Architect Business Success With Justin MacDonald

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GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success


Do you struggle with finding the right balance between work and life?

Not after today.

In this session and episode, you’ll learn: How to Architect Business Success with our guest, Justin MacDonald. .

Justin MacDonald, is the CMO at the African Leadership University and the Founder of Authority Football, and gets personal talking about the mistakes, realizations, and lessons that he’s learned in business being an entrepreneur, father, and husband.

Justin is an entrepreneur and marketing leader who helps organizations win by leveraging technology and intentional experience design. 

Today, he talks about how he found balance, how you can design and architect your business for success, and how winning at home can also improve your business by a mile. 

Learn how these strategies can be applied for your benefit in both your business and personal side of life in this episode of Growth to Freedom!

Listen to the podcast here:

Architect Business Success With Justin MacDonald

If you’re a parent, a spouse or a father, what would it be worth to learn how to architect true success as an entrepreneur? If that intrigues you at all, you’re going to love this fascinating conversation with a definitive expert at being able to do that. In fact, the theme of this show is going to be architecting success with what I would call a success architect. Not only is he architected success at home with his kids, his wife and family, he’s also done it in multiple businesses in multiple kinds of industries. Don’t you love people who have a variety of backgrounds, not just a one size fits all model? If you like that, you’re going to love Justin MacDonald. Justin and I got a chance to meet in a fascinating way. The short version was when my son was 11, I was reaching out looking for resources to help my son be a better leader and potentially a better football player and a better quarterback. Justin happens to have one of the leading platforms to train leaders, future leaders, and also quarterbacks in the world. I started diving into his materials and loved what he had to share. My son, more importantly, loves it as well. I feel like I’ve got a brother, so to speak, training and teaching my son on all kinds of amazing and fascinating things but bigger.

Maybe for you as an entrepreneur, you might not be that fascinated by my son, Kyler. How can Justin help me? Let me share with you how we can help you. First of all, he’s the CMO at African Leadership University. He’s an entrepreneur and marketing leader who helps organizations, maybe like yours, win every day by leveraging some simple technology, as well as what he calls intentional experience design. To give you a little bit of idea about his background, he’s been working with ALU. He was the CEO of a company that’s also local here to Arizona that’s grown rapidly, probably under his watch, called Sixth Division. He’s founded multiple businesses, including an athletic training company called Authority Football, which is how we met. He’s also built a national champion junior high school football academy called the Toros Football Academy. He’s also an educator in English literature journalism. He holds a Master’s degree in English and integrating innovative technologies in education. Justin, it’s great to have you on the show. I appreciate it.

I’m pumped to be here and pumped to chat a little bit, share some stories and so forth. When I hear you read that, it’s wild. What a smattering of Jackson Pollock-like painting on my CV. This will be fun and looking forward to it. Thanks for inviting me.

What’s the fascination with Bob Ross? I’ve got to ask that question to lead this off.

I added that little note to the bio. My kids are 12, 10 and 8, all boys and they found Bob Ross on Netflix and we all know Bob Ross from the ‘70s, ‘80s painting these happy little trees. It predates my kids’ consciousness. They found that on Netflix and have been mesmerized by Bob Ross. One time, I found my two little ones sitting there before they get up and get moving. They’re watching Bob Ross, of all the things that they could be watching like Teen Titans Go or whatever they’re into with the cool cartoons and so forth. The Minecraft things that they’re watching something that harkens back to my childhood which is cool. My ten-year-old was watching Bob Ross do his thing with his soporific voice and painting these happy trees and he didn’t even know I was there. He was talking to himself, my son. He said, “He’s not a painter. He’s a magician.” It was so cool to see them, and it’s been every day that they’ve been watching some Bob Ross so it’s been cool.

Speaking of a magician, Justin might be a magician for you to help give you some insights, wisdom, and strategies to help you grow your business. To help reduce suffering, stress, and to help you get out of overwhelm and get unstuck. If I were you, I’d grab a pen and a piece of paper to jot down some notes. You never want to miss an episode, so you can go to Justin, you’re like a renaissance in business in many different ways. Before we get into some of the success and architecting success and all that stuff, can you think back to all these years of business your biggest failure or your biggest mistake? What was it? What did you learn from it? What can our readers learn from it too?

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success

Make it a habit to always trust, but verify.


