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01:17 – Pastoring and needing change
13:12 – Discovering James
07:54 – From then to now
11:14 – A matter of health
13:56 – Some challenges involved
17:58 – The VA experience
20:08 – Religion and internet marketing
21:25 – Tips for the journey
23:22 – Putting up bumper rails
James will help you support the life you love with a business you enjoy
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to Episode 661 of SuperFastBusiness.com. Today we’re speaking with Stephen Toon, who went from being a pastor to running boot camps and having an online membership. Welcome, Stephen.
Stephen: Hey, James, thank you so much for having me. This is awesome.
James: Quite the transition you’ve had there. You have a website, worshipleaderlife.com. And that’s what you’ve currently been focused on. But it wasn’t always that way. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about being a pastor and why you changed?
Pastoring and needing change
Stephen: Well, for about 20 years, I’ve been a pastor and my main focus has been music in the church. But I like to tell people that that’s not all I did. I also married, and buried. That sounds terrible, but so I was an ordained minister here in Canada, where I live, and worked at a few different churches over the years. But I always had a foot in the music industry as far as gigging, writing songs, recording. And really, it just kept building up, building up over the years. I felt like I needed to give it a go as far as songwriting and music.
And so I started looking into online marketing of music, but it also tied into the church, because as you know, everything has gone tech. So everything from our admin to our practicing for music, or sharing ideas or whatever, everything’s gone online. So I sort of got exposed to that as I was pastoring. But I was still, you know, stuck in the Sunday to Sunday, local, couldn’t go anywhere. And there’s other things, there’s other elements to the job. You know, I love the work, but I was getting tired of it. I just needed a change, really. And so my wife and I, after much discussion, and seeking counsel from others, and figuring out, what are we going to do, we decided to just make a total change. And we sold our house, I quit my job, we moved south so we could be closer to family. And we spent a year writing music and recording music.
And about halfway through that I realized I actually really missed the ministry, the people-side. In my work as a pastor, it’s very similar to what you do. Coaching folks, consulting with people, helping people to kind of realize like, what’s the next step to becoming a better me, right? And that’s something I really missed. I really missed the, for lack of a better word, the coaching, the pastoring, the coaching, the growing of others.
So I kind of went back into what I’ve been learning as far as online marketing for music and thought, what else is going on out there? And lo and behold, I found a music podcast. I actually can’t remember what it’s called now, but you were being interviewed.
James: Wow. Yeah, we have quite a lot of musical people in our sphere. In fact, I’ve got a call a little bit later on today with Scott Devine, who has an online bass guitar membership.
James: Since I had a case study with him, a lot of people have come into our community from the music world.
Stephen: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve heard you interview Scott before, I believe. And James. James Eager. Is that his name?
James: That’s right. And Steve Mastroianni.
Stephen: Yes, that was a good one. In fact, I ate that one up, because one of the things that I did early on when I started SuperFastBusiness is I wrote a mini ebook. But that’s kind of another story. But obviously it relates to all this.
But yeah, I just, I was blown away in this interview. I wish I could remember the name of the guy. But so of course, I had to Google James Schramko, and I had to find out, who is this guy? And, yeah, that’s kind of when the journey started. I think that was two years ago now, maybe a year and a half ago.
And I remember being on your site, and I emailed you or something. I emailed thinking it would be a bot or just somebody up, but you emailed me back. And that, like, hooked me. This guy actually cares, right? And you did mention that there’s other people doing music. And I think you even mentioned there’s other people doing, you know, church, religious ministry-oriented things. And so yeah, that just kind of got me interested. And so I started to learn a whole bunch more about connecting with people online. And I kept realizing, like, whether it’s promoting my music or what I’m doing now with Worship Leader Life, it’s so similar to what I was doing as a pastor. And yet, it’s totally freeing because I’m not just stuck in one town with one group of people, I can really kind of reach people all over the world, really, which is amazing.
James: That’s amazing. I think the one I saw before was SJ Meeson.
James: She’s got a 30,000-women reach from her online, Christian women business. I’ve kept these recurring themes – musicians, religion… Another lady I coach, Molly Pittman, is pretty involved in online Christian activities. It’s a huge market – what is it, a couple of billion people in the major religions at least?
Stephen: Yeah, yeah.
James: I’ve even coached people in different types of religions. There’s Krishna, there’s Muslim. You know, take your pick. It’s a great way that you can continue to use the skills and the passion you had and the community and the connection, but you can do it in a more leveraged way. And of course, you didn’t have to do it in your local area. I think that geographic change must have been quite significant. It’s gutsy to pack up and move away.
