Number one New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein has achieved a name for herself as a spiritual teacher.
With seven books to her name, a presence on most social media, and a slew of appearances on various talk shows, what is it about her message that resonates with a widespread audience?
Listen in as Gabby shares the story and principles behind her success.
02:22 – Escaping the 24/7 productivity trap
04:52 – A good time for change
07:18 – Pursuing a one-to-many mission
09:38 – Books and digital marketing
11:42 – When you care only about service
13:03 – The weight of responsibility
16:12 – Living in activating times
17:10 – People buying fame
19:48 – When you’ve reached the summit, what’s next?
21:40 – An alternative to goal-setting
23:32 – How to get better outcomes
24:56 – After the podcast…
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness. This is Episode 712, and we’re chatting with Gabby Bernstein, which is going to be really fascinating. Gabby operates in a market quite different to our typical guest, but with huge success, and I think there’s a story there.
Gabrielle Bernstein is the number one New York Times bestseller author and has published a whole bunch of other books, like, six other bestseller books. The New York Times bestseller, Super Attractor, is a very recent one. She’s been on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, a whole bunch of other places.
Again, really, really significant presence when it comes to media. She’s one of Mashable’s 11 Must-Follow Twitter accounts. She’s a YouTube next video blogger. One of the Forbes’ list of 20 best-branded women, appears on Dr. Oz show and was in the Guinness World Record largest guided meditation with Deepak Chopra.
And it just goes on and on and on. Gabrielle, what’s the secret?
“The secret is to be authentic, to be you, to be real.”
Gabby: Well, there is a secret actually, the secret is to be authentic, to be you, to be real.
James: So, did you always start out being you or did you start being…?
Gabby: Yes. That’s the key to my success.
Gabby: This has been the key to my success, has just been, just telling the truth. Telling the truth. And listen, you know, it takes work – you’ve got to hustle. You’ve got to show up. Then once you’ve put the time in and you’ve grown something, then you have to learn how to slow down and chill, so you don’t get in the way.
Escaping the 24/7 productivity trap
James: I saw that you’d published some information about how you were caught up in feeling like you had to be productive 24/7, and then you realized that wasn’t sustainable. I’d love to know, what sort of phase did that come in the journey to where you’re at now? Now you’ve got, you’ve got so many followers – 700 and something thousand followers on Instagram; you have a very strong presence in the bookstores. So you have this massive following, At what point did you realize that this is unsustainable, to do the 24/7 thing?
“Learn to let people help you, learn to let go, learn to trust that it’s all working out, even when it doesn’t seem to be.”
Gabby: Well, probably around 2016. I hit bottom with that. And then it took me about a few years to really unwind the pattern. But now I’m very proud to say we’re here on the phone and we’re having a digital technology crisis on my business website, and I’m fine. I’m cool, because I got a ton of good smart people doing their job. So learning how to let people help you, learning how to let go, learning how to trust that it’s all working out, even when it doesn’t seem to be, that has been probably the greatest virtue for me. That is it. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.
James: So what was the first good smart person you hired? Like, was it just you in the very, very beginning:
Gabby: It was me for way, way, way, way, way, way too long. I was running a very, very big business when I was probably with like, two VAs at one point. My business was huge and I was doing way too much. The good thing about that, though, is that I learned a lot about the business. I learned how to send my own emails, and I learned how to get into the back end of the WordPress site, and I understood the ins and outs of my business. But my business was way, way, way too big for me and those two VAs.
And then my husband, by the grace of God, six years ago, retired from private equity at JP Morgan to run our business, to be the CEO of our business. That saved my life and my business, because he came and hired properly. Around that same time, we hired my COO, who is just probably just as important as my husband and myself to this business. I can honestly say I’m the most important element of this business because it’s based on my content and me. But there’s so much content that it could run without me at this stage. But Jessica and Zach are crucial to the business. And then most recently, I hired a CMO, who you know, Lindsay, that has taken this to the next level, so it’s really good to have, and then we’ve got a big team behind them.
