Today, we’re going to be talking to one of my favorite people, one of the most powerful leaders out there amongst women and really forwarding women’s issues and causes. The founder and CEO of Women Network. The company that she runs, Women Network, they produce this amazing conference, this gigantic conference, called the California Women’s Conference. This happens about every eighteen months down in Southern California at the Long Beach Convention Center. I’ve been able to attend there. There’s nothing I love more than being surrounded by powerful, intelligent, badass women; that’s the California Women’s Conference. I’m super excited to introduce you to my dear friend, Michelle Patterson.
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Better Together with Michelle Patterson
How are you doing there, Michelle?
I’m doing amazing. Talk about being surrounded by powerful, strong women, I can think of another very powerful strong woman, and that is Michelle Young. One of my favorite people. I’ve got to tell you Aaron, I love you, but I think I like your wife more.
That’s what everybody says. They go, “Aaron, you’re so nice. You’re so clever.” I just say, “As soon as you meet Michelle, you’ll never want to talk to me again.” I’m glad I got you roped into an interview so I could chat with you. Michelle Patterson and I have both been married to the loves of our lives for a long time. How long have you guys been married?
We’re celebrating 20 years this August.
A great family. We’ve been in each other’s homes and done stuff together over the years. This is like a conversation between dear friends here. I remember the day, I was speaking at a conference in Las Vegas. I’d met her. If you meet Michelle, she’s physically a beautiful woman. She’s got this beautiful energy, this beautiful ‘Go get them. Go take on the world. I’m going to do something big.’ kind of energy. You can’t help but want to be around her.
I remember you ran up to me, as I recall it at least, you just gotten control, you just purchased this thing that had been run by the First Lady of the State of California for years, most recently by Maria Shriver. You had control of the California Women’s Conference. I remember, children excitedly running into an empty ballroom and sitting on the floor, and you started to paint the picture. Do you remember that evening?
Yeah. We did. We were actually sitting collectively together. I’m talking a mile a minute, excited, and I had been told, “Connect with Aaron.” We hit it off right away. It was one of those where you just look at each other. We’re at a point in our lives, I don’t know, for me, you get to the 40s and you get to pick the people that you want to play with and run with. Right away, it was, “He’s somebody that I can just be myself with.” I remember the conversation and it was like, “Aaron, this is what’s working. This is what’s not working. This is where I’m headed. This is what’s scaring me.” It was exciting just to be able to just breathe and share. It was just so nice meeting you that first time.
I have a vivid memory of that experience. A lot of water has gone under the bridge in that direction, in the development of Women Network and the re-launch of California Women’s Conference. You grew up, you got into business, you had great success with, I want to get this right, was it Groupon? What was your business before all this Women Network, California Women’s Conference stuff started? You were kicking butt then.
I was. In fact, I said to my mom a week and a half ago, I said, “Did you drop me as a kid? Did you drop me on my head? What’s wrong with me that it’s not okay for me to go at stuff and just go small? I’m only going to go at it if it’s big.” I’m happy because we’re not intergalactic yet, so I only focus on a global movement. I’ve been like this since I was little. If you’re going to do something, it’s just as easy to go ahead and do something that’s scalable on a large level. Because once you put that process in place and once you put the pieces and you get that wired, you could build on it.
Even with events, I have people that will come to events that I’ve done in the past that are small events. But because all eyes are on them, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a big event, if it’s a small event. You still have those details that need to be paid attention to. You might as well make it a big footprint in pushing that out.
Tell me what you were doing.
I went to school at Loyola Marymount University. Coming out of school, I ended up going into recruiting. I held a position with Robert Half. I was the youngest Vice President, publicly held company, $80 million budget. I had Accounting, Finance, IT and HR. We also acquired Legal. My job was going in doing acquisitions, being able to pull it in. I had 300 salespeople that were out there. I really learned so much. I’m one of those people that believe that we work on our mission and get prepared to do our life’s work in all the different roles and responsibilities that we have.
When I look at the job that I have now or the responsibilities that I have now, it’s very much about recruiting. It’s finding people that are way stronger in areas that I can imagine and getting them in this particular seat and then having them excel and do great things. I would come home at night and I would be up all hours of the night working on some fun projects. One project that I started, it was called Taste of Ladera. It started a mile from my house. It went from 0 to 20,000 people.
