Million Dollar Monday

5 Principles to Design Your Best Life & Business

August 01, 2022 Greg Muzzillo
Million Dollar Monday
5 Principles to Design Your Best Life & Business
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Russell Benaroya is an author, entrepreneur, coach, and speaker focused on helping people achieve their highest and best use by staying in their genius zones. Russell has spent the last twenty years in investment banking, private equity, and entrepreneurship, and today is the Co-Founder of Stride Services, an outsourced accounting and strategic finance firm that helps business owners use their data for better decision making. He is also the author of One Life to Lead; Business Success Through Better Life Design, a book focused on the steps to overcome your limitations to architect a life and business on your terms. 

 Chapter Summaries

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Key Takeaways 

  • And there's some fear in delegation. Sometimes you don't even know how to delegate. It is a muscle that needs to be flexed. It is not an instinct for many people. You have to practice a delegation.
  • You can't lead others until you know how to lead yourself.
  • 5 principles of life design. Be the architect.
    • Awareness: is this a fact or a story?
    • Establish your principles. Meaning if you move throughout life without a set of non-negotiables for how you interact with people or make decisions, do business deals, you become subject to the goals, whims and wants of other people.
    • Harness the energy from the environment. If we have a hundred units of energy to expend a day, we're going to use the units available to neutralize our energy drains. First, before we're invested in our energy gains and energy are where do I get energy around certain people?
    • Get and stay in your zone of geniusExecution; take action
  • Start getting in a place where you are the architect of a life designed by you versus a life happening to you.


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David Nielson episode….

Greg Muzzillo:

Helloand welcome to Million Dollar Monday. I'm your host, Greg Muzzillo, bringing you real successful people with real useful advice for people with big dreams. I understand big dreams. I turned an investment of $200 and a lot of great advice from some really successful people into my big dream proforma. That today is a half billion dollar company. Well, hello and welcome. I'm energized by my guest today, who is an author, an entrepreneur, a coach speaker, who focuses on helping people achieve their highest and best by staying in what he calls their genius zone . And we're gonna be talking a lot more about that real soon. He has spent the last 20 years in investment banking, private equity and entrepreneurship. Today, he is the co-founder of a company called Stride Services and outsourced accounting and strategic finance firm. But most importantly, at least as it relates as our time together today , he is the author of a newly published book, One Life to Lead. It's a book about leadership, but not a book about how to lead others, but rather a book about how to lead yourself. I'm excited to welcome Russell Benaroya Russell . Thanks for joining me.

Russell Benaroya:

Oh , Greg, such a pleasure to be here. I've been looking forward to it. Let's rock and roll.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah , same here. All right . Well, I love to start at the beginning. I love to just hear the growing up story, you know , what were the circumstances of your education and your life and your family, et cetera , what led you to wanting to become an entrepreneur? Um, and then we're also gonna wanna talk about what led you to write the book, One Life to Lead?

Russell Benaroya:

Thanks for asking. I grew up privileged. I grew up privileged in Seattle, Washington. Uh , my grandfather was the original entrepreneur that I can trace. He moved to Seattle and he started a beer distributorship right after prohibition and he grew that business. And then my father took over that business and operated for major beer brands throughout the Pacific Northwest. So I watched my dad growing up as a extremely hard working entrepreneur and I moved to California for college. So I did my undergrad at UC Santa Barbara. And while I was in college, I got the bug to work in New York City. I spent some years there. I then moved back to California and got an opportunity to work in venture capital. For a number of years, I went to business school. I was sort of doing all of these right things that my parents were like, yes. Uh , but there was something missing in my life. And in 2004, I thought to myself, am I gonna sit behind the desk and make decisions about what to invest in or not invest in, in other people's businesses? When I haven't actually built something myself and I have all of these dreams and aspirations to create. And, and ultimately I left to create

Greg Muzzillo:

What led you to start Stride Services. Tell us just a little bit about what that company does.

Russell Benaroya:

Stride is my third venture. So I started and subsequently sold two other two healthcare businesses before what ultimately became an acquisition of what is today's Stride. So about three years ago, my business partner, Eric Paige , and I acquired this 15 year old back office bookkeeping and accounting firm. And I don't wanna belabor the story of Stride other than to say it really was the vehicle for us to help entrepreneurs achieve their highest and best use by providing a service for them that took over some of the things that they don't really like to do, like bookkeeping, accounting, and finance, so that they could focus on what it is they set out to do when they started the business. So it was almost like a Trojan horse of guidance and coaching. And today we serve about a hundred clients around the United States with a team of 40 employees.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, you and I share a common philosophy. I teach that all times not created equal everything on your to-do list. Isn't created equal. There's some stuff that's $35 an hour work. And I tell people, if you can hire somebody for $35 an hour, not to say what your fees are, get rid of that work, because the wealth building work is the work that you need to focus on, or you could just sort of get stuck forever. So you and I share that philosophy , um, freeing people up to do what they should and could be doing best to grow their success, right?

