January 25, 2023

The StorySeller Adventures: Gibran Nicholas

My next guest is a business coach, entrepreneur, and CEO. He’s here to talk about his new book and how we can learn to stay focused, stand out amongst competitors and grow our businesses through the understanding of the nine human archetypes.

Welcomed back to the Author Hour Podcast. I’m your host Hussein Al-Baiaty and my next guest is Gibran Nicholas. He’s here to talk about this new book, The Story Seller Adventures. Let’s get into it.

Hello everyone and welcome back to the show. I’m here with my good friend, Gibran. I feel like he’s a long-lost brother, he is from the Middle East, and I’m really excited to kind of have on the show. Gibran, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate you coming on.

Gibran Nicholas: Well thanks, Hussein, I’m excited to be with you and share some awesome concepts with the listeners.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I got really excited flipping through your book the last I would say, 12, 15 hours or so when I opened it up and I got really excited because it’s not your typical entrepreneurship type of book, you know, where you really lay out a structure. You know, it’s actually very story-driven, which I loved a lot and then the other part of the book is more like a step-by-step guide, which again made me want to learn about the adventure I just went through but I’m going to leave all that talking to you.

The book is called, The Story Seller Adventures, and I’m really excited because you have a very unique story from your upbringing, all the way into entrepreneurship but I want to give our audience sort of an idea of who you are, where you actually grew up your background and how you fell into entrepreneurship. Can we start by that?

Making a Mark in the World

Gibran Nicholas: Yeah, absolutely. You know, my background has come from a family of entrepreneurs, family business, right? So my mom was born in Lebanon and she immigrated here to the states in the 1970s or in the civil war and then my dad is third-generation Lebanese. So his grandfather came from overseas and so I was born and raised here in the States but all my extended family, they all owned businesses, restaurants.

You know, my dad grew up in the restaurant business and then when he was raising us, it was always about how do you make a mark in the world through business and so that was my upbringing is really around entrepreneurs and when I started out in business, it was really when I was 16 years old, working in my family’s business and it was an air duct cleaning business. So we would you know, go into people’s houses and clean their… the duct work in their homes and give them fresh air to breathe and so that was the business we were in at the time and I didn’t really care for it all that much.

You know, I was getting dirty and you know, I’m more of like, I don’t like to get dirty, I’m a clean freak. So you know, when I was 20, I started my own business and it was a financial business. It was a mortgage company and I always enjoyed monopoly growing up and one of the friends of our family said, “Well hey, you like monopoly, you should try going in the mortgage business.” So I said, “Yeah, why not?”

So, when I was 20, I just decided to go in the mortgage business and I didn’t have any experience at all. I didn’t really know what I was doing I didn’t have a clue but I figured I just learn along the way and so that’s what I did. I just, you know, felt my way through it and made a lot of mistakes and that also is a family business. So I kind of wrangled my sister in, she was 18 years old, I was 20 and we grew the business together over the years and became very successful and then when I was 25, I started teaching other people in the mortgage business how to do some of the things that I was doing uniquely.

I ended up building a niche working with financial planners and getting a lot of referrals from financial advisors, which was unique at the time because most loan officers and mortgage people, they get their referral business from real estate agents and so it’s all real estate focused, not so much financial focused but my focus was different. I went in a different direction and I achieved a lot of success doing that and then at the height of my career, you know, I became a millionaire at 25 years old and was doing great, and then, the market crashed and the housing market collapsed.

While it was collapsing, some of my business partnerships also collapsed, some of my family relationships, and some of my external business relationships and it really was a very devastating time for me both personally and professionally. I was 27 years old and I lost everything that I loved, that I had spent my life building, all the relationships, all the business, all the money, it just kind of evaporated and so it was a trying experience for me and I sort of questioned my identity.

You know, my identity was tied in the business and you know, when the business collapsed, I thought that my life was over. It might have, here I am, 27 years old, I got my whole life ahead of me but I’m thinking, my life is over. My beset years are behind me and so I began reading a lot. I’ve always been a great reader, I love to read. I read a lot of different books, and one of the books I read was Joseph Campbell wrote a book called, The Hero With a Thousand Faces and it’s about the hero’s journey and that’s his concept.

