The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 11, 2022

Finding Your Zone Of Genius - Jonathon Kendall On How To Maximize Your Time

Finding Your Zone Of Genius - Jonathon Kendall On How To Maximize Your Time

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Jonathon Kendall (@jonathon.kendall) is copywriting, funnel building, course creation, and capital raising specialist. His crowdfunding systems have recently raised over $110,000,000 for startups & iconic brands like RadioShack and Pier1 Imports. He is also the former CEO of MentorBox and masterminded the creation of over 300 courses for New York Times bestselling authors, and Pulitzer Prize & Nobel Prize winning intellectuals. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about the concept of your "Zone of Genius" and how you can stay in it longer, his favorite books, how he got started in business and much more!


I love that you have learned how to learn, which sounds crazy. A lot of people think that learning ends when they leave school.

“Yeah I get asked about this a lot on panels. People ask me ‘What is the one thing I could do?’ And I say ‘Become obsessed with learning and become an obsessed learning machine, sharpen the saw.’ I read in this book that if you fold a piece of paper, it’s twice as thick, then 4 times then 8 times. If you could fold it 50 times, how long would it be? The answer is that it would reach the sun! I feel like the compound effect changed my life. So I look a compound logs in investments, and that’s also how I think about learning, so I am learning 1%, 2%, 3%... I am staying on the cutting edge of things, even if it’s 1% a day, when it gets big, you won’t be able to keep up with me.”

Have you always been this way?

“I don’t think you can teach ambition, but I have always been ambitious. Growing up I would say that I wanted to be the president, I had these massive goals, but I am also very engineer oriented. I would walk that back to reality and figure out how I could get there. For example, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I was getting good at the next thing, but then you reach a plateau in your ability. So the only way to get the next level is to level up, learn something new and become more powerful. The only way to do that is to learn. But you have to fail to learn and part of the cycle is being aware of what you did wrong quickly and trying to improve it. If you are scared to face the inaccuracies, it can be hard to learn.”

Do you actually want to be the president or have you just set a really unattainable goal?

“My wife actually vetoed that. My current one is to win the Nobel Prize for literature, which is so far away and so big. But with the big goals, you don’t feel the day to day pressure. I can continue to grind, and it gives me emotional distance from the goal. I am ok failing in the short term, but it is enough to force me to not take it easy.”

What does the day to day look like for you now?

“I have 2 companies that I am involved in. One helps raise capital with credit investors, and I also have an outsourced digital marketing agency. We have 400 employees who provide digital marketing services, video editing, ad buying and social media.”

If someone is looking to start a business, what advice would you pass onto them?

“I would say step one is to understand your unique value. If you can articulate to yourself what is the problem that you have solved and why should people buy from me? If you can’t articulate your niche, then no one should buy your product. You should ask the questions, and if you can’t answer it, then you shouldn’t make it. It’s like if you want a PHD, you have to do something that no one else has done. You have to be a niche of a niche and then articulate that. Next, be obsessed with getting your first sale. Figure out what you can do today, not long term. And if you can make one sale, you can make 10, then 100. Then you need to obsess over the point of sale. Is it a store, a website? There has to be a point where someone can give you money. Artists are terrible at this. They create this amazing product that is unique, but they don’t have a way to actually sell it. I ask artists ‘Where can I give you money?’ When people are starting out, create that basic store to get that first sale.”

In MentorBox you went from being a copywriter to running the company. What did you learn from working your way up from the bottom?

“I would say you have to be customer obsessed. You have to be obsessed with the product and giving value. Don’t wake up with asking how do I feel about it, wake up asking how you can give more value to the world. A lot of people are worried about me, me, me in a company, that’s not good. But if you give more value to the company, the powers that be will see the ambition, and you be given an opportunity. The opportunity won’t be immediately rewarded, they will test you. Your ego part of you might push back as it’s not your job description, and it’s a leap of faith, but over time you will figure it out. As you learn, you can give more value in the long run.”

What is the best advice someone has given you?

“Ryan Holiday wrote in a book ‘The obstacle is the way.’ I think people don’t understand the power of this. Whenever you have a problem, instead of thinking about it as this happened to be, think that this happened forme. Whenever things are coasting, that’s fine. But when things are tough, I feel stressed and things feel like they are falling apart, that’s exciting. Then I can really earn my freedom and my pay check. I enjoy the moment of stress, but it took a long time. It’s like beating a tough boss in a video game and then you get to the next level.”

Should everyone want to be an entrepreneur?

“No. Before being an entrepreneur I wanted to be a writer, so I studied structure and writing. I believe that everyone has a purpose and is going to do something, whether you are choosing to do it or not. I think it is back to self awareness, journaling and trying new things. The idea is that you are a type generally, there has to be a nurse type, an engineer type, leaders… I think my brain is organised in a particular way, and if everyone was like me, there would be no doctors. In one way I am lucky that society rewards my way with money, but it doesn’t mean we don’t need all the other professions. You just have to be aware of what you want and dig into that.”  

A lot of people would love to have a mentor. How would I find one?

“I have this opinion that you have to guard what you put in your brain. You start with the leading anchors and following people who are where you want to be. Now it’s easier than ever with social media. Look at who is in your feed and who are listening to. If you are honest about your goals and are the people you are consuming brainwashing you to become that person, most of the time it’s no. Cut out the noise, look at your friend and family groups. I am sitting in this chair, I don’t know how to build chairs. If I am honest that I don’t know and I specialize in what I know, this is humanity. You find someone who does know how to do these things.”

What is your favorite quote?

“I kind of made this one up, ‘There’s always another level.’ I never get complacent. I am at the 1%, I am grateful for everything. But when I said I wanted to be president, it wasn’t because I like power, it was more that this person has the most influence so they can do the most good. For me, when I look that we have 400 people and everything we are doing is reaching thousands, I think it’s good, but there is another level. That is what pushes me to the next level.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things you are grateful for?

“My wife, my employees and the gift of being alive.”