My guest today is a speaker, coach, and co-host of “The Best Life” podcast. She’s also been a friend of mine for almost 25 years – Danny J.
And I know I said I was going to keep these episodes short, but sometimes in an interview there’s so much good content, you just don’t want to cut anything.
Amanda: Well thank you for being my first guest. I’m very excited to have you here. You have this really great “Find the Money Project” that is super relevant to what’s going on right now, so we’ll talk a lot about that. But, a little bit of background… I’ve known you since high school, which is kind of exciting that we’re still in this world together and able to connect.
Danny: It really is.
Amanda: And you’ve helped me with some of my business stuff. You’re one of the people I mentioned in one of my other episodes about telling me that I should do more on camera stuff even though I don’t want to, so…
Danny: Look, you’re so beautiful and you’re giving the world a gift to see that. And you know, people connect when they can see you. It’s really interesting. So, I’m glad you are.
Amanda: Well, thank you. And speaking of connecting, you have a lot of strong points that I could highlight, but one of the huge things that always resonates with me is your willingness to share your story. And by story, I don’t mean just how you got to where you are, but I mean your story. Things that you’ve gone through that most people don’t talk about. I mean, I could go through a list. You got pregnant at 15.
Amanda: Gave that child up for adoption. You were suicidal. As you were a gymnast, you became paralyzed and lost a large amount of time. You got married, he had an affair – while you were packed up and living out of an RV.
Amanda: You found out that your dad wasn’t actually your dad, and then you met all sorts of your biological half-siblings.
Amanda: And, through all of this, you now are in a very healthy relationship, your business is thriving. You talk about all of this. And that list… And right there, if you want to know more about that list, check out “The Best Life” podcast because she talks about all of it.
Amanda: How did you come to a point where you decided you could talk about this stuff so openly?
Danny: Oh my gosh. Well it’s so funny when you just knock it off in a list. I was just talking to my boyfriend the other day, and he goes, “You never, you don’t really talk about when you were paralyzed, or you don’t talk about this part of your story.” And I said, “I know because I feel like it’s so much for one person, it starts to feel unbelievable.” And I was like, “If it didn’t happen to me, I would think this was like some kind of movie. It seems like too much.”
But the point online that I remember very specifically… I was actually a personal trainer, so after… not to just brush over the story, but I kind of have to… I became paralyzed… I was an acrobat at Sea World, I got a bacterial infection and I couldn’t walk for a year. And I started to rehabilitate myself through going to the gym and, like, literally just sitting on a bike and pushing my legs around with my hands.
And through that process, I became a trainer, and got into the fitness industry. And I think when you’re a trainer, I think a lot of trainers feel this way, it’s like you feel like you have to look the part. So I was doing extreme body fitness competitions where you’re just judged by how lean you are and how fit you are. And you have to be on such a strict regimented diet and workout plan, and I did this for like seven years. And during that time, things got so strict that it actually started to hurt my body.
So it’s interesting because we see these health and fitness gurus out there, and a lot of them are probably the most unhealthy people you’ve ever really known. And so my body started to shut down, and what was really happening was I started to gain weight super rapidly. And I was doing like two hours of cardio a day, spending three hours a day in the gym. I was eating 1000 calories. So on paper, you know they say eat less, work out more. I should’ve been… not gaining. And instead I was gaining – I gained about 30 pounds in just about two months.
And so it was during that time… I’m a trainer, I’m feeling embarrassed. I’m like, who’s gonna hire me because I do weight loss coaching yet I’m gaining weight? And so, I was feeling like a fraud and I was seeing this happen in this fitness industry, where a lot of these competitors, I meet them offline or in person, and they did not look like how they looked in pictures. They were very overweight. And I was like, you know what, something is going on here and nobody’s saying anything.
And now, mind you, this industry too is very tight and it’s… political, I guess, is the only way to put it. Like, I found out as I went on people would win if they knew somebody, and there was a lot of that kind of stuff happening. So for me to speak out, I was also basically throwing away my chance at ever turning pro. And that was my goal. Everybody wanted to earn their pro card. And there was just a day where a girl DM’d me and she was telling me how she had gained all this weight, and I was just like, I can’t do this anymore.
And so I literally opened up my laptop, I put on the camera and I just started… I think it was like a 20 minute video… and I just started talking about what was going on. I was so embarrassed and I just said, like, here’s what’s happening to our bodies, and here’s what’s happening to mine, and I don’t know what I’m gonna do about it, but I’m going to try to find an answer for myself and for all of you that are struggling. And then I put it up on YouTube, and I remember slamming my computer and going to my room and crying. I didn’t want to look because I was like, that’s it. Career suicide. I’m done.
And the next day I opened it up and I had like 200 emails from people saying, “Oh my gosh. This is happening to me, too. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re going through this as well.” And a lot of pros were saying it and they’re like, “You know, because of who I am, I can’t talk about this. I’m so glad you did.”
And that was the first time I was like, oh, this actually really connects with people. And it’s around that year… that was 2012, I want to say… in 2013 I just got this idea that if there’s something I don’t want to talk about, that is exactly what I have to talk about. And so it almost became this challenge to myself, if something was uncomfortable I’m like, oh sh*t, I guess I’m going to have to say it.
And I realized that every time I did that, almost every time I had the same experience. I wanted to shut the laptop, run and cry to my room. And I cried in my room. But, I would say, 100% of the time I shared those scary things… were the things that really connected me with people. And most of the time I got, “Thank you for saying this. I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m so glad you shared this. This happened to me, too, or I know someone.”