James: Yeah, we should acknowledge Lindsay reached out to me. I’ve come into contact with her before. And also one of my absolute favorite friends, students, geniuses, Tom Breeze.
Gabby: Yeah. Tom’s a good friend of mine.
A good time for change
James: Yeah, he’s the first one who reached out to me, and I was just speaking to him last night, actually. And he said what a lovely person you are.
James: And, you know, initially, I thought the sort of stuff you teach is not the stuff that we encounter so much. We’re kind of the dry nuts and bolts, marketing-focused stuff. And we’re seeing some of the motivational stuff coming through. It’s all over our feed right now, of course, because at the time of recording, it’s around the new year. So it seems to be the season for the fresh start, the 21-day challenges. I actually saw a lot of people saying they didn’t have a great 2019, which is very interesting.
Gabby: I see that too.
James: They just want to wash it off and start fresh. This must be, like, the season for making hay in your industry.
Gabby: Well, it absolutely is a big time, because people are willing. They’re willing to do work; they’re willing to change; they want to create something new. So much so that we, yeah, we’re in the middle of a launch that I told you earlier, that we anticipated just being around 10,000 people in this challenge, and we ended up now with like 35,000. And that’s a major, major sign that people are really willing to do the work right now, and that they’re committed.
And then the challenge of being a business owner is that now I have to make sure that my website will deliver them more. The site is not happy with all the people that are logging in at the same time. And then it’s our question of how do we face these challenges in the moment? Are we going to just find a lot of workarounds and be at ease? Are we going to freak out? I used to freak out, James, I used to be crazy. Go nuts. That got me nowhere.
James: Yeah, I can relate to that, because I’ve been running forums for the last decade. And I used to sort of go to sleep wondering if the thing would melt down overnight. And it was me and I had a friend of mine, Dave, who was always helping me with the tech. But he’s in a different time zone. He’s in Boise. And I’ve got a team now who are just fantastic. If anything breaks, they fix it automatically, which is brilliant. We’ve got those little alerts, like a spider web that will let them know. And I think they like gaming, so they seem to be up when I’m asleep, which is good. And we have a three-hour time difference.
But I know what you mean about that feeling like you’ve got to wear the responsibility of it. I think, when you’re talking about authenticity, I’ve always felt a strong integrity and a massive responsibility to my forum community. It’s like an extended family.
Pursuing a one-to-many mission
James: And, in my case, it’s tiny volume compared to the numbers you’re talking about, which is fascinating, because you’re in a mass market, and I wonder if that was deliberate, or it just found you. Which I’d love to get to in a moment.
Gabby: I think it was deliberate.
James: Yes, it was?
Gabby: Yes, it was deliberate. I think that from the very, very early days of my career, I could see where I was going. I could see what my mission was. I could see what I was being called to do. I was being called to be one to many, not one to one. Even though I’ve authored seven books, and I’m about finishing my eighth right now, and writing a book proposal for my ninth, I’m not even joking you. Even though all that’s been part of my career as being this author, my primary vocation, I believe, is a motivational speaker even though that’s probably the least amount of what we know in our P&L, it’s probably the smallest number there, but it’s the most important thing to me, is being a speaker. Speaking publicly is my gift. It’s my art. So one-to-many was my vision. And that’s where we are now.
James: A book is a great one-to-many platform, and it’s a great front end tool to make sales at the back end. I wonder if you could give us a little overview of how the business works. You’ve listed as a motivational speaker in Google, you’ve got a stack of books. It’s funny, you’re talking about more books coming, because I just sent an email to a lady who helps me write my books, Kelly Exeter, who sent me the next two book drafts that we had to choose from and I said, Can we do both? Which is, I think once you get rolling with it, it’s kind of fun, isn’t it, having books?
