’ll be discussing how James interviewed Hollywood superstars including Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matt Damon with absolutely no credentials and no experience, it’s crazy how he was able to do this.
We’ll discuss how James was able to land as an ESPN Sports Center anchor after bombing his first audition and again, not having any anchor experience. He’s able to weasel his way into different places and it’s really interesting to see how he does it. Finally, we’ll be discussing the resources and mentorship James found to get started in digital publishing and Ecommerce.
But first, luckily, all I travel with now is a backpack for one reason only – it’s clothing from an innovative Toronto apparel company called Unbound Marino. They have clothes made out of marino wool that you can wear for months on end without ever needing to have it washed.
I don’t think they recommend that but technically, it wouldn’t smell, so they claim. This means, I can travel with less clothes since they are self-cleaning. Checkout the shownotes page for an exclusive Fail On discount that you won’t get anywhere else.
It is amazing stuff, amazing shirts, amazing apparel, check it out. If you like to stay up to date on all the Fail On Podcast interviews and key takeaways form each guest, simply go to failon.com and just signup for our newsletter, that will be at the bottom of the page. That’s failon.com.
[0:03:31.1] RN: There’s a lot I want to dig into because you have a lot going on. You’ve got the blue blockers product, podcast, 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge and you’ve done a slew of interesting other things including being an anchor on Sports Center for ESPN.
We’ll get into all that in a bit but first, just take us back to the first time that somebody actually gave you money in exchange for a product or service you created?
[0:03:52.7] JS: Yeah, well my background was always as a journalist. I was a newspaper reporter for many years and I always had a job and then when I went to London, I got a job as a sports journalist and again, I had a job.
Then when I moved over to the US in 2003, I’m from Australia, but when I moved over to the US in 2003, I was like, “How am I going to make money? What am I going to do?” I figured out that I could interview movie stars and sell the interviews to magazines and newspapers around the world.
I was living in a hostel, the Hermosa Beach Hostel paying $15 a night, living in a bunk bed with a bunch of other snoring backpackers. This is in the first few months that I had come to the states.
I persuaded a movie studio publicist to let me interview the Hollywood actor, Jack Nicholson. He was promoting a film called Anger Management with Adam Sandler back around that time.
[0:04:48.9] RN: Yup.
[0:04:50.4] JS: I ended up interviewing Jack Nicholson at the Amatage Hotel in Beverly Hills and then I sent that story to a magazine in the UK called Loaded Magazine. They published the interview and they gave me money.
[0:05:02.1] RN: How much?
[0:05:03.4] JS: I think it was 400 pounds at the time which was about $750. It was a pretty good exchange rate at the time. That was my first time selling a product.
[0:05:15.6] RN: Which was the interview.
[0:05:16.2] JS: Which was the interview. Yeah, it was the first time outside of a job you know, when you apply for a job, you get a job, they pay you a salary. That was the first time someone really paid me for that and then from there, I just repeated the process and then I interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was promoting Terminator Three and then Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller for the movie, Along Came Poly. Then I just kept doing that and money started to come in.
[0:05:42.5] RN: The first time, what actually gave you the idea that you could do this, that you could figure out how to get access to these people and actually do this interview? What sparked that idea?
[0:05:52.7] JS: Well, my experience was as a journalist and now I’m in this new country where I know no one and I’ve got to try and figure it out from scratch rather. Just go, “What am I going to do? I got to make money, I can’t live in a hostel.”
“I’m a 27-year-old man living in a hostel with backpackers.” It was kind of born out of necessity and then from there, I really asked myself, “Well what do I know how to do? I know how to be a journalist, so how can I create money from this?”
By the way, I couldn’t get a job in America because I didn’t have the right work visa. I couldn’t just rock up to LA Times and say, “Can you hire me?” Because it just wasn’t like that. I had to do anything I could. I was like, “Well, I’m just going to create a freelance journalism business out of nothing and I’m just going to…”
[0:06:36.8] RN: When you reached out to that publicist for the first one, Jack Nicholson, did you have some kind of corporate or business website or anything?
[0:06:44.9] JS: No, I had nothing. I mean, I literally phoned Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Paramount from the Hermosa Beach Hostel.
[0:06:56.0] RN: That’s awesome.
[0:06:57.0] JS: I got the phone numbers from – this is how ancient I’m sounding now. From a phonebook. Not like an online thing, on a phonebook. I just cold called and said, “I want to interview movie stars, how do I do it?” Someone said, “You need to talk to someone in the publicity department,” and so they put me through to the publicity department.
Only one publicist from one studio gave me the time of day, it was a woman called Anna Wilan from Sony Pictures. She invited me to go in, I met her at the Sony offices in person and I said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, tell me how can I interview movie stars and get paid for it.”
She kind of walked me through the process and you know, two weeks after that, that’s when she reached out and said, “You want to interview Jack Nicholson?” I’m like, “Sweet.”