His book, you know, he was a professor of comparative relation back in the1960s and 70s and he studied the similarities and all the ways that human beings would tell stories from the beginning of time until now. You know, whether you told stories in the Christian tradition or in the Buddhist tradition or in the Muslim tradition, whatever, you know, religion you are, whatever kind of experience you have with storytelling it all follows a very similar pattern.

And the pattern is this: You know, there’s a hero in the story and the hero sets out on this adventure and encounters all sorts of villains and monsters and obstacles and then somehow is able to overcome these villains and musters and obstacles and is helped along the way by these useful guides that the hero meets throughout the journey and then at the very end of the story, typically, the hero undergoes the biggest trial of all.

He emerges successful from that trial and because of the way that the hero has concurred the villain or achieved success, they then go on to tell their story to the rest of the world in a way that benefits people and so the story becomes not just so much about the hero but what can we learn from the hero and his or her adventures and so in the Christian tradition, you’ve got the story of Christ and how he goes on his journey.

At the end, he gets crucified and then he gets, you know, resurrected from the dead and goes on to benefit the rest of the world. There will be no Christianity if wasn’t for the death and resurrection of Christ and same thing with the Buddhist tradition. You’ve got the Buddha who you know, is you know, questioning, you know, reality, questioning life, what is the meaning of life and ends up meditating under this tree for quite some time and finally discovers, it comes to him.

The discovery comes to him, he becomes enlightened and then goes on to tell the story to the rest of the world and when I learned about that, I realized that my story is not all that unique. I mean, everyone, you grow up, you think, gosh, you’re so special, your story is unique, you’re the only one in the world who has experienced these things but that’s not true. Like, whatever I experienced has been experienced by people for thousands of years. I’m not the only one who has experienced this.

And so if I want to, you know, learn how to overcome whatever the challenge is, the best way for me to do that is to kind of look to my history. Look to the people, the men and women before me who have experienced all these trials and tribulations, what did they do? How did they handle their tragedies and then how did they emerge successfully from that? And that really gave me sort of self-confidence to pick up the pieces of my broken life and start again.

So that’s what I did. I spent the next decade rebuilding my life and my career and regained a lot of the success that I had lost. In fact, became even more successful than I was in the beginning and not only that but learned a lot. I learned a tremendous amount of things and so that’s really what the book is about. It’s about how I share my experiences through the lens of nine different archetypes.

So in storytelling, an archetype is a character or a theme or a place that has similar elements or similar themes. So for instance, the warrior archetype is somebody who is always fighting. Like when you’re in fighter mode, you’re a warrior, you’re meeting the warrior archetype and whenever you’re dealing with a client who is resistant to you. They don’t want to follow your advice or they think your price is too high, they’re trying to deal you down.

They’re fighting with you, they’re a warrior archetype. So how do you deal with that and that’s what the book is about, when you’re dealing with these different archetypes, warrior. When you’re dealing with the explorer. An explorer who is somebody who is, you know, price shopping. They’re just kind of looking around, they don’t want to commit. They’re non-committal and so, when you’re dealing with a client like an explorer, how do you convert them to do business with you and how do you help them on their journey?

Or a ruler client, it’s like enterprise sales. If you’re an enterprise sales or you’re dealing with executives, these ruler archetypes, you know, they’re a very busy. They just want like, bottom-line results. You’ve got to communicate with them in executive summaries and bullet points and don’t use flower language and so that’s really what the book is about.

It’s sort of my own life story and business story, written in allegory format and then, how I meet these various archetypes, and then, the very end, I sort of break it down, step-by-step when you meet these types of people, this is how you want to communicate with them and build that relationship. So that’s kind of in a nutshell, what the book’s all about.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah man, it’s so powerful. I mean, the book goes in extreme detail too. Not only sharing your stories and you know, kind of navigating these waters but also, how you came to these realizations, which is like, you know, again, the hero’s journey of coming up against these challenges, and I feel like it’s unavoidable, right?

Like, as human beings, the more you avoid your own hero’s journey, I feel like your own story, your own unravelling, the more painful it is. I feel like, the more you go and seek out these challenges and seek out the growth, internal or external growth, you are met with those challenges that then propel you forward and really unravelling what you are confident at and what you become an expert at, which then you become a leader in.