And you realize that you’re able to influence the outcomes for people. The thing that lights me up more than anything is that I get an Instagram share when someone’s read my book and taken an action and got a result. And I just think that’s amazing. That was a thought or an idea that got captured into little words or an audio. I’m sitting in the very room in the Philippines here where I read my audiobook, and I get a five-to-one ratio of audiobooks, because I have a podcast audience. And I think that the ability to have an impact must be amazing at your scale. And I’m really interested, and I think it would be a disservice if we didn’t just talk about what you do for a moment there. After the little business breakdown, I’d love if we could get a couple of the core concepts that you talk about in Super Attractor, or The Universe Has Your Back, because clearly it’s working for you.
Books and digital marketing
Gabby: Yeah, you know, a lot of what I wrote about Super Attractor is for entrepreneurs, I was pretty forthcoming about that, too. So my business stuff, I can get to it, and then I can talk about how…
James: Yeah, let’s have a look at just the overview. You’ve got a portfolio of books there. And you know, we’ve often talked about, on this particular podcast, the book being a great way to educate and motivate people.
My friend Dean Jackson sells books. He gives them away, actually, mainly to get the lead so that he can then have a conversation. And a good percentage of people who get the book won’t actually even read it, but now you’ve got the ability to have a conversation with him. There’s that direct response marketing angle, and then there’s the people who literally make a living out of the book itself, which is rarer but possible. And you mentioned you have a publisher. So that’s a fascinating part of your portfolio, and I can see you clearly leaning into the motivational speaker side of things as well.
Gabby: Yeah, and I’m also a digital marketer. So while I identify as a spiritual teacher, and my title and my company on my org chart is an untethered force of light, I left the CEO title behind and changed my title. But I am a self-identified marketer. I’m an excellent marketer, because for me, I don’t sell, I share. I believe so, so, so deeply in what I teach and what I do that I don’t have to sell. I don’t. And I think that that’s probably the key for all of us, is to love our work so much that it’s almost like another child to us, that we don’t have to sell it. It’s just that easy. You don’t have to sell it. You can share it
James: Yeah, I like that. It’s one of the big reasons I’ve been podcasting for 10 years, is I figured out that it’s fun to talk about stuff and other people are actually interested in it. And sooner or later, people who listen to your message, they want to know what else you’ve gotten clearly from your challenge. There’s 35,000 people who are interested in finding out how they can make a change in their life, which would be great to talk about.
When you care only about service
Gabby: Yeah, so I think that, you know, I just came out with this book Super Attractor, it’s done exceedingly well way better than we expected. And I think that’s also because I didn’t care this time. I cared only about serving souls. I cared only about people being touched by the book. I did not care about the New York Times list. I did events where I moved, like, 15,000 books to those events, and I didn’t count any of those towards the New York Times list. I just bought them directly from my publisher. So I mean the book had this movement and created this tribe of people that are really moved by the message. So what the next step was this manifesting challenge, I was going to give them the next step. And it’s the perfect time of year, and it’s incredible content. And way more people registered and my site is crashing as we speak.
James: You’re doing really well under the pressure.
Gabby: Everybody else is working. Everything’s happening around me, because I’m taking care of it. That’s my mantra,
James: I ended up putting my website on Amazon S3, even though it’s a little more expensive, because I just don’t want it to be down.
Gabby: It’s not actually a server issue at all. I have way more bandwidth than we need, but it’s just too many people logging in at once. So something for people to consider if you start to do bigger launches is, if you have like, any kind of WordPress plugin that’s playing with your CRM, that you need to make sure that when you have many, many people logging in at one time, it can cause a real bottleneck. So that is something I want everybody to be warned about.
The weight of responsibility
James: Yeah. You know, I remember when I first published my book, and there was this wave of sales and it went to an Amazon bestseller, which I know is like, nothing. That’s like winning a token in a cereal packet. But I remember this sudden feeling of Whoa, hang on, this is kind of a shift. You talk about shifts in your content, but it was a shift. It’s like, hang on a minute, this could actually get big. And then I felt immediately this, almost this sense of, well, I hope I can handle this shift; I hope this change isn’t too big and going to tip over my comfortable life with the daily surf and sort of manageable pace. And I realize it’s like this is a step forward, that can’t really be undone. It’s not an easy step to undo. You’ve reached a point now where you have so much momentum. Did you ever get a point where it felt, Oh, this is a bit heavy?
