An Interview with Dane Espegard
Dane Espegard on Creating a Culture of Achieving Your Dreams
How do you create a work culture that leads to happier employees and explosive growth?
Today’s guest, Dane Espegard, is here to answer that question. While in college, Dane stumbled into an entry level sales position with Vector Marketing selling Cutco Cutlery. Little did he know that he would still be with them almost 20 years later.
He has since trained thousands of sales representatives, managed over $51 Million worth of Cutco sales, and has created a culture centered around ‘Dreams’ that helps employees become more engaged with their work, and creates consistent growth for his business.
In today’s conversation, we’re talking about Dane’s new book, The Dream Machine: A Leader’s Guide to Creating Teams of High Performers Who Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes.
We also dig into mobile park investing, how to overcome the fear of failure, his secret to success, and how the ‘Dreams’ concept can improve company culture, increase retention, and give employees a much bigger purpose!
Featured on This Episode: Dane Espegard
✅ What he does: Dane is an entrepreneur and author of “The Dream Machine.” He’s spent almost 20 years working with Cutco Cutlery and Vector Marketing in sales, recruiting, and managing. During that time, he also got involved in mobile home park investing.
💬 Words of wisdom: When Dane started out investing in mobile homes, many people thought it was a crazy idea. But he was making his living with a cutlery company, so was willing to think outside the box — and it proved fruitful.
- When you make a decision, take steps to make it happen. Dane had heard about the potential in mobile home park investing, and thought it was a fantastic opportunity. After discussing it with his wife, they ended up backing out of a home purchase to move forward with mobile parks. Dane attended a boot camp, asked his father-in-law to partner with him, and within six months had a park under contract. Many people don’t act on their big ideas, but Dane was willing to take concrete steps that moved him closer to his goal of financial freedom.
- Be willing to cold call for investment opportunities. When Dane attended Frank Rolfe’s boot camp, he took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Frank during a break. While discussing how to find the best mobile home parks, Frank offhandedly mentioned cold calling was a great way to find the best deals, but nobody ever does it. Dane had years of direct sales experience, so cold calling wasn’t new to him. He picked a date to sit down and make some calls. The very first call he made ended up leading to his very first park purchase.
- Don’t be afraid to dream. At a conference Dane attended, motivational speaker Matthew Kelly asked everyone to make a list of 100 dreams on the spot. Dane was captivated at the idea that all of those things were possible. However, life got in the way. The concept of dreams came up again when Dane was setting up a new business, and wanted to be very intentional about the culture he was creating. He implemented it at work in 2013, and since then it has evolved into a complete program, in which he helps people create dream lists, and teaches them how to live intentionally.
The Dream Machine with Dane Espegard –> Retain & Grow Top Talent For Your Business
Episode Highlights with Dane Espegard
Focus on culture from the start
“I was trying to be really intentional about the culture that I wanted to set up, since I’d started two businesses at that point. This was going to be my third team from scratch. Culture is something that I don’t think a new business owner thinks about a lot. It typically takes [dealing with] a not-ideal culture for you to recognize how you got there, and how to have something more intentional and more exciting.” – Dane Espegard
Write down your dreams
“[A dreams list is] a list of places you want to travel, things you want to do and experience. [It covers] work — accomplishments or vocational things — and financial, family, spiritual [aspirations.] It’s not a check-it-off-the-list thing, it’s a menu of how somebody can intentionally live their life by design. … Writing a book has been on my dreams list for a long time, but in my mind, it’s always been a later in life dream.” – Dane Espegard
Knowing your strengths
“All the way up until 2012 or 2013, I didn’t do a lot other than just try to succeed at work. I was doing the life insurance stuff, but I didn’t have these big, audacious goals that were driving me to take action. Getting back on the dreams list helped with that, because it gave me purpose to say, Here are some goals and objectives that I have that I want to get done. And with time, I became more self-aware, enough to know my strengths aren’t necessarily finding my own stuff for this or that: my strengths are doing.” – Dane Espegard
Having a support system
“A lot of what I’ve done has been finding somebody who has a lot of success in a certain area, who says, You can do this. It’s also listening to the opinions of people that know me really well, like you [Justin] and my wife. If they are very much in support, like, This is something you should do and you need to do it now, I take that and I know that I’m going to get something done. I feel comfortable knowing I’ve got support, especially for my wife to say, If there are some struggles along the way, it’s no big deal. We’ll probably still end up with a W somewhere on the board.” – Dane Espegard
Making dreams possible for anyone
“The book is an A-Z guide on how to implement a system of retention and engagement within your team, centered around dream achieving. The goal of the book was for anybody to pick it up who is a business owner or in a leadership position, and be able to take this book from start to finish and feel like, This is something that I can do in my organization.” – Dane Espegard
Creating a culture where work serves you
“What I recognized is that this dreams concept flips that switch to where it’s no longer I’m living to work, it’s I’m working to live. And this allowed me to have conversations with people about them as a person. Not, I need you to do more business, but, How’s work serving you? What else are you getting done on your dreams list this year?” – Dane Espegard
- Dane Espegard Website
- Dane Espegard on LinkedIn | Instagram | Twitter
- The Dream Machine by Dane Espegard
- Front Row Dads
- Cutco Kitchen Knives
- Vector Marketing
- Matthew Kelly
- Frank Rolfe on Making Millions with Mobile Home Park Investing
- Mobile Home University
- No Guts No Glory
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Read the Full Transcript with Dane Espegard
Justin Donald: What’s up, Dane? So glad to have you on the show.