What kind of event was it? Was it a food event or a wine event? What was it?
It was a foodie. There was a music festival. We had everybody from English Beat to Lit to Annabella Lwin. We had music and talent. I did this for eight years. There was one particular company that I was with. I ended up leaving, starting my own. It did inspire me. It wasn’t doing the placement of accounting, finance, IT and HR. It was great to do and made very, very good money. I was able to go ahead and open up offices all over the country. But what really inspired me was running the not for profit and it was Global Women Foundation.
First, let’s restate. You come out of Loyola Marymount, you get a great position, you move up fast in the company, you’re Vice President, you’re kicking butt, you’re making money, you have tremendous authority. Then you say, “I’m a little unfulfilled. Let’s go ahead and make a big, gigantic party in the neighborhood.” It starts off as a glorified block party turned into a 20,000-person festival. You’re looking at this great job but the job can’t hold your attention. You’re saying, “I got to do something more.” You leave that and start your own business, is that right?
I was doing both. I ended up going into events. It really was my business partner who showed up at my event and he was pissed. Let’s throw it out there because he’s looking at me and we’ve got this multimillion dollar company that we’ve been fulfilling recruitment and recruiting needs. I had been moonlighting, creating this not for profit fun event in the evening. He comes to it. He’s thinking it’s some small, little event. He shows up and there are 20,000 people. He’s like, “Really? What have you been doing in the evenings?” It was very apparent that that was where my passion was. I exited the company and continued to pursue what I enjoy doing and that is bringing community together, bringing people together, doing these large-scale events. That led into doing stuff with Groupon. We put through 200,000 people through physical events on Groupon. Just really got good about the process and putting events on when I’m physically not there. You have everything from A to Z that was happening, even the entertainment, and physically not being there. I learned just a ton. I’m still making great money, was doing stuff directly with the CEO for Groupon, built out Groupon getaways, and was able to go ahead and sell it back to Groupon. It just had a lot of winds during that time.
Right around that same time, I just completed eight years of doing Taste of Ladera, which evolved to a bigger platform. I got a phone call. You could see the pieces connecting throughout your life and when you ask yourself, “What makes my heart sing? Where am I supposed to be spending my time?” When you look back, you could see the connections. I was in the 8th grade, extremely shy. You know my personality. It’s funny when I get to describe now, I come in with this ball of energy. At that time, I was just going through a really rough, rough spot. I had scoliosis where I wore a back brace. I had transferred from a private school into a public school. I remember for two years, it was middle school, where I literally ate lunch and recess and breaks and I sat in between these two bungalows by myself.
Middle school’s horrible enough as it is. In my memory, it was the worst time of school. If you had anything that wasn’t perfect, if you had a back brace, that’s a pretty big flag. I can totally see why that would have been, not only formative, but also really a challenging time. You’re doubting your own self-worth, is that what you’re saying?
You’re doubting your own self-worth. It’s such an awkward time and then to compile that. I had transferred from a private school, where we wore uniforms, into now a public school where everybody’s wearing certain clothes. I remember this, and you and I are similar in age where everybody was wearing IZOD’S and the Jordache jeans. I had these buckteeth with this back brace that came up through my collared shirt. My grandmother, now I look back and it was just such a loving gesture, made me these Holly Hobbie dresses. I had dresses that I was wearing when everybody was wearing the cool clothes.
I came in and I literally had no friends. It was just one of those times where you’re like, “This is lonely.” My parents, at the time, were going through a divorce. They ultimately ended up staying together. Being the oldest kid and just going through that period of time, it was just really a tough, tough time. I remember I enjoyed writing. I love to write. From a communication standpoint, that’s how I shared what my thoughts were, so I would write. I ended up writing for the school paper. I get selected to interview the governor of the State of California, which at the time, just moved into that role. He was formerly the Attorney General. My dad was a police officer who reported up through the Attorney General. It was Governor George Deukmejian.