Gabby: Heavy, like too much to do? Or heavy like I’m carrying too much, or heavy in what way? What do you mean?
James: Heavy in terms of responsibility. You know, a lot of spotlights on you, kind of like a Hollywood star might have? You know, where it’s like, hang on, now everyone’s watching. Everyone’s interested. Every move you make is going to be magnified over hundreds of thousands of eyeballs.
Gabby: I actually notice it in two ways. The first way I notice it is when I’m in Whole Foods, because I have to be quiet when I’m talking. I’m Whole Foods famous. No joke. I’m joking with you, but it is one of those things where I don’t identify as somebody who’s got fame, but I do have a lot of readers out there. And so people do recognize me or come up to me and say, you know, this and that. So I have to make sure that I’m not acting like an asshole in the world. Because I’m human and I might act like an asshole sometimes. So it’s really nice to be giving myself that level of standard of how I want to be in the world so that I’m not only presentable to people that may be inspired by me, but more importantly, just living what I preach.
“You go first, you share your truth, which activates other people to accept that truth within themselves.”
The other thing I would say is that the responsibility part is really serious. It’s very true, because when you’re a speaker or writer or a podcaster, there’s a “you go first” element – you go first, you share your truth, which activates other people to accept that truth within themselves. So when you’re talking about big topics, like trauma, or addiction, or mental illness, all of which I’ve suffered from – or I would say, overcome and recovered from – you activate that in other people. I will be a speaker on behalf of the unspoken shame, but I also have this responsibility now that I may be activating people in my stories. So my responsibility is way bigger than manifesting challenges and writing books that inspire people. My biggest responsibility is creating content and guidance for people to regulate when they are activated. Because we are living in extraordinarily activating times. People don’t have a lot of tools for regulation. And actually, that’s what I’m intending to write my ninth book about.
Living in activating times
James: Right. Yeah, I keep seeing Russell Brand in my feed, and he’s often talking about addiction. And I think I read a statistic, and I’m sure you can correct me on this, which was something like 30 percent of the population suffer some kind of mental challenge?
Gabby: I think it’s likely a lot more, actually.
James: It could be. You know, it was probably one of the most chaotic news years. You got an interesting president running the most powerful country in the world; we’ve just come through, at the moment in my own home country, it’s like, pretty much burning. And there’s been a lot of chaos.
Gabby: I mean, I’m on my way to you; I’m on my way there soon. I’m gonna be there in two weeks. So I’m so sorry this is happening.
James: Yeah, it will put people on edge if they’re prone to concerns or whatever. And you know, raising children of course, you end up being sort of extra aware of the the world around us and thinking about what the future might look like, and that sort of added responsibility.
People buying fame
So it’s amazing how you’ve tapped into such a big market. What are your thoughts about, you know, on the topic of authenticity, what about people who buy all of the Insta followers and who paid to be on the bestseller list by getting people to go and buy all their books from the stores in a strategic manner, etc.?
Gabby: Doesn’t work. It won’t work.
Gabby: It just won’t work. Maybe you’ll get on a New York Times list, which, by the way, doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. But it’s just not sustainable. There’s energy behind everything. There’s energy behind how you write a book, what you write, the content you put within it. There’s energy around how you sell it. A mentor of mine once said to me that every reprint of a copy of my book has the same intentional energy in it. So I believe that when we take an action with what I refer to as spiritually aligned action – which is very effective for an entrepreneur – when the action is step one, backed with service, and love, right? Just a commitment to serve and do good, and then step two, you have faith behind it – because the faith is what keeps you calm – faith that it’s going to work out exactly as it’s supposed to and it’s guiding you, in whatever form that that ends up. That energy of service and faith, step one and two, is when you’re in spiritual alignment. You’re connected, you’re believing, you’re trusting that it’s going to work out. And that’s when you take action. That’s when you sell a book. That’s when you put on an event. That’s when you do your podcast.