And then, you know, starting “The Best Life” podcast, that was really the piece. It was embarrassing to share about my marriage ending because I had that kind of marriage that I feel like everyone was like, what’s your secret? And I thought the same! So it was just as… probably more shocking to me than anyone else! But it was one of those things where, you know, you see people online having these fake lives, and acting like they’re great and you know their marriage is sh*tty, but mine wasn’t like that.
And I was like, wait a second, how did this happen? And so that was one of the… again, going back to talking about things I didn’t want to talk about… I didn’t know how to share that. It was super embarrassing. I took my time before I did, and got to process it, and work through counselling, and all of that. But, again, I thought, who can relate to this? And I got dozens and dozens of emails just saying thank you. And even people who hadn’t been through an affair just saying like, I can understand the feelings of loss, of grief, of those feelings. And I think people really connect to stories and they connect to feelings. And so once I started… not that I couldn’t stop, but I feel compelled to.
And I think, and we always say this in “The Best Life,” is if it can just help one person, then it’s worth it. And so now it’s just become part of who I am, and part of how I show up is going out there, putting myself on the line, and it’s scary but I think if it just helps one person, then it’s always worth it.
Amanda: That’s a good motivation to have for that, because there’s what we do see online with all the perfectly curated lives and “look at all these great things I’m doing.” There’s that sense of phoniness where you want everybody’s lives to be that great, but we know that there’s stuff going on beneath the surface, and that’s the stuff that we connect with more.
And I know, for me, trust is a huge thing. And even in business, if I’m going to work with somebody, I need to believe them. I need to know that they’re honest, that they share the same values that I have. And I get that from someone like you versus someone that has the perfect model-y photos and things are so great all the time. And it’s not that I want to hear the bad things all the time either. Some people are comfortable sharing that, some don’t want it on their platforms. Neither one is wrong. But I think there’s a lot of courage that comes from it.
And in business, there’s this big thing where you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to really get to where you want to be. And that’s… like this right now, this is hard for me. I’ve talked to you a million times. I could talk to you for hours. But for some reason there’s a camera and there are microphones and then I’m shaky and it’s like…Oh. It’s so weird. And I don’t feel in my head, I’m not nervous about this. It’s completely fine. But it’s out of my comfort zone just enough and that’s why I know that I have to do it.
Danny: Yes! And I love that because that was the thing. It’s like that… if it is out of your comfort zone, I feel like it’s this universal trigger to be like hey, maybe this is what you should be doing. And that was really what it came down to. I was like, if I am scared of it, then maybe I need to push myself toward that.
I learned this analogy this summer, which I love. I went up to Wyoming – my boyfriend had a startup up there. We went through Yellowstone and we saw lots of buffalo and it was really cool. And I was talking to some friends about this, and at our friend’s work, they started this thing called “Be the Buffalo.” And what they mean is… if there’s a storm coming over the plains, cows will see the storm coming and they will run away from the storm. And because they’re running away, they’re gonna be in the storm longer ‘cause it’s, like, tagging behind them. Where buffalos will run towards the storm, in the direction of the storm. So when the storm is passing over them, they actually get through the storm faster because they’re going into it and it passes over.
And so this analogy is just like “be the buffalo.” Go into the hard things. Do the hard things, because they’re coming anyway. And so if you go into them, you’re gonna get through them faster and it’s gonna be quicker. And so I really love that analogy of just if something feels hard, it feels resistance, go into it, get it over with. It’s coming. The storm is coming. Let’s just go into the freaking storm.
So I really like that and so now it’s just like that kind of mantra of “be the buffalo” and it kind of fits how I look at things of, you know, have hard conversations, talk about the things you don’t want to do, put yourself out of your comfort zone. Rip the Band-Aid off.
Amanda: Right. And a lot of that comes down to communication, too, which is a big thing in personal relationships, professional relationships, all of that. People are not communicating about the things that are scaring them or that are making things difficult, and they keep that part inside. And it causes friction because people are starting to get resentful about things that the other person has no idea about.
Danny: Oh yeah.
Amanda: People have that issue with confrontation, but there’s a friendly, polite way to have a confrontation with somebody. It doesn’t have to super aggressive and “You’re making me do this” and “I feel this way” and all of that stuff. But just having that open communication with others…
Danny: Yes! So we had this woman on our podcast named Renelle Nelson, and she is a counselor and she helps couples regain intimacy after an affair. And we were talking about affairs and how someone else comes into your relationship that shouldn’t be there. But she said there’s something that will destroy a relationship faster than any third party, and that’s judgment, assumption, and resentment.
And she said it in a different order, and I told my boyfriend this, and he goes, “Oh. JAR. Judgment, Assumption, Resentment.” And I was like, okay, sure. And then we kind of turned this into this analogy of, like if you have something in your jar, it builds up and builds up and turns into this mess. So we kind of started this thing where, like, we don’t always do it every Sunday but on Sunday we’re like, is there anything in the jar that you need to talk about?
Because those resentments build up. Those assumptions, you know, if he’s not putting his clothes in the hamper and it’s annoying me, so I’m sitting here judging him for doing it. Maybe I’m making an assumption that he’s lazy or that he doesn’t care enough to do it. And then I start resenting him because I’m constantly picking up. That builds up and builds up and builds up, and if you don’t empty out that jar, then it turns into something even bigger and now I’m making assumptions that he just doesn’t care at all and now if he does any little thing I’m picking it apart.
