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Dylan Gambardella & Justin Lafazan: One Brand Architect Away from Creating Momentum

Justin Lafazan and Dylan Gambardella believe that entrepreneurs can and should control their own destinies. That’s why in 2014 they started NextGen: to empower entrepreneurs to design the lives they want to live and achieve their purpose. They believe entrepreneurship is really, really hard and as Co-Founders and CEOs of their own lives, they know this all too well. But they are driven, driven to help entrepreneurs overcome the obstacles that get in the way. Their business helps energize entrepreneurs on their path to freedom and success.

The best part is they are just getting started. They are all about taking ownership of their journey, growing 1% each day, and chasing their dreams together with their fellow community. In this episode of the One Away Show, Justin and Dylan discuss how they would be lost without the help of brand architect Rich Keller. He helped them discover their one word which would allow them to propel their brand and mission.

Main Takeaways from Justin & Dylan:

  1. Your products have to communicate your brand in every aspect, in every fiber of their being.
  2. Community is not “either or. It’s a mode of relationship, an instilled value to treat everybody that you interact with as a member of a tribe, your community, because they are.
  3. Entrepreneurship is a personal growth vehicle. It’s a vehicle to level up as an individual and discover yourself.

Transcript:

BRYAN WISH: What is your One Away moment?

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: It really boils down to one man and what he was able to unlock for Justin and myself. That man’s name is Rich Keller, formerly known as the Catalyst who helps you score. For us, he was a catalyst in our tapping into our brand value and that journey was truly meaningful and has set us on a trajectory to discover what momentum means and how we can build a brand and a business that can accomplish every single one of our wildest dreams.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: This guy helped us accomplish our wildest dreams. That’s a pretty high bar to set up. Rich has catalyzed our vision by providing a vocabulary and a foundation upon which to focus our efforts and frame the empire we’re trying to build.

BRYAN WISH: What was NextGen like before you met Rich? Since meeting him, how has that picture changed?

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: Before meeting Rich, the process was us trying to do our best in what we thought was delivering our brand promise. What Rich provided was a direction. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, how can you shoot? How can you take a chance? How can you gamble? Rich really honed that in for us. Before Rich, one big difference I’ll point out is we never said the word momentum once. That wasn’t in my vocabulary. I think every third word out of our mouth today is momentum because Rich showed us what we’re providing, what NextGen HQ stands for, why we’re here as an entity in this world. Now that we’re aware of that, we can actively plan for that. Instead of many accidentally stumbling upon the momentum, we’re now engineering it from the start in everything we do.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: Pre-Rich, we innately understood, biologically understood, in a very primal way, what we’re doing, why it is special, why it is resonating with people. Now we’re able to communicate to that and to that clarity of being able to speak about a shared foundation has unlocked next level creativity and opportunities because we have a really crisp understanding of that foundation.

BRYAN WISH: How do you think Rich came up with the word momentum to represent your brand?

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: I don’t know if Rich wants this public but Dylan and I may be the only entrepreneurs who actually did not formally complete his workbook or program; probably because we were the first clients of all time. Rich basically showed us one day. He said, “Hey, I want to show you something I’ve been working on. I’ve been observing. I’ve not attended. I’ve participated. I’ve engaged for the last three months.

Here’s my thought. Here’s my thesis of what this all means.” Gave it to us and then we spent the next six months hopping on Zoom calls debating it, wrestling it, iterating on it, fighting it, accepting it, fighting it again, accepting it again until the point we felt really strong on that foundation. Rich just delivered it. He said, “Guys, I think it’s really obvious what you’re doing and I think it’s really obvious that you can’t speak to it as well.”

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: If you had asked us what our one word had been prior to meeting Rich, we probably would have said things like community, education, mentorship, resources. We didn’t realize what we were actually talking about. We were talking about some of the products perhaps, some of the pillars that we deliver momentum through but we didn’t understand that you don’t build a brand around your products in that sense.

