Exclusive Q&A with Michael Hyatt on Goal Setting, Mentoring and Personal Branding

We cross path!

I’ve been following Michael Hyatt for years, and thanks to a connector (you’re the man, Matt!) I finally have a great opportunity to have a Q&A with Mr. Hyatt.  He’s a truly inspirational figure; I learn so much from this Q&A – and I hope you will, too!

Without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Michael Hyatt.

Michael Hyatt

Table of Contents

Many thanks for the opportunity, Mr. Hyatt. For our readers who don’t know about you and your work, please kindly introduce yourself.

I am the author of the New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want.

I am also the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the seventh-largest trade book publishing company in the U.S. I’ve worked in book publishing most of my life.

Now, I am the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, an online leadership development company. My mission is to be a “virtual mentor” to overwhelmed high achievers who want to get the clarity, confidence, and tools they need to win at work and succeed at life.

I have been married to my wife, Gail, for thirty-eight beautiful years. We have five daughters, eight grandchildren, and a dog named Winston. We live outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

You’ve had an incredible experience as a publisher, blogger, and mentor. Was the evolution of your career in this direction something you had anticipated in your Life Plan or past goals and how did you shift from publisher to entrepreneur?

Well, as a kid, I never said I wanted to grow up to be a blogger. :-)

I took up blogging in 2004. At the time, I was the CEO and Chairman of Thomas Nelson. It was my way of sharing what I was learning and understanding for myself the brave new world of platform-building. I’ve always been a bit of a technology geek, and I loved hacking my way through code and using shiny gadgets.

Over the years, I found I loved the creative life. I was also finding it increasingly difficult to give expression to my gifts while running a company the size of Thomas Nelson. So in 2011, I handed the reins to a new CEO and focused full time on writing and speaking.

There’s a great saying from the naturalist John Burroughs — “Leap, and the net will appear.”

And that’s exactly what happened to me. Once I focused fully on speaking and writing, I found more and more to say to high achievers who wanted to succeed both at work and at home. And in order to help more people, I needed to package up my knowledge into digital products. That way, I could create a WOW experience that truly helps people transform — and make a living, too!

So to answer your question, it wasn’t one massive goal. It was a snowball effect. Each big step along the way gave me the confidence and momentum to dive headlong into the next.

I’ll also say this: we don’t always know the full picture. I sure didn’t. But thanks to goal-setting (and lots of prayer), I had a clear map. At every point in the journey, I knew I was pointed in the right direction, even if I couldn’t see the exact route to my destination. I just kept taking the next right step.

That’s the power of incremental progress over time — and it’s what powers every significant thing you and I will ever accomplish.

What’s the turning point/tipping point of your career?

I think it’s tempting to reduce it to a single moment, but I can point to four critical points of change in my online career.

Starting my blog was the first major step. It was in the summer of 2004, and at the time, I was the CEO and Chairman of Thomas Nelson. It was my way of sharing what I was learning and understanding for myself the brave new world of platform-building. I’ve always been a bit of a technology geek, and I loved hacking my way through code and using shiny gadgets. Having a place to write and distribute my ideas in a matter of minutes was truly empowering. It’s still a thrill today, and it’s why I believe most anyone with something to say or sell should start a blog.

The next key step was getting active on Twitter. I remember sitting in my living room in 2008 and telling some friends that I was going to “try this Twitter thing” for 30 days. It was an experiment. Needless to say, it worked! I have help managing social media now, but I set aside time practically every day to listen to my followers and chat.

The third major turning point was stepping down as the CEO of Thomas Nelson. As my blog grew, I found it increasingly difficult to give expression to my gifts while running a company the size of Thomas Nelson. So in 2011, I handed the reins to a new CEO and focused full time on writing and speaking.

The final step came in 2013, when I met Stu McLaren. He helped me see that, in order to help more people, I needed to package up my knowledge into digital products. That way, I could create a WOW experience that truly helps people transform — and make a living, too!

So with his help, we launched Platform University, an online membership site for anyone who wants to grow their online presence. We also started 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever, a 5-day goal-setting course that helps you set and accomplish big goals.

You’ve created not only a very well-known and respected blog but a thriving personal brand. How can mentors develop strong personal brands that help them connect with their Ideal Client and readers?

MichaelHyatt.com screenshot

Thanks for those kind words. I would offer three pieces of advice.

First, start a blog! It’s never been easier to share your hard-won wisdom with the world. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, you can set up a professional blog in 20 minutes. (I have the screencast to prove it!)

Second, always start with “WOW” content. There are a lot of voices out there. Make sure yours stands out. Share valuable, compelling content that’s tuned into your readers’ needs. Always ask, “How will this content make life better for my reader?”

Finally, be authentic. People are incredibly intuitive and can spot a poser from a mile away. Speak about what you know and love. Be honest. And be sure you’re listening and responding as your readers share their thoughts and ideas back with you.

I learn that you’ve just launched Best Year Ever. Your course has helped numerous people to make meaningful progress toward reaching their full potential. Can you tell us a bit about it?

