334 - The POPPY Principle with Ghostwriter Michael Levin - John Laurito
Episode 334 The POPPY Principle with Ghostwriter Michael Levin Tomorrows Leader Podcast with John Laurito

334 – The POPPY Principle with Ghostwriter Michael Levin

In today’s episode, host John Laurito speaks with New York Times best-selling Author and one of America’s most prolific ghostwriters and journalists, Michael Levin. They talk about how Michael started his career, from being a lawyer – and not liking it – to finally trying a hand at what he loved: writing. He also shares his experience and lessons from being on Shark Tank.

Michael Levin is a nationally acclaimed thought leader on the subject of the future of book publishing. Michael believes that the traditional publishing model is dead, thanks to the long-term foolishness of the major houses and their willful ignorance of new technologies for the marketing and distribution of books. Levin appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank for his ghostwriting company, BusinessGhost, Inc., which has authored more than 120 books. E-Myth creator Michael Gerber says Levin has created more successful books than any human being in history. He has written with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, football broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, football stars Chad Hennings and Maurice Jones-Drew, NBA star Doug Christie, and Fox News broadcaster Chris Myers, among many others. He also edited Zig Ziglar’s most recent book, Born To Win. Michael has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Forbes.com, The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other top media sources.

Get in touch with Michael:

[0:00] Intro

[2:21] What’s Michael’s story?

[7:47] How being on Shark Tank came about

[14:41] An interesting story from Shark Tank

[16:36] How his works get into TV and movies

[18:40] When did he feel that his career was heading in the right direction?

[21:23] What are you most proud of?

[25:52] Has he been in a middle of a project and realized he didn’t like where it was going?

[27:48] Everything that happens to us comes through people

[37:55] On finding his unique ability

[40:10] Where to find Michael

[41:52] Outro

Get a copy of “Tomorrow’s Leader” on Amazon.

John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. 

John All right, tomorrow’s leaders. So today’s guest is Michael Levin. He is America’s most experienced and most published book ghostwriter. He has a New York Times best-selling author. He has written, co-written, edited or ghostwritten more than 700 books, 16 of which are national bestsellers. Two of them appeared on 60 Minutes. One was a number one Kindle bestselling business book. He’s been on Shark Tank, told a really cool story, actually told a story that has never he has never shared before involving his experience on Shark Tank. You’ll like that. He has published with Simon and Schuster, Random House, St Martin’s Press, Putnam, Berkley and many other houses. His works have also been optioned for film and TV by Paramount, Steven Soderbergh, HBO, Disney, ABC and others. And one of his own novels became model behavior in ABC’s Sunday Night Disney Movie of the Week. He’s also made contributions to New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe, The Jerusalem Post, Writers Digest, CBS, CBS News. He is as good as it gets, as good as they get. And he is a great guy with a fantastic message. So here is Mike 11. 

John All right. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. And I am here today with Michael Levin, a good friend of mine, somebody who I’ve gotten a chance to get to know. I’m excited to have him on the show. Michael, welcome to the show. Appreciate you joining us. 

Michael John, Thank you for having me. It’s a privilege. I’m honored. 

John Well, you are a fascinating guy, my friend. And I want to dove into your background. You are the most published ghostwriter, the most experienced the mayor in America. You’ve had all kinds of accomplishments. We’re going to get into that. I love to start with your story because I thought it was pretty cool about how you got into doing what you’re doing right now. 

Michael Sure. I graduated Columbia Law School. I worked for two law firms in Boston for about a year. They didn’t like me. I didn’t like being there. Feeling was mutual, and I was utterly unemployable because it’s such a small legal community. So after that, I sold somehow managed to sell three novels of Simon and Schuster. My late twenties, early thirties couldn’t sell them. The fourth one ran out of money collection. 

John I interject for one sec just because I’m interested in that. How did you sell? What did you do? I mean, that to me sounds like a really, really hard thing for somebody to do. How did you how did you sell your first three or first one? 

Michael You know, no one’s ever asked that. The reality is that when my mom my mom came from Europe after World War Two and she loved books, but she didn’t know what to read in English. She grew up in Havana for, you know, until she was from 4 to 10, comes here in 1946. And a guy she dates also loves books. So some of their dates are at the New York Public Library. And she he’s showing her what to read next. And he went on to be the number three guy at Simon Schuster. So when I finished my first novel, which was by law school, I sent it to him and he turned it over to an editor who took 11 months to make a decision to buy it. But I later found out that I was one of about ten or 11/1 novels that Simon and Schuster published that year out of about 11,000 submissions. Wow. So they didn’t do it as a favor. But the reality is that having that in at least got it read. Hmm. So that’s that’s how that came about. 