So what happens though, after you sort of come out of this climb a little bit, you kind of refocused, regained some momentum, you know, you start rebuilding things, did you go back into the mortgage world or did you start another type of business? What was your goal there?

Life After the Mortgage World

Gibran Nicholas: I appreciate the question. Yeah, so what I’ve done over the years is I’ve been involved in various different businesses and you know, I never went back into the mortgage business as a loan officer but I became a sales trainer. So I started teaching other loan officers how to grow their businesses and I’ve had over 10,000 people graduate from my sales training, whether it’s in the real estate business or the financial business.

Then a lot of our clients were looking for software to support them over the years and so we got into the software business. I started a CRM company, customer relationship management software and achieved a tremendous amount of success there as well but then also, again, whatever business venture you’re in, you’re going to have ups and downs and so I experienced ups and downs in all my business ventures.

So part of the story is how instead of trying to do what you think the market wants you to do, the best approach I found is to find out what your personal calling is. You know, what is it that you were put on this earth to do? And when I realized that, I got out of a lot of the businesses that I was in. So when I got into the CRM business, I achieved some success with it but I really wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t made to be in the CRM business. You know, maybe if you’re Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, I mean, that guy was made for that business and you know, he‘s living his story in the way he was supposed to do it, in is authentic way. But with me, you know, that kind of a business just wasn’t, like the software technology business isn’t something that I was put on this earth to do.

I was more or less put on this earth to help to inspire people and to, you know, talk to people and have conversations with them and really be a salesman and that’s what I decided to go back to doing and so I exited some of the businesses and forged new relationships and let go of other relationships and the book sort of shares how I went through the process of discovering what my… I call it, your UAWS, unique, authentic winning story.

A lot of times, in business, you find that you know, you’re going down this road and one thing leads to another and you end up in a place where you never really set out to be in the beginning and you’re all burned out and that’s kind of what happened to me is I went on this journey and rebuilt my business and achieved some success but then I realized, I was burned out. I wasn’t, you know, happy.

I was just you know, dreading the next day and I was married to a gorgeous wife, and three beautiful children, I had a great life, you know, you’d think you’d be extremely happy in that sort of life but for me, you know, I just was doing something in my day-to-day work that really wasn’t making me happy. So what happened was, during the pandemic, I think like a lot of people, I started rethinking my life and I turned 40 at the same time.

So 2020 I turned 40 years old and the pandemic hit and so all these things converge at the same time and I sort of went through this mid-life crisis if you will, to discover, like, “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life, what I’m doing now or do I want to make a change?” and so I decided to make a change and I went in a different direction in my businesses and found that I was a lot happier as a result.

It took me a little bit of time, you know, 18, you can’t, you can’t just all of a sudden, wake up one day and say, “I’m not going to be in this business anymore.” You got to plan for it because you have clients that are counting on you. So it took me some time to exit some of the businesses and to have, you know, those much-needed conversations with the clients and helped them find alternatives to the software that they were using and it took me about 18 months to fully exit some of those businesses.

But at the end of the day, I’m finding that my stress level is a lot lower than it was in the past and I’m a lot happier and more energetic than I was in the past and it’s all due to this concept that I share in the book of story selling. You know, what is the story that the most important story that you tell is the one you tell yourself? So when you wake up in the morning, you know, you’re telling yourself a story about what you’re doing and what you have to do and why you have to do it.

So if you can change that story around, then you can literally change your life and so if you can sell yourself a version of yourself that’s better than the life you’re living now, then all you got to do is go out there and implement that vision and if you have the right steps to do it, and that’s really what the book is helping people to do. It’s really to discover, you know, what is it that you were put in this earth to do from a business and work standpoint, career-wise and how can you not only tell yourself that story but also rearrange those characters.

To discover what that thing is how can then you go find the business that you need to find in order to make it work financially? So how do you sell yourself, the best version of yourself, and then how do you find the right clients who are going to be receptive to that message, so you can sell them the best version of themselves as well?

Hussein Al-Baiaty: What would you say, like, in your journey, that you realized or discovered or perhaps you knew the whole time, what your archetype was, what your sort of deep intuition and how it aligned with some of these archetypes that you put out and when you discovered that, how did you then start leaning into it?