It’s way deeper. Your products have to communicate your brand in every aspect, in every fiber of their being. Rich forced us to go back a layer and to Justin’s point, it took us 9 months; perhaps even a year plus. Every single day, we’re still finding ourselves. Rich talked about putting the boxing gloves on. That’s important. If we’re not asking questions and pushing back and questioning even the brand gurus advice, then for what point? To what end? Rich has been such an instrumental mentor to us because he forces us to think deeply about topics that prior to meeting him, we truly had not.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: The big thing about Rich and the conversation is if you go to him with a question, he doesn’t necessarily answer your question. He points you in the direction of the question you should be asking. So the question we may have gone to Rich with pre the experience, pre the catalyzation, was “How do we describe who we are?” Rich would probably say, “Don’t describe who you are. Describe what value you offer. Describe your vision for the world. Describe the enemy you’re fighting against.” He takes a question and repositions it so you can start to think about areas that you haven’t really thought of. The way I mentioned it to Rich before is you ask him a lyric of a song and he responds in a tune. He speaks a different language because of his real expertise in being able to position things.

BRYAN WISH: What do you think allows Rich to see 20 layers inward?

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: Creativity is something that’s thrown around a lot. A lot of people would describe themselves as creative but Rich is blank page creative. He can create a framework for thinking about something without anything before. He is not a rational, logical thinker where every dot he’s connecting and moving sequentially. He’s able to build zero to one, a new framework for thinking about things. That is the most dynamite, creative piece of all time. It’s starting with blank Excel, blank Google Docs. That’s a creative genius; someone who can take nothing but build a framework from your mind.

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: I think where that quality stems from relates back to Rich being so comfortable and confident in who he is and his ability to navigate these very serious and sometimes uncomfortable situations in conversations with ease and with a poise to him that allows him to thrive and be thinking in this creative space that has no canvas. There are no directions, in a lot of ways.

Yet, people are coming to him for direction, for answers. I think he’d admit to anybody that he doesn’t have a secret formula. Yeah, he has a program. That program is a set of guide rails if you will. They’re like the bumpers on a bowling lane. They’re not the end-all, be-all. They’re not an equation to the perfect life. That’s a system that may manifest in what you’re looking for when you came to him but it starts and ends with him navigating these uncertainties so well and that’s due to how he’s navigated his own personal life to date.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: He feels so deeply for the clients he’s working with and the projects he’s taking on. There’s no Rich Keller business and then Rich Keller guy. There’s no Rich Keller consultant and then Rich Keller father. He’s one man and is really well integrated. Impossible to scale.

BRYAN WISH: When he listens to this, he’s going to morph with tears. If you make him cry, you’re doing something right. What were the shifts that slowly started happening in the background and the boardroom with your team that allowed you to start making these subtle changes outwardly?

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: It was a long journey. There were moments when I would be on board with what Rich was saying and Justin was pushing back and then three weeks later, Justin would be on board and I’d be, “What the heck just happened?” That struggle, at the time, we didn’t enjoy it. No one enjoys being in a weird, uncomfortable position with their baby, their own business.

Looking back, without that struggle, we would not have a semblance, the clarity – not that we have full clarity, of the positioning that we’re currently coming from. Rich allowed us to start asking questions. Thinking about our absolutely inspiring director of community, Rachel Leigh Gross, when she is approaching a community member and talking about why you should join our online group or why you should come to a Next Gen summit event, now her responses can really be baked in something meaningful. That goes well beyond. “Oh, yeah, they’re great speakers. You’re going to meet a great entrepreneur. You’re going to network with them.”

That’s fantastic and there’s merit to that alone, but saying that we will energize you beyond belief and allow you to get closer to pursuing your wildest dreams, as an entrepreneur in life and business, that goes a lot further. I know how powerful that has been for us internally to just comprehend what we’re doing here.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: For me, I think it’s very freeing to now have that center because it allows us to explore new products, new services, new offerings but always have the quick litmus test of black or white, does this help us deliver upon our brand promise? Is this connected? A new product, if we’re thinking about who we are, well, this is not who we are and so we can’t introduce this new product. We’re kind of stuck doing the same things we’ve always done. The same media. The same type of events. The same products, same services.

If we know the brand promise we’re trying to deliver upon, it allows us to have a blank canvas and say, “What are the products we want to offer because what is the value we want to offer?” We’re shifting the conversation away from, “Here’s who we are” to “Here’s what we want to do.”

