AJ Vassar – Awakening the Coach Within | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

Share on:

AJ Vassar | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

AJ is a motivational speaker who uses his life experiences to captivate audiences with simple mental hacks to transform their lives. He grew up in a single-parent, low-income household in Illinois and had to use mental hacking techniques to go from eating out of a trash can and sleeping in his car to building a successful life and business.

In this episode, AJ talks about some of the key moments in his journey from Illinois to Atlanta to Medellin, Columbia, where he’s currently thriving. Through the lens of his personal story, we touch on a TON of powerful ideas – like the wisdom of providing a safe place WITHOUT trying to “save” someone, the simple yet profound effectiveness of grading each day and gathering real data about yourself, and how facing your “boogeyman” can free you to take the biggest steps forward in your life.

To learn more about AJ:

Share on:


Kevin Stafford 0:00
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the conversations with coaches podcast. I’m your usual host Kevin, and today I have the pleasure of both meeting and introducing you to AJ vaster. AJ is a motivational speaker who uses his life experiences to captivate audiences with simple mental hacks that transform their lives. He grew up in a single parent low income household in Illinois, and had to use mental hacking techniques to go from eating out of a trashcan and sleeping in his car, to building a what appears to me to be a wildly successful life and business. AJ, I’m really I’m glad you’re here for the podcast. And I’m also really glad to meet you.

A.J. Vassar 0:37
Yes, sir. Glad to be here. This is, this is cool, man. I love energy to energy. So I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Kevin Stafford 0:46
That’s something I realized very early on in this podcast is just to let the light shine. You know, just don’t put anything in. Don’t Don’t obscure it. Don’t obstruct it. Just if you feel if you’re feeling joyous, be joyous. If you feel a little silly and light hearted, be silly and light hearted, you’re gonna get to the deep stuff naturally because of who you’re talking to. So it’s just like, just like we were talking about before a record, just trusting it. And taking that step always pays off. Yes, sir. I love it. Well, let’s let’s go back, not all the way to the beginning, because I don’t think we have that kind of time. But let’s go back to your beginnings as a coach. And I kind of like to frame this as like an almost like a superhero origin story, because there’s always like, it’s not always a singular moment. But there it’s in retrospect, obviously, you can see all the steps on your journey. But what was what would you say, prompted you to realize or lead you to discover that you either already were a coach, or that coaching was the right word for what you want it to be. And you know how you wanted to have the kind of impact you wanted to have in the world. How did you How do you realize discover that?

A.J. Vassar 1:46
So it’s interesting, I had been probably pseudo coaching. For years, I started off as a professional barber, so I was always helping people at my, my barber shop, and my barber chair, was helping family and friends. And it actually happened when I was sleeping in my car. I’m one of my one of my good friends. His name is Rob Menger. He’s a up and coming comedian. He’s doing great things. He said, Yo, I want you to be my, my coach. And because he knew my situation, I was thinking, and you either are crazy as hell.

Or you really see something in me that like I’m not seeing right now.

It’s so funny, because I was the best man at his wedding. Last April and I, I was reflecting on that, like, wow, that’s like, I literally started coaching him when I was homeless. And he was like, Nah, man, what do you say word, I just see that you’re in your process. So I was like, I cool. And it went from there, man. So posting people was one of the things that I just I love helping people I love seeing people transition from where their current state is to change and either a behavior or feeling that they have about themselves to get to get the things that they desire in life. So

Kevin Stafford 3:08
oh, so I love that story. And I love it, especially love the fact that you were best man and his wedding just last year, it’s like, it’s like, I can’t help but reflect back like, I can see it on your face a little bit too. You’re like the journey you can see the journey and like a flash all over your face, where it’s like, Man, how we started and where we got to and where we’re going. It’s just so like, when you experienced that, and you have someone who like sees something in you that you can’t see. And then also like takes action to help guide you to that to further realizations. They’re not coming in and telling you what to do. They’re giving you a shot, they see something and they’re trusting that and taking that step and then you experience you’re on the receiving end of that. And when you when you are on the receiving end of that I feel like it’s a certain kind of person who pretty much exclusively will move into coaching is like I need to give this back to other people, I need to find it because like having this done for me and was done for my life and the way I’ve I’ve experienced it, I need I need to get this in the hands in the hearts of everybody I can. And coaching is one of the best ways to do it.