And so it’s exactly what you said. It’s having the communication and not letting those things build up because those things will crush any relationship. And not even just romantic relationships, but friendships, work environment, all of that. And so that JAR analogy has really stuck with me. When I’m starting to get resentful towards someone, I ask myself what is that about? Am I making a judgment or assumption? And maybe I need to bring that up to them because I could be completely wrong. And 90% of the time, the assumptions I’m making are wrong. They’re through my lens and they’re not what the other person is thinking. And having that conversation smooths that out and then everyone can breathe normally instead of having that irritation.
Amanda: Right. And I’ve seen that happen a lot in the work world recently, and it’s a lot with freelancer – I hear all these complaints: “Well, my client calls me at all hours of the day” or “They’re sending me all this stuff on the weekends and they just expect me to do it.” And it’s like, did they tell you they expect you to do it? Because I have a lot of clients who do their work on weekends, and they want to get all of the stuff out of their head. So I’ll get a bunch of emails, but they know I’m not going to respond until Monday or later.
And they’re like, “Well, they just keep doing it.” And it’s like, but have you talked to them? Have you set any kind of boundaries that say hey, these are my office hours. It’s fine if you have communication afterwards, but could you email it instead of text it? I’ve had these conversations with clients and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, sorry. I didn’t realize,” and they’re perfectly fine with it. But if you don’t have that conversation, you start to think – well they disrespect me, and they don’t value what I’m doing, and they’re just so demanding. And I’ve seen working relationships end over a conversation that was never had.
Danny: Totally! I mean, that’s just exactly it. It’s just an assumption. They’re assuming that they want it done at a certain time. And maybe they are, but you have to have the conversation to know. And, if you agreed to take on work and you are a freelancer, you can set your boundaries and give your client the expectation what to expect from you.
I think in any relationship, especially a working relationship, there needs to be – here’s my expectation of you, and here’s what you can expect from me. And if there’s any change, we need to have a discussion. It’s not always easy in working relationships, and it does take time and practice and open communication. I mean, so much can be solved in communication. So many things get assumed about another person that just aren’t true.
Amanda: A different kind of assumption, in kind of moving into where we’re at now – which is a really weird time in the world – has opened you up to sharing another one of your stories, which is when you had to file for bankruptcy. And at the time when this happened, you had made this kind of assumption to blame the recession. “The economy tanked, that’s the reason that I’m in this situation.” But what did you find out was actually the root of the issues?
Danny: Yeah, you know, this is such a good one because during COVID-19 a lot of people are gonna blame COVID-19 for everything. I mean, we might as well blame it for everything. Shoot. 2020 is just, like, gone.
But, you know, I was in Las Vegas during the Great Recession. And everyone, if you ask, they say 2008 was when everything happened. And I remember 2008. My parents were in the construction industry and housing, and that in Las Vegas especially was… the building was stopping. My mom got unemployed. My dad became unemployed. My uncle’s company shut down. They were in construction and building and concrete. And I remember my mom saying, like, “Things are so bad, and unemployment is so high, and everyone’s losing their jobs.” And I looked around me and, I would say, 8 out of 10 people that I knew in Las Vegas were either foreclosing on their home, filing bankruptcy, or doing a short sale.
And so this was happening around me. However, my business… I was a personal trainer, and you would’ve thought that because training is a luxury people would drop that. But here’s what the weird thing that happened in Vegas. People stopped paying their mortgage because they could get away with it, and the banks couldn’t keep up and couldn’t kick people out, so they were not paying their mortgage for like, two years. And so a lot of those people still had their jobs and because now they weren’t paying $1200 a month, $2000 a month, they had all this extra money so they decided to hire me as a trainer because they’re like hey, I’ve always wanted a trainer.
So my business was booming from 2008 to 2010. I was kind of like, well I guess I’m cool, this isn’t affecting me. So I continued to spend and, you know, live my life like normal. I don’t think I was a crazy spender, but I was putting in new countertops, upgrading the entire house, doing all that stuff with cash. And then around mid-2010 a lot of clients, suddenly the banks were kicking them out of their houses and they had to stop the game, right?
So within a month I lost like 30 or 40% of my income and then it just kept trickling. I was losing clients all the time. They were like, “Hey Danny, I can’t pay you anymore. We’ve gotta move back to Ohio or wherever we’re from. We can’t do this.” And so suddenly it turned to where now I’m struggling to make my mortgage. And not only that, our house was worth half of what we owed, and I had put all this money into upgrading it.
So we were faced with this decision of, do we want to pay this mortgage, when the house is worth nothing and we’ve put so much money into it? And so going back and forth, we talked to lots of lawyers and finally made the decision ourselves to not pay the rent for a year and foreclose on the home and file bankruptcy.
And then I had to move out of state to start a business with my girlfriend. That all fell apart. I was looking for any kind of job. I mean, I was applying to all kinds of things. And ultimately, my husband ended up getting a job for $35,000 a year in Texas. I’ve been in Vegas my whole life, never had any desire to go to Texas, and $35,000 a year was about what I made after college. So we had never lived on like that “small” amount. And I remember thinking it was so beneath us and yet we had to take it.