Defining Your Archetype

Gibran Nicholas: What I went through my mid-life burnout around 40 years old, I did what I did the previous time I went through a crisis in my life was I just started reading a lot again and so this time around, I reread the Joseph Campbell book and then I found other books as well. One of my clients actually turned me on to an author, her name is Sally Hogshead and she wrote a book called, Fascinate and another book as well called, How the World Sees You.

And then, there’s another book that I read called, The Hero and The Outlaw and it talks about archetypes and business and so then I went back to this concept of story selling and archetypes and started learning more about it and studying it and I discovered, you know, that there really are nine major archetypes in life and business that we encounter. You know, there’s the warrior archetype who is always been in a battle.

There’s the explorer, who is like searching for a new experience. There’s the ruler, who just wants to regain control of their kingdom, there’s the comedian, who just wants to have a good time and make life happy for people around them. The loyal friend or the friendly neighbor, who is just, you know, wants to make people happy and be a caregiver and you know, be a lover and then there is the scholar who just is, you know, always studying and always learning new things.

And when I read about the scholar, I said, “Gosh, that kind of describes me.” Like if you put me in a room all by myself with a bunch of books, for an entire weekend, I’ll be in heaven. That’s my definition of heaven and so, but, if you take my wife for instance who is very outgoing, her personality is very different than mine and if you do that to her, it’s like she’ll be in prison. It is not her way of life, it’s not her personality.

So then there is these nine major archetypes and I found that “Hey, this is the one that describes me the most” and then my journey started making a lot more sense to me. It is like I started thinking of my experiences and why I was happy in certain instances and why I was unhappy in other instances. So for instance, the magician archetype is trying to make magic and very detail oriented.

Like if you think about in business, Google, and Tesla, these companies are like the magician archetype and so I was in a CRM business. I was trying to be a magician but I really am not a magician, I am really a scholar. So I got to get out of the magician business because that is not really what I am called to do and go back to the type of business where I am happiest for me, it was reading, studying, and creating value for others by teaching them what I’ve learned.

So I let go of the technology business and exited that and refocused on my sales training business and that’s kind of how I used the archetype to discover, you know, what is the right business for me.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: For me, that resonates so deeply because and I’m glad you really kind of brought us back to how understanding not only yourself, right? Becoming aware, you become aware by like trying things, which is what you did in the beginning, right? You were just young, you’re hungry, you’re just going to go for it and figure things out as you go but as you figure things out as you go, you are probably not especially in your 20s, right?

You are probably not as aware as you could be about what your strengths and weaknesses are and where your interest really lied but because you’re sort of discovering, that’s perfectly okay, right? So not like alleviate experiences that could also enhance those things. So as you grew, you know, it sounds like you really started honing in and refining and just becoming more aware of like what really interests you, what doesn’t.

You know, those kinds of things are so important. I always tell my nephews and nieces like you know, they have these brilliant little ideas about things they wanted to do and I always tell them like, “Just go try it.” You know, try it because you don’t know if that is interesting to you and you really enjoy, you’ll go deeper and if you try it and you’re like, “This isn’t me” then you know, you can pivot early and keep learning from those experiences.

You know, as we all get older, right? We get more of an understanding of our self and I think understanding archetypes is huge because that gives you even deeper sense of like, “Okay, now I can really lean into these skills” or set of skills and I would agree, I feel like overtime I either try to be a magician or something that I was not and I too realize that I was a scholar and I love mentorship, I love teaching, I love motivating, inspiring others.

I love being surrounded by books and art. So for me on a deeper level, I felt like I was really connected to my heritage, right? We have a beautiful Middle Eastern like golden heritage of this idea of advancing technology and knowledge and so for me, I feel really deeply rooted and connected to the spirit while I do my work now, which is giving me so much meaning, which brings me to my next sort of question.

You know, you really talk about not only leaning into these archetypes, discovering who you are but also how that starts to create meaningful work. What does that look like for you today? How do you feel, you know, when you wake up in the morning now, there’s some meaningful work behind what you do. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Gibran Nicholas: Yeah, absolutely. So once you discover your archetype and really what you are made to do for work, then the question becomes not so much about you but the impact that you are making for other people because when you are focused so much on yourself, you tend to get depressed, you tend to get down like you make a sales call, you take rejection personally and it is all about you.