A.J. Vassar 4:03
Definitely. I love I love teaching my frameworks I love helping people create their own mental frameworks that work for them. Because everybody has their own journey. Everybody’s going through things that you know, we don’t know, like I tell them, You’re I’m gonna teach you to be your best coach. Like that’s my job as a coach is to teach you to be your best coach. Because you you’re with you 24/7 We have a certain period, but if I can teach you the framework to coach yourself, then you’re gonna have a great life. So that’s my thing. I think that everybody should be taught how to become their best coach.

Kevin Stafford 4:38
And it’s really that I think of certain words like I think the first word that pops to mind is instill like, whenever you’re teaching someone or like you’re raising someone or you’re mentoring someone and you want to instill in them some sort of knowledge or awareness, and I feel like that’s something that’s really crucial, like right at the foundation of what coaching is, because there is that it’s not really like there’s obviously frameworks and their systems but there’s really that like Guy tightens to where it’s like you as a coach, you want to get someone to awaken within themselves that capacity to coach themselves to guide themselves to see the way forward for themselves because they have like the I think of the the analogy of like a high floor and our low floor high ceiling, like when you’re evaluating like a prospect for a sport or whatever you’ll talk about, like real high ceiling, prospect or real high floors, and like there’s a certain minimum that they’ll be really good at. And I love thinking about the fact that as our own coach, we have the highest ceiling to be able to see the most and do the most and say the most, in the best, most impactful ways possible. And that what a coach does coming into your life is to try and help you awaken that within yourself. It’s so I get I get very almost poetic and romantic about it. Because it’s so it’s like you see the impact it has on people’s lives. And you watch that capacity for self governance and guidance and that that desire to give back and to serve awaken in somebody else. And it makes you remember what it felt like when you were there. And what it feels like being there. Again, it’s just it’s so I mean, I say magical a lot because I get to a loss for words, but it really does feel that way, every time I go.

A.J. Vassar 6:07
And you know what it reminds me I started like really checking out like the etymology of words. And I went out when to study the word education. It comes from the Latin word, as you say, Right? Which means to draw out. So I tell people is I’m not putting into you, I’m actually drawing out of you, because you already great, I just have to, I have to throw it out. And like, that’s my job as a coach is to just draw it out.

Kevin Stafford 6:32
I love that. I did not know that. That Oh, man. That is perfect.

A.J. Vassar 6:39
Education isn’t about giving to people that like the root word for education isn’t about teaching people, it’s actually drawing out of them what they already know.

Kevin Stafford 6:48
So powerful. I want to like I want to like journal about, you know, I’m gonna do I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go home and take, I’m gonna take a break later on this evening, I’m gonna sit aside, I’m just gonna like, like, think about that, and write on that. And like, I’m gonna talk to my partner about it, cuz that’s the so that’s so simple and so clear and so powerful. And so right

A.J. Vassar 7:05
there that what it does for me, as a coach says, it takes the pressure off of me, because I realize I don’t have to be perfect, I don’t have to be all knowing I don’t have to have it all figured out, I just have to believe that greatness is inside of them, and then have a heart and a desire to pull it out of them. And if I can, if I can convince them, that greatness is in them, then I feel like that produces a seed that as long as they keep watering is gonna grow. Right?

