Chapter 18 – Lost in the Valley (#222)

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Welcome to another special and unique episode of the How’d It Happen Podcast. I still have Richard Burke and Dave Will with me today and we are going to cover another chapter of my book “OWNER SHIFT – How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck.” This was a very difficult chapter to write and one that was vulnerable for me, tune in so you’ll know why.

If you haven’t listened to the 1st part of this 4-part series, make sure you check it out here.

If you want to learn more about Dave and Richard, please check their corresponding websites below:

Dave Will is the co-founder and CEO of Prop Fuel, which is his second software venture. Dave is also the host of The EO360 Podcast, where he explores entrepreneurship with a broad perspective, moving beyond business to those insights not often shared by high-profile thought leaders.


Richard Burke is the founder and CEO of GGMM, which is Go Getters Marketing and Media, a Milwaukee-based company that does marketing and media. And he specializes, or he’s got a unique specialization in podcast development, production, and creation.


Grab the book here!

Full transcript below

Episode timestamps:

[0:45] What today’s episode is about
[5:12] Dave’s takeaway of Chapter 18
[9:22] How the book cover came to be
[10:51] Richard’s thoughts
[13:30] Sometimes rock bottom triggers a change
[15:23] Outro

Watch this episode on video format:

You Too Can Get Unstuck

My new book, OWNER SHIFT – How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck is a philosophical memoir that reveals the secret to why so many entrepreneurs get stuck and how they can SHIFT to get free once again.

It tells the story of how I found myself in the Valley of Uncertainty, a place where many entrepreneurs end up stuck, confused and feeling sorry for themselves, like I did.

It was a place I hated but didn’t know how to climb out of.

Until a messenger that I barely knew and wasn’t looking for showed up and put me on the path that eventually led me out of that Valley and into a future that I owned and made my property.

Grab the book here!

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Mike Malatesta 22:33
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the HOW’D IT HAPPEN Podcast. I have another special and different episode for you about my book OwnerShift. And joining me again, are Richie Burke and Dave Will. Dave, Richie, thanks for joining me.

So today, we’re going to talk about a chapter out of the second part of the book. The second part is called Grind, and this chapter is called Lost in the Valley. Lost in the Valley is this thing I came up with thatI call this this gap that I fell into the uncertainty Valley or the Valley of Uncertainty, I use both of those and that’s a place I fell into after my partner, Butch, passed away after being severely burned in a fire at one of our plants. It actually happened on October the 5th,2003. Today happens to be October the 6th when we’re recording this. So, it happened, you know, right around this time, a number of years ago, but still on my brain like, like it happened the other day. But anyway, Butch was my I started the business, he was the person who actually came to me and said, you know, if you want to start a business, I want to be a partner with you. And he was just, you know, just a rock. He was the Yin to my Yang, you know, complementary skill sets, great personality, we could count on each other. We never had to worry whether one of us was holding up our end of the bargain and when Butch died, it was kind of what I thought was maybe the last stake in my heart because it was devastating. And it also came on the heels of other things that happened that I thought were devastating along the way that I talked about in earlier chapters. So I basically retreated to this place where I had no idea what I wanted to do, I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what I wanted to do what I what I was thinking was that this is just over. I mean yeah, we have a company with 50 people at the time. And I was really wanting to walk away from the whole thing. I couldn’t do that because of those people, but I had no idea how it was going to lead people any further. So I dug myself into this valley and I wandered around in there for a couple of years waiting, like I had this stupid idea, guys, that I would wait there and someone would come along with their hand out, you know, and they would grab my arm and pull me out of there and then tell me everything was going to be okay, and then show me how to do everything that I didn’t know how to do and make my world perfect. So, it was a miserable place to be. But as I mentioned in the first episode, when I answered one of one of Dave’s questions, the first special and different episode, you know, I thought I was entitled to something that I had earned. And in fact, what I had gotten, I mean, you know, it’s not like I earned Butch dying in the fire. But what had led me and put me in the Valley is basically, the system that I designed in my business and around myself, that I thought would turn out differently, but it turned out exactly how I how I caused it to be. So the purpose in writing it is to share the story. But I also want to want people to know that it’s okay, if you end up in a valley or you end up in a gap or you end up in a place, it’s inevitable, pretty much I think, for most people, and it can feel horrible. And it’s a real turning point for you, as an entrepreneur, what are you going to do when you start feeling like that? Some people will tell you that the world will solve your problems for you, but the world doesn’t care about your problems. They’ll help you but they don’t care about your problems, nobody’s out to say, let me give you that hand and pull you up out of there. So it was a very difficult chapter for me to write. But it was very real chapter because it was a point in my life were on the outside, I was holding up, you know, I was trying to be the person I was, but on the inside, I was not and there was no way I could be the person I wanted to be on the outside if I couldn’t be the person that I needed to be on the inside. So let me start with Dave. Dave, what, what do you want to add to that, having read the chapter?

