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Ep. 58 - How Creative Visualization and Neuroplasticity Helps Entrepreneurs with Mike Volkin

Mike Volkin is the lead instructor at FreelancerMasterclass.com. He has built and sold 4 companies, written 5 books, one-best seller and now he is on a mission to help freelancers capture the freedom and money they deserve. 

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:23] Mike’s first business that he built and sold
  • [3:24] Mike on writing his best-selling book and upselling it
  • [4:39] What is Neuroplasticity?
  • [6:22] Creative Visualization and stories of its effectivity
  • [9:29] Chase points out similar concepts before with literary works
  • [10:39] Scientists already confirmed and proven that it really works
  • [12:02] Chase being honest: Not all-in on creative visualization but he gets why and how it works
  • [12:51] Just try it, it’s easy, it’s free and there are no negative consequences - Mike
  • [13:42] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.link/honest
  • [14:31] Mike’s tips to enhance neuroplasticity for entrepreneurs
  • [19:31] Mike’s unique SEO play: Scholarships
  • [22:57] Mike’s new book 

Resources:

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 Transcript:

 

Mike Volkin  

Because being effective (an) entrepreneur relies directly on being disciplined, being priority-driven, being focused on your goals and you really can't do that in a tired state of mind.

 

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 

 

I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

 

If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.

 

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host Chase Clymer coming to you from Columbus, Ohio, and today joining us all the way from the West Coast is Mike Volkin

 

Mike is a very, very interesting guy. He's written a few books. He sold a few businesses. He's a lot smarter than me. So you're gonna have a lot to learn here. Mike, welcome to the show.

 

Mike Volkin  

Thanks. I would not say I'm a lot smarter than you. I've done a lot and it's been a long road. I've lost a lot of sleep out of it, but I'll be happy to share my experiences and talk to a little bit about some tips I have coming up in regards to neuroplasticity

 

Chase Clymer  

Yes, we're gonna get into that. But first, I do want to talk about your entrepreneurial journey

 

Mike Volkin  

Sure.

 

Chase Clymer  

Selling 4 companies is super fun. I think when people get into starting a business, selling a business is the last thing on their mind. So what was your first successful business per se and how did you end up selling it?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah. I built and sold 4 companies. Right now, I'm a Fractional CMO for digital companies. But the first company that I built and sold wasn't actually in the digital space. 

 

It was a real estate company. I had an idea. I was a real estate broker at the time and I had an idea for a different type of business model out here in California. 

 

So, I went ahead and started recruiting some agents under this concept that to be a good real estate agent, you don't have to know much about real estate, you just have to know how to market yourself. 

 

So I created a Central Technology Center where I basically did all the marketing for the agents or me in this other team that I hired. We took care of your website, your SEO, all your exposure, and then the real estate agents could focus on real estate. 

 

So, it actually turned out pretty well. I wound up franchising it. I built it up into 15 offices in 5 different states. And then an investor group bought me out. And within a few years, they ran it into the ground. 

 

I think it still exists, it's just a shell of what it was when I was running it. But at one point it was up to about 5 states.

 

Chase Clymer  

That's super interesting. So when you first started that business, did you ever think you were going to sell it or you're just like "I am going to work for myself."

 

Mike Volkin  

No. I actually had no plans on selling it. I loved the real estate industry. And then The Bubble happened especially out here in California, we got hit really hard. My agents couldn't keep busy. They couldn't sell a house or buy a house to save their lives. Business just evaporated almost overnight. 

 

At the time, the business was just dismal and had no economic forecasts of getting good the next couple of years. And one of my franchise owners says, "Hey, I've got some investors that are interested in buying out your company." 

 

So we had some discussions and a few weeks later, we signed the agreements, and I went on to other things. Never looked back. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah. And also during that, you wrote a couple of books. So (have) you had any highlights there?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, I had written a book. I joined the army after 9/11. I just dropped everything. I quit my job 3 days after 9/11 happened. And I joined the army because I wanted to be a part of whatever was coming at the time. Nobody knew what was happening.

 

 I dropped everything. I went to basic training, and I found myself swearing at myself saying "What the heck I was getting myself into." Eye-to-eye with drill sergeants in basic training, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even know the difference between a sergeant and an officer. I had enlisted with a master's degree. 

 

Apparently that's not what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to go the officer route but I went the sergeant route. So as a result of that experience, I wrote a book called "The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook", which prepares recruits for military basic training. Because I realized a lot of what I learned basic training, about 80% of it, you can learn on your own. 

