054: Ben Ward | Overcoming Traditional Education in Life That Stunt Our Creativity

We got Ben Ward, founder of Forward Leadership. The energy that is brought in this interview takes it to a new level. He goes into the four pillars of what he helps his mastermind members go through. He talks about his new book that he co-authored with a previous guest, Dr. Greg Reid, launching later this year. We find out why through standard education and life, we stunt our creativity and how to overcome it.

The Mastermind Effect:  02:10

I realized that over the last 5 to 10 years, the availability and access that we have to different people have just exploded. When we were younger, we learned from textbooks, teachers, family, friends, and eventually our co-workers. It’s a sliver of what’s possible. How has your learning changed from your early years versus today?


Ben Ward:  02:55

I grew up in a broken family. Every weekend, I’d go to my dad’s house. When I was about 12, I saw this library. It has always been there, but I never noticed it. These are his books. He had all these books on tape. He was an entrepreneur, and he had this huge library. He gave me a couple of days to check these out. I went and I listened to him, and I brought him back the next time. I started forming this pattern of absorbing information and knowledge. I saw that pattern cycle for years and what I learned was that for a long time, I’ve led my first sales team and I started talking about the things I’ve learned. I would say, “Hey, you got to read this book like the Strangest Secret from Earl Nightingale.” The problem was they would say “What’s it about?” I’d say, “I don’t know. Just trust me. It’s good.”


My early learning was just soaking it in. When I left my first team, I realized there’s zero knowledge and very little value. In my jobs, reading all the books and having it all in, if you can’t take that information and package it in a way that you can apply and be able to in my case, teach and share with others, I couldn’t do. I set on a mission right then to change the way that I learned to take things, bring it in, have it stick and be applicable, and be able to teach and share with others.


The Mastermind Effect:  04:32

Absolutely. I’ve talked about this before. Nick Peterson calls it the intention intervention gap. When you take in what you’re reading, and if you take in too much, can you really implement all of that? You soaked in all this knowledge and now, how do you release it to the world? You explained it right there.


We have more ways to take in information than ever before. It’s pretty overwhelming. Some people look for a mentor, an accountability buddy, a mastermind, a coach, a course—all different kinds of ways to learn. Who are you currently learning from and more importantly, how did you connect with them?


Ben Ward:  05:22

I’ve learned that the key is getting very clear on what it is that you want to try to accomplish and finding out who is doing that thing. There’s so much knowledge and information that we get tossed to. You get tossed and shredded mentally, physically, and emotionally with all the information out there. When you get very clear on—Example, I want to understand and learn how to start a YouTube channel and monetize it not by ads, but by adding value so that I share my message that resonates with people and they want to reach out to me—who’s doing that and identifying that, and then seeking out specialized knowledge around that thing with somebody who’s killing it in that space. That’s how I’ve been recently drilling down on who I’m learning from.


The Mastermind Effect:  06:13

Find the best that’s in that market and learn from them. People are a lot more accessible than ever before not just because of the pandemic. Give us an example of who is it that you’re learning from, if you wouldn’t mind, and then how did you connect with them?


Ben Ward:  06:28

I’m in four masterminds right now. They’re very intentional. One of them is for writing my book. I’m in a mastermind with Josh Stein Lee who is an incredible entrepreneur, author, speaker, coach, and trainer. He has his mastermind of helping entrepreneurs write their first book. He has a thought leadership system to help build a system around your book. I’m writing my first book and I found that he was teaching others to do that and building a system around it that helps to monetize that in a way that’s meaningful and helpful to others. That’s one of the things I’m currently doing right now and it’s absolutely, insanely valuable.


The Mastermind Effect:  07:18

How did you find them?


Ben Ward:  07:21

It starts with just an intentional decision of I’m going to write my first book. My reticular activating system (the part of your brain that helps filter your focus) was up. My antenna was out for that thing. I wasn’t looking for Josh. I saw on LinkedIn what he did. He said, “I hope people write their first book.” And I’ve been working on mine, so I just reached out to him. Through that, we built a relationship quickly. He told me what he does, and I jumped in his mastermind. That’s one of them.


The Mastermind Effect:  08:10

There’s three more, but I appreciate you sharing one of them with us.


A lot of people get stuck. They can’t see the tree through the forest. We’re still going through a pandemic, which I feel is causing a reset or a new way that we can accomplish things. How do masterminds help you when you’re looking to get unstuck?


