Tips To Get What You Want With Bruce Turkel

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

Take Back Time | Bruce Turkel | Get What You Want


Are you not getting what you want? What could be the reason behind that? When you are living someone else life or trying to achieve someone else’s dream. In this episode, Bruce Turkel, the Author of All About Them, shares his tips to help you get what you want and the reason behind why you don’t get it. He also added the Importance of figuring out what you are uniquely good at. Start living your life and not someone else life today. Tune in to this episode with Bruce to know and get what you want.

Listen to the podcast here


Tips To Get What You Want With Bruce Turkel

We’re always looking for people who are going to inspire you and help you think differently. This guest that we have in this episode is going to help you get what you want. That sounds pretty awesome. Without further ado, Bruce Turkel is here. He has helped some of the world’s most compelling brands get what they want, including Hasbro, Nike, and American Express. I could go on and on. This list here is ridiculously long but you get the picture.

He’s a keynote speaker, an author, a musician, an artist, and a runner. He’s super accomplished. Maybe you’ve seen him on TV. He’s been a frequent guest on CNN, CBS, and various others. Perhaps, you’ve read about Bruce. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, and various other magazines. Perhaps, you’ve heard him speak. He spoke at MIT in Harvard and on the TEDx stage. He is also an NSA or National Speakers Association Hall of Fame Speaker. This guy is pretty good.

Maybe you’ve read about him through his books. He’s written six books, which is pretty impressive. Forbes Magazine ranked him in the Top 10 Business Books of the Year. This is a pretty impressive guy. He plays the harmonica. Miami R&B band Blackstar. He’s in some kind of a band. Maybe he’ll pull out his harmonica for us. He is a professional doodler. I sat next to him while I was at an event and I watched him as he doodled everybody. It was pretty good. Without further ado, if you want to get what you want, here’s Bruce.

That was great. Thank you. As you were talking, I was thinking, “Who is that guy?” I like that.

I was thinking too, “That’s a cool guy.” You’re helping people get what they want. Everybody wants that. How do you help me get what I want? Cut to the chase. How do I get it?


It’s not that hard because I see next to your name that you are a Focusologist. That’s the secret that most people haven’t figured out. I ran an ad agency. We had offices in the US and Latin America. One of the things we found was that we would win a new piece of business. I would think we do good work for them but then 2 or 3 years down the road when it was time to resign from the contract, they would say things like, “We want to see who else is out there.”

If you’ve run a business or taken many business courses, you’ll know that while everybody loves new business acquisitions, profits are made from retention. You make a lot more money from existing clients than you would from new clients. You make more money over a longer period if you can keep your clients happy. As the head of the agency, it was important that I figured out what we needed to do to keep our clients. If we were selling their product, winning design awards, meeting their budgets, and all of those things, why wouldn’t they stay with us?

While everybody loves new business acquisitions, profits are made from retention. Click To Tweet

What I found out was we thought we knew what they wanted but maybe we didn’t. The problem was deeper than that. If you’re a marketing person and you do market research, you always ask, “Why?” When you get an answer, you don’t go, “That’s it.” You say, “Why?” When you get another answer, you don’t say, “That explains it.” You say, “Why?” You keep peeling the onion back.

What I discovered was that most of our clients didn’t know what they wanted. If you ask them, they say, “We want more business.” That makes sense but that wasn’t entirely true. I’ll give you an example. We did a lot of work in travel and tourism. I would have this conversation with a client. I would say, “I want to make sure that 3 to 5 years from now when the contract is up, you want to sign with us again. What will that take?”

They would say, “If you increase our business., that’s what we’re looking for.” Maybe they would give me a percentage. I’d say, “How do you measure that?” They would say, “We want more people in our hotel rooms.” It makes sense. More customers means more money. “If you want more people in the hotel rooms, you don’t need us. Cut your prices in half.” They’d say, “What?” I’d say, “If you cut your prices in half, you’ll get more customers.”  They said, “Yes, but we won’t make as much money.”

I said, “You want more money per customer.” They say, “Yes.” I say, “Double your prices.” Once again, they’d say, “Huh?” I say, “If you double your prices, every time someone hands you their credit card, they’re going to give you twice as much money.” The man or woman would say, “Yes, but then we’ll have fewer customers. You don’t understand.” What I wanted to say was, “No, you don’t understand.” What I would say was, “What you mean is you want more customers who spend more money.” They’d say, “Yes.” I’d say, “That’s not what you said.”

That’s called RevPAR or Revenue Per Available Room. You want greater revenue per available room. “How much do you want?” They’d say, “We want 17%,” or whatever it is. “If at the end of five years, we’ve met your budgets, done everything responsibly, have not been arrested for anything, and we’ve met that number, you will resign the contract. Yes?” They’d say, “Yes.” We knew what they wanted. More importantly, they knew what they wanted and they were committed to what they wanted. We could then say, “To do that, here’s what we need to do.”

When I sold the agency, I was looking to figure out what I was going to do next. I knew I wanted to speak more and write more books but I didn’t know how I was going to do all this. I’m a marketing guy. I do market research. I talked to 50 successful people about 10 that I knew and then they would introduce me. Other people would hear what I was doing and were like, “You have to call my friend so and so.”

I spoke to almost 50 successful people who would change their lives. Some for good reasons like they sold their businesses and had some windfall. Some for bad reasons like divorce, disease, or death in the family. I asked them what they did. That’s what I wrote in my last book, Is That All There Is? I was so intrigued by this question that I continued to ask people, “What do you want? How do you get it?”

I pretty much got the same three answers from everybody, which then reminded me, “This sounds like talking to my clients.” They know what they want but they don’t because everyone says the same three things. If that’s the case, no wonder people aren’t getting what they want. They don’t know what it is they’re going after. I took the exercises we used in the agency and modified them to show people how to use them, how to figure it out, and then what to do. It worked.

With that first story that you told about back and forth with the business, I would think that as you were asking those questions, they would naturally be clear as, “I’m telling you something that I want but I’m not being clear.” It reminds me of a movie with Brendan Fraser. He would make a wish and say, “I want to be rich.” The devil would make him a drug lord. He had these people shooting after him. He was like, “No. I don’t want this.” He would make all these wishes. He wanted to be handsome and loved by everyone so they made him a professional sports player but he’ll sweat. It was hysterical. It was the funniest movie.

I haven’t seen that movie.

You have to see it. That’s what it reminded me of. Not only do we not know what we want. We don’t take the time to step back and process, be clear, and give what we want specificity. He might have known what he wanted but he’s not communicating it to you. Guaranteed, if he’s not communicating it to you, he’s not communicating it to his team either, which means that as the Focusologist, everybody’s running in different directions trying to reach these goals that do not have clarity.

How many times would we ask the client to describe what they do in 2, 3, or 4 words and they couldn’t do it? They say, “We do this but we do this