The first mistake or failure was me letting my career and professional aspirations, and at the end of the day, what are those? Those are our need to feel self-worth like, “I matter because I’ve accomplished something,” which for me was my first life as an educator and a football coach. Letting that get out of perspective, letting my designs on what that path looks like, and what success and accomplishment look like. Get out of alignment with who I wanted to be, who I said I would be as a husband, a father and as a leader. Those two things at least weren’t in alignment with my wife and me.

For the first time, the catalytic moment in my life was seeing my family’s future, with our young kids at the time, was seeing our future through my wife’s eyes. We’ve been married for a few years at the time or so. She knew she married a football player. She married a football coach. She was a coach’s wife. She understood what the game was, but things were a little different now. We had kids and we had Kellen, our one-year-old at the time. I saw our life through her eyes and what our future look like knowing that, “I’m going to get the second week of June off for vacation and that’s it. I’m going to be, ‘This is what our football season looks like and so forth. This is what my salary is going to look like.’ It is fixed. It is written in stone and so forth.” I saw it through her perspective for the first time and realized, “That’s depressing.”

There’s not a lot of hope there and the life I had promised myself that I wanted to provide for her wasn’t the life that we were living and wasn’t the path that we’re on. That was my first big failure. The realization and the benefit of that took a while. It took months and months and is probably a process over the years to come to that realization was ultimately the things that we serve and being a coach and educator is selfless service of time and energy. The things we serve should serve us back. Being a teacher and being a coach wasn’t serving my family or me back. Coming to that acknowledgment was my first failure. Then my first step to my own liberation and starting to realize life can be designed differently. That was my first failure, but it changed everything for me.

The second one is a business. Specifically, the main lesson is to trust but verify. In one of the businesses I was leading, trusted that some key leaders who owned a certain number of certain performance had their hand and fingers on the pulse. That if things were going the way that I expected them to be going that we assume that would be going and that all indicators suggested they were going but in fact, were not. Because of a lack of having the right measurement mechanism in place or sometimes it comes down to a lack of courage at the end of the day for someone to say I’ve got some bad news or I see something coming. For me, it was not seen on the warning signs by either me not having my finger directly on the pulse. Basically, by trusting but not verifying directly where those things were.

That was a painful financial lesson. It took a significant amount of time. It’s like if a tree dies in your front yard but not totally, it takes a long time for that thing to re-blossom. That’s what happened in that case. One of the most valuable lessons could have been prevented if I was a little bit wiser before that. The lesson from that one was trust. Multiply your leaders but trust and verify. Have the mechanisms in place so that you have insight. If something’s off or your Spidey sense is off, it’s based on some real data that you can lead, push, and have plenty of time to adjust. That was a painful and ugly one, but we’re all the better for it.

As you’re reading, what can you take out of what Justin shared with you? How real is that? Have you ever been in a place where you felt like whatever you’re doing, whether it’s your business or the role you’re in, isn’t serving you back? It’s been going this way and this way. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Who said that it shouldn’t serve you back and it shouldn’t serve you back for X amount of time? Why did you buy that lie in business? What if there was a better way?

Being a coach and educator is a selfless service of time and energy. - Justin MacDonald Click To Tweet

As we go through the course of our conversation, you’re going to discover that there is a better way. What can you take out of the idea that life can be designed intentionally? Your business, your life can be designed intentionally, if you take the time to put it in place. On top of that, what would happen for you if you adapted this simple practice of trust and verify? It’s easy to get jaded. Justin, I know for me having eleven businesses, thousands of employees or contractors over multiple decades, there are times you can get a little jaded about what people say and not believing.

I will share with you from my experience. I hope you don’t make the same mistake that I had made. There was a point in my business career where I got completely closed off, completely distrusting. It’s not a fun way to live life. It’s a painful way to live life. Maybe you’re suffering, maybe you’ve got some limiting beliefs. You don’t even know that maybe this one thing that I don’t trust is a big thing keeping you back. It’s not so much the trust, it’s about the trust combined with verify, create a multiplier effect. What would happen if you put these two simple ideas in your life? How would that change the game for you? We’re just getting started. We’re going to take a deeper dive into Justin, how he architects success for all kinds of different industries, different companies, and niches, and how you can too. Justin, I want to dive right into it because you have such a diverse background like one of the things you talk about is creating an intentional life business experience design. Speak to that. What is that? How can we start putting it in place in our own business?