John And when were you shocked or did you did you know you had the talent and feel like this was a publish worthy book, or were you shocked? 

Michael Both. Yeah, I believed I was that good. And then at the same time, it was like being hit by lightning. When the editor called that day to tell me this is way before, you know, email or text that they were buying it when he called, he did not have that undertaker’s tone in his voice that said, the news is bad. And I was just shocked out of my mind. I was just shocked. And I just started once I got off the phone with him, I just started calling everybody I knew. I just I just slammed the phone down. Well. 

John That would be me. I’d be jumping all over the place. So what does it mean when they buy your book? Do they do they give you a big check? Do they give you just an agreement to get commissions or rebates or what? 

Michael They give me a small check. And I read a book on negotiating and said, always negotiate everything. So I said, Gee, do you think you can give me a little more money? And he just laughed. He laughed and he said, if these were his exact words, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. 

John But you tried. That’s good. 

Michael I did try with 70 $500. But, you know, this is 1986. 

John Yeah, that’s big money, you know? 

Michael You know, it’s good money. And the first one. Yeah. I mean, there’s a famous story about Pat Conroy, the great novelist who said that his agent called and said, Harper, us to publish your first novel for $5,000. That’s great. But, gee, that’s a lot of money. I don’t know if I can get that together. He didn’t realize they were going to pay him. 

John I love that. So you got your first three purchase and then you had you couldn’t get the fourth one. So what what would happen then? 

Michael I wrote it, but they didn’t. They just we just couldn’t see eye to eye on it, which still, you know, it still hurts because I believe in that novel, too. So I literally ran out of money and I was, you know, I was charging my, my, my mortgage to my Visa card and then moving that to MasterCard, then moving that over to American Express. And it was a disaster. And I met a guy who will be who has been my mentor. Now, this is 1994. So it’ll be it’ll be 29 years next year. He’s like a father to me. He said, I’ve worked with a lot of you creative people. You cannot do your best work if you cannot put bread on the table or pay your rent. He sat me down in a Dunkin Donuts. He took out a single sheet of paper and he showed me how to start a business with that single sheet of paper, figuring out what my monthly expenses are, what I need to make, how much I need to charge. He said, You’re going to offer writing classes and you’re going to find a space and you’re going to put out fliers and you’re going to sell space in the classes. That’s going to take 20 hours a week so of 20 hours a week to do your writing. So my business started off as a way to just it was a side hustle that wasn’t turned back then. And it kind of still is because I still you know, I’m still doing my own books, still doing my own stuff. And at the same time, I, you know, I ghostwrite books for you know, I had a bigger company called Business Ghost. I sold that at a big team. We were doing 120 books a year at the end. And, you know, that was just too much for me. So I was very fortunate to sell it. And then, you know, now I it’s much more boutique. I do a smaller number of books, but I love books. I love ghostwriting, I love people. So, you know, once I started the writing classes, they sold out and the next round sold out and the next round sold out and people started saying, consult with me. And then they started saying, Write it for me. And I backed into a career in ghostwriting. I never imagined that I would make a living doing that. I always thought I would just be poolside, you know, tossing off novels to Simon and Schuster. Well. 

John Yeah, it’s interesting to go, because what you just said, I’ve heard a lot of very, very successful people say, hey, I didn’t plan on doing what I’m doing right now. I kind of either fell into it or just pulled me certain things pulled me in that direction. Is there is there a good lesson in that? I mean, there’s so many people that are so myopic and they’re so focused on a certain destination that sometimes they miss. It seems like the opportunities. 

Michael That’s a great point. I mean, don’t tell the universe how you’re going to be successful. You know, find out. Be open to it. And that’s that’s how I will say that I had a lot of shame about being a ghostwriter as opposed to writing my own books. And that took that took a few years to get over. And then, you know, they did a national intervention on me on television, and they helped me get to get over the fact that, you know, I wasn’t just a ghostwriter. I was a successful entrepreneur. That had never occurred to me. 

John So tell us about that. What was that? 

Michael That was Shark Tank. 

John That was Shark Tank. All right. So tell us about I love the show. I think most listeners are probably seen it before. How did that all come about? 