If you can imagine, I’m there, this awkward kid, and I get to interview the governor of the State of California. It still gets me, even talking about it now. I’ve talked about it many times. We had a press conference at his home and everything 30 years later. I can remember, I’m there and I’m meeting with him, and I’m asking very, very profound political questions like, “What’s your favorite hobby? How many kids do you have? What’s your favorite color?” He looks at me and he says, “Michelle, that was the best interview I’ve ever heard.” I can remember at that moment, my little back straightened up. I stood tall. I was the tallest kid in the whole school, you could see how tall I am now. I’m almost 5’10”. I was that height back then. I can remember thinking, “I matter. I have a voice. I matter.” If you would have asked me leaving that meeting, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I would tell people, “I’m going to be a governor.” What was so funny was, I got back to school and I just realized, “If I feel this way, pretty much this is how everybody feels.” It doesn’t matter where you are, we all have this feeling of ‘Do I matter? Am I enough?’ I don’t care how popular you are. I don’t care how much money you have. It’s like that even as adults, across the board.
It’s such an interesting comment that you just made about. You were this awkward kid. You got this opportunity to interview the governor. The governor, because obviously you get to be governor because you know how to work with people, gives this lovely compliment to this young kid, this high school newspaper writer. Because that flipped a switch inside of you, then you go, “I want to be the governor. If the governor can make me feel this way, then I want to be that.” We all have people in our lives that influence us at some pivotal moment. What that influence does for the rest of our lives, who knows? It depends on who they are and what the influence was because they can influence for things that’ll keep us down for the rest of our lives, things that’ll elevate us, things that’ll put us into danger or it could be drugs or criminal stuff or it could be anything.
The point is, if you could get yourself in front of, whether or not it’s the governor of California, if you get yourself in front of or you get your kids in front of role models, they can really look up to. You introduce them to people you know from your business relationships. You’ve got a ton of cool people for your kids to meet. All I’m saying is, by just being mindful of getting kids and yourself in front of a higher caliber of person, they can set a higher opportunity awareness. Am I making any sense?
You’re making complete sense. Once you realize that that’s the game of life. When we show up, we’re not meant to go through this alone. We’re really meant to work collectively together, to support one another. It doesn’t have to be where you’re at this by yourself. We’re not meant to do that. What I tell people too is, I have a special gift. You have a special gift. Michelle has a special gift. When you start going through, each of us has these special gifts, none of us were given all the gifts, but when we come together, that’s when that magic happens. It has become very apparent and why I enjoy doing events of a global magnitude. Because I can’t put the event on, but because of my gift, I can come to the table and bring other people together and then that’s how in turn, we put something of a global magnitude on.
You got control of the conference. You ended up realizing that the conference was great, but it was once in a while and we needed to be moving this forward all the time. You created Women Network. Give me a couple of highlights that have happened within Women Network over the last few years. Give me a couple of the high points. What are some of the cool things? Go ahead and drop names. This is no time to be humble. Drop names or tell a story real quickly about somebody that might not have a voice, but all of a sudden found one because of this thing you’ve built. Just give us a few stories.
One in particular, in how Women Network came about was, to your point, we have this amazing event, a star-studded event. It has everything from the Dalai Lama to Oprah, we’ve got Gladys Knight coming, just across the board like these amazing top thought leaders that are in the world. I personally spoke to Trump, it was like, “This is a conference that we have established for women. This is bigger than a presidency. This is bigger than a country. This literally drops all boundaries and brings women together collectively to show that we are truly better together.” What has come about from this is you have this event that was happening in 30 years and had an opportunity to go back and be at Governor George Deukmejian’s home with his wife, Gloria. We didn’t talk about politics. We didn’t talk about what’s happening in the world. We talked about the fact that he inspired this 12-year-old kid. Here, 30 years later, I’m continuing the legacy, I’m continuing an event that he started.
One of the events that we did, because the feedback that we got was, “This is an amazing event,” but what happens 365 days out of the year for the rest of the year? What happened was, we had an event where we pulled together different groups that were focused on human trafficking. We had everything from CAST to YWCA to Truckers Against Trafficking. It was up in Northern California. I can remember I was the emcee and I got up and I was not familiar with really all the statistics, the numbers, everything that was going on human trafficking. I knew it was at an epidemic level from an issue standpoint, but I didn’t really understand the magnitude.
