Jimmy Naraine: “You CAN do it”

Whenever you delegate anything, crystal clear communication is vital. Always speak to your employees in a manner that leaves no room for confusion. As the former Navy Seal Jocko Willink wrote in his book “Extreme Ownership,” you need to take full responsibility for any miscommunication. It’s your job as a leader to make sure that […]

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Whenever you delegate anything, crystal clear communication is vital. Always speak to your employees in a manner that leaves no room for confusion. As the former Navy Seal Jocko Willink wrote in his book “Extreme Ownership,” you need to take full responsibility for any miscommunication. It’s your job as a leader to make sure that people know what you expect them to do. Be extremely clear about your desired goals and the exact timeline. Sometimes leaders are frustrated that their employees don’t deliver desired results, not realizing that they never clarified what they were looking for in the first place!

For example, whenever I delegate something, I ask the other person to paraphrase my request. This way, I make sure that we are on the same page. We can also identify any misunderstandings right away and fix them before they turn into real problems. Clarity is power.

As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jimmy Naraine, a top-rated speaker and entrepreneur who has taught over 200,000 people through his online courses. After working for companies such as Goldman Sachs he dove fully into entrepreneurship. He has explored 76 countries while publishing products mentioned in leading publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Business Insider. Jimmy also runs a digital agency that helps experts and companies amplify their “voice” by creating world-class courses.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Nowadays, when people see me speaking on various stages and running my business, they often assume that I was always a confident person with a clear vision. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I grew up in post-communist Poland as a mixed-race kid, never feeling like I truly belonged. My parents were barely making ends meet as young medical doctors on their meager Polish salary, and I vividly remember living in a typical communistic block of flats infested with cockroaches. Even though I always had dreams of exploring the world and creating something much bigger than myself, I didn’t believe it was possible. I had lots of limiting beliefs, struggled with low self-esteem and anxiety issues.

At some point, I discovered personal development and opened my eyes to different possibilities. I realized that there were many examples of people who overcame the odds and that I was in control of creating my reality. I became a voracious learner, bootstrapped myself to a British university, and completely shifted my paradigm. After working for Allianz and Goldman Sachs, I realized that regular employment wasn’t for me and decided to delve into entrepreneurship. The journey was full of unexpected challenges, but I burnt my bridges and eventually materialized my vision.

I’ve spent the last seven years traveling the world full time while running my business with a 100% virtual Team. I’m an author teaching over 200,000 Udemy students in courses mentioned in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and BusinessInsider, speak at prestigious events and run a course creation agency.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The last job I had was working for a start-up company in Budapest. However, in November 2013, after a series of “aha” moments, I decided to quit to pursue entrepreneurship. In less than a week, I did the unthinkable. I quit my job, left my 2.5-year relationship, and moved out of Budapest. Making three life-altering decisions all at once turned out to be hugely uncomfortable. However, I also knew that embracing discomfort was a sure path to creating magic. My deep urge to build my own education business was so strong that I decided to risk everything. I embraced the life of uncertainty.

Since my funds were limited, I started an equity-based collaboration with a top-level video crew from Poland. We worked extremely hard to create high-quality educational programs. Still, after the successful launch, we saw almost no progress for another six months. During that time, my income was less than 1000 dollars per month. After paying my taxes, I was left with almost nothing and had to pull out money from my modest savings to survive. I had no option but to live with my parents for a while. It felt like a major failure after experiencing a corporate career, and some internal demons began to haunt me. On top of that, I was still heartbroken after ending the relationship and started questioning the validity of my decisions. In fact, there was a time when I lost almost all hope.

When I rejected several corporate opportunities, many of my friends kept telling me that I was committing a “career suicide.” Naturally, the temptation to pursue regular employment was becoming palpable. However, deep inside, I was also aware that doing so wouldn’t make me happy. Sure, it would be liberating to have a stable income and the status that comes from working for a successful company. However, whenever I felt like giving up on my business, I reminded myself of my vision of building something bigger than myself. I also recalled all those moments when I managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible, from learning foreign languages and “escaping” Poland to getting accepted by Goldman Sachs. I was aware that nothing great in life comes easy and was determined to test my limits.

