Episode 423: Hitting the Wall and Overcoming the Barriers That Hold You Back

Episode Summary

How aware are you of what is truly holding you back? In today’s episode, Shelly Lefkoe and Vahan Yepremyan teach us to overcome the walls of self-doubt, second-guessing and inherited stories that keep us from reaching our full potential. Tune in to Episode 423 and learn from Shelly and Vahan how to eliminate limiting beliefs, create a bullet-proof mindset, and live more intentionally as a leader and entrepreneur.

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to the Becoming Your Best Podcast Show. Wherever you may be in the world today, this is Steve Shallenberger, your host, and I am so excited for the guests that we have with us today. We have two special guests. You’re going to have the opportunity to meet Emmy award-winning Vahan Yepremyan, co-founder and COO of Ketchup Entertainment, the executive producer of several major motion pictures and esteemed business attorney and founder of the award-winning Yepremyan Law Firm. Shelly Lefkoe, a renowned speaker, coach, and co-founder of the Lefkoe Institute. They are both with us and are here to discuss their transformative new book, “Hitting the Wall: A Guide That Empowers Entrepreneurs to Overcome Their Self-Imposed Barriers and Achieve Their Fullest Potential.” So, welcome, Shelly and Vahan. So excited to have you.

Vahan Yepremyan: Great to be here. Thanks for having us, Steve.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, we’ve given you a little background here, but I’m going to invite you, with that background that I gave you, to just jump right into things because we’ve got so much to talk about. Shelly, let’s start with you. Tell us a little about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you. And then later on, we’re gonna have you do the same thing, Vahan. I’ve got a whole bunch of questions where you’re gonna pound it. Our listeners are gonna love our visit today. Go ahead.

Shelly Lefkoe: I think the turning point in my life was when my late husband created this process that helps people quickly and permanently eliminate the beliefs that underlie all their issues. So, Vahan and I met in Costa Rica some years ago. He’s a serial entrepreneur who works with a lot of business clients. When he heard me speak about how our beliefs—most of which are unconscious—impact our lives, we decided to write a book together. So, that’s where “Hitting the Wall” came from. Basically, the premise is that it’s our beliefs about ourselves and life, most of which are unconscious, that totally determine our behavior, our emotions, and our reality. So, as entrepreneurs and business people, beliefs like “mistakes and failures are bad,” or “I’m not good enough,” or “the way to get people to do what you want is to yell at them,” and “life is hard, and you have to work hard to make a lot of money.” So, those are the kinds of beliefs that we talked about in the book, and we look at different patterns. A pattern is what you want to change. A lot of entrepreneurs procrastinate, or people might be listening who want to start a business and are afraid to leave the security of their jobs. They might have businesses where they’re afraid to make investments in the business. They have money beliefs, which keep them stuck. That’s the basic foundation of the book.

Steve Shallenberger: Vahan, how about you? Some turning points in your life that have had a significant impact that brought you to where you are now.

Vahan Yepremyan: I think what made me aware of this particular topic is the fact that I was born in the former Soviet Union, and I grew up in an environment where a lot of entrepreneurial ideas were not only not practiced, but they were considered illegal. There was no entrepreneurship. Everything was owned and operated by the government; everybody worked for the government. A lot of the things that were instilled in us were “Don’t stand out,” “Don’t question authority,” “Don’t think outside the box.” As a result, there was no innovation, and there was no incentive to do anything. So, when I moved to the United States at 17 years old, I brought a lot of those beliefs with me. I noticed how a lot of them, as I started venturing into entrepreneurship and the business world, were getting in the way of me doing what I wanted to do. I stopped working on that myself for a while, and it took a long time. As I started working with a lot of clients, I started noticing these in them as well. As Shelly mentioned, we were both at an event in Costa Rica, at a conference where she was speaking with her late husband. The topic really spoke to me just because it was something that I had worked on, was aware of, and struggled also with for some time. We started talking about this and the need for this idea and this kind of world being introduced to entrepreneurs. That’s where the idea of the book came from. A few years later, here it is.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, congratulations. The topic that we’re talking about today, and I love “Hitting the Wall,” it’s a great title. But being successful as an entrepreneur, whether you’re an employee, an executive leader within a company, you’re an intrapreneur helping that company succeed, or you’re an entrepreneur doing this on your own, the principles are the same: you’re working to create value; you’re working to create worth. Not only does that impact your own life as you do that process, but also, of course, whatever organization you’re with that lives. But there’s one other thing: the very principles that you’re talking about also help an individual in any walk of life, whether they’re a coach, a parent, or a teacher. So, all of our listeners, we’re so privileged and honored to have you with us today. This is going to be fun as we keep that in mind. So, let’s start with a mindset and the impact that it has on our ability to be successful as we create value.