5 Days to Your Best Year Ever is an online course that takes the guesswork out of setting and achieving big goals. With about 30-45 minutes a day for 5 days, you can have the clarity on what you want in 2017, the courage to pursue it, and the commitment to stick with it (even if you’ve failed in the past). Over 15,000 people have gone through the course now, and their accomplishments inspire me. They’ve lost weight, they’ve hit audacious financial goals, they’ve published books, and they’ve revitalized marriages. It’s truly wonderful to behold.

Best Year Ever website screenshot
Best Year Ever website

What prompted you to create Best Year Ever?

How many New Years’ resolutions have you made and forgotten? It could be a goal about your fitness, personal development, family, or spiritual life. If statistics and personal experience mean anything, most of us have crashed and burned.

That was my story. Instead of achieving my goals, it seemed like I lost ground every year. I needed a solution. Almost like a GPS for my life.

I was so frustrated with repeatedly missing my goals I finally created a system for them. It helped me make consistent, significant progress. I’ve been using it for years now—studying, synthesizing, and refining along the way. It really works, and I wanted to share it with the world. That’s why I started 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.

I never feel better about my life than when I’m making progress toward goals that really matter. Now, more than 15,000 people and counting are joining me, and during this year’s registration window, from December 6th – December 15th, we’ll be welcoming thousands more. It’s a tremendous feeling.

Your course is all about the importance of goal-setting. Can you sum up for readers who may not be familiar with goal-setting how it can benefit them?

I think most everybody has heard about the benefits of goal-setting. Those who write their goals down accomplish significantly more than those who do not. And they have healthier families, businesses, and bodies to show for it.

Yet so few of us actually follow through and do it. Usually, it’s because you tried goal-setting in the past and came up short. It’s so common, and most people assume that the process of goal-setting is broken as a result.

But actually, the problem is that most of us have never been taught how to set and achieve big goals. And like most things in life, when you use a better process, you end up with better results.

How has goal setting affected your life and career?

Too many ways to count!

I have been setting goals in one form or another for years. Every now and then, I stumble across an old list of goals. I am always fascinated by how many of the things I write down that come to pass.

For example, at the beginning of 1997, I wrote down this goal: “Write a New York Times bestselling book.” At that time I had never written a book. I had nothing except a little book idea and a lot of fear about making it happen.

But would you know, I signed a book contract nine months later. I turned in my manuscript to the publisher by the end of the calendar year. And no, I didn’t hit the New York Times list by the end of the year. But feeling confident, I then wrote a book that would hit the Times list the following spring.

An even better example: my wife Gail and I have been married thirty-eight years, and our relationship is stronger than ever. There are many reasons for this, but a big one is that we set goals each year that we believe will improve our marriage. And they do!

You’ve mentored many. What are the common problems faced by your mentees?

The people I coach and mentor are gifted and passionate about their work. They are devoted to their loved ones. But there’s too much to do and too little time, and they feel overwhelmed.

In some ways, they’re victims of their own success. Their success has outpaced their ability to manage it while still attending to the things that matter most — faith, family, health, and community.

And I’ve been there. Earlier in life, my professional career was taking off, but my inner life was falling apart. My health and my family were suffering. There was always more to do than there was time to do it.

But I learned — through a lot of struggle and pain — that the answer isn’t simply to get more done. The answer is to get the right things done.

I don’t believe we have to choose between success in our businesses and success in our personal lives. I want to help people navigate the challenges of both so they can succeed at both.

Many of my readers are coaches that are looking to get published by traditional publishers. Apart from growing their online platform, how can they get the attention of a publisher?

Many publishers won’t even consider a conversation with unrepresented authors, so your first step is actually to get the attention of a literary agent who can then find a great publishing partner for you. And to do that, you’ll need a killer book proposal.

I have written an ebook on how to do this, but let me condense it down to the big points.

First, craft an eye-catching title and subtitle. Then, lay out the premise clearly and concisely. Think of this as the elevator pitch for your book. Next, do your research on existing books and state clearly how this book will uniquely benefit your readers. Include a detailed overview of the content with juicy descriptions. You’ll also want to note key manuscript details, like the estimated word count and timeframe to completion. Next, tell publishers about yourself — your authority, your mission, your platform, and your promotional ideas. You’ll also want to show that you have the writing chops by including sample chapters. And give it your best effort. If done well, this can be the clincher that makes the sale.

Michael Hyatt working
photo credit: MichaelHyatt.com

I’m interested in your program – what’s my next step?

We only open registration about one week out of the year. It’s around the end of the year, when we’re in that powerful place of reflecting on this year while looking ahead toward what’s to come.

This year, you’ll be able to register from December 6th – December 15th. That’s it. Just head to bestyearever.me to sign up.

The world we’re living in keeps changing. Please share your tips on how we can be more responsive to the changes, so that we can achieve our goals in life and business.

There’s a quote from Mark Zuckerberg that I love: “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Hoping against change is hopeless. We end up fighting against our own growth and development. Instead, we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone if we want to achieve lasting and meaningful progress toward what matters.

If that doesn’t come naturally to you, my advice is to stay curious. Read books and seek out new podcasts. Take a course or attend a seminar. Travel. Meet new people. As you inject those fresh sources of inspiration into your life, you’ll find yourself venturing farther and farther out of your comfort zone — and that’s where all the growth and fulfillment happens!

Many thanks for your time, Mr. Hyatt!