Sometimes we like to try a little something different with the podcast and today’s interview is a bit different than our standard. Preacher, coach and copywriter Les Hughes is our guest for the 156th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. We talked to Les about …..
• how awesome, giving and kind Kira is
• the path from preacher to business coach
• what he did to build his platform as he pivoted his “business”
• having the right mindset before you make a shift
• trusting the process (and mentors and a higher power)
• what he would have done differently—and faster—if he did it again
• the tactics that helped him move forward quickly
• what he does today and the success he has found
• what copywriters can do to build their own authority to serve their own clients
• why you need to create a success path for your clients
• how to get your clients to help you serve them more effectively
• the importance of humility
• how he helps his own clients thing more strategically
• Les’ writing process and what helps him improve his writing
• how to prepare for adversity (but hope for the best)
• the place service to others plays in a successful business
To hear it all, download this episode to your favorite podcast player or click the play button below. If you’re a reader, scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Stu McLaren Tribe
Joni Eareckson Tada (athlete, painter)
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Kira: What if you can hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for Episode 156 as we chat with preacher, business coach and strategist Les Hughes about his surprising career path, how we can think more strategically about our own businesses, what he does to help his clients transform their businesses and the power of volunteer work to change lives.
Kira: Welcome, Les.
Rob: Hey, Les.
Les: Thank you all both. Kira, great to talk with you again. Rob, great to talk with you as well. I really look forward to our conversation today.
Kira: It’s so great to hear your voice. We met in Ray Edward’s Mastermind last year and it was so great to meet you. I’m just happy to hang out with you for the next hour because it’s been a while since we’ve chatted. Let’s kick this off with your story, Les. How did you end up as a preacher, a pastor to pastors, a coach, a strategist to business leaders, a copywriter and many other things?
Les: I will do that and thank you for asking. Before I do, I’d like to share if I could take a point of peripheral privilege, so I’m going to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, okay? Kira, the people that know you are going to know what I’m going to say, but maybe new listeners or those that only listen to your podcast.
Kira: You’re making me nervous.
Les: Well, don’t be. It’s going to be good. Listen, it’s going to be a little uncomfortable for you, but that’s all right. I want your audience to know what a giving and servant-hearted person you are genuinely. I think that doesn’t come always across on your podcast because you’re also very professional and objective and friendly and all of that. You’re a very organized person, but I want the people that are listening this to know that you are one of the most giving, kind, empathetic people in this space that I’ve met. I just wanted to say that. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that, but I wanted you to know that.
Les: When we began our relationship in the mastermind group together, you were certainly further ahead than many of us in terms of your business. Boy, you came into that group with a servant’s heart and have been so helpful to me personally. Thank you for the things that you’ve done. Now-
Rob: It’s nice praise.
Les: I’ll be glad to tell the story.
Kira: Thank you, Les. That’s very kind of you.
Les: You’re welcome. I began sensing as a very young adult, actually probably a senior in high school, that there was something pulling on me. I realized later on it was someone and that was God. I just felt as if there was a sense of calling on my life to do something in terms of ministry. I had grown up in that environment. Both of my parents were faithful followers of Jesus. That was the environment that I was raised in. As I got to making those decisions on my own, it began to become my faith and not just my parents’ faith. I did not believe it first that that was going to be pastorate because by nature I’m a major introvert.
The pastors that I had had as I was growing up were larger-than-life figures. They were magnetic and charismatic and never seen like they met a stranger. That certainly wasn’t me. As I grew, I just realized that God had made me the way he made me for a reason and that I didn’t need to be anyone else. God had them. He made them. I just began to grow into that. I learned later on that going to that calling that is and then I learned later on that this concept of calling, it’s not only for people who are professional ministers, it can be for anyone. Where we get the word vocation from is actually voca. It’s Latin word that means to call.
Before we got in the modern era and make this distinction between the sacred and the secular, people had much more of a holistic view of the world as being sacred and whether someone was a carpenter or an artist or a pastor, it was all calling. That’s all where that all started. To put a transition point in a nutshell, about 2015, I came to the end of about a three-year fight. It was a struggle between leadership in a church that I served at the time. It really came to a hit. It came to point. All I’d really done in ministry life is pastor a local church, but it really got to a point in terms of knocking heads with some leadership in the direction that I was leading versus the direction that many of them, some of them wanted to go.