And so we moved out there, and this whole time I was just crying every day, blaming the economy. If this hadn’t have happened, if I just had more money, if we just made more money, then everything would be fine. And I really, truly believed that. I had some student loans, didn’t have massive debt. I think we had a $5,000 credit card, which we had used to fix the car that fell apart during all of this. And I had student loans still left over from my Masters.
But I felt like it was so unfair, like, I didn’t ask for the economy, for that to happen. You know, I was a good person. There were so many things that I thought should’ve been different, and that money would fix everything. And I spent a lot of time on Google – Googling how to make more money, Googling how to win a car. I was entering every sweepstakes you could think of, and entering four names – my dad’s email, my mom’s email, my email, my husband’s email, like giving us four chances to win. I mean, I spent hours trying to win a car. By the way, I never won one.
But, I came across a woman who was really one of my first money mentors. I stumbled across her because I was Googling myself, and she had my same f*cking name. And the funny thing was, I had a Facebook page at the time, which had about 35,000 fans and I thought I was the sh*t because of this. And this woman was named Dani Johnson and she had 100,000 fans. And I was like, who is this bitch with my name and has more followers than me? And I started seeing her posts about money and mindset and debt, and I did a little more research and found out she was going to be in Dallas, where I happened to be living, the very next week.
So I was like, you know, I’m going to try to see this chick. I thought it was going to be this small event. It cost $400. I literally had just paid off… my credit card was maxed out and I had just made a payment of $500 to clear space. And I made this deal with myself. I was like, this is either the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, or it’s gonna be the best thing. But I decided to charge the credit card again to go to this event that was supposed to teach about money and getting out of debt. And I went in there with every meaning to just get my $400 back. That is all I wanted to do. I was like, I need to get out of this situation. I don’t know how we’re going to make money again. I mean, we had six figures, we had three cars and a motorcycle, we had the car, we had it all. And I was like, why am I living in a one-bedroom apartment now on a $35,000 a year salary?
So what I learned was… so much is mindset. You know, one thing is that there are people who have an abundance mindset, and people who have a poverty mindset – or, I should say, a fixed mindset. And a fixed mindset is someone who’s like, “Well, I grew up in this neighborhood and nothing is ever gonna change” and “People like me don’t do well” and “If I try, nothing ever works.” And someone with an abundance mindset is like, “Okay, I tried that. It didn’t work. Let me try something else.” Or someone with a fixed mindset is gonna say, “Well, nobody’s hiring.” Those were the things I was saying. “Nobody’s hiring. I need more money.” Versus an abundance mindset is like, “What kind of skills do I have? What can I do to try to make more money?” Or, instead of saying, “I can’t afford it,” saying, “How can I afford that?” And that shifts everything. You start to look for different possibilities.
And I was just stuck thinking, like, this is the economy, this is how it is, there are no jobs, nobody’s hiring, I’m overqualified. That wasn’t true. I had a lot of skills. One of the things that got me in the most trouble was my freaking ego. If I had maybe told people that I was struggling… I had so many friends, so many connections. I’m sure somebody would’ve hooked me up with a job or introduced me to someone. But I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling. I didn’t want anyone to know we got on food stamps. I didn’t want anyone to know we were moving away for this small job.
I had so much pride, and I learned that it was my ego. I learned that I wasn’t being faithful with what I had when I had the money. Like, during that 2008-2010 time, if I had been putting money into savings, and saving instead of putting it all into fixing the house, holy cow! There was so much property and real estate I could’ve snatched up. I would’ve set myself up to be so wealthy, and yet I squandered it.
And so really right now, and I will say this to people who are in 2020 who haven’t gotten hit yet, who maybe are like, “I’m good. My job is stable.” Like, this is the time to really be hanging on to that cash, ‘cause there likely will be, in 2023, opportunities that will be unbelievable if you have that money now. And not only that, there’s a domino effect. This may be slower. I mean, we’ve just seen a bunch of rioting happen. And there are businesses that will never open again because they’ve been shut down for three months and now they’re destroyed.
And so we have to be prepared that this might not have hit you today, but it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. And so we have to be so faithful with what we have, mindful with what we have, instead of just thinking like everything will always be how it always was. Because it’s just certainly not. And I just learned not only… you know, I think I was always taught to live within my means, but that really shifted a lot for me. I think that not only living within my means, but even living below my means, was more important. And I think because of the ego and having everything stripped away, some of the stuff mattered less to me, like having a nice car, or having a home. Realizing that can all go away, but also, you can always get it again. And so much less attached to having success, like the view of success on the outside. And I think so much of us, so many of us have that and think that way.
And so, yeah, COVID-19 happened. A lot of people have lost their jobs. A lot of people will never get that work back again. However, you have skills. You can do something about it. You can come back. You can come back stronger. I mean, there are people who are making so much money right now that have used this as an opportunity, and so can anyone else. So you have to learn to pivot, and know that your circumstances don’t create your outcome.
Amanda: Yeah. It’s that mindset right there. There are a lot of bad things happening, but those things can also create opportunities. And I’ve seen… there are people who are using this time to really develop different parts of their businesses and say, oh, I can do this online. And even on the personal side, this one’s a little different because people have been forced to stay home – a lot of people have. And those people are realizing how much money they actually spend on things like going out to eat, and their hair and their nails, and all these different things that are… there’s a place for those. But if you’re really serious about building that safety net and being financially comfortable, if not financially thriving. You have to make an active choice, and there’s sacrifice that comes with that sometimes, where maybe you don’t do all the fun things that you want, or maybe you don’t buy the brand new thing that comes out, but it’s a series of choices.