[0:07:39.6] RN: That’s awesome, that’s cool. Going from there, you did a slew of those interviews, when did it actually in your head turn into like, “Okay, I can actually not only make a living off this but like this could spark a business.”
[0:07:53.0] JS: I think after I got to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger and then I photocopied those articles as published articles, I literally went to a King Co’s FedEx store on Pacific Coast Highway up there by Hermosa Beach. I went in and I photocopied it like 30 times and then I researched the addresses of Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal and I researched the addresses of newspapers and magazines around the world.
Then I bought 30 stamps and you know, some of them were overseas, I bought 30 envelopes. I put the article into the envelopes and I sent them off and said “Hey, look, here’s my interview with Jack Nicholson.”
“Reach out to me if you want me to interview movie stars for your publications.” When the Schwarzenegger one was offered to me, I was like, “Damn, my first two interviews ever in LA were Jack Nicholson and Arnold Schwarzenegger” and I’m like, “I think I might…”
[0:08:46.8] RN: The bar is set high.
[0:08:47.3] JS: Yeah. “I think I’m on to something here now.” It just kind of like flowed from there, you know? All of a sudden instead of me trying to tell people, “Hey, look at me, I interview movie stars now.”
Magazines were reaching out to me going, you know, “We saw your Jack Nicholson article, could you interview George Clooney for the movie Siriana, can you interview Matt Damon for the movie Stuck On You?”
I remember being in New York City, at the movie studio, I think it was FOX. They flew me from LA to New York to stay at the Regency Hotel on the upper east side of Manhattan and I think it was on November 30th 2003, and the reason I remember that date, because it was the rugby world cup final. I interviewed Matt Damon for Stuck On You.
I think that was kind of like the moment where I realized, “I think I’m on to something here, this is like my third interview I’ve done. Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and now Matt Damon.“
[0:09:41.9] RN: Not only that, but the studios are paying a lot of your expenses, right?
[0:09:46.0] JS: Yeah, they paid all of those expenses and they sent me over to New York and I was like, “This is pretty cool. This could be fun.” Matt Damon was cool and we were talking about the rugby cup final that night and that was on that night because he seemed to be a rugby enthusiast and yeah, it was cool. I’m trying to find a photo here of me and Matt Damon and I could show you but I can’t find it.
[0:10:09.6] RN: Well, if you do find it, we’ll post it on the show notes page.
[0:10:12.0] JS: Here it is. This is me, it was the 21st of November 2003.
[0:10:17.4] RN: You look so young there.
[0:10:18.1] JS: Don’t I?
[0:10:19.7] RN: Both of you, I mean, you guys both looked young.
[0:10:20.3] JS: Matt Damon looks like a kid.
[0:10:22.6] RN: He looks like – yeah, it’s crazy. That’s cool. Just in the hotel room?
[0:10:27.7] JS: It was in a hotel room in the Regency Hotel in upper east side, yeah.
[0:10:32.9] RN: That’s awesome. Okay, you’re interviewing all the celebrities, where did it go from here? How long did you continue to do that and then what did that transition to?
[0:10:41.2] JS: Yeah, I mean, I did that for a few years. I actually got pretty good. I was making a good salary for myself. I figured out how to get a work visa and live in the US. Ironically, I didn’t need a job, actually had created a business with myself from interviewing movie stars.
Then in about – I did that for like three or four years, I got pretty good at it. I was living in LA and did New York and 2008 I made a stupid – well it wasn’t stupid at the time but it was a decision to create a PR company in LA.
Started it for six months, I got a swanky office on Sunset Boulevard with a view of palm trees and the Hollywood Hills, I was driving around in a Jaguar. I thought I’d made it.
Then I don’t know if you remember 2008 but it was like financial Armageddon all of a sudden. These clients that I got, all of a sudden stopped paying us and people that ordinarily would have become a client was like “No, we’re not going to do it” because they’re all cutting cost.
Within six months of opening it, I had to shut the thing down. I lost a lot of money, I kind of ran away to Buenos Areas Argentina to go and lick my wounds and I decided I was going to go and live in a third world country and drink wine, eat steak and learn how to tango and learn Spanish.
[0:11:57.2] RN: How bad was it? Were you financially strapped like all the way down or – What was the actual –
[0:12:03.4] JS: I wasn’t like broken and like financially ruined.
[0:12:07.9] RN: In debt or anything like that?
[0:12:09.0] JS: No, I was never in debt. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when you are – at this stage, I’m now in my early 30’s. 31, 32 and you’re living off savings and you kind of like, “Where did it all go?”
[0:12:23.6] RN: No income coming in?
[0:12:25.1] JS: No income coming in.
[0:12:25.8] RN: Started a business and six months it crashes. How are you actually feeling that time? Obviously like going to Argentina is a big, fun adventure but at the same time, you’ve got to be pretty down on yourself.