The realization of that verbiage for me came out of marketing and business and then seeing that all these things are related and transferable and sort of universal truths. Here’s the business and marketing application and then how it translates into life. It was this realization of there’s an irrefutable truth that our ability and our inability to grow our business and drive revenue are directly correlated with the experience that our leads, prospects and customers are having. They’re like, “I can buy that,” the things that they know and they believe in, therefore, it’s what motivates what they do. What they do is they buy from us or not. They engaged with us or not.

This irrefutable truth that, first, our outcomes in business are revenue and so forth, but our outcomes in general are the direct result of experience. The second irrefutable truth is that experience is happening with or without our permission. It’s happening with or without our design or our intentionality. Experience is something someone has, whether we meant it to be that way or not. This was the business learning and then realizing that that can and should be leveraged and harnessed to predict and influence outcomes in marketing. It came down to this third irrefutable truth if you want to impact experience there are only a few levers that you have. At the end of the day, the experience is the message and the mechanics of what people are seeing and reading, and ultimately, how that makes them feel. Those are the levers that I have.

The marriage of message and mechanics, where those two overlaps, is what creates emotion. People believe something and they create emotion. Emotion is what produces behavior. I like to try to live in absolutes while also living in the reality of nothing is absolute, but I try to try to simplify it so it can be fast. If those four things are irrefutable and the intersection of message and mechanics is emotion and emotion is what produces behavior then we as entrepreneurs, we are in the business of producing behaviors that produce business.

By the way, this is a marketing conversation, but it translates right to leadership and influence of any sort. If we’re going to influence that, and we’re going to produce that, it comes down to emotion. It comes down to how I create an environment that would have that emotion. Have a high likelihood to create an intended emotion, which would then create a more predictable behavior or outcome. That’s how I can tie my marketing to positive business results, which might be revenue or positive leadership results, which might be how someone responded.

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success

Experience is the message and the mechanics of what people are seeing and reading, and ultimately, how that makes them feel.


That’s where the lessons started. How that applies to life is harkening back to my big major failure as a dad, a husband and a professional, which was losing sight of the things that we serve should serve us back. What I have found for me painfully is that professional peace and joy lies at the intersection of three things. The purpose that we’re working on/or with an organization that aligns with our purpose, that it gets us out of bed. Purpose, that there’s an intersection with our skills, that unique way that we want to approach and add value that also intrinsically feeds us back. There are different things that each of us loves to do and we get to choose what that game is.

An overlap with purpose and overlap of skills, the third one that most people forget is the return. Doing those two things creates a return for us. Return is based on what you individually value, money and salary is the obvious one, but more than that, it’s what you value. For my team members, what I’ve realized is that it can be money, flexibility, time or geography. Can I live here or there or wherever I want? That can also be accessed. It can be access to people, challenges, or projects that continue to help us grow. That’s why an intern would work for free, the return is, “I get this,” keeping sight of that.

“Why did we start believing this? I don’t know who told it to us or if we filled in the blank?” Our life is a railroad track and once you’re on it, that’s what it is and somebody creates that. I didn’t like the idea that it took me a while to wake up, that if I don’t design my life, someone else or something else will. Unshackling from that when I changed careers from what I thought and believed I was put on the Earth to do, which was teach English and college football. Unshackling that is peeling off an identity. My self-worth was wrapped up in who that person was, and I didn’t know any of those skills and experiences would transfer. It was the beginning of that journey of, “If I want to return, let me start there.” There are many places where purpose, mission, and skill alignment overlaps. I can play many games where those two things are true, that means I get to say, “Which of those games provides the return for me in any of those categories that I want?” That’s where the ability to start to architect and design your life to make sure those three things are true is possible.

The last thing I learned and I learned this from a leader at my time at Infusionsoft was this phrase that is valuable to me, which is, “I reserve the right to change my mind upon new information.” I want to be married to that. Our desire as humans to be consistent with our previous choices, subconsciously and consciously and outwardly can be a limiting belief, to use your word from earlier. It can be something that shackles of some, I said I was a teacher, I said I was this or that, and therefore I can’t change. I can’t act in a way that’s not in accordance with that. It’s freeing to be like, “That’s what I was during that period in time. This is what I want to be doing,” because those three things are true, purpose, skills and return.