Michael Well, I backed into that one, too. I guess I’m not too good at planning because the plans don’t necessarily work out, but the crazy stuff kind of happens. I was interviewing the executive producer of Shark Tank for a client’s book and about 40 minutes into the interview and he’s telling me about all these crazy businesses and I’m feeling sold less than because my business is just, you know, and typing. He said, Don’t try this on. Have you ever thought about applying for a show? And I looked at him like he was crazy. I said, There’s nothing sexy about my business. It’s me in a room sitting and typing. He said, I disagree. I think your business is very sexy. I want you to apply. So I applied. If the executive producer of Shark Tank wants you to apply for the show, unless you really mess up badly, you’re going on Shark Tank. And that is exactly how it happened. 

John And so so what was that experience like? Is it like it as you see it on the air? Is that what the true experience is like. 

Michael That? Very much so. It feels like. I remember walking down that corridor and into the Shark Room and into the tank and thinking that I had been miniaturized and somehow stuck into my TV set. You know, it was that kind of feeling. It’s like, where? How did I get here? And, you know, and then once you come into the room, you have to stand there for two full minutes while the tech guys get the lighting and everything straight. And so you’re kind of looking awkwardly at them. They’re looking awkwardly at. 

John You, and nobody’s. 

Michael Looking. Nobody’s allowed to talk. You can’t say a word. You just have to be totally, totally silent and wait for and wait for somebody to say, okay. And, you know, now entering the tank and then and then you give your pitch and you go for it. 

John Now, now. And that’s the first time you’ve met the sharks at that point. That moment. 

Michael Yeah. They do not want to have any contact with them. The show is legit. I mean, you know, they don’t know. That’s why they write down who you are and the numbers, because they’ve never heard of you before. Yeah, that’s. It’s legit that way. 

John Now is the I mean, I know at that point you’ve had a great level of success, but are you nervous? I mean, going in there, standing in front of them at that point on national TV? 

Michael No, not at all. Because it was such a lark, was such a silly thing. I mean, you have to you know, you see all the contestants reciting a pitch about who their business, who they are, who that business is, what they want. And, you know, just before I went on my line, producer took me out and I’m standing between two soundstages on the Sony lot in Los Angeles. He said, okay, so your pitch as loud as you possibly can. So I’m shouting about you know, I’m shouting out my pitch on a studio lot in Los Angeles about to go on Shark Tank. It’s so ludicrous. You have to laugh at that. Just took all the tension out of it. And the other thing that helped was that I’m big on doing homework before these things. They all had books or they all had tons of material about them. So I had read about them. I had little bits prepared for each of them. I knew what I was going to say. And the other thing is that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need funding. It’s not that kind of business. I’m not going to live or die if I if I don’t get the money. So the whole thing was just it was just for the experience of it. And it was kind of fun. I mean, you know, they all said no because I’m not scalable. I’m not like a like a fire hose extension thing that, you know. Yeah, or so. But so that was no, if I’ve never seen my episode all the way to the end because I don’t want to watch myself lose. But you know, it was, it was, it was a great experience and the exposure has been unbelievable. So that’s. 

John Awesome. Now, did you have interaction with the sharks afterwards? 

Michael I did. One of my mentors, Jay Abraham, works with Daymond John, so we worked on a book together for a while. Mark Cuban is famous for returning every email you send him within moments. So I’ve emailed him a bunch of times about stuff. He’s always said no, but he’s always come back to me and he makes me look like a hero to my kids because I like well, I don’t know. I could ask Mark Cuban. They’re like, No, you can’t. Yes, I can. And there’s Mark saying whatever he’s saying. So thank you, Mark. 

John Wow, that’s impressive. I mean, that’s really impressive. Some people have trouble with 15 or 20 a day, let alone how many he gets. So now who was the who was your favorite shark? Was there one that sticks out? 

Michael But Robert was very cool and they were all very polite and courteous to me, and I really didn’t know the show as well as I. Came to know it afterwards. They really hammer people, especially if you come out there and you don’t know your sales. You don’t know your basic numbers. Yeah. They just they just dance on your head and, you know, and it’s good television. Why people subject themselves to that, I don’t know. But, you know, they were very much on the air. They were very courteous to me. 

John Well, it’s a great leadership lesson. You know, I still amazingly come across a lot of leaders who don’t have their hands or arms wrapped around the business the way they need to. They don’t know the numbers. They don’t know how the business is operating. And they don’t look at numbers if they have them or they don’t collect the right data. And it’s amazing to me that somebody expects to have big success when they they don’t have that closeness to the business. 