Shelly Lefkoe: For me, mindset is everything, and I know Vahan would say the same thing. There’s an old saying: “If you believe you can, you can; if you believe you can’t, you can’t. Either way, you’re right.” A belief is a statement about reality that we hold as truth. If something is the truth, then nothing else is possible. So, people talk about limiting beliefs; a belief, by its very nature, is limiting because it’s a box. Inside the box, there are certain possibilities that exist: people can be trusted, you can delegate, you can have a good team, and you can have a life outside your business because you can delegate. If you have a belief that people can’t be trusted, then you’re not going to delegate, and you can read every business book that tells you to do that, and you won’t. So, mindset is that little voice in your head that talks to you all day that says, “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. You’re going to look like an idiot. What if you make a mistake?” I love what you said, Steve, that this book is not just for entrepreneurs, even though that’s what it’s about. But it’s about wherever you are in your life in the world. Today, we live in an information age. We all went to schools where mistakes and failures were bad. When we were little, and we made a mistake, our parents yelled at us and got angry. So, even if you read business books, or you read all the quotes about making mistakes and failing, if you have the belief that mistakes and failures are bad, that is going to impact your ability to be innovative. In today’s world, you can’t be successful without being innovative.

Vahan Yepremyan: Something you mentioned that’s absolutely right: you don’t really have to own a business to be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is really a way of thinking and approaching problems and solving problems; it’s just being resourceful and thinking outside the box. Whether you’re a company owner, CEO, or an employee, this book will help you just because it will allow you, just like Shelly said, to get rid of that box and have a world of possibilities that you otherwise would not have. Social media and a lot of books talk about mindset. It’s very important, obviously, to have the right mindset. But that mindset and those decisions are all affected by the underlying beliefs you have about the world, yourself, what it means to fail, what it means to succeed, or what it means to confront somebody. So, all of those are impacting the decisions you make and impacting your mindset. It’s great to have the mindset, but in order to have the right mindset, you have to almost step back and look at what is affecting your mindset.

Steve Shallenberger: I can’t wait to get into this more. I’m so excited to read the book myself. I mean. You think about it: an idea, it’s a spirit, it’s a persona, that’s leadership, that’s entrepreneurship that captivates this vision, and then do the things that inspire people to join you and realize it, making that a reality. You’re right; this is the mindset. When we limit ourselves, we really hold ourselves back. Vahan, maybe you could just share an example of an entrepreneur who transformed their experience by shifting their mindset.

Vahan Yepremyan: I, in fact, had a client who was a small business owner. When I say small, she was making just probably around $500,000 to $600,000 a year, working very hard. All her life, she grew up being told that money doesn’t grow on trees; you have to sacrifice and work really hard to make any money. All her life, she’s sacrificed and worked very hard to make that money. An opportunity came by that she brought to me to consider and advise on, which was an opportunity to license her IP that she worked so hard and sacrificed to develop and then was using in her own business. This opportunity was to license that IP to another country for somebody else to use it. Twere offering quite a sizable licensing fee for her and monthly fees. For her, since that didn’t really fit her idea of how money is made—this is all of a sudden, without sacrificing, without working hard, somebody was going to write a check—she had so many different reasons why this was not going to work: “This is not going to translate well. They’re gonna ruin my brand. I won’t be able to train. They’re gonna ask their money,” all this stuff, which we had to work through, to finally have her agree and take on the deal, which was a great deal. Instantly, not only has her business transformed, but she’s in several countries now and several US cities as well, licensing this stuff and making more money from there than her own business. But very shortly after she did the licensing, she got ill and was in hospital for several months. Had she not done that, her business wouldn’t have survived on its own without that extra income that this licensing provided. I see that in different ways. Shelly mentioned delegating. There are a lot of companies and entrepreneurs who literally hit the wall in the growth of their companies just because they have trust issues; they don’t delegate. You can’t grow and scale if you don’t. And something iss stopping them from doing that.