Ben Ward:  08:34

When you put two minds and you start multiplying that with minds that are passionate around a specific area with a definite aim, it unlocks magic. I’ve been in masterminds. I’ve been a part of them. I’ve run masterminds for over a decade. There’s so much power when you get these minds in alignment. That doesn’t always look pretty. That’s messy. It’s a struggle. There’s the hot seat. Have other minds in the room to help challenge you in a spirit of trying to be helpful but not enabling mediocrity. For me, the mastermind has been a critical part of my progression in my life so far, and I intend for forever.


The Mastermind Effect:  09:37

It’s that hot seat. When you think about it, it’s scary. It will make you uncomfortable. But comfort kills. The more uncomfortable you get, you’re able to see around corners with your counterparts who are in the mastermind. They’ve already gone through an experience that you maybe are getting ready to confront or have a challenge with. They can sit there, and they can help get through that.


Ben Ward:  10:00

Absolutely. The key is ensuring that you’re in the right room with the right type of people who are gonna help you become what you want to become. It’s important to identify to be in the right kind of mastermind for you. That is the future, especially as self-education becomes increasingly the new normal. In fact, I gotta show you this book, “Outwitting the Devil.” This book has been blowing my mind. Napoleon Hill, his his wife wouldn’t let him produce it or publish it. I have a YouTube video where I talked about it. You can go check it out if you want. But this right here, I didn’t even really know about it until recently.


The Mastermind Effect:  11:36

That’s because it was just published in the last two to four years.


Ben Ward:  11:48

One nugget from this book that has been blowing my mind is that like 100 years ago, Napoleon Hill wrote this right after he wrote “Think and Grow Rich.” It’s all about how preventing accurate thinking is the demise of our true potential. What I learned from Hill is this interview with the devil. I keep people down. I keep them from their full potential by squashing their creative, accurate thinking. He breaks down in the school system. As good as the school system is, it’s not doing a lot of favors the way it is. Think about the kids that are young, excited and eager to learn. By the time they’re in junior high school, you can’t get them to talk because we’ve squashed out the creativity of them. Because we’re plugging them through a system versus teaching them how to think.




The Mastermind Effect:  13:15

There was a system that was built. Back in the 40s and 50s, the wealthy to-do families brought over someone from Germany to create a system to create worker bees because we needed systems in place. You’re absolutely correct. I’ll move that one up on the list, as it was one of our first guests that sent that to me to read. It hasn’t been out that long, but it was written about 100 years ago.


Talking about masterminds, they’ve been around for a long time, back to the apostles. Think about it, the apostles were probably the first mastermind at the end of the day. Eventually, Benjamin Franklin created the Judo club or the leather apron club. I think that was back in 1727. And then Napoleon Hill writes “Think and Grow Rich.” Why has there been such a large boom of self-education versus traditional education? Where do you see it going over the next several years?


Ben Ward:  14:03

Well, Napoleon absolutely crushed it when he taught the simple principle that our thoughts are the things that if we put concentrated thought, they will materialize into their physical equivalent. This thinking that I’m going to do the most ridiculous thing right now because I just had a random thought, our thoughts are either serving us or they’re not. Our thoughts become things when we focus and take action. Whatever thought we have, at the back of that, it will become the physical equivalent. We can reject our thoughts if we need to. I wanted to teach this principle.


The Mastermind Effect:  15:19

When you take action, that helps spur creativity and create stuff. Creativity is not going to happen without taking action. You have to take action first. People will say it’s not perfect yet. I don’t know how many projects that I have launched that I’ve been told, “Don’t do it, it’s not perfect.” It’s never gonna get off the ground. Perfection is what someone else thinks. There is no such thing as perfection. Perfection means you just sat on the ground floor and never moved.


Ben Ward:  15:49

Where I see it going? I see that, inevitably, more and more people are going to turn to the experts who have killed it in a specific area that they know, what they’re talking about, and are willing to share. People are going to turn to those experts that have been in the trenches versus somebody that’s been educated in a situation or in a formal school. The formal education is going to become less and less, and we’re seeing it. The year 2020, with a pandemic, escalated it. In the future, inevitably, self-education or people seeking out experts is going to become more and more of the new normal. I’m passionate about leadership development, specifically around four areas. I’ll share with you.


First: High productivity as a leader. There’s so many distractions. How do you become ultra-productive as you lead your team to success? Second: Culture. How do you create an environment and culture that unlocks and invites the best within everybody? Collaboration and spirit of harmony, not preventing artificial harmony. Third: Igniting sales. How do you ignite sales? It goes down to the deep root of the word. The word sales comes from the old English “salan,” which means to give. Where we give sales a bad rap is who to give who. A lot of times it’s to the sales guy. I’m trying to give myself a check so I can feed my family. But when we shift that and “salan,” the true root of the meaning when we sell is we’re helping somebody get what they want. And fourth: Recruiting the right team the right way. Those are four pillars. I hope sales leaders lead their teams to success.