 

Stuff with how to do a drill sergeants military fitness, getting ready in time. So, I wrote a book based on that. That book got so popular, (it) became a best-seller that I wrote two other books. 

 

So when people were buying one book, they're also buying, not just the guidebook, but they're buying the workbook as well. And another follow-up book. So instead of making 1 sale, I was making 3

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. Capitalizing on that audience that you've already curated.

 

Mike Volkin  

That's right. Yeah.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So let's fast forward to these days. Now, you are a serial entrepreneur. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Yes.

 

Chase Clymer  

You're a coach. And now you're, you're more into this brain research stuff. So let's get into that stuff. So let's... 

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah.

 

Chase Clymer  

You shared with me this concept of neuroplasticity. 

 

Mike Volkin  

That's right. 

 

Chase Clymer  

What is that? What are we talking about?

 

Mike Volkin  

First of all, congrats for not making it a tongue twister. Most people flub it up. That's right. It's called neuroplasticity. And I'll probably mess it up a couple of times during this podcast. 

 

But basically, neuroplasticity is a term that refers to the brain's amazing ability to change and adapt to our environment and our situations. 

 

So from the moment that our brain starts to develop until the day we die, the connections within the brain cells, they reorganize, in response to whatever we're doing at the time, whatever changing needs we have. 

 

So this neuroplastic brain we have allows us to learn and adapt to different experiences. And the things that we do often, we become stronger at. And our brains are constantly being shaped by whatever experiences we have, both long and short-term. 

 

And what's exciting about this field is that in the last decade or so, --because of the advances of technology-- scientists now have confirmed through testing that is repeated thoughts or actions, they actually reinforce the neural pathways. 

 

And so that essentially confirms that our thoughts can change, physically, how our brain works. 

 

And that is what I've been focusing on. I've been taking neuromarketing courses online, I'm a certified neuromarketer. But way back in grad school, in the year 2000, I was actually studying neuroscience as well.

 

Chase Clymer  

This is an extremely interesting topic. So how do your personal experiences helped shape that? Do you have any examples that have happened to you?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah. Actually, I got into neuroplasticity from a tennis match. Actually, from a series of tennis matches. So I'm actually hooked on a type of meditation that is called "creative visualization", in which I recommend every entrepreneur does. You have an entrepreneur audience. 

 

If you don't know what creative visualization is, I'm telling you, listen to the next few minutes, because this is going to change your life. It's changed mine. I mentioned that I'm a tennis player. Okay. 

 

So, at last year's US Open, a 19-year old woman named Bianca Andreescu, she made history by becoming the first player to win the Open on our main draw debut, so (it's) the first time she's ever played. 

 

Now, she has tried to qualify in the past. In fact, just the prior year she lost in the qualifying round. 

 

So naturally, people started asking her how she went from losing in the qualifying rounds 1 year, then going on to --not only win the next year, the entire tournament-- but beat the best women's player in history, Serena Williams. In straight sets, mind you. 

 

So her answer was creative visualization. And she practices it daily. So I started looking into it. Creative visualization is directly tied to neuroplasticity and there are certain techniques on how to make creative visualization effective. 

 

So I learned how to do it. And I did it myself 3 times a day, about seven minutes of session. So that totals (in) about 20 minutes a day. So what I did was I --from a tennis front-- I pictured myself playing better tennis. 

 

Pictured myself hitting a hard serve and I felt the feeling of what it's like when I hit a winner, winning forehand. I pictured myself holding a trophy over my head and feeling that feeling of winning. And all those visuals, come into play a great match. That's what I pictured. 

 

And for 3 weeks I did that. So after 3 weeks, I had a pretty competitive tennis match. I am in a league that is very competitive. 

 

And to be honest, I lose more often than I win. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm a fantastic player. But this league I'm in, we travel all over Northern California. 

 

We play other champions in those cities, country club champs and whatnot. So I played someone who had a good record. And I'll tell you from hit number 1  from being on the court, I knew something was different. 

 

I played out of my mind that day and my opponent actually never won a single game. I won 6-0, 6-0. And I've actually never done that before. In fact, after the match, my opponent got in his car and stormed off and complained to the team that I was some kind of ringer that was in the wrong league. 

 

So from then on, I've been playing great tennis. In fact, the following week after that, I won 6-2, 6-0, so there's no reason that any entrepreneur listening today can't improve their entrepreneurial skills through creative visualization. 

 

They just have to believe that it will work and that it's (not) an overnight process and understand what neuroplasticity is. It's that your thoughts, and your actions, and what you feel, can actually rewire your brain physically. 