Dane Espegard: I’m really excited to be here. Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.
Justin Donald: This is fun. Well, it’s great because, gosh, we’ve known each other for so long. I mean, what? 15 years or so, maybe a little more, maybe 16, 17, something like that. And it’s just so fun seeing the path that you are on, seeing these moves that you’re making because you and I had the privilege of working together at one point in time. And there’s actually, I don’t know that there’s anyone I’ve traveled with, out of all my friends that I’ve been to more countries with, than you. I think you hold that spot, either you or our mutual friend Pat.
Dane Espegard: Well, I’ll be happy to keep that title.
Justin Donald: Yeah, for sure. Right. I mean, we’ve been all over the globe together, which is cool. In fact, we’ll have to talk about some travel on the show here today, but I’m just excited to see this move that you’re making from entrepreneur to author and speaker and dreams consultant. There’s so much we’re going to have to unpack here today and get into, but I’m just thrilled to have you on the show. And what I’d love to do is kind of give some color to who you are, your story. So, can you share a little bit about kind of who you are and how you got to where you are today?
Dane Espegard: Yeah, absolutely. And you play a role in a lot of that, too, which is why I’ve been excited about having the opportunity for us to chat live like this. So, I got started on my entrepreneurial journey right out of high school with Cutco Cutlery and Vector Marketing like a lot of other entrepreneurs. And so, I did that while I was a student at UW-Madison, decided to stay with them as a career opportunity post-college. And I opened my own office, kind of like a franchise under the banner of Cutco. And I did that for about two and a half years in the direct sales world. And so, mainly recruiting and training students to sell the product and then had the opportunity to move up with the company into division manager position. And I’ve been doing that for a very long time with Cutco ever since.
And you are actually one of the reasons, I remember being a college student and seeing you at a conference with your team and all this and saying, like, man, that looks like a lot of fun and that’s somebody I want to get to know and something I could see myself doing for a while. So, that’s what my early stages were in the business.
Justin Donald: Oh, it’s so fun. And it’s so interesting what intentionality will do for you because you’ve been very intentional your whole life. And I’ve seen this. This is a common trend in who you are and how you show up. And you’re very intentional about where you spend your time. This is something for me that was really important. One of my keys to success is figuring out who I wanted to spend time with and who I would glean information and expertise from. And you’re very much that same way. And you’re just an absolute student. You have this insatiable desire to learn and then you just have this infectious enthusiasm and humor. So, people just love being around you. So, those of you that don’t know Dane, the guy is hysterical and he will just crack you up the whole time you’re hanging out. So, no pressure, by the way. No pressure at all on this episode. We’ll see what happens.
Dane Espegard: Yeah, we’ll see where it goes. And so, with that job right out of college, that was something that really attracted me to the role with seeing young individuals really enjoying what they were doing, have a lot of fun, and growing their skill set with it. And so, I’ve spent a long time with Cutco, about 19 years now. And then, that’s led me to other opportunities outside of the Cutco and Vector world, which I’ve been really excited to take advantage of, as well.
Justin Donald: Well, I don’t know if I should be happy or sad about this, but I worked really hard when I was in that organization to set a bunch of different records. And I was very proud of having the largest week and largest month and largest summer. And just, the list goes on for different milestones or company records, but if there is anyone that I would want to break my records, and there are a handful of people that I’m thrilled or would be in the running, but you’re really at the top of the list, you and our mutual friend Drew and Wes, there are a handful of guys that I just love seeing the success they’ve had, but you seem to have taken down most, if not all of my records. So, it’s really funny because I’m excited for you, but at the same time, I’m like, well, I guess I don’t have anything there anymore.
Dane Espegard: It’s been a slow erasing of a view from the record books, but it’s been fun. I got to watch all of the stuff that you had done in the business. So, you come in second, I think, having the after opportunity makes it a little bit easier to follow in your footsteps. So, it’s been fun, especially in the last couple of years, dealing with the COVID stuff. It’s been a roller coaster within the organization, but a lot of fun to kind of think on our feet and come up with new programs as we go.
Justin Donald: Well, it’s like sports. It’s so fun to be competitive and have numbers. And man, like being a spectator, I used to be a player in the game and then I was kind of like a coach in the game. And that was really fun, like watching my team and development that I had breaking records. And now, I’m on the sidelines. I’m a spectator and I’m watching my good friends that are ripping up the Cutco world. And so, it’s great seeing you do so well. And even coming into our episode today with several new records that you’ve broken, so super cool.
