Dadpreneur Master Class with Marshall Sylver

09/12/2016 06:19 am ET
Marshall Sylver
Marshall and his wife Erica Sylver

Recently, I had the privilege to spend time with amazing dadpreneur and famous hypnotist, Marshall Sylver. There are only a handful times in your life that you get a life changing conversation and for me this was that. Having struggled balancing entrepreneurship and being a dad, Marshall provided a master class in being a successful Dadpreneur.

ST: As a dad, husband, and entrepreneur, how do you maintain, or try to maintain, a sense of life balance?

MS: I hear that question a lot. For me, it a funny question, only because we have to know our priorities. A lot of times, people don't realize that, as a husband, that is my first priority. My wife comes before everybody, including my kids. I think that it has to be that way because the kids need to experience that so that they recognize that that is what marriage is. Then, obviously come the kids. Then, finally, comes my businesses, and my vocations. The thing that I know is that one of the great gifts of being an entrepreneur is that we get to work wherever we want to. We choose. If we have an office, we have a warehouse, if we work out of the home, we make those choices. For me, although I have offices at each of our locations, 99.9% of my time is spent working out of the house. The reason is both wives and children spell "love" T-I-M-E. The fact of the matter that the kids can walk in any time during the day say, "Hey, Daddy. How are you?" Sit on my lap, get a hug, cuddle for a second, chat, and the wife can do the same thing.

Wives and Children Spell Love T-I-M-E

It feels like I'm here full-time. It feels like we're interacting without any real boundaries. The thing about it is, initially, it was very hard for me to operate that way. When I first met my wife, she is the kind of a person that wants to walk in, rub my shoulder, and snuggle up, and sit on my lap, and get a good 30-second cuddle in, and then leave. For me, I'd always been of the mindset that if I was in the middle of writing something, or working on something, I would be nose-down into it, and wouldn't want to be distracted. I remember the first time she came in to cuddle, and said, "Hey, how are you?" I said, "Honey, I'm in the middle of something. I'll be with you in a second." Then, I look up a couple of minutes later, and she's gone. Well, I wandered through the house to go find her. I find her, and I said, "Hey, how about the cuddle?" She said, "Oh, no. I'm fine." As any guy who reads this article knows, any time a woman says, "I'm fine.", it probably is not true.

I realize that the way to keep that balance is to give yourself the mindset to believe that you have more than enough concentration and ability to get those little hugs. To take two minutes for your son, your daughter, or your wife. Give them a little bit of attention, and then dive right back into what you're doing. Don't make it a distraction. Don't make it something that you have to tolerate. Make it a blessing that you can operate that way. Every time they come in, my oldest son is five years old, and he likes to drop in the most. Rather than think of it as a distraction, when he walks in, I always think to myself the exact program, "There is my reason. There is the reason I do what I do."

The beauty is, it's not like it's going to be more than a couple of minutes. That's the thing; it's that they just want a little acknowledgment. They don't need 30 minutes of attention; they need three minutes, or two minutes, or even one minute. It was a switch of my program to think that I couldn't disengage from what I was working on, jump right back into concentration. It's made me more productive. It's made me more powerful.

ST: I know that for a while, you retired, and you've come back recently. How do you keep passionate about what you do, especially having so much that you do?

MS: That's a good question. I was retired, about five years back. I had made enough money. My son Sterling was born, and I realized that all I wanted to do was be with him. All I wanted to do was hang out with Sterling, and my wife, Erica, and travel the world, and live that way. Then, Maximus came, and the same thing. I said, "You know what? We got enough money. This could be fun. Let's just hang out, and travel the world." Then, when my daughter was born, I'm holding in my arms, and I'm looking into her eyes, it suddenly occurred to me that, "Girls are very expensive. I'd better get back to work."