Taking my “inner work” seriously allowed me to maintain the inner fire and the drive to keep going. When I was at my lowest, I performed the “define the nightmare” exercise I learned from Tim Ferriss. Instead of making my decisions based on momentary emotions, I decided to approach my situation rationally. I analyzed the pros and cons of staying on my path versus going back to the corporate world. After an in-depth and honest analysis, I realized that the worst-case scenario of pursuing entrepreneurship wasn’t that bad. After all, even if I lost my business and savings, I could still sleep in my parents’ house or on a friend’s couch.

Moreover, I had no doubts that I could always find a well-paying job.

Having that realization gave me a tremendous feeling of freedom. Once I understood that the worst-case scenario wasn’t that terrible, I caught my second wind. I began to work even harder on my business. Several months later, I made over 10,000 dollars income in a single month, and it felt surreal. That’s when I knew that I would never go back.

The majority of entrepreneurs face tremendous setbacks at the beginning of their journey. It’s just a part of this game. This is why it’s essential to remember why you are doing what you are doing and the compelling vision you are striving for. Being clear about your vision and remembering that NOT TRYING is the ultimate failure, will keep you in one piece when going through hard times.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When my video crew and I started building our first online courses, we fell victim to the trap called “triumph of form over content.” On the one hand, we knew that to make our video content stand out, we needed to focus on high production quality. However, now, in retrospect, I know that sometimes we took it too far. Our obsession with production quality made it impossible to produce a high volume of content. For example, we traveled to Tenerife with a plan to film a series of video courses. However, due to our unhealthy perfectionism (using three cameras, B-roll, and even drone footage), we could barely finish creating just one course. We essentially tried to turn me into a “character” that I wasn’t, instead of focusing on producing more valuable content.

Now I understand that this strive for perfectionism was partially caused by our insecurity of being new in the industry. It was a sign of overcompensation, which in retrospect, wasn’t necessary. After all, I was shooting content videos, not a James Bond movie. When I see those old videos now, I can’t help but laugh at myself, thinking: “I’m just a guy sitting on a rock, teaching people about confidence and productivity. Why use all those camera angles, drone shots, and dramatic music? It’s borderline cringy!”

Instead, we should’ve focused most of our energy on producing a lot of high-quality content without going overboard. At some point, the law of diminishing returns is just too drastic. Naturally, in hindsight, it all makes sense. However, back then, we believed that our approach was the only way to accomplish success. The lesson is simple. Never allow your unhealthy perfectionism to control your actions. When you feel that you may be overcompensating, pause, ponder, and reevaluate.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Every single person working for me is entirely remote. I’m aware that nowadays, amid the Covid pandemic, many companies are leaning towards remote work. Still, there are not many firms that have been 100% virtual from day one. Some of my employees live primarily in one location, but it’s by choice, not because they have to. When I choose people to work with, I make sure that they have a genuine desire to make a global impact while blending it with a sense of adventure. For me, it’s not just about the skillset. Interestingly, whenever a project requires travel, members of my team get legitimately excited.

One story that comes to mind is when we were working on several new video courses. Instead of filming everything in a cozy studio, we decided to go to Vietnam. Rather than conveniently booking ourselves in one hotel for the entire stay, we embraced the spirit of adventure, rented motorcycles, and explored Vietnam searching for good filming shots. This radical move was unnecessary, but we did it for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to make education fun and compelling and knew that people responded very well to seeing videos from exotic locations versus a typical studio. Secondly, as mentioned before, each person working for me has a thirst for adventure. Whenever we can combine business and exploration, we do it as it improves morale, boosts creativity, and ultimately, leads to better results. We ended up filming on beaches, rooftops of abandoned buildings, and small Vietnamese streets during that trip.

The fascinating thing is that many people don’t like the feeling of uncertainty and discomfort that inevitably comes with such travel. However, my team members loved the experience. It also became a springboard for more adventures, from renting a van in Canary Islands and filming various nature spots to exploring Greece and Thailand. My Team and I believe that business is not just about getting things done; it’s about optimizing to fill your work life with never-ending excitement. We embrace the same approach when working for our clients. When someone needs help with filming their online course or promotional videos, we are more than happy to travel anywhere in the world, of course, depending on the budget. In essence, something that feels like an inconvenience for many people gives us a sense of fulfillment.

When you hire people, make sure that their value and belief system is aligned with yours. Find people who believe in what you do and resonate with HOW you do things.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

One of the biggest reasons people burn out, no matter the industry, is that they engage in work, they don’t truly believe in and try to do too much themselves. As you are building your career, you will face many difficult decisions, and some of them may force you to compromise on what you believe in. The truth is that not all clients and business partners are created equal, and some of them may quickly drain your energy.