And along the way, you made a transition with the way that you were investing because early on, I remember starting to invest in mobile home parks, and everyone thought I was crazy, probably including you. I don’t know. You never gave me too much trouble about it, but that proved to be one of the greatest investments that I made, and even the foundation before that was like investing in a very specially crafted, dividend-paying whole life policy. Specifically for me, I like a non-direct recognition company, high dividend, but a bunch of specialty editions and writers, things that your general practitioner can’t do. You really need an expert. You do not want an off-the-shelf policy.
And then from there, I took those funds, I borrowed against that, and that was my down payment in mobile home parks. And I bought my first one, my second one, so on and so forth. And you really have had a lot of similarities in your investments, and things have gone really well for you. I’d love for you to talk about that.
Dane Espegard: Yeah, well, I think it kind of goes with the principle before of, if you find somebody that’s successful, don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Just try and find out what they’re doing and do as they do. And so, that’s what I’ve modeled a lot of mine in Brookelynn. My wife’s stuff from is off of what you did. So, you’d mentored me in the business for quite some time. And then as we talked, and you were like, hey, I started doing this thing with life insurance. Here’s some information on it. Here’s some reading. And so, I went forward with that.
And then, the mobile home thing was really interesting. And I think part of it, when you said I’m getting in mobile home parks, I don’t think I thought it was crazy, but I think also part of it was at that point, I’m making my living with a knife company, which is already a little off the grid or off the radar, if you will, for most. And so, different, I’ve always looked at as good. And so, when you explained pretty quickly kind of why the mobile home space makes sense, it was, hey, here’s this boot camp that you can go to to learn from. I remember it was 2014, Brookelynn and I were under contract to buy our first house, and you told us about this. I came home, I was like, “Brooke, Justin’s getting in mobile home parks. And I think this could be a good move.” And we’re about to purchase a home. Do we want to do that? Or do we want to buy a mobile home park?
And so, we actually backed out of the deal. And then I went to the boot camp, and I think it was within six months after the boot camp, we had to park on a contract. And then, we’ve obviously furthered our investment in mobile home parks. We just got a new park under a contract on Friday, which I’m really excited about as well.
Justin Donald: Oh, it’s so cool. It’s so exciting. And it’s interesting because you look at, one of the things I talk about in my episodes at the end of each episode, I always say, “Hey, take some form of action, take a step towards the direction that you want to go in life, the life that you want to live and financial freedom,” but most people really don’t do that. So, if someone can just consistently take a step and move forward and have at least like an idea of what they want out of their life, great things are going to happen. It might not happen overnight, but you’re a great example of this because you went to a boot camp and within six months, so you had to have taken action in order to actually have closed and owned a park within six months.
Due diligence is generally like 60 days, right? 45 to 60 days. So, that means you left this boot camp, and then you started looking for parks and probably within three months of kind of graduating from that course, and by the way, for anyone that checked out the episode with. Frank Rolfe, that’s the course that both of us attended. He’s brilliant, number 5 owner, largest private owner of mobile home parks in the US, number 5 overall. And he just does an unbelievable job, but you took action. And I know the back story, I know what happened with that first park. I’d love to have you share it so our listeners, our audience can get a chance to learn that because you did very well.
Dane Espegard: Yeah. And Frank, that seminar’s awesome. It is super simple. And as somebody who had no experience with real estate, I went to it, left, and felt very comfortable saying, “Oh, this is something I can totally do.” And my father-in-law is fantastic. And he’s always basically been up for– he’s an entrepreneur and former CPA, now entrepreneur and hands in a few different things. And so, I went to him and said, “Hey, would you want to partner up on something like this?” And we had some conversations previously about different things. And he said, “Yeah, I’m in for whatever.”
So, I was the one who went to kind of learn and soak up the knowledge, and we were going to do this together. So, we’ve been 50/50 partners in all these, but I remember being at the event, I met another guy from Minneapolis, the one that I attended was in, I think, November, and it was in San Antonio. And I met another guy from Minneapolis, a younger guy, and we were looking around the room. There were probably 70 or 80 people in there. And on a break, I went up to Frank and I said, “Hey, Frank, just curious, out of all the people here, how many people do you think will actually buy a park?” And he said, “Well, not everybody here is to buy one. There are many people here that are managers that were sent by the owners.” So, he goes, “but my experience is probably about 10%, 20% of the people will take action on it.” And I said, “Oh, that’s really interesting.” And he talked about how to find the best parts. And he mentioned cold call. And I remember thinking to myself. And he kind of glossed over it, he said, “Cold calling is we’re going to find the best deals, but nobody really does it.” And I thought to myself, I’m like, I have all this direct sales experience with Cutco. I’m like, that sounds super easy.