 

And it's not an overnight process. It's not like going down to fast food and ordering a burger or anything. It actually took me 3 weeks to be able to see some benefits but when I did, my life has never been the same.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh. This concept here, I have heard of this before. It goes back actually quite a ways. I believe the first time I was introduced to this was through Dale Carnegie’sHow To Win Friends and Influence People” I believe that... There's a big part of that in the book. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Yes. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Especially talking about... Oh man, I need to go reread that book because I can't bring up this fact. But it was someone that wanted to work with... I believe it was... Who made the light bulb? Wow. (I) should not have dropped out of college. 

 

Mike Volkin  

(laughs)

 

Chase Clymer  

But Someone wanted to work with 

 

Chase and Mike  

Edison. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. So... 

 

Mike Volkin  

Yes. 

 

Chase Clymer  

So, someone wanted to work with Edison. And he visualized that he was going to be a partner with Edison. And it had the whole story about it. 

 

And this is actually --in a lot of business books-- is this concept of visualizing your goal, visualizing how you want your business to influence your life, and you can even take it back a bit further than that if you want. And it's the concept behind that book, The Secret as well.

 

Mike Volkin  

 Mm-hmm.

 

Chase Clymer  

All of them have a different spin on it. Now, if you bring this into this new realm that you were discussing here [is] more science... Not scientific, per se, but a more modern approach. There's a whole field around neuroplasticity. It starts to say, like, "There might be something here."

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah. What's exciting is, you mentioned all those books that were made a decade ago, people were alluding to that this could be real. 

 

But now we know through testing, through actual scientists actually hooking up machines to people's brains and seeing the electrons flow through the brain, they can see that this is actually a proven concept. 

 

It's no more (just) a theory. We can actually see it actually working and physically changing your brain structure. Now there is a way to do it properly and improperly. It's more than just saying, "I want to get a great house." 

 

And I think I hear people saying, "I wrote a million-dollar check to myself. And it didn't come true. I didn't get a million dollars." Everybody's probably heard (of) Jim Carrey’s story

 

He was poor, living in his car and he wrote a $10 million check to himself, --or $20 million, whatever it was-- and now he has millions of dollars. 

 

But there's a lot of misses, and hits, and stories like that. But now we can prove exactly how you should go about this process. And The Secret was --that movie that you’d alluded to-- is actually more of a documentary about creative visualization, but they never really explained how to do it because they didn't know... 

 

It wasn't confirmed in the process and how it can be done, and now it is. And there's a great book called The Power of Neuroplasticity, written by Shad Helmstetter, I think his name is. 

 

And he talks about exactly how to do creative visualization properly and that it's when you can believe that it can be done, that's when it really makes a big impact on you,

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. And then I know there's going to be some people out there that this isn't their cup of tea. And that's fine. And you know, just to be honest, I'm not all-in on this concept...

 

Mike Volkin  

 Mm-hmm.

 

Chase Clymer  

...but I can believe it. I know why it works. Just because the way that your brain is wired, if you are having positive thoughts about what you want to do with your work, and with your business every day, you're going to actually get positive results. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Right. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Whereas if you're complaining or all you're doing is worrying about stuff, it's just going to have a negative impact on your business. 

 

I just think that like... It's all it's also a lot easier to make a risky move if you have a positive outlook. And without risk, there's no reward in business. So there's a lot of straight lines you can draw across between all this stuff.

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah. I understand, Chase. The thing about creative visualization and to that extent, meditation and mindfulness, this whole realm that we're discussing, it's free. It's easy to try. (It) takes a few minutes. Nothing will happen to you. There's no real way to do it, wrong or incorrectly. Nothing negative or bad will happen to you. 

 

So, in my respect, I was like, "You know what, I'm going to give it a try." And I got something positive out of it. I have now doubled up on what I said earlier how I spent 7 minutes a day doing it. I do at least 20 minutes, every session instead of 7. It's free, it's easy, you can do it anywhere. I figured, "What the heck, I'll give it a try."

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. And here's the thing with that is you can't just do it once. You're not going to see results doing anything once. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Right. 

 

Chase Clymer  

You're going to need to stick on it and keep at it. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Right. Exactly. 

 

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Chase Clymer  

So let's flip the script now. So what would you do? --Not what would you do because every business is unique.-- 

 

But let's say that you are a young entrepreneur or just young in your journey of an entrepreneur. --everyone's can start their entrepreneurship whenever they want-- 

 

You're building the company and you're getting at it, where are some of these strategies and tactics that they can pull out of this concept to try to apply to their lives or into their business?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, you can increase the neuroplasticity in your brain quite a bit. There are lots of studies that now have been proving this over the last decade. There are chemicals you can take, that are controversial and nobody really wants to pump their body full of chemicals. 