And then the fourth step is to be patient. And I think that the folks that are out there pushing, like, I would call that a pusher, right? Buying fans, buying their way onto a list. It’s just the energy – that pushy energy is not spiritually aligned. It’s totally quite the opposite. It can be felt through the launch; it can be felt through the book. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.
James: Yeah, it is really interesting. I think, especially in my market, it’s pretty common for people to buy their first 10,000 followers so they can get a swipe up. And I noticed on some of them that you know, got 10s of thousands of followers, but they don’t get any comments on their posts. I wonder if it’s a hollow victory in a way. And certainly I’ve been focused more on product. Doing good product, actually, it’s been something that’s been more important to me than having a lot more money or being more famous. And I think you’ve hit on solid product.
Gabby: Yeah, that’s the whole thing. That’s the whole thing. The only reason that I’ve had any of the bio that you’ve read is because my focus has been on serving souls. My focus is on how can I create content that saves lives and helps people? And this is a no-joke situation in my opinion. I’m here on a mission. And when that energy is behind whatever you’re doing, you can trust that it’s going to be successful no matter what.
When you’ve reached the summit, what’s next?
James: So after you’ve been on the famous shows, and you’ve got the best-selling books, do you ever have like, a Mount Everest effect where you’ve reached further than you had thought you might go? Do you ever feel like, what’s next? Or do you know clearly what’s next?
Gabby: I’m not sounding extremely humble on this podcast. So I want to just back up and say I’m not a complete narcissist.
James: Well, I’m definitely encouraging you with my questions. I’m very business-minded here, and I think our listeners know that I’m sure you’re amazingly humble.
Gabby: I’m not that humble. Listen, I’m not that humble. But I’m from the standpoint of I believe in myself. So I may not come across as humble. It will often be triggering for people when someone really is proud of who they are. But I want to stand in that to empower other people to do the same. So on the note of humility, or lack thereof, my feeling is my career hasn’t even started yet.
I’ve always thought what I’m doing is an apprenticeship up to this point.
Gabby: Yeah, yeah.
“It’s good to just do good work and to feel like there’s more to come.”
James: As I’ve started unleashing a little more storytelling and leaning into my role more comfortably, after doing it for long enough, feeling like I can. Like I just recently recorded an episode with another one of my friends who lives in New York, Ezra Firestone. And we’d had a two year gap from our podcast, ThinkActGet, and it was just so good to lean into that podcast as two friends doing something cool, and not having a business agenda. And it just felt strong and good. It felt like there’d been a real change. And we got some great resonance with our audience as well. So I think it’s good to just do good work and to feel like there’s more to come.
An alternative to goal-setting
Do you sit down and write goals at the beginning of each year or do you have a different process?
Gabby: I don’t really believe in goals. I believe in setting intentions. For me, if I set a goal, then it’s something that I have an expectation about. It’s something that if I don’t meet that goal, I might be disappointed. Whereas when I set an intention, the energy behind an intention is, it’s this or something better. And sometimes, something better is that it doesn’t even happen the way I intended. Maybe it happens in a way that isn’t as good, but that’s actually what is, what I needed. So being an intention rather than goal setting lets me off the hook. And it also, look, I think it’s fabulous to have a vision of where you want to go. I think that’s part of manifesting, is to have some clarity and vision of where you want to go. But I really like seeing it from the standpoint of a desired intention rather than a goal I have to meet. Again, it’s all about the energy behind things.
James: Yeah, I like that answer. I don’t set goals so much myself. Focusing more on the processes or the actions and routines around life. Like, if I want to surf more, because it makes me happy, then I just start scheduling appointments around the surfing window so that it’s going to happen. And I do seem to end up getting the result that I want. Because I’m really thinking about it. I definitely think about stuff. I visualize all the time, especially when I’m going to sleep. I use that time to think about things, and I sort of like, have this game where I play where I’m predicting the future. And I don’t know if any of this falls into the category of what you do. But I’ve found it fascinating how people can have such different lives. You don’t have to go far to hear people whinging about government or tax or the cost of living or you know, how difficult things are in day-to-day life. And then there are other people who just seem to be getting the things that make them happy and the thing that doesn’t seem as much work for them. And it comes down to the way they’re thinking and the way they’re acting, ultimately, if they were to step back from it.