That’s the framework. That’s the belief that I have that has allowed me to redefine continually. How do I want to architect it? Recalibrate it. When my kids are all teenagers, life will be a little different. When they’re all adults, life will be a little bit different. My return will change and I reserve the right to change my mind upon new information. That’s how that has evolved over the last however many years and has so far served my family and me well. It is probably a daily micro-calibration and probably a monthly, quarterly or yearly larger calibration of is this still serving me. If something’s off, what do I need to tweak or change? I get the right to do that. I get to decide if I want to play this game anymore.

As you’re reading, think about what Justin has shared. What if you adapted or adopted this new framework? Maybe you’re like a lot of people who bought the idea of following your passion, follow your purpose. What if that way of living costs you true joy, freedom and happiness? There is a possibility because I don’t want to put words in Justin’s mouth, but this framework, that it’s more than passion and purpose. It’s also inclusive of skills, and it’s also inclusive of what’s the return on it. Here’s what I know. I’m 5’10”, there is no way with my passion, no matter how passionate I was to play basketball, that I would be able to play in the NBA. Number one, genetics. Number two, I didn’t have the skills at the end of the day, therefore it wasn’t going to give me a good return. Why keep doing it? I could love it, but could I take those skills and apply it to something else and have it magnify, multiply, optimize and a whole lot more? What if you adopted this new way of thinking?

It’s an irrefutable truth that experience happens with or without our permission. - Justin MacDonald Click To Tweet

The other thing is designing the experience. It’s the difference between being a tour guide and a travel agent. A travel agent has checklist items to give you, “Here’s what you got, here’s where you’re going.” A tour guide, though, takes you on a journey, takes you on an experience, and helps plan out from before you go, before the journey, during the journey, and then after the journey. How are you designing what you’re doing? Are you trading your life more as a travel agent to get things done and cross things off? Are you intentionally becoming your own travel agent for success, architecting success in other words? There’s much more here.

Justin, there was something that I found fascinating in some of the info that you sent over, you talked about and intentional design experience that you create with your kids. When you pick them up from school that I think fits into this paradigm a little bit. A flexible way of operating, speak to how you view taking your kids to school and/or picking them up and what you do in those rituals to create this vibe of joy, right of happiness, of energy with your boys when you do that.

The most important thing for me was deciding what the small things in my life, the ones that seem trivial, that if they weren’t happening, I’d be failing are. I’d be losing or I wouldn’t be getting the joy. The realization was a couple of years ago for me. I felt like I was not performing well as a husband and a father. This is even past that career change. I’m like, “I’m in business.” “We’re crushing it in work, but it’s crushing me at home.” I was like, “What’s the difference?” Why am I crushing it at work? What can I learn and borrow and bring into my personal life? I don’t know if this is for everybody but for me, it was measurement.

What we look at, we move toward. What we measure, we can improve. What we measure and publicly share, we improve more rapidly. It’s like we have measurement mechanisms, we have scorecards. I was like, “That’s working.” I thought, “How can I borrow that?” Not to over process my life, but what can I take from that in a way that’s practical? I realized we measure only a few things that are most important. There are indicators of lots of other little things. I started borrowing from that and saying, “If I win in a week, I know what that feels like at the end of the week. What has happened in a week where I feel like that?” I found all that seemed to be small, arbitrary things. I track it on a simple little app that I put together. You can do it however you want. For me, I found that I adopted that.

It was some simple rituals. Some of them happened daily, some of them happened weekly and some happened monthly. Without getting into unnecessary detail on them, it was taking my kids to school a certain ratio of the week. It was having family meals, not dinners but meals. I reserve the right to move where that meal happens in a way that’s practical, so it’s not a shackle. Sometimes, we will do this routine because I said so and it becomes defeating.

At the time, it was even jumping on the trampoline. The kids loved doing this. There are a certain meditation and study for me, that’s an important thing. Dating my wife is a certain thing. This is super weird and specific, but having lunch on a patio. We live in Arizona and 8 or 9 months of the year is incredible patio weather for lunches. It is having engagement with other men, who are either colleagues or someone else mentoring or someone who’s been mentored by. There was a frequency with that. Without getting into detail, those are the types of things and there’s not many. The exercise was another, how often I was working out or running?

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success

Reserve the right to change your mind upon new information.


I could put those wherever I wanted. If I can’t take the kids to school on Tuesday, I’ll take them on Wednesday. That was the first thing, I was taking the kids to school and spending what seemed to be arbitrary time was massively valuable. I built those things around it, and I can move it whatever day that I want, but it still is going to happen. Setting that expectation with the kids of A) We’re a flexible family and B) We’re going to be spending this time together. It was an important thing for me.