I got up and there were two women that were in the front row and they were in tears. I went, “Wait a minute. What’s going on?” I just asked, “What’s happening? Why are you crying?” They said, “We’ve never had coffee together. We represent massive organizations but we’ve never come together. We’ve competed for scarce dollars and scarce resources. But here we have the same mission to eradicate something that’s horrific as human trafficking, which has surpassed drug trafficking because of how lucrative it is. Yet we never come together.” It was like somebody literally took a brick and threw a brick my way because it opened my eyes up to what’s happening in our world. Because we’ve been fragmented, because we’re also busy working on our initiatives and we’re taking care of our families, growing our companies. What happens is, we don’t work collectively together. The bad guys are winning. They’re winning because they’re coming in, not one organization is going to be able to eradicate something as horrific as human trafficking. It really requires us to come together collectively.
When you look at Women Network, our job is to build a sandbox. Our job is to put together the freeway and connect and be that conduit and bring in the organizations together that are doing incredible things in our world. Because we’re limited on resources, because we’ve been fragmented working, our job is to connect the dots and pull these groups together. That’s probably the most powerful thing when I hear from organizations like NABO or Alzheimer’s Association, all these different groups, where they view us as their sister. They view us as their partner in being able to push that messaging out and be that voice. We’re not viewed as a competitor. When we do that, the issues that are facing our world will stop having conversations around politics and, “Are you left? Are you right? Are you pro-choice? Are you pro-life?” It’s really rising above. I get asked this all the time on different networks and when I’m out speaking. “What’s your view point?” “We’re not partisan.” “You’ve got to pick. Pick what you are.” “I’m pro-women. We’re pro-unity.”
To say pick a side, to be pro-women, you have to be both pro-life and pro-choice. When I say pro-choice, I mean the ability to choose how you want to believe. We want people to be as free as they can be to make a choice that makes sense for them and not legislate everything so that somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Why can’t we support everybody and create this tapestry of awesomeness? We don’t want everybody to be the same. We need to be influenced by people who have different opinions than us. We need that.
Women Network is a microcosm of what’s happening. Our world is very divided. Our country is very divided and the political climate. We’re celebrating our 30th year with the California Women’s Conference. I got to tell you, I had a good cry this past week because I was in awe that we have the intolerance and it really goes back to fear.
Fear of what?
Fear of just the differences. It’s definitely men and women but with women in particular, it’s really learning how to work collectively together. If you ask women, they will tell you, we’re not always nice. We’re pretty wrong to each other. It’s being able to come together and support one another and really come from a place of ‘I love you no matter what.’ I could tell you, my own sister, my sister who’s a rock star. She’s 22 months younger than me. She was the youngest managing partner for Justin Banks. She speaks six languages. She has a company called Eat Love and is raising money for that organization. She’s doing incredible things. We differ on our beliefs. We differ on our political views. It makes for conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. It makes it very, very interesting when every candidate gets a vote at my house and with my family. I love my sister.
One out of three women in our world have been beaten or raped or assaulted in their lifetime, one out of three women. That’s the message. We’re not collectively together and we have to in order for us to be able to go ahead and talk about the elephant in the room. You can’t talk about empowerment and women’s rights and having a role in politics and being on board without talking about the elephant in the room. That’s just basic human rights of what’s happening in our world. That’s probably the biggest thing for me, just recognizing holding space for unity. There’s a quote from President Reagan, he said, “We’re not left, we’re not right. We’re about going forward and not backwards.” That’s what this is about. It’s coming together collectively. We have men and women that are honoring women and the contribution that they make in the world and the diversity that we bring to putting these teams together. By the way, if it was all women and it was reversed, we’d be having the same conversation in supporting men. It would be the same exact conversation.
A personal note, my wife, my Michelle, has made the same comment that you’ve just eloquently brought forward. She said, “Aaron, you don’t really understand what it’s like.” Honestly she said, “You’re a white, male, American, whose mom and dad stayed married, who got to go to school, whose had people telling him that he could do anything all of his life. You don’t understand what it’s like for virtually everybody else who just feels a little bit marginalized.” It’s interesting because I’ve got a wife, 30 years for us, and as you said at the beginning, she’s amazing. I’ve always thought of her as my equal.
