The Best Conference of the Year for Entrepreneurs: MastermindTalks (and a recap of all 20+ presentations)

MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

MastermindTalks creator Jayson Gaignard

For the second year in a row, I attended what will almost certainly be my favorite conference of the year. MastermindTalks, the brainchild of Jayson Gaignard, is unique in that it delivers both transformational content AND superb networking.

Most of the conferences I attend are focused around a particular topic (social media, wealth management, etc.) and only attract attendees who are interested in that central theme. If I’m lucky the information is good, because it’s unlikely I’ll make a ton of meaningful connections.

MTalks is built from the inside out. Jayson starts by carefully selecting the attendees to ensure that everyone in the room is a good fit. To give you an idea, he receives over 3,000 applications and only extends an invitation to 125. The quality of the attendees truly sets this conference apart. For the second year in a row, I met several remarkable people who could have easily been one of the presenters (several of last year’s presenters were, in fact, attendees this year). And of course, I love the idea of vetting for the highest caliber attendee, as it’s the same model we use when selecting members for cadre.

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Melanie and I enjoying a breakout dinner with our friends (old and new).

Once he establishes who will be attending, Jayson selects speakers based on who will provide the most value for his audience. He handpicks 20+ topic-agnostic experts to give TED-style talks, and the amount—and range—of information they share is life-changing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with all of them (I have linked their names to their website, Twitter profile, etc, where relevant):

Cameron HeroldCameron is a friend who previously headlined a cadre event, where he introduced his “Painted Picture” process. Painting a picture has to do with using creative exercises like imagination and free association to bring the future you envision into the present and get clarity on what you’re building now. You end up with a detailed overview of what your business will be like three years out. It really is transformational, and I recommend it for all types of businesses. You can learn more and see Cameron’s own Painted Picture here.

Marcus Sheridan — Marcus is a great friend and cadre member. I never tire of seeing him present, as he is one of the best in the world. His approach to attracting prospective clients via your blog and website is to identify the questions they’re asking and provide the most straightforward and honest answers. Forget about buzzwords like blogging, inbound marketing and social media marketing, and see these things for what they actually are: listening, communicating and being the best teacher in your industry. His blog is a must for anyone who’s serious about identifying more clients via their website.

Ted Whitling – The Director of Surveillance at ARIA Casino Las Vegas, Ted looks for anomalies in data and human behavior to identify anyone who might be cheating or gaming the system. He says, “We identify the weird; the money is in the weird” – which can be very applicable as an ethical way to uncover opportunities in your business.

Esther Perel – Recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships, Esther gave a presentation titled “From the Boardroom to the Bedroom.” In her fascinating talk, she suggests that many of us struggle with balancing our need for both adventure (freedom) and stability (security), and that we use up all of our passion at work and “bring home the leftovers.” One of the many tips I loved from her, pertaining to those of us who regularly schedule a date night, is to find 15-20 minutes a day or two earlier to catch up on the kids, priorities around the house, etc., so you can focus on having a fun adult conversation while on your date. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with her and her wisdom.

Dave Asprey – It turns out the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, which I’ve been drinking for four months and love, has a ton of insight that goes way beyond my favorite caffeinated drink. Dave provided us with advice focused more around managing our energy, as opposed to our time. As a “biohacker,” he is constantly testing the environment inside and outside of his body to improve things like his health and sleep.

Dave Asprey, Founder of The Bulletproof Executive, rocking a pair of blue blocking glasses.

One tip: The standard lighting (blue) emitted from your screens (computer, phone, etc.) is hurting your sleep. Put on a pair of blue-blocking glasses and download Flux to enable red lighting. This will help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep throughout the night. There’s too much wisdom to cover here, so I strongly suggest checking out his website to learn more.

Steve Sims – The founder of Bluefish, a high-end concierge company, suggests we all do what he does and “create smiles, not transactions.” While Steve is the man to see if you want a monumental experience like attending the Grammys or going on a submersible dive to view the Titanic, he also says you don’t have to go big to make a big impression. For example, when he’s traveling, Steve will frequently rip articles out of magazines and send them to clients using the hotel’s stationery. Letting your key clients know you’re thinking about them when you’re on the road is a great way to deepen relationships.

Ben Greenfield – This world-class triathlete and NYT bestselling author of Beyond Training is also the father of 6-year-old twins. His presentation, “How to Grow Tiny Superhumans,” which made him a co-winner (along with Renee Airya) of the event’s $25,000 prize for best talk, was incredibly useful to me as a parent of two young boys. Here are a few of the unconventional gems he offered up for anyone with young children:

  • Let them get dirty. Exposing your kids to bacteria and germs will help them develop a better immune system. Stop using antibacterial soap and consider skipping the baths more often (his boys get one every three days).
  • Let them eat fat. More healthy fat = a more developed immune system. Ben suggests bone marrow (bake it in their veggies), grass-fed butter and egg yolks, to name a few.
  • Let them fight. Roughhousing makes kids more socially mature, and how a child deals with pain and discomfort is more predictive of first grade scores than their Kindergarten scores.
  • Let their feet free. Have your kids go barefoot around the house, which will improve their lifelong posture, among other things. Wearing protective shoes too often will cause their foot muscles to atrophy.

One other important takeaway from Ben was to unplug your router at night. The EMFs emitted from your wi-fi router can be harmful to growing kids. Since their cells are rapidly dividing, they absorb much more of the radiation than adults.

Melanie and I are already implementing a lot of what we picked up from Ben and look forward to learning more via his blog.