Most business owners and professionals try to continually do more, without pondering the consequences holistically. I sincerely believe that more is not always better. Calibration is key. When you pick your clients, it’s not about saying YES by default to everyone who wants to work with you.

To thrive in business without burning out, it’s essential to set very clear boundaries with yourself. It’s vital to define precisely what you are prepared to do and the compromises you are not willing to make. You have to determine the types of clients you want to work with. It’s always a two-way dynamic. Just as they are pondering if they should hire you, you need to consciously decide if YOU want to work with them. It’s beneficial to ask yourself a question: “what are the pros and cons of working with this client?” We are often so blinded by all the immediate benefits that we cannot see what could go wrong. When you pick the clients you truly want to work with, positive energy and full alignment will drive productivity. Increased productivity will create more results, which in turn will make you feel better. It creates an upward positive spiral.

Secondly, clear communication and managing expectations from the very beginning in all business situations are crucial. Too many “blurred lines” always lead to challenges down the road. On the other hand, cultivating clear communication and being “a straight shooter” ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Thirdly, nothing extraordinary has ever been accomplished just by one individual. If you want to create massive results while staying sane, you need to appreciate the value of delegating and learn how to do it effectively.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I believe that there is no such thing as a fully “self-made” person. We all get help along the way from various people, sometimes directly, but more often indirectly. I want to share an example that shows how just one gesture can drastically alter the course of your life.

When I was at university, working for Goldman Sachs was perceived to be the pinnacle, the ultimate dream. The dynamic amongst students was clear: if you work for a prominent investment firm in London, you’ve “made it.” Frankly, I never had a genuine desire to work for a bank. The only reason I went for it was because I felt a tremendous pressure to embrace what seemed like a golden opportunity. After growing up with many insecurities, part of me felt that working for a company like this would fill the void deep inside. It gave me a sense of recognition and accomplishment.

During my stint at Goldman, I learned a lot, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was living someone else’s dream. I quickly concluded that I would never be fulfilled working for a corporation. Deep inside, I had a dream of running a location-independent business while exploring the world. However, it’s incredibly challenging to summon the courage without the right support team or a mentor who could pave the way. My mentor in Goldman Sachs was an ex-army Commander. Every several weeks we went on a 45-minute walk, and he would share his experiences.

One day, I delivered a presentation in front of the entire department, and will never forget the way my mentor congratulated me. After the speech, he pulled me aside and said something that shifted my perception of reality.

“Jimmy, you have the ability to inspire and lead people, and I can see the spark in you. I can see that you want more from life. I can see that you have a tremendous entrepreneurial drive in you. I don’t think that this place will give you the opportunities you need. I feel like if you don’t go after whatever your vision is, you may be wasting your potential.”

Hearing those words from the global head of one of the departments, and a person I respected tremendously, left me speechless. His words were the injection of confidence and courage I needed. I realized that my dreams of being a business owner were not just some delusion. I understood that they were possible. It was at that moment when I decided that I needed to give entrepreneurship a shot.

Often in life, we feel like we could do more, but we don’t genuinely believe in ourselves. We remember all of our mistakes, failures, self-doubts. Sometimes it takes someone else to make us realize our true potential, someone who will tell us: “you CAN do it. You have the potential. You can shape your reality.” That moment after the presentation was so powerful that I feel slightly emotional writing about it. I believe that it’s those moments that shape your future if you allow them to.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?

I believe that any successful business is about challenging basic mathematics by making 2+2 equal 22. It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but it’s all about creating the synergy effect. Running a thriving business is about ensuring that the total becomes more than the sum of its parts.

The most significant difference between running a business and merely providing a service is that you have to become comfortable working as a team. Synergy is created by working as a cohesive team, and there is no way around it. Delegating can be very challenging, especially for control freaks. However, it is crucial, and not doing it means depriving yourself of your true potential. As leaders, we often fall into the trap of trying to have too much control. The key is to change our vocabulary and replace “I” with “WE,” always asking ourselves: “how can WE work together for this company to thrive?” The word WE is critical here as it’s the core of any successful business.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

I understand why delegation can be challenging as I used to be a control freak, easily trapped by the disease of perfectionism. Initially, it felt very challenging to delegate any work. However, once I realized the tremendous benefits of doing so, my paradigm had shifted. Now, it’s hard for me even to imagine how anyone could ever be successful without the willingness to “let go of control” by delegating certain tasks. I believe that a successful leader shouldn’t spend the entire time fighting on the “battlefield.” Instead, their time is better spent in the “tent” calibrating the big picture strategy.