The Mastermind Effect:  17:39

I want to go back to number three if you wouldn’t mind. Because if you’re good at what you do, you’re passionate. You know your why. You live with the give mentality. Money will be a by-product. Now, I understand someone will say, “Well, you’ve already got X, Y, and Z so it’s easier for you.” There are other circumstances. There are other things that I don’t know about. When someone’s listening to this, the reality is, if you live with the give mentality, money will be the b-yproduct. If you start with the money and you reverse engineer to “Hey, here’s my why,” you’re not leading with the right reasons. The money will not end up being the by-product. The reality is you won’t help the people around you and you won’t see people gravitating towards you.


Ben Ward:  18:28

Absolutely. You nailed it. In my opinion too because a compensation is an echo of impact. Like you said, your compensation is a by-product of effective action. That’s one of the things I love about Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” as you mentioned. This whole mastermind thing he introduced. Well, he didn’t introduce but he added gas to the fire in a big way.


The Mastermind Effect:  18:50

People constantly are asking me, as we’re building out the success finder, how are you going to monetize it? How are you going to do that? I say, “Listen, you’re missing part of the message. I get that you want to and yes, we have figured out the monetization process.” But if we lead with the give mentality, we have an open system and we make sure that we’re doing best, not only the consumer which becomes a member, but also the content producer which is the mastermind of the events. If we lead with that give mentality, money will be a by-product because we’re going to help shorten the gap. We’re going to help lead by example. We’re going to help bring people together and money will come from that. It will happen.


When someone enters your reality—and I know you just talked about four pillars right there—when people invest in their future, they have a better than vague idea of what they’re going to get. They know what the outcome will be as long as they’re putting in the work. Recently, I interviewed Honeree Corder. She also has a mastermind based around how to build seven and eight figure revenue streams. A lot of it is based around writing books. She had someone that came to her and said, “What is my guarantee?” And you can’t guarantee that someone’s going to actually do the work. You can guarantee that Ben Ward is going to make sure that he delivers on what he’s going to do. What else should people expect when they enter Ben’s reality above the four pillars?


Ben Ward:  20:15

It goes back to this Napoleon Hill idea of what else they can get as we work together. You mentioned that finances will come if you have a good mentality. There’s Napoleon Hill and “Think and Grow Rich” talks about life’s real riches and positive mental attitude, sound physical health, harmony and relationships, freedom from fear, hope for future achievement, capacity for applied faith, to be engaged in a labor of love, open mind on all subjects towards all people, a willingness to share blessings with others, complete self-discipline, and financial freedom. These principles are absolutely critical. Back when I was leading this sales teams for years, in the trenches I found a picture. On the walls, I have these life’s real riches. I would have positive mental attitude, sound, physical health, harmony, relations, freedom from fear—I had these principles surrounding me. The question becomes how do you apply those real riches that inevitably bring the by-product, which is success in what you’re trying to do and the lifting your team on its leveraged results. How do you create those leveraged results as a leader? It’s surrounding yourself with the real riches that we talked about. So, what you can expect in my work? Working with me is a no nonsense. This is what it takes to hyper succeed, to help those that you lead hyper succeed based on 20 years of success in the trenches, leading tens of thousands of sales leaders all over America. I’ve learned this. This is the point to all of this. There’s like a tip of the spear. The skills are the easy part. Learning the skills is the easy part. The hard part is guarding your mind and taking action despite fear.


The Mastermind Effect:  22:30

Action through massive implementation is one of the three pillars of success that we talked about earlier. You got to take that action. You just do. You got to get uncomfortable and that’s okay. I love what you’re bringing to the table for the people who are working with you.


I feel that people have a way of surprising us, whether it’s their drive or their willingness to learn. The rooms that you put together, you’re hand selecting them. You’re making sure that they’re bringing the value, whether it’s for the hot seats or it’s the group mentality. Has anyone been to one of your masterminds or coaching who have surprised you? What they were able to accomplish because of the room that you put together? What was that accomplishment?


Ben Ward:  23:10

I had one of my one of these guys. His name’s Matt. He’s back as a high performing sales pro and he turned entrepreneur. He has a software company that’s killing it in Orange County. He’s a really rad dude. He’s been struggling because he, as the founder, co-founder, and the president of the company, is still the leading sales guy. He’s trying to duplicate himself and he’s been having run-ins with his top sales guy. Through some intensive coaching, we’ve been able to work through.


