Living the Education Entrepreneur Dream Lifestyle Without Compromising Values with Danny Iny

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In this LMScast Chris Badgett of codeBOX talks about living the education entrepreneur dream lifestyle without compromising values with Danny Iny. This episode focuses on deciding what you want to do, knowing your values and letting them drive you, and deciding what to do next when you reach your goals.

Danny Iny is an eLearning entrepreneur from the Course Builder’s Laboratory. He’s also the founder of Mirasee, and he’s the author of the book Teach and Grow Rich. Danny produces high quality information from reliable resources, and should be on your short list of people to watch, follow, and learn from.

You may feel you can’t express your core values in your professional capacity, but Danny firmly believes your values should be an exciting part of your work. You should be able to produce outcomes that reflect your best self. It all begins with intentionality. Everything isn’t going to happen at once. You do it by making small iterative changes with lots of little wins along the way, and eventually you’ll see things get better overall.

Online courses are going mainstream as people discover they can learn directly from experts without going to a university. Students still need that deep transformation that can only happen through scaling the human touch. That’s a shared responsibility between you as an online instructor, and your student as an active participant who seeks a defined result.

Danny and Chris discuss ways to achieve that one-on-one experience, as well as how to conceptualize scalability through the human component of direct personal touch, and providing the level of support required in a way that’s cost effective. You’ll also learn why people get stuck and how you can progress past those sticking points. Build a business based on fulfilling work and designed to create a lifestyle with work you can care about.

Living the education entrepreneur dream lifestyle without compromising values gives you the opportunity to bring positive change and beneficial impact in the world through online education. Becoming an educational entrepreneur does take time and a lot of work, but focus on creating value and you’ll help people get results, not just knowledge.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today we have a special guest, Danny Iny from the Course Builder’s Laboratory. He’s also the founder of Mirasee, and he’s written an excellent book called Teach and Grow Rich. If you’re an online course entrepreneur, if you’re a teacher, if you’re an entrepreneur, we’re bringing you a really special guest today with Danny Iny.

Today we’re going to get into some of the lifestyle pieces and components that come with developing online course or your education project, and we’re going to get into how to stay true to your values and how those can drive you and help you get to the process of getting up and going. First, Danny, thanks for coming on the show.

Danny Iny: Chris, it is absolutely a pleasure being here. Thank you for having me.

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, I resonate a lot with your story. We’ve both got young kids at home. We both care a lot about certain values or ways we want to be in the world with how we live, the types of people we want to surround ourselves with, the type of customers we want to work with. I have noticed that’s a similarity between us and that we’re very intentional about those things. I wanted to start off and focus on this values piece. How do you see values? I know it’s so important to you because your company name is Mirasee. Maybe start with telling people what Mirasee is and then let’s transition that into how you approach values in your life and business.

Danny Iny: Yeah. Absolutely. Mirasee is a coined name which means we made it up, but if you look at the roots, Mira in Latin languages means either to see or to wonder at and the see obviously is to see so it’s kind of a play on wondering at what we could see at what might be possible.

Yeah, values. We all have values and we sometimes feel like we can’t have them expressed and lived out in our professional life. It’s like this is how I come home and behave the way I would like my kids to seem and behave when it’s possible. I think it should be all the time. I think it should be a part of your work. We were talking before we hit record the kind of the role that work plays for a lot of people.

That it is facilitative, you do your work to make money so that you can pay your bills, and then you can, well, maybe you donate some money to charity. Maybe you volunteer on the weekends. Why not create work that by its work product by the outcomes and by the process of the way you do it, is that impact, is that expression of who you want your best self to be. I think a lot of that comes down to intentionality, and so I think that’s where it all starts.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s really cool. Focusing on values and in my experience, it’s really exhausting and I see it around in other people in the world. When you’re doing something and it’s not resonating at a values level. It’s just really exhausting. Whereas you’re really in your values and working with the people you like to work with. That sort of thing, the exact opposite thing happens which is more energy starts building, you wake up excited, things like that.

People listening here, there’s a lot of online course creators out there. There’s a lot of teachers who are trying to figure out this whole online thing. There’s entrepreneurs out there and all kinds of different businesses that are looking to incorporate online education either as a product in and of itself, or as an add-on to train customers or to help attract new customers.

They want to know how to stay true to their values. How do you go about it? It can be a struggle at first when you’re developing your entrepreneurial project to have that double life of okay what if I’m starting in, I’m a little stuck, I don’t like my job or I want to be home more around my kids and my partner. I want more location freedom. How do I begin to start to tip the scales over into bringing more values into my work or my side hustle? What do I do as a starting point?