Dave Will 27:30
Well, first of all, I want to say that I’m sorry that you had to go through that experience; it’s a very vulnerable chapter, I’m sure ,to write and, and you could feel it, which also makes part of what makes the book so good, I think is really opening yourself up to your audience. And I do not think you need to go through that. That level of loss to succeed. It’s unfortunate you had to not to say there’s a correlation. Haven’t second thing I want to say is the sort of lost in the valley of the valley you’re referring to from from the introduction as the uncertainty Valley. And I what’s really, really interesting to me is this is like you ever hear the Dr. Seuss’s book? Oh, the places you’ll go? Yeah, sure. Yeah, of course, everybody started all over the places you go. So basically, if you were if Quentin Tarantino were to write, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, you’ve got this chapter. You got to me, that’s what it is. You got Quentin Tarantino’s version of Dr. Seuss is all the places you go. It’s dark and awesome and heartfelt and emotional. It’s a it’s a it’s a very, very good story with a great takeaway. So one of the things that one of the takeaways, a couple takeaways in this chapter. One is the crisis mode. The when you said there is insurance I mean, so this, this huge event happens in the company and then there is insurance, OSHA workman’s workman’s comp, what happened our record and our rates? And with this all, what would this all cost? And do we have enough money handled instant crisis mode, right, which is a it’s not a normal part of operations. But it’s something that you better be prepared for in your back pocket. Even though you don’t know what that crisis is going to be for me. My company was hacked. Long before we really even knew what hacking was back in 2009. In terms of, of small business, like we all heard of TJ Maxx getting hacked, but like, why would a small business get hacked? So we were hacked and it was a massive crisis for us that distracted me for six months. And so I think the whole concept of going into crisis mode is really, really interesting. My other takeaway from this chapter was later in the chapter, you talk about the business, I’m quoting something right here, the business wasn’t a startup anymore. It had changed. And I had not I it was growing up, and I wasn’t I still treated it like it was a baby, and it still needed me blah, blah, you go on here. So the what this opened up to me, the interesting thing here, oh, and then later, you’re like, I was unwilling to do the work that needed to be done. So what’s interesting to me here is our businesses evolve and go through the stages. And as the entrepreneur, you gotta figure out or be guided down what your role is in the organization. So you talk about wearing your pager on your underwear to bed. My, and I think you know that that wasn’t your role anymore in the company to do that. And that’s what that was a massive conflict that you were dealing with. But what’s interesting is, I don’t think you even really knew what needed to be done or how to change. So you were lost in the valley, right? Like you, you didn’t have your Sherpa to get up Everest. And so that was that was interesting. So to me, the big takeaway there is what you needed more than anything else was a guide. You needed Dr. Seuss to hold your hand a little bit. Right, sir. Hopefully not Quentin Tarantino. Yeah,

Mike Malatesta 31:30
yeah, that could have turned out even worse. I’m really glad you brought that up. Because I, as I was, as I was writing that and thinking, I need a guide, or I need some I need a handout is what I really was thinking I really wasn’t smart enough to think about guide at the time. But when I was thinking about the title for the book, it was really a great collaborative process with this with this great lady at Scribe to sort of go through this, but that’s how we came up with the shift. And like, if you look at that book cover, which I don’t have a book handy, right?