[0:12:38.5] JS: Yeah, I was. It was like I said, I was running away to Argentina, I was like trying to escape, you know, I didn’t want to – it would have been hard for me to have paid rent in Los Angeles you know? Which is why I’m going to Buenos Aires where it’s super cheap and I hardly spent anything, it was great.
Lived like a king, hardly spent anything and you know, I was just kind of like defeated in the entrepreneurial world because you know, I’ve been steady getting some income for a few years as a freelance journalist and then I went – now it’s time to strike, create a PR company and then I got kind of whacked out on that. Yeah.
[0:13:11.8] RN: From Argentina, you spend how long down there?
[0:13:14.2] JS: Six months.
[0:13:14.9] RN: Okay, six months, you go, what prompts you, do you come back to the US and where did you go from there?
[0:13:20.8] JS: Yeah, I came back to LA, I read a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi which was all about the power of relationships and when I got back to LA, that kind of triggered changing my life in a number of ways.
I decided to quit alcohol, I wasn’t drinking heavily but I was drinking just enough that it was slowing me down. I took a 30 day break to see how I would feel and I lost 15 pounds, my skin got better, I had a lot more clarity and focus.
I started going into new relationships, thinking, “How can I help this person?” As apposed to what I was doing beforehand which was, “How can this person help me?” One of the people that I helped introduced me to an ESPN producer who was looking for an international anchor for Sports Center.
The very iconic sports show, Sports Center. I had no TV experience. I has print journalism experience. I just set myself a goal, I said, “I’m going to get on TV, I’m going to get that job.” I ended up auditioning and my first audition was a complete failure, awful in fact and then I asked for a second audition and they gave it to me.
I nailed the second one and they ended putting me on air two weeks later and I became a Sports Center anchor on ESPN.
[0:14:30.1] RN: That’s insanity. With no prior experience. I guess that’s like the holy grail for people who do broadcast journalism, it’s like Sports Center. Like for a guy, that’s like – that’s mount Everest you know?
[0:14:42.7] JS: Yeah. I mean, people ask me, “How did you do that?” Well, it was a few things in there. One of them was, the person who introduced me to the ESPN producer was someone that I had helped beforehand without asking for anything back.
It came back to that whole thing like, I’m going to help people. That was the introduction. Then the other thing was, just saying kind of like, effort. “I’m going to go and do this, I’m pretty scared to be on TV but I’m just – I’m going to do it anyway.”
Then setting a goal to try and charm the producer enough to give me an audition. Then failing at the audition but then having the – I guess you could say the guts to ask for another go.
[0:15:21.6] RN: you could have easily just walked away and been – okay, what’s next, you know?
[0:15:25.3] JS: Yeah.
[0:15:26.8] RN: What made you actually go back and have the persistence to give it another go?
[0:15:30.9] JS: You mean, after the first failed audition?
[0:15:32.2] RN: After the first failed audition, yeah.
[0:15:33.8] JS: Well, I was sitting there, the producer was looking at my audition and he was like nope. He said, “Thanks for coming but I don’t think it’s going to work.” It was like a second, like a split second where I had this choice, I was either going to get up and walk out with my tail between my legs or I was just going to say, no harm can come if I keep pushing.
In that second I went, “Listen, I know it wasn’t good but may I come back tomorrow? I’d love to come back tomorrow, I’ll just stay in a hotel tonight and I’ll come back tomorrow, do another audition, I recon I can nail it with another go.”
He was – you know, I think he respected the fact that I asked. He had no intention to hire me at that point because the first audition was really bad.
[0:16:17.1] RN: Right.
[0:16:17.7] JS: Because the first audition I was like, “Hello, welcome to Sports Center, this is James Swanwick, lots to get through tonight.” It was really bad.
[0:16:24.1] RN: Yeah.
[0:16:25.1] JS: He said it was bad too. But then, I think in that moment, he said, “You know what? I respect you for asking, sure, come back.” It was probably an inconvenience for him but he let me do it and then the next day, I just pumped myself up and I went, “Come on, let’s do it!” I kind of nailed it.
I went, “Good evening everyone, welcome to Sports Center, James Swanwick here alongside Anthony Howard. Here to take you in to the weekend with a smorgasbord of sports, let’s start with the NFL.” You know, I kind of sounded a lot better and I think he quite liked the fact that I’d come back and nailed it the second time. He’s like, “Alright, I’m going to hire you and put you on the air in two weeks.”
[0:16:56.8] RN: Did he tell you that on the spot?
[0:16:58.0] JS: Yeah, on the spot, yeah.
[0:16:59.0] RN: That’s awesome.
[0:16:59.8] JS: Not only that, he got me a limousine back from ESPN in Bristol Connecticut back to New York where I was staying. He just like, “I’ll get you a car back” and I was like, “Alright.” And the car was like a stretched limo and I’m sitting there and like, “My god, I just…”
[0:17:14.2] RN: What just happened?