Danny Iny: It’s a great question. It’s a hard one to answer because you just start by doing it. Big change doesn’t happen all at once. We just celebrated the New Year, this is the time when New Year’s resolutions which are promptly followed by blue Monday which is the second Monday of the month which is when people are like it turns out I haven’t stuck with any of my resolutions.

It’s because a lot of resolutions are that big change. This year, I will go to the gym every day, and I will be in bed by 7 p.m. and I will only eat vegetables and never drink alcohol and spend four hours reading to my kids every day and it’s like, first of all, the math doesn’t work out. There are only so many hours in a day, but changing so much behavior all at once is hard.

I would look at well, what is one small thing that you can change and stick with it for a month and then add another small thing that you can change and iterate towards something better. Your goal isn’t to magically just change how life is today because that’s not how these things work. It’s about iterating so that now life looks a whole lot better.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Lots of little wins along the way. Look at you snapping into teacher mode on big things that I’ve learned from your material is that the difference between being a publisher and being into education. In your words, with education. The teacher and the learner share some responsibility in the outcomes and you talk a lot about in your book Teach and Grow Rich which is fantastic read, about the downward pressure on pricing in terms of information products whether that’s books, or online courses, membership sites or whatever.

That don’t have that robust educational include component which includes a lot of action, but like you mention it starts with small action. You also talked about agile, bringing in agile development type. That type of thing where it’s an iterative process which you’re talking about right there. Start small and just start taking action in the right direction. As cliché as it sounds, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Not necessarily with just reading a book.

Danny Iny: Absolutely. It’s really interesting. Because we live in this world of courses building and selling courses, teaching how to do it. It’s starting to become a lot more mainstream. I don’t mean within the world of online course creators. I’m talking about the world at large. I feel like a company like master class for example. It’s bringing courses by Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting, Dustin Hoffman on acting, stuff like that.

That’s amazing. It’s going mainstream and if you look at, you would expect this is the top of the line information. Of course there’s a hundred bucks, because it’s purely information. When I take Aaron Sorkin screenwriting class, I have no connection with Aaron Sorkin. He’s responsible for my success. He’s not reviewing my scripts or anything. It’s just information and that’s great, and that has its purpose.

What that does is on the one hand, it opens the market, it opens people’s awareness that I can take courses from experts, and not universities which is a huge thing. Then they’re like but where’s the deep transformation. I need someone to supply that. That’s where the people who are watching this come into the picture.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Yeah. We talk about this a lot. It has different names but one of the strategies we talk about is scaling the human touch with robotics. There’s only so much that you can do in terms of automation and you also wisely touch on this issue in the book, Teach and Grow Rich.

What advice do you have for somebody who’s trying to scale that transformation, that shared responsibility, and the outcomes? What are the beginning stages of that without getting locked into the one on one is the only way? An obvious one that we recommend a lot is having weekly or monthly office hours where you can have a one to many component and the conversation can be adaptive to the crowd, not just preaching to the crowd or whatever. How else can somebody facilitate transformation and start to try to scale that.

Danny Iny: That is a great question. There is a strategic answer and there’s a tactical answer. The tactical answer, I can talk about. I guess we can do office hours. I have coaches that work for me that support our students and we support them in a variety of ways. They’re someone on one interaction. Some office hours. A variety of these different setups.

How you choose what you will do, it comes down to how you conceptualize scalability. A lot of people think about scalability as if they’re a software company. A thousand more users, no big deal. Doesn’t require any additional anything. Courses are not software. You’re not a software company. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t scale. It just means it isn’t going to scale like software company.

I think a much better analog is a company like Zappos, great human component, great direct personal touch, and clearly they operate well at scale, you don’t get acquired for billions of dollars, if you’re not operating at scale. What it comes down to is not about minimizing the level of support provided, but being able to provide the level of support that’s really required in a way that is cost effective.

Cost effective meaning profitable on a per transaction basis. I know that for the number of students that I need X number of coaches for. That dynamic works out so that I can make enough money to pay my coaches and still have a profit. That means that if I need twice as many coaches, could have twice as many students, that works. You figure out what does the support people really need. How can I deliver that in a way that’s cost effective and your student base scales, so does your support.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome, just to tie that back into meaning of values. We have another podcast episode with somebody named Peter Fallenius and he talked about building online learning environments on top of what he call outlier learning which is built on top of some social science that came out about self-determination theory and in Peter’s view to create true meaning and transformation both in yourself and in a learning environment.