One of my associates at my company, Laughlin, Megan Cole, who for sixteen years, nothing could happen without her. I look for her to give me guidance. She works for me but I’ll call her and say, “What do you need me to do today? Tell me what to do.” My mom while was a homemaker, more than my dad and I adore my dad, but my mom was the one that was always, “We can conquer anything. We can get it done. Let’s go.” I hear these things and I know they’re true but it’s hard when you don’t see it in your own life.
The fact that you’re doing things and you’re even discovering for yourself these challenges that exist, we can get down into our little rut, get down into our little microcosm and maybe these challenges aren’t the same everywhere but what we need to do is to get it to where they’re not an issue at all. We’ve got to get to where people can just be people, they could be as big as in their life as they possibly want to go. They can pursue greatness as far as, “Let’s go be the governor” or greatness by “I want to be home and raise my kids.” That can be men or women. I just think the fact that if you shine a bright enough light on enough people and enough opinions, if you can get enough people to look, we find out that everybody, men and women, doesn’t matter about your gender, we have the same hopes and dreams. We need to give each other the right and the space, the opportunity, to pursue them. I just love what you guys are doing. I totally salute you for taking this one. Since you started this thing, since the day you ran in and we sat on the floor in the ballroom and you were so excited, has it all just been this rocket growth or have there been any stalls?
It’s definitely been those quiet moments where you sit where you’re like, “Why am I doing this?” where you really have to stop and ask yourself. Let me hold space.
Did you wonder if you’d make it?
I still wonder. We’re going in and this past week alone, I had a member of my team who said to me, “We don’t want to have yoga as part of the event.” I had to go back and say, “I respect your beliefs. We’ll go ahead and we’ll produce it.” They didn’t want to do that. It was really drawing the line. I had to hold that space of, “We’re about all groups coming together. We’re about having the conversation. We’re about having that focus be on what can we do collectively to support and unify organizations?” Another group called Unify, in fact, their mission is to help organizations and religions come together around the world. There is that moment where I literally had to make a decision, not doing this, the hours that go in to putting this on. When I look at over the years, the earning capacity and coming from a publicly held company, the dollars don’t match up. The money I could have made. My husband sometimes looks at me like, “We moved into this house because of your income.” Making decisions to go a different route because of what your principles and what you believe in. That is truly believing in the mission.
I happen to make a decision last week of, “I accept your resignation. This is what we stand for. I love you and I wish you all the best. But this is the mission and this is where we’re at.” We had another example of a person that is at the event that will introduce another person, she happens to be a known Trump supporter. It’s Joy Villa. She wore at the Grammys Awards the dress that said ‘Make America Great.’ There’s definitely a controversy around her. But because she is a known supporter of Trump, I had a media outlet that came back and said, “We’re pulling. We’re coming out. We’re not going to participate because you have this person.” It’s fascinating to see the conversations that are taking place and to really hold space for rising above this and really coming together collectively because we are women and because we need to be able to show up in collaboration and together.
First of all, I totally get all that. I respect the fact. It’s never fun when somebody lays down an ultimatum and you have to say, “I guess I have to say goodbye to you.” From a business perspective, not for a cause or a mission perspective, from a business perspective, you took on something that had been shelved for a couple of years, you started doing something, you ran into probably from a team and a financial and other perspectives, it was maybe bigger or more challenging than you had originally anticipated. Yet you got through the first event and then you did the next event. It was bigger and better. You had more sponsors and stuff. Now you’re coming up on the third event since you’ve had it.
What are one or two things you’ve learned? If you just go to the California Women’s Conference, for instance, if you went into the Long Beach Convention Center and you go in there on May 10th and 11th and you show up, it’s just going to look awesome. It’s going to look big. It’s going to look wildly successful. It’s going to look really cool. But here’s the thing, to make that happen is challenging and it’s not always this big financial success. A lot of people judge themselves harshly because they look at others and they go, “Look at what they’ve done. Why am I such a loser? Why can’t I get my stuff together?” A lot of times, appearances are not the same as reality. Would you agree with that, Michelle?
