The Self-Employed Life: Business And Personal Development Strategies That Create Sustainable Success With Jeffrey Shaw


There’s a common belief that we have to be a master of one skill to be a great person instead of knowing everything without fully mastering it. But having more than one talent is still great! As entrepreneurs, we are in the process of changing and evolving to make our lives better and contribute to society. With that, we could enhance more than one skill to grow professionally. We innovate and allow transformations to happen throughout our journeys. Join Tony Martignetti and Jeffrey Shaw as they talk about executing strategies for personal and professional development. Jeffrey Shaw is the author of The Self-Employed Life: Business and Personal Development Strategies That Create Sustainable Success. In this episode, he shares how he runs two businesses at one time, how he helps small business owners make more money and the countless reasons for his passion for this profession.


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The Self-Employed Life: Business And Personal Development Strategies That Create Sustainable Success With Jeffrey Shaw

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest in this episode, Jeffrey Shaw. Jeffrey can honestly say he never worked for anyone else, from selling eggs door to door at fourteen years old beginning a lifetime of self-employment. As a speaker and small business consultant, Jeffrey helps self-employed and small business owners gain control of their business in what seems like otherwise uncontrollable circumstances. Drawing on his experience as a renowned portrait photographer, Jeffrey shows business owners how to see the business through a different lens and strategies to compose the often chaotic pieces of life and business into sustainable success.

His TEDx Lincoln Square Talk is featured on and he's the host of the top-rated podcast, The Self-Employed Life. He's the author of The Self-Employed Life: Business and Personal Development Strategies That Create Sustainable Success, as well as the amazing, LINGO: Discover Your Ideal Customer’s Secret Language and Make Your Business Irresistible. He lives in Miami with his Schnoodle Indie. I am so honored to welcome you to the show.

I'm sorry all my books have such long subtitles. It's a mouthful just to get the subtitles out, but I'm glad to be here with you, Tony.

Honestly, I love your books. I started reading your book The Self-Employed Life and I'm loving it. Thank you so much for putting that out there and the first book was fantastic.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

I can't wait to dig into your story because what we do here on the show is bring people on who can share their stories of transformation through what we call flashpoints. These points in your life have ignited your gifts into the world. I'm thrilled because I know you're doing amazing things in the world. I love your energy and your attitude.

Thank you. I love the idea of this. One of the things about transformational tales is that it's our lives. We're living our lives and it's not until somebody asks us to connect the dots that we can even often see the dots because it's an iterative process. In preparing to have our conversation, I was thinking a lot about the past few years. I think about the transformational tales people will have to tell, but I wonder if they see them right now. Everybody's been in a mode of adaptation, changing and evolving. I wonder how many people can really see their transformational tale now.

It's not until you get them on your show and ask them that a lot of people will pause just long enough to consider, “How did I get here?” What it comes down to is other people find our stories far more interesting than we do. I don't find my journey unusual or particularly newsworthy, but people ask me all the time, “How did you go from being a photographer to what you do now?” It's the number one question I get asked. I'm like, “Is that unusual?” I guess it is. It's great that you asked that question that causes people to think.

It makes me think of the slow down to go fast because there's this element of slowing down, realizing where you've come from and all the things that have gotten you where you are so that you can move forward in a powerful way to propel yourself forward. It's recognizing that you have to slow down and see those stories for what they are, your fuel. Let's dig in. I'm going to let you take it from here and as you're telling your flashpoints, let's pause along the way and see what's showing up. Start wherever you like, share whatever you're called to share and we will be here to receive.

It's actually poignant that you're asking this question. I hadn't thought about it until this moment. One of those flashpoints that I would point out is my home in Connecticut, which was a home that I bought for myself and my three kids after the divorce. I've been married for nineteen years, had three kids and divorced. This was a house built in 1790. It’s super quaint and I sold it. I was in New York wrapping things up. The closing is yet to come, but I had to go up there one last time. I've rented it out for the past few years to a wonderful family. This is my time to go up, bring closure to the house and make sure everything was ready to sell. I bid my tenants farewell.

