Maria Granados knows that in order to live a purposeful life, you must first be able to identify your purpose, and her purpose is clear: to encourage others to live the lives they were meant to live.
Maria currently lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Matt (an entrepreneur since the age of 15), their baby Natalie Rose, and their fiesty rescue dog, Bruce Wayne. A few years ago, Maria and Matt launched a unique productivity coaching program that has helped individuals, startups, and corporations purposefully design their days to achieve their big, beautiful mission in life! Maria also serves as Executive Director of an innovative summer program, Eagle University, that helps 15-22 year olds articulate their goals, design the life they want to live and unlock the tools they need to get there.
Maria believes that to be an encourager, you also have to be vulnerable enough to be encouraged. So she is asking for your encouragement as she puts together her latest project, Giving Up: A Simple Strategy for Being a Philanthropist at ANY Income. For questions on purpose, productivity, or philanthropy feel free to reach out to Maria at Maria@LifePlanner.guru.
Shantel: Hey everyone we are so excited to welcome Maria Grasso to the show today. Maria, thank you so much for coming.
Maria: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Shantel: Yeah, of course. Well we are excited to learn about your journey, and the few businesses that you've started, and launched, and co-founded with your husband. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you got started in all of those, and what's the primary focus right now?
| THE SYSTEM |
Maria: Yeah, absolutely! Absolutely. My husband Matt, and I ... My husband Matt's been an entrepreneur since he was out of college. The entrepreneurial journey is more recent to me in the last few years. When we started dating really is when we kind of started a journey together building a business that really essentially helps coach people on productivity. Individuals, start ups, corporations. How can we take their day, and design it so that it ultimately achieves their mission, and that's kind of what we do primarily right now. My husband has a few other businesses that he runs, but then myself I also work as executive director of a non-profit organization that helps young people 15 to 22 years old really find the career that they want to do. Figure out the tools they need to get there, and then just design, and set up this whole plan for them to achieve that. Our whole goal is to help them beat out the competition that they meet along the way to really set themselves up for success. For my husband, and I all of our businesses that we run are really about helping people really achieve their goals, and just design that life that they want to live.
Shantel: That's amazing so can you tell us a little bit about how you, and Matt your husband came up with that productivity tool for teams? What kind of spurred that for you guys?
Maria: Yeah. Of course. It's a funny story. We both grew up going to a similar youth leadership program where we learned a lot about goal setting, and timing, and values different things. We both kind of became addicted to that whole area of life. Self growth, and so we've always done time management, and goal setting our whole lives, and so when we started dating he had created in his notebook this plan for how he designed his days. Just kind of sketched it out, and he was using it all the time, and he was getting crazy results, and we kept having all these big things happen in his other businesses, and I was just amazed at how much was getting done. I asked him like, hey can I kind of get in here, and do this with you, and show me what you're doing, and it was similar things that I had already known. Some of the more famous ways of I guess managing your time, and day, and kind of collectively putting them into a system. I said let me try this for my life. I tried this for my life, and we had some crazy years where we got married, we bought a house, we sold a house, we started two new businesses, we had a baby, we did all these crazy things within a very short time frame, and life never felt overwhelming to us, and so we ended up putting this system into a bound book that we were really just going to use for ourselves. We were going to use it for our friends who have been asking us, like hey how are you doing this, and we really started there, and we weren't really planning on making a business out of it, but we had people ask us to teach them the system, and to teach their team the system, to teach a group there in this system. Pretty soon what we realized is this system really helps not just individuals, but teams get on the same page. We were using it as a family, as a couple. We knew several families that were also using it in their own lives, and it kind of started there, and then evolved to the businesses. It just was this whole business that never meant to ... We never meant to start. I know a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you the same thing. We never meant to start it, but now it's grown beyond what we even imagined when we first put this little system into a bound book at Kinko's one day, you know?
Shantel: I think that you kind of hit the nail on the head where entrepreneurs sometimes just see an opportunity, or are using a system that they've created themselves, but then people want to also use, and see the benefit out of. For the listeners, we're big fans, and is it still life planner, or have you guys recently rebranded the name?