So, I got home, December, January. The first couple of weeks are kind of busy with Cutco. And so, I had picked a date that was going to be my first sit-down and rip through some calls. And in my first call session in January, mid-January, I reached a secretary to an owner, and that was the park that we ended up buying. It was my first sit-down of calls, and the guy was great. So, I was very open with them, I’m looking to buy my first park, and the guy didn’t have any tax returns on the park. And so, we agreed on a price. I went to get financing, couldn’t get any because there weren’t any. All his tax returns showed zero. And I went back to him and said, “Hey, I don’t know what to do.” Here he goes, “Well, I bought parts without tax returns.” I’m like, I’m down to buy the park. I’m just, help me out here. And he goes, “Go to this bank.”
And so, I went to that bank, and he had a relationship there. And so, the bank said, “Yeah, we were aware of the park and we’ll finance the deal.” So, that’s how we got our first park. We bought it. It was what would I now know to be called a turnaround park. So, it maybe wasn’t the best part for me on my first deal, but awesome lessons in there. And we ended up buying it for only $350,000. And then we held the park for, I want to say, it was three years. Yeah, that sounds about right.
And during that time, there were some water issues like a lot of parks, and we were trying to do some of the things that I had no experience in. And hindsight being 2020, I wish I would have purchased a different park for my first one, but it is what it is. I learned a lot of great lessons from it. We were able to sell it for, I think, it was $550,000 or $575,000 a couple of years later. And we didn’t put any additional funds in other than the profit. So, nothing else out of pocket in the original purchase. So, that was our first experience. And so, we messed up a lot, but we still had a great return. And so, at the end of that, we’re like, well, we want to do it again, just maybe not a flipper part.
In that park, that guy, Nick Najjar, sent me a listing to a park for sale a year later, and it was that park. And he goes, “Is this near the park that you own?” And I said, “Actually, that is the park I used to own.” The guy had basically come in and did all of the things that we should have done. And he did it in one year and he had it listed for a little over a million dollars, right? So, that was also part of the lesson in that park of just being able to see it in its full form of somebody who knew what they were doing. And I didn’t feel bad about what we didn’t or not. And if anything, it was great to see the value that we left on the table.
Justin Donald: Yeah, multiple people can make a good return on it. A lot of people are winning, including the residents who are getting affordable housing. They’re getting to live in a property that is the cheapest place that they can live from an affordability standpoint, but still a good place to live. So, I think that’s incredible. Now, if my memory serves me correctly, there was another lesson that you learned about when you were selling and you were kind of in between two different buyers. And I think that you may have had some regret over who you went with or the way things played out, right?
Dane Espegard: Yeah. So, there was a lot that I learned there. I listed it on my own, tried to do for sale by owner. I listed it on a mobile home park store. And I think it was something like the number is a little foggy, but it was over 100, maybe 100 to 130 calls and emails within 24 hours of listing that park. And it was in Omaha, Nebraska. It was so great area right near the airport, so prime location, but I was overwhelmed in a big way, like sifting through and kind of deciding who should I go with, who should I not, a lot of big offers, obviously, and being able to determine what was real, what was not, and who’s just trying to lock it up and who is a serious buyer.
And so, I’m trying to think now, I think we were under contract. It fell apart. We took it off and we did it again a year later, I think, is what happened, but we went with somebody who had not seen it and we had an offer from somebody that had walked the park and that to me, it wasn’t a big enough dollar amount difference. I should have gone with the person that had actually had the eyes on the park and had seen it because I knew that it was in rough shape. And so, that was a regret that I had, chasing the extra 25 grand or whatever it was in the deal, as opposed to somebody that I think could take it to the finish line.
Justin Donald: Yeah. And what it turned out probably would have taken to the finish line for more.
Dane Espegard: Yeah.
Justin Donald: Right? After some renegotiation. So, great lesson. Great share. Now, I want to give a shout-out to your business partner, Jay, also your father-in-law because, well, first of all, it’s cool that you can be in business and do investments together. I think that’s awesome. What a great way to bond, but secondly, as an entrepreneur, he not only owns like used car lots and companies, but he has an incredible number of restaurants, a pizza restaurant business, several locations. That’s just incredible. So, feel free to, for our audience that’s in that area, I’d love for them to know about it.
Dane Espegard: Yeah. So, he’s a part-owner in Pitch, which there are two locations in Omaha, Pitch Pizzeria. It’s fantastic. And it has pizza on it, but it’s so much more than that. I never ordered the pizza when I go because there are so many different options, but there are two locations in Omaha, and they have a third location that opened up in Scottsdale, maybe four or five years ago, but they’re great. Yeah.
Justin Donald: I love it. I love it. Well, one of the things I, for sure, think we should talk about today is our love for travel. You and I love to travel. We’ve taken many trips. I mean, we’ve definitely been to probably 15 to 20 different countries together. And so, some of this time was as single guys, just kind of prime of our professional lives. And then, other times, this was as couples, we have our spouses with us and we’ll take these fun excursions. I mean, we’ve been all over the world. So, where did this love for travel come for you because you just got back from a long trip? You’re on like a three-week road trip.