Michael Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. And I’ve seen it. I’ve written books for many, many CEOs. And the reality is that they all came up from one way or the other. Some came up from the shop floor, others came from accounting. So the people came up from accounting. They’ve got their arms around the numbers. So other people are sales guys and they just love selling. And their answer is, you know, I’ll shake the tree, you rake the leaves. Yeah. So, you know, and sometimes you can’t fault them because, you know, it’s unique ability to stay in what you’re great at. But I think on a on a basic level, look, I hate surprises. And I think I think every leader I don’t know if I’m a leader because I don’t mean to lead, but if I did, I sure wouldn’t want any surprises. 

John Well, you you are a leader. You’re influencing people. So you’re without a doubt leading leading a lot of people. A blast Shark Tank question. I know you have a interesting story that you’re going to share about Barbara Cochran. I’d love to hear it. And I think our audience will be the first ones to you’re. 

Michael The first one to hear. I’ve never shared this. I mean, I was season three and I think they’re on season 11. So I’ve gone eight years without ever mentioning this to anybody, so I’ve just been rejected by my last shank shark. I thank them. Turn around and I’m heading out and Barbara says, Wait a minute, it’s a turn back, you know, what is this? So she’s coming back in. I mean, you know what’s going on here. So turn back. She says, look at his shoes. I said, What? She said, Look at your shoes. Your shoes are huge. You have huge shoes. As soon as you came out, I turned to Robert, who’s sitting next, and said, Look at that, Ben’s shoes, they’re enormous. Now, for the record, I have size ten shoes, okay? I’m five foot ten. I’m not a giant. Okay. But she said this is just what’s your shoe size? Now, if you turn this if you turn the genders around on this, that’s actionable and somebody well, so, you know, this did not obviously make the air, but I had asked for $250,000 for, you know, initially an investment. So I just said, Barbara, if you really want to know my shoe size, it’s going to cost you $250,000 to fund one of them. So, you know, so that was that was the one really, really weird moment. Yeah. 

John Wow, that is weird. 

Michael Just an inappropriate kind of getting in space. I mean, you know, we know we all know where it’s going. And it just it was a little wacky. 

John That is. Yeah. And I don’t even I mean, size ten is not that big either. It’s not like you had size 20, but. 

Michael Not that tall and that just. 

John Just a regular guy. That’s interesting. Well, that is interesting. So now I know a lot of your so many questions about what you do because your career has taken a lot of really cool directions. You know, you you’ve had your work put into TV and movies. What what was that experience like? How did that actually happen? 

Michael Totally out of the blue. The first novel that I sold to Simon Schuster. I’m doing this from my house. My wife’s upstairs. I’m going to take a chance if she doesn’t come down right this second. So phone rang as my literary agent. She said, I’ve got great news, too. People want to optioned your novel, and this is the one I think you should go with and you’re going to get a check for 5000, 7500, which I think was, again, 7500. So wow, that’s great. That’s really great. And I was my girlfriend, so I got off the phone and she kind of how do I put this delicately? She gives me a celebratory moment. Is that okay, John? Did I handle that correctly? 

John I think I think so. No editing required there. 

Michael No editing. And when she was done, she said, welcome to Hollywood. So that’s another story I’ve never told. And I hope my wife nevertheless is in this her. But I mean, you know, it’s a it’s so out of the blue and it’s so unexpected. I did have another novel that I wrote for young adults or teens, and a friend of mine who is in the industry liked it and he took it to Disney and they bought it. So and they made it. And that was that was a phenomenal moment. I was sitting with my family and we’re watching, you know, Sunday night ABC Disney movie of the week and there’s, you know, Tinkerbell or whatever with the magic dust and the magic thing. And and then there’s the title of my novel based on, you know, and this is based or the movie based on the novel such and such by, you know, by me, you know, again, you really feel as though you’ve been hit by lightning. So, I mean, I’ve been very I’ve been really, really fortunate in terms of just the the crazy things. And as you said, you cannot plan for them. You know, there’s just I mean, I didn’t have that on my goals chart, just, you know. Thank you. Got it. 

John That’s amazing. When was it was there a specific time or moment where you felt like, okay, this is really my career is going to go in a great direction? Did you did something happen where you’re like, okay, I got it. Now I feel like I’m destined for a lot of great things to happen. 