Maria: We're working on rebranding right now. We're not yet releasing, but what we're going to call it, it's going to be similar, but I think just a little bit more of an edge on what we actually do. The big company behind it is all to Matt's, and the life planner is currently the name of it, and that's the tool we use, but the program we'd go into different companies, and teams, and we call it transform your team. Really life planner, and transform your team are two products under our big umbrella of all to Matt's.
Shantel: I will be sure to update the resources page on the website so just keep me updated on that, because it is a tool everyone should use. Yeah, of course. Did you always know that you wanted to be entrepreneur, and start gains, and help people, or what did you want to be?
Maria: Oh, yeah. So yes, and no. Can I say that?
Shantel: Yeah, of course.
| HELPING OTHERS |
Maria: I always knew I wanted to help people. That was really my goal. I did not know that that looked like a entrepreneurial journey for me so I thought I would join organizations, and kind of help lead them from within things that were already started. What I realized early on is that a lot of times the things you want started aren't started, and that's the hard part. Working with my husband has just been really fun, because he was already well versed in how to start things. I think just being around somebody who had no fear, and starting things really made me feel like it's possible. I went from kind of helping with organizations that were already started to really just being able to run my own ... And kind of run our own businesses, because I didn't have that fear anymore. I would say for me the goal was always to help people. That's my number one purpose in life is to encourage other people, and help them, and I just looked for ways to do that, and now I'm not afraid to start those rather than just follow how somebody else is already helping people.
Shantel: That's a great story. A lot of what we want to kind of talk about on this podcast specifically is who is inspiring people to imagine more, and break out of those fearful boundaries that they're setting for themselves. Would you say that Matt, or your husband is kind of the primary driver for that, or was there anyone in your younger years that really was a catalyst for you imagining more, and kind of thinking outside the box?
Maria: Yeah. I mean hands down my husband Matt would be one of the bigger influences on me to really think outside of the box, and to imagine more. I'm kind of a perfectionist, and I get stuck in that way. I don't like to put things out until their finished. Until they're high quality. Until their absolutely ready in my opinion, and to have somebody in my corner who isn't afraid to talk about ideas that they have before their fully thought out, or isn't afraid to get people's input on half done products. It really kind of made me think bigger. It made me think about more. I think a lot of people who fall into my similar personality style where we're just ... I guess the best way to say it is perfectionist. I think sometimes entrepreneurial journey for us is difficult, because we're afraid of messing up, and we're not really putting things out there until they're done, but then they're never done so we're never putting them out there. For me my husband Matt is the one that's really helped me to imagine more by just getting started. By talking about ideas I have, and just putting legs on them early, and getting them out there. I think growing up, him, and I were both exposed as young people to the same program. The program that I run now called Eagle University. We both grew up talking about goals. Talking about time management. Always having a five year plan. Always having five year goals since we were 15 so for us it's like I've always imagined more for myself, but I was always crippled into actually making it happen so I think the combination of that program, and then him being my husband, and really pushing me to actually just get things out there. I've always had the plan, but I haven't always shared the plan.
Shantel: Well it's certainly scary to launch something, and have to learn the ups, and downs, and it's nice to have that support system for sure.
Maria: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
Shantel: Speaking about mistakes, and failures what are your thoughts on kind of the word failure, and what would you say is maybe one of the biggest mistake you've made as an entrepreneur so far?
| FAILURE = DISCOVERY |
Maria: Yeah, okay so the word failure. My thought on failure. We've kind of grown up always referring to failure as just a really interesting result, not failures. For us it's a discovery, interesting result, or interesting discovery. There's always something to be learned from a quote on quote failure. For us we look at it as an interesting result like I said, but it's really about back tracking, and then looking at the process. When I don't get what I want I always go back, and say well what did I really do, and what result came from that. Okay. This quote on quote failure came from that so let me adjust the process. We've always looked at it as a learning opportunity as far as that goes. I'm sorry what was the second part of that question? I totally just blanked out.
Shantel: No, it's okay. I completely agree though about the failure piece. You learn something so it's really never a failure.
Maria: Never. We try to always just eliminate that word from our vocabulary. Just talk about results.