The first key is, is this guy the right guy? Could he be the right guy? Matt has been challenging himself. He’s really believed that he is and could be. Honestly, I think I’m kind of the problem. I’m good at sales but haven’t really learned how to be good at leading salespeople. Through the coaching, training, mentoring, and going through the process, he’s had massive breakthroughs. He’s been able to connect in a way that’s been so meaningful and unlocking at least the very best in this sales champion. His team’s just been flying. It’s been a huge breakthrough. He’s been raving about it. That process that we’ve been able to go through just transformed him as a leader, helping him to draw out the best in the people that he leads.


The Mastermind Effect:  24:36

I think one of the things you and I spoke about here over a month ago when we first got to know each other was salespeople sometimes want to become managers, and managers want to become VPs, and VPs want to become this. But sometimes, maybe even if you’re the founder or you’re the co-founder of a company and your specialty is sales, maybe you should hire the president. Maybe you should hire the managers. Don’t always feel that you have to fit yourself into a peg that you’re just not fit. For you, you might have been the dream maker or you might have been Walt Disney, but sometimes you need to learn to outsource and hire, and bring that individual in to help you. Because you don’t have to grow into every role; there are times when you do and there are times when you don’t.


Ben Ward:  25:18

Absolutely. Here’s one of the biggest problems right now in business. Let’s talk specifically in sales leaders—One of the biggest problems out there. I’ve seen this in the trenches for 20 years. It’s a real thing where you’re good at sales. Inevitably, those that are good at sales tend to be the ones who get the positions for leadership. The problem is being good at sales and being good at helping people be good at sales are two very different skill sets. I’ve learned and I’ve created a set of framework that helps those that are high performing sales to turn into high performing leaders through my four pillar leadership blueprint. That’s what I focus on and that’s what I do—that’s what the coaching that I do. And I’ve seen real results like with Matt.


There are a couple ingredients that maybe won’t fit the mold of being a good leader. It’s not for you. But I’ve found that that’s less often the case. More often if there’s three things, they need three ingredients to be able to transition from being highly successful in sales to highly successful as a leader. They need to be humble, coachable, and teachable. They need to be hungry. “I want to learn. I want to progress. I want to grow.” They need to be smart. Not smart like brains (it’s a minimum standard) but smart with people. They need to be humble, hungry, and smart with people. Most people who are good at sales are good at being smart with people. Somebody that’s humble, hungry and smart, regardless if they have any experience as a leader. Those are the core ingredients that I love to work with people—great at sales, humble, hungry, smart, wants to be great leaders. That’s a recipe through the four-pillar leadership blueprint that is a slam dunk.


The Mastermind Effect:  27:14

Absolutely. In our solo shows, like I mentioned to you, we talked about the pillars of success: who you should be hanging out with; willingness to invest in yourself; and action through massive experimentation. There’s a lot of key ingredients that it takes to be successful. You’ve got mentorship, experimentation, partnership, willingness to fail. What does success look like to you?


Ben Ward:  27:52

Willingness to fail. I love that. It’s causing me some deep reflection. As I look at the times in my life where, I’ve had the most progress, it’s back of extreme failure. Example, I was on this trajectory. I started in sales. I lead a sales team. I came to the top as regional vice president of the Inc 500 company. Then, I started a company, and we took it public a couple years in. I was kind of done. I said, “We’ve got this, I’m 30 years old.” The second time I’d earned, my net worth was over a million dollars. I’m sort of arrived. And just a punk kid, within a couple years, I lost everything. Gone. As I look back, I had a lot of excuses. As I look back and as I’ve challenged myself, there’s a lot of reckless decisions.




I just learned that if we’re really willing to look in the mirror and look at how am I the problem, every failure has a seed—a tiny seed of an equivalent advantage. The failure was epic and it leaves a little seed that could be as epic or bigger than that failure was. Fear is going to terrorize you. “You’re nothing, you can never do it.” But if we face that with faith and let that seed grow and say, “How can I learn and change and improve and grow?” You just struck a chord when you said willingness to fail is part of the framework of your pillars because it’s so hard and it’s easy to talk about. It’s extremely challenging to go through it and as we all go through failure, our burdens can become our greatest benefit if we’ll let them.


The Mastermind Effect:  30:05

We don’t let it define us. I’m reading a book since we’ve been talking about books. “Personality isn’t Permanent.” It says, if you use your past as a crutch, you’re not going to change your present and your future. But if you look at who you want to become, you change your present. You can reframe your past because you can learn from it. You don’t use it as a crutch. It can be a benefit, just like we talked right there.