 

But there are daily practices you can do to increase your brain’s neuroplasticity, and become a better entrepreneur. I'll give you guys some tips and if you want more details, they're gonna be in my book that is coming out in a few months. 

 

But the very first tip that I have is sleep. Now, that's an easy thing to adopt. Your brain needs sleep to reset brain connections. And it's important for memory, it's important for learning, and studies show that just one night of losing sleep, restricts the brain's ability to reset itself, which impairs your memory. 

 

So, I would recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day. And the problem is that entrepreneurs often sleep less than others. I don't know if there have been any studies proving this but I can bet as a serial entrepreneur myself, I've had far too many late nights and early mornings. We don't clock in at 8 or clock out at 5. So tip number 1 is for all of you entrepreneurs to get enough sleep. 

 

Because being an effective entrepreneur relies directly on being disciplined, being priority-driven, being focused on your goals, and you really can't do that in a tired state of mind. So that would be my first tip. Another tip would be to stand up. 

 

I'm standing up right now. I know you can't see me, I'm in a podcast but I'm always standing up at work. And if I'm not standing, I'm in my kneeling chair

 

So if you have a desk that is not conducive to you being able to stand, I highly recommend you get up and walk around every few minutes. Your brain is way more active in firing off way more neural neurons when you're standing than when you're sitting. 

 

So as I mentioned, if I'm not standing at my desk, I'm using a kneeling chair, I highly recommend you go get one. They're cheap and easy to get and they fit in anybody's office. 

 

So the first two tips, easy. Stand and sleep. I would probably give you one more, maybe two more not-so-easy tips. One more would be to continue learning. 

 

You need to learn something new, learn a new language, read a new book, play a new sport, strengthen your skills as an entrepreneur. 

 

There are lots of online classes out there, whatever sounds fun to you. If you exercise trying and do work out. Learning something new strengthens the brain and keeps it very neuroplastic. 

 

And speaking of exercising, that's another thing you can do to help your brain because exercising increases the oxygen supply to your brain, which helps on a number of levels. 

 

Another tip might seem obvious, --but I'm telling you this is an absolute killer for the neuroplasticity in your brain-- is reducing stress. 

 

The best way to do that (is to do) daily meditation (and) daily mindfulness. They are different. Most people kind of mix those terms together. We talked about creative visualization. It's super easy. It's free. It's quick to do can be done anywhere so there's really no excuse to not at least give it a try. As an entrepreneur, you probably had a couple of anxiety attacks --I know I have-- just randomly. 

 

You don't know why they come up or when but you just get that feeling that you just got to get out of your own skin. Meditation and mindfulness will almost completely get rid of that in less than a month if you do it even remotely, even on like once a day for 10 minutes. 

 

So, if you have a smartphone, there are tons of apps that will help you get through your first few sessions. Stress is an absolute killer on your brain and diminishes your brain’s neuroplasticity. 

 

As you know Chase, us humans are more stressed and distracted from the present moment than ever before. 

 

We're always on our phones, clicking away something, buying something online or getting distracted with a text. 

 

So if you're not into meditation or mindfulness, just unplug from technology for an afternoon or even an hour, connect with nature, go for a walk, travel a bit. It doesn’t have to be on a plane, just go someplace new in your city that you never been to before. 

 

All that greatly enhances the neuroplasticity of your brain and keeps your brain very active. 

 

Chase Clymer  

I love all of those. I don't know if I've mentioned it on the podcast., I told you in the pre-roll. I just bought a new house. And I'm super excited about my workspace there and I'm actually getting a standing desk. So, I will be taking a lot of these into consideration moving forward. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, definitely.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. 

 

Mike Volkin  

A standing desk will be a game-changer for you. Do you use one now?

 

Chase Clymer  

No. I'm sitting at a table. I'm very hunched over and I can... I could fall asleep at any moment, really. (laughs)

 

Mike Volkin  

(laughs) Yeah, well do the rest of the podcast ending up. We'll see how it goes.

 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, that would be funny. You'd hear me tapping around. We got a really nice mic here. So I know, when we were talking about doing this podcast before, we were talking about some stuff for small businesses. 

 

And you had mentioned how you had just done an awesome, maybe like an SEO play, per se, with one of your clients. Do you want to elaborate on the success that you guys had found?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, in regards to SEO... I do a good amount of SEO. Mostly, it's a strategy though. And in particular, for one Ecommerce client I have, they make carts for handicapped pets, handicapped dogs and cats like wheelchairs. 