Maria: Is it a good result, bad result, interesting result, what kind of result did we get?
Shantel: I love that, and the second part of the question was the biggest mistake you think you've made, or of interesting opportunity, or discovery that you've made so far that you hadn't thought about at the beginning?
Maria: Sure. A big mistake I think ... And I was just talking to Matt about this. In the beginning of starting ... Creating the life planner program, and the transform your team program. The biggest mistake we made was being too attached to the product, and how we use it in our lives that ... Matt hates when I use this word, but that we dismissed other people's feedback, and ideas. Saying maybe they just don't get it instead of using it as an opportunity to look from a new angle. I know he hates when I say that, but I'm throwing it out there.
Shantel: I appreciate the transparency there. It's sometimes hard to hear other people. I mean it's your baby. You've created something, and then I can see it being tough.
Maria: Yeah. The cool thing from that is we realized we were doing that. We re-look at the process, and said, "Okay, so what are we going to do now with these feedback?" Right? That's when we started this whole new version of what we're doing with our business where we're I guess ... 'Cause some people would ask us. You have this one system, but I'm really ... My life is all about fitness, and I'm in the fitness world, and so how do you? I need a different version of this system to do that. We're like no you don't, you just need the system, I swear it works for everything. What we've done with that is we're kind of like, okay, you know what that is actually ... We're not going to dismiss that. We're not going to do what we used to do, and just get rid of that. We're going to say you know what there's value to what you're saying, and what we've done now is we have brought on all of these different people, and different industries that use this, and we're allowing them to teach other people, hey you know what ... Like for example, we have somebody who is big in the fitness world, and he is going to create a video series on how he uses this in his life as somebody in that fitness world, because the natural law of authority says people tend to listen to those who they perceive to be an authority, right? If we get more people in these different industries talking about how to use it, other people who have those focuses in life will do it. We would not have seen that at all if we would have been in our shell like we had been, and dismissing people. I think our interesting results of what we got. We look back at the process, and we made some changes, and we're able to actually now do something new going forward. It would have been a big mistake if we would have missed that whole opportunity. If we didn't just look at that from a new angle.
Shantel: Yeah, absolutely. Okay let's switch gears a little bit. So you're a new mom, congratulations.
Shantel: Your daughter is adorable.
Maria: Thank you.
Shantel: Yeah, and so you are now juggling multiple businesses, a family, how do you optimize your day?
| SCHEDULE IN THE TIME |
Maria: Yeah, well I mean I don't want to overkill it, but you know where I'm going with this one. I'm a big user of our system, and it wouldn't be authentic if I wasn't, but I will tell you the parts of that system I think might be more helpful for people to hear about is we really ... I really prioritize my day, and what's urgent, and important. A lot of people are familiar with the time matrix from Stephen Covey, and we really use that kind of system in our system, and I really look at, at the end of each day. I look at what's urgent, and important for my coming up days, what do I need to prioritize, and how do I go forward in that. Not just that, but because I'm a mother, because I'm somebody who cares about my spirituality, and my physical health, and all that kind of stuff too, I set goals in all those different areas each week to make sure that I'm optimizing my week across the board. Not just professionally, which I think is a mistake a lot of us make, because I've made that mistake in my past. I know that is we tend to set goals, or we tend to focus on just professional, and then we wonder why we're drained, or we wonder why we haven't optimized ourselves physically, or spiritually, or socially, and I think that that's kind of why. I really look at what's urgent, and important. I prioritize based on that each night for the coming day. I set goals for the week that I want to accomplish in the four different areas of my life. Which are physical, social, career, and spiritual for me. Then I base my whole week off of those big elements so that I make sure I at least get a well rounded week out of it, because I have to as a mom right now, you know?
Shantel: That goes into the balance piece. Sometimes it's hard for people I think to conceptualize how can I create balance when one thing is calling my name one day, and it requires something else the next. So you look at maybe a little bit more holistically of four categories, and weekly. Like little touches on I need to do those categories each week to make sure you feel fulfilled? Is that right?