Russell Benaroya:

I'm as worth for an entrepreneur. I would argue that your time is worth about a thousand dollars an hour. So unless you're, unless you're creating a thousand dollars of equity value in the thing that you're doing, get it off,

Greg Muzzillo:

Stop doing it. Exactly. It always amazes me how some people really can't. I think maybe at the end of the day, it's come down to delegate. Like even though they know they're doing things that can't make them rich, I think they struggle to trust or to delegate that other people can do these things even better than they can

Russell Benaroya:

A hundred percent . And there's some fear in delegation. Sometimes you don't even know how to delegate. It is a muscle that needs to be flexed. It is not an instinct for many people. You have to practice delegation.

Greg Muzzillo:

So now let's talk about, and I'm really looking forward to hearing more. I love what I've read , uh, your book one life to lead. I love reading books about leadership, especially John Maxwell. He's such a genius in leadership, but I'm really looking forward to hearing what you have to say about, and I agree with you, you can't lead others until you know how to lead yourself. So what led to your writing the book?

Russell Benaroya:

Ultimately the realization that how I was leading my life paralleled in a lot of ways, how I was leading my business, how you lead your life is how you lead your business. You come to it with all of the behaviors and patterns and dysfunction and function. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh for what you bring to the party. And it's really hard. Of course , it's hard for me in the eye of the storm, in the eye of the moment to truly step back and observe how I was contributing to some of the challenges, dysfunction , and obstacles that I was facing. In 2016, my wife and I are driving back with our small children in the back of our car from a trip in Oregon at a place called Mount bachelor. And we're driving through a snowy storm and we're listening to some Tony Robbins podcast and the podcast was titled three steps to a breakthrough, and I'm motivated and I'm energized and my wife's eyes may be rolling a little bit sitting next to me, but he said something that triggered a thought and the thought was, this turned down the radio stereo. I say to my wife, Melissa, I said, Melissa, yeah. Why haven't we ever talked about where we wanna be in five to 10 years, kind of in a critical tone, like as if it were her fault, not mine, of course . And thank you. And she said so beautifully. At least my story was well because it's never really been about us. It's always been about you. You are the entrepreneur. We have followed you on all of these adventures and that's kind of what it's been about. And that began a journey for me to decide whether or not the life that I was gonna create was a life that was building a fence around the two of us and the central of our relationship. Or we were gonna kind of build our own individual fences. We decided to build the fence around the two of us. And there was something very energizing when we talked about our dreams and our passions around creating an abroad experience for our family that we had wanted to do since our kids were little, but it was like, life gets in the way and you can't do it until we had a friend that kept pressing us, and pressing us and saying, Hey, if that's the thing that really drives your connection to each other, go for it, make it happen. That Month on the cover of national geographic titled the happiest places on earth, Costa Rica was on the cover. My wife and I looked at each other and said, you know what? Let's go for it.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah . And ,

Russell Benaroya:

And we ended up taking our kids, moving to Costa Rica, living in San Jose. So we lived in the Capitol in an urban environment. We studied language. I bought Stride while I was still living there. And we created a life together abroad. And when we were there, that is when I finally stopped and stepped back and said, huh, I've got a lot going on inside my body around what has transpired over the last 15 years as an entrepreneur, I've gotta start getting this on paper, not what happened, but why it happened and what I felt and where I had obstacles that began the writing journey that ultimately led to the publishing of the book. And of course it takes twists and turns

Greg Muzzillo:

Of course, but

Russell Benaroya:

We got it.

Greg Muzzillo:

All right . So a better life design. Tell us about that because it's simple words, but I think it's a complicated thought and process.

Russell Benaroya:

What I realized is that , uh, this is not the Russell Benaroya journey. I think many , most business leaders , put on their suit of armor every day and they show up like Bulletproof, ready to take on the world. But when you unlock that armor, there's a level of vulnerability that sits beneath, that sits underneath. And I had the opportunity in the book to interview. Actually, one of your guests recently is in the book, David Nielsen to interview, to interview entrepreneurs that were willing to share facets of how they made decisions in accordance with their life principles and how they managed their business. And it really came down to five themes for me. So one key theme of building a life design is grounding stories with facts. We live in a world where we got a lot of crazy in our heads.

Greg Muzzillo:

<laugh> yeah , yeah, yeah.

Russell Benaroya:

We got a lot of crazy. We spend a lot of time looking back at the things that didn't happen, or we should have done or blaming people for X, or we look forward to the things that haven't happened yet, because this is our obstacle and that thing. And we spin up.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah , yeah , yeah . I'm told that we have 60,000 thoughts a day. Yes . That's outta control unless you get control of it. Right.