Absolutely. What happens too is that we don’t ask. You and I have talked about this in the past. You’re not supposed to have all the answers. You’re not supposed to have everything figured out. But you are supposed to ask for that support and be able to share your vision and share where you’re headed. I was the most unlikely person to go into taking on this conference. Talk about big shoes.
I wasn’t out of the Governor’s office. I didn’t have the Kennedy name. There’s a whole list. If you start getting into that piece of comparison and mindset, it’s like, “No. I’m Michelle Patterson. I am going to come in and bring my own genius to the table.” There’s definitely those days where you feel like, “I don’t know how to do this. How do I move forward?” But it goes back to you. There are people out there that if you just share, if you just ask, and ask them what is it that they need, what I refer to as ‘pulling a Deukmejian.’ He changed the course of time by taking ten minutes and letting this 12-year-old interview him.
So much so, and to share with you, you remember, you were one of those people that got a phone call from me, Aaron. I hired a sponsorship company, they pipelined $7 million in funding and out of the $7 million in total, they came in with $100,000. I was $1.8 million in a deficit, seventeen days prior to my first event. Here, it was this beloved event that I was taking it on and continuing it and I felt like I had been handed this amazing opportunity and I was failing miserably. I was not a rookie in the event world. Yet I had had an individual that had me going ahead and taking on this opportunity. It was just miserable.
Everybody that knew me, it felt like that, but got a phone call from me. We ended up raising $1.65 million. I made that call. It’s interesting because the people I thought, “They’ll get on right away,” were reluctant or the people that I thought would have a problem were onboard writing checks and, “How can I support you? What can I do?” You were one of those people. It was just, “How can I support you?” It was me checking my ego and just saying, “I need the help.” It was very painful but at the same time, I had no time to get my ego wrapped around. I had a conference to put on.
You had to do it. That’s it. One thing you learned was, ask for help and check your ego at the door because if you’re going to do big things, it’s impossible to do it by yourself. It does take a team. It does take support. Even if you’re the leader, you’re going to have to look, sometimes, maybe not to your immediate team, your crew, but you have to look to your friends and you have to look to the community and say, “I need some help.”
Besides that, what’s maybe the biggest thing you’ve learned business-wise as you’ve taken this thing from a dream to the struggle to get the first one done, to the second one easier? Now you’re doing this one. I know you’re doing dramatically better this time. What have you learned business-wise that is helping it be easier now as you projected conference number four which is eighteen months down the road or whatever.
That one’s an easy one and that is just the relationship with money. It’s the relationship with your COO, your CFO. It’s really recognizing where your gifts lie and who you need that surrounds you so that you can effectively deliver the vision of where you’re headed. A lot of times people come in and entrepreneurs they’re so busy doing and wearing so many hats. I did that. It was like, “I’m going to be the fundraiser. Then I’m going to try to balance the books. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.” Do what you have your skills set for that which fills you up. For me, it’s being able to go ahead and share the vision and get fun with the clients and get fun with the media and be able to push this messaging out. It’s not doing accounting or doing operations.
Or planning the calendar. They’re saying, “Hey, Michelle, show up here. We’re going to put a camera in front of you and a microphone in your hand.” There’s one more thing that maybe is so close to you that you’re not thinking about it but I think it’s important for the audience to get this understanding. You live in Ladera Ranch, which is a town in Orange County.
The Taste of Ladera, no matter how successful it was, was still Ladera Ranch down in Central or Southern Orange County. It’s a neighborhood, this is a localized event. When you say Women Network and the California Women’s Conference, even if you’re struggling for money, even if you’re eating ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese at home, the world sees a big bully pulp at a big platform. If somebody has fire and drive like you have had this whole time, to take on this global issues, global platform, I’ve watched the doors open to many famous people that the audience have only seen on television or in movies. Isn’t that right?
I think it’s so weird because it’s Women Network. Who’s been one of the main old guys, an iconic figure, who’s introduced you to tons of his contacts? Who is that?
Actually, one of my favorite people, it’s Don King, the boxing promoter. He’ll be 85 in August.