As we’re getting closer to the end, there’s always new ideas brewing. It’s really easy to succeed when times are good, like everybody’s winning. But right now, we’re feeling a little bit of a squeeze. We have been feeling the squeeze. I think ingenuity and innovation come out of that. We’re gonna look back in 10 years and we’re gonna say, “Oh my God, this is what came out of this time.” What are you working on right now that is going to take place over the next 12 months that excites you?


Ben Ward:  31:15

A good friend of mine and I are writing this book. It’s a sales pro’s journey from being really good at sales to transitioning to becoming a high impact leader and be really good as a leader. It’s a story about this transformation. I’m super excited about it because I think it’s super valuable. If you had to easy read Taipei, it’s launching in December. That’s one thing that just kind of stoked on right now.


The Mastermind Effect:  31:49

You’re gonna have to let us know when that’s launching, or at least send out a message so we can send it out to the community, and they can embrace that. We can all support that. I’m looking forward to that book.


Last: What is a tip, tactic, or actual item that if any of the listeners implemented today, it would help change either their business or personal life, or both, over the next 30, 60, 90 days?


Ben Ward:  32:36

One of the things right now, it’s just on top of my mind and I don’t know if this is an earth-shaking thought, but this is one that’s been just heavy on my mind as a leader. As you work with your spouse, your kids, and relationships, one of the best opportunities we have right now in leadership, people who feel good about themselves, produce good results, right? This whole idea of Ken Blanchard talks about the one-minute manager where you catch people doing things. Here’s the principle that I want to share with you right now that I think if you apply today could make a difference in your leadership. It’s the ancient philosopher, “Girtu” shared something that’s just been blowing my mind. He said that if you treat a man as he is, he’ll stay as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he could and ought to be, he’ll become what he could and ought to become. If you’re listening to this, my challenge to you is how can you give the people that you lead, that you love—how can you give them a name to live up to? What can you do to plant your belief and confidence in them? Because it’s easy to point out the reasons why they’re knuckleheads or that. So, I think that’s just honoring people and giving them a name to live up to. I actually love to share a little story that changed my life on this.


I had a leader. His name’s Doug Johnson. So, I was a punk kid and I remember I was walking in the hall. There was a corner. He didn’t see me. He was over here talking to somebody, and I heard him say my name. I froze. Somebody’s talking about me. I didn’t know what it was. Then, the words I heard next changed my life. He said, “I would invest in stock in Ben Ward.” He never knew I was there. I was stressed and awkward, but Doug Johnson gave me a name to live up to. From then on till today, and this was 25 years ago, when Doug Johnson is in my presence or when he’s around, I rise up mentally, emotionally, spiritually to become my best self because he believes in me. He believed in me then and he gave me that gift. He treated me as if I were what I could be. He gave me that gift. And I challenge you to give the people that you lead and that you love the gift of believing in them and treating them as if they were what they could and ought to be.


The Mastermind Effect:  35:58

I love that not only from a business perspective. I’ll be honest, I have not always lived by that. I need to write something down just to remind me every day, but you can not only implement that in your business life but also your personal life. How impactful, important, and simple is that? It’s not like you gave us a 10-step program and it’s gonna take us a lifetime to accomplish. You can start that today.


We’ve got Ben Ward, founder of Forward Leadership. Ben, thank you so much for everything that you’ve instilled us. I look forward to our future partnership.


Ben Ward:  36:53

Randy, thank you so much. I love what you’re up to. I get goosebumps just thinking about your mission of helping people to identify the best sources for what they need that honors them. It’s super effective. I think your mission is just spot on. I’ll support any way I can.

Tweetable Quotes:

“Learning the skills, that’s the easy part. The hard part is guarding your mind, and taking action despite fear.” – Ben Ward

“As we all go through failure, our burdens can become our greatest benefit if we let them.” – Ben Ward

“I set on a mission right then, to change the way that I learned, to actually take things, and bring it in and have it stick, and have it be applicable and teach it to others.” – Ben Ward

“When you put two minds and start multiplying that with minds that are passionate around a specific area with a definite aim, it unlocks magic.” – Ben Ward

“It’s important to identify and be in the right kind of mastermind for you.” – Ben Ward

Resources Mentioned:

To learn more, connect with Ben by visiting https://www.benward.com/ or email him at ben@forwardleadership.com 

Be one of the first adopters of The Success Finder when it releases! Email me at brandon@thesuccessfinder.com

You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or send me an email at brandon@thesuccessfinder.com. I’d love to get in touch and talk more about personal development and how you can move beyond your limits.

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