With the kids, I don’t believe in orchestrating all the details. That’s like somebody when you go on a vacation like, “We do this, then we do this and this.” That doesn’t work for me. I want to create an environment. I want to create physical space and time space, and maybe there are a few prompts in that space to stimulate stuff, but the car and the car ride is physical space and time space where great stuff can happen. Maybe I’ve got some prompting questions, whatever it may be, but rather than the boring, “How was your day at school?” It’s asking more provocative questions.

I learned that if there’s anything remotely useful or wise coming out of my mouth is because I stole it from somebody else, that’s my disclaimer. It was asking a question rather than how was your day? It’s who did something kind for you? Who did you do something kind for? Who made you laugh? What was it? Triggering those things, my kids are playful. They love to play games and they love to tell me about whatever they’re working on in some Minecraft world that they’re building or whatever it is. It’s creating that space and letting it be their space in our space and not my agenda. As I’ve navigated with my older son, who’s twelve as a pre-adolescent, what we do and talk about in that space has to meet the needs to benefit him in our relationship. That’s been interesting navigating that as well.

The last thing that I found that is important with that is consistency, not that it happens every day this week, but that it always happens and that I don’t let them down on that. If I’m going to you, I communicate that ahead of time, “I’m not going to pick you up this day.” The second thing is meeting the baseline of the frequency of doing those things, but then thirdly, finding simple and unexpected ways to surprise and delight them. Dropping in for lunch, driving to the science center with my son’s third-grade class, taking them for ice cream after. Meet the baseline. This is a good business tip too, meet the needs and then find little simple, cheap and easy ways that are delightful because that’s the stuff people are meant remembering. The same thing with our kids.

As you’re reading, what would happen for you at home and in business if you were to take a spirit of surprise and delight? What would happen for you if you started to ask more provocative questions? Who did you make laugh? What made you laugh? Who were you kind to? Who was kind back to you? Build rituals in your day to support your needs from the moment you woke up, what would happen? Support and serve the people that matter most to you? Your team members, your clients, your family, how would that shift the game for you? What does it cost you, by the way, if you don’t make these changes? It’s like a boat on the water without a rudder. What happens if you get on a boat without a rudder? You end up on the rocks. You don’t want that, do you?

If you’re anything like me, I’ve made those mistakes. Having gone through a divorce, a painful one, partially because I was oblivious to a lot of these good practices, if not great rituals, insights, wisdom, and strategies like Justin’s sharing with you. I hope you will focus on applying the simplicity behind them. Justin, as we wind this up a little bit, as you’ve worked with many different people and industries, which is fascinating. What would you say are 1 to 3 innovative breakthroughs that you’ve either applied in your own life, in business, or you’ve had clients you’re serving apply in their businesses that have been transformational that our readers could get benefit value from too?

If you don't design your life, someone else or something else will. Justin MacDonald Click To Tweet

If I rattle off the three big ones, we talked about the first one, which is intentionality. Before we talk about intentionality like customer experience, the intentionality of what’s the return for me. I’ve seen and you’ve seen, I have built businesses, projects and initiatives that were cool and even valuable, maybe for the consumers, but they did not create a return for me. That’s the first thing, before you build a business, build it on a return and make sure you’ve built everything around it off of that. “This is what needs to be true for this to be worth my while for the life that I want.” Otherwise, we build a prison for ourselves. We build a job for ourselves or worse. I know a lot of people who work 120 hours per week making what they could easily make by getting a job. You have more freedom and flexibility. Starting with that return is probably the most important breakthrough. It’s such an easy blocker. It’s such an easy thing of, “I need a business. I’m going to start here.” Start down to what business would serve you where those things are true.

The second thing is being intentional around, “How do I make that true?” Starting with the financial model that you are building a game you can win, and then that you’re designing a client journey of how you attract, engage, convert and serve your leads, prospects, and clients. You’re designing a journey there. What that creates is it creates predictability. At the end of the day, this is what I find. Where does your anxiety come from as a person and as an entrepreneur? What is this common thread when you’re feeling anxious? For me, what I have found is if I boil it all down, because it comes up in lots of different ways, from lots of different things, I found it’s when craps are not handled. I don’t know if it’s been handled.