Maria: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I schedule balance essentially. Yes, totally. I'm okay saying that. I'm okay saying that I schedule time with my husband each week, and I think for me balance looks like that. It looks like setting goals for my family, and for my life, and for my spirituality, and all that kind of stuff, and acting on it each day. I set those goals. I write down all the different things I need to do to meet those goals, and all the other things I have going on. I prioritize them, and then I just take action on them. Really, I think that that creates the balance, because at the end of the week I look at myself, and I say hey, how did I do? Did I reach these goals? Did one area get more love than the other areas, and what do I need to do next week to make sure that I'm giving some love all around to myself, and all the different parts of who I am, you know? I really just schedule balance in all honesty.
Shantel: I love that, but it also seems like you schedule time to reflect, which I think a lot of people probably don't do, or at least me myself. It's harder to take a step back, and say okay, how did I do? So you are really intentional about doing that every week as well?
Maria: Yes. Absolutely. I think the reflection piece is critical, because you can do all these things. You can schedule, you can set up, and if you don't reflect there's really no point to the rest of it, because you're not learning from what you just did. You're just getting through it, you're not really growing from it if you will.
Shantel: Absolutely. Worst case let's say you had a bad day, or you're feeling a little bit drained, or pulled in a lot of directions, what do you do to recharge?
| RECHARGE |
Maria: Oh, yes. Okay. I like recharge. There's a lot of things I do to recharge. I move. Move physical for me recharging is all about the physical. Sometimes it depends on if I'm like sick, or whatever of course a nap is good, but I need to be physically engaged to recharge. I'm a fitness junkie, and so whatever I need to do to make that happen. If I haven't gone to a work out class, I can't work out by myself. I have to do it with people. I have to motivated in that way. I have to be around people. For me, it's lifting something heavy, or punching a punching bag. Something with impact, and then also spirituality is huge to me so prayer is really something that I do to recharge. So movement, and prayer for me. Those two things are just how I recharge. How I get through when I'm feeling drained. Sometimes the nap does the opposite for me so I have to get out there, and move, otherwise I might be worse off.
Shantel: And when you're getting physical do you ... Are you able to actually unplug, or is it also a good time for you to think through problems, and solutions, or is it really truly the time where you kind of just shut off, and power through?
Maria: You know what for me it's a complete shut off, and I think it's because I go to classes, and I don't ... if I was to do it by myself I might not be able to ... I might think too much. In a class when they're giving you instruction, and you're doing different things I think you tend to just really be focused on the action. I think that's important as far as recharging is doing something where you really can let go of all the stuff going on in your head. Some people that might not be physical for them. They might think too much like people that go running. That might be where they think too much about everything, and they're feeling even more drained. For me, I like to do things where my mind is completely ... Physical things for my mind is completely off of that, and on the movement, or on whatever I'm working on. Which is why I like boxing, and why I like weight lifting is because I have to really think about my form, and movement, and I can't think about all the stress in my day, or whatever's going on. I have to have where I'm mentally engaged.
Shantel: I would love to come to a boxing class with you sometime.
Maria: Oh yeah, let's do it.
Shantel: On the opposite spectrum so when you need to be inspired, or want to learn more, what kind of recharges you in that sense? Are you a big reader, are there certain podcasts? What's kind of charging you up right now?
Maria: All of it. I'm a reader. I'm also a listener of books. I love my husband, because he solely listens to audio books, and then he buys the book, and keeps the receipt in it, and has them all in his library, and it's hilarious. I like to mark up books, and then go back, and listen to them. I'm kind of the opposite of him. I like to read through it, and mark it up, and then I'll listen to it if I've already read it. For me, books are huge. Huge part of everything for me. I have my favorites that I go back to. I'm one of those weird people. I don't read fiction, because I can't do it. I'd like to maybe one book a year I read that's fiction. I like to learn something about myself, or somebody else when I'm reading, and then podcasts for me are huge. My favorite book that I've been checking out to everybody lately. Is H3 leadership by Brad Lomenick. I just love the way he talks about ... I've been struggling with this for so long, and I talk to a lot of young people, and they struggle with this too, but the idea that you are not your job, and your identity doesn't lie in what you do for a living. He talks about how you have your identity, and then you have your purpose, and your calling, and then you have your assignment, which is your job. Your current job. How you can remove assignments, and you still don't lose your identity, or your purpose. I think a lot of people really struggle with that whole thing of when they change jobs they feel like they're losing themselves. That for me, I go back to that book all the time as a tool for myself. I mean, I could talk about books all day.
