“Distractions are poison to productivity”, Stephen Scoggins and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

The strategies I use may seem simple on the surface, but are incredibly powerful. This is largely because they are so powerful. Here is what I have learned after over 20 years in business and coming from the most humblest of beginnings. It is a short acronym to help remember to respond rather than react […]

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The strategies I use may seem simple on the surface, but are incredibly powerful. This is largely because they are so powerful. Here is what I have learned after over 20 years in business and coming from the most humblest of beginnings. It is a short acronym to help remember to respond rather than react to any person, challenge, or situation. I discovered there are 4 phases to transform any situation into something helpful and I call it (G.R.O.W). It is so effective that I have even gone through the trouble of trademarking it .

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High-Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Scoggins.

Stephen Scoggins is an author, inspirational speaker, and 6-time Bootstrap entrepreneur. He’s taking his first company from sleeping in a car to a high 8-figure business, employing hundreds across three states. Now, he focuses on serving the person he once was throughout the fields of life mastery and entrepreneurship.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

In truth, life has always been a bit of an uphill battle for me. I grew up in a divorced family for the first few years of my life. Then, my grandmother, who I call Nanny, raised me. My brief moment with her became the core part of my life, and it’s where I truly felt loved and appreciated. Unfortunately, I was only about 9 years old when my Nanny was diagnosed with cancer, and trusted me to put someone else’s needs before my own.

I was so small I often had to pull a stool up to the stove and sink to make our dinner and breakfast. Chemo stole so much of her energy — she simply did not have the strength. For years after that, I struggled to break the cycle, always putting everyone else before myself. This always left me unseen, unheard, and unvalued.

Soon after, my Nanny passed away leaving my brother and I in need of our parents. I was introduced to the construction industry when I moved in with my father — and I said goodbye to my little brother who was off to Florida with my mother.

And so it began. I worked every weekend, holiday, and summer in the construction trade, carrying lumber and learning the trades altogether. My dad’s business did well for a while and things seemed like they were starting to stabilize — and I would be able to go back and be a kid again. That was until the business began to fail.

We went down the roller coaster of watching foreclosures, repossession, and later a bankruptcy. I bounced around for a long while with my dad moving from broken down mobile home to broken down mobile home. I watched him fight back with all he had only to let poor life skills steal every bit of traction he would make.

By the time I was at the end of my junior year of high school, I had enough and dropped out of school. I wanted to help provide for the family — hoping and praying to get us over the hump. It worked for a while and things got a little better. That is until another set of events would lead me towards homelessness and a complete loss of hope. Fortunately for me, two people changed my life forever and helped me become the man I am today, and all of the benefits that come with it.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

My greatest inspiration outside of my Nanny came down to two people: Steve Myrick, a local home builder, and Susan Batts, who I referred to as Mamawama. Susan took me in as her own on multiple occasions, and was a former high school girlfriend’s mother. Both encouraged me and taught me different things that radically changed the trajectory of my life.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

As I look back at my life and personal story, there is one common denominator that each of these people had in common that changed me from the inside out. They gave me encouragement and hope. Further, they instilled in me the will — and the wherewithal — to face the numerous high-pressure moments I would need to master in order to succeed in my own life and create a future.

One of the most transformational moments I had came first through Steve Myrick. He watched my father and grandfather struggle with alcoholism. My grandfather survived Pearl Harbor, but not the after-effects. Over time, this bled into my father’s household and I think Steve was just trying to break what appeared to be some kind of family chain to alcohol.

And that is when it happened. On a very warm summer afternoon in my late teens, Steve pulled around the corner in his white Jeep Grand Cherokee and motioned for me to come down to his car. It was so hot that I would have done just about anything for some air conditioning.

He took it upon himself to ask me a question that changed my entire way of thinking about life and possibilities. He said, “Stephen, what is the difference between a rich man and a poor man?” And without thinking about it, I replied, “Duh, money.” If he could have thumped me on the top of my head, I think he would have! He said, “Absolutely not! It is the way they think!” He went on to say, “People with wealth are always looking for ways to invest in their future, and those who remain poor spend all they have.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

As someone who struggles with Dyslexia, my funniest moments always center around spelling and grammar. And, as it turns out, the words “louver” and “lover” are two totally different words. Clearly, this can send the wrong message to your customer. It’s like saying “I love you” to the boss and you’re not married to them!