After that fight, it was just time for me to go. The best thing for me to do for especially my family, my wife and I, and the environment that we were in, it was just not healthy for us at that time. Though we weren’t angry at the ministry overall or certainly didn’t blame God, there were a few individuals that just caused us to reevaluate where we were, and we ended up leaving that local church. There I was trying to figure out what was going to be next. Even though I wasn’t an employee of a local church anymore, I still had this sense of calling on my life that had to do with teaching scripture in a very practical and relevant way for people to understand and life transformation and faith and people, just ministering to people and helping people put with life stuff. That didn’t change, though I wasn’t an employee of the church.
I began to look at other ways to have that kind of ministry that led me to many people in our space, especially years ago such as Michael Hyatt and others that talk about having a platform. I began to do a lot of homework and a lot of research and then tried somethings. I just began blogging and writing. I had published a book, so there was some in my background. Writing is really just another … It’s a manifestation of a teaching platform or a teaching ministry. Then doors just began to evolve and open up. We can go into some of those specifics as you all like, but that’s really what my transformation was like.
Although my wife and I still serve the local church and we love ministry, I’ve got sons now, adult sons that are also pastoring local churches. I want them and other pastors too to know that … Believe it or not, there are about 1,500 pastors of churches that are leaving their ministry every month. A lot of them don’t know what to do now. I’m trying to mentor and coach some of them as well as my own sons to say, ‘Maybe God’s desire for you, maybe His mission for you is more vast than only that one-local church setting.’ It certainly includes that, but that’s what I’m helping people do now, including my own sons.
My wife used to talk about just trusting God for our income and trusting God for our livelihood and we certainly do, but those people sometimes, that’s a little different story. I just saw that it was unwise to put all your eggs in one basket. This is the economy that we’re living in now, not only in ministry, but I think most vocations. It’s much more of a freelance economy where we’re the CEO of our own organization, so it’s really up to us.
Rob: Les, as you made that transition in your life from being a pastor of the church to the next step, will you talk through how you thought about the platform that you needed to build and the different things, I know you mentioned blogging and the writing that you were doing, but the other things that you did to start building your authority as you were building this platform to go after the next group of people that you could help?
Les: Sure, Rob. I think the hardest part was probably the mindset of all that because the inner as well as the outer voices, we like security and safety and the known. It’s a little fearful to go out there into the unknown, but I would say mine evolves of course with time. I’m a researcher. I love to study. I love to prepare and do the work of that as well as deliver it. What happen was I just got to a point in my life even before I left that particular ministry, that particular church, I just started to have this sense that I’ve been a consumer for all of my life and I’ve been that guy that didn’t see himself as an authority because I just want to be a lifetime learner.
I got to the point where I just started to understand that especially young men in ministry and young couples were coming, my wife and me and men were coming to me in ministry and asking me to help them, bring in certain maybe conflicts or dilemmas that they were facing or maybe they needed some help with a strategy to grow or to reach a certain group of people or to do mission strategy or something of that nature. I just started to realize, ‘Hey, I’m that guy now. I’ve consumed long enough and now I need to give more.’ It wasn’t like a switch just flipped in my mind, but it progressed over a short period of time where it started to happen organically, and I leaned into it instead of avoiding it.
Then some of it just comes with time and experience and some success. We’ve been in some really su\
ccessful growing ministries and people take notice of that. I don’t know if that answers part of your questions, but that’s how it happened to me personally.
Kira: Les, can you talk about the vocation economy? You mentioned having a calling. I know this is something that we had chatted about last time we had met, like having this one big calling feels so overwhelming to me. It puts pressure on you like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I have the right calling. What is my calling? Am I getting this right?’ How do you see the calling concept fitting into the vocation economy and the future of the vocation economy for all of us but especially in terms of copywriters and how they should approach their business and their growth as they think five years ahead and 10 years ahead?
Les: Well, I’ll try to answer that from two different perspective. From a faith perspective, part of it is taking … The Bible says, ‘We walk by faith not by sight.’ There are lots of characters in scripture that had this sense of calling in their life, some very prominent, some rather obscure. The one thing common in both of them and about all of them is that they never saw the complete picture ever really, certainly not early on. They were required to take just the next step that they did though. If you could picture being on a dark pathway at night and you got a flashlight that only shows a few feet of, say, a dim … or it might be your cellphone, then you can see far enough to take the next step, but you’re not going to be able to see all the way to your destination. That’s the walk of faith.