“I had enough money, but I realized that I wanted a legacy”

I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had enough money, but I realized that I wanted a legacy. I think that's the thing. As a man, I started late in life having kids. My son was born six hours before my 49th birthday. That was the reason, I got all the work and all the creativity, and all the accomplishments, in my opinion, out of the way then. Then, settled in to have a family. For me, though, I realized that the kids changed everything. They brought a level of inspiration into my life that I've never had before, and I've always been a very motivated guy. Now, that is the thing. I realized I want them when they introduce themselves at Sterling Sylver, or Maximus Sylver, or Prosperity Sylver, I want people to say, "Were you related to Marshall Sylver?" I want them to be able to proudly, and excitedly, say, "Yes. That's my father."

ST: With such a large family, how do you keep everyone happy?

MS: Covey talks about the emotional bank account. When my son was born, and even as time as gone by, I realize if I go away on a trip, the first thing I do, when I come home, is the kids run up to me. They'll give me huge hugs, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" Or, if I walk into the room, after having not seen them for a time, and I'll walk over and give them a kiss and a hug, I have to remember, once again, to kiss my wife, to hug my wife. She spends all that time nurturing them, and sometimes, I forget that she needs my affection, time, and love as much as they do. When I said that my wife comes even before my children, my wife would argue. She'd say, "No, put the children first." My response is, "No. By putting you first, they get better." Priorities, once again, if you keep that thing in mind, that time is the commodity, presence is the commodity. Not money, not experience, not material items.

Presence, being near somebody, being able to embrace them. The other thing too, as far as priorities are concerned, if I am in proximity, if I am near my children, if I am near my wife, I always make sure that I am physically touching them. Preferably, skin-to-skin. That's so important to be able to do that. There is a true energetic shift when you kiss somebody, or when you hold somebody's hand, or when you caress their cheek. I think that a lot of times, people don't think to do that. Maybe they think that's not their nature, or they're not the affectionate type. I just encourage entrepreneurs, and men, to let go of whatever it is that makes them not that type. They will watch their wives; they will watch their children transform, melt, and become better people, because they took the time, when they could, to give that kind of attention.

ST: Interestingly enough that you brought that up, because one of the thoughts I also have about entrepreneurship is I always feel like entrepreneurship is the ultimate test of vulnerability. If you're able to be vulnerable, you're going to be successful as an entrepreneur. Similarly, what you're talking about, it's hard for men. Especially for the upbringing we have, which is stoic. I'd love for you to talk about, for those men out there that have a challenge for this vulnerability, how do you do that? How do you build that ability to be vulnerable?

MS: I'm doing this interview right now; I'm at my lagoon house. We've got 140 feet of private beach, and I'm looking at a beautiful lagoon down here in southern California. Yesterday, I was at my house in Vegas. My home in Vegas is 17,000 square feet. When I travel back and forth, and when I travel, in general, I fly on private planes. I have this amazing life, this big life. The pilot that I fly with, I have been flying with for probably ten years. In the course of 10 years, he's seen me have ups and downs, ups and downs. Yesterday, by coincidence, I was flying back in a private jet, and it was just me. Rather than sit in the back of the plane, I said, "Hey, we're buddies. Do you mind if I sit up here beside you, as co-pilot?" He goes, "No. Come on, sit up here. We can chat." On the flight back, we're talking about things.

Here's a guy who's, by any degree of imagination, massively successful. He owns five planes and has a very successful business. He does exactly what he loves. We were talking about success. He asked me a question. He said, "What do you think is going to happen with Elon Musk?" I said, "I think that he's going to be massively successful, beyond even what he's doing." He said, "You don't think he’s going to come crashing down?" I said, "You know? I doubt that he will, number one. Number two, even if he did, I doubt he would stay there." He started talking to me about another one of his clients. He said, "I've got this guy. He's massively successful, and then he loses it all. Then, he's massively successful, and then he loses it all. Then, he's massively successful, and he loses it all." At one point, he said to me, "Dave, I've never been broke. I've just been between fortunes." That thing that you asked about, you said, "How do entrepreneurs become more vulnerable?"