You need three components which are team or community, you need the social interaction and that’s an interesting thing that can scale some on its own, like in some ways if you have a community environment. People can help each other and I can scale a little bit but not doing it alone and having other tutors like you’re talking about is a great way to responsively scale and not just let support get worse and worse every time.

Another thing is just creating an environment of rapid learning where you get lots of little wins and like you mentioned the iterative process. It’s all about action. It’s all about doing. When people have activities to do, those are things that can scale, they can go out into the world and do those things and grow in that way.

Then the other is just leadership which is meeting the opportunity for people to lead their own learning journey and take on responsibility for teachers and tutors to be responsible, really foster a community of leadership. These are things that can grow, but like you said it’s not infinitely scalable.

Danny Iny: Not infinitely scalable without the resources dedicated to its scaling as well.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. Scaling responsibly. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Well, as people get going I’ve seen this working with a lot of education entrepreneurs and online course creators. Sometimes people get stuck where they lose. I don’t want to say motivation because I know they care and they’re motivated, but whether it’s some kind of imposter syndrome, fear of success, getting bogged down in the technical tools requires, focusing on technology when they should be building community or curriculum.

There’s all these stumbling blocks. It’s almost like a forest that you’re navigating through at night to try to get to the other side of launching a truly great platform. One of the things that I think really helps motivate people especially if they’re starting from a point where they’re under-optimized, they’re away from their family. They’re not fulfilled with their work is to know a little bit about the light on the other side of what life can be like as an online course creator.

I know I mentioned with you before this call. One of the things that I’ve been able to do is just spend a lot of time around my kids, it’s been important thing to me from before they were born and it was something I intentionally planned for and built a career around.

Now I get to reap those benefits. I just spent a better part of a year traveling with my family around the United States and visiting national parks and things like that while still able to run an online course and software business. Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey and how you got into all of this and help inspire people who are, if they’re not stuck now, they will at some point hit some obstacles and they need to dig in and keep going?

Danny Iny: Yeah. For sure. I’ve definitely been through my fair share of challenges. The last attempt I made at building a big company imploded on me and I walked away from that with about a quarter of a million dollars in personal debt. You have to do something so I started a new business because I have bills to pay, and I started consulting practice, and I found there were people that needed the service that I was providing, that didn’t have the resources to afford it.

I was like well what if I create a course that would teach them some of that stuff and it wasn’t all at once, it wasn’t over night but building that business, and building that practice in such a way that was designed to create the lifestyle that I care about.

Very focused on building an online audience, very focused on building work that I can do from anywhere. Not that I like to travel that much and I actually like staying home but work that you can do from anywhere, means working I don’t have to drive into an office or visit clients for because you work in my case from home, or in an office that’s across the backyard.

A lot of it just comes down to. This is actually something that I’ve always been very adamant about, like refusing to commute, spending half an hour, an hour in traffic every day. It’s like that’s just not a good use of time. When you can avoid that, you appear to be so much more productive because you essentially have an extra hour or two than everyone else.

If someone watching this, you have to drive through traffic, that’s a shame and that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. You want to think about. Some people don’t mind it. Some people love driving and listening to audio books. One of the things that would be the biggest wins for you and how can you rearrange your life to make it happen.

Maybe you can negotiate to work from home one day a week, maybe you can, really how much of an income you have to supplement. How much you have paragon your expenses to allow you to meet that leap and start investing more, growing more. You want to think about how you can take those first steps. The first step to that is you took a year and you traveled around the US in an RV with your kids.

I make a point of being present with my children as much as I can. I like working close to home. I like that I work with my wife as my business partner. The first step to that is having a clear picture on what that perfect day lifestyle actually is for you. I think the gap for a lot of people is they don’t really know. The way they define their perfect day is not based on what they want, but based on what they don’t want.

You end up with a lot of very adolescent, I want to travel the world and sit my thighs on the beach and have my own private island. It’s not really what they want, it’s just the opposite of what they have now. They’re describing their dream vacation rather than their dream life. Vacations are great, but you’re ideally want to design a life that you don’t urgently need a vacation thought.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. That’s a really good point. Yeah. The concept of permanent retirement, sitting on a beach. It’s cool but it’s not really sustainable. You get bored. You want to have fulfilling work and like you’ve mentioned I think which is another, sometimes common misconception is that once you achieve it, doesn’t mean you have to give away all your stuff, become a minimalist and travel the world hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb with your family.

You may just like to further stay at home and get more stuff and visit with your friends and family that you already have. I think that comes down to is just getting really brutally honest with yourself about the lifestyle that is good for you, which is going to be totally different than from the next person.

Danny Iny: Absolutely.