The good news about that is, man, a lot of this has to do with our concept of God, but He’s not cruel. He’s not trying to hide things from us or play games with us. He loves us, right? He wants us to be able to succeed, to glorify Him. When he had that concept of God, he’s not like playing some sort of shell game where you better pick the right one or you’re going to get it wrong, I think the longer I do, what we’re doing right now and more of this open freelance economy, I don’t know that it matters as much. Which one of those passions or callings you choose is that whatever you do, you go for it. Don’t look back and be persistent and coachable and teachable and get after it.
There’s no quick fix, but you see the people that are being successful in this world that we’re in they find a place where they can really be who they are and shine, be who God created them to be and then they just do not give up. There are a lot more components to it, but I think that’s a big part of it is … I’ve had people approach me quite often and say, ‘I just don’t want to get this wrong,’ ‘Can I pick the right thing?’ I remember having that mindset and I still do some days. It’s like, ‘Do I create this course or do I lean more into the membership? Do I look for some more coaching class or begin a group?’ There are a lot of possibilities, but I think once you make that decision to just see it through and I don’t know it’s more …
I’ve had coaches tell me this. We both know Ray Edwards and one of the things that Ray would say is, ‘Tell me what you want. Don’t worry about what you think everybody else wants. What do you really want?’ That’s a really great question. When you lean into that, it ought to be fun when you get up in the morning and thinking about doing it. You got to look forward to it. You have to not dread it. This life, it’s a journey, man. It’s not about just the destination we reach, it’s about the joy that we have in the journey and the lives we impact along the way. I want to enjoy this venture that we’re on. I think the way to do that is not to worry so much that we’re just picking the right thing. It’s just that once we lean into something, go for it.
You know what? We trust God or trust other people that we trust or our mentors or coaches to be honest with us if they think that we’re going down a path that’s not healthy for us. Does that make sense?
Rob: Yeah, I think it makes sense. As you discover the thing that you wanted most and started to lean into that, Les, where there marketing tactics or strategies that you use to connect with your ideal prospects and the people that you wanted to work with?
Les: Yes, man, there are so many, but there are some common factors to most of them that are tried and true and proven. I went the course route, so I invested in some platform resources especially early on that Michael Hyatt was doing. I invested in some of the TRIBE resources that Stu McLaren is doing. Actually, here’s what I would do. As I look back and the people that I’m coaching and asking about their next steps, I really wish that I would have … First of all I should have begun playing … I realized that you can play a bigger game instead of the small ball with blogging and some courses and writing materials that just only a few people were seeing.
As I look back, it was a great start. It was great way to learn, but I would have expedited this process if I would have just known the value of coming alongside that personal coach or a very small mastermind group of a live people that could answer real questions and share from their experience instead of, again I mentioned that by nature I’m an introvert, so there were some safety in those courses. I didn’t have to look at anybody in the eyes and be embarrassed by mistakes that I would make or just by not getting it or not understanding the terms that they were using.
Now, I’ve jumped so much by the people that I’ve been around in the last year or two and the personal coaches that I have had now is just amazing. I wish that I had done that sooner. You can’t go back, but if I were sharing this with anybody who’s new to this environment, this space that we’re in, I’d say find that person who’s got that life that you think that you really desire and then find as much as you can about them. We don’t just trust anybody with this part of our life, right? Then invest in that relationship. There are many strategies and tactics that will work, but man, that personal relationship with the person who’s been there is invaluable.
Kira: Les, I’d love to hear about what tactics or strategies beyond what you just shared which is really important, playing a bigger game, but what else has worked where you’re like, ‘Oh wow, this finally helped me. I was struggling, but now this really helped me move forward five steps’?
Les: One was for a long time I was trying to find a magic lead magnet that would just bring dozens and then hundreds or thousands-
Kira: Right, it’s magical.
Les: … at one time. Absolutely, if you find the lead magnet, that’s going to do it. There were some very successful people. The people that talk about the value of that lead magnet are not wrong. I mean it certainly is. I was thinking that there was a document or a PDF or a video course or something out there that would be the magic bullet, but here’s the thing that I found for me that worked. I just started thinking of a way that … The thing that people were responding to the most that I was doing, I try to leverage the best way that I could do it in a natural way, so it didn’t seem like, ‘Hey, you’re just looking for somebody’s email address.’ I’m going to go back to the value of the email in a few moments, but I started thinking about what I could do.