It’s right over your shoulder hit. Yeah,

Mike Malatesta 32:07
the shift part is like, it’s, it’s, it’s moving to one side, almost as if it’s being dragged. And that’s where kind of the, this whole idea solidified into the name ownership because I was at a spot where I needed to shift. I didn’t need to pivot. I didn’t need to get into a new business, the business was doing okay. But me as a leader, and as an entrepreneur, I needed to shift because I didn’t know how to handle this growing.

And yeah, you needed to shift and you didn’t know how to you knew you needed to change something, but you didn’t know what to do. Yeah, great. We all get into those situations in life, whether it’s personal in our relationships with our spouse, or, or with our kids, or with our business or with our garden outside. You know, it’s like, you know, there’s something I got to do. I just don’t know what to do. Yeah.

Mike Malatesta 33:00
Yeah. Thanks, Dave. Richie.

Richie Burke 33:04
Yeah, just to piggyback off what Dave said, and what you guys are talking about, it’s like the company starts at one point, and then the company evolves, and you really need to evolve with it. And the people do too. And, yeah, it’s your job to do that. And sometimes the people who got you to one point definitely aren’t going to get you to the next level, and just evolving the organization as a whole. And you guys know that better than I do. One of the main notes I took down and Dave, you brought this up as well, but just the 10 years that having a pager attached to you. I’ve never had a pager, but I do I have my iPhone right here. And I know what that’s like just having that it’s asking me 24/7. And that takes a toll. And I think when you start a company, and it’s your baby, you get so used to that. And there’s definitely times in startup mode where yeah, you need to pull late at night, or you need to answer that 1030 phone call from a customer, whatever that might be. But in 99 95% of cases, that’s just very unnecessary in most ways. And I think letting go some of that stuff is is obviously important and necessary, because yeah, we talked about mental health a little bit in that first in that intro chapter. But that’s a tough way to way to go through life and usually isn’t very necessary as well.

Mike Malatesta 34:20
Yeah, I wish I were a lot smarter about that. I think I could have I may not have kept myself out of there, but but out of the valley, but you know, it brings to me a lesson that I learned from a guy after this after I was in the valley where you know, he told me that and I mentioned this earlier about you know, designing a system you get what you ask for in life. So for me, I was asking customers and employees and team members I call me anytime you want paged me anytime, 24/7 I’ll be available for you and all they were doing was exactly what I asked them to do. And for a while I got energy You have excellent like, yeah, you know, they need me, right. And then and then after a while, I think I write it in the book, I wanted to take that page and run it over with my truck. Because I hated that thing after a while, but instead of doing something differently, I just continued to get, they just continued to do exactly what I asked for what they thought I wanted. And I think that’s a good lesson for all of us, you know, you, you do get what you ask for, as an entrepreneur, most of the time, or a lot of the time. And if you want to change this, ask for something different. And people will normally do things differently the way you want to people want to please, right, most people want to please, they want to do what’s right. For the business.

Richie Burke 35:42
In then I think the one other main takeaway that I know you both have gone through, and hopefully it doesn’t take someone passing away. And it’s, you know, terrible that you had to go through that and what happened to Bush, but just crisis mode. Usually, a lot of times when you hit a bottom that just causes you to take a lot of action and make a change for the better. A lot of people sometimes have to hit crisis mode or a rock bottom to actually make a change. And it seems like you hit that point and turned it, you know, I wouldn’t say and do a full positive obviously wish, which was still there, but you know, making the most out of that situation that you are in?

Mike Malatesta 36:22
Yeah, definitely. And by sharing my experience, I want to help more, you know, people reading the book and entrepreneurs that coming behind me, too. Get don’t get into that valley. No, do not get into that valley, there’s ways to avoid getting into the valley. And, and later in the book, I talk about how to how to do that, or how, for me at least how to do that, how I was able to do that. And yeah, you want to stay out of there. But and and I want people to understand that you you get you often get what exactly what you asked for maybe not in the exact way you asked for it. But if it figures out a way to manifest itself. The way you You asked for it. And so just ask for something different. So guys, thank you so much for joining me to talk about Chapter 18, Lost in the Valley from part two of the OwnerShift book — Grind is part two. You can find the book on Amazon or anywhere you get books or you can also get it on my website at Richie Burke, thank you so much for joining me. Dave Will, thank you for joining me as well.

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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