But when you stop from that perspective and look at it from the other perspective, you know, what unique value am I creating for the other person. You know, then that really begins to take this whole concept to a whole new level and then that’s really what gives you meaning and joy. You know, meaning and joy is not about having a good time, that’s hedonism, right? That’s not really going to fulfill you at the end of the day or just you know, if I was stuck in a room with books all day long, I mean, I’ll be happy.

But like at the end of the day, I’m not really making any difference or impact for anybody else unless I go out there and I share that knowledge in a way that benefits the person that I am sharing it with and that’s what gave me meaning and sort of repurposed my whole business and so I actually wrote down, you know, “What is my personal mission?” My personal mission is to be a consistent source of encouragement, inspiration and optimism.

So when I am not encouraged, the best thing I can do is encourage somebody else. When I am feeling uninspired, the best thing I can do is inspire somebody else. When I am feeling negative and pessimistic, the best thing I can do is be a source of optimism for somebody else and when you take these things that are negative in your life and you completely turn them around like when I want to be encouraged, I am looking for a source of encouragement, right?

I am looking for somebody else to provide to me the thing that I am lacking but at the end of the day, I don’t need that. What I need is I need myself to provide that for myself and for others, right? So then you become sort of self-reliant and this internal source of whatever it is that you are lacking in your own life and you begin sharing that with others, right? So for instance, Mother Theresa, I’m sure there were days where she was negative and uninspired.

But you know, she didn’t wallow in that self-pity, she gave her life to other people. She lives a life of service and the result is she made a gigantic impact on the world and when you look at other people who have achieved significance, you know, part of the human experience is we want to be remembered like life is short. We’re going to all die, I mean, that’s the bottom line is whether you live until you’re 50 or 60 or 70 or 80, you’re going to die at some point.

What’s going to happen when you die? What impact have you left on this world and on the people that you have encountered and is it a positive impact? Is it a negative impact and the only way you can make a positive impact is if you find a way to create value for other people on their journey, you know, from their perspective so that they understand the value you are creating for them and that concept is really what sort of took things to the next level for me.

It wasn’t just about finding my archetype but it was really once I understand myself, now it’s about understanding everyone else around me and how can I be of service and of unique value to each individual in my life and it could be your kids. Like one of my children is a ruler archetype, so she’s like the boss like she runs the family, right? She’s nine years old but she runs the show, so she’s a ruler archetype.

One of my other kid is a loyal friend like he is the friendliest and the most empathetic person that you’d ever want to meet. So one of my nephews has special needs and you know, my son really has this affinity toward him. So he takes him under his wing and he protects him and he helps him, so he is the loyal friend or the caregiver archetype. My third son is a comedian archetype, he’s always entertaining. He always wants to laugh.

I try to put him to bed at night and he’s just like, you know, he doesn’t want to go to sleep. He’s laughing and like so, he is the comedian archetype, always wants to make light of the situation and so you recognize these patterns in your life. You recognize them in your children. You recognize them in your clients and in your strategic partners and then you begin as I communicate with my daughter in one way.

But then I have to communicate with my son the other way and then with my third son, I have to communicate with him in a different way, right? So each person you want to communicate with them in a language that they can understand based on their archetype and not only is it true for your family communications in your own personal relationships but it is also true for your clients. So if you are dealing in enterprise sales, sometimes you’ll meet clients who are the ruler archetypes.

So how do you communicate with them? You can’t make an impact for somebody unless you can communicate with them in a language they can understand and so that’s the impact that you know, you have once you read this book is you’ll be able to discover not only your own archetype but also you’ll recognize these patterns and the people that you are encountering in your life and your business and you’ll be able to design a sales strategy, a communication strategy, a business strategy to create unique value for them and make the impact that you want to make in the world.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, that is so powerful. I love that you shared, you know, it is not only understanding your archetype, it is also understanding other people and when you get a better understanding of other people, that feeling of fear, of how to navigate other people’s emotions or the way that they are, that fear is then being surrounded by knowledge and so once you have that, that fear goes away.