Entrepreneurs can change the world one business at a time.

While I was there, I had a flashpoint moment where I recall the Sunday morning where I sat in the little garden in the Adirondack chair that I created at this house. I can remember that moment so specifically, every detail of it because I was battling what so many of us battle. To set the stage, at that point, I had been a full-time portrait photographer for very affluent families. I had a ridiculously good business. It was the easiest way to make money in the world. I loved what I did at every moment and I got to be creative.

I photograph entirely on locations. I'm outside. My clients all have multiple homes all over the world, so they flew me everywhere over the world. I'm out with beaches and estates. It's ridiculous how good it was. Here I was many years in reaping the benefits and rewards of this wonderful career as a photographer and having this nagging feeling that there had to be more for me. I felt like I had that feeling that I have to contribute something more to the world. Now I look back and think, “What more can you contribute than family memories?”

At the time, it felt like, “What more can I offer the world?” On the side, I had started receiving some training as a coach. I remember thinking to myself. I felt like I'm having an affair with myself. It was this weird way that I didn't want my photography clients to know I was interested in doing something else. Why? It’s because we've always been told in the world, we have to focus on one thing. We've been told we have to pick a niche in business. I had a very niche business serving a very demanding clientele. I didn't want them to think if I was doing something else, I couldn't be as good for them because that's what I've been told my whole life.

We're always told that classic phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” which is my biggest pet peeve in life. I'm like, “Who said it?” Who decided we can only be good at one thing? I've since learned to compare this to love. I have three kids. I love my first child immensely when he was born. Did I not have as much love for the second and third child? Of course, not. Because your love capacity expands to include what needs to fit into it, so why can't our talents and skillsets?

That Sunday morning, I was battling this. I had two websites going. I had a website for my photography business and for my building coaching practice. I'm feeling like I don't want anybody to know that I'm running two businesses at one time because that's exactly what I've been told not to do. That Sunday morning, I gave myself permission to screw it and being truer to who I am. I got up in that Adirondack chair. I walked into my little office in that house and I shut down my coaching website because my photography domain URL had been I had owned that since the beginning of the internet. I was like, “I'm one person. I'm a whole person. I happen to be somebody who photographs, who runs a business, who wants to help other people run their business and who wants to be a coach. I'm one person and I'm tired of living life in a way that people are telling me I should fragment myself and hide one piece for myself for another.”

That was a major flashpoint moment in my life where I gave permission to be true to who I am as a business person. As it turns out, all those years later, that's the number one advice I give and what I do for my coaching clients every day is to help them build a business model of multiples, where they are building multiple income streams and serving multiple audiences. Because not only is it what sustains you and keeps you excited about your business every day, it's also the smartest business model.

My instinct was right. That set the ball in motion for me to step into diversifying. The result of that is also cross-marketing. Some of my photography clients, particularly the women, because the husbands were typically Wall Streeters, executives and CEOs. Many of the women were at a point in their life that they wanted to create something. They wanted to create a business. I say, “No, I'm business coaching photography clients.” That's often a missed opportunity when people are afraid to diversify. It’s a cross-marketing opportunity. I just finished working with a branding client who is a photographer as well and an improv consultant.

We created a brand message for her which unifies those two things. I find it very likely in the future people will hire her for both. She's used to being hired as a photographer or an improv consultant, but the objective is the same. The objective is to bring out the best in somebody, which both improv and photography does that or maybe improv brings out the best and photography makes sure that you show your best to the world. Why not hire one person to do both of those things? That was a major flashpoint moment for me.

I want to take a moment here to recognize that this is something that's so powerful. There are so many insights in here. One that I love is that you gave yourself permission to really be fully you. When you start to hold yourself back and I call it being held in a box. We tend to think, “I'm a finance person or a photographer, so I can't be the other thing.” You then realize that we contain multitudes. When we hold ourselves back from being the things that we can be and we should be, then what we're doing is we're holding ourselves from our full potential.