Chris Badgett: What are some struggles along the way that you had to overcome as you started to find some success teaching others. What are some stumbling blocks, did it affect your relationship or did you get too obsessed with it sometimes and since the Internet never turns off, did you have issues with boundaries or did you have something working and then all of a sudden it stopped working? What did you struggle with and what kept you going during the hard times?

Danny Iny: All of those things happened from time to time. Things that you thought were going to work didn’t work. Things that did work stopped working. You find that your investment of time or energy or resources is not always ideal. You make bets that turn out to have been bad bets to make. All of those things are going to happen. I don’t think it’s about avoiding those things. I think it’s about recognizing them for what they are when they do happen which is not signs that you’re not on the right track.

Not signs that you should quit or anything like that, but just cues for you to course correct, cues for you to adjust. As an entrepreneur a big part of your job is plan B. If plan A didn’t work, now it’s your job, come up with plan B. When something breaks, when something doesn’t happen the way you wanted to, you can see that as my God the universe is telling me I shouldn’t be doing this or the universe is sending up the bat signal and I’m batman.

This is the sign for me to step up and do my job because once business as usual, anyone can do it. That doesn’t mean your job is easy, but if you want to create a great success and be well rewarded for it. Well, if it was easy anyone can do it. This is a job for you to do and that’s really cool. There’s a quote out of the last lecture that I really like. He says that the brick walls in your past, they’re not there to keep you out. They’re there to keep everyone else out until it give you a chance to prove how much you want it.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s really cool. Well, let’s talk a little bit more about the Course Builder’s Laboratory and what makes it different in the space because you really focus in on the difference between the information publisher which is getting downward pressure on pricing and demand and things like that versus really creating transformative educational opportunities.

Like you’re just talking about in terms of the obstacles in the way, part of real learning is you fall down sometimes and if you’re the teacher, the way I think of it as a parent is like, and as as leader in business is it’s okay and it’s actually part of the process to let people make mistakes. I just want to make sure I protect people from making unrecoverable mistakes.

Danny Iny: And it’s important to get back up. Here’s how I see the Course Builder’s Lab as being different from a lot of the I will teach you how to build and sell course programs out there. First of all, the support. Every student in our program gets a dedicated coach on our team and that doesn’t mean that you can send a question, goes to help desk in India.

No, that’s a coach that is your coach that knows what you’re doing in your business, will give you actual feedback on what you’re trying to create because we found that’s what it takes for people to be successful. There’s also rebuilt and iterative course. A number of times as we work with more and more students and because of that there’s a track record.

That when you go through a lot of these courses, with a good sales pitch, you’ll typically find 5 or 10 maybe 15 case studies or testimonials and if you read them closely, you’re like I don’t think this person actually took the course. I think they’d work privately with the course creator or with the buddies of them or something.

What is there that can give me confidence that a regular person like me will be successful. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people go through this program and achieve great success and we guarantee results again unlike a lot of people in the industry. If you join this program, put it on time, do the work, you will launch a course successfully.

If you don’t, we will help you create a plan to get back on track. If you execute that plan and you still don’t launch a course successfully, we’ll give you double your money back because clearly it didn’t work. We’ve only had to fulfill on that guarantee I think three or four times, out of thousands and thousands of students. The process works for the people who work, and the infrastructure is there to support the people who want to be successful.

Chris Badgett: That’s really awesome. Let’s look at an issue in terms of the journey. In terms of getting through that aspirational lifestyle that listeners are aspiring to. I think I’ve heard and it might have been quoted from a sociological experiment where after you’re making somewhere around $70,000 money doesn’t necessarily make you happy or whatever.

That may or may not be true, but let’s say in terms of timeline. In your experience in working with lots of people. If they’re starting in the side hustle phase and let’s assume we’re trying to get to that $70,000 approximate mark and then beyond what do you think is a reasonable expectation. Obviously every night is not how it works at all. In the journeys that you’ve seen from zero to hero how does it play out over time?

Danny Iny: Typically. Obviously there’s a lot of variation but the transition to full time, the part where you’re making enough money from this endeavor that it can replace a full time income. That happen sometime in the year two. It can be sooner, it can be in the first year, it can be later. It can take as infinite amount of time if you’re not doing anything. Typical to be earning enough money for you to replace your income and go full time usually happens in year two.

Chris Badgett: That’s really cool. What do you see after replacing your income to really doing well? What differentiates the people who they’re inspiring to like okay I made it. I escaped my job or I replaced my income and I’m doing my own thing. I’m in alignment with my values, awesome. Do some people just stay there or be like all right let’s see how far we can go?