Stephen: Yeah, we did 10 hours south, like, by car, right? So we lived way up north, and great town, great people. Our family is down south, like we’re in the tip of the desert that comes up from the States. Like, you know, the same desert that’s in LA or Las Vegas or whatever. It’s Canada’s only desert, and we’re actually like, wine country here (as I’m drinking my wine, but I don’t think this wine was made here. But that’s okay. We won’t tell anyone).
James: It is communion wine?
Stephen: Yeah, exactly.
James: That might be right.
Stephen: Yeah. No. I got into the reserves, the church reserves. No.
I mean, it was a gutsy move, but we knew we needed to do it because we wanted to be by family. And, you know, I’ll be honest, you asked me, well, the world I came from, and I just quickly got into the world I’m in. Probably my nerves, being on this call with you.
James: Oh. You know, like, my favorite thing on this show is to have a real-life discussion with a member of SuperFastBusiness to talk about that journey from what you were doing before to where you are. I mean, I’m always fascinated to know where I’m involved, what things were useful to you, because I want to take those things and I want to make sure that I help others with the same journey. Because sometimes when you’re the guide, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in the mind of the person taking the journey. So these case studies are super inspirational. I mean, imagine if someone is there, doing a regular-style job in a regular-style town, and they’ve got an itch to do something a little more portable, or a little more online, and they’re not sure exactly how to do it. It’s nice to know that it’s possible. And gee, I think we’ve already mentioned five or six people who have been down that path before in music or religion, so they’re very closely aligned to what you’re doing. And here’s yet another one.
From then to now
What would you say were the biggest changes that you had to make from being a pastor doing marriages and funerals and services to now having this worship leadership site where you’re actually coaching and helping people who want to further their own relationship with God and the relationship with themselves?
Stephen: Well, really, this ties into how you have helped me as well. But a big part of it is focus and discipline, routine, motivation. So when I worked as a pastor, I showed up to work. And, you know, people, people were just there, and they had needs, and they knew that this was a place they could come to maybe not get everything fixed, but at least to talk about their issues, to pray about it, to deal with it in various ways. And so I would show up to work, and it was sort of there. It was like, this central location, and I was also not the senior pastor. So there was vision provided, there was structure, there were hours.
James: Woah, a lot of those things don’t exist with your own online business.
Stephen: Exactly. Yeah.
James: For some people that’s the attraction, but often it can be a massive obstacle, because it can be paralyzing, can’t it?
Stephen: I had a doctor tell me years ago, he thought I was in the wrong line of work, because I needed more structure. And so when I left that job, and I started doing this, I realized, I’m in trouble. And, in fact, Lisa and I were working together in the studio for about 9, 10 months, we were writing together, and pitching music, pitching songs for ads and television and film. And we’re very opposite. Like, my wife, I think I’ve mentioned this in the coaching area, we’re so different. We totally complement each other. But we really struggled working together, because she’s really organized, very disciplined, and just gets up and goes. Whereas I really need a lot of help in the area of structure and just figuring out what a good routine is, and what the needs are, what the most important needs are versus things that can wait.
So it was around that time when we realized, like, man, I’m really struggling, and she’s got it all figured out. How are we going to keep working together? And that’s when I read your book. And I listened to it, I read it, and I listened to it. So probably two, three times. And the whole time, I’m like, popping my head up and giving Lisa quotes and things. Actually, no, you know what, I watched the video series when I first got to your site. That was the first thing, which is what you do in the first part of the book, right? Like, decluttering, getting rid of subscriptions, emails…
Stephen: Just getting stuff out of my life.
James: The average person’s spending five hours a day on social media.
James: I mean, that’s a good starting point to free up time.
Stephen: It’s crazy. Yeah, totally. So this was like my weakness. And it’s funny, because I loved the flexibility of the job that I had before. But I didn’t realize how much structure was there just based on the fact that it’s a church, people know what it’s there for. And I’m a pastor and they knew what I was there for, and I just kind of went to work and did my thing. But there was this part of me that was kind of, you know, dying inside. Creativity is a big part. I wanted to be creating things and getting it out there, but also helping people in the process.
A matter of health
So I read your book. I got a long ways to go, but you know, that really jumpstarted me. Then the health factor came in. And you know, it wasn’t just the email. It wasn’t just the inbox. It was the line in your book that, you know, I’ll probably tell people for the rest of my life, this line changed my life. It’s the one where you talked about the racehorse, like, what are you going to feed a racehorse? You’re not going to feed it, I can’t remember exactly what you said, I should have the book here so I can quote it.
“What are you going to feed a racehorse?”
James: You might give it a packet of chips or a Coke.