Michael Yeah, for sure. Happened. I was in college, I was on a student newspaper and one of the student groups. One night we were putting a paper together and one of the student groups didn’t like the way they were being covered in the paper. So they took us over and they basically are they locked us in a room. They might have locked us all in one room. There are 16 editors, you know, sitting around in a circle the other. And, you know, this is Amherst College in Massachusetts. All the kids there, you know, I mean, you know, they’re all smart. They’re all smart people. They can all write. And so it became so we’re discussing what’s going on. And it became clear that we had to write a story about being taken over by the student group for the next day’s paper. And I just started taking notes and started putting the story together. There was never a conversation. It was just assumed that I would write the story. And afterwards I kind of reflect and thought, wow, you know, I mean, I got in off the waiting list and there are 16 and 17 other people in here and they’re all brilliant. I mean, these are brilliant guys, brilliant men and women. You know, they just knew that I was going to write it. Huh. I guess they see some, you know. And then I said, I sold a piece to the New York Times when I was right out of college. And then that was pretty wild. You know, to come home and bring my mom a copy of The New York Times and my opinion piece on it. I mean, that was like a another hit by lightning moment. And then, you know, about a year later, I got a check for $100 because the piece had been anthologized in a textbook on writing. Huh. And then it was like, you get signed. You know, you’re supposed to do something with your life. And of course, based on all those signs, I went to law school because I couldn’t figure out how to make a living as a writer because I couldn’t figure it out because I didn’t ask anybody. If I’d ask somebody, they would have said, Well, I’ll go to Hollywood and get a job on a sitcom or do this or do that or, you know, write for such and such. One of Richard Nixon’s advisers called me after I had written a piece, a second piece in The New York Times a year later about the disarmament rally in New York City in 1982. And if I’d been a little smarter, I would have said, give me a job. You know, just you know. You know? But I think, you know, you just don’t know how to take advantage of opportunities. And then, you know, you kick them away because you don’t think you deserve them. So I had a lot of growing up to do, but at the same time I did have a lot of signs that basically said, You’re a good writer. Don’t worry about it. Just get it done. 

John What are you most proud of? 

Michael Well, I got to edit Zig Ziglar, his last book, and I knew his work so well that I would say, look, you told half the story about golfing with your son. Here’s the rest of the story. Why don’t you tell that? And he took all my suggestions. And in the forward, he says, Thank you, Michael. He said, Thank you, Michael Levin, for making my best work even better. Now for somebody I’d paid money to see and I’d sat in a, you know, an arena with 17,000 other people to see him speak. To get something like that with him. And then I got to have lunch with him. That was pretty special. Wow. And then. There’s another thing I don’t talk about. I don’t know, John, you’re getting all the you’re getting all this stuff that I never tell anybody. I did a I did a book for a man who did some really, really, really bad things. And he went to prison for 17 years for what he had done. And these were social as opposed to financial crimes. Without getting into details, they’re just, you know, kind of unspeakable. And he wrote a book about why he had done them and about he didn’t do it for the money. He wrote a book to help people who felt the same way he did and had the same sort of ism, the same sort of mental illness that caused him to commit these crimes, basically how to stop. And he I don’t know how he found me, but he found me and he said, Can you edit my book? I don’t have any money. So I edit. I probably charge him $250 at the time of charging a couple of thousand. Now it’s a little more than that, but I edited his book for him and it’s been in print for 15, 20 years. And I would like to believe that that book has helped some people who had a really, really bad problem that would cause them to really hurt other people in a in an all but untraceable way. I’d like to think that that book has helped some of those people to stop him. I’m sure that’s yeah, I’m sure. You know, and you’re not going to find any mention that on my website or my CV. And there’s this kind of a I mean, there’s kind of a postscript to that was just funny. You know, he stays in touch and he he called about about five months ago. He said, I put the book up on Barnes and Noble as a dot com as a as an e-book. But I can also tell let me just also say that, I mean, not one person in a hundred would have taken that on. But I just I saw where he was going. He wasn’t glorifying what he did. You know, he didn’t he did 17 years. And he really wanted to he had a heart for helping people get it, you know, like a recovering alcoholic kind of thing. Yeah. So when he said, yeah, I, he said I put the book up on record. He said, I put the book up on Barnesandnoble.com just now as an e-book. I said, Oh, great, what are you telling me? And he said, Only one problem. I listed you as a coauthor, so you know, you can do that, he said. But there’s a real problem. He said, What’s that? He said, Well, you came up as the actual author. Sydney. You’re kidding me. He said, No, no, I’m so sorry. I’m trying to get it down, but I don’t know how. I’m not a technology guy, he said. I said, Really? He said, Yeah, you’re the author. Michael Levine. I said, Wait a minute. What did you say? You said Levine. He misspelled my name when he listed me while and I went to Barnes and Noble dot com and I clicked on the link and it linked to a guy named Michael Levine, whom just small world I happened to know. Oh is a publicist. So this guy is listed as the author of it. 

John Does he know that? 