There are so many people in the world who are doing that and it's unfortunate. That's why I think it's so great to have people like you who realize that and then help people to see that. The connection between photography and coaching was powerful. You're seeing people on the outside and in on the inside. That ability to see right through them and then also bring out their brilliance is such a win-win when you think about it.

I continue to unpack the impact of being a photographer in the work I do now to express what I do. I'm a small business coach. We focus either on brand messaging, which is the topic of my book LINGO or aligned with my new book, The Self-Employed Life. I help businesses create what I refer to as the self-employed ecosystem, which is multiple steps and a three-element process to make sure they have a well-balanced ecosystem in their business. What I have determined after many years is that if any one of those three elements which are your personal development, the business strategies that are right for you as a self-employed business and your daily habits and mindsets that create sustainability.

Like an ecosystem in nature, if any one of those elements is off, it's putting the entire ecosystem at risk. Not necessarily the risk of failure, although that's possible, what I can guarantee anybody is that you're working harder than you need to if any one of those areas is off. What happens to most entrepreneurs is they put all their effort into the business strategies. They're putting all the hours in the hard work, but they're not keeping pace with their personal development, which means it's like trying to overstuff success into a limited-size sack.

This is why you end up feeling like you're all over the place or that you're like a hamster on a wheel. I spend my days working with my coaching clients in this way. What I've come to realize, the reason that I'm unique in this field, including as a brand message consultant, because I don't come from this educational background of branding. I come from the school of hard knocks and years of experience. The fact to the matter is my brain as a photographer sees what other people can't see. That is the truest definition of being a photographer I think that there is.

Especially for myself as a photographer who always photographed on location, you could drop me any place in the world and I'll see beauty. I'll see composition. I don't photograph in a studio because I have the entirely opposite reaction. I walk into a studio to a blank background, my brain can't figure out what to do with that. I work better with what's there, which is why in my coaching process, I explain to my clients, “I'm going to kick up a lot of dust.” I'm like, “Bring on your chaos.” That's why I'm best with clients who described themselves as a hot mess or all over the place. I'm like, “Bring it on.”

That's the environment I thrive in because it has all these disparate pieces that seem like they're all over the place. I see and can compose how that comes together. Just like your show, your transformative tales, when we can connect the dots, there's so much information in your past that makes you unique at what you do now because I'm by far not the only business coach. I'm by far not the only branding coach and I feel this way as a speaker. I pitch myself as a speaker and as a photographer teaching business from the stage. Why? Because I'm probably the only photographer teaching business from this stage.

It becomes your differentiator and I can help audiences see what they haven't previously been able to see. When you're able to tap into your storyline, your transformational tale, when you can tap into that and the dots, that's exactly what translates to making you marketable. That's part of the transformation process that I do for my clients. My first client call with every client they’re like, “How do I prepare for our first call?” I'm like, “Don't. I want you to come as a complete loss soul and a blank slate,” because that's the environment that I thrive in. The information is all there. It just has to be brought up. I always say to my clients, “Don't worry about it. I do the heavy lifting.” I'm like, “You give me the information, my brain will translate and compose that into something that is what I refer to as the intersection of meaning and marketability.” It’s what's deeply meaningful to who you are and what's marketable in the world because that's how we create a thriving business.

One part of this that I want to challenge you on is to say there's always this element of wanting them to show up fully and making sure that they are not holding anything back. I'm sure that you're challenging your clients to do that because if you're not getting the full story, then it's hard for you to do your part of the work.

Working with me, there's nothing that's not going to come out except whatever you put boundaries on. That's the job of the coach to ask those questions that are unexpected and also to understand the process. I learned a term from a therapist a long time ago. She referred to it as doorknob therapy. I love that because it gave a name to something I experienced as a coach all the time, which is there's this relief moment when maybe they think the call was done or they've let their guard down and they drop the biggest bomb. Apparently, in therapy, it's the thing people say as they're walking out the door and their hand is on the doorknob and they turn and say, “By the way, I'm leaving my wife this week.” I'm like, “What?”