And a lot of people, unfortunately, focus on the blame side of it and why it’s always somebody else’s fault, or another circumstance, and that’s the reason why they’re in the situation. And there are always external forces. I always feel like I have to give a disclaimer that I’m not unsympathetic to what people are going through. But, I think now is one of those times where people… because everybody always knows. We need to have this money saved. We need to have a safety net. You should have six months’ put aside. Everybody knows that. But a lot of people don’t do it.
Amanda: And now they’re seeing what happens when you don’t have that.
Danny: Well, people always think “when.” Like, when I make more, then I’ll do it. When I make more, then I’ll give. When I make more, then I’ll save. And the “when” never comes. You have to do it now. And people think that, like, when I’m rich, then I’ll be really generous. Well, if you’re not generous when you don’t have a lot, you’re not going to be generous when you have more.
And I think that a lot of us, too, have an entitlement problem and, like, a rebelliousness against discipline. And there’s a difference between discipline and deprivation. And so, I’ll say to someone, like “Okay, let’s cut back” and they’re like “Well, I don’t want to give up anything.” It’s like, okay, there’s a difference between giving up something for what you want versus giving up something that’s deprivation, right?
I’m not the money person who tells people to cut coupons, and go on special shopping days, and I’m not trying to squeeze a penny out of every single dollar. But I’m also not the person who believes that making more money fixes everything, because we have so many instances of professional athletes making tens of millions a year who end up bankrupt within two years of retirement. So there is a place for both. We need to learn how to control our spending and to be able to create more, but ultimately it is being intentional with what we actually want our life to be.
So if someone says to me, “I have a dream to go to Italy, or Paris, and I’ve never been able to afford to go,” and they are drinking Starbucks and then we look at their bank statements and they are spending $300 a month at Starbucks, and we add that up over the year… Let’s just even say only $100 a month at Starbucks. Okay, $1200 a year – there’s your roundtrip flight to Paris. And you cut out a few more things, there’s your roundtrip flight and your stay and your food. And so then you decide, do I want the Starbucks every day or do I want my trip to Paris?
Because when you hold it up towards what you really want, then it’s easy to make the choice to be more disciplined. But if you’re just like, “Don’t take away my Starbucks. That’s the one joy I have,” fine! I don’t want to take your freaking joy away! I’m just saying if you’re telling me you want this, and you can’t have it, let’s find a way that you can have it.
If you’re making multi-million dollars and you’re living off of $20,000 a year, eat every single meal out. Eat every meal out, go to Jack-in-the-Box, do whatever you want. Like, who cares. But if your lifestyle, if you want it to be different, you have to do something different. And most often, it’s not about making more money, it’s actually just reallocating the resources you have and making an intentional plan. That’s it.
Amanda: It’s that deferred gratification – you’re maybe “giving up” something right now, but you get something way better, even a short period of time later. It’s just getting into that mindset and realizing it’s not… again, instead of focusing on the negative – oh, well, now I can’t have this, and now I don’t get this – it’s like no, now you get to do this and now you can have this other thing!
Amanda: You created this “Find the Money” project, and a lot of people I’m sure their first response is, “Well, I don’t have any money, so how am I supposed to pay for a program?” But you give them a 7-day free challenge where people have these results. I know people have found $1000 or more by taking your challenge for free, just by doing a few little tricks that they can do easily at home that they just haven’t thought about yet. So how did that come about?
Danny: Yeah, so you know, after going through the bankruptcy and all of that, I… so mind you, I paid my way through school by myself, and then my Master’s degree I got a student loan. And so I think I had about a $35,000 student loan. And in about seven years I paid off about half of it. I still had $18,000 left and I had gone through this thing with Dani Johnson and really started just focusing on these things. And after I went to that workshop, I paid off the $18,000 in 69 days. Now, seven years to pay off $18,000 and then, like, seventy days to pay off $18,000. And this is when we’re only making $35,000 a year, not before when I was making six figures.
So I started to talk. I was so excited. I took my student loan thing and circled it and I posted it on social media, like it’s paid off, student loan/debt-free! And people were like, “How did you do it?” And so I decided to do a webinar. I just thought everyone’s asking me, I’m gonna do this for my fitness community. I told them what I was doing, these little small things. And then Periscope came out, and this kind of like IG Live and Facebook Live. And I said, I’m gonna give you guys five tips. These are like the five main things.” And then I created an opt-in, which is basically people give you their email to get the five tips. Because I had posted it once and people said, “Can you do it again? Can you do it again?” I said, well, how about just send your email and I’ll send you the replay.
So I got like 1400 people to download that opt-in. And that was this idea of, oh, people really want to know about this stuff. So I thought, well, maybe we can do this together before Christmas. Let’s do a challenge in November, try to find more money for Christmas money. And so I broke it down into 14 steps and it was a 30-day challenge, so every other day we did a step. And people were finding $1800, this one girl found like $10,000. I had people fill out surveys, and the average person found between $1800-$2200 in that month.
And so, at the end of it, people are like, okay so now what? I was like I don’t know, I just thought this would be fun. And then I’m going shoot, well how can I monetize this? And how can I… like, it’s not the end. There’s a lot more to it.
So once I became debt-free, I had a whole new set of problems. What do you do with your money? Where do you invest it? I don’t know what to do with it now. The goal was to get out of debt. Now what? And so that’s a whole new mindset. Becoming an investor is a new mindset.