Kevin Stafford 7:33
So it really makes me think, too, about how like a lot of coaches I’ve talked to, they’re very, they’re very aware of making sure that they don’t center themselves in their relationship with the people that they’re coaching. Because you always get you always encounter people like this in just about any field who are they’re very, they’re, they’re sort of drinking their own Kool Aid. They’re sort of, you know, buying their own story about how great they are. And that’s, that’s a temptation for everybody who’s having success and impact on the world. And I feel like every really good coach I’ve talked to speaks to this in some way where they’re like, they always want to make sure be very careful that they’re never, never in a position of dictation. It’s always alongside with guidance. It’s always the pulling out. It’s always the awakening of, of what’s inside you. And it’s always it’s always an awareness of not letting yourself as the coach become centered in somebody else’s journey, and how important it is. All right.

A.J. Vassar 8:26
And it’s because I was actually taught this to a mentor of mine named Sam sharper when I was about to be homeless. Shit, Sam, he was he’s the number one African American earner in Primerica. And at the time, he was making $140,000 a month. And I remember going to him and telling him like, Hey, Sam, I’m about to be homeless. You know, I’m about to actually because I don’t want to be homeless. I’m gonna move back to Texas with my mom. And when I get back on my feet, I moved back to Atlanta. And Sam said, Nope, you’re not. He said, Hold on No one that wants a man that runs to his mom when times get hard. So we’re not going to number two, you will learn more from your car than you ever will running from your problems. And then and he said, I have a safe parking lot for you to sleep in. stung me because when he told me I wasn’t immediately My first thought was oh, Sam is about to give me a loan that I can pay back later. And Sam was no I’m going to give you a safe parking lot. So you can realize that I’m not your Savior. Because if he had given me a loan, I would have always ran the sound

Kevin Stafford 9:37
and he would have stolen that experience from you too. That’s like he would have stolen all the all the all the lessons you learned from that from that challenge? And I think he was wise enough to know it. That’s that that is a wise gentleman right there.

A.J. Vassar 9:49
No, he taught he taught me tough love, love love and so now I always tell people like go through your go through your hard times because When you do become successful, those will be the times that you miss the most. There are still times i, although my car was very uncomfortable, because I’m six foot three. At the time, I was like 255 pounds, you know, it was very uncomfortable. But it was just that alone time that I had, it was like not, I didn’t have any distractions. You know, it was, you know, they’re still, like you said, the magical moments and the isolation of the process.

Kevin Stafford 10:30
So I love I got me thinking about how, how important it is to not try to save someone. But to give them a safe place to be, like you’ve identified the safety is what you need. So you wanted to make sure that you were that you had your your primary needs cared for, but that he didn’t come in and try to save you because that would steal something from from you about this experience, it would steal your your future path, and he was wise enough to see that and loved you enough and had the discipline because when you look when you care about someone, there can be this rush to want to, to want to save them or to help them or to do what anything you can. And sometimes it’s not about doing anything you can it’s about doing the right thing for them.

A.J. Vassar 11:12
Yes. And you always have to so a good question that I I tell my clients is always ask yourself, then what? And go through a process then what’s right, so Okay, Sam gives me $10,000 Then what, then, oh, Sam $10,000. And if once that money runs out, I’m still in the same place, right? Now had to wear with all the things through that, right. Or if I just give him a safe place, he’s going to do the work to figure it out himself. And when he gets out, he owes no one. And he has these lessons that are gonna take him to the metagame, Colombia’s of the world. And you know, I tell people all the time, like they asked me how were you able to move to Medellin, Colombia and not know anyone you had never visited? And I told them, I face my boogie man and my car, like my boogie man made homeless. That was my Boogeyman. And once I faced it in my car, like what what can I do now?

Kevin Stafford 12:15
I, I love your story. And I can talk in this space for forever because I love talking about this kind of stuff, these these origin stories of discovery, but also that you mentioned that you’re in medicine now. And it gets me thinking it’s like I gotta be a good podcast host and let’s talk about your coaching business. Talk about what you’re doing today. So today, obviously, you’re based in Medina right now, and have been there for I think you said like five years or so. I like to ask this question kind of as like a two parter, because I feel like it gets at like the whole the hole. That the wholeness of the whole foundation of your coaching business. So it’s Who do you coach as in like, Who do you primarily focus on primarily focus on like, is there a certain certain industries that you specialize in? Or certain certain people in certain areas of their life that you kind of have a large client base in? And then how do you coach them being the second part where it’s like, do you primarily still do one to one coaching? And do you have anything else on top of that, or aside from that, like group coaching that you do? Or obviously, you’re a motivational speaker? So I imagine you also keynotes and presentations and stuff like that. So who do you coach and how do you coach them?