“I haven’t gotten back to this,” “I’ve got to make a decision on that,” or, “I’m not sure what’s happening over there.” That’s where anxiety comes in, like physical matter takes up space, emotional matter takes up space. It is ruthless in how much space it takes up. That anxiety not only takes up the space that it takes of conscious thought but also seeps into every other part of our lives. It seeps into our relationships at the end of the day. What I want is I want the craps handled. Two things happen, cut out the junk that isn’t serving you, the products, the people, or whatever. It goes back to, is there a return there? “I can grow $1 million revenue line of this product, but is it only making me 5%?” What is that 5% worth to me in a year? Cut those things out, minimize, leave yourself margin and then build the predictability in that client journey, as well as a system to give you the peace of mind that you need to be able to be the leader that you need to be. That would be the second thing.

The third thing for me, probably the most important thing of it all, is that all of these games, all of these tactics, all of these things we can spend our time learning and deploying in our businesses and growing so forth. I believe this is an irrefutable truth also, which is everything only always comes back down to people. It comes out of people and people are emotional creatures. They’re all in different places, they have their occurrence of how their life has been and how it is going and how it will go. As we build teams, or even if you’re a solopreneur, you’re serving your serving people, no matter what that is.

It only always comes back down to people and our ability to create an impact or to have success is going to come back through our ability to understand, empathize, and influence people. Anytime I say that, as a leader, I’m like, “That’s being a parent. That’s being a spouse.” That’s the three breakthroughs that I find universally applicable no matter what game I’m playing, where I am, or what I’m doing. Those three things seem always to be true and have served me well and have been discovered in my last couple of years. I’ve hit those rocks many times myself.

As you’re reading, how would things shift for you? If you were putting in the intentionality, what’s the return for me? What’s the return on time, return on life, return on investment and a whole lot more? How do I play this game to win? Are you setting yourself up to win in the first place? Start there and start with that end in mind. Where is your anxiety coming from and remove the emotional distress because it takes up more than the physical? As well as understand that as a leader, we’re an influencer. We’re an influencer at home with our kids, our family, our clients, and our team. It’s all about people at the end of the day like Justin had shared. Justin, there’s much more I want to share. There are football stories, there’s a story about the ALU that you’re a part of and blowing that up. For the sake of time, and being respectful of your time, you’ve been gracious. If people want to go deeper with you, learn more about what you’re up to, where can they go to tap into your wisdom, insight, strategies and more?

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success

Meet the needs and then find simple, cheap, and easy ways that are delightful, because that’s what people remember.


Thanks. There are two worlds that I’m straddling. One of those is what we’re up to at ALU, the African Leadership University. Fast Company named us the number one Most Innovative Company in Africa, number 24 in the world. Our CEO and Founder, Fred Swaniker, was in the Time 100 list, which I was like, “This is cool.” My kids know him. They were unimpressed until they saw Taylor Swift on one side and The Rock on the other and like, “Fred must be cool. Therefore, by association dad, you’re moderately cool also.” That’s what we’re up to at ALU. That’s an important and valuable narrative to tap into, to be aware of what’s happening in the world. There’s some cool stuff there and I’ll leave it at that. There’s nothing I can offer necessarily for anybody in that world but I think it’s valuable to see what’s happening on a continent that will influence the rest of our world. The positive narratives, the positive things that are happening there that will be transformative on that continent and beyond. That’s my main world.

The other one is Authority Football, which is a smaller world and where we’re growing our business helping to train leaders through what is the most practical and relevant position in any sport that develops leaders, which is the quarterback position. That’s fun for us there. That’s at My email there is [email protected]. There’s this other thing, which is being an entrepreneur, if there’s any value there, the easiest way to get hold of me is through [email protected]. Whether you have an aspiring quarterback or athlete or whatever, we can help you there, but if there’s any other way that Justin MacDonald as a human can help and serve you, the easiest way is to get a hold of me through Authority Football at the time. My main focus is at ALU and what we’re doing there while I keep stoking the fire of Authority Football. The last thing I’ll leave is this, I don’t know if this will serve anyone or not, but I have realized the last couple of years about the lens I see my professional and personal journey through is that I am a mission-matched mercenary. A multiple personality disorder of a professional path is what I see it.

They call that a serial entrepreneur.