In therapy, I've heard it referred to as doorknob therapy. As a coach, I'm looking for the little value bombs that are dropped in between. I set the stage with my coaching clients to let them know like, “I will interrupt you often and it's not that I'm being rude, but I'm not going to let an intuitive hit pass by.” It’s this is little things that somebody says and I'm like, “There's tremendous value in that.” What's key is that the reason that happens is that what is truest to ourselves. What we have to offer the world of the greatest value is so natural to us that we don't see it as being unique.

It's like, “That's the background, not the foreground,” as soon as you let them relax out of the foreground and into the background and you pick it up because you see these things. You know how to look for those background images, you bring it forward and you say, “That's what's important. That thing in the background that you just dropped in, that's what we need to start digging into.”

One business is a ripple effect that can change the world.  

There's a process in Eastern culture called the five whys. I use that a lot where you ask somebody why at least five times. “Why is that important to you,” and you dig. I will get people to the point that they end up in what I call the blurt, which is when they're fed up with me asking, they're just like, “For this reason, dammit,” and now we got the truth. Sometimes it takes some digging to get to what's really important. Another flashpoint moment along those lines is when I was beginning a year-long leadership and I didn't see the tactic at the time. Again, at that point, I was a well-trained coach and I was in a year-long leadership program.

At the beginning of that program, our cohort of about twenty coaches were sitting in a circle. I happened to be the second or third from the last to go. It was the first gathering of the leadership program. They went around the circle asking everybody, “What's the impact you want to make in the world?” As it was going around the circle, people were saying such big and noble things like, “I want to bring water into third world countries. I want to save this part of the world. I want to invent this for medical.”

I'm sitting there thinking, “I just want to help entrepreneurs make more money.” I'm like, “How shallow am I?” I was caving in my own guilt and it came around to me and I had to be honest because that’s what I think we were there for. I said, “I'm embarrassed to say that I just want to help small business owners make more money.” The coach facilitator said, “Why is that important to you?” I said, “Because when people are able to have more financial freedom in their life, they become better people.” “Why is that important to you?” “Because they're impacting their local community by how they show up.” “Why is that important to you?” He went on and on. Finally, I said, “Because I believe entrepreneurs can change the world one business at a time.” He's like, “And there you go.”

It’s five whys and I didn't realize where he was taking me, but I got to the point like, “Because I just believe that,” and I do to this day. It drives the work that I do. Hopefully, we don't have to do it one business at a time, but the truth of the matter is who you are in business. How do you feel about your own life? What you're supporting, the life you're supporting and the life you're building. All the lives you interact with it in one business is a ripple effect that can change the world.

I love this concept and I immediately think of this idea of being impact-driven versus financially-driven. Ultimately, the financials will come because when you're driven by wanting something for somebody else and deep down understanding what it is, that becomes important. I think the five whys is what that is. It gets you to that core of, “Why am I doing what I do?” When you truly understand it, it starts to resonate out from there. I love that story that you shared because even if you've been doing it for a while, sometimes you don't fully understand it. That requires a lot of inner work, which leads me to this question that I want to ask now. You make it seem almost too easy, this jump from going from photographer to coach. What were some of the stumbles? Were there any things along the way that you came across that challenged your resolve?

All the time. I would say, I've given up the idea of like, “That was a rough week or a month.” I'm like, “That was a rough hour, but the next hour it could be great.” It’s such an up-and-down experience. What challenges my resolve and I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this is. I call it the soul’s gatekeepers because I have yet to come up with a better term for it. The closer we step into our most meaningful work, the more we are challenged because looking back and I'm not going to say that starting my photography business was easy, but it wasn't terribly hard once I got it.