[0:17:14.5] JS: “I just got a job for Sports Center on ESPN.”
[0:17:16.5] RN: That’s amazing. People overseas probably don’t get the magnitude of that but like, in the US, it’s the ultimate for sports. How long did you do that? Then from there, what happened?
[0:17:28.7] JS: Yeah, I did that on and off for two years. I say on and off, it was never a full-time job, it was always like a part time job. I would work for two months there and then in between I’d go down to Columbia and live in Median and I like do the Spanish speaking thing. That was when I was trying to be an entrepreneur and get things going.
[0:17:46.8] RN: What were you trying to work on at that point?
[0:17:49.4] JS: I wrote this crappy little book called How To Become A Celebrity Journalist which was about how to interview movie stars and I say crappy because it didn’t sell very well, you know, not only made like – selling it I think for 29.99 and I made some sales but not too many.
[0:18:04.0] RN: Like as an ebook or was it an actual physical –
[0:18:05.3] JS: As an ebook. That was kind of my first foray into the online marketing world and I didn’t do very well at it. Then about two years into the Sports Center thing, I’m like, “You know what? I really want to be an entrepreneur now.”
As good as the ESPN thing was, it was still a job. I still had to be somewhere at a certain time. As great as it is talking about sport and being on TV which was awesome, I wouldn’t change it for the world, I still wanted to – I didn’t want to have a salary. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, make my own money, do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it.
I quit the job and threw myself into becoming a full time online entrepreneur and I was crap at it.
[0:18:46.6] RN: Your celebrity journalist book didn’t do well?
[0:18:49.5] JS: No.
[0:18:51.4] RN: Where did you go from there?
[0:18:52.2] JS: Well, I struggled for 18 months quite frankly. I was back on my ass again like –
[0:18:56.8] RN: Just trying to figure out what to create?
[0:19:00.0] JS: I was trying this book, I started like I was trying to write a video sales letter, I was learning how to create an auto responder email list. I mean, just basic stuff that now I take for granted. I was just learning, you know?
[0:19:12.8] RN: Foundation, right?
[0:19:13.7] JS: Yeah. I struggled, I really struggled and then about 18 months after, I’d left Sports Center, I became friendly with a very famous or infamous online marketer called Ty Lopez and we just became friendly. He invited me to a conference that he was having and I went, at the end of the conference, he was pitching to the crowd for him to mentor like a handful of people, $25,000 each.
Something inside of me was like, “You know what? It’s either going to be short term pain of coming up with 25 grand or long-term struggle of trying to figure out this entrepreneur game by myself.”
I chose the 25 grand and I had some money sitting in my Australian bank account. I transferred the money over and he became my mentor for about 18 months and what that did was it really sped up the process of learning.
Instead of me trying to figure out on my own, I had a mentor who could say, “Do this, do this and do this” and you know, it just sped everything up.
[0:20:09.7] RN: Just for some context. When was this? What year was this?
[0:20:12.3] JS: This was 2013.
[0:20:14.3] RN: Got it. Okay, you bought into his 25k program, that’s a very common thread amongst a lot of people I talk to, is joining masterminds, finding mentors, paid. Because you know, that’s the fastest way to get somebody’s attention.
[0:20:31.9] JS: Well it’s also the fastest way to get your own attention.
[0:20:34.3] RN: Yeah, it’s so true.
[0:20:40.3] JS: Because if you pay money for coaching then you really focus and invest, you know? 100%. You take it seriously because you’ve just coughed up all that money. If you get something for free, you don’t value it as much.
[0:20:46.3] RN: You don’t.
[0:20:47.5] JS: Yeah, people never quite understand it. I have this program now called 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge and it cost $67 to do it, right? Not very much. It’s cheap, 67 bucks for me to walk you through 30 days of not drinking but people still challenge me to this day.
“Why would I pay you $67 if I could do it for free?” I say to them the same thing. “You can do it for free. But will you?”
[0:21:11.8] RN: Yeah, exactly.
[0:21:13.0] JS: The truth is, people who try to do it themselves invariably don’t. As soon as they pull out a credit card and they pay money, $67 is the moment they go, “I’m going to complete this 30 day challenge. I’m going to do it,” and then they do. Because they got skin in the game.
That’s a big lesson for me. I pay for most things now. I mean, some things – Warren Buffet, the world’s richest man is never going to mentor me, alright? It doesn’t mean I can’t go to YouTube and type in “Warren Buffet financial advice” and so I’ll take that for free but if this stuff I really want coaching on, I’ll pay for in person, or more specialized coaching.
[0:21:50.5] RN: If you had to boil it down to one thing, what’s the biggest takeaway that you got from Ty?
[0:21:56.5] JS: It was to launch ideas quickly. So if you’re not embarrassed by your first, the first version of your first product, then you didn’t launch quickly enough.