What I realized was, what was I attaching myself to? What missions and skills and therefore returns have I been attaching myself to for whatever period of time, that has been a mission-match mercenary. I love to come in and be a part of something that’s valuable and fix it. Set up the systems and lead the people and so forth, but I don’t see myself ever fully attaching myself to one thing forever. That’s being an entrepreneur. I also don’t see myself doubling down on only my own business. This is a matter of how I can be this sort of mercenary approach.

In the meantime, my two mercenary missions are what we’re doing at ALU and Authority Football as well, but the future will match up to a future mission someday later in the next couple of years or whatever it is. It’s been great. Thanks for having me here. If I can be valuable to any of you, readers, thanks for your time. It’s been a lot of fun hanging out with Dan. You can get ahold of me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to provide any services valuable to you.

I want to encourage you to check out what Justin’s got going on. If you have a child in sports, you will find his platform incredibly valuable for your children. You can go check that out at If you want to reach out to Justin directly, you can do that at [email protected] as well. There’s a wealth of knowledge, diverse, like I shared upfront, you’re the Renaissance entrepreneur with all the cool stuff that you’re a part of. As important, you’re a servant leader. There are a lot of people can learn from what you’re up to. As we wind this down, Justin, if you could think back to your childhood. You have a sports background, played quarterback, coaching influence, now building incredible businesses. Can you remember a childhood experience that you think was a trigger or a turning point that got you on the path that you’re on now? What was that? Thinking of in a different way, earliest childhood influence.

What we look at, we move toward. What we measure, we can improve. - Justin MacDonald Click To Tweet

There are two. One was my grandpa who was an entrepreneur. I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I became an accidental entrepreneur. I was the opposite of an entrepreneur. I was an educator, a public educator that’s as communistic as you can get in the US not in a bad way, like it’s that state-funded. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, I realized later, “Everything I’m doing is leading, creating, and innovating with limited resources.” That is entrepreneurship. I am a sales guy, just didn’t know it. That translated once I realized that. That came from my grandpa, who didn’t have a college degree. He was a multimillionaire through the businesses that he started and I was like, “He sure has a high tolerance for risk and does that through tremendous work.” The work ethic was the thing that I took from him the most. Where that stopped serving me in adulthood, in my leadership journey was the only trick I had up my sleeve for success was to outwork problems. I learned that from him. I’m grateful he was a child of the Depression. I learned that from him, it had served me well.

I got to a point in my leadership journey when I couldn’t outwork the problems anymore. That was hard. I’m like, “There’s literally no more hours in the day without going into the details of those circumstances.” I didn’t have any more hours to work and I was giving everything I could. That was another catalyzing moment that forced me to evolve. I realized I got to outsmart the problem and the way to outsmart the problem is people, it’s leadership. It’s systems and it’s building systems or getting people to build systems, believing them and nurturing the people. Getting them fired up about something they can attach themselves to so they can be mission-match mercenaries to your cause. That was the main influence for me growing up and it has served me well and only to a point where I had to evolve again. Those are the main things that come to mind there that I think had the biggest shape on me.

What first book or program that you remember seeing as a kid that influenced, inspired and motivated you to be an achiever in sports or business or otherwise?

The first book that I can recall that probably had that level of impact came from my coaching world. There’s a book about Paul “Bear” Bryant, the famous Alabama football coach. It might have even been The Junction Boys, which was his time at A&M and it was this hard-ass coach as he first got there. There was something about this toughness. That was one of the things, how to face the harsh realities and overcome those things to create legacy building types of success. Also, something that served me well to a point where I learned a little bit more emotional agility around that. I wasn’t as sympathetic as a leader when I was in my early days of a football coach as I wish I would be if I could go back in a time machine. I’m grateful that hopefully, I’m growing into it now.

I’m going to steal a second and make one more book recommendation which we’ve been alluding to. It’s colored my language already. The single best book I could recommend to somebody no matter where they are is Multipliers, which is a leadership book on how to be a multiplier leader versus the opposite, which is a diminishing leader. Including this cool concept, they make a distinction which is an accidental diminisher. Nobody wakes up and says, “I’m going to be a diminishing A-hole leader,” but all of us have these accidental diminishing tendencies from one way or another. That book is transformative. It was the way I learned to start out thinking rather than outworking the problem and it’s transformative. That would be the latest book that I would recommend to people.

What are the 1 to 3 action steps that you hope our readers take as a result of our time?

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business Success

In all of these games, tactics, and things we spend our time learning and deploying in our businesses, everything always comes back down to people.