Dane Espegard: Yeah, I traveled growing up, but it was mostly road trips, and a lot of our road trips were in North Dakota so not necessarily like the amazing destination, but that’s where our extended family lives. So, we would go there. And so, I don’t think I was really exposed to a ton of travel growing up, but then in the Cutco world, there are tons of rewards trips that I think a lot of sales organizations have. Cutco does it great when it comes to that. And so, there were annual trips for this, annual trips for this. And so, qualifying for those right out of the gates and then always putting on with you a little extender on the front-end or the back-end to check off a few extra countries. And so, that’s where it started.
And then, I think it’s just never stopped since then, right? And so, it’s been something that’s just continued and been a part of my individual life. Now, my life with my wife and our kids to Elin, I think she’s got, I don’t know, Savannah probably has many more, but Elin has eight or nine, I think, punches on her passport in terms of different places. It’s kind of slowed a little bit the last couple of years, unfortunately, but yeah, we just got back from a three and a half week. This has been on our dreams list for a while, but a three-and-a-half-week camping trip where rookie campers and my wife, you know her well, she’s got a quick trigger for exciting things.
So, last fall, we were like looking for campers to rent. And she goes, “I’m going to buy an Airstream,” but I said, “What? We don’t even know how to camp, let alone, I don’t– there are so many parts of this that I am ill-equipped for.” And she goes, “I’m going to buy an old one and I’m going to gut it and redo it.” And I said, “Okay, there’s a whole nother layer now that we are also not experienced with.” And so, she just went and did it. She bought a 1976 Airstream last fall, gutted it. Some handyman has been helping her, like a local guy. And so, we had this trip planned and it was a success. Little issues here, there, but overall, the trip was awesome. We just pulled into the driveway today and everybody’s still talking to each other. So, I think that’s a win.
Justin Donald: That’s good. Well, welcome home. It’s funny because, like, you grew up in sales, you’re great in sales, but the better salesperson is your wife, Brookelynn, because not only was she able to figure out how to buy an Airstream and get you to say yes to that, she also got you to say yes to buying a horse. She also got you to say yes to buying, like just an obscene amount of like pets and animals, also got you to say yes to buying a gorgeous home and it’s a way’s out. So, it’s like you’ve got all this land, but just a very modern, fun, huge home with tons of land. She’s got some skills. I got to give it to her. I hope she listens to this.
Dane Espegard: Yeah, she will. And when I talk about our dream stuff, she always says that I throw her on the bus because I talk about how she like one horse and this. And now, I’m like, that’s not throwing in the bus. It’s getting me to think differently, but yeah, she is a phenomenal salesperson and she is very clear on what fills her up.
Justin Donald: Yeah, she is actually very intuitive, right? She trusts her intuition, her gut. I really appreciate that about her. And I feel like for you and I, sometimes we can be busy, just we’re good at being busy, we’re good at working hard. And so, having strong women in our lives that have some intuition, that have some discernment, I mean, both of our wives have this. And thank goodness because it makes us so much better and opens our minds to things that we probably just wouldn’t think about. You’ve mentioned something a couple of times, and this is the main purpose for the call today because it’s what I believe you are the best at, the most skilled at, but you mentioned your dreams list, and you and I had the opportunity to kind of learn about this and create one of these, our first one together back in 2006 if my memory serves me correctly, I think October of 2006.
Dane Espegard: 2007 was Orlando, yeah.
Justin Donald: Alright. So, 2007 because I have my original dreams list where I made 100 dreams on the spot and then just kept adding to it from thereon. So, since 2007, I literally have a list that’s just this ongoing tally, and it has just proved to be one of the greatest resources, one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made was to make that. I had Jennifer make one of those. We’ve had Savannah make one of those. I’ve had my family do it, my parents, my brother, his wife, like just anyone who will listen. And obviously, in the different organizations, sales organizations we’ve worked with, and separate companies that you and I have consulted for with, too, this has been a major category, but I feel like you have taken this to a whole new level. You’ve written a book about it. I want to know how that came about, just your love and passion for this.
Dane Espegard: Sure. Yeah, so the dreams concept came from the conference that you’re talking about back in 2007. Matthew Kelly was a keynote speaker at our event. And I was never been exposed to the idea of this before. And on the spot, he had us all make a list of 100 dreams. And I remember being lit up by that with the concept of just, wow, yeah, all these things are possible and how cool would, not just the whole list be, but just each individual thing if that happened or if this happened.
And so, for me, my path with all that stuff was a little different. Yours sounds like it was, I made the list and I run with it forever. I remember taking mine home, introducing this to my sales team. I think I was 24 at the time, and everybody was excited about it. And like a month later, I didn’t really do anything with it again. And it kind of just lived on my computer. I had some moves with work and in 2012, was making a lateral move, same rule, different territory to the Twin Cities. And I was trying to be really intentional about the culture that I wanted to set up since I’d started two businesses at that point. This is going to be my third kind of teams from scratch. The culture was something that I don’t think a new business owner thinks about a lot or gives a lot of thought to do, it typically takes maybe having not the ideal culture for you to recognize how you got there and maybe how to have something more intentional and more exciting.