Russell Benaroya:

Right. And most of them are just made up that have nothing to do with the facts of the situation. So one is awareness around, is this a fact, or is this a story? Number one, number two is establishing your principles. Meaning if you move throughout life without a set of non-negotiables for how you interact with people or make decisions, do business deals, you become subject to the goals, whims and wants of other people. Absolutely. Right . Where are your principles? Right. So establish your principles. Number two, number three is what I call harness energy from the environment, harness energy from the environment that says something like this. If we have a hundred units of energy to expend a day, we're gonna use the units available to neutralize our energy drains. First, before we're invested in our energy gains and energy gains are where do I get energy around certain people? Or where do I get energy around certain environments? Like be honest about that. What gives you energy and what drains your energy, right ? Number four is get and stay in your zone of genius. Now Gay Hendricks was really Gay Hendricks and were really the original architects of this concept of genius zone. And it really has made an impact on me, the awareness that there are things that I do in my life where I lose track of time. There are things that I do where I feel alive. There are things that I do where people acknowledge holy smokes, Russell , you are good at that. Why, what are you doing? And I'm like, I don't know. It's just what I do. And we all have it. We all do. Yeah, we all have it, but we probably spend about 15% of our time in it. If we're lucky, if we're lucky, if we're lucky. Yeah. If we're lucky and then the fifth, and maybe it's the most obvious, but sometimes the most hard to affect. And that is execution take action, living in a world of experiments and trying things and having the courage to know that you're gonna land on your feet. Like we did. When we moved to Costa Rica, building a plan and executing a plan, you can talk all day long, but if you don't execute and act, you're never gonna learn. So those are really the five principles of life design. Yeah. That are embedded in the book, include a bunch of exercises to help individuals connect with their own styles around these steps and to start getting in a place where you are the architect of a life designed by you versus a life happening to you. So I know you

Greg Muzzillo:

Spoke in the development of your book with many designers whose stories you build on. And um, and you even mentioned about grounding their stories in facts, et cetera , I find. And I wonder if you found other people, my genius zone really shows up when I'm under time pressure. And I don't know why , if I have to make a presentation , um, in three months, I'm not very motivated or energized around it yet, but if you get me two weeks away from the event and the people in our marketing department saying, Greg, I need to develop the PowerPoints, whereas your stuff, but man, I get in the zone as time starts coming closer to the event. Does that make any sense? And are other people that way?

Russell Benaroya:

I think it makes complete sense. Um, I am that way and here's the, here's the difference? Or maybe it's the opportunity when the event is three months out, Greg, I don't even want you thinking about it. I don't even want it in your orbit. I don't even want you considering it because it's a bit of an energy drain. It's like, Ugh , okay. I should, I should probably be working on this thing, but I don't have any energy around it when you have a plan and your plan says two weeks before, that's when it's gonna pop up in my list. Awesome.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah. And like you said, when I start working on whether it's a speech or a presentation or whatever it is, I forget what time it is. I forget when it's time to eat. I just so much love doing and creating those kinds of things. Uh , but when it's time, when the time is right,

Russell Benaroya:

That's good, deep work focus because you know, it's important and you know, it's due soon

Greg Muzzillo:

<laugh> yeah. Yeah. All right . So you also talk about ultra running. Are you a runner?

Russell Benaroya:

Uh , yeah. I'm, I'm a ultra trail runner and just finished a hundred miler a few months ago. So I like good for you. Yeah. Suffering. I like, I like suffering. Yeah. <laugh>

Greg Muzzillo:

Is that your alone time? Is that actually therapeutic for you to spend that time?

Russell Benaroya:

Totally therapeutic when you are, when you stripped down, when you are raw metaphorically and literally you learn a lot about yourself.

Greg Muzzillo:

I, you have to right. In many ways, physically, mentally, spiritually, and otherwise. Well good for you

Russell Benaroya:

When , yeah. When you're 30 hours or 35 hours out on a trail, it's a lot of alone time.

Greg Muzzillo:

Well, I admire that and I think it's something that I, I used to be a jogger like, but six miles was a long jog for me. Now I struggle to jog my memory, but it's all good. The gift of taking action. It's a wonder, it's wonderfully worded phrase. Talk to us about the gift of taking action.