The thing if I were to give to list some kind of superpower, the thing that I feel more strongly about is taking the Bible and then for people who want to grow in this way to put it on a really low shelf, to take what can seem like a complicated collection of books and put around a very practical way for people to live out, who desire to live that faith-led life every day. That’s what it is. What I began to do was put out, it’s a daily devotion. It’s very short. It could be done in just a couple of minutes in single day for people that want to start their day off that way. It sounds like a really simple thing, but when I started to do that and when I would speak somewhere, I would mention, have a list in the back that people could sign.
After they would hear me speak or preach, they could sign up or they could go to my website and they didn’t know it’s called an opt in, but it’s an opt in to receive that. I get a lot of feedback from that. Now, I’ve got to either do it every day or batch some which is easy to do now with the automation we have and that goes out every day. In terms of building a tribe of loyal people and the marketing terms of warm audience, that’s as warm as it gets for me because the content that I produce, whether it be in coaching or in membership or courses or videos that I produce, it’s going to be a different deliverable of that same thing.
If somebody has already said, ‘I’m interested in that,’ then there’s a good chance they’re going to be interested in an, to use our language, upsell of that or a different version of that. Just practically and everyday terms, that’s been as big a catalyst as anything that I’ve done in terms of seeing success and people actually hitting the button to buy. That email list, it sounds a little bit cliché because so many people say it, but there’s a reason so many people say it and there’s a reason that they ask for it. As much as people depend upon social media and other outlets, they have their place as well.
Even those social media platforms, there’s a reason they ask for your email address first. You own that and anything else can be switched up. That’s permission that they’ve given you to be in their life and I just think that’s huge.
Rob: For sure. Les, tell us a little bit about your business today. Who is it that you serve? What is it that you help them do in some of the success that your clients are seeing?
Les: Primarily, I help pastors and other leaders, especially Christian leaders make wise decisions in order to achieve their personal and professional goals. That includes whatever life mission they feel like is theirs, I want to help them achieve that. Especially in scripture, again this is my world, we’ve got these 66 books that have literally the wisdom of the ages in them. There are a lot of people who believe so strongly in those principles, but it’s like, ‘Okay, well, how does affect the decisions that I make each day?’ I’ve also been in the marketplace when I left the local pastorate a couple of years ago, I began working in corporate America, some, in a company that was starting a network of Christian entrepreneurs and business leaders, nationwide network. I learned a lot about corporate world as well.
We’re back to the language of calling again, but people in the faith community and even outside the faith community more and more are having this sense of, ‘I want to outlive my life. I want to invest in something. I want to be a part of something bigger than I am.’ That’s what I’m helping people do as well as like I mentioned the 1,500 or so pastors and ministers that are leaving ministry every month. I want to come alongside of them and say, ‘Hey, man, you don’t have to be an employee of a church to fulfill this sense of calling you have on your life. I’ll just show you my own experience. Let me coach you some and I’ll show you what it means to have a platform and to use the tools that we have at our disposal to build an audience and build a tribe and then serve people in that way.’
I have a PhD, so I know a little bit about walking through the doctoral process. There are a lot of ministers that go on and get their doctorates, so I also coach students in their doctoral work. They can have outside input. I help them reach their goals as well.
Rob: We might have a few people in our audience that are thinking about doing a ministry, but most of our audience is obviously copywriters and people that are looking to serve their clients in unique ways. How can they take some of those ideas that you’re teaching? Maybe a better question is, what are things that they should be doing to build their own authority, to make it possible for those kinds of relationships to flourish so that they can actually serve their clients the way they want to?
Les: Well, the first thing is to know those people and really get inside their heads and know what pain points there are. People are very, very unique and this is just something coming out of the pastorate that I’ve learned and that is that people themselves are very, very unique, but pain is universal. I began this journey thinking more about products that people might want, studies on certain whether it be Bible books or leadership principles or something like that, they want outcomes and people want results. I want results too. Man, I think if you focus where people really are hurt or what problem can we solve, that’s what people end up hiring folks for.
In this space, we bring in a sense of we’re all copywriters whether we put that on our website or our business cards or not. We write copy. I would say for anybody is especially in the copywriting world, man, get in that tribe. Start building that network of people you know, love and trust and then just produce some content and get after it. What I see a lot of people are doing now is and what I’ve tried to develop now, Kira and Rob, I’d say in the last six months, this has been fairly new for me and that is to come up with not just products that are unrelated to one another, but an actual success path and a framework because people want a system. We just naturally want the path of least resistance. If you want to go from point A to point B, the best way to do it is not just to get in the car and take off but to really have a way to get there.
