Brian Ahearn is an international speaker, trainer, coach, consultant, and author. He is one of the 20 people certified by Robert Cialdini to teach his methodology when it comes to ethical influence. Ahearn is passionate about teaching individuals and organizations the science of influence because it is a critical skill for professional success and personal happiness.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I lived in a dozen places by my 13th birthday. We eventually settled in Central Ohio and I still call it home. Playing football and getting into weightlifting was formative for me because of the discipline I learned. That was four decades ago and I still workout daily.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I’m going to give you two. First, I wish I’d had more of a focus on personal growth earlier in my career. It wasn’t until my late 30s that I saw how valuable it was to continually read and learn. The nice thing about learning after college is the freedom to choose what you want to learn and how to apply it.
Second, if I had it to do over again I’d actively look for coaches and mentors earlier in my career. I would have looked in the companies I worked for and outside those companies to gain different perspectives.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I teach people about ethical influence so I’m very attuned to advise I hear shared in this area. There was a meme some time ago that was attributed to the rapper Eminem. The quote was, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich or poor. “If you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you”. Simple as that.” Everyone cheered this but consider for a moment what the message is – If you’re nice to me then I’ll be nice to you. If you want to influence behavior then I suggest you engage in reciprocity by being the first to act. Here’s what we should strive for, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, short, tall, fat, skinny, rich, or poor. “I’ll be nice to you. I hope you’ll be nice to me”. Simple as that.” That goes to the heart of what Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
We were married fairly young, both 23 years old when we said, “I do.” My wife and I had a lot to learn about what it takes to make a marriage work and what love is. When we hit some very rough patches we were both so thankful for friends who empathetically listened. Those friends encouraged us to fight for our marriage. At times I felt like an exhausted boxer sitting on the stool between rounds. My friends would encourage me, pull the stool, and push me back into the ring for the next round.
We came out of it and are coming up on 33 years of marriage. We’re both eternally thankful for faith, church, and friends. Had any of those been missing it’s not likely we would have made it. A lesson we learned is the value of good, deep friendships. You never know when you’ll be needed or someone may need you.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
My old high school football coach used to tell us, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Self-discipline has been a key for me when it came to preparation and I learned that through sports. I wasn’t the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most athletic, so I started lifting weights because I wanted to be a starter on the high school football team. What I took from that was a daily discipline to do the right things pays dividends over the long haul. No single workout and no single meal makes or breaks fitness. It’s the accumulation of workouts and meals that lead to fitness. In the same way, daily discipline towards business goals is the difference-maker for me.
What is your morning routine?
I’m up by 5 am each day. By 5:30 am I’m on the treadmill or outside to get 3 miles of running in followed by 30 minutes of stretching. I used to lift weights in the morning too but with Covid, I switched my weight routine to 5 pm each day as a way to break up the at-home grind. I usually spend 30-45 minutes lifting. In the morning I also spend time reading, 30-60 minutes depending on my schedule.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
The exercise habit has improved my life. Aerobic activity is not only good for your heart, lungs, and waist, it’s great for your brain. Starting each day with a run is as normal for me as coffee is for most people. By the time I finish working out and reading, I feel I’m way ahead of most people.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I’m very disciplined about my time. To maintain that I put everything on the calendar. Creating good habits entails prompts for the right behaviors and I find scheduling time with reminders immensely helpful. In addition to the calendar, I use a sales CRM tool called Pipedrive. I’m very focused on getting current and potential clients into the system then creating reminders. With this approach, nothing falls through the cracks.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Bible. I try to filter everything through the teachings of Jesus.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. I wrote the personal mission statement nearly 30 years ago and review it daily. It’s shaped me as a man, husband, and father.
Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D. Encountering Cialdini’s work changed the course of my career and life as I now teach ethical influence through my company.
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo. This book radically changed how I present to audiences. The impact has been dramatic!
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The following quote stands out above all else in this great work, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” We ‘always’ have a choice.