Steve Shallenberger: Shelly, what are some common mindset traps that leaders and entrepreneurs fall into?

Shelly Lefkoe: The traps are not being able to make a decision based on what makes sense rather than making decisions, as Vahan just said, based on your beliefs. So, if, again, we have beliefs that conflict is scary and dangerous or fear of conflict—”if I say something, I’ll get into trouble,” or “people won’t like me,” you’re not going to be able to navigate the things that come up. So, I think for particularly entrepreneurs, but for anybody, anytime, that’s where we call it “hitting the wall.” Anytime you get to beliefs that stop you, there’s a wall there that keeps you from moving forward. I love the Michael Jordan story. I think it’s so powerful because Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team and said, “I am committed to getting back on that team.” He practiced and practiced and became the best player in the world. Most of us, when we fail, make mistakes, or get fired, what happens is our beliefs come up: “I’m not good enough. I’ll never amount to anything. I’m inadequate. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not good at that thing.” And then we leave. The reason he was able to stick with this is he had a belief that he was born to play basketball and that he could do it. So, the traps are letting things stop you. I think most of us have learned to power through. “I’m going to never give up,” and you keep creating the same thing. I have so many clients who say to me, “Oh, I keep finding people. People keep screwing up around me, and I can’t trust people. Every time I delegate, it doesn’t…” What do you believe? “People can’t be trusted; people are idiots,” whatever those beliefs are. The way our beliefs get formed is when you come into this world, you don’t have any beliefs; you’re a little kind of ball of consciousness, and our family, whatever that looks like—mom and dad, or mom and mom, or single dads, or whatever your situation is—children ask the question, “Why?” “Why do I get yelled at every time I make a mistake? Well, I guess mistakes and failures are bad.” If every time you fail, you get punished or hit, you develop this fear of failure.

Shelly Lefkoe: So, the failure isn’t causing your fear. Richard Branson doesn’t have a fear of failing; he starts businesses and they fail, and then he starts another one. So, it’s our beliefs that keep us from being, doing, and having everything we want to be, do, and have. They get formed in childhood. It’s very unusual that parents have training. So, most of us have these most common beliefs: “I’m not good enough; I’m not important. What makes me good enough is having other people think well of me.” So, another trap, “What makes me good enough are my achievements,” causes workaholism. If what makes you good enough is your achievements or your achievements are what makes you important, you’re going to have to keep doing that because otherwise, that little beach ball called “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not important” keeps coming up. So, you have to keep pushing it down and pushing it down. So, our beliefs get formed from first jobs; you might have a job where you have a terrible boss, and he/she yells and screams at you, and then you create beliefs about working for people.

Vahan Yepremyan: We’re talking about, for example, the instance where people don’t delegate, and they don’t trust. There could be instances where an individual in your organization, in fact, cannot be trusted. If you had a bad instance with somebody, or maybe more than one person, I think what we do then is we take that and project it to everybody, every time, and everywhere. And then that becomes that belief where you cannot trust anyone rather than “I should work on selecting and have a better process of filtering and training people who could do the job rather than no one can do it except me, or no one’s gonna do it as good as me.” Another thing we’re talking about is that motivation and enthusiasm, which will just only take you so far. At some point, you’re going to run out of steam if your underlying belief is on the way, which is why a lot of people read books and get motivated or, beginning of the year, join the gyms. And then by February or March, the gyms are empty, and they’re on to the next book that’s going to motivate them more. But at the end of the day, it’s that consistent action that gets you the results you want.

Shelly Lefkoe: This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. People say they don’t even make them anymore. We have a methodology in this book that will actually show you how to permanently eliminate the beliefs that stand in the way of having the success you want in every area of your life.

Steve Shallenberger: Let’s talk about that for a moment. As you’re talking, I’m just thinking, “Okay, we’re talking about the traps.” When we think about a leader, an entrepreneur, a child getting an idea and making it a reality, whatever it might be, there’s a lot that goes into that. You have to conceive the idea, put together a plan, create infrastructure, the funding or the circumstances that allow it to move forward, whatever it might be. So, how do you spin the traps around on their ear and either go over the wall or around the wall? How can people shift that mindset so that they are able to just bust through the wall?