The thing it comes down to, for me, is that no risk, no goodies. As you sow, so shall you reap. What you plan grows. In my business, I know I only get back what I put out. In my relationships, it's the same thing. I only get back what I put out. If I want more connectedness to people, if I want to be able to move people emotionally, then yes, I've got to be able to be that guy myself. We have to become what we want to attract. I think that there is no better opportunity for men, as entrepreneurs, to be real. To show that side of themselves, and even cultivate that side of themselves, if it doesn't exist, at home. Love your wife with all your heart. Love your children. Have them be the inspiration, and your "why", your reason for being, and the reason that you ... You don't want to just do financially successful things; you want to do legacy things.

ST: That's powerful. I thought about when you were talking about vulnerability that uncertainty is also in play. In essence, when you're an entrepreneur, being vulnerable means that you don't know where your next meal ticket is. You don't know how the market's going to be.

MS: You don't know if the person who's sitting beside you, the complete stranger that happens to be, at the counter at the café, you don't know if that's not your next billion-dollar business partner. That vulnerability goes further. It goes to, again, a personality shift. I have coached and mentored numerous millionaires, and even billionaires, and hung out with tons of extremely successful people. One of the things that I've seen, especially as it gets to the upper range of the billionaire status, is that whether it is Richard Branson, or my friend David Siegel, who is the number one timeshare person in the world, or even a Donald Trump, all three people that I've spent a substantial amount of time with, they listen. They really listen to other people. They are interested, rather than interesting. They didn't become massively successful by making it about themselves.

Wherever you are, be there. Be present.

In fact, it's not about them at all. When we start making it about us, and we start making it about someone else when I look into my son's eyes, and I realize not every kid gets that. Not every kid, number one, has a father even in the picture, let alone one in the picture that also cares. That takes the time; that is fully present. Wherever you are, be there. Be present.

ST: Absolutely. The biggest thing, and it's just my observation dealing with entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur. If I had to say, "What's the difference between me working at a fast food restaurant ten years, thirteen years ago, and where I am today?" It's belief in myself. Before you can be with somebody else, or be in business, you really have to believe in yourself. How did you cultivate that belief in yourself?

MS: It comes down to being certain. A moment ago, I was talking about being present. If your kid runs in the room, don't sit there the whole time thinking, "I need to get back to work." Take the time to be fully present with the kid. When the kid is not there, be fully present with your work. Don't spend time thinking about the fact that you should be spending more time with your kid. If that really is the case, then spend time with the kid. The way that we cultivate confidence in anything is it start with the great I am. We communicate internally, at a rate of about 1,500 words per minute. They're not random. 100% of them are selected. They're chosen by us, on a moment-by-moment basis. Not only is it the basis of hypnosis, but it's also the basis of all communication, both internal and external. Once we take charge of the internal communication, and it starts to become more effective for us, everything else gets easier.

Like any other person, I screwed things up from time to time. Probably more than most, because I do more than most. Rather than think that I'm a screw-up, my thought when something doesn't go my way, is, "That's not like me. I'm a winner. I do things well." Then, I look at the circumstance, and I saw, "Okay, as a winner, how could you do this better next time?" Our confidence comes from anytime we say, "I", or, "I am", the only distinction between a genius and a moron, is that they know who they are. You put a challenge in front of a moron, that thinks they're a moron, and thinks they're not intelligent, they're going to look at the challenge, and they'll say, "Well, you know what? I'm an idiot, and I'm a moron. I'm not really that bright. How can I be expected to figure that out?" They don't even give it an attempt. Whereas, the genius will look at a matter. Even if they don't know how to solve what they're looking at initially, their mindset is instantly, "I'm a genius. Although I don't know how to do this right now, I can learn." What they do, is they focus their attention on something. That which we focus on expands. If we're focusing on being poor, if we're focusing on our shortcomings, if we're focusing on the things we've screwed up in the past, that expands. To build confidence, what we want to do is focus on the things we've done right. Focus on the things that have been successful. Focus on those fleeting moments of our life that we wouldn't change a single thing. The thing that I look at, again, is my family. At the end of the day, no matter how much I mess up, no matter how many financial failings I might have ... Every successful person has generally lost more money that most unsuccessful people have ever made. That swinging for the fence thing, that the pilot and I were talking about that is what entrepreneurs do. We don't want a single. We don't want a double. We really do want a Grand Slam, out of the park, four-run homer. That's what we're looking for. Unless we believe we are a home run hitter, we'll never swing with that kind of strength. Yet, the moment you swing once, with that kind of strength, and you know you have it in you, man, you'll do it every single time.