So, when I was making that move, I was going through, I was reading a lot that year about culture and I kept coming back to the dreams thing. And I said, “This is what would excite me on a regular basis. And so, I’m going to dive back into this. It’s going to be our new culture for the team.” And so Brookelynn and I, we were dating at the time, but we really kind of went all-in with that concept. And that was the year that we had our first kind of New Year’s Eve where we went through our dreams list planned out the next year, kind of we’ve been doing that annually now, which is awesome. And then, I started implementing that work, and then it, from 2013, has really evolved into what it is today. And now, we have a full-fledged program of helping people create their dreams list. And we made a list of 100. I just got done running one of these in early August, and the average person had about 275 on their list.
And so, it’s just this massive list of places you want to travel, things you want to do, experience, work, accomplishments or vocational things, and financial, family, spiritual. And so, it’s not all a check-it-off-the-list thing, but it’s very much a menu of how somebody can intentionally live their life by design. And so, that’s where it started the book, came a lot from your prompting. And so, I was excited to be able to have the opportunity to talk about this and give you credit for being really the, I don’t know if you want to call it kick in the pants or just like, hey, you need to do this. Writing a book has been on my dreams list for a long time, but in my mind, it’s always been a later in life when I’ve got all the time in the world, and we had the opportunity.
I tell the story because it’s funny, but COVID had been going on for what? Four or five months. I’d been working all on Zoom for that entire time. Work was stressful but good. And my wife said, she pulled me aside one morning, was like, “Hey, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’ve been a little bee lately. Fill in the blank.” She used– and I was taken aback a little bit. And she goes, “You’ve been complaining a lot. I think you need to go do some manly things. So, I’m going to send you to Montana to some resort thing. I’ve already got it figured out. I’ve already called Justin, and he’s going to go with you.”
And so, I couldn’t be upset with the comment because she had already booked a trip. And I said, “Alright.” And so, that led to us going to Montana in September to an awesome resort, it wasn’t. I joke, it was not like we did a ton of manly things, it was more we just kind of hung out and ate great food and drank great wine, but we had some time, and you had just been launching your stuff. And I was massively motivated by that. You were on fire with just the excitement of everything that was going on. And you said, you’ve got to write a book. And I said, “Well, on what?” You said, “The dreams thing,” that’s your thing. That’s always been your thing. And you’ve got to do it. And here’s how you can do it.
And so, I remember coming home from that, talking to Brookelynn and saying, “Justin thinks I should do it now.” And this is why Brooke is so great. There was zero hesitation. She was like, “Yes, now.” And so, I said, “You understand there’s a lot of commitment here, time, finance, it’s like the whole thing.” And she’s like, “Doesn’t matter, you need to go do it.” So, it started almost a year ago, this process. And the process has been going on for a long time, but the book itself started about a year ago. And here we are.
Justin Donald: That’s such an incredible story. And thanks for sharing it. I’m so honored to have a role in it because for any of my friends, especially my close dear friends that I want to see all the success in the world, I just love when they take action and just do things, but I think you made a lot of guys or spouses jealous with how cool your spouse is that she booked you a trip and said, “Go get out of here, go do manly stuff.” And for the record, we did do, we did like a few manly things. I’d like to point out that we sawed a log, like a tree, right?
Dane Espegard: I got it over here in my office.
Justin Donald: Yeah. I mean, that’s the first time I’ve ever done that. And we obviously did some archery. And I mean, there are a bunch of other things, so a bunch of wildlife, I mean, what a cool place. Montana’s gorgeous. And we went to this ranch, but it is really a luxury ranch. And they had some incredible wine, and we ended up doing this awesome wine tasting with their sommelier that basically gave me the ability to pick a lot of the stuff that we had, which was fun. So, it was a great trip, but again, it gets back to this whole idea, Dane, that you are a guy that takes action. You hear something and you don’t, I mean, maybe internally, you question it for a little bit and say, “Is this right? Is it not? Should I move forward?” But you make a decision, and then you do it. And it’s so cool to see just how you’ve been blessed in your life because you are all-in. And by the way, what if you did it and it failed?
Dane Espegard: Yeah.
Justin Donald: You’re not really worried about that. You’re like, alright, I’m just going to do it, and we’ll see what happens. And I want to encourage our listeners, those that are watching, that’s it. Like, it may fail, but you won’t have any regrets trying it. And likely, you’re going to learn a lot of lessons along the way when you try it, but the odds are pretty good that it’ll probably work out well, but no matter what, you’ll learn something good from it. And you’re such a great testament to that concept, Dane.