Aubrey Marcus – The founder of puts a premium on telling the truth and being as honest as possible, and assumes his customers are wired this way too. For example, his return policy not only gives them a money-back guarantee, but also lets them keep the product! He believes most consumers keep products they are unhappy with to avoid the hassle of returning them – then stay unhappy and stop being a customer. Trusting his customers allows him to get more feedback and retain more of them.

Renee Airya – In her inspiring talk, “Flip Your Flaws,” this successful entrepreneur and model shared her journey, which began with having massive brain surgery in 2004 and falling into the less than 3 percent that get facial paralysis. A nerve had been severed, and she went from modeling a perfect smile to not being able to move the right side of her face. While overcoming this setback, she learned that “flaws are gateways to our sincerity.” One key takeaway for anyone whose life has been dramatically altered is to stop comparing yourself to the person you were and focus on what makes you unique. Renee’s story touched everyone in some way, so it was no surprise when she was announced as a co-winner for best talk along with Ben Greenfield. She has a lot to share and a ton of inspiration on her website.

Todd Tzeng – This investor and turnaround specialist shared the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey. One idea of his that I love is to plan your perfect day. What time would you wake up? Who would you spend time with? What would you do? He acknowledged it would be difficult to live out this day on a regular basis, but understanding who and what is important to you will guide you in the choices you make.

Robbie Richman – The author of The Culture Blueprint and co-creator of Zappos Insights shared how he focused more on what not to do when he created a world-class business culture. Like Michelangelo sculpting David, Robbie suggested we chip away at the things that do not represent our culture. He also suggested we avoid trying to please everyone, citing Tony Hsieh: “Most businesses don’t die of starvation; they die of indigestion.”

Michael Norton – I was excited to see Michael as I am a big fan of his book, Happy Money. This Professor of Marketing at Harvard discussed research that shows the importance of transparency in the buying process. Specifically, if you show customers the work you’re doing, they will be more likely to trust you (and buy from you).

He told the story of a master locksmith who shared that he sometimes takes longer than he needs to do the job so people don’t think he’s ripping them off. The interesting thing is that this also applies to work done by a computer. Sites like Orbitz and Kayak both show a progress bar while searching for flight options, but Kayak tells you specifically what the computer is working on, i.e. “now searching United flights.” Even if people have to wait longer, they will buy more frequently if they think more work is being done to personalize their search results.

Dr. Nick Morgan– This presentation and communication coach highlighted the importance of body language when presenting. Some keys for tapping into the unconscious minds of your audience include using “open up” gestures (no hand clenching) and having a confident, upright posture, which creates mirroring. One tip for the ladies: When someone’s pelvis is out they’re communicating flirting, so remember to tuck in your abs while wearing high heels.

Michael Port– Right on cue following Morgan’s presentation, the author of the excellent Book Yourself Solid, did as good a job of using body language as anyone I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of Sally Hogshead). Rather than drop some savvy business ideas on us, which he could easily have done, he talked about an eating disorder that held him back at various times throughout his career. He suggested we all have some secret or unhealthy habit that is holding us back and that we subconsciously marginalize our efforts so others won’t find out. The sooner we identify and deal with this thing, we can show up as we are and make a bigger impact on those we touch.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Michael Port encouraging us to think big.

Guy Kawasaki– During a Q&A with the multiple bestselling author and former Chief Evangelist at Apple, Guy offered up a variety of helpful tools and ideas. When asked about his former role at Apple, he stated that “the key to great evangelism and marketing is to do it on behalf of great stuff.” After admitting that he owns an Android because it is superior to the iPhone (I’ve been saying this for two years), he talked about how much more important value is than price—which is why it’s been a while since people lined up outside an Apple store to buy their newest product. He also shared a number of quotes from Steve Jobs. My favorite was “I’d rather have a hole in my business than an asshole.”

Philip Mckernan– I had not previously heard of this author of Rich On Paper, Poor On Life, but boy was I impressed. He began by saying, “Entrepreneurs are great at two things: complicating their lives and justifying why they do it.” According to Philip, “the path to an authentic and meaningful life starts with questioning the one you are already on.” While running a business, we have many choices and sometimes all these options prevent us from acting on any of them. He suggests, “In the absence of clarity, take action. The more we do this, the more we will trust ourselves.”

Steve Sisler– Steve is a behavioral profiler and lead Behavioral Analyst at The Behavioral Resource Group. As conference attendees, we were given the opportunity to take a DISC test to learn more about ourselves. He shared insights on how to get more out of our strengths and how we can improve in our areas of weakness. I highly recommend going through this process and becoming more aware of what you bring to the table (and what you don’t).

Meg Hirshberg– It was a real treat to hear the story of the non-entrepreneurial wife of the founder of Stoneyfield Yogurt, a super-successful company that failed to turn a profit for the first nine years. The author of For Better or For Work compared her journey to being the passenger in a car on a curvy road, in that it’s much harder when you are not in control and cannot anticipate the twists and turns. Meg suggested that anyone in a relationship with someone who is not wired like an entrepreneur should consider withholding information about the business, explaining that this is “not about babying your spouse, but about respecting their smaller appetite for risk.”

Hal Elrod– We were treated to a bonus session with Hal, whom I had recently discovered while listening to a podcast interview with him. Hal’s story, which includes being clinically dead for six minutes and told he would never walk again, and then walking again in a few months is incredible. He shared the insights behind his bestseller, The Miracle Morning, which I just finished and highly recommend. I’ve never been a morning person, but he has convinced me of its power and I am excited to give it a try!

Again, I strongly encourage you to look further into what all of these amazing minds have to say. And if you come across anyone or anything that really strikes a chord, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below.

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