So I surveyed people who went through the challenge. I got on the phone with many of them and I said, hey, what do you need? What do you still… what are you still curious about? What would help you? And then I created a course called “Master Your Money” and put everything in there that I felt like people still needed.
It’s like, cool, you found some money in two weeks. That’s great, but eventually some of those things are gonna run out. Like some of the things on there are basically like Geico – one call can save you – like, make some calls and get your sh*t lowered, you know? So cool, you saved $15 a month or you saved $300 a month, but then what?
So my program turned into the “then what?” This is what you need to do now. Like now it’s a practice. Now you need to really learn the discipline and learn the skills. Learn how to pay that debt off fast. Like how do you do the debt snowball? What are the pitfalls you’re gonna come across? ‘Cause sometimes paying off debt gets you into more debt, ironically.
And so I’m trying to teach people how to do that mindfully and carefully so you don’t just screw yourself up again. And so yeah, that’s where it really came from. It just turned into this. I shared my story, as I do, and then people asked for more and I gave more. And then it was like then what? And I’m like oh, I guess this isn’t the end.
And I think part of being a content creator is really listening to your audience and seeing what they want and what they need and how you can help fill that. And then really asking – like, I did those surveys, and I asked people very specific questions. And then even after, and during the course. I’ve updated this course. I just updated it again in 2020 with new stuff. The Coronavirus changed things as well – it changed some strategies as far as what to pay off right now, what to hold on to right now. And people are in different circumstances. So I addressed that in my private group with them, and I think it’s important to stay on the pulse. But also just to serve in a way that people need and that they’re asking for.
Amanda: Yeah. And that kind of ties in to that thing about ego before, because so many people are like, I know what’s best for everyone, so this is what I’m going to do. And then they put all this time putting together some kind of program or online course or something else, and then nobody buys it. And then of course it turns into, “now I’m the victim because my product didn’t work, but I know they need this.” And it’s like, but did you ask them?
Amanda: When we talked about communication, did you ask your clients, or your potential clients, what they need? And they’re like, “yeah ,but I know this is the problem.” Okay, well…
Danny: Yep, well there’s a thing in marketing that’s like, sell them what they want, give them what they need. So sometimes that’s the problem, is we do know what they need, but they think they need something else. So, you know, and I’ve struggled with this even in my marketing and “Find the Money,” and I’ve tweaked it over the years, is a lot of times people just think they need more money. And I know that’s not the case. I know that they can do a lot with what they already have.
And then, once they know how to manage that, then f*ck, let’s pour gasoline on the fire and make more money. But if you’re mismanaging your small amount, you’re gonna mismanage a large amount, too. But I have to position it in a way that they will make more money, they will find more money and that it’s going to help them do that, which it will. But it’s tricky. It’s like when I was in fitness, a lot of times people come to you and they just want to lose weight. They’re saying, “I want to lose weight. I want to feel, you know, be skinny. I want to fit in these pants” or whatever. And I’m like, I know they just need to change their mindset. They need to do some work around body image. Maybe they need to do some work around food stuff. But they’re not gonna buy my “Fix Your Mindset” program. They’re going to buy the program that helps them have fat loss.
So it’s like I market it towards what they want, and then in the program I’m twisting in those mindset pieces that they need. And you’re so right. Asking people what they want, and using their language, and then if you think they need something else, how can you tie that into the lessons and tie that into the learnings to show them? You have to create a bridge from where they are to where they’re gonna be. But if you’re over here trying to get them to see… They’re still on the other side of the bridge. They need to cross that and they need to have the same epiphany that maybe you had.
And I’ve seen the same as you. I’ve seen so many people create courses first. And I’ll tell you, when I created “Master the Money,” I actually sold it before I made it. I sold the outline, to be quite honest. I wasn’t even sure… ’cause I was like, I don’t know if anyone’s gonna buy it. I mean, I did this free challenge. People loved it. But I’ve never sold a money course, I’ve only done fitness stuff. So I did a webinar. I said, here’s this course I’m doing. It’s 90 days. This is what’s in it.
And then I sold $35,000 and I was like, shoot, I guess I better make this thing. Now I’m on the hook! And then I released a module every ten days, ‘cause I was like okay, I’ve gotta make the content this week, and next week I’ve gotta make the content. And I was like okay, every ten days you get new modules. And I freaking made it as I went along. And now it’s done. But I didn’t know.
And so I’m really one to say, like, if you’re creating courses or content, sell it first and then release it because then you don’t waste your time, like you said. Then you’re not the victim of, like, nobody wants my thing. If you sell it and nobody bought it, then shoot, you don’t waste your time making the whole thing.
Amanda: Right. And I run into the same stuff in the mindset work with my business coaching. And it’s that thing where people are like, “Oh, well I need help with my bookkeeping” or “I need to figure out how to do this” and “I don’t have enough time” and “I don’t have enough money” and all those things. And it’s the exact same thing. It’s like, well, here’s how… I mean, here are some things that can help with that, but really it’s all that mindset. And somebody told me that I’m a business therapist. And I was like, that actually makes a lot of sense because it’s not just about the details of managing a business. It’s how are you thinking about things? And are you keeping that positive attitude? And I know some people get all weird about having a positive mindset, but I’m the annoying optimist. And I know from my own experience things work out, but you have to believe that they will.
And it’s the same thing. When you’re creating a course and you’re selling it before you’ve even made it, there’s some faith right there that this is going to work, or it’s not. But if it does work, I know that I can deliver that one module a week because I have to at that point.