There are several reasons why delegation is so challenging. First of all, managers and business owners often assume that they can do things better than anyone else. They want to have full control of the outcome. However, having full control is just a comfortable illusion. There is only some degree of control we have in any realm of life. We can meticulously design and execute all our plans, but unexpected challenges are inevitable. This is especially true in the business world. The sooner leaders realize it, the better.

The second reason is often the lack of trust. It’s common for leaders to feel like others may not deliver to their standard or, even worse — make compromises that may lead to negative consequences. However, when you give people your trust, they take more ownership and perform better. On the flip side, a lack of trust often leads to lower morale and poor performance.

The third reason is the substantial upfront investment that has to be made in terms of time and effort. When you delegate new tasks, you need to accept that there will be a learning curve. Initially, the results may not be ideal as your team is learning the ropes. It also means that you need to make an effort to steer people in the right direction. The good news is that if you are consistently delegating, the results will become increasingly better. Eventually, you will have a team of absolute experts who can perform various tasks more efficiently and effectively than you. However, this “2+2=22” effect requires an upfront investment.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

Several important things come to mind. As a leader, you need to drop your ego. You have to be extremely honest about your priorities and strengths and focus on them. Your team should handle the rest. Better yet, you want to create a situation where your team members become better than you at performing all the delegated tasks.

As the first step, I recommend performing the 80/20 analysis of everything you do. The 80/20 Rule, also called the Pareto Principle, asserts that roughly 80% of results come from 20% of inputs. The ratio differs based on the circumstances, but the basic premise is that very few things truly matter. As a business person, you need to identify several crucial tasks that you should be performing yourself. All activities that don’t fall into that category should be delegated. From my experiences, using the Pareto principle gives tremendous clarity that allows leaders to justify delegating various tasks. I fact, it often makes them excited about the idea of delegation!

Secondly, consciously work on a mindset shift that full control is just a convenient illusion. To gain more power and create better results, it’s necessary to give up some control first. Focus on the macro-scale rather than the micro-scale. Start delegating consistently, even when it feels uncomfortable, and learn from the process.

As mentioned before, as a leader, you don’t want to spend all your time at the front line. Instead, you want to make sure that you have plenty of time and energy to plan the big picture strategy in your “general’s tent.” Trying to do most things by yourself is doing a disservice to yourself AND your Team. People appreciate having the ownership of various tasks. Besides, an overworked and stressed leader rarely makes the right decisions, so it’s in everyone’s interest that you focus only on what is truly important, delegate the rest and let your team shine.

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Consciously decide to shift your mindset and treat delegation for what it is — one of the most significant business opportunities. Even though it may initially feel uncomfortable, it’s a crucial step in growing your business. I’m aware that this may sound simple, but everything really starts with adopting the right mindset. Instead of fearing delegation, get excited about it. Focus on all the benefits it will give you. Also, accept that the more training, guidance, and support you provide to your Team, the better the results will be.

One story that comes to mind is when I was consulting a successful business owner from Florida. At that time, she was running a multi-million dollar printing business. After delving deep into her day to day operations, I was shocked to discover that she was still performing simple physical tasks herself. When I brought it to her attention, she assured me that nobody would be able to do those tasks better. That’s when I asked her one simple question that ended up changing her life:

“so tell me, if I wanted to do this type of work, how much could I possibly earn per each hour of my time?”

She took less than two seconds to respond: “13, maybe 15 dollars per hour.” However, just a moment later, she froze as if she saw a ghost. She quietly repeated to herself: “13 dollars per hour…”

In that instance, she realized that it didn’t make any sense for a multi-million dollar business owner to do a 13 dollars per hour job. She could be the best in the world at it, and it would still not make sense. That was the breakthrough moment. From then on, instead of being intimidated by the idea of delegating, she got excited about it!