What kind of people has he introduced you to?
I had dinner with Hillary Clinton. I’ll share with you, he called me at the crack of dawn and I always answer his phone call. I talk to him all the time. He’s one of those individuals where he’s on all the time. He’s truly a world-class promoter. He called me, “Michelle, I have the President of the United States on the phone.” There I am, I’m hitting my husband at 6:30 in the morning and I’m hitting Eric. He’s like, “What? What?” There I’m talking to President Trump. It’s just different people like that that you just recognize that we all have our missions. We all have our jobs that we’re doing. We’re all really the same.
But it’s not. I’m going to take exception to that. What happens is you meet Don King, you hang out with him for a while and you go, “He’s a guy. He’s the person.” He’s not just a character on a show. He’s a real guy and he’s taking you under his wing to introduce you. But the fact is, he would not have done that for a Taste of Ladera. He’s doing it because you’re taking on a big, big project, a big, national or global platform and people that want to be involved or want to help or support those platforms and support you as a human, they do it. Les Brown, the word class speaker, I don’t know if he invented it but he’s the first guy I’ve ever heard say it, “It’s not that we aim too high and miss. It’s that we aim too low and hit.” What I’m saying is, even when you were going through your growing pains, you still got to be in front of amazing people because you had taken on a world-class event. Isn’t that true?
Absolutely. I do feel we all have gifts. I do feel like we all show up. It’s making that choice. How are you going to play this game of life? Let’s just throw it out there. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t experience fear. There’s not one day that goes by. My passion for what I’m doing far exceeds my fear. That’s what I hold on to every day. I get up and it’s like, “What rock am I going to lift up? Who am I going to talk to?” It’s my passion, my mission. I know that if women are given the resources and the tools to get done what they need to get done, it’s the fastest way for us to create change in our world.
With the first time I talked to you, your enthusiasm was more for taking on this huge event. Now, I hear you being enthusiastic about how it’s changing individual lives and how it’s making a difference for people. It went from being the producer of this thing to somebody who’s really heart-driven as well as business. Am I reading that right in you?
Absolutely. For me, the big turning point is, in order to do the things that I need to do, I need to run this as a business. I need to have the reoccurring revenue. I need to have the systems in place. It’s great to have the passion and the vision, but in order to have the sustainability, in order to be able to really do the great work that we need to do, it needs to be ran as a business.
You have to feed the world out of your overflow, out of your abundance, not out of your desire but while you’re eating cat food. You have to become successful if you really want to do big things, if you really want to change. There are exceptions, there’s Mother Teresa, but even Mother Teresa was out speaking all over the world and doing big things, doing television interviews. You don’t change the world by playing small. You can change your neighborhood. You can change your family. You can be fantastic at being the one who helps the kids in your local middle school read. But if you want to go out and do a world-class change, you’ve got to have the guts to go after it.
Let me just ask you a few quick questions, Michelle. The first one is, I always like to ask, is there a book that you read early in your career that inspired you? Or maybe something you just read and you were like, “That changed my life.” What book could you give as a recommendation to people?
One of my favorite books is, Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth.
What about favorite quote? Is there something you have on the wall or something that you like to quote?
My favorite one is the one I even shared by President Reagan was, “We’re not left, we’re not right, we’re about going forward not backward.” That’s my favorite.
It’s funny, I’m a big fan of Reagan and I was not familiar with that quote. Thanks for doing that. If you could go back in time, this is an awkward one I know, but I’m going to ask you anyway, if there was something you could go back in time and say, “I wish I would have done this differently. I wish I would’ve either not done it or I would have accepted or I would have handled it differently.” Is there a thing that comes to mind for you?
I would have done early stage raise for funding. I’m like, “Really, I have to pick the hardest way. I’ve got to pick the toughest route to go.” It would have been stepping back and going, “Let’s pull in the key players.” I would have done that sooner than later.