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

There are really two pieces of advice: one from Steve Myrick and one from Susan Batts. I will share Susan’s shortly, but Steve taught me to live by this motto and it has carried me this far: “Be willing to do today what others won’t and you can have tomorrow what others don’t.”

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Built to Serve by Evan Carmichael.

I was attracted to this book because I always believed the greatest purpose in life you will ever have is “serving the person you used to be.” We often don’t grasp the importance of sharing how adversity has shaped our lives for the better. Each one of us has faced many challenges in our lives that can give someone else hope during the time that they are facing similar challenges.

Built to Serve offers a roadmap to help you understand how to serve in your own greatest capacity, and make a difference in the process. What can mean more than living a life full of purpose?

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I mentioned earlier I would share a piece of advice that I also admired about Susan Batts, and it was this: “This too shall pass and what comes next will be greater.”

Why were these words so important? Because they saved my life literally. The moment when she answered my call I was overlooking an 8-lane highway ready to give up on life altogether. What she taught me in that moment became a battle cry for not giving up just because it’s hard. And if you feel like you are going down, then do so.

It was only 3 weeks later that I wiped the sleep from my eyes — being fresh off the street and onto my father’s couch — that I started the first and flagship of my business. Not only did those words save my life — they also saved my hope and paved the way for myself, the businesses I would create, the people I would employ, and now the lives I am so honored to help change. When in doubt, always remember that — “This too shall pass and what comes next will be greater.”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

One of the most exciting things I am finalizing now and launching in October is Transform U Online. Transform U is a system and curriculum I built from scratch based on my experience from going from homelessness to successful entrepreneurship. The goal was not to become a guru, but rather a guide who walks those in the same position I was in to the places I am now (with financial and professional freedom).

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

The strategies I use may seem simple on the surface, but are incredibly powerful. This is largely because they are so powerful. Here is what I have learned after over 20 years in business and coming from the most humblest of beginnings. It is a short acronym to help remember to respond rather than react to any person, challenge, or situation. I discovered there are 4 phases to transform any situation into something helpful and I call it (G.R.O.W). It is so effective that I have even gone through the trouble of trademarking it .

STEP 1 — GAIN PERSPECTIVE — More often than not, we react to a problem rather than responding to one. And the scarier it is, the quicker we seem to react to it. Unfortunately, this costs us dearly because we are not able to take a step back and see how that reaction may cause a chain reaction of unfortunate events. For example, when COVID began to surface as a mainstream topic, many people went into fear. As a result, they made knee-jerk reactions with their families, careers, and personal financial picture. I quickly gathered my team to begin to brainstorm how we could grow our business rather than shrink it. I wanted to be able to view the market, the customers, and team from as many viewpoints as I could. I wanted ideas on the streamlining process, innovative ideas, and ways to reward the team as we were doing it. Our approach lead us toward growing our business rather than shrinking our business. I was able to pick up top notch talent that we did not have previously because of this growth.

“The more perspective you have, the more power you have at any point and time.”

STEP 2 — REMOVE ROADBLOCKS — As a life and business strategist for the last several years, I’ve been able to help thousands of people who were once like I was by helping them identify the roadblocks standing in their way. We all bring our best of ourselves and the worst of ourselves to our businesses daily. I discovered that my first company’s — Custom Home Exteriors — success was not because we were better at doing business than anyone else; it was because we were different from everyone else. Here is what I mean. C.H.E was not a construction company, it was a personal development company masquerading as a construction company. As a result, we were able to objectively view personal roadblocks in ourselves, in our team members, and, as you can imagine, it translated into roadblocks in the marketplace.

“I have taught my team that road blocks are not to be feared, but be leveraged.”