Danny Iny: It comes down to what their ambitions are. Something that I’ve learned. We just closed the year just under $4 million last year. Something that I’ve learned over the last few years is that it’s a lot of work to grow business. It’s not a lot of work to keep a business more or less the same size they tapped.

Any given year, and I face this choice every year. It’s like do I want, I could probably work four months out of the coming year and will do in the range of $4 million again or I can put in all the hours I’m going to put in because I see us growing a lot bigger. Everyone decides for themselves.

At what point, and they’re like this is as big as I want to go. I’m happy with this. I want to invest my energies elsewhere versus this is where I want to invest my energies because this is what I’m excited about. This is the impact I care about making. This is how I get to work with the people that I enjoy working with. It really comes down to ambitions and how much do you want to push to go.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I just want to reinstate that point because it’s so good, which is that what Danny said is that to grow a business is really hard, it’s a lot of work. To maintain it is not that much work. If you want maintain and do a holding pattern. One of the beautiful things about being an education entrepreneur is that you really get to embody the core purpose or role of the entrepreneur which is creating value.

In this case, we’re transforming people’s lives through processes, through support, through training. Your platform, to do that for somebody and maybe then it ripples out and affects another person. You have such an opportunity to really send out those ripples of positive change or beneficial impact out in the world through on education.

Really if entrepreneurs already is successful whether they’re educational entrepreneur or not, and they’re at the highest levels and they’re just killing it, living large and stuff like that. It’s easy to think that that can happen fast, but it does take time, it does take a lot of work and just really focusing on that value creation and transformation is really what it’s all about and helping people get results, not just knowledge.

That’s one of the key things out there. I wanted to ask you another question just based on your experience. If people are really wanting to pursue their values and have a working life in helping others, in alignment with their values and through their trainings.

At what point let’s say on that timeline of two years to replace what I was doing before, how much of that before I need team members. At what point does the one person show fall away?

Danny Iny: It depends a lot on how much you want to grow and how far you want to go. Yeah, it depends. You could certainly get to the point of creating your job for example on your own, when you want to, you might not. You’re definitely not going to grow much faster, a few hundred thousand dollars a year working on your own just because there’s more that goes into it.

Again it depends a lot on your ambitions. I started building a team early because I like working with people. I like that we’re stronger together than I would be on my own.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. I think I’ve heard that there’s a lot of glamorization of the solopreneur out there, but I think that just comes from unhealthy thing in society where people don’t like the work environment that they currently work in and they think they want to be alone, but that’s actually, it’s actually really cool to work with great people doing amazing things of similar values.

Danny Iny: Absolutely. It’s the same positioning the win scenario against your current scenario. If you’re working with people you hate. It’s like I don’t want to have a boss, I don’t have employees, I don’t want to have anyone at all. Why not just have better people? Work with them in a better way.

Chris Badgett: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s as we talk about the aspirational lifestyle and you’re thinking about the hammock with the laptop on the beach. Being alone on the beach with everything full automated and no relationships, working relationships around you. It may not be what you want, so spend a lot of time really thinking about that. For a lot of people I see just thinking back to childhood is a good way to rediscover where things started to change or where responsibility perhaps ever took alignment with values and that kind of thing.

Well, Danny. Where can people find out more about what you’ve got going on? I highly recommend everybody listening check out the Teach and Grow Rich book and Danny anything Danny’s doing, whether he’s launching something or just putting out a content, it is incredible, it’s deep, it’s not topical. It’s based on real world results and case studies and it’s just such high quality and refreshing that I just want to acknowledge you for that and encourage the listener to put Danny on the short list of people to watch, people to follow, and people to learn from. Where can people go to find out more?

Danny Iny: Chris, thank you. You’re very kind. Best place to find Teach and Grow Rich is Amazon because that’s where people buy books. Yeah, other, Mirasee, my website for my company is Mirasee, M-I-R-A-S-E-E dot com. We periodically open Course Builder’s Laboratory to new students and if you’re interested in that at a time when we’re doing that, I would love to have you join us.

Chris, you’re going to be sharing a little bit of information about that as well so everyone can watch their inboxes and if you’re watching this video, you’ll hear from Chris when that happens.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Well, thank you for coming on the show, Danny and to you out there listening. I just want to encourage you to spend a little time reflecting on your values. Spend a little bit of time thinking about your ideal future in great detail and what that guides you and motivates you as you make the transition to becoming an educational entrepreneur.

Danny Iny: Absolutely. Thank you again for having me, Chris. This has been awesome.

Chris Badgett: Thanks, Danny.

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