Danny: Yeah, there’s nothing like putting yourself on the hook, and then also using that money to make it good. I’m always thinking that perfectionism is the worst enemy of anything – because you want to make it perfect first, you want to make it look right, but then you don’t have the money to do it, so then you don’t start. People get in that loop, too. Like, “I want to create this course, but I need a videographer, and I need this” and it’s like, make a rough draft and then you upgrade. So my first course, all of it was done on my iPhone. And then I updated it and I upgraded and then I still used my iPhone, to be honest. No, we used a GoPro on the last one. But it was still like, you know, we had lights the second time. But, honestly, it was now that I had the money from the course, now I could use that money to make it a little better. And then the next time I can use the money to hire someone to do more graphic design. And the next time I sold it, I could upgrade it every time so it was a little better every time.
But you’ve gotta start somewhere and if you’re in this spiral of “I don’t have the money to make it,” “I can’t make it unless I have the money.” It’s like you go nowhere. So you have to go, how about I just try to sell it first and see what happens. All you need to create now is a landing page and a way to collect payment. And I’ll tell you, even this. Back in the day, this was when I was on Sweaty Betties, I just threw PayPal links up on my stupid blog. I mean, there was no sales page. There was no sales copy. It was just like, hey, if you want this go to my blog, click the PayPal button, and then I’ll email it you.
I mean this… there’s ways to make it happen. And it’s okay, everybody starts somewhere. You don’t have to be professional. You don’t have to be like Marie Forleo, or Tony Robbins, or whoever you’re looking at and comparing yourself to. They have a team. They have the resources. If you don’t, you don’t. But you just have to start somewhere.
Amanda: They didn’t have all that stuff when they started either. And I think it comes down to being honest with yourself. How badly do you actually want it? Do you want it enough that you’re willing to do what it takes to get there? Or do you just say you want it but you like having the excuses, because then you have a reason for why it’s not happening? And that’s… a lot of things people don’t want to hear. It’s really tough sometimes. And that’s why I tell people I can be a little bit “tough love” because I will say that. And I know you, from just knowing you and then from your podcast, you’re very blunt with people. You’re very direct, and in a kind way, but it’s helping people realize, like, no. Stop making the excuses. Let’s work on the solutions instead of the problems.
Danny: Yep. You know, I was called out on my bullsh*t when I was 15-16, so, you know. You mentioned that I had a daughter when I was 15, and I knew you back then, which was so crazy, but I remember, at that time I felt like everything was happening to me. My mom and I did not get along. We had a family member in my house that I didn’t want there. I mean, there was so much, just so much turmoil. And I had a social worker who was helping me through the adoption. And I would constantly be complaining to my mom. And she was like, okay, well, you know, she’d bring up some things like, “What about me?” And I was like, “This isn’t about me! This is her fault!” You know, like, pointing the finger and never looking in the mirror. And she’s like, “You have a…” And she did agree. She’s like, “Okay, your mom does have these issues and, like, she’s not the best but you’re at home so what are we going to do about it? You know, until you’re 18, this is what you’re stuck with.”
And she made me read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. And “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a book. This man was a psychiatrist and he was in the Holocaust in a concentration camp. And he was, like, just an observer while he was there and seeing like who would survive and who would die. And he said the people who were surviving, they’d find some kind of meaning, they’d find some kind of reason to be alive. And not only that, he said that the guards, or the, I don’t know, officers or whatever, could take away everything. Take away their clothes, shave their hair, take away their food. But they couldn’t control their thoughts. They couldn’t control what they thought about and how they perceived things.
And so, that was like this, you know, I’m 16 years old reading this, and I was like, oh. You know, the way I’m looking at this… Like, my mom can’t control my thoughts. I thought she was. I was like, she’s making me mad. She was like, no one can make you mad unless you choose to be mad. And that is a tough pill to swallow when you want to be justified. You know, your anger feels justified. You want to be angry.
My ex-husband, when he had the affair, I was like it’s his fault for the divorce. You know, I didn’t do this. I didn’t choose this. But, I’m stuck with the consequences anyway. So I have to go, do I want to be a bitter, pissed off single woman, or do I want to be someone who’s open to a new relationship, who can let this go, who can be forgiving? And you have to decide who you want to be. And it is a tough pill to swallow when we admit or realize that we are in control of our own perception. But it is also so powerful. And a lot of times people don’t want to hear that or reconcile it.
Amanda: And I always say that even through the worst situations, as long as you take some kind of lesson out of it, as long as you learn and you’re using it in some kind of positive way… And in that particular situation, tell us about your relationship with your daughter now.
Danny: I know. So it’s been so cool. She… so I placed her for adoption. We had her for about seven days. I was in the hospital like three or four of those. And then she’d stay with a foster family for two nights, and then we’d spend time with her at the agency. But we picked a family for her. And I had, in my mind, I always wanted to meet her. But it was not an open adoption, so I had to wait until she was 18.
And then when she turned 18, I was kind of like, okay. I remember the day before her birthday. Like I didn’t… I knew nothing would really change, but I was just thinking maybe something would. And, of course, the day passed. But there was that, okay now it’s possible to meet. And I actually, through a mistake of the agency, had been connected to her adoptive father, and we had stayed in contact throughout the years and he’d tell me what she was up to.