I think if you want to become an authority in the niche depending upon where in North America you’re from, if you want to come up or if you want to be an authority, then you need to come up with a framework that is yours. It could be tweaked and modified and elements borrowed from somewhere else, but when it’s all said and done, it needs to be something that you can put your name on and that you can own and then share with others. A framework, a success path, a strategy, whatever form that’s in, whether it’s book form or videos or podcast or whatever that is, it’s just about doing your homework, knowing your audience and then taking them from where they are to where they want to be.
Kira: I love frameworks as we had Mel Abraham on our show. Rob, you probably know the podcast number for Mel Abraham but-
Rob: We will post it in the show note so that people can look at that if they want to.
Kira: You always know them. We love talking about frameworks, but I also love the idea of the success path and it’s so relevant. It’s relevant for what you do with memberships and courses, but for copywriters who are working with clients on an individual basis, it’s also relevant because clients come to us and they have one big problem or a lot of little problems and they’re looking to us as a service provider to take them on a path to success and show them what it looks like. Sometimes, that’s one month. Sometimes, that’s one day. Sometimes, that’s a year or two, but I think I haven’t really thought of my copywriting service in terms of, ‘Oh, I need to create a success path for my clients.’ I’ve thought about it in terms of our membership, but it’s a really great outlook and perspective, so I appreciate that.
Les: You know what? Could I just add one more thing, Kira, about that? I would say to serve your client. If you’re listening to this and you’re a copywriter, early on when I was beginning to work with copywriters, I wasn’t giving them enough. I thought I was, but I really wasn’t. I just wasn’t giving them enough. If you’re in that world and you’re especially starting a relationship with a new client, they may get a little frustrated with you, but don’t be afraid to ask deeper questions if they’re not giving you what you need to really serve them. I just didn’t know I wasn’t. I know now, but I just wasn’t giving them. I felt like the things that I said made sense and that they would get it because I got it, but they couldn’t read my mind.
I still had really good experiences with the copywriters that I partnered with, but I just realized now I could have given them so much more to make their job a whole lot easier and make the process better. I felt like I needed to share that with your listeners too.
Kira: All right, as a follow-up, I’ll see if this question comes out right. It’s muddled in my mind, but I know you and I had talked about different leaders in the online marketing space and we had thrown out some names and what they were doing really well. I don’t know if you’re comfortable sharing their names, but we spoke highly of them. I know you’re such a student in this online marketing space and you have taken courses and you observe and see what’s working and not working along with your own coaching that you have in your business. I guess my question is, what have you noticed really sets apart the leaders in the online marketing space from the more so average online marketers in the space that we’re all in?
Les: Well, I’ll mention two that seems at least for me they seem to get me and get my world. Even though we’re very, very different, I trust them. To me, so much of it, Kira, is based on trust. If you don’t trust someone, you’re not going to follow them. People follow who they trust even if they’re different. One of those individuals would be Ray Edwards. That’s where I met you in Ray’s mastermind group. Ray and I in many ways are very different, but the reason that I contacted him to begin with is that I mentioned enrolling and investing in the TRIBE Course that Stu McLaren taught.
Les: In terms of principle, I want to share that because earlier on, I just had a hard time investing especially then what was major money for me. We can’t ask someone else, namely those that we serve, our clients. We can’t expect them to do things we’re not willing to do. We’re asking them sometimes to make an investment in their personal growth or in their business. If they were turn around and say, ‘Well, are you?’ We’d better be able to say, ‘Absolutely,’ a lot because we believe in it so much. That’s where I heard Ray mentioned by Stu McLaren in the TRIBE environment and probably the groups or chats or something because Ray shared my faith as a Christian.
I just began to listen to him and follow him, listen to his podcast on. What he was saying resonated with me in terms of having that life mission and not compartmentalizing your life and saying, ‘Well, I’ve got my vocation here. Then I’ve got church or ministry over here.’ Our life is our life. It’s all mixed together. That was huge for me. When I got in that group and began to really see what was going on, I didn’t know who Ray Edwards was at the beginning. I know now he’s one of the most prolific copywriters in the world, but I didn’t know that at the time.