I struggled for the first three years. I started out when I was twenty years old. Between 20 and 23, which I know sounds really young, but I was married at twenty years old. I had already had an apartment and I started having kids at 28. I started life a lot earlier than some. In my 23 years old, I had a fair number of financial commitments, but more than anything, I'd say the scariest thing to me at that point of having a failing business at 23 years old was that photography is the only thing I knew. I grew up in a very lower-middle-class culture that didn't talk about higher education, so very few of us in my community went on to higher education.

This was a talent I had that I felt I could excel at, but this is all I had, so if this didn't work, I was screwed. There was pressure on it from that perspective because I didn't know what else and I joked about it in the book that the reason I was selling eggs door to door at fourteen years old, I suffered from paralyzing shyness. I just wanted to hide in the world. That was a big stretch for me to go door to door selling eggs. The reason I became self-employed is because I deemed myself as completely unemployable. I'm like, “Who would hire this loser?” That was my feeling. I was so shy, a geek and a nerd and all the things that people had told me I was being bullied, beat up and all that stuff that I believed. I'm like, “Nobody's going to hire me, so I better forge my own way.”

At 23 years old, having a failing business was scary because I didn't see myself as employable, but once I got who I was meant to serve and how I could learn their lingo, which is why I teach the strategy in my first book LINGO. It's a brand message strategy. The next I know, I went from growing up in a lower-middle-class community to serving the wealthiest people in the United States as their photographer and getting along with them better than I do my family. I'm totally getting them and they in turn getting me. There were never judgments or stereotypes. There's a real deep connection.

In the end, I would say it was a pretty easy business to build once I got it. By my late twenties, I had a seven-figure business and life was coasting. A few years ago, I decided to become a coach and a speaker. If you had asked me twelve years ago why I thought I was on this Earth, I would have said to be a photographer. Ask me that now and I have a very different answer. I say this quietly, if you will, although here, I'm saying it on your show. My book publisher asked me, what was the long-term vision for my book, The Self-Employed Life. I said, “I want to go down as one of the world's greatest business philosophers.” The thing that I'm most excited about when I'm gone is that my kids are going to come across memes that their dad said circulating on social media.

That's the most important thing to me because I lived by that wisdom. I live by quotes by Jim Rohn and I find the handing down of quotes sitting around a campfire is one of the most meaningful things and I love that. That's my big vision, but this is hard. It's such a different way of being in the world as a thought leader and as an expert in a field. It's full of far more challenges than it was to build a seven-figure business as a photographer because I believe as I referred to the soul's gatekeepers, it's that much closer to my soul. It's that much closer to that true sense of purpose and mission and why I'm on this planet that how could that not be more challenging if you're tapping into the deepest realms of your being. As I often say about being self-employed, the old adage that, “It's business, don't take it personal,” doesn't apply to us. It's all deeply personal.

I love that you say that because it's so deeply personal. I think one of the things that I keep on coming back to, being self-employed and anything really, but especially being in the coaching, advising or whatever it is that you do when someone's trusting you with their path forward, it's not for the faint of heart. You can't be in it just for the money, because if you're doing it for the money, it's not going to pan out. There are going to be some dropout rates from that perspective, but ultimately the path you're on is because your soul drove you into this and you're driven for impact, not for money. That is such an amazing way to think about it. For the people who are reading, who are saying themselves like, “What is my soul pulling me towards?” You're a great example of that.

What you said was beautiful. People aren't trusting us with their path forward. That is not for the faint of heart. It's one of my replies when I'm asked as a speaker. If an organization feels my rate is too high, most people don't. You always have a question in your mind that you think somebody could ask and you have an answer for it, but they don't necessarily was asked. I'm on stage for an hour and fifteen minutes and people want to know why I'm charging you thousands and thousands of dollars. Whenever I'm challenged of my rates, it's not the hour and fifteen minutes on the stage. It's not even the years of business experience I'm bringing. That's a given.

What I like to reply to is, “It's the how many hundreds of souls you're putting in my responsibility for that hour and fifteen minutes.” That's no joke. I don't care if it's 100 people or 1,000 people in an audience, I'm being hired to take responsibility for their path forward as you said. That’s why I moved to Miami. It’s another flashpoint moment. People go like, “How did you go from living in Manhattan to Miami and what brought that about? Was it the weather?” It’s what people always ask. I'm like, “Not really. It was the results and the benefits of the weather.” I came down for three months years ago and never left.