How to get better outcomes
I’d love it if you’ve got a couple of processes that we could apply to have better outcomes.
Gabby: I think that the biggest process to apply for a better outcome is to slow down and do less. Because I think as entrepreneurs we’re constantly in this do, do, do mentality, which really is blocking us from attracting what we want. So we find ourselves in that chaotic energy. Stop, relax, go have a coffee, do something different.
“Once you fall in love with the things you’re doing, it’s easy to naturally attract yourself into the stuff that’s going to propel you.”
James: That’s like, the best advice ever. You know, my book’s called Work Less Make More. I’ve been against the workaholism culture that seems to pervade the business industry. And I think there’s definitely a huge movement now where people are understanding that. I’ve even seen Gary Vee talking about that, he’s probably been misrepresented when it comes to that. And it’s more about pacing yourself. There’s even a whole movement, I think there’s a podcast movement about slow living, where people are just slowing down. Certainly having the last few weeks off and playing board games and not making any content or doing too much in the way of work has been really nice. But I am ready to do some good work again. I think once you fall in love with the things you’re doing, it’s easy to naturally attract yourself into the stuff that’s going to propel you. I think in your case, it sounds like writing books is something you really enjoy. And they also have a tremendous leverage effect for your business. So that’s like a good habit, so to speak.
Gabby: That’s right. That’s right. Definitely.
After the podcast…
James: So what’s next for you after we hang up? You’re going to go and fix your challenge that’s been…?
Gabby: I’m going to go put my son to bed.
Gabby: And watch a show on Netflix and not think about my website, because it is backed up, thank you. And just let everybody do their job, because it’s not my job. It is not the best use of me to be doing that. So, I’m turning it over.
James: Do you watch a lot of Netflix?
Gabby: When I’ve had a day like this where my site crashes and I want to think about something else, that is a spiritual practice for me. But no, the answer’s no, I have a really serious sleep hygiene. So I don’t watch television before bed and I really care for my blue light experience at night, and so I don’t watch a lot of television. But I’m watching a show right now that I’m really into.
Gabby: You get hooked sometimes.
James: You’re going to share it, or you’re going to leave us hanging?
Gabby: I’m watching The Morning Show, which was a big surprise to me. It was a lot better than I thought.
James: Nice. I just watched Quincy, and Kevin Hart. And they were both really interesting, because they had very difficult upbringings. And they were kind of on this significance tear, you know, where they became really absorbed in their work to the detriment of their relationships, in both cases. But they also achieved remarkable feats in business terms. And, you know, I think that’s what they love doing. So it’s really fascinating to watch from a documentary perspective, and to see the highs and the lows and the achievements and then to, I guess, you compare that to, where is the sliding scale of where you want to be in that.
I love your message about sleep hygiene. I love your message about slowing down. The fact that you can have such a huge following and a huge impact and not eat yourself into a ball of stress is very inspirational. And
Gabby: That’s why it works. That’s why it works.
James: Thank you for sharing with us, and hopefully we can get you back and talk more about your journey, because as you’ve said, and I have to agree with you, I think you’re only just getting started and there’s so much more that we could talk about on our next episode.
Gabby: I would love that. That would be great. And I hope to see many of you if you’re in Australia. I’m going to be out there so I hope to see you.
James: Yeah, well, I hope you enjoy it. And if you stick to the major regional places you’ll be okay.
You’ve got a website, GabbyBernstein.com.
Gabby: Yes. And it’s working now.
James: Go and check it out. Go and have a look at YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. You’ve got the whole game sewn up. Well done.
Gabby: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on. It’s nice to connect with you.
James: Okay, we’ll speak soon.
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