Don’t try to make things perfect initially. Just get something out there, get feedback form people and then polish and modify as you go along. That was a big lesson because previously I’d be like, “I got to make sure thing’s perfect, check everything” and I delayed, he was like, “Just get something out, throw it up there and then that momentum will get you moving forward.”
[0:22:28.7] RN: I think that’s such a huge, valuable lesson because I think what holds a lot of people back at the beginning is kind of analysis paralysis, where they want everything to be perfect like yo8u said, for somebody listening, what would be like one piece of advice you would give them?
They don’t know what business to start, they don’t really have an idea in mind but they know they want to do something in the entrepreneurial space, what would you tell them?
[0:22:47.6] JS: Well, whatever, I mean, again, launch super early like whatever you want to do, whether it’s a physical product or an information program. Create an MVP, a minimum viable product.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, whatever your expertise is, if you want to create a digital program do six little videos teaching whatever it is you specialize in and then put up a program which encourages people to either get your program for free or pay $10 or $100 or whatever it is for your program. You don’t need a fancy studio, you don’t need fancy lights, you don’t need a fancy camera. Half of my videos in my 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge, I just filmed on my iPhone.
An iPhone now is like a portable movie studio essentially, so you don’t need to book studio space, you don’t need to do any of that crap, just do it. Like you could do it right now. Ask yourself this question: What do you know that most people don’t know? What skill do you have that you can coach someone that they would pay for it and then pick up your camera like your phone like this, open it up, go to the camera, put the camera on your face.
Go to video and go, “How to record a podcast. Today, I am going to show you how. You get a guest. Tomorrow, I am going to show you how you actually record, then I am going to show you how to upload. Then I am going to show you how to put it on iTunes and then I’m going to show you how to promote it.”
[0:24:13.2] RN: I love it. That is so true.
[0:24:15.2] JS: I just recorded the welcome video. It was 15 seconds and there you go, the first piece of content done. I mean that’s it, just launch. Just do it now.
[0:24:23.3] RN: I love it man, people and I got the sense that you are like this because I was listening to one of your podcast and the background, I could tell it was recorded on the go. I think you were walking in Nashville or something. It might have been a recent one but I could hear a little bit of wind in the background. It didn’t bother me but I was like, “Hey this guy doesn’t give a rip. He’s just going to put it out there because he is going to record and go. He is not going to slow down, he is not going to make sure it’s perfect and he is just going to put content out,” which was cool.
[0:24:49.5] JS: Yeah half of my podcast, I have this podcast called The James Swanwick Show and half of the episodes there, literary I just have pulled out my phone and I record and I’ll sometimes apologize. Sorry but to do, sometimes it is a bit windy right now but people tend to like it when I am walking out and about anyway.
[0:25:06.3] RN: Yeah, it’s more authentic. I think it is better when it is not in a studio. Okay so after – so what was the main business or product or service you created after the mentorship with Ty? What did you get into at that point?
[0:25:19.4] JS: Yeah, I created this information product called 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge and it was just like we were saying, I recorded 30 videos which helps social drinkers take 30 days off alcohol, every day, that I send them a video which is “Welcome to day three” or “Welcome to day seven. Today, I am going to teach you how to respond to friends when they say come on just have one.” And so forth and then I just launched it, put it up.
Just a couple of people bought and then a few more people and then a few people more and now it’s had thousands of people go through it. While that was happening I got this idea I wanted to create a pair of stylish blue light blocking glasses. So on the market at that time were these really ugly UVX glasses, the kind of glasses that you’d wear on your face if you were at a gun range trying to protect your eyes from shrapnel or if you are mowing a lawn it will try to protect your eyes from stones or rocks or something.
And people would wear these glasses at night time to try to improve their sleep because the idea is that when you’re staring at your cellphone at night or you like watching TV the blue light from your display triggers your pituitary gland and prevents your body from creating melatonin, which means you are unable to sleep well. I was wearing a pair of ugly ski goggles at night watching TV because the ski goggles had this yellow tint to them.
I realized that my sleep actually was improving but the problem was I didn’t want to wear ski goggles all the time and I didn’t want a pair of UVX glasses. So I had this idea for creating a stylish pair of blue light blocking glasses. I reached out to some China manufacturers and said, “I want to put an orange lens into a Ray Ban style sunglass frame” and they sent me some prototypes. I showed it to some friends, I picked one kind of style and then I launched it on Amazon.
I started selling blue light blocking glasses on Amazon and that’s now turned into the biggest sleep company where we sell sleep supplements and sleeping masks and things like that and it has been pretty successful.
[0:27:19.3] RN: What was the biggest struggle getting that business started up? Is that the first physical product that you launched? What kind of challenges did you ran into with that being your first physical launch?