The reason for that was that I had been living in Manhattan. Manhattan enabled me to think big. It’s where I'm from. I love it. It’s home but I realized in my current profession as a coach, it is such a giving process that if I didn't take care of myself, the reservoir would run dry. I realized that living on the ocean is the lazy man's way to rejuvenate. You have to be present on the beach and on the ocean and it will refill that reservoir so that you have more of yourself to give, which is so required from the work I do. I don’t just walk on the beach. I also sea kayak a lot. An afternoon in a kayak will refuel me and get me back out there so quickly and that's the goal. The goal is how quickly you can recover to get back out there and impact the world and help people?

Hearing you say it gets me in a place of relaxation and feeling more rejuvenated listening to it. Ultimately, a lot of people don't realize how important that relaxation and self-care are. No matter who you are, we all deserve to take care of ourselves. It's not selfish to do that because it ultimately allows us to move forward in a very powerful way, especially for those people who are self-employed, who really need to take care of themselves because no one's there looking out for them.

When the pandemic hit, I was at a good point, if one can be for that to come along. I felt very grounded on where I was going and I was just beginning to write my book, The Self-Employed Life. I made it a rule for myself, which I've continued to stick with, which was anytime somebody came to mind, I was going to reach out to them because I assumed there had to be a reason why somebody came to mind. Why did I think of that person at that time? Maybe they needed something. Whenever I reached out to somebody, I'd let them know. I'm like, “You came to mind.” I want you to know that I'm finding myself in life with some more extra capacity in my reservoir. If you're running short in your reservoir wellbeing and you need something for me, I have it to give.

That's the way I would reach out to people and let them know. It's like, “For some reason, you came to mind. I suspect maybe you're feeling tapped out. Maybe this pandemic or the lockdowns are putting extra strain on you. I've got the energy left over to give. Let me share with you my extra abundance in the reservoir.” For whatever reason, part of it was probably experience. This was my third rodeo. I'd been through 9/11 as a New Yorker and survived the Great Recession serving the affluent people that were the ones on the news. That reduced my business by 2/3 in a year.

When this came along, I'm like, “I get it.” This is not going to go away anytime soon. I knew we were in for a good year-long trauma. It went on a little longer than I expected, but I think because of my mindset just going into it and having my life in a good position and living where I want to live and being in a relationship that was healthy. All those things contributed to feeling like I had this reservoir of wellbeing and knowing not everybody's going to find themselves in that position and why not share what I had to give during a time when you have that extra capacity. My book, The Self-Employed Life, is such an unusual business book because there is so much coaching and there's a lot of personal development. People have asked me a lot like, “Why is there so much personal development? It's such an unusual approach to a business book.”

I'm like, “Because I'm tired of a world where people are being given strategies and how-tos without focusing on the personal development capacity to handle all the hard work.” It's the number one stop block. You can keep working hard putting in all the hours and you wonder, “How come I'm not getting any place?” It’s because here's the deal. Here's why personal development is important. It comes down to capacity. You have to increase the capacity of what you're keeping capable of, what you believe you deserve, what you see yourself as deserving of. You have to increase that capacity in order for the hard work and strategy you're going put in to go somewhere. I look at it as capacity and that's how I teach personal development. It's raising the ceiling and it's perfectly went along with my TEDx Talk too.

When people have more financial freedom in their life, they become better people.

My TEDx Talk is fundamentally on the idea that often other people can see more on us than we can see ourselves. Why is that? Because I don't care how much you expect active yourself or you think you're going to go beyond your ex expectations. Expectation by definition is a predetermined outcome. You've already decided the limitations of your success. Subconsciously or not, you've already determined it. Often, other people can see more on us than we can see in ourselves. That thought for that TEDx Talk came about from watching award shows like the Grammys and Tony's. I love all those shows. What I love about them is I love the speeches. What I realized after years of watching these is that everybody always thanks, other people.

