First of all, Dan Peña, thank you so much for giving us this wonderful opportunity to learn from you and share your wisdom with people around the world.
Have your ever thought about being successful? Did you actually take any actions to be successful? Dan Peña, is founder of Quantum Leap Advantage (QLA), the revolutionary method for super success with over 20 years of proven track record that has produced $50 Billion of equity/value, since 1993. Today, let’s learn “HOW HE THINKS” to be successful.
-----For those who are not familiar with you, please let us know more about you. How did you come a businessman, entrepreneur, and mentor? What drives you?
It all started with the Army. I volunteered to join the US Army during the height of the Vietnam War. Then I volunteered to do six months of intensive training at Infantry Officer Candidate School, extending my military obligation an additional two years. The army experience builds character and the Officer Training was the first high-performance activity I ever engaged in. Prior to that I was lacking direction – I flunked out of college three times.
But after the Army/Officer experience, I went back to school and graduated with honors. Then I decided to go where they say the money was and that is Wall Street. I worked for Bear Stearns then joined one of our corporate finance clients and eventually became CEO of that company after a year. But I got thrown out because I was headstrong and wanted to take the company forward in a way that not a lot of people who like comfortable jobs would want. That was a turning point because In January 1982 with just $820, I started my own company.
The mentorship happened much later after I was once again forced out of my own company. I was an out-of-work founder and former CEO of a public company and when I was “exited” from my company, a good friend of mine suggested I teach. I taught college kids, didn’t really like that because not everyone had the same level of drive and ambition as I had, or at least desired to see in them. That’s when I decided to go to mentoring/coaching high performance people. What drives me is being able to drag you kids across the goal line—even kicking and screaming—so that you can do what you don’t want to do so you can have what you want to have.
-----You have a military service experience. How it has changed your way of thinking and what kind of impacts it has on your life?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, it was a major turning point in my life. It gave me the focus and discipline that was lacking in my younger years. I am a strong believer of breaking people down to build them back up into better versions of themselves. And obviously, that is a well-known military practice which I do in my Quantum Leap Advantage (QLA) seminars.
-----Do you think you succeeded in businesses because you had the same way of thinking that you have now when you were young, or you tried many ways and found out the essence when you look back later on?
It was what I learned as a young officer and building upon that training. One thing that has helped me become successful is that I just fucking do it. A lot of people like to, as I often say, “spreadsheet” things to death. Analysis equals paralysis. Just do it and if it doesn’t work, do something else. Experience is a very important thing and you will never gain experience sitting back and reading books, listening to podcasts or just doing research.
I always say I have failed many more times than I have succeeded but that doesn’t matter because the only things people really talk about are the successes. And a lot of the things I tried and when I looked back in hindsight I realized I should have done differently. But I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try and the experience gained is worth it. Fail fast and move forward!
-----For most people, it is not clear what they have to do right now, what is the first step to take, what they need to change in the first place to perform better and gain success. What can they do in order to change their life to be a successful/high performer?
The first step to take is to actually make things happen—take action! Again, do not overanalyze, just do it. That, in itself, can change their lives especially if they’re coming from doing absolutely nothing but just dreaming. Dreaming big is good but without action, they are just dreams.
-----Most people think only to be successful, not how to be a person who is successful. What are the important things you need to be the person you want to be?
As I’ve always said, people have two types of bank accounts: the financial bank account and the emotional bank account. The emotional bank account represents your self-esteem and that is the key to your success. Many people believe that you need to first to earn money to strengthen your self-esteem. They are wrong. The first thing successful people need to work on is their emotional bank account. The growth of the financial bank account then follows.
-----Does having high self-esteem bring about successes or do successes give you high self-esteem?
A lot of people think it is the other way around. But on the contrary, the formula for success, especially when you’re coming from nothing, is high self-esteem. Success follows. That’s how I turned $820 to $450 million in 8 years in a collapsing market.
-----When you hear the word successful, who would be the first person come to your mind? And why?
Steve Jobs. Because there are a lot of successful people but nobody has stuck so firmly to their ways regardless of what other people might think and be hugely successful at it. Conventional wisdom is almost always wrong and he sure defied conventions.
-----If you start everything from scratch without assets, network, and all the resources you have now, but with your wisdom you have now, what would be the first thing you would work on?
I would work on getting the money to finance deals I want to make. A lot of people think it is hard to get money. They couldn’t be more wrong. It is very easy to get the money. It is the how that a lot of people don’t know and is what I teach in my Quantum Leap Advantage seminar. I can help people with little or no money to achieve their goals in least amount of time. So to start from scratch, knowing what I know, is not too hard if you have the drive and determination to make it happen.
-----If you can make a call to 20-year-old Dan Peña, what kind of advices you would give to him?
I would tell my 20-year old self to get into the healthcare or telecommunications business with something you can be passionate about. It’s big business. I would have loved to be in there early in the game. Find a mentor, build a dream team, get accountants and lawyers that will do your deals on a success fee basis (meaning delaying fees until you have completed a deal), and exit through an IPO or industry sale.
-----If you can leave one message to make the world better, what would be your message?