ST: Obviously, when you hit it harder, like we know all the home run hitters strike out a lot more. When you have contact, it goes a far distance.

MS: The thing is, again, I'm on my fourth fortune now. Now is especially different to me because we have the kids. My wife and I were talking about this last night, while we were watching the beautiful full moon over the 140 feet of private beach at our lagoon house. We're looking up, and feeling blessed. She said, "How have things changed since you'd had kids? How has it changed for you?" I said, "I still swinging for the fence, but I'm also counting how many up-to-bats I have." What I mean by that, is I do think that having kids has made me slightly more conservative, yet both for them, and because of them, I'm still swinging for the fence. I'm still saying, "Okay, you just need to have even more care. You need to be more focused. You need to be sure that you're hitting the ball." Fear doesn't mean stop; fear means pay attention. I think that that's what we need to do, as entrepreneurs. We just need to say, "Okay, I've got my reason. I think I can dig in a little harder for them, and be a little more for them, and be more excited for them."

"I still swinging for the fence, but I'm also counting how many up-to-bats I have."

Too often, entrepreneurs, especially men, you said it, we think that we have to not show our feelings. We think we have to not be vulnerable, and we think that we cannot fail, because if it we fail, then we've failed all those around us. I had two sons before my daughter came. I had two sons at a financially low point in my life. I've made hundreds of millions of dollars. Then, when the economy made its shifts, I had a substantial amount of money in real estate. We had some major setbacks. My wife turned to me one day, while we were going through the challenge, she said, "Whether we lived on the beach, or had our Palace in the desert, or whether we lived in a cardboard box and flew commercially, or heck, drove from place to place, nothing is going to change. I love you. I know you love me, and I know you love your children. Just know you don't have to make money. There's no desperation there."

As entrepreneurs, it's not even so much as being vulnerable, as it is of cultivating our better selves.

When she said it, even though, in the corner of my mind I know that it just drove it home for me. It just made me realize I've got a perfect wife; I've got this ideal family. Everything else is a blessing. As entrepreneurs, it's not even so much as being vulnerable, as it is of cultivating our better selves.

ST: One of the other questions I would have for you, self-care, and the preservation of self. Giving yourself some time. How do you, with everything else going on, how do you give yourself an opportunity to thrive?

MS: Imagine if the way we lived our lives produced the results that we wanted. That rather than forcing ourselves to workout, because we know we need to work out, that we found an activity that was so much fun, that we did it naturally. When my wife got pregnant with our son, I got pregnant with twins. She gave birth, I did not. I realized that while she was pregnant, I gained substantial weight. For me, because I was working so hard, and the economy had shifted, and things were different, I wasn't working out the way that I used to. Then, when I went to go workout again, I realized that it wasn't interesting to me. I just didn't want to workout like I used to. Then, we sold the beach house. We acquired this new house in a lagoon, with 140 feet of private beach. It also has a private volleyball court, so we played beach volleyball every single weekend or any weekday that we can get guests out here and have some fun.

Imagine if the way we lived our lives produced the results that we wanted.

People should operate at their optimal level. They should know what they need, and what they want. I also think that, once again, like I said, what if living our lives naturally produced the results that we wanted? If you're doing stuff, and it's not making you money, and it's all frustration, then that's not what you're supposed to be doing. The people that make the biggest fortunes didn't set out to make a fortune. Elon Musk didn't set out to be a multi-billionaire. The Google boys, and Mark Zuckerberg, they set out to do something that they had a real passion and love for. Steve Jobs talked about it in his address. He said, "Whether it takes a day, or a lifetime, find the things that you love." I love entertaining. I've been on stage since I was seven years old. Nothing excites me more than getting on stage, and causing people, first and foremost, to feel an emotion, and then secondly, to empower them to take new actions.