James: Something like that.
Stephen: You’re going to give it, like, the finest oats or whatever a racehorse needs, right? And I just thought, what the heck am I doing? I’m eating garbage, and I’m not exercising, I’m gaining weight. Anyway, so big, huge realization there. And of course, you’re surfing. All the talk about surfing. I thought, I’ve got to get something in my life. And so I joined a program that included some accountability and points for if you do your workouts, if you eat right. Because I needed some kind of a, well, again, back to the structure thing. But I needed a reason to eat well, so I wanted to get points. And so I’ve lost 27 pounds in 10 and a half weeks. And I haven’t been surfing because I live inland.
James: Well, that’ll change with the wave pools, you know, but what a huge achievement. Well done. And I mean, it’s funny, out of a book that’s in a business-ey category.
Stephen: I know.
James: But it’s great to hear that even one line can have such a profound impact on your life. And it also, just as a side note, sounds like your wife is very supportive.
Stephen: Oh, yeah.
James: And encouraging you.
Stephen: She’s been so patient. Yeah, I mean, I mentioned that, you know, post last week. Just, she’s been so patient. And yet, yeah, I just knew that something had to change. Everybody talks about, you know, I want to be there for my kids when they’re older, I want to be able to play with them. I want to be able to do things with my family. And all that’s true, but I still had to make a decision for myself. Like, years ago, I used to smoke. And she was never, like, nagging me or complaining. She hated that I smoked, but she was very patient. And yeah, I don’t know what the word is, but patient is the only one that comes to mind. But anyways, she has this way of sort of supporting and encouraging without being negative.
But it had got to a point where my health was just, it was terrible. I was gaining weight faster than ever before. Yeah, anyway, so that changed my life. I’m now a racehorse. And I’m eating the finest of oats, I guess.
James: Well, that’s very good. Oats are good for your gut bacteria, I found out in one of the previous episodes.
Stephen: Yeah. I’ve heard you say that a few times.
Some challenges involved
James: So in your journey to online, what sort of challenges did you have when you were trying to get this membership up and running? And by the way, was it handy to have someone to chat to in SuperFastBusiness to get some sort of guidance as to where to focus? So that helped?
Stephen: Yeah. I love tech. I love playing with toys. So you know, for those of you who enjoy AppSumo, I was definitely a Sumo addict. And that was a big problem for me. Like, you talk about with John Lint, when you talk about piecing things together, like all these different platforms and software and carts and websites and WordPress, you know, I was doing that. And I was spending so much time doing that, that I wasn’t creating any assets. And so you and John both have helped me to realize, I think John calls it, you know, bad work or something like that. So, spending all this time piecing things together, that was a huge challenge for me to kind of break out of that and focus on what you were telling me to do, which was find an offer that converts.
And that’s where the ebook, the mini ebook came in. I realized, I’m spending way too much time trying to set up a website. I had a membership, portal, platform thing over here; I had a cart thing going over here. And so I just stopped all that. I spent a few days writing this ebook, on your recommendation. And then, this is funny, too. In December, I did a trial of 10XPRO. And at the end of it, I was like, oh no, I’ll just keep my – it wasn’t WordPress, but you know, something like that. I’ll just keep my little platform here. It’s cheap, and it’s like, I can piece it together with this, that and the other thing. And I’m not kidding. A month later, I signed back up. And I said to John, “I’ve already done the trial, so technically, I should be paying you now.” He’s like, “No, no, I talked to James. He says you’re serious. He says you’re on the right track, and we’re going to give you your trial again.”
James: Yeah, he did. He came to me. He goes, “What do I do?” I said, Well, I know Stephen. And I know he’s serious about making this work. So if you could possibly extend him that favor, I think he’ll be a good customer for you. And I just really support what John’s doing. He’s got a big heart. He puts a lot of effort into it. And I mean, he should get paid, of course. So, you know, once someone understands what the tool can do, then you’re better to pay him than to pay five other companies more, which is what it adds up to. I’ve mentioned before on this show, my hosting bill alone costs about three times what a subscription to 10XPRO would be.
Stephen: Yeah. It’s unbelievable. Like, I’ve had little things on my end that I’ve needed to fix. And his team has been so fast and so helpful. And he’s been so helpful, too, and like you say, he just gives so much. Both of you guys, so thank you for that. It’s amazing. And, yeah, I told him, I said, I’m willing to start paying right away. But he was kind and he let me have another trial, because he knew that I needed some time to get everything set up. And I tell you, I didn’t need much time. It’s such a great platform. I love it.