Now, you’re able to communicate with that person in a way that they easily accept information, right? It’s their way of thinking and when you are able to sort of get in their head in that way not to be a negative or anything like that but yes, to communicate, to sell, to promote, to share an idea, whatever it may be, understanding how other people work and understanding how you work can create that smooth bridge.

I love that you tie that together so well. This is one of the biggest reasons I’m excited to get into your book where it is understanding myself further, right? Once I know how to understand myself, I can apply that to others and that is a strength. I feel like people don’t realize how much of a strength that is to be able to navigate other people’s sort of how they take on knowledge, how they take on the world, how they perceive the world.

It’s very powerful to play to that game. You know, one last question for you. So when you visualize somebody putting down your book after having read it, what do you hope they walk away with it? What’s that message you hope they walk away with?

Experience Rich, Theory Poor

Gibran Nicholas: Two things. Number one, a better understanding of yourself and number two, a better understanding of the people around you so that you can make the impact that you want to make in the world. When I was first starting out in my career, I heard a speaker once, his name is Bob Veris, I don’t know if he’s still around but he was a big speaker in the financial planning industry and he said something that made a lot of sense.

This was maybe 20 years ago, he said, “People are experience rich but theory poor.” We’re experience rich but theory poor. So we have all these experiences in life but we don’t really know how to make sense of them. We don’t really understand our experiences in a way that makes any sense. I mean, we just think it’s all random or just doesn’t really make any sense but not only are you feeling that way but your clients, your family, everyone that you know feels that way.

Like everybody is that way, that we’re all experienced rich and theory poor. So if you can create sort of a theory that makes sense for why you’re the way you are, then you begin to understand yourself more and you can take that same concept, that theory and then you begin to understand other people and why they’re the way they are. So I have family members who I’m estranged from.

Like, for years and years, I haven’t spoken to these people and now I understand. Now I understand, they’re the rebel archetype, right? So that’s who they are, that is how they see themselves and that’s every single thing that they do in life, it’s always about rebelling against the status quo or rebelling against, you know, what other people’s expectations are of you. So then you begin to understand why they do the things they do and then you begin to understand why you do the things you do.

Like I value order, I value, I don’t like chaos but a rebel thrives on chaos. So that’s why I don’t really agree with this person that I’m estranged from is like, she is exactly the opposite to me. Like, she thrives on chaos and I can’t stand chaos. I need order, I need, you know, things to make sense and that’s why I don’t get along with that person.

So what I wanted people to walk away from the book is I want you to understand your life better, your experiences better, your business better, yourself better, and then, once you do that, then you can begin understanding other people better and how you can communicate with them in a way that’s going to make the most impact and then they’ll be able to let go of certain relationships, you know, basically have no hope.

I mean, if somebody’s not going to change the way they are and you’re not going to change the way you are, then there’s absolutely no hope in the world for the two of you to get back together. So then you begin like, in your mind, you let go of some of these relationships that you k now are never going to come to fruition and that in your mind, you can also forge new relationships, where you can be of service and of value to people who value you and who value the work that you’re doing and then you can begin making the impact that you’re making in the world.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that. Gibran, my friend, it has been seriously, an honor. Just listening to you in your energy at like, how much energy you put into not just articulating but specifying how to define, you know, this archetype within yourself and others. I really love that. I hope a lot of people pick this up because it is so important, sort of going forward with our world today and how we see ourself in the setting that we’re in today and really understanding what you can control, what you can’t control.

So I learned so much today from you, man. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, your stories. I know, like I said, I’ve learned so much and I’m excited to dive deeper into your book this week. The book is called, The Story Seller Adventures: How to Grow an Epic Business and Find More Meaning in Your Work. So besides checking out the book Gibran, where can people find you?

Gibran Nicholas: Well, the website is, thestoryseller.com and on that website, I also have a podcast called, The Story Seller and we go every week in the podcast, we explain different concepts from the book and how you can use it to grow your business and we also have a daily newsletter that gives you daily inspiration and practical leadership tips that you can use to lead your team and grow your business.

So if you want to subscribe to our…or my daily email or to the podcast or learn anything more about what we’re doing that might be of use to you on your journey, please visit thestoryseller.com.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love it, thanks again for joining me Gibran, I really appreciate your time today.

Gibran Nicholas: Thanks Hussein.