And so I reached out to him and I asked where she was, and I wanted to get her address to send her a birthday present for her 18th birthday. And I waited until she moved to college, because her birthday was in June, waited until she was out of the house, sent some gifts to the dorm. And then I got no response. I was like, well, f*ck.
And it was really hard. It was just, you know I didn’t know what to expect. I also realized that she’s young and she has feelings. Like, I’ve known her her whole life. She has not known me. And I finally got a response from her and she just said she was really overwhelmed, and she wasn’t sure what to do. And she said she was asking her friends, like should she meet me, should she not, and she said they all just told her, do what you want. And she goes, “I just wish somebody would tell me what to do.”
And so I kind of took that as a sign and I was like, well maybe I should tell her what to do. So, in a gentle way… I found out she was back in California. I happened to be going to California for a speaking event. And I sent her an email, I said “Hey, I’m going to be in town. We should meet up on Thursday or Friday.” And she just responded back, “Sure.” And I was like, oh my God, I didn’t think she’d answer.
So we ended up meeting, which was amazing, like just one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. And we wear wearing, like literally we were both wearing Chucks, both wearing overalls, I was like we are freaking twins right now. And it was so cool, like we talked for two hours and she just kept smiling and nodding. And I was like, “Why are you smiling?” and she goes, she’s like, “That’s just me. That’s exactly me.” And it was just really cool to see, like the nature/nurture and the biological connection.
And, after that, we kind of didn’t talk for almost a year, and then her biological dad came back to the states and I took her to meet him. And then we just slowly built a relationship. I’ll tell you, it was weird at first because… It’s like if you have a crush on somebody and you want to text them every day, but you don’t want to be weird so you’re like trying not to. That’s exactly how I felt with her. I’m like, I want to say hi, and how are you doing? And I’m like nope, stay back, be cool. But that was 2016 in May, and so it’s been four years.
And now she’s actually the editor of my podcast. She gets to listen to me every freaking week in her ears, whether she wants to or not. But it’s been really, really amazing because we’ve slowly… we’ve been able to develop more of a friendship over time. And, because of the podcast, she’s been able to get to know me through editing and listening to the stories. And so it’s really, really cool. She’s actually in LA now, and I’m in LA a lot of the time, so I’m able to see her off and on.
And what’s been really special is I finally got to meet her mom last Mother’s Day. And the last couple months, her mom started a business and I’ve been getting on Zoom and kind of doing some, like, helping coach her mom in her business, which has been really fun to just kind of… It’s really come full circle and it’s been really, really special.
Amanda: So many parts of your story are incredible. But it’s that idea that what seems tragic at the time…
Amanda: If you do things the right way and you keep open to possibilities, some really great things could happen. Sometimes it takes 18 years.
Danny: Yeah, you know, that’s just it. You can’t necessarily always judge a circumstance on what it looks like right now. And that’s… You know, even like what’s happening in the world right now with Coronavirus, with the George Floyd case. I mean, what if this George Floyd case and all the rioting and all this finally gets things done that needed to be done for equality? Like what if this tragedy turns into something that finally fixes what’s broken?
And so we just don’t know, and we don’t know the domino effect that it has. And honestly, at that time, that was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. It was the hardest thing I’d ever been through. It was something that I’d never forgotten and thought about every single day. Every single month on the 25th I thought of her. Every single year on June 25th I’d think of where is she at. And I never knew if I did the right thing. And now it’s turned into the greatest blessing.
And yeah, sometimes it takes 18 years. Sometimes we never know, and it’s someone else’s lesson. But I think that there are always things that we can’t know. And for me, it’s been a lesson in trust. Trusting that the things that happen, even though they may seem terrible… Like the bankruptcy. Next thing. I was like, this is the worst thing that could ever happen in my life. If I hadn’t have gone through that, I wouldn’t have probably taken so strong of notes on what I needed to do different with my money. And now I won’t go down that path again.
Like, sometimes we have to go through the hard sh*t to learn the hard lessons.
Amanda: You can rewrite your story if you don’t like the one you’re telling yourself right now.
Amanda: I could talk to you for hours. I started this podcast and I’m like, I’m going to do short episodes. But I want to thank you for your time and I’m sure… we’ll have to do this again because there are so many things.
Amanda: Where can everybody find you? Go push all your stuff on everybody now.
Danny: Yeah! I spend the most time on Instagram. It’s @DannyJDotCom. D-A-N-N-Y like a boy and then spelled DotCom, d-o-t-c-o-m, because my last name is Johnson and there’s already a Dani Johnson out there, as we know, and that’s not me. So @DannyJDotCom, and then you can email me email@example.com. I’m @DannyJDotCom everywhere – Twitter, Facebook – but Instagram is probably where I’m at the most. I’m in the DMs. I’m in the stories a lot.
Amanda: Are any of your programs available right now or are you in between?
Danny: You know, I’m in between launches. However, FindTheMoneyProject.com is always up and open, and there’s emails that you’ll still get to help you out there. And then I also have a 21-day Money Mindset journal. It’s $7 and it’s at 21DayJournal.com, and that really helps with a lot of the mindset stuff. I felt like the 7-day challenge got a lot of the practical stuff. But the journal really helps you get through some of the deeper mindset stuff, and things that maybe are holding you back that you don’t really realize. So I have those available. And you can always email me if you’re curious, because I’ll let people in at different times. I just tend to do it like all at once a couple times a year.
Amanda: Well, Danny J, thank you so much for being here.
Danny: Thank you.