Michael Oh, well. 

John Wow. 

Michael That’s a that’s a, uh, it’s a little weird, but, you know, the thing is that the serious point is that 99, I really believe 99 out of 100, 100 out of 100 people would have said, I don’t want anything to do with that guy, but I’ve been in recovery for a lot of years myself and, you know, nothing like what he was involved with. But yeah, but I understand that people people can change and people want to do the right thing. And there you go. 

John You can see the you can see the positive outcome of that. And you did you saw something that other people didn’t see. I think it’s you know, partly part of the bigger picture with you is you see things and have seen things that other people haven’t seen. A question out of curiosity, because I’m I’m wondering, as you’re as you’re writing all of these books for for these people with these ideas, and they want to get it into print and don’t have the ability to to write and communicate it the way you want. Have you been in the middle of a project and just realized, I don’t like this, this is just not going to be a good book and have you. What do you do in that situation? 

Michael There have been I mean, it hasn’t happened often. And typically you kind of get a sense not always. I mean, one time I was doing a book for two people. Who are not married to each other. And you can fill in the blank. And it became a massive. And then the book itself became a massive scandal. And because, you know, they were publicizing the book and then it turned, then somebody dropped a dime on their relationship. And, you know, that was awkward. Yeah, that was that was weird. But fortunately, my role was done. I mean, sometimes it happens that it just doesn’t click. And when it does, my agreement basically says you don’t have you know, you don’t know anything further, and we’re done here. Mm hmm. One book on sales that I deeply, deeply regret that the guy just. Just didn’t like my work. And I had done a great job. I thought. I thought I’d done a really good job. And he just had brilliant ideas about sales. And I still use them literally to this day in my own work, but I can’t really say anything about or share it because his ideas are I’m bound by confidentiality to talk about who he is or what those ideas are. But, you know. I sometimes I think about random saying, hey, give me another chance. Usually, I mean, the good news is usually things work out. Mm hmm. 

John Yeah. Well, maybe. Maybe that’s something that this prompts you to do. Maybe do reach out to them, and then you end up writing a book for them. 

Michael Most couldn’t help. Yeah. Couldn’t hurt. Yeah, well. 

John I think about that. You know, it’s it’s interesting in I was talking to somebody earlier about this, about how your life sometimes there are major things that happen as a result of just one little tiny step and you have no idea that it’s going to happen. You know, I was telling a story to a group recently about back way back in the day when I started as a financial advisor and ended up getting this guy on as a client that I had worked very hard and much harder to reschedule appointments, get him back in front of me than anybody else would have reasonably done. They would have just said, Forget this guy. And my huge effort to get him as a client not only brought him as a client, but he’s today one of my closest dearest friends, 30 plus years. He introduced me to my my wife at the time. We’re since divorced, but we have two amazing kids that I wouldn’t exist had I not gone that extra step way back 30 years ago to get him as a client and ask him a question that I probably was uncomfortable asking, and that was to do business. So it’s interesting. You just don’t know where that one extra step will take you and what branch of your life that will now build that wouldn’t have existed. 

Michael No, it’s really true. And the short answer is, you know, you never know. So you might as well go for it. Yeah, that whole thing about you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And the other thing is that everything that good comes to us in life comes through people. You know, if if you’re a believer, then you believe it’s God working through people. If you’re not and you have your own philosophy, but the short of it is that everything that good, this is all Nightingale speaking. Everything that good that happens to us comes through people. So, you know, are you maintaining good relationships with people? Are you reaching out to people from your past? Not necessarily because they can do something for you or you can do something for them just because you want to stay in touch. Mm hmm. And, you know, you do that. I mean, my my my sister worked in publishing for a while, and she had a boss whom I met once. 1986. Then 20 years later, I reached out. You know, what’s going on? How are you? And he turns out now he’s a literary agent. Then he says, you want to be Dave Winfield. He needs a book, you know, I mean, I love Dave Winfield. And we hit it off and I did Dave’s book and then, you know, and then from that relationship came the first of the two New York Times bestsellers that I got to work on. And, you know, it’s just. Just reach out. Just be involved with people, you know? I’m a big fan of motivational audios. And one of the things that I haven’t done it lately, but I’ve done it a lot is I’ll go on eBay and look for motivational cassette series because they’re you know, they’re pennies on the dollar. You can buy a cassette tape recorder for 20 bucks and the material never goes out of date. So one time I bought a package of Mary Kay speakers from a mary Kay convention and it was that and one of the women on the tour and these are very successful people. So it’s like, you know, yeah, don’t it don’t, don’t, don’t dismiss something just because you think it’s, you know, your business is better than theirs. She says the word poppy. Poppy, why putting people over paper prospers you and you know this is a little acronym people over paper prosperous are you what you’re saying is you know if you have a choice between make a phone call and just do the paperwork, talk to the person, you know, call people. And especially today, we all hide behind email. It’s so convenient to texting all kinds of technology, pick up the phone, you know, just just everything good comes to you through people. So have relationships. Have good relationships with people. See what you can do for them. Give before you get to sound like a broken record. I sound like everything everybody else is saying, but they’re all saying it because it’s true. And that’s, you know, I think that’s. You know that in my mind, my mentor, the man who taught me to start to start the business. He said, I’m going to tell you the three words of success. Bust your butt. You know, that wasn’t the word to use. That’s the secret. Turns out he was right. So let’s do that. And and just stay in touch. Stay in touch with people. Reach out. 