Shantel: I love that, and I think that it's really relevant for growing businesses too. The change is going to happen regardless, and sometimes that may feel like you're having an identity crisis. Like what did you start, what is happening? The change in that, and being able to navigate that emotional side of it I imagine. Yeah, I'm going to have to check that out. I'll definitely link to it on the site.
Maria: Oh, definitely, and he's actually from Atlanta. Brad Lomenick, which is interesting. I didn't know that author wrote it, but I think too entrepreneurs especially have a hard time with the assignment also tieing their identity to it, because you own it right? It's you. You have a whole mistake in it, right? It feels like it's who you are. Businesses can come, and go, and it's dangerous when we don't pull ourselves, who we are as people out of it. It's important to put who you are in your business of course for authenticity, and all that kind of stuff, but I think to realize you are more than just that one thing is critical. It can be dangerous if not, but yeah. As far as how I learn. Books, podcasts, I'd say those two are the biggest for me. I just really love hearing what other people have to say. That's really it.
Shantel: I'm excited to read that book. Thanks for that tip.
Maria: Of course, of course.
Shantel: You sound super self aware, and I think that's important being a business owner, and just growing in life. What would you say you're not very good at?
Maria: Oh, yeah. I can tell you all those things. The number one thing that I'm not good at. I'm really, really not good at delegating. It is difficult for me, and I feel it when we grow. Right now, we're growing in our business. My non-profit is growing, and there's a lot of other people that need to come on board, and this is where I start to not fall apart, but really see my weaknesses. I tend to not ... This is going to sound really bad, but I'm going to say it. I tend to not think that other people value the task as much as I do, so therefore I don't think that they'll put as much heart into what they're doing, and it worries me. Especially when you have ownership in something, and you're giving them somebody else a task, and your name is on that, you know what I mean? For me I worry that people might not value that task as much as I do, and therefore they won't do as well getting it done. I get nervous to delegate, but also that's false, I know that. I know that's false about people so I'm working on fixing that. I'm also just not organized enough to delegate in all honesty. Everything lives in my head, and in my planning sheets that according to other people aren't legible, but that's fine. I'm working on really re-organizing, creating manuals for every role I had in my different organizations, and what people are doing, and I have that all in my own way out. It's not the way that somebody else could jump in, and figure it out. I'm trying to make it easier for other people to help us out, because I know that I will burn out, and I'm learning that better that you have to create that for yourself, or else it won't work.
Shantel: Well fair enough. Thanks so much for being so transparent there. Flip side to top strength, and how do you think you leverage it every day?
Maria: I don't know if this is like a typical strength, but I think my strength is really just encouraging other people, and I have this ... I don't want to call it gift, that sounds weird, but I always remember what people have told me about what they're working on, or what's going on in their life, and I try at least once a day to reach out to someone who I may not talk to regularly just to remind them that I'm thinking about them in that capacity of what they share with me.
Shantel: That's amazing.
Maria: I really feel like I'm going to need that back at some point, and I think that my strength is really kind of keeping up with people, and what's going on under the surface with them. I don't know how that plays out each day, but I know that overall in my life it's really kind of come back to me two fold. I think that I really have a lot of people in my corner who would go to that for me, and who check in on me, because of the people that I've checked in on. There's that quote that they say people won't remember what you said, or what you did, but they'll remember how you made them feel. My goal is just to give people all the feels they deserve. When I need all the feels back, I hope it comes back to me in that way, because I'll also need to be encouraged to get the things done that I need to get done, and sometimes when I'm not feeling okay, I'll get that random text from somebody I don't talk to who is telling me, hey I hope you're doing good on that new project you're working on, and I'm like you know what, I needed that today, because I was sitting here feeling like I couldn't do it so I appreciate that. I hope I'm doing that for other people. Constantly just kind of trading off that encouragement.