A.J. Vassar 13:17
So typically, I’m coaching I ended up closing the people that are they fit into the category of late bloomers. All right. I coach a lot of late bloomers like they they’re just now starting to hit their stride. A lot of underdogs. I coach and a lot of them are people that have taken their their willpower has taken him as far as it can go in business they right man, they’re entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs that have really used just gut and the temptation to get to this level. And it’s like, now what, right? Because I felt like we all need systems to teach us things that we didn’t learn. And I have an acronym for system is something you stick to emphatically and methodically.

Kevin Stafford 14:10
Okay, I like that. I like that a lot.

A.J. Vassar 14:13
Right? So um, I think the Murrays have a saying you don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems, right? Well, then that’s my thing with them. So when we talk about my coaching methodologies, it’s what systems do we need to set up in your life to make sure it just works with or without you? Right? And when I say without you, I don’t mean not you being in the process. I mean, when you wake up and you don’t want to do it, when you’re not who you felt you were yesterday, when you were all excited about being coached. What then can we it’s still in place, and what what mechanisms can be put in place to make sure you do it and I came up with this kind of grading concept, and I mastered it in my car because I realized I wanted to have a great life. But in order to have a great life, then I needed to learn how to have great years, which means I had to have months, which I had to have days, right? So then if I stack a no have great days together, I end up with a great life. So how do I start? How do I start systemize systematizing that. So where I would realize there were times in my car, I would feel like, Oh, my God, this was a great day, like, I felt great. I didn’t accomplish anything. Right? I just felt good. There were other times where I felt like this is the most crappiest day I’ve ever had. And I look back and I’m like, yo, you did everything that you said you were going to do. And because of that, you graded out at an A. So it was like, how many eight days can I agree together to end up with a plus life.

Kevin Stafford 15:54
So, so many aspects of that, that I like I gravitate towards that, that we don’t rise to the level of our of our goals, we fall to the level of our training or our systems, but that’s something that I have various versions of that written in like notebooks on sticky notes on like a whiteboard, just because that’s like, that’s one of those things where it’s like, that’s, I like to be thinking about that either consciously or habit like be kind of underneath, like, under the surface every day of my life. Because it’s one of the truest things I’ve ever encountered. It’s so true. And I love that you identified, it’s that when you wake up in the morning and don’t want to do something, it’s like this, that we’re not trying to get you out of your own life, we’re trying to really get you all the way in. And there are gonna be some days where not only do you not want to do something or there, there might be some days where your time and energy might be better spent somewhere else. And yet, there are still things that need to be accomplished. There might be days where you need someone who’s going to be better than you at that thing. And so you need to have that person in place, you have to understand how to find that person, how to build a relationship with that person, or those people how to build that team, it just, there’s so many different applications for for this systemic approach to raising that floor so that you know, your, your perfect average day isn’t just such a high high that you know, you can’t help but succeed, then you save all your best energy, all of that grit and determination that got you as far as it did, that then works towards your ceiling that then lets you reach for the stars. And that’s just so powerful.