For me, it was a significant almost crazy investment to get into that mastermind group with Ray and the other folks that were in there, but here’s bottom line of why I’m sharing that. Some people believe that Ray’s superpower is his copywriting. Granted, man, he’s a good one. When people are struggling with the right phrase or the right word, he just seems to know how to nail it. When you hear him say, it is like, ‘Oh, man. Why didn’t I think of that?’ His titles are good. His content is good, but that’s really not Ray’s superpower. In my opinion at least, Ray’s superpower is empathy. He listens to people. He reads between the lines. He sees the body language, the facial expressions I suppose.
When they speak, man, he really focuses in on what they’re saying and then he has a way of giving that solution phrase. Whatever deliverable it is, it’s answering. It’s doing it from the standpoint as if that person had the ability to answer that question on their own, that’s how he’d answer it. I think that to me was huge to see how Ray … It comes from a genuine love for people and wanting to serve them. Then also seeing some of the physical adversity that he goes though in dealing with his Parkinson’s diagnosis. I think of the advantages that most people have physically compared to the challenges that he faces and I don’t see how anybody could quit if they just see some of the things that he faces.
The second person that’s been really helpful to me is Dan Miller. They’re very different. Ray lives out in the Northwest. Dan lives just outside of Nashville and Franklin. They’re very different, but they both have that same empathy toward people. They care about people. They’re giving. They serve others. That’s what it’s all about to me. I hope that gets to your question, but those are the ones and even the ones that I don’t know personally but just watch from a distance, they’re serving their people. There’s a level of confidence also, Kira and Rob, that come with the more that you do it.
It’s a subtle unspoken thing, but people notice that. We want to be around people, not people that are arrogant, but they have a confident humility about them. You know what I mean? They just have a confident humility and I would say that about those individuals.
Rob: When I think about myself, I have a lot to be humble about, but I should probably be more humble than what I am. I’m curious, Les, as you work with your clients and help them make their own transitions in life, are there things that you teach them or that you do to help them think more strategically that we can take in to our own businesses and think differently about the things that we’re doing or the places that we want to move our business into?
Les: Yes. Let me share with you what’s just on the top of my mind and if we want to dig any deeper, we can. I think the book, The one thing was very helpful to me. I know how important it is to focus, but to me that question, I’m going to paraphrase the question, but the gist of it is, ‘What one thing can I do or one step can I take or one thing can I do next that by doing it will make everything else easier or unnecessary?’ There are so many possibilities in this space that we’re in. You can go in so many different directions, but the day that I started to … This is what I felt my clients do, ‘Tell me what it is that you really and truly want. What do you want most or what do you want to happen next? Let’s talk about not that, but let’s about what next step can you get you closer to that.’
For me, it was doing the work of starting to crank out that devotion every day and slowly then, that word started to get out and that tribe started to grow. I’ve tried other lead magnets and other ideas, but nothing has clicked with the folks that I’m trying to serve like that has, but that’s just the next thing. There’s been some courses that I’ve done, some conversations that I’ve had. I’ll give you an example. One of my goals is to have a couple of coaching, like mastery level of coaching or mentoring groups of pastors by the end of this year. I could start spraying emails and putting it on Facebook or podcasting.
There will be a place for all of that, but the thing that I’ve done first is pick up the phone and start talking to individuals I know to see if they or anyone that they know would be interested in being in a group like that and what we’ve accomplished. You know something? The easiest thing that we do to get that word out is also the easiest thing that they can say no to. For example, email or a mass text or a social medial platform of some kind, that’s easy to do. It’s also easy to say no to. It’s harder to pick up the phone or to get on the Zoom call and ask somebody personally, but that’s also harder to say no to. As far as the strategy or helping my clients, we focus a lot on just next steps to get that win under their belt and that helps create some momentum for the end goal.
Kira: Let’s talk about copywriting. You don’t really necessarily introduce yourself as a copy writer or at least you haven’t when I hung out with you, but you write daily emails, weekly emails, content for your courses. You write a lot. Can you just talk a little bit about your writing process if you have a step-by-step writing process or even just what’s helped you improve your writing over time? What’s been really useful to you?
Les: The most useful thing for me in the kind of writing that I do is I’m big on narrative and stories. Innately, I think most people are wired to listen to stories, to be focused in on stories. There’s a lot of reasons for that. My ultimate mentor is Jesus and he was a master storyteller. There are some things that I’ve done to become better at storytelling. Writing is just a different form of telling a story. Early on and I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time, Kira, but what I began to do is I was just intrigued by really good storytellers. I would listen to them, whether it goes back to somebody for old school people like a Garrison Keller or somebody more modern like a Donald Miller or someone like that in our year.