[0:27:27.7] JS: Well you are dealing with the Chinese so it is always tough in terms of communication. This are slow there as well so finding a manufacturer that could produce the first glasses was a struggle. You have to pay some money upfront to be able to get a minimum order quantity. You can’t just say, “Oh can you make 10 for me and send it over and see if they sell?” No. We had to order 300 and so there’s a cost involved with that, thousands of dollars.
So that is always scary because you are putting down thousands of dollars but you don’t know if anyone is going to buy it or not and then you launch and then you got problems. You got to pay attention to. Can people put their credit cards in safely? Can you actually take payment? And you go set up an LLC business and you’re begging people to write reviews because the Amazon algorithm likes reviews. So people say they’ll do reviews and they don’t and you need to contact them.
And say, “Please can you write reviews?” It’s not a struggle in the beginning but it’s very front heavy work, you know? You are pushing yourself.
[0:28:31.8] RN: How did you know it would sell? Like you said, you had to order a large quantity.
[0:28:35.9] JS: Yeah, well we didn’t know it would sell.
[0:28:38.4] RN: Okay so you didn’t do anything in terms of testing it beforehand like in terms of –
[0:28:42.8] JS: I tested it. I gave the prototypes out to my friends and said, “Which ones do you like?” And they chose the best one but we didn’t know that anyone would actually pay money for it. 300 was the minimum order I could order. We got lucky actually, they probably could have pressed us to order a thousand of them. So I was happy that there was only 300 even though that was still a thousand dollars. So I was willing to set fire to the money and to the experiment and waste time to take the risk.
[0:29:11.7] RN: So you look at the worst case scenario and said, “If I always have these 300 in my apartment, I’m going to be okay with it.”
[0:29:19.9] JS: Yeah, I mean I was just willing to lose that amount of money. It wasn’t like I was wealthy or anything. It’s not but I was willing to lose thousands of dollars to take the risk.
[0:29:29.6] RN: Sure, how do you define failure?
[0:29:32.0] JS: For me, failure is just another way of getting you closer to success. I still say – are you allowed to swear on this podcast or not?
[0:29:44.1] RN: Go at it.
[0:29:45.1] JS: I still say, “Fucking shit!” and “Goddammit!” I still say those things when things go wrong but once I got out of that emotional state, I look at it and go, “Awesome! Now I am a step closer to succeeding.” Because now all I’ve done is find a way that doesn’t work which now will get me closer to the way that does work”. So there’s this famous Nike commercial from the 90’s when Michael Jordan, the great basketball player is like:
“You know 27 times I’ve been entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” So failure to me is just like fail quickly, fail often, don’t try to fail but try not to fail but when you do, do it quickly, do a lot of it and then go again and then the quicker or to speed up the rate of your success, you’ve got to double your rate of failure really.
[0:30:43.3] RN: It really goes with what you said earlier regarding the MVP, right? Just get something out there fast. It may work, it may not but you’ll get feedback quickly and you will know how to adjust from there.
[0:30:53.0] JS: Embrace the chaos is what I say. It’s like what I said, my team now. Sometimes someone will say, “Oh I shouldn’t do that” or “There’s so much stuff going on.” I’m like, “Embrace the chaos, just go.” It’s okay if it’s messy, that momentum will still push us forward.
[0:31:11.4] RN: Totally. So with everything that you are doing now, do you have support? Do you have a team – remote, virtual?
[0:31:18.0] JS: Yeah, so it started off with just me and my brother, Tristan who is in Brisbane, Australia. I am here in Los Angeles and then since then we’ve got a customer support – I mean I had an assistant here in LA who just help me out with a few things and then she’s been promoted to the head of our customer service. So she now deals with customers who call and helps with the orders and things. Then I have a virtual assistant in the Philippines who helps me with administrative type of things.
And then we have a Facebook ads manager who lives in Australia and he runs paid Facebook ads to us, one actually to sleep products. Then we have an accountant who we pay a monthly fee who tracks bookkeeping and all that stuff and social media manager and it is starting to get pretty big in terms of manpower.
[0:32:02.2] RN: Nice. What’s the last thing that you did to get outside of your comfort zone?
[0:32:07.6] JS: Well it’s not business related. It’s actually woman related if you like. There was this very attractive woman who lives in LA that I stumbled across on Instagram somehow. I was trying to figure out how I could meet her for 18 months. I knew she went to the gym down the road from me, Equinox Gym on Sunset and I go to that Equinox Gym but I never saw her there and so on occasion I’d look at her Instastories. I would see her around LA but I have never seemed to bump into her.
For 18 months I was like, “How?” Anyway, finally I remember it was a Saturday morning, I’ve been to Equinox. I came home and she saw the notification in her Instastories. She had posted something and I had a look and it was her walking into the Equinox Gym literary five minutes earlier and I’m like, “I know where she is, this is my shot.” I remember sitting, I was sitting at that table right over there as we’re recording it and I had already been to the gym.