No matter the situation, there is always a way forward. Having faith in that, we will leverage a roadblock to learn from. This takes the fear out of them in the first place. Using the same COVID example as before, one of the greatest roadblocks was fear, and operating in and out of fear will always lead you towards a bad place. So, we pulled the team together and communicated that there was no need to fear. We communicated that we had a good 90 days of operating capital for them even if we had no more revenue. We also communicated to them our trip wires, and the actions we will take should revenues slow down to such a point where the decisions we would have to make would become increasingly more difficult. Because we were honest we removed the roadblock of fear, which allowed the team to work at an optimal level.

STEP 3 — ORGANIZE A PLAN — Here is where I see a lot of people and business owners get it wrong, and unfortunately increase their stress. They jump into a “fix it” mind set rather than taking the time needed to use step 1 and 2 to their advantage. You can not organize a plan until after you have taken the time needed to gain perspective and look for potential roadblocks. However, once you do, you are setting yourself up for the best possible outcome. Your plan should clearly lay out the defined outcome you want. Work from the end backwards, regularly look for more perspective, and any roadblocks that could get in your way. It should include the opportunities, threats, discussion of fears, team unity, etc. Once you laid out the steps, you should then move to the next step.

STEP 4 — WORK THE PLAN — One of the biggest mistakes I used to make is staying stuck in “analysis paralysis,” and again it all comes back to fear. For instance, the fear that it won’t work. But, what I have learned is that if I do the first three steps to the best of my ability, then I can have confidence in taking a step. At that point, you simply have to get to work. Sure, you may not get every result you want, but you will have the tools needed to pivot and adjust.

If you want to take any situation and make it work for you instead of against you, then you have to learn to respond rather than react. And the only way I have been able to do that consistently is to use the 4 phases of transformation — G.R.O.W.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high-stress situations?

When it comes to optimizing my mind for peak performance, again it comes down to the simplest of techniques. The reality is your mind is only as good as you feed it. Here are my top 3.

  1. GET REST — When we are under a lot of pressure, our cortisol levels rise and we begin to lose interest in sleeping (as if worrying about something over and over is going to make it any better). I used to almost have to force myself to get rest. But, one thing I know for sure is that without rest your brian will not have the power it needs to create the strategies you need to move forward. Instead, you will become frustrated easier, and make more mistakes. Get rest!
  2. WATCH — When I was homeless, I could not figure out for the life of me why I could not get my brain to fire correctly. That’s when I learned that what you put in your body directly affects the performance of your brain. For example, many people turn to self medication through nicotine, alcohol, and prescriptions to numb what they are going through. They don’t realize that those very items are increasing the problems, and not helping at all. Please hear me. I am not pointing fingers — I learned these lessons by experience. What I am saying is what changed things for me was eating more protein, less carbs, eliminating sugar, and drinking superfood shakes like Living Fuel that simply make your brain fire better.
  3. GIVE THANKS — Author and speaker Chris Hogan says, “It’s hard to be hateful when you are grateful.” For some reason, the limiting beliefs of the mind are counteracted by simply expressing gratitude out loud daily. The simplest things create a spirit of resilience that gets you out of stinking thinking, and focused on creating reliable solutions. It works for me — and I am sure it will work for you.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

I actually stumbled on something that was really powerful for me at one of my hardest recent moments in business. It was a peaceful piano track I discovered on YouTube and it was simply called “PEACE”. I would turn this on and sit for a few minutes and let it wash over me some. Then, I would pull out a pencil and a pad — and write. I find writing for me can be very therapeutic. As a person of faith, it helps me to connect deeply to the God that I believe I am called to serve. And while I know not everyone shares my faith, I can respect that, But, t I also think there is a great power in music, nature, prayer, and simply breathing and being aware that can add a lot of value to your life.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

“The only way I have been able to increase focus is to decrease distractions.”

Distractions are poison to productivity. It doesn’t matter if it is ding, a dong, or constant interruptions, if you want to focus more you have to identify what they are then and remove them. When I am creating content, I do so early in the morning with my phone off, and with a small caffeine boost. In other words, I found it helpful to do my concentrated work while others are sleeping or otherwise occupied.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

When I think of habits, for some reason I think of it as a negative connotation. That being said, James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, is solid. The thing is I think we would be in agreement since what he calls a “habit” I call a principle put to work by developing an underlying routine.