BRYAN WISH: Rich doesn’t just have the hindsight. He doesn’t just understand the genetic makeup and the DNA to bring this word. I think what he’s done is he has the foresight to see, “Okay, on this foundation, where can things go?” Which is what you’re saying. And Dylan, what you’re saying with Rachel, it’s like she knows how to describe what your brand represents and in such a powerful way. Because of that, it’s much easier to foster people to come into the community now because of the know what you guys represent beyond just education, resources, and mentorship. They realize where and how they belong within NextGen as a whole and you guys can relate to them much better.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: They literally hashtag it. It’s crazy. The Next Gen’ers are out here posting on LinkedIn, “I just crushed this job interview today. #momentum.” That is a sign. If they’re hashtagging it, they want to feel the momentum. It’s something, as entrepreneurs, we’re called to. It’s the ingredient that unlocks that pursuit.

BRYAN WISH: Because of this foundation and this one word, what has happened from a product perspective?

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: It is everything. Rich and this process have helped us realize that we are a momentum business, period. That’s what we do. Going back to the end of three months with Rich and even maybe the six months of that journey, we were still thinking about the momentum in the sense of how we engage our community members, how we help the audience, the entrepreneur. That is true but why stop there? We’re providing momentum to our brand partners as well.

When we go and meet the Capital One’s, the Dell’s of the world, who are looking to also energize entrepreneurs in a slightly different way perhaps but provide maybe more of the resources, we want to provide momentum to these partners too so we can help Capital One by getting maybe a great event off the ground, a momentous event, and give them the momentum they need to further their own goals as a business in engaging entrepreneurs.

It doesn’t have to be two different sides of the coin. It’s the same aspect in a new product, in a different product, but I think even that frame of thinking if that’s the last part of it; if it’s only about how we approach the situation, that is powerful. The second aspect is how we see momentum extending beyond simply what you might call your “work” or “business life” into the larger aspects of life.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: We originally thought that community was either our identity or our product but it is not either of those things. It’s a mode of relationship, a value that we have that we want to treat everybody that we interact with as a member of a tribe, our community because they are. Not because we have X thousand paying subscribers; that’s the community.

Not because we are a community, but because this is how we believe we should treat entrepreneurs because they’re part of our community movement. Shifting, breaking that community mold changes the game because now we’re not saying, “Hey, how do we help these X thousand people in our community?” Or “Hey, here’s how many X dollars you should charge to be in this community.” Rather it’s “What do we know are the problems and the obstacles that our community, our tribe, our movement faces?”

There are some big ones. You have no time. You have no money. Things are really hard. Things are really stressful. Am I crazy? Those are some of the common problems. Am I losing my mind, etc.? We now can be clear looking at those problems and say, “What solutions can we come up with?” We’re working on some really exciting investment into new products because we’re able to say, “Here are the problems we’re trying to solve,” not, “Here is the group of people we’re trying to monetize.”

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: You are engaging with huge personnel that are public figures all the way down to the new team member who maybe this is their first job out of college and you are trying to build a business that lasts, is growing, and all the good things that come with that. What does the word momentum mean to Bryan Wish?

BRYAN WISH: I think it’s continued energy and inspiration to keep on going. If we’re entrepreneurs, we all have this vision of where we’re trying to go. At times, it looks extremely dark and daunting and how the hell did I get there? I look at momentum as when I hit these kinds of forks or bumps in the road, I get kind of that gas to kind of keep going or vice versa, I’m doing a 180 or I’m on a really good trajectory.

We have all the pieces in motion and we need that next puzzle piece to lock right in. If we get that, we can fly. Momentum can serve polarities between getting through a momentum that is uncertain and scary and then a moment of oh my God, I can really fly now because I have the right pieces. I think it’s funny. When I think of what you guys stand for, that word makes a lot of sense. When I first came into the community, it was when I was doing Wish Dish. I was nervous as hell. I was scared. I had no idea what I was truly doing.