A.J. Vassar 17:15
And I think for me, it helps you set a standard, right? Because if I asked you, Hey, how did you do? How did you do November 23rd of last year? Oh, no. Like the average person has no idea how they did and think about that. Every successful business, the number one thing they have to have to be successful is accounting. That’s no, you’re successful. So I almost and not almost is basically an accounting system for your life. So that we can look back and see how were you doing in how does this quarter compared to last quarter? How does this year compared to last year? How does this day compared to last year? Right? And you can only do that if you actually understand what your standards were? And in a certain sense, have a system set up to say, Did I reach that standard? Today? Yes or no? So if I go for weeks, without me to meeting my standard, I have to realize that success is actually lags. So I’m not going to feel the four weeks probably until another four to four weeks or 90 days from here. But when I look at my life, and it’s not going as planned, now I can look back and say, Alright, who I know, I’m struggling right now, because I was not on it a month ago. Right? Most people don’t have that. So in their lives,

Kevin Stafford 18:36
it really gives you I mean, it’s like it’s data it gives you it gives you actionable data, where you can look and it gives you the ability to then ask more important questions or better questions. You start with a like those Yes, knows. And you’re like, Okay, so why is that? Why is it a no? It’s been it’s been a no for like it was for four out of the last six days. And shoot, it’s been a no for for 11 out of the last 14 days. Something’s going on here. I wonder what that might be. And then you get to ask better questions about that and discover more and gather more data because you’ve been committed to gathering that data. And it’s just, it’s, it gives you this comparison. Again, I love thinking of it as just accounting not only because it’s sort of right there next to that word, accountability, which is a big part of it, too. But like I just I just love that you can the understanding and the awareness. And I think why, why I’m loving what you’re doing, or why I love your approach is that a lot of people will they’ll think of these kinds of things as difficult to define, or difficult to make empirical to understand in like in a sort in a sort of straight line way. And it’s really just a matter of committing to a to put too fine a point on it a system, you know, acronym or not to have a system for it. And that allows you to then begin to build up to a place where you can look and you can ask yourself questions and you can find the better questions and you can see where things are going astray and then build on that going forward. It’s it’s so powerful. It’s so Simple to, especially when you break it down into those chunks. It’s like it doesn’t have to be like, how do I do? How do I evaluate a year? It’s like, well, you don’t you start, you go back to start with a day, start with an hour, you know?

A.J. Vassar 20:12
What would and that’s all you do you say. So, from the system I set up, I started realizing that when it came to my health, I would start falling off after three weeks, it never failed. I would I would go strong for three weeks, and then something would happen and I would start to fall off. Well, now I have data now I don’t beat myself up. Now I just say, okay, cool. Let me start analyzing what happens in the three week period. And then how do I set up a buffer against that so that it doesn’t hit me this time. So life life, fitness, all of that has become better because all I was able to do was just look at the data. Right? I don’t have to beat myself up. I’m just looking at okay, cool. And three weeks. This is when I really liked the first two weeks. I don’t need any willpower. So stop using it. They’ve all my willpower for week three, because that’s when I fall off.

Kevin Stafford 21:08
Know thyself, know thyself. It’s yeah.

A.J. Vassar 21:13
Know thyself is what without it.

Kevin Stafford 21:16
I want to jealously surf selfishly want to keep you for like hours and hours. I love the way in which you are able to communicate yourself and your frameworks and your systems, but also like communicate about your story and like your heart and your passion. It’s very, it’s like contagious I’m like I’m I have like a kind of welling excitement. And I got this from like, the first moment we were chatting before I hit record, I know I commented on how like you’d already lightened my day, give you to talk to you for you know, 25 minutes, I’m just like, Man, I feel really good. And also, I’m like, I got some I got some work to do. I feel like it’s fired. So let’s and so but I do want to like wrap this up and get you out of here. And I want to make sure that my audience knows where to find out more about you like where they can just learn more about you your story and your past, present your future, what you’re doing now your coaching frameworks, all of the above and then also if it’s different, where they can best connect with you. If you have a social media platform or if you have like anywhere on your website that is the ideal place for people to go if they want to talk to you and started relationship.