I love it. There's nothing I would rather do. The other side of it, though, is even though I've generated over $200 million doing what I do, opening my mouth and communicating with the world, I also realize that if I'm not on stage, then I'm not earning any money. When I came back out of retirement, one of the things I said is, "Okay, how do you create a business?" Not a promotion. How do you create something that, whether you go on vacation to the South Pacific for a month or two, or whatever it is that you want to do if you just travel around the world with your kids, how will that business continue without you? We came back, and we very much structured our newest launch to be something that operates without me.

That's one of the things that an entrepreneur must consider. "Where is the passive income? What is the one-and-done thing that keeps giving?"

That's one of the things that an entrepreneur must consider. "Where is the passive income? What is the one-and-done thing that keeps giving?" Back in 1994, when I created Passion, Profit, and Power, it took 30 days to put the product together. That was 1994. Since then, it's done over $100 million in sales. That's a good movie. The point of the matter is, that's what, 22 years ago? 22 years ago, in 30 days, I created something that 22 years later, is still making me money. That's one of the things that entrepreneurs need to do. They need to ask themselves, "How do I duplicate myself, either in some product, some service, or even other people? How do I train people to do what I do?" Then, step back and have somebody manage those people to do what I do. I think the biggest challenge for most entrepreneurs; it's a line from a movie. "Vanity: my favorite sin." I think that, for entrepreneurs, we think we are so good at what we do, that nobody else would ever do it as well as we do it. The fact is, that's probably true. They won't do it like we do it, but they could do it well, and some could even do it better than we do it. It would just be different. We've got to let go of thinking it has to look like Marshall Sylver on stage, or his voice, or whatever it is and say, "No. Let them do it their way. Let them produce the results. Some will produce less, and some will produce more. It'll balance out."

ST: A challenge with wealth is keeping humble especially our children. How do we keep them humble, knowing that they won't have to endure the level of sacrifices we did, to prevent them from having the feeling that they can just buy their way out of their problems?

Be Humble: Your Situation is Always Temporary

MS: Two things that I think are important. The first is to realize, no matter where your circumstance currently finds you, it's temporary. Whether you're broke right now, or whether you're rich right now, it's temporary. When you think about that, you won't stress when you're broke, and you won't be ego-maniacal when you're wealthy because you'll realize it's temporary. Having watched so many people, extremely wealthy people, from Sir Richard Branson, to my friend, David Siegel, to Donald Trump. Having watched so many very successful people have mastered fortunes, have the fortunes go away, have the fortunes come back, I think that that's the thing for me. When I was broke, I was just struggling and struggling and struggling to get rich. Then, I got rich and thought it would last forever. It didn't last forever. I realized that the faucet had a knob, and someone had turned it off. I forgot to the put the stopper in the tub, and then found myself broke again.

Then, made the fortune again, and then through the bad relationship choices, going through a divorce, lost the whole fortune again. Then, made it back again. Then, without paying attention to what was happening with the economy, lost the majority of it again. Then, made it back again. That's step one, is realizing that everything is temporary, and to not have any vanity about it. Then, step two is to also then not feel guilty about your successes. My son and my wife were traveling. He was three, and his little brother was one. At that point, he had never flown on a commercial plane. When they went flying commercially, back to visit her parents, I was on a business trip somewhere else. She didn't want to spend the money to charter a plane. They get on the plane, and they're sitting in first class, and all these other people are getting on the plane. She said Sterling sat there and looked at all these people, and a puzzled look on his face. Erica said, "Honey, what's wrong?" He said, "Mommy, are these our friends?"

He'd never been on a plane that had anybody other than his friends on it. I do want my kids to have a different perspective. I want them to be grateful, yet I also want them to know that flying commercially isn't normal. Flying privately is normal. That doesn't mean that you don't do whatever you have to do. We do whatever have to do. Normal is a good life. Normal is a father that works seven days a week, that takes time, in the midst of those seven days. There's no nine-to-five, there's no very specific, "I'm working now because these are work hours." No. I'm working whenever there's work, and I'll play whenever there's play. I'll make sure that I spend more time with you than I spend working because I'm smart enough to be able to do that.

You can learn more about Marshall Sylver at


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