I met people like Case Kenny. It built really strong relationships but it was incredible to meet them when I was lost. When I took a step away from doing it on my own, I come into today where I think I have a little more experience of what to do and know how to do it. The momentum is served in a different way. When I look at what you guys represent and why this word is powerful, momentum can span across a spectrum of different archetypes of people and where they are in their journey. It’s not just for the young founder. It can be but it can also serve the person 2-4 years into their journey. They’re just at a different kind of life cycle of their roadmap. I think as Rich has helped you boil it down into one word to build off of, it’s going to speak volumes to more people in a very powerful way.

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: Mic drop. I appreciate that more than words can say. Momentum means something different for everybody but we all know what it feels like or we all know what it can do for us if we can just tap into that. How do we tap into that? When? Where? Why? That’s all unique case by case specific to the entrepreneur but we all, at some point in time, will look for that. If NextGen HQ can be a source, sign me up.

BRYAN WISH: How has it fundamentally changed you as individual and how you look at yourself and the direction of your own life independent of the business?

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: I was always frustrated by an inability to communicate how big I believed NextGen, not could be but was going to be. From literally day one, I knew it, but describing how this Facebook Group, event, newsletter, guys, what? What are you doing? I don’t see it. I had an inability to describe how the pieces fit together and where they were going. That was frustrating because I felt more alone in the vision of people who didn’t get it. They don’t at least get where we’re pointing at.

Where we were pointing, with the words that we were using. People had different ideas of where they thought we should or were going because of the vocabulary we were using. Whereas, today, with this vocabulary, I can point to that really crystal clear vision and people can see it because we’re talking about a shared framework. That allows me to share these experiences with team members, advisors, colleagues, friends because it’s more crisp on where we’re going. That shift has been game-changing for me. Rich’s shift has helped me re-fall in love with the business because I’m able to communicate what I know in my head but can now say out loud for others to latch onto.

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: I want to +1 everything Justin said. I just referenced earlier that Momentum is something that everybody can feel and that is a lot of what Justin explained. We all felt this. Justin and I knew. A core group also could feel that and say there’s something big here but no one could put their finger on it. I shouldn’t say anybody. Very few could put their finger on it. This has helped us to identify it ourselves and also given us the confidence to say, “If you don’t see it, that’s cool because we know what we’ve got here.” We’re going to keep doing it 1% at a time because that’s what it’s about.

BRYAN WISH: How do you see the future for momentum playing a role in the business and in your lives?

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: We are going to unroll some offerings. I’ll use that general, super vague term. We’re going to unroll some offerings that I think are going to blow people’s mind with the value it provides to your lifestyle as an entrepreneur. Game-changing for your lifestyle as an entrepreneur. Binary, black or white, make or break, with our offerings, your lifestyle will be changed in the game. That will only be possible because we’re targeting momentum in your lifestyle. We’re going to start unrolling new offerings at a really big level, but some people will say, “That’s super far from what you were doing,” but in fact, if you zoom out enough, it’s actually momentum put into an offering itself.

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: There’s no business over here on the left and life over here on the right. It’s not a balance to be struck. It’s a merger to be identified and run toward. For momentum, we’re not going to stop in ways that just your business theoretically might level up because we understand that if we want to level up your business, we should also be talking about how we level up your life because they are one in the same. That is something that Justin and I have come to in our own time through our own growth.

There’s this fantastic quote that was posted in a newsletter. Essentially, it boiled down to the idea that entrepreneurship is simply a personal growth vehicle. It’s a vehicle to level up as an individual and discover yourself. We help the whole, entire circuit, everything; what you do, where you do it, with whom, etc. We’re excited and are looking forward to reaching hopefully many more thousands of incredible entrepreneurs and leaders across the world.

JUSTIN LAFAZAN: James Clear, I don’t know the name of his newsletter – the quote being, “Entrepreneurship is a personal growth engine disguised as a business pursuit.”

BRYAN WISH: Where can we follow you, find you, subscribe to you, message you?

DYLAN GAMBARDELLA: If anybody enjoyed a tidbit, something that we shared, we’d love to get you involved in more of what we’re doing. Our website is nextgenhq.com. You can join our roundup which is the best way to stay in the loop with everything that we’ve got going on. We’ll be in your inbox once a week with the resources, the tools, the community, and mentors that you need to level up, and to keep in touch for what’s going on after that.

One Away Podcast
Leah Walsh

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