2. Whenever you delegate anything, crystal clear communication is vital. Always speak to your employees in a manner that leaves no room for confusion. As the former Navy Seal Jocko Willink wrote in his book “Extreme Ownership,” you need to take full responsibility for any miscommunication. It’s your job as a leader to make sure that people know what you expect them to do. Be extremely clear about your desired goals and the exact timeline. Sometimes leaders are frustrated that their employees don’t deliver desired results, not realizing that they never clarified what they were looking for in the first place!

For example, whenever I delegate something, I ask the other person to paraphrase my request. This way, I make sure that we are on the same page. We can also identify any misunderstandings right away and fix them before they turn into real problems. Clarity is power.

3. Use empowering language when communicating with people working for you. Instead of giving orders, make them WANT TO do what you are asking them to do. It is especially crucial when you are communicating with entry-level employees. Many leaders make the mistake of underestimating the impact their language and tone of voice have on the overall morale. It takes a true leader to treat even those with the lowest rank as valuable team members.

For example, when you are delegating new tasks to someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience, some mistakes will inevitably happen. Instead of focusing solely on the negative, it’s vital to continuously encourage your Team by giving credit when it’s due. This approach will increase morale and make people WANT TO take more ownership and exceed your expectations.

4. As mentioned before, delegating requires the initial investment of time and effort. However, instead of continuously relying on your actions, create systems and procedures to keep making delegation easier over time. I highly recommend that all leaders document their best practices and the most critical processes. New employees can then use those procedures to “get up to speed.” Before leaving Goldman Sachs, I created almost 100 pages of procedures to ensure that the most vital processes would never be lost.

If you want to take things to the next level, I highly recommend creating an internal video course. The purpose is to share anything you believe your employees should know, from your best practices to boundaries or even your answers to frequently asked questions. Doing so will save you a tremendous amount of time. Sure, creating a course requires an initial time investment, but it practically “clones” you. Instead of doing the same training over and over again with new team members, you simply give them access to your video course.

5. Finally, it’s essential to understand that delegating is a skill like anything else. It wouldn’t be very reasonable to expect that you could surf a giant ocean wave without any prior experience. In the same way, it would be foolish for us to expect that we can be incredible at delegating from day one. The more you practice, the better you become. Mistakes and challenges are inevitable, and no amount of “how-to” articles will prevent it from happening. However, this is also how you will learn the most, so it’s important that you don’t get discouraged by temporary setbacks. Delegation is something that any leader needs to embrace to create tremendous results. Be patient, do your best and stay positive, knowing that you are improving each day.

When I started delegating, I was uncomfortable and made mistakes. However, I got to the point where I cannot imagine running a successful business without delegation. When I recognized all the benefits, I started enjoying it tremendously. After all, it allows me to free up a lot of time to do the things that truly matter.

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

I believe that this statement is true ONLY to some extent. Each person has a different skills and set of priorities. What high-performers have in common is their ability to distinguish their top value tasks from all the minutia. There is an opportunity cost to every action, which is why it is vital to determine your priorities and stick to them. Based on my experience, the 80/20 principle I discussed earlier is one of the most powerful tools you can and should use.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It is such a great question, and I appreciate you asking. The first thing that comes to mind is that there is not enough awareness of how vital cultivating physical and mental health is. The mainstream media focuses primarily on fearful events as they get the most attention. As busy humans, we often focus solely on day to day activities connected to making money and live our lives on autopilot. Sadly, we rarely stop to ponder how our daily actions impact our overall health. Ultimately, life is meant to be lived, and a big part of living your best life is to feel good in your body AND mind.

I believe that there needs to be more awareness of how important health is. Leaders and media channels should put more emphasis on teaching people how to manage their health. We need to make more effort to create a health-conscious society where people realize that their everyday decisions ultimately impact their overall well-being. Rather than going on autopilot eating unhealthy food, never delving deep into our minds to resolve internal issues, we need to become more aware. People need to reclaim their power and realize that they can consciously control the reality they live in. Most of us brush our teeth and shower every single day, yet, we don’t take even a little bit of time to ponder how our seemingly unimportant decisions affect our mental and physical health.

If everyone embraced daily “check-ins” with themselves and became more conscious about their daily choices, it would positively impact the world as a whole. I appreciate you asking this question as I’m a big believer that the quality of our lives depends on the quality of questions we ponder.

How can our readers further follow you online?

The best place to find me is through my website where you can find lots of valuable resources including my eBooks. You can also follow my adventures as a “travelling businessman” on my Instagram @jimmynaraine

I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and everyone who took their time to read this interview.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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