 

So, one of the things that they recently launched was a scholarship program. And this is going to be something that's going to get more and more popular. It's going to get a lot of backlinks for you guys who do a scholarship. 

 

Now, you might think, "Well, I don't have the money to do a scholarship. We're not big enough yet, as a company." This company does a $500 scholarship to a vet student because they're in the veterinary space. 

 

You can do one in your industry, for all you listening out there. And it could be something as small as $500. Target a student. When you do that, you get backlinks to .edu sites. 

 

You reach out to these sites, you say, "Hey, listen, we're offering a scholarship in exchange for an essay." And they put it on their site. They say, "Here's a $500 scholarship to this company. You have to write a 300-word essay on whatever subject it is." 

 

So they write these essays, they submit them to you with their approval that you can put them on their blog. They're writing content for you. You're giving away a $500 scholarship every quarter or every year, whatever you want to do. 

 

And then this company that I work with got over 60 .edu, backlinks. (It) skyrocketed them. Their organic traffic went off the charts way higher than it ever has been. Because obviously, .edu sites are very strong sites. High PR rank sites. 

 

So that also got us a lot of earned media, surprisingly, that we didn't expect. 

So these essays from students --who are appearing not only in our blog but also on the.edu sites-- and some media would be calling us asking us for quotes, whether they're local papers or national or whatnot. 

 

And so we got a lot of backlinks from earned media as well. So it was a very good quarter. Actually, we did it twice. 

 

So we did two $500 scholarships each quarter. And we're going to continue to do it because it seemed to be a very good strategy for their organic reach.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's an awesome strategy to wrap into your overall SEO strategy. There are a million ways to do it, and SEO, in general, is a constant effort. 

 

And I think yeah, repeating it a couple of times, it's probably worthwhile. And then also, I probably wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket. I'd be thinking of other tactics to try to get those backlinks and build up your organic as well. 

 

Mike Volkin  

For sure. 

 

Chase Clymer  

But uh, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that with us. I think that it will make sense for a lot of our listeners. Only, if you have a real business though. I don't think you can get away with it when you just start, especially since you got to pay these scholarships. Don't trick anybody.

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, yeah. And I was just gonna mention, it has to be a real scholarship. I worked with over 400 companies, and I've heard of people that were giving away prizes, whether they're scholarships or not like "$50 gift card for filling out the survey." And they pick a random winner, but that winner was never actually picked. 

 

I've worked with companies like that and I would never ask you or tell you to do something like that. So if you're going to do a scholarship, make sure it's got some heft behind it. At least $100 if not $500.

 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, be legit everybody. And it's going towards a good cause. You're helping someone continue their education. 

 

Mike Volkin  

That's right. 

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Mike, before we go, here I do want you to share with everyone, the new book that you have coming out so that people can be aware.

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah, it's still about 3 months away. It's called Undervalued or it might change. 

 

But right now, it's called Undervalued. It's for all the entrepreneurs that feel like they want and deserve more. I give some tips on how to raise your value as an entrepreneur, how to get ahead of your day-to-day struggle of working in your business and not on your business

 

So I'm a strategist and that's typically the way I work. I like to mentor people to be visionary leaders, so it's going to be a book about that and it's going to help entrepreneurs get ahead of their day-to-day schedule.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And if people are enjoying what you're sharing, or they want to know more about you, where can they go on the interwebs to find you?

 

Mike Volkin  

Yeah. Well, my website mikevolkin.com and if any of you are needing a public speaker, I do a lot of that lately now. I love to give talks. The best way is to go to freelancermasterclass.com. That's my startup I have that helps freelancers. 

 

If any of you guys do any side hustles and wanna earn some more money on the side, check out Freelancer Masterclass. In fact, I set up a landing page for you guys. If you go to freelancermasterclass.com/free, I put together a 4-series webinar. 

 

I actually had them previously but I put them all together into 1 series for you guys so you can sign up there and check that out. It'll help you navigate your way to making more money as a side hustle if that's what you guys want to do freelance-wise. 

 

Also, they’re at that website and in my website mikevolkin.com, sign up to be notified when my book is released.

 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all this awesome information with our listeners.

 

Mike Volkin  

Cool. Thanks so much, Chase. My pleasure.

 

Chase Clymer  

You're welcome. 

 

Mike Volkin  

Take care. 

 

Chase Clymer  

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 

 

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!