John Great, great, great, great message. Great advice. Do you ever think about what would have happened or your life? How would have turned out had you not met your mentor? 

Michael Well, I mean, I was you know, I mentioned before that I got into recovery. I met him through recovery. And, you know, I mean, I was circling the drain then. So it would not have been a pretty end. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t be keeping company like like like you. Well, anybody so, you know, so it’s just not sorry. It’s just not. Yeah, it’s just not. It’s just not how. Forgive me for that. It’s just that that’s my son calling. What? I have a good relationship with my sons, my. My four kids. No. Would he call me if I. If I had stayed that other guy? No. I always say my report card in life is the fact that my four kids get along with each other and enjoy each other’s company. You know, it’s not it’s not what I’ve done professionally or who I worked with or anything like that. It’s my kids get along and there’s because there’s enough love to go around. Why did that happen? Because I had you know, I had some I had some really serious issues with alcohol and with all kinds of things. And I was not pretty. And I you know, I do what I had to do. And, you know, here to tell you 30 years later, I know that it would not have ended well and it probably would have ended well. 

John You know, and it’s it’s not it’s so common for people to to reflect back and look and say there were people and several or one or many, many that ultimately steered me in a certain direction that helped me get to where I am. I’ve not I honestly mean this, I don’t think and I talked to CEOs of companies all over the world on a on a Bond podcast and everything like this. And I’ve not found one that truly credits everything to him or herself. I mean, there’s always other people that have impacted them that they learn things from that that guided them in a certain direction. I think that’s really interesting. 

Michael You know, one of my mentors in recovery used to tell the story about a fighter pilot who was having dinner in a restaurant. A stranger comes up to him, says, Hey, I know who you are. It’s really sad. Yeah. You flew 236 combat missions off the deck of the whatever. And you you won the Silver Cross and the Silver Star and this, that and the other thing. Guy says, How do you know all that? He says, I packed your parachute. So, you know, there are a lot of people out there packing their parachutes and, you know, they know they deserve the credit. Do we know or do we recognize the gifts they gave us? Mm hmm. I you know, I like to say that happiness consists of a good attitude and a bad memory. You know, I try and I try to remember all the good things that people did for me. And I try to forget anything I did for other people, because then I’m looking for credit and, you know, I just try to flush that stuff and, you know, okay, what’s up to that? What’s happening today? How can I be useful today? And I get to do that at work? I mean, you know, I have I have I have an ability to see a book that doesn’t exist yet. And I have the ability to listen to people and recognize, because I’ve done so many books in so many different verticals at this point. I mean, more than 900 books, I know what people are saying and consulting and and business and and finance and this and the other thing. So I know when you’re saying something nobody else is saying, and I can I can I can build a book around that. And that’s a skill that has taken a lot of time to develop. Thank you, God, for that skill, because that’s allowed me to meet the most amazing people and travel the world and and learn love, learning a lot of people and love books. So I’m kind of in the right place. And at the same time, you know, my editor, Simon Schuster, spent a lot of time with me. He taught me he taught me how to write. He taught me how to organize. You know, I’ve spent I went to Sandler sales. I learned sales. I went to Disney Institute to learn customer service. You know, I took Nierenberg I bought Nierenberg Institute audios off of eBay so I could learn negotiation. I don’t know. You know, I didn’t know any of this stuff. I’m a writer guy. I’m a failed lawyer and, you know, an a problem child. So I had to go out and learn this stuff. But the thing is that it’s all available. And whether it’s one person who’s helping you or an institute or strategic coach or whatever it is, you know, it’s my job to sit there and say, I don’t have all the answers. The answers are not all in here. I’m going to go out and get them and I’m going to ask people for advice and I’m going to go to the top. And when I have a question, I’m going to find four or five people who are really tops in their fields, you know, and because of my work, you know, I can ask I mean, you know, I don’t want to I don’t want to drop names, but I can go to some really top people and say, hey, you know, how do I solve this problem? And they’re giving me advice, which is the gold standard in how to solve that problem so I can. I mean, I was just incredibly fortunate because I love I was talking to another ghost and she said, Do you still have the passion for doing books? Yeah, I do. You know, I mean, because you’re creating something doesn’t exist. You’re solving a puzzle, you know, without any box art, you know, you figure something out that’s just not there. That’s really exciting. And then you’re learning from people and you’re listening to them. And then the thrill of turning over an idea or a manuscript to a client who’s happy. I mean, you know, this is I can’t believe I get paid for this. I can’t believe, you know, it’s like, what are they going to make me get a job and go to work? So, you know, that’s kind of, you know, so so it’s a lot of gratitude. It’s a lot of gratitude for what I get to do and the people I get to do it with. And I’m taking way too long on these answers. 