Shantel: That it really is a gift. I don't think that comes naturally to a lot of people to constantly be embracing that positivity, and encouraging others, and I think that are true signs of a great leader so that's exciting.
Maria: Aw, thank you. I appreciate that.
Shantel: Yeah, of course. Well what's next on the horizon? We kind of touching a little bit about the new non-profit you're starting. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
| NEXT ON THE HORIZON |
Maria: Yeah. It's actually going to be a book, and it will be ... All the proceeds will be going to do good in the world. It won't be going to my pocket, but it's called, "Giving Up." The whole concept is giving financially has been a big part of my life, and even when I didn't make very much money, and my husband as well, and we just both have come to this idea that we have so many friends, and different people in our life that say, you know I want to give when I start making X amount of dollars. I can't wait to give like you guys do when we make X amount of dollars. I think they overestimate what kind of money we have to give, but I think the idea is that so many people feel crippled. They feel like they can't do good, because they haven't reached this level of whatever financial threshold, or they think that they need to reach to start doing good in the world. It's really a project that's hopefully giving people strategies that they can actually start going out there, and doing the good that really resonates with who they are, and eliminating all these barriers that they think that they have. I think that doing good not only helps the people that receive the good, but there's something about when you're able to do good for somebody else. What that does for your life I think is huge, and I want to share that feeling, and that energy with other people. People deserve to have that feeling, and they think that this money thing is an obstacle, and it's not. My whole goal is to help people really connect with the ways that they can do good that resonate with who they are, and not have this financial, mental block in their head of doing that. Does that make sense?
Shantel: Yeah, absolutely. I'm really excited to read it, and I think it makes me think of time, and how you can dedicate your time, or donate your time, or yeah. Just the impact that you have. Even if it's a little bit, and how that can translate to someone's life. I think that's amazing.
Maria: Yeah. Hopefully I'll be able to articulate it in a way that really resonates with different kinds of people, because I really don't want to put anyone in a box. I really don't want to hit one audience. It's kind of one of those things where you're just like, "I feel like a lot of people can benefit from this, and I don't want to make it to narrow." You know what I mean? I think that's the challenge there with this, but we'll see.
Shantel: Keep us updated. I'll be sure to link once it's live, and then last question to kind of wrap it up. What's the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received?
| THE GOLDEN RULE |
Maria: Oh, yeah. I love this question. Awhile ago I learned from a mentor of mine ... He's a big mentor for both my husband, and I, and he obviously borrowed this from somebody else he's heard, and that's how that good stuff gets passed, but it's treat people how they want to be treated. Often we hear the golden rule, treat people the way you want to be treated, and that's good, that's fine, but we call it the platinum rule of treating people how they want to be treated. I feel like that has fundamentally changed all of my relationships in my life with people, because it's not about what I want, or what I think I want. It really helps me think of other people when I meet them, or when I'm working with them in different capacities. I'm not looking at them, and giving them what they need based on what I think I need. It's really based on knowing them, and it challenges me to constantly keep knowing the people in my life, and updating my self on what they're going through. It's like I don't just know them statically in one part of time, I continue to know them as I move on. I think there's so many cool tools about there that help you treat people the way they want to be treated, right? All the personalities tests, the strengths test, knowing someone's love language, Gary Chapman's awesome on that, and he also does the apology languages. Just really understanding what ... How people respond. How somebody wants to receive love isn't necessarily ... I want to receive it, and I should know how they want to receive it, and I should give it to them in that way. Not necessarily what I need. That one piece of advice to treat people how they want to be treated, 'cause fundamentally just changed entire way that I interact with people in general.
Shantel: I think that goes back to when you mentioned encouraging people as a strength of yours. I think having that knowledge, and wanting to find out in how they can be encouraged, and loved, and appreciated certainly sets you up for success there. I think that's great. Thank you for sharing.
Maria: Of course, of course.
Shantel:Well I so enjoyed chatting with you. I'll be sure to link everything on the podcast, and yeah, we enjoyed having you.
Maria: Well thanks so much. I appreciated you guys asking me these questions, and helping me think through my life. It's fun to do, so thanks for what you're doing with the podcast too. I'm excited to listen to all the others episodes.