Shelly Lefkoe: We don’t have time for us to take you through the process. But what happens with beliefs is the reason we think our beliefs are true is because we actually think we saw them. If you grow up in a family where money is scarce and hard to get, and parents are complaining, and they can’t pay the bills, and you’re sitting and observing that. Like Vahan said, about growing up in the Soviet Union, entrepreneurship is illegal and is a bad thing. It feels like that’s what you’re seeing. If I was there, I would have seen that, too. In the same respect, when you’re little, if your parents are struggling, and you go, “Oh, boy, my father or mother is working 10 hours a day, and they come home exhausted,” and you conclude that you have to work hard to be successful, like his client. Well, it feels like you’re seeing, “you have to work hard to be successful,” when what you’re really seeing is your parents working hard. In most cases, they actually aren’t successful, which is the interesting thing. When I work with people, I say, “Well, were your parents successful?” And they say, “No, but they worked hard.” So, if you’re criticized a lot, it feels like you’re seeing “I’m not good enough.” Or if you get red X’s on your paper, it feels like you’re seeing “mistakes are bad.” What you’re actually seeing are events; you see things happening, you see red X’s, you see getting yelled at. The only place the belief exists is in your mind. So, listening to that is not very powerful. But when you go through the steps of the belief elimination process, that’s in this book, you can actually eliminate the belief. When we were little, we believed in Santa Claus for eight years. I remember when this happened to my niece when she was sitting on her dad’s lap. She used to scream and cry every time Santa came in, and all the other grandchildren were elves because that was the rite of passage once you realized there was no Santa Claus, you became an elf.” So, she was the last one. I remember the moment, and she just went, “That’s Daddy!” And that was it. She no longer believed in Santa Claus because she realized “I never saw Santa Claus. I made that up. It was my dad.” That’s the same with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Our beliefs live with us, and that’s why some people are in therapy for 10 years and the beliefs don’t go away because you can’t not believe something you think you saw.

Steve Shallenberger: Sounds like what you’re doing is really inviting every one of us to challenge our beliefs and see if they are healthy beliefs? Are these beliefs that will help us be successful?

Shelly Lefkoe: Well, that’s the first step for sure.

Vahan Yepremyan: Especially if there’s a pattern you noticed that keeps happening to you, your business, or businesses, where you get to a certain point and always have issues with your partners, or whatever it is. You might want to sit back and say, “Is there anything that’s causing this that’s coming from my beliefs?”

Shelly Lefkoe: Exactly. Because it’s not that you challenge your beliefs; most people don’t know what their beliefs are, Steve, and they have no idea. But your patterns, which are observable—beliefs are not observable; you can’t see a belief, but you can see a pattern. I can see you procrastinate. I can see you be a people pleaser. I can see you have a fear of public speaking. I could see you be depressed or anxious because there are behavioral patterns: things that you do that you don’t want to do or things that you don’t want to do that you do. There are emotional patterns: “I feel anxious all the time,” “I feel depressed,” or “I feel disappointed all the time.” So, those are emotional patterns. If you’re listening and you’re sitting and looking at what doesn’t work in my life, we talk about watering all the plants. If you have a lot of plants in your house, you would never water just one because that plant would be vibrant, but the rest would be very unhealthy-looking, if not dead. A lot of us water the career plant, or we water the health plant—we take care of our bodies—or we just water our relationship plants. If you’re just watering your career plant, the other plants are not healthy, and you don’t have a full life. So, as Vahan said, it’s very useful to look at “Where do I get stuck? What plant is not vibrant? What could possibly be in the way? What might I believe?” Again, the book teaches you how to do this, to hone in on “What must I believe that would have me doing this or not doing this?” Another thing we do in the book is we give those specific beliefs that underlie specific patterns. So we help you to delineate what it is that have you procrastinated, here are the beliefs; that have you been an autocratic manager, here are the beliefs; that have you fear conflict, here are the beliefs. “What makes me good enough is having people think well of me,” that ran my life for a long time. If you’re worried about what people think of you, you can’t be your authentic self.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, these things all affect our success, sustainability, health, stress levels, and feeling greater peace of joy in the things that we’re doing. From your point of view, maybe we could start with Vahan here and then Shelly. What are the most important things people can do that would create sustainable success and happiness? From your experience, the things that you’ve observed, and as you’ve thought about this, what would you recommend are those few most important things that people can do, leaders, entrepreneurs, parents teaching their children, and young people? What do you think?