There are some people out there that are just great storyteller, the motivational speakers that a lot of people in our world, in our space listen to, whether it be Jim Rohn or Zig Ziglar or some of the others. They are great storytellers. Yeah, there’s something to that. There’s no reason to reinvent that. It goes back too far. It’s ancient. The African American culture is I think overall much better at this probably than those of us that grew up in more of an Anglo culture because that’s how they handed down a good bit of their history. African American pastors for the most part are known for having this way about them that they just start telling these, whether it be in a biblical story or more of a historical narrative, they’ll just draw you into that.
One of the reasons is for a long time that’s how they actually handed down their history is through in a storytelling way. I began to listen to people who are really good storytellers. I think that comes across in my writing. I want to be conversational. I want to be like sitting down and having a cup of coffee with me and that’s one of my goals. I got a principle or a teaching from scripture that I want to share, but I’ll start with a story. It ends up being a problem or a pain point and then go to the biblical application of that. I really don’t want it to sound like preachy. I want to be more like I’m coming alongside of someone and put my arm across their shoulders and talking to them.
Again, there’s a balance to that because they are looking to me for an authority. They don’t want just to say, ‘What do you think?’ There’s a balance there too, but I think it’s just another way to tell a story and that’s the way I look at it.
Rob: Les, what are the things that you’ve struggled with as you made this career change and built this different business? What are things that haven’t really gone well?
Les: First is mindset, believing that it’s possible, but just because it’s still not … What I mean by it is that the whole having our own business, our own platform, our own tribe, it’s still not conventional. One of the hardest things about it is even to try to tell your close friends and family members what you’re doing. They’re like, ‘Wait, are you just hanging out of the house all day?’ That you’re really working. Here’s the thing that I’ve had just come to realize is that they just need to see it more. You’re not going to be able to convince them. Our brains aren’t really wired that way yet. Most people still think hours for many or tasks for money, but I’d say the hardest part of it is to try to get people to understand.
Then the mindset part of just even to think that it’s possible. That’s again the importance of having the people around you that are being successful in it. Then you say, ‘I can do this. This is possible,’ and to find that tribe that you want to serve and lean into that and not try to do it all.
Kira: As a follow-up to that question, Les, I remember we were chatting I think at the last meeting about really getting knocked down and just wiped out with the tragedy or just some life event that just takes you out and takes a while to recover from. I think I had told the group, I was like, ‘Well, I haven’t had anything. Luckily, I’m grateful I haven’t had anything really awful that happened to me recently.’ I think you are the one, you were just like, ‘Yeah, we’ll just wait. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen soon. Be ready for it.’ We all have that time when something happens and knocks us down.
How do you approach it? How do you recommend we approach it as business owners so we can continue to grow as business owners and not allow that to just take us out of the business game or even just take us out of our day-to-day lives?
Les: That’s a great question and I wasn’t hoping that on you either by the way, Kira.
Kira: I know you weren’t. I think you weren’t the only one who said it. I think the whole just looked at me and they’re like, ‘Oh, you think nothing bad has happened to you yet, just wait.’
Rob: Knock on wood.
Les: May it never. I hope it never does. We live in a world though that does have a lot of pain. Just on the side, this is one of the reasons that I do love doing what I do because I have a message of hope and forgiveness and redemption. I would say the answer to your question is it really depends on the kind of adversity it is because some of it is just because we live in the world that we live in and there’s stuff. The analogy that I used that helped me with you was this. I used to think that life was like a rollercoaster and had its ups and downs and some days are great and some seasons are great and some years may be great, but then there’s going to be other times that we’re discouraged. In extreme case, we’re depressed.
Sometimes there are physical adversity that we go through. Sometimes it’s personal adversity. A family member of type, a wife or a husband may be abandoned by their spouse. There’s abuse sometimes that happened. There’s a wide range. Here’s what would help me to deal with some adversity. That is to realize that life is not more like a rollercoaster with ups and downs. It’s more like parallel train tracks so that no matter how many good things are going on, there’s something, I mean if somebody is a pessimist, there’s something that is either bad or could at least be better. It’s that stuff is going on, if you look far enough, there’s something out there even on a good day.
There are pessimistic people that even on a good day just look at the bad side of things, but the flip side of that is also true Kira and that is no matter how much adversity that we’re going through or no matter how much pain that there is, if we look closely enough, there is so some blessing, there is some good. Somebody still loves us. Somebody still cares about us. We have a place to live most of the time. There’s food to eat. There are somethings that are going on that are good no matter how much adversity there is. Really before our call I thought about whether to share this. Since you asked the question in that way, I’m going too.