I didn’t particularly want to go back and say, “Man of mask James, man of mask.” I was so nervous because she’s a very attractive woman and for 18 months I had been hoping to bump into her and hadn’t. So now all of a sudden I’ve got – as any man would attest if you’re meeting someone that you wanted to meet, you get nervous. So anyway, I said, “F it. I’m just going to do it.” I quickly went back to the gym and I saw her and then I was like, “Well I can’t just walk up to her in the gym and start talking to her maybe I’ve got to wait outside,” or whatever.
Anyway, she ends up walking into a damn yoga class and I’m like, “Oh god,” and then I was like, “I’m going to have to do this now don’t I.” So I go into the yoga class myself. I’ve already done a workout two hours prior to that and it was one of those 90 minute master class yoga things right? I didn’t do yoga and then I am trying to do the thing. It was terrible, I was sweating profusely. Anyway, to cut the long story short, the whole time during this 90 minutes I was really nervous because I’ve got to take the show to introduce myself to this girl.
And so at the end of the class she was walking out and I walked up to her and I introduce myself and I actually just told her. I said, “Look I saw you at an Instagram post 18 months ago and I have been…”
[0:34:19.5] RN: That’s awesome you told her that.
[0:34:20.8] JS: “I’ve been trying to meet you ever since,” and she had a big smile and we –
[0:34:25.4] RN: That’s cool, so she wasn’t scared? She’s not like, “Oh my god this guy is stalking me.”
[0:34:28.8] JS: No she wasn’t.
[0:34:29.4] RN: Okay cool.
[0:34:30.3] JS: Yeah, so that was really a moment where I pushed myself past my comfort zone.
[0:34:34.2] RN: You’ve got to give the end result there, what happened?
[0:34:35.8] JS: Yeah, we swapped numbers. I took her out on a date. I took her to a basketball game, to a Clippers game at Staple Center. I had an awesome time, held hands, talked about feelings.
[0:34:48.4] RN: All the guy things?
[0:34:50.2] JS: Yeah and then it’s been hard for us to keep this connect subsequently because she travels a lot and I travel a lot as well. One of the downsides of living in LA is that people that you meet here, are all very fast paced and career minded. So we all travel the world and we just hadn’t gotten around doing the second date here, but it doesn’t matter. Even if we don’t do it, it was the idea of wanting something to happen for 18 months and getting an opportunity and even though I was tired, I didn’t want to go back, that’s a shot. You got to take it and so I took it, so yeah.
[0:35:27.6] RN: That’s good. That’s cool, I think that’s a first. You are the first person I talked to where getting out of your comfort zone was actually going up to a girl. That’s awesome, who’s had the most – if you had to point out one person, who’s had the single most profound impact on your life? Whether business, personal – business would probably be Ty right?
[0:35:46.3] JS: Yeah I’d say in terms of my entrepreneurial life it would be Ty Lopez. Someone I’ve met a couple of times who’s had an impact on my life is Jon Bon Jovi, the musician Jon Bon Jovi. I was a massive Bon Jovi fan as a kid and I got to interview him a couple of times and just not even the interviews that I do with him but just looking at his life like he’s being married to his sweetheart, they’ve been married I think 25 years.
They’ve got three kids, he’s really philanthropic, gives to charity. He does what he wants to do, he’s a rock star, he’s very healthy. He is just a good guy, you know? Yeah, I admire that a lot and so I try to be a good guy as well and I try to be philanthropic and I try to do what I want to and so you know –
[0:36:30.5] RN: So is it more based on his example or did he actually give you any kind of like?
[0:36:34.7] JS: No, it wasn’t advice that he gave me.
[0:36:36.4] RN: Just seeing his life basically.
[0:36:37.6] JS: Just seeing his life and I’ll often type to Google Bon Jovi and see what the latest news is and I’ll read interviews with him and see how he chooses to live his life. I just like the balance that he has of family life, good values, being charitable, having the same wife and just stuff like that. I like it.
[0:36:53.8] RN: Yeah, good old fashioned, for an LA guy.
[0:36:57.9] JS: Yeah, that’s right.
[0:36:59.6] RN: So what’s next on the horizon for you? What are you most excited about? Obviously you’ve got the blockers, any other products in the pipeline that you’ve got coming up?
[0:37:08.0] JS: Yeah, I am doing more business coaching now. So I have this thing called James Swanwick Inner Circle and I coach e-commerce business owners. What I have learned from Ty and what I’ve learned building this Swanwick business. I have found e-commerce business owners around the world who come in and join my James Swanwick Inner Circle coaching program. That gives me a lot of joy to coach and you get paid for it as well which is awesome. So it is a business in itself.
[0:37:37.5] RN: Is that mainly for physical products?
[0:37:39.0] JS: No, it doesn’t matter, physical or information products. I am basically teaching what I have learned. So how I built a million dollar business in 11 months, I teach that. How to get booked to speak on stage, I teach that. How to grow a podcast, I teach that and so people will join the Inner Circle and yeah, coach them over the year. So that’s a lot of fun and then the blue light blocking glasses, I’m going to turn that into a massive sleep company or that’s the goal. So it’s not just the glasses company but a company that helps people sleep through a lot of products.
