I recently wrote an article on Akbar Sheikh, my business coach, on How to Build a 6-Figure Business. Feel free to check it out after you’ve read this article. He has helped thousands of entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses to 6 and 7 figures, most of which started at ground zero.
But, it wasn’t always entrepreneurial rainbows and butterflies. I recently caught Akbar’s TEDx speech, and as an entrepreneur who’s had her own struggles and as a humanitarian with a philosophy that to give is to receive, it truly hit home to me.
Before Akbar became a 7-figure entrepreneur, he struggled with weight, homelessness, a crippling anxiety disorder, and addiction. After ending up in the hospital from mixing drugs and alcohol, Akbar turned his life around and has since built a multi-million dollar business. He now uses the incredible opportunity life has given him to give back.
“To be honest, homeless life wasn’t so bad. This is America, but at the end of the day, living that type of life meant I couldn’t take care of my family, and most importantly, I couldn’t make an impact in people’s lives or a positive contribution to the world. I’m not sure what got into me, but I had to do something about this, and to do something about this I had to do something about myself first.”
So how did he go from a desperate degenerate junkie to a passionate person of purpose with a 7-figure business? Simple: He gained a crystal clear understanding of a very powerful word: Giving.
Akbar went through what he calls his “decade of destruction”. He failed in multiple business ventures. He tried selling real estate, cars, furniture, and clothing. Failure after failure, nothing worked. He realized that the problem wasn’t his business ideas. The problem was him. He bailed on his business dreams as soon as things got difficult.
In his speech, he talks about his big A-HA moment: “I will never forget the day everything changed. I was making sales call after sales call and getting nowhere. Finally, a colleague said to me: “Dude, when you’re on sales calls, all I hear is “ME ME ME”. Stop selling and start giving. No one cares what you think. Give the customers value! How do you solve their problem? Show them you care.”
When he implemented this philosophy, he went from zero figures to seven, all thanks to one sale that was derived from giving.
“The thing about the word “giving” is people think it means “money” but that’s where we have it all wrong.”
The definition of philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others. Philanthropy is different from charity. Whereas charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem.
Akbar set out to address the root cause of his students’ problems. As was the case of one of his students Nicholas. After several failed attempts at business, Nicolas considered taking his own life. When he met Akbar and started working with him, things turned around. Nicholas learned the key to living is giving. Now Nicholas has a thriving business. He donates his time, money, and energy towards mental health organizations and initiatives.
So how can giving help you build a 6 or 7 figure business? According to Akbar, it’s fairly easy.
1. Understand the benefits of giving. Giving gets to the root of your problems. When you have an attitude of giving, you are happier. It boosts your self-esteem. You also feel more motivated, energetic, and inspired. It has also been proven that giving lowers stress levels and blood pressure, improves physical well-being, and creates a greater sense of satisfaction.
2. Give first, succeed later. People come up to Akbar all the time and say: “When I make it big, I am going to give more.” But, according to Akbar, they have it backward. The secret is: “You have to start giving from day one, from ground zero — when you have nothing, that’s the best time to give.” Giving first is what leads to success. Studies have shown that some of the successful people in the world are “givers’- those who have a strong desire to help and benefit others from the very beginning. When you show concern for and focus on contributing to others and their success, you begin to establish trust, which ultimately leads to people wanting to work with you. Givers also often outperform those who seek an equal balance of give and take, as well as the takers- those who aim to get more than they give.
3. It’s not just about giving money. Giving could mean anything: If you call your mom and make her smile, that’s giving. If you compliment someone and make them feel good, that’s giving. If you freely offer some tremendously valuable advice to someone that enhances their business or their life, that’s giving. Or maybe call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. It could into a beautiful, meaningful exchange, and that’s giving.
When you give someone your time, or your compassion and understanding, or a real meaningful connection; when you give someone respect or love… to give anything is to make whole.
4. Put quality over quantity. Not to wax all biblical, but in Mark 12:41–44, it talks about a widow’s offering: Rich people were giving large amounts of money in an offering. A poor widow came and put in two copper coins, which was all she had. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
This is not just a faith-based lesson. It’s a life lesson because Akbar believes that “to belittle your giving is to belittle yourself.” You may only be able to give $2, and that would mean more than the $10,000 some millionaire gave. Why? Because you gave what you could, and you gave with your heart. Your $2 could have more blessings than that $10,000.
The good news is: Giving is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what gender you identify with, how old you are, where you’re from, how you grew up, or your political affiliation. If you have a pulse, you can give, and you can benefit from giving all day, every day.
We all have a gift in us, a light we were born with. Akbar believes we were born to give it away. Use your gift for good. If you are a writer, write for good. If you are great at sales and persuasion, sell and persuade for good. If you are a content creator of any kind, create content for good. Whatever your gift is, use it to give for good.
Everyone is always searching for the key to success and the secret to happiness when it is right under our proverbial nose. The key to success is to give and change the trajectory of those you serve.
Akbar’s secret to success isn’t how early he wakes up, how much exercise he does, or how many hours he works. It is something, which he hopes will become the world’s worst kept secret, the one that will have the most ROI of any business initiative, more than real estate, stocks, or cryptocurrency. It is the secret that will make you happier than you’ve ever been, one that will change your business and your life — and it’s something you can do from anywhere — and that secret to success and that which will make you whole is giving.
His slogan is “Make More. Give More” but I think Akbar is really about “Give More. Make More”. Since Akbar started his coaching company, he has donated over six figures to various charitable endeavors around the world including providing clean water systems in Africa, funding surgeries that provide sight to blind children, and building community centers for orphans.
He is also giving coaches who want to grow their business his high ticket program for free. This is truly a man who walks the walk and puts his money where his heart is. It’s no wonder he’s been so successful in building a business based on an ancient philosophy that all business owners can implement and embrace.
If you want to listen to Akbar’s TEDx, check it out on Ted.com.