For example, let’s assume I want to get out of personal debt, what I need is not a habit — but a principle of spending less and applying more resources to the debt at hand. So the principle would be “get out of debt,” but I need to set up a routine to change my current behavior pattern.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

I believe that great “habits” are simple principles of truth in disguise. As a result, I am a firm believer in deciding the outcome I want and working backwards towards those actionable steps and milestones I need to get there. A bad habit is nothing more than getting a negative result you are not proud of. For some, it may be as little as consistently embellishing the truth. For others, it may be something more serious like a gambling habit or out of control spending habits. At the end of the day, it comes down to three steps.

  1. IDENTIFY — Identify the result you are getting that you don’t want, and take a hard look at where that is rooted in your life and gain perspective all around it. Where did you learn to handle money, relationships, or the belief you have in your potential for the future? Was it a parent, an event, or school? In other words, who taught you to settle for anything less than your best?
  2. CHOOSE — Choose the polar opposite methodology. For example, if it is a spending problem, then you may decide to go into an all saving mindset for a minimum of 60 days as your muscle memory of the new routine takes over. That way, it will be far easier to find a balance between the two.
  3. ROUTINE — For me, I had to physically write down what my routine would be on paper in advance of taking action. Then, I would post it in areas of my home where I would have to look at it every day. There is something about keeping promises that you made to yourself as you are learning and growing. I have actually found it can rapidly grow self-confidence.

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I consider flow to be the art of passionately pursuing an area of focus without being distracted. Distraction is the kryptonite of flow.. For example, I am in the middle part of the process of writing my next book. One of the things I have noticed is I can not be in my home or office when I have committed time to write. Why? Because simple interruptions create compounded distractions. In order to have supreme levels of flow, you have to have supreme levels of clarity. I have only found those moments in picking a date and time on the calendar to disconnect, and just get started.

In all honesty, I will also admit I don’t start out in flow right away. I may write half a chapter not in flow to get to the place where the words just start flowing and ideas start connecting.

“Getting to “flow” is not a destination, it is a process. You just have to start.”

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I personally believe that one of my greatest impacts that I can have on the world is helping people gain the insight and answers to the world’s three greatest questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. What do I do about it?

It does not matter if you are the CEO of a major corporation or grew moving lumber as I did, every person on this planet is searching for those three answers. I see far too many lawyers who wish they could paint and too many painters who don’t enjoy it, but love law.

So many times we are stuck and frustrated not because of some event, but because we are not living the life we were created to live. Instead, we are living a life someone else told us to live — and that is where discontent and unhappiness is formed. I simply want my epitaph to read: “Here lies a loving father and husband who set out to transform a million lives — and did.”

For me, helping someone else discover their total identity, passion, and purpose is the greatest call someone could have. I have been very fortunate that this comes naturally to me when I have the honor of working with people. I also believe that the more people I can serve — and help to discover the answer to those three questions — the more they will learn how to help others do the same. And if I can continue to have success in that area, then I will have created a legacy that outlives me. That is my heart’s desire. People simply should not have to live a life of settling and constant frustration simply because they don’t know any better.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

You know I admire so many people in the personal development space and entrepreneur space that in many ways it’s hard to choose. Some of them I already know personally. I don’t really believe in going “fan crazy” on really anybody for lack of a better word.

That being said. I think the person I would like to sit and have a conversation with would be Marcus Lemonis. I admire the way in which he conducts life and business. I believe I could learn a lot about many of the techniques and guiding principles he uses to help struggling businesses, and the people in them.

I also admire his personal story. I believe if we were to get to know each other some, we would have a lot in common from the perspective of how we value people and business. I have always enjoyed getting to know people who are inspirational and practically minded. From my experience, they are rare.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would be honored to connect with any readers and answer any future questions. We are actively changing lives — and I invite them to learn more about my team and me by clicking any of the links below. That is the best way to reach us.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share, and would love to hear about any testimonials from your readers on how any of the ideas I shared have added value. I am also happy to contribute any time you have topics on life and business you would like me to touch on.

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