They're always thanking their peers. Even the ESPN Awards. People always thanking the coach who saw more in them than they saw in themselves. People thank the people, their peers who believed in them more than they believed in themselves. I'm like, “The best way for us to be bigger than we are is to see what other people see in us and believe them.” I'm like, “If you think of a superstar, I'll buy that,” and step into it. That's personal development and as I defined it, it’s around capacity. That's why I teach it in the book. It's the first section of the book. I'm like, “Let's increase your capacity for your success before I give you yet another gazillion strategies because then the strategies will work.”

I love that concept because it's so powerful and it's so true. It resonates right through to the fiber of my being and what I think is the way we look at it. We see things in people that they don't see and ultimately, when you get them to believe it, that's when great things happen. I think that's such a great way to look at it. I want to give you a moment to see if there's anything else you want to share. Maybe some reflections on your past because now you dropped this big bomb on me and I'm at a loss for words. I do want to see if there's something you want to share as you reflect on your past that you like to share with the audience.

I think the work for all of us to do is to reflect back on our past and see life's experiences and business experiences. I would say, even relationships that you've been in and out of or maybe it's just me because I've had my relationship battles before finding a healthy one. Whether it's money issues or relationship issues, they show our patterns and we don't change our future until we break a pattern. I do look at my life holistically and I've learned a tremendous amount about my business by looking at my relationship patterns. I've learned that I'm tremendous about my relationships from looking at that business. One of my sons said to me once when I was going through yet another breakup. He had said to me, “Dad, in business, you’re killing it, but your personal life is a mess.”

You got to love your advice from your own kids and he wasn't wrong. In business, I tend to think and flow. I get it but I had a lot of personal stuff and patterns to break before stepping into a healthy relationship. I had a therapist once that picked up on this and he taught me how to look at my relationships like a business problem. It was tremendous. He helped my brain work into its advantage to solve a relationship. He asked me like, “Let's think about marketing. Who's your ideal customer? Where are you willing to live in the world? What are the market areas you're willing to live in,” and to put it in business perspective.

I encourage everyone to just look at themselves holistically. I did a tremendous amount of work over the past couple of years around my core values. My number one core value is acceptance and all the layers of that. To me, acceptance is way beyond diversification and accepting people of all races, genders and orientations but even beyond that it is accepting who we are. Accepting the uniqueness of who we are and ourselves. From a business perspective, it's why I fight as hard as I do for the small guys and gals, the self-employed and the small businesses because we can so easily be overpowered by big business and bad advice that's been handed down forever often at the root coming from big business. The 80/20 rule is ridiculous. Also, the Pareto Principle.

It's been handed down for generations that 80% of your income comes from 20% of your customers. I've been out there for years saying, “Yeah.” To the small business that works really hard for every customer, that means you're wasting your time on 8 out of 10 customers. Who has time for that? All your customers need to be ideal customers and I can show you how to do that. It's advice like that, that gets handed down that it's so ridiculous that it doesn't enable this small business to be accepted for who they are, the business owner who's a company of one to be accepted for who they are. That's my core value. That's what I fight for. I suggest to anyone to work on being true to yourself, be in business the way that you instinctively feel best about because you're probably right.

I call it the filter of discernment. Take in the world, take in other advice, but have the discernment to decide what's best for you because a lot of what you hear probably isn't right for you in your size business and make decisions otherwise. That continues to help me. The world has a lot to offer and I'm a big believer in joining your trade associations and your professional organizations, but you have to go to them with a strong filter of discernment because what works for others doesn't work for you. There's information there to take in and then decide what works for you and what doesn't.

If I put a cherry on top of this, I think acceptance really comes down to also knowing that the answers are within. You have to trust yourself to know the answers are there. Once you accept, you can transcend that limitation and get there. I love the way you put it. Thank you. We went by in a blur and now I'm going to come to the last question of the show, which is one or two books that have had an impact on you and why.