[0:38:09.8] RN: So is this the only product currently, the blockers?
[0:38:13.0] JS: No, we’ve got a sleep supplement, we’ve got a sleeping mask, we’ve got a magnesium spray and an air diffuser. We have a few things that will help people sleep better.
[0:38:22.0] RN: That’s awesome. I mean that makes a huge difference in any kind of physical e-com businesses, having multiple products to sell because you already have the customer right? But if you don’t have more products to offer them their lifetime value is kind of set. That’s cool.
As always we always ask for a challenge to throw out to the listener about – basically a Fail On challenge, something we can do to get outside of our comfort zone.
[0:38:44.6] JS: Yeah, I would just say write down on a piece of paper or in a dairy or keep track of – try to fail once every day. Well don’t try to fail, try to succeed but if it results in failure great. So don’t be like, “Dammit,” well actually you will say dammit but just get into that habit. Train the muscle, so if you’re a guy try to approach a girl once a day, if you are a single guy. If you are an entrepreneur, try to make a piece of content every day by recording it to your phone and stumble and not make it right.
[0:39:19.2] RN: I think even if you are not an entrepreneur probably like you want to be right? But like we talked about earlier, you don’t have a business idea. Talk to the world, right?
[0:39:27.6] JS: Yeah.
[0:39:28.1] RN: Put stuff out there.
[0:39:29.1] JS: Totally, start a project. Do one action.
[0:39:34.4] RN: I actually like that word project because I think a lot of people they hear business and they’re like, “Oh man business?” It sounds almost intimidating to them right but project, you do projects in school growing up. I think if you look at it as a project it’s like, “Oh it’s not as scary as it seems.”
[0:39:49.0] JS: Yeah, one thing I’ve learned as well and I still get it wrong to this day is that I want to go too quickly and I over estimate what I can do in a day and I underestimate what I can do in a year. It’s crazy, I put it in my to-do list and I am going to get all of these done and the day just gets away. I don’t know how it happens and I underestimate what’s achievable in a year and so in the short term in the day to day you get frustrated that you are not getting things done.
But actually you look at it overtime and you go, “Oh we really moved the needle forward here” so the point I am trying to make is that Jerry Seinfeld, the great comedian used to have a thing on his fridge and it was like, “Write a new joke every day” and every day he did that. He’d just cross it out with two red lines with his fridge and that was how he kept tracking his progress that he was on. That he was –
[0:40:35.9] RN: I love that. I have heard that story as well and it goes along with the challenge right? Do one thing each day that pushes you, gets you outside of your comfort zone and overtime that compounds crazily.
[0:40:47.2] JS: Yeah and look, that’s the best advice that I can give you but I also know that you are not going to do it perfectly because I didn’t do it perfectly. I mess it up still. I am actually disgusted with myself on how many times – I know I have the keys to the kingdom. I know all the things I should be doing and I do them pretty effectively but I don’t do them perfectly and if I did then I’d be off.
[0:41:10.7] RN: Done is better than perfect, right?
[0:41:12.2] JS: Done is way better than perfect, yeah.
[0:41:13.5] RN: Cool, well I appreciate it man. I’m not going to take up any more of your time but I really enjoyed having you. I enjoyed the conversation.
[0:41:18.8] JS: Yeah, thanks for having me on the show. I appreciate it.
[0:41:20.6] RN: You got it, next time man.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:41:24.9] RN: Alright, alright so you could find James @jamesswanwick on Twitter and of course that spelling along with all the links and resources James and I discussed including more information on his website and mentorship programs can be found at the page we’ve created especially for this episode. That will be at failon.com/034 and next week we are sitting down with my man, Steve Sims. Steve runs an amazing company.
He is the founder of the Luxury Concierge Company, Bluefish. Steve is known for being able to make basically the impossible possible for his clients, from getting a private underwater submersible tour of The Titanic to private dinners in the Macademia at the feet of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, to having a private romantic dinner in the Sistine Chapel with a performance by Andrea Bocelli. There is literary nothing Steve Sims can’t get and he also just published his book, Bluefishing.
Thanks to the good folks over at Simon and Chester. So in this episode, Steve will go into how he boldly actually just stumbled into the concierge business through pure ignorance and luck and obviously a lot of hard work but it is a fascinating episode. Don’t miss it. It is coming up next and if the podcast is providing value to your life and your business, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what your biggest take away from this episode is.
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[0:43:22.5] ANNOUNCER: That’s all for this episode of The Fail On Podcast. For more resources, show notes and action items to help you find success in your failures, sign up for our mailing list at failon.com.
For more actionable inspiration, we’ll catch you next time right here on The Fail On Podcast.