And so you helped me get rid of all the noise, all the distractions. And so here I am, I’m getting my health in order, I’m getting my website in order, I’m getting my inbox in order. Maybe I’m still a little bit of an AppSumo addict, but I’d say I’m more of a SuperFastBusiness podcast addict. I sit here waiting.
James: We all have our thing, right?
Stephen: Yeah, yeah.
James: At least you’ve got stuff there. It could be your reward, right? For doing the good stuff.
Stephen: There you go, yeah.
James: Sounds like the household will be happy with the way things are going. And now you’re about to embark on boot camps.
“Just do it. Just pull the trigger.”
Stephen: Yeah, yeah. I actually just posted it tonight. I was sort of sitting on it, you know, the whole, like, just do it. Just pull the trigger. I forget who said that, a few weeks ago on one of your interviews. Well, maybe it was the guitar guy, the musician, the Practice Less, Play More.
James: Steve Mastroianni.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah, that was great. I love that episode.
The VA experience
And yeah, so I thought, I just got to do this. And oh, I also hired a VA, too, from the Philippines.
James: Wow, that’s great.
Stephen: Yeah. On your recommendation. And, oh, it’s been awesome. He’s a really great guy. And I couldn’t be happier with him.
James: And what was the process like for getting that VA? And what sort of change did you experience between before and after?
Stephen: Well, the process, I went through Upwork, I think that’s what it’s called, Upwork. I interviewed three or four people. And it was down to two – one had experience with a real estate website; she had done lots of transcribing for the guy’s podcast, and other podcasting stuff. But this other guy, he seemed to understand the area that I was in. He seemed to get it. And just something about him just drew me to him. So I said, you know, I’m going to give this guy a shot. And the process has been great. I mean, we’ve been getting to know each other. He’s like my wife. He’s more structured and organized. And he’s actually a teacher.
James: You need that.
Stephen: Yeah, totally. Right now, we’re creating SOPs for podcasts editing, formatting, publishing, and social media posts. You shared an episode where you were interviewed. What was it called? It was last week. Can I Pick Your Brain or something, is that what it was called?
James: Oh, yes. with Daniel Geffen.
Stephen: Oh, he just loved it. He listened to that. And he’s just like, “That’s what we’re gonna do! That’s what we’re gonna do!”
James: Daniel was so excited. He immediately joined SuperFastBusiness, and he’s in our community now.
Stephen: Oh, that’s awesome.
James: He’s so funny. It was such a fun interview. I really enjoyed that.
Stephen: Yeah. Oh, that’s great. Yeah, that was really helpful. There’s a few interviews that I’m sending to my good friend in the Philippines, because he’s really excited, too. He couldn’t believe it that…
James: You ask your good friend – what’s his first name?
Stephen: I call him Jojo or Than. Yeah.
James: Just ask Jojo what special request he’d like for a SuperFastBusiness podcast episode, and I’ll make one for him.
Stephen: Right on. I’ll do that for sure. He’ll be pretty tickled. That’s awesome. Yeah, I’ve converted him. I’m converting a lot of people, sending them links to your episodes.
James: Well, you’ve had a lot of experience in that field.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Religion and internet marketing
James: You know, interesting fact: Daniel Geffen was a rabbi.
Stephen: No way.
James: So there’s a lot of people who have gone from – In fact, I think even Darren Rowse from ProBlogger was, I’m not sure what they call it in his religion. He was a priest or a Reverend, or something of that order in his church, so they’re everywhere. There’s plenty of them out there.
Stephen: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I’ve been thinking of just a lot about…
James: Minister, I think he was.
Stephen: Yeah. Pastors, ministers, priests, it just depends on the organization and the language they use.
But yeah, the word that comes to mind when I think about you, and what you’re doing in your community, you have such a holistic approach. You care about the person’s body, their mind, their spirit, you care about their worth. Like, honestly, you’re a better pastor than most of the pastors I’ve met or worked with.
James: Thank you.
Stephen: So I think it’s no coincidence that musicians and ministry people are drawn to you.
James: I was thinking of another one, Ian Freestone. He’s from the church and came on my Maldives mastermind. And he read the first draft copy of Work Less Make More. He was my newbie advisor, the guy who didn’t know much about online at all. And he lives near me, and he’s a surfer. And he’s also from the cloth. So it’s great.
Tips for the journey
So what advice would you have, as we round out, Stephen, someone who’s thinking of that journey, what things should they be aware of?
Stephen: Well, one of the things that has been a challenge for me is, I’m spending so much time with my head in this game. My wife is working as an EA at the high school, and my kids are doing their thing. And so it is sometimes hard to communicate with my family, like where I’m at and where this is going. And, you know, there’s some days where they think, like, What is he doing down there?