John Well, now, listen, man, I could talk to you for hours. I love I love love your perspective. I love hearing your thoughts. You know, you’ve found your unique your unique ability. And when you find your unique ability in it and it’s something that you love and something that people really need and provides a lot of value to society. Wow. I mean, that’s like the perfect intersection. That’s what everybody’s looking for because then you’ve you’ve mastered life, really. I mean, life is all about being happy and to be able to do all those things, what you’re great at, what people need, what makes you happy, what really fills your cup and really what makes a big impact. What you’re doing. That’s that’s the whole object of this whole game of life. 

Michael Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, mastering life sounds like it sounds a little bigger than what I what I do. I don’t know if I’d quite say that. What I will say is that I continue to make the most of what I’ve got. And there are other people with more. There are other people with less. But I’ve got I was given what I was given. And every day I wake up and say, how can I maximize on the gifts I was given and how can I serve and how can I be useful? And, you know, that’s where satisfaction comes from. That’s really where satisfaction comes from. I mean, do I like living in a nice house and being able to take care of my family? Of course. Who wouldn’t? You know, I mean, that’s that’s that’s kind of table stakes at this level. It’s really more about, you know, as you said, who am I influencing? How am I benefiting people? How am I being useful? How am I? You know, because, you know, I mean, I think about I think about people who are famous a few decades ago today, you never heard of them. But the thing is that their children and grandchildren remember them. People, you know, the people whose lives they touched, not because they were famous, but because they were family members or because they community members they remember. And if they don’t remember them, then their legacy of kindness and generosity lives on. So, you know, I like the line that what we what we take with us is what we leave behind. You know, I mean, that’s so I’ve known I’ve known people I’ve had family members who who whom I want to emulate every single day. And there are others. I don’t want to be like them for $1,000,000. So you just you do the best with what you’ve got, you know? 

John Yeah, my love. I love the way you put it. And I know, I know we’re short on time. I love to keep keep picking your brain. I know there’s a lot of people that want to do just that and engage with you or learn more about you or learn more about what you do. What’s the best way for them to do that? 

Michael John, I’m going to give you my email and I’m going to give you my cell number. And I’m just going to assume that anybody wants to to call and just talk. Let’s call and talk. And if you want to do a book, let’s talk about that. My email is my name, Michael Levin. No, because that’s the other guy. Michael Levin writes at gmail.com. The website is Michaellevinwrites.com and my cell is 617-543-3747. And you can put that in the whatever box so that people can can get at it. If I said it too fast and call them, let’s talk. 

John We’ll do that. Well, I know this is going to be a very popular episode and I appreciate you coming on. And I’d love to to keep in touch. And I know we will, but I’d love to share with the audience things that are going on with you and how things progress and at some point maybe even have you back. 

Michael John It would be a great pleasure. This was really, really fun and I told you a bunch of stuff that I never get into. So you brought out the you brought out whatever the best in me is. You brought it out. So thank you for that. Thank you. This was great. Thanks. 

John I appreciate it. I appreciate you. Thanks all for joining today on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. We’ve been here with Michael Levin, ghost writer extraordinaire, award winning Shark Tank survivor, you name it. Share in some great, great, great stories and and words of wisdom. All the info will be in the show notes and be sure to give a thumbs up like share, subscribe, all that kind of good stuff. Go down below, give a five star review. You know the deal and we’ll see you next time. Thanks, everyone. 

Michael Thanks again. 

John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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