My home is in Alabama. Currently, I’m with my family in Kentucky. I’m from Louisville originally. We might have talked some about this in our meetings, but my dad has been battling cancer, a hard fight for the last several years and long story short, this past Monday, he went to be with the Lord. He passed away on Monday. I’m going to actually be doing the eulogy and the message and all for his funeral. It’s Thursday now. That’s going to be Saturday. My dad was an amazing man, but as far as personally I don’t know of anybody personally who’s gone through more adversity than he has in the last few years.
Because of what we believe about the hope that we have in Christ, we certainly believe that he is in the presence of the Lord today. He’s certainly not suffering anymore. He’s not in pain anymore. My mom, who was his primary caregiver, that such a burden, such a weight was on her that that’s over now. There are other burdens for a while, but that part, the hardest part is over. We’re here and we’re going through this process. We’re grieving in our own way, but certainly not as those who have no hope. At the same time, there’s this sweetness really. The love that our family is experiencing right now, we’re scattered, we don’t see each other very much, we’ve been together this week and we’ve told these crazy stories about dad.
We’ve laughed and we’ve cried and we’ve even seen some transformation take place in some people that had been dealing with some internal stuff. Man, if my dad were here with us in the home and seeing these things, he would be full of such joy to see that even his leaving this world has brought about such good things in the face of what a lot people would say is tragedy. I think to see the reality of there is a lot of pain and adversity in the world and a lot of that we cannot control, but here’s the thing, Kira and Rob, we can absolutely control how we respond to that pain and adversity.
There’s a Christian author named Joni Eareckson Tada who was a world-class athlete and was injured and paralyzed in a diving accident several years ago when she was a young adult. She is a quadriplegic. She’s an artist, so she paints by putting the end of a paintbrush in her mouth, beautiful paintings and she paints on that canvas in that way. She communicates in other ways electronically and all that. She’s full of just joy, genuine joy and here’s what she says, ‘In our world, pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.’
Rob: That’s a powerful concept. I want to ask one last question, Les, and it ties into a little bit of what you’re talking about here and that is about volunteering and spending your time serving others which I know has been a big part of what you believe in and the things that you do. Can you just in a minute or two tell us why that’s so important and the impact of that can have on not just our personal lives but on our businesses as well?
Les: Absolutely. First of all, for me personally, it’s important because of what the Lord Jesus said about serving others. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. In the Last Supper and ironically while some of His disciples were arguing among themselves about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom, He took the role of a servant and He got up from his place. He took a basin of water and began to wash their feet. Then He said, ‘I want you all to do for one another what I’m doing for you.’ He wasn’t talking about really washing one another’s feet. It’s about serving each other. Personally, that’s the motivator for me. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, it’s a value to this world to serve other people.
I’m so thankful that we are living in a time where it just seems as if more and more people are looking for ways to outlive their own life, whether that be to go to a place in Africa and help provide a well and drinking water for children there or helping to build an orphanage, aids orphans in a part of the world or helping provide medication or education in a part of the world that struggles or going and serving in a place. My children are serving in other places around the world as workers and learning different languages in order to do that. I grew up in a generation that we were referred to as The Me Generation, but I’m so grateful to see a generation of people who want to really serve that are impacting the world right now.
Even whether you’re in a faith community or not, we want to leave an impact on this world. We want something to be here bigger than ourselves after we’re gone. I think that’s a great way to do it.
Kira: Well, Les, I know we are at the end of our time together. It’s just been really wonderful to hear from you and receive all your advice and stories about your father and family too. Thank you so much for being here. Where can our listeners go if they want to just check you out, see what you’re creating in the world and get a closer look at what you’re putting out there?
Les: Sure, thank you. The best places to go would be leshughes.com. Just L-E-S-H-U-G-H-E-S, dot com. That’s where all this stuff goes. For the leadership and coaching in business world, kingdomboardroom.com is that place. Even if you go to leshughes.com, you can get there eventually, so leshughes.com, kingdomboardroom.com. That’s where everything is.
Rob: Awesome. Thanks Les for your time. We appreciate your experiences and your advice and the time that you spent sharing them with us.
Les: Thank you all so much. Great talking with you. I hope you both have a great and successful year, okay?
Kira: Thanks, Les.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the world by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving your review. For show notes, the full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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