Russell Benaroya:

It is absolutely fine to be scared of the unknown, it's Okay. Like it's okay to be scared. And then you've got this junction and the junction is a path of fear or a path of courage. And thankfully we do have the opportunity to be scared because it triggers an opportunity to make a decision, fear tends to retreat us back into what is known and comfortable and stable and courage gives us the opportunity to take the leap. And the gift of action is that every action unfolds a new thing to learn or a new input that isn't to be judged isn't necessarily to be fearful of, but is just another input to say, huh? I didn't expect that.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah. Especially action in the unknown. When one moves beyond their comfort zone , waking up and repeating what one did yesterday, isn't necessarily much an adventure or a gift, but rather I think a waste of time and a waste of life. I'm sure you would agree with me. Not that we all don't have to wake up and repeat some things, but some people spend their whole life waking up and repeating and never really evaluating who they are, what they're about, what they wanted to live their life for. And so I love that because it really is a gift to take action and massive action that maybe is even in outside of our comfort zone.

Russell Benaroya:

And I like defining it inside the context of the metaphor of a game. So this is all a game, right. We're just, we're playing, we're trying different things, but when you can define the game, okay, what game am I playing here? What, when is it over? What does it mean to win the game? What is the desired outcome? What quarter am I in? What is the right play for where I'm at in the game? What is the best call I can make given the information that I have, and I'm gonna stay focused on that game. Why? Because I know that next week there, there will be another game. I think very often we play three or four games ahead and we get nervous that if we don't win this game, we're not gonna get to the Super Bowl. But why think about the Super Bowl when you just need to play this game. And if I'm worried about the Super Bowl, I might get nervous and not even play this game particularly well, focus on the game at hand.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah , yeah , yeah. Focus on the now for sure. I completely agree with you. All right . I love the book. I would strongly recommend everybody pick it up because it's a different look at leadership and really you can't lead others until you know how to lead yourself and why you're even trying to lead yourself and where you're trying to lead yourself. And then, and only then can you really become a great leader of others. So , One Life to Lead, great book. Let's close out. I'd love to close out. Two things. Number one, I'd love to hear what stories from your designer, what one story inspired you the most. And then what closing thoughts do you have for our listeners?

Russell Benaroya:

Mm mm . Uh , there's a designer in the book. Her name is Sarah Dusek, D U S E K. And Sarah started a company called Under Canvas. And it is one of the largest hospitality companies in the United States that operates , uh , glamping locations in proximity to major national parks. Okay .

Greg Muzzillo:

Wow. Okay.

Russell Benaroya:

And she, she sold her company for like a hundred million dollars . Amazing, great outcome. Like an accidental entrepreneur. She's so impressive. She shared a story that I appreciated so much, which went, something like this. When we were trying to capitalize the business, I was, she was given a term sheet from an investor and the terms from the investor were really difficult and onerous and, and she was having a hard time agreeing to these terms, even though she really needed the capital to grow. And the feedback that she got from the investor was, that's just the way it is. If you want this deal, like this is the way it is. And she said, well, if that's the way it is, I'm not gonna do that deal because I'm not gonna sign up for something that is fundamentally undermining the principles of how I live my life and who I choose to work with. Yeah . She chose not to take that term. She ended up getting another partner that was a great partner for her growth. But what I love so much about the story is that she had a principle. Yes . And she used the principle as the filter for making what is typically a hard decision that not everybody would make.

Greg Muzzillo:

Yeah . Yeah. Yeah. And there's a lot of filters and sometimes the filter of need and greed can sometimes override principles. And so good for her . I , I love that story and it points out even more than ever. Why people need to be in touch with their guiding principles. All right . What other advice would you have for our listeners, Russell ?

Russell Benaroya:

<laugh> other advice you, you made, made a great comment about three minutes ago when you said presence , live in the moment. And I think the guidance, the greatest guidance I would give is when you find yourself exercised or anxious , or nervous ask yourself, is it about something that hasn't even happened yet? Like it's made up, but it's spinning me up. And if there's anything that we can do to keep our self stable as leaders, because everybody's looking at us, by the way, everybody's looking at their leader in their organization and looking at them as a role model, your ability to be stable in those high moments, in those low moments, sets the tone for the culture that's gonna drive your organization forward. And a lot of it is about being in the moment and present

Greg Muzzillo:

No doubt about it. Russell , when you look back and I could say the same thing about when I take a look back at my business and life, I would say almost all of the things I worried about never happened , never came to pass. There were a few things that did. And so being cautiously aware or ready for the moments , but I don't know, 90% of the things I worried about never came to pass and so much wasted energy and frustration and moodiness and more so it's great advice, Russell, I really enjoy the time that we had together. I encourage all of our listeners to pick up your book One Life to Lead. And thank you very much for your time and wisdom, Russell ,

Russell Benaroya:

Greg , it's a gift. Thank you. Have a great day.

Greg Muzzillo:

You too.

Introducing Russell
Starting Stride Services
One Life to Lead
The Five Principles
The Gift of Taking Action
Inspiring Story
Final Advice