Dane Espegard: And I appreciate that. I think part of it is, like when I graduated school to I want to say all the way up until 2012, 2013, that was what I think, I was 28 or somewhere in there. I didn’t do a lot other than just try and really succeed at work. And so, financially, I was doing the life insurance stuff, but I didn’t have these big audacious goals that were driving me to take action, this or this. And so, getting back on the dreams list helped with that because it gave me purpose to say, “Hey, here are some goals and objectives that I have that I want to get done.” And then I also think just with time, I became a little more self-aware to know my strengths aren’t necessarily finding my own stuff for this or that, my strengths are doing.
And so, again, a lot of what I’ve done has been finding somebody who has a lot of success in a certain area that says you can do this, but also, it’s listening to the opinions of people that know me really well, like you, clearly my wife. And if they are very much in support of like, this is something you should do and you need to do it now, I take that and I know that I’m going to get something done. So, I feel comfortable in that place to know I’ve got support, especially for my wife to say, “Hey, if there are some struggles along the way, there will be. When there’s struggling along the way, it’s no big deal. We’ll probably still end up with a W somewhere on the board.”
Justin Donald: Yeah, it’s a great outlook. If you can look at it that way, then no matter how many failures or things that don’t go your way kind of pop up and arise, like you still are looking for the W. What’s the win? And there are a lot of them if you’re focused on that. If you’re focused on all the losses, then it might not feel like you have many, but there’s the silver lining in everything for sure. And you brought up another good point that I try and talk about all the time is you don’t have to be creative, you don’t have to be unique. All you have to do is copy someone else. I feel like one of my superpowers is that I’m a good copycat. I don’t think that takes a lot. I feel like most people could be a good copycat. I just happen to recognize it early on and know that maybe my strength isn’t doing my own thing, but once I get comfortable and confident in copying someone, then I can kind of deviate and make it my own thing. I can innovate, I can tweak it.
And so, I love that you recognize that early on. And you said, “Alright, well, this person’s doing something that I like, or they’re successful. I’m going to pursue that.” And again, it goes back to your intentionality. I’m going to put these people in my life. I’m going to surround myself with the people that I want. I might not even be on their radar. I remember this with some of my friends today, like dear friends, but I wasn’t on their radar at all. Like they didn’t even really know who I was, but I intentionally placed myself in their lives time and time again, whether it was finding a way to serve them, hook them up with something, connect them to someone else, just add value, just be around. And that has been a huge positive in my life. And I know it has for you as well.
Dane Espegard: I think with the community if I can add one thing with it, too, like putting your stuff in proximity, right? So, the Front Row Dads community, which we’re both obviously a big member, and it’s a big part of our lives. That, for me, has been really big. When you brought up the book, and I don’t think this would have been the case five years ago, but I thought of who do I know that’s written a book, and it’s gone really well? And I could go down the row, and there were five, six, seven guys that are in Front Row Dads that it was like, oh, yeah, this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy. And that made me feel a lot more comfortable of, yeah, there’s no reason not only can I do this, but I can do it well and have it succeed.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, I love your story, I love what you’re doing. And for the record, I have seen you in action with your dreams list, running a seminar, teaching people how to do, like just how to start because usually when you start, people are like, “Alright, well, let’s make a dreams list.” And you write down three things or five things. You’re like, “Okay, I’m kind of at my limit,” but what you do is you elicit these ideas out of people and you get them into this zone where they get creative and playful and fun and you coach them through it and you’re masterful at it. I mean, I want anyone listening to know, like, you have a superpower in facilitation and in kind of creation.
So, it’s funny because you said earlier you’re more of like the copycat, but in this instance, because it’s yours and because you’ve made it your own, you’re very creative in this. And you pull people into your world. They feed off of your energy and enthusiasm. And then, obviously, they come up with these huge lists and then they just check them off and they’re living life that people just are on fire when they’re accomplishing their goals, when they’re aware of these dreams, these goals. And it’s basically a dream until you put a deadline on it, and then it’s a goal, right? Then you cross it off, but to live life knowing that you have these dreams that you’re going to accomplish for the year and then you do it, you’re on fire. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts. So, I think anyone that gets a chance to hire you to run a seminar or attend one of yours, I know you’re doing consulting and you’re doing corporate events, you’re doing one-on-one stuff with different entrepreneurs, business owners, business professionals, but if anyone has a chance to go to one of your seminars, I highly recommend it. And I know you have the one coming up in October. Tell us more about the book, The Dream Machine.
Dane Espegard: That’s what the book is. Thank you, by the way, for that. The book is an A-Z guide on how to implement a system of retention and engagement within your team, centered around dream achieving. And so, the goal of the book was for anybody to pick it up that’s a business owner in a leadership position at X, Y, Z company that leads people, right? To be able to take this book and from start to finish at the end, to be able to feel like, hey, this is something that I can do in my organization.