I'm going to offer two books that I think are of such huge contrast, but that's exactly how I look at business and life. The tagline of my podcast is Business with a Soul and traditional business doesn't put those two words together, but that to me is the magic formula. The secret to success, I believe, is finding the sweet spot in what seems to be polar opposites. To me, business is being soulful and being strategically smart. The two books I'll suggest one is The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It’s a purely spiritual book. It was a good book for me because I have a hard time trusting in things that are bigger than me and I think this is true for a lot of self-employed people is because we have inadvertently trained ourselves to only believe in ourselves. If we want something done right, we do it ourselves. We've put that kind of pressure on ourselves that we have a hard time trusting beyond ourselves. The Big Leap opened my mind up to what I don't know and believe it's possible.

A contrasting book to that is a new favorite of mine, which is Sell the Way You Buy by David Priemer. It's a sales book. I'm representing the polar opposites. On the one hand, it is the spirituality of life and business and on the other hand, it's like, “Here's how you make better sales.” This is one of the best sales books I've come across in a very long time. It's so simple. I don't know why we don't think about it more often, but we don't want to be pushed on and sold to, so don't do that to others. It's a really good sales book. That's the sweet spot of success. It is having that personal development married up with strong business strategies that will enable you to be in business in a way that's true to yourself and to be highly successful. Those are the two books.

I'm always talking about how there is a balance. We always have to try as leaders to know like, “What is it that I need to do on the soul side, but also on the side of the fundamentals of selling and engaging with customers?” There's this tactical and then there's also the strategic side. There's always a balance we're striking. Ultimately, those books do strike that balance and it's amazing to have them shared here. I'm very intrigued. I can't thank you enough for coming to the show. You've been just an amazing guest. I'm so thrilled to have you on. I want to make sure that I share your contact information with people and find out where they can reach out to you. Where's the best place to find you?

There are a couple of things. One, if you are self-employed and I believe this tool will help you. You can go to We've created a tool with a custom algorithm that enables you to answer six questions and the custom algorithm will let you know where you're weakest in your self-employed ecosystem. It's a great beginning point to know where you need to work. I want you to have that. I'm not hard to find, but my main website is My services, my philosophies, my podcast, and everything I have to put out in the world can be found on my main website. The Self-Employed Assessment, as I said, if you're self-employed, it's an invaluable tool for you to be able to see and get some individualized insights into where you're at and what you could do about it.

I can't thank you enough for coming to the show. This has been an amazing hour. Thank you.

I appreciate being here. I love the content of your show. Thank you for having me.

Thanks, readers, for coming on the journey. That's a wrap.

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About Jeffrey Shaw

From humble beginnings, Jeffrey Shaw became one of the most preeminent portrait photographers in the United States. His on-location style and fine craftsmanship made him the go-to photographer for families of C-suite executives of Anheuser-Busch, Twitter, and many others, Supermodel Stephanie Seymour, news anchors Jim Nantz and David Bloom, sports icons Tom Seaver, Pat Riley, and Wall Street executives too many to mention. His portraits appeared on The Oprah Show, CBS News, in People and O Magazine and hang at Harvard University and The Norman Vincent Peale Center.

After 35 years of exceptional service to his exclusive clientele, Jeffrey decided to share his knowledge of business, branding, and marketing to support self-employed and small business owners as well as progressive-minded companies. He's an in-demand keynote speaker at conferences such as HOW Design, Growth Marketing, corporations the likes of Verizon and BMW, and institutions such as Florida Atlantic University and the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship. Jeffrey is also the author of two books, LINGOandThe Self-Employed Life.

In 2014, Jeffrey started a podcast, Creative Warriors, later rebranded as The Self-Employed Life which is amongst the top 15% of all podcasts. His TEDx LincolnSquare talk was later moved to which is so rare it’s been said you have a better chance of getting hurt at home by your toilet.

With abundant passion and a strong commitment to serving, we can expect there is much more to come.


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