Get clear on your return, step away from your emotional marriage and attachment to the life you are in, give yourself the freedom to step away and say, “How well is it serving me? How well are those three things true? How well am I aligned with this mission?” The mission doesn’t mean it has to be this massive, glorious thing, by the way. It’s like, “It gets me up in the morning. I’m excited about that.” Skills and return. That would be the first thing. There’s no point going forward further without acknowledging that. It doesn’t mean you could snap your fingers and change it if it isn’t, in fact, serving you but it means you now can start to decide how you want to re-architect your life. That would be the primary thing.

That probably would answer the following questions, which is what comes out of that for you? What long-term thing could you start to re-architect? Would that mean a career change? Would that mean firing somebody, hiring somebody? Would that mean spontaneously starting to organize a vacation? The second one will be for the short-term. What could you do now? A lot of times, we think we can’t make micro-adjustments and changes because it’s not going to move the needle.

The thing that moves the needle for me is spontaneously taking my wife to a patio lunch, spontaneously picking my kid up. Those are the things that are moving the needle more than these big massive things. What I would answer is think about your return. What long-term plans can you get excited about starting to employ? What could you do now that would make a difference in a relationship you have or in your life, whether it’s a little timeout, a hike, a spontaneous lunch, kid pick up or whatever it may be?

He’s Justin MacDonald. I encourage you to go check out more what he’s up to. You can go to or email him at [email protected]. Justin, a personal question. You have three kids: 12, 10 and 8. You’ve been married to your high school sweetheart. You’ve been on such a fascinating journey. A part of our show is a sense of gratitude for our opportunity to connect both short and long-term and reflecting on that. If you were to turn to your wife now and thank her for how she’s shown up for you, to allow you to be you, what would you thank her for?

I would thank her for two things. Primarily, the first one would be patience. Patience for me growing, hopefully from tremendously flawed to slightly less flawed. I mean that not in a self-deprecating way. Patience is number one. Number two is grace, which goes with that, forgiveness where I’ve been blind, where I’ve stumbled, or whatever it may be. Those would be the first two. The third one would literally be a sense of humor. We have so much fun together. I’m grateful for that. I said, “We can be playing these games, everybody out there. We’re playing these games, these things that give us meaning.” At the end of the day, like Google Earth zoom out to the galaxy level, what we’re doing doesn’t matter, even though it’s still meaningful. It’s still worthwhile, but at the end of the day, let’s keep some perspective. No matter what we’re doing or what impact we’re having, and if that’s off at home, if those most important relationships that matter to me above all things, if that’s off, none of it matters. To my point and my request or suggestion to everybody is what could you do now to make something a little bit better, a little bit right? I would thank her for those three things.

There you have it. I encourage you to take action with what Justin shared. I’ve got pages and pages of notes here of what he’s shared. Amazing insights, Justin, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time. I’ll say you have a significant impact in a fatherly way for my son, which I’ll always be grateful for it. At a young age, he started at 10.5 when we got introduced to your stuff until now. I imagine it’s going to continue one way or another. I’m grateful for that. You’re doing amazing things, not only for kids in sports, but in business. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show and also to get connected and ideally see how we can help each other even more.

Thanks, Dan. I’m honored on all accounts and thanks for all the readers. This has been super fun and grateful for your time and the opportunity to hang out here.

There you have it. I encourage you to take action with what Justin shared, put it in place. What’s the one thing you can do? Come back to this episode and read again because you’ll find another one thing to do. Come back and read again, it’s not needing hundreds of new things. This is a platform where you can get one main thing and apply it and then look at the next question, which is what’s next? I encourage you to do that. If you never want to miss an episode, go to Seize the day, make it a great week. We’ll see you next time on

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About Justin MacDonald

GTF 262 | Designing Your Business SuccessThe CMO at African Leadership University, Justin MacDonald, is an entrepreneur and marketing leader who helps organizations win by leveraging technology and intentional experience design.

For the few years between his first and current stints at ALU, he was the CEO of a marketing automation agency in the US called SixthDivision.

Justin founded two businesses in his other passion, American Football, an athletic training company called Authority Football and a national champion jr. high football academy called the Toros Football Academy.

Justin began his professional career as a secondary educator in English literature and journalism and holds his masters degrees in English and Integrating Innovative Technologies in Education.

He and his wife Andrea have 3 sons who love football, drumming, parkour, and just this week found the glory of Bob Ross via Netflix.

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