And I’ve been able to obviously firsthand see what this concept has done for me personally, but also, in the team building aspect within the teams that I run. And it is so great to see people having conversations about their dreams and not just what their sales quota was or what they got done this week or last month. And I think I got a lot more passionate about the application of this within teams through COVID. And the reason is, we had an area of our business that the events program that was completely wiped out by COVID, they couldn’t do anything. They were basically sitting on their hands for five months and longer than that.
And my team, we didn’t lose anybody from that team during that time. And I remember checking in with some of those individuals, “Hey, how are you doing?” And one guy, Bert Wick’s on our team was like, it’s actually been great. I’ve gotten more things done on my dreams list in the last two months than I’ve ever gotten done before. And what I recognized is this dreams concept, what it does is it flips that switch to where it’s no longer I’m living to work, but I’m working to live. And this allowed me to have conversations with people about them as a person, not hey, I need you to do more business, but hey, how’s work serving you? What else are you getting done in your dreams list this year?
And so, I think there’s a lot of people that struggle with how do I engage with somebody outside of the work world, right? And a lot of your listeners, probably lead teams and leadership positions and this just gives you that dialog to be able to say, “Hey, last time we talked to the last dreams exercise we did, there’s a couple of things on your list. How are you doing on those?” And there’s a lot more to it than that, but what’s been cool with the book is I’ve been able to now see all the different applications with other businesses through, whether it’s going in and running a retreat or talking to somebody about, “Hey, I’ve got a smaller team. How can I implement this into my organization?” And it’s not a one-size-fits-all, but I haven’t met a team yet that is excited when the conversation of this comes up.
Justin Donald: Yeah. By the way, I’m so excited to hear about Bert, what a wonderful guy. And it’s great that he’s living a life full of his dreams. When you think about this, I mean, the comment I’m going to make on it is if you want, like the strongest cultural glue that is just, I mean, electric, this is it. And if you want the cure to retention issues, this is also it. I mean, a number of people you can retain through giving them a bigger purpose than just their job, just their paycheck, you tie it into a big vision of what they can do. Instead of them working a job or instead of them showing up and working for someone else, now they’re working for their long-term dreams. And this keeps people around. It keeps them excited. It keeps them doing better work when they work with you and for you. So, I think that that’s tremendous. Where can our audience find your book? And I know you’ve got a special promotion going on right now, so you can share that.
Dane Espegard: Yeah, my website is just DaneEspegard.com, and I’m sure it’ll be in the…
Justin Donald: We’ll put in the show notes.
Dane Espegard: Yep. And then, on there, you can purchase it right on there. You can also buy it on Amazon as well. And the promotion that we’re doing is that, which is something I’m really excited about, this hadn’t really occurred to me until– major shout-out also to Amber Vilhauer and the No Guts No Glory team. I’ve been working with her to launch this project, and their team’s amazing, but through conversations…
Justin Donald: She’s the best.
Dane Espegard: Yeah.
Justin Donald: So good. So good.
Dane Espegard: You are one of the recommenders of her as well as Mike Munro. And so, with going down this process, she said, “Well, have you ever done a dreams retreat for just anybody, making their own dreams list?” I said, “No. It’s always been in the structure of work or within our family or something like that.” And she said, “Well, what if you did that as a giveaway?” And at first, I was like, I don’t know how that’s going to look. And then, as I thought about it more, I’m like, that’s an awesome idea. So, anybody that purchases three books gets a free ticket to, I believe, the date is October 16th. And we’re not doing the full dreams retreat, but we’re doing the list creation part. We call that dream storming. It’s a three-hour session. So, anybody that purchases three books gets a free ticket to that, to make their first-ever dreams list to hopefully have for the rest of their lives and be able to use as many like you and I have.
Justin Donald: Oh, I love it. Well, I’ve got to highly recommend that anyone listening and watching this, that you take Dane up on this because (A), the books will be great. You’ll love the book. You’ll love having something to give away, but (B), it’s a game-changer, going through that dream storming session is going to be just next level. And I can tell you from personal experience and going through it with Dane, this is huge. I’ve done this with a lot of the teams and the companies I’ve invested with and have started. It’s huge for that, but for my own personal life, this is huge. My wife and I, like Dane and Brookelynn, we have a daily or an annual planning day where we plan all of our family stuff, and a component of that is planning out our dreams and what ones we’re going to accomplish, which ones are important to each of us individually, what are ones that we can do together and how fun is that?
Having a list of places that we want to travel, just destinations that are on this list that we can cross off, it just makes life so much more exciting, especially in some of the weird times that we’re living in right now. I feel like there’s no reason to not make life more exciting. So, I highly recommend grabbing that. And the only other thing we need is for you guys to move to Austin, and that will just complete everything, that will check off one of my dreams on my dreams list, Dane.
Dane Espegard: Well, I appreciate the invite. And we have a lot of different things on our dreams list. So, I’ll never say never.
Justin Donald: I like it. I like it. Well, for our audience, I love wrapping up the way that I do each week. And that is this, what is one step that you can take today towards financial freedom and living the life of your dreams on your terms by your design and make your move? Thanks. And we’ll catch you next week.