One of the main reasons people fail in any business enterprise is lack of funding. No matter how much you want to get out of that job or no matter how much you feel like you have this awesome thing, you’ve got to figure out a way to get money so that you can do it. You need to remember, even the people that go out and raise equity financing, a lot of times, those CEOs of this upstart company, they’re getting paid little to nothing for the first few years. You need to be prepared to have enough money to survive while your baby grows up. That’s experience talking. I would’ve gone out and found the money early, instead of trying to just find it all with a blindfold on and a spoon you had to pick up every nickel with. You did it as hard as I’ve ever seen anybody go after doing something you did. But you did it, Michelle. You freaking did it. You’re in the game in a big way because your passion was strong enough.
If there are any words of wisdom you’d pass on to a bunch of people who are trying to become unshackled owners, what parting counsel would you offer to them, if they want to learn about the conference or Women Network or if they want to attend? First, a little overarching advice and then how can people connect with Michelle Patterson?
You go to WomenNetwork.com. You can go in and we’re going to have the pass code be “unshackled.” You’d be able to go ahead, reach out to us. We’ll go through and do the first five people to go through contact us and use the code word, “unshackled.” We’ll go ahead and we’ll give them a ticket to the California Women’s Conference.
They need to go to WomenNetwork.com and then they go and say, “I want to register for the conference,” and that’s like a promo code?
You just put “unshackled” and that’s how we’ll be able to identify that. It’s an affiliate code that’s going out on all your stuff and we’ll go ahead and just attach it directly to that.
Thank you for that. Shameless plug for me, Michelle has invited me to speak.
We got connected, we got aspired, and we get results. For me personally, Aaron, you’ve had me on the phone where I’ve been at my wits end of just, “I’m stuck.”
We’ve been at the beach house. We’ve sat and talked. For full disclosure, Michelle was there and so was your daughter. We’ve had a lot of talks that were real raw.
The four parents on the phone together, Eric and I. We’ve had some really cool, unique conversations. I point that out because you are one of those people where you’re the same all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a podcast or you’re on an event or you’re just talking one-on-one, it’s just a neat experience on the receiving end when you have a friend who shows up authentically every time and sharing your personal challenges.
I can remember you were sharing with me your walk and getting strength from hearing about your story and how you persevered and how you didn’t give up. Really letting me cry and having a pity party, I’m feeling sorry for myself. We timed it, it was ten minutes. It was that experience where it was like, “I got you.” As friends do, they show up for each other, in that transparent, vulnerable state. I’m excited because I’m getting coaching from you and I’m part of Unshackled Business Owner and going through and really tying in these loose ends. I know I’m a dynamo. I know I’m a freaking rock star. I can do a global movement.
Having said that, to be able to have those extra pieces where you’re building and being the CEO, not only of your own company, but of your own life, and tying these pieces in so that you don’t have the anxiety and the angst and just really sharing up those pieces that naturally isn’t my strength, but being able to have that background, it’s invaluable to me. It’s a wonderful service.
Thank you so much. Thank you for saying that. That means a lot to me because one of the great pieces of my life are the people that I get to be friends with and I’m glad to get to count you as a friend. I’m so glad. For our audience, I encourage you, if you’re anywhere in Southern California, the main conference is at the 11th.
It’s the 10th and the 11th. It’s both days. We have a massive award ceremony that we’re doing, honoring some pretty phenomenal individuals, Gladys Knight, Spielberg’s mom is being honored to Don King. We’ve just got some pretty amazing things that are happening at the conference.
Great speakers, great people that are doing booths. There’s going to be cool stuff there. You’re going to be able to find, whether it’s main stage or breakouts, you’re going to find like-minded people. You’re going to find inspiration. You’re going to find new partnerships, new business opportunities. Here’s the point, go to the California Women’s Conference. She’s just given you a way to go get a free ticket if you hurry. The real big thing though is make sure you get out and you surround yourself with great people you meet and you ask for mentorship. This is how you’ll pay off. Go check out Women Network. Check out California Women’s Conference. Lookup Michelle Patterson, you’ll find her on YouTube and all kinds of other places.
Michelle, thanks for being here with me today. It’s been a fun hour, great conversation. Guys, go out and play a big game. Don’t play small. Don’t be afraid to take whatever your superpower is and make it a thing. Go out and play big in the world as big as your heart wants to play. That’s how you become an unshackled owner. Buh-bye.
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