A.J. Vassar 22:16
Yeah, so the best thing all of my social media handles are at AJ Vassar. At AJ Yes. And Victor as Sar. I tell people reach out all the time. I’m gonna I’m a real person. I know the thing that I love doing. I had so many people helped me that, you know, I don’t mind helping. Like, of course, I won’t just coach people for free, like for the entirety but like to help you. Especially if someone is like, Hey, can you do a video about this? Or can you break this down? I have you. I mean, if it can impact others, you’ll reach out to me. I would love to I would love to interact with you get to know you and see how I can how I can help you.

Kevin Stafford 22:57
Hello, alright.

A.J. Vassar 22:58
Hey, all the reason I just look weird, is because I’m very observant. I was looking at your desk, and I saw this. Uh huh. And I haven’t right ballpark. I was like, because when I looked I was like you know how you think like, Is my camera messed up? Oh, no, that’s

Kevin Stafford 23:19
Oh, that’s hilarious. Yeah, I saw your face light up like a Christmas tree. And I was like, what do you look at as like somebody he was looking forward to seeing it was like, Nope, it’s one of our one of our favorite books. I’ve learned so much from that book. I read it and you know, a couple of hours in a day, and I’ve gone back to it so many times.

A.J. Vassar 23:35
Great book. Great book.

Kevin Stafford 23:37
Oh, and for those people just listening it’s expert secrets. And you can find if you don’t already know about it, you can find it just about anywhere. It’s like what’s what’s his name again? Russell Brunson almost called Russell Brand. That’s somebody different Russell Brunson.

A.J. Vassar 23:51
No, that’s cool, man. I love that I love

Kevin Stafford 23:53
awesome. That’s awesome. I love that well shoot I I’m really I’m just really grateful to have met you. I’m really glad that you’re out there in the world doing what you’re doing I’d love your I love your story. I love your passion. I love your I love your I love your systemic thinking. It makes me feel very it speaks to it speaks to that side of me in a very powerful way. And I’m just really glad to share some time with you and I’m totally gonna have you back on the show if you if you enjoy this conversation, like do a podcast like this because I love having guests back on and being like, what just happened in the last four or five months? Or like how does how’s your year been going so far? So I’m gonna have you back on because this is just fantastic.

A.J. Vassar 24:26
Yes. And the next time I come on, one of the things that I’ll do is I’ll actually bring a show my grades. So I’ll show I’ll show people my braids. I’ll show people what it looks like for me to gray myself and how that looks.

Kevin Stafford 24:40
No man and again get a little flashbacks to like the old school PTA meetings from back when I was in high school, which is a lot longer ago than I care to talk about right now but that’s fine

oh man, well, to the audience out there. I mean, you know, you know exactly what to do. I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation here. Have as much as I have. I have links to basically wherever you can find AJ obviously AJ Vasser on all the social media. I’ll have a link to his website. Anything you might need to find out more. I’ll make sure it’s in the show notes. You know what to do next. We’ll talk to AJ here again in next few months sometime. I’ll have him back on and we’ll talk to you again here with our next coach very, very soon. So thanks for being here.

Think you'd be a great fit for the podcast?

Apply now to be our next guest!

Check Out Boxer Services

Be different

Enhance Your Brand

Most coaches struggle to explain what differentiates them from the next guy, let alone why your hot new prospect should pay you $10k more than your competitor who is seriously undercutting you.
Establish Your Authority

Establish Your Authority

Social Omnipresence allows you to meet your ideal prospects where they’re at by amplifying your authority across the same social media platforms where your clients are already spending their time.


Expand Your Network

What would you do with 300 new leads connected with you on LinkedIn each month? You’d probably build relationships with those prospects a lot faster, turn those relationships into clients, and make a lot more money!

Leverage Your Website

Elevate Your Website

You’ve established your brand and your authority. You’ve grown your social following and your LinkedIn following exponentially. People look up to you, they know you have answers, and they want to visit your website to learn more.

Before you go...

…how about another newsletter? 😉

In all seriousness, you’ll love this one. Five minutes each week with illuminating insights & amplifying spotlights from the world of business, branding, coaching, and marketing.

If that sounds like your speed, we’re more than happy to have you.