Vahan Yepremyan: I think the most important thing you could do is sit back and define what success means to you personally rather than have a borrowed definition of what success is. A lot of us watch movies, books, and TV shows that show different people in different environments achieving their own success. We tend to borrow some of those definitions and run with them without really questioning if this is what’s going to make us happy or feel successful if we do achieve that. I think one of the things you want to do is sit down and maybe even write down on a piece of paper—which I did, and it changed my approach to my work as well as my life—what are the things that make me feel successful? A lot of them had nothing to do with my work, my balance sheet, or the growth of the company. It had a lot to do with how much time I spent with my daughter, experiences I have in travel, or things that I’m passionate about my work, and I love my work. But my success was different. I was trying to feel and achieve that success in a place where it wasn’t. At some point, I was chasing more work, more awards, and more achievements just to feel that success. But when I sat down and defined what made me feel successful, it was something different. I had to make certain changes to get to my own success that’s defined and felt by me. So, I think that’s probably the place to start is just to question what makes you personally feel successful?

Steve Shallenberger: Thank you for that insight. That’s terrific, Vahan. How about you, Shelly?

Shelly Lefkoe: I want to speak to what Vahan just said because I think we both walk our walk and talk our talk. I didn’t realize it about myself until this minute because I always look at Vahan’s life, and I say that he’s a really successful serial entrepreneur; he owns businesses, and yet he spends a tremendous amount of time with his daughter. He does service work in other countries with children. He gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll climb Kilimanjaro.” He has challenges or does a Mudder race. When I’m talking to him, he’s usually on his way to the gym or coming home from the gym. He has really figured out how to balance his life where he has a healthy life. We have a very beautiful friendship. We talk on the phone. We laugh a lot. A lot of people, I think, live life very much to the effect of their circumstances. So, whatever anything throws at them, that’s what they do, and that determines what they do, and there’s not a lot of intentionality. I play pickleball, and it’s my healthy obsession. But if I go in the morning, I go to pickleball, I work all day, and then if I don’t have plans at night, I go play pickleball for a couple of hours. I travel, see my daughter in Hawaii, and spend three weeks every three months there. I was just telling you, Steve, I was in Utah last weekend with my other daughter. So, I meet friends, I go speak, I was in Russia. So, I have a full life, but it’s intentional. It didn’t just happen to me. Friends are my highest value. My mother used to say to me, “Boys will come and go, but your friends will be there forever.” I can hear her saying that. Friendship is everything. When my husband died, if I didn’t have my friends, I don’t know how I could have possibly made it through.

Steve Shallenberger: Thank you so much for these insights; they have been great. I can’t believe we’re already at the end of the show. It’s gone just like that. Tell us how people can find out about what you’re doing.

Shelly Lefkoe: Well, they can, first of all, read the book, “Hitting the Wall: Eliminate the Beliefs That Sabotage Your Business and Your Life,” which of course you can get on Amazon. You can also go to if you want more information about us.

Vahan Yepremyan: My law firm is Yepremyan Law Firm, as you mentioned, and we’re located in Los Angeles.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, it has been a delight. We’ve just scratched the surface today. A good challenge to me and all of our listeners about how we can move our game up and become our best, keep making a contribution and make a difference. I’ve loved the discussion. We wish you the best in all the things that you’re doing.

Shelly Lefkoe: Thanks for having us on, Steve.

Vahan Yepremyan: Thanks for having us, Steve.

Steve Shallenberger: To all of our listeners, never forget: you, too, are making a difference every single day. As you’re working on becoming your best, working on your beliefs, thinking about how you can create more value, greater happiness, and stronger relationships, you’re making a big difference in the process. So, thank you. It’s been a privilege having you on. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best, wishing you a great day. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best

CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, Entrepreneur, and Community Leader

Shelly Lefkoe | Vahan Yepremyan

Co-Founder of the Lefkoe Institute | Co-Founder & COO of Ketchup Entertainment

Author, Coach | Author, Founder

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