And so I’m like, Hey, do you want to hear this podcast? I’m trying to give them little snippets, little windows into your world, into this world, so that they can understand, like, there is a trajectory here and there is, you know, there are some good things coming our way, because I’m putting in the time and the work now. So that’s been a challenge. But you can’t let that stop you.
James: I think when you get those situations, I just point out to people, okay, let’s say you want to be a vet, they’re going to go off to university for six or seven years, without any income.
James: With a big outgoing, actually. So if you take the fees to go to university for four or five years, and the fact there’s generally no income coming in, only money going out, and they go off every day, or three or four days a week for five years, with nothing to show for it except the huge debt, you compare that to our business, we get paid on the job. We get paid to learn.
Stephen: I know.
James: Fairly quickly, not always in the beginning. I mean, it took me about nine months until I generated $49.25 in commission.
Stephen: Yeah, right on.
James: And now I make that like, every 11 minutes or something. Seven minutes, I think I worked out. But regardless, it does get easier the further you get into it, but there is definitely an upfront effort. But it does help if you do the right things, you get the right help, you have the right tools, and you avoid all of the pitfalls and areas that could send you down a dark alley in the cul-de-sac that’s going to lead you nowhere.
Putting up bumper rails
Stephen: And that’s what I love about the private coaching and working with you, is you’re very straightforward. You know, I’ll send you a long message with like, all these random rabbit trails and details, and you’ll send me back like a five point, This is what you need to do next. And so you’re helping me to avoid pitfalls and get to that light at the end of the tunnel quicker.
James: Yeah, basically, I’m putting you back on rails.
Stephen: Yeah, that’s true.
James: I’m your bumper bowl alley, you know, putting up the bumpers, so you just have to hit a pin.
Stephen: Yeah, like your son.
James: It’s like, go that way, that way. Even if you go that way, in a messy fashion, but you don’t go in the gutter, you’ll probably hit something.
James: It mightn’t be a strike, you might clip one on the side, but you’ll still stay out of the gutter.
Stephen: That’s great. I feel like tonight, when I posted that announcement that the boot camp, or the checklist and the boot camp. The checklist was my lead magnet. But that’s what I felt. I felt like, Oh, I’m on the rails. I’m going in the right direction, and there’s movement here. Yeah, so thank you, man, that’s key to this whole thing for me.
And, you know, you’re talking about education, and the guy who wants to be a vet, or the woman who wants to be a nurse, whatever, like, and those are wonderful professions, wonderful services that they provide. But I went to college, my wife went to college, we spent a lot of money on our education, way more than what I’ve spent in the last couple of years, whether it’s reading books, or now SuperFastBusiness membership, or 10XPRO, it’s so minimal compared to what I spent on those four years, and you’re right, we’re willing to sacrifice years and dollars, for one thing. But there’s this whole, like, paradigm that we all buy into, that we don’t have to, you know? And that’s another thing I love about you and the folks in the community. We’re kind of like, reformatting our whole paradigm of living and focus. And I’m realizing more and more that we can kind of make up our own rules, so to speak, and that’s really exciting. And it doesn’t cost very much.
“There’s this whole paradigm that we all buy into, that we don’t have to.”
James: That’s such a wonderful way to end this discussion. Stephen, what a wonderful journey. I wish you maximum success as you continue on this. I’m sure your boot camp will be a lot of fun.
I was sharing a story today with someone that I was speaking to, a client of mine, who was thinking of running their first workshop. And he’s like, I’m worried that I’ll put it up there and maybe I don’t get enough people. I said, Look, when I had a job, my local area manager and I decided we would run an event to teach someone how to become a salesperson. And I wrote the sales copy, I put up a web page, we signed up two people. And my friend and I sat in the tiniest room we could find at the hotel. And the four of us there, two students and two teachers, sat there for two days. And I delivered my first workshop. So just to be clear, the first workshop I ever ran had two people come.
Stephen: That’s awesome.
James: And I still had a job. And it gave me the confidence to run events like the one I ran just recently with 150 people. You know, you can scale these up once you make it work. So just start and it won’t be how you finish, and so exciting. You’ve been really generous and brave coming and sharing your story, and it’s inspiring.
Stephen: Oh, thanks.
James: I’m sure we’ll get some great comments here on episode 661. It’s such a story of transition from pastor to online membership and boot camps. Thank you so much.
And of course, if you’re interested in what Stephen’s up to, go and check out worshipleaderlife.com, and Stephen has got his message there, spreading far and wide through the leverage of the Internet. Thank you so much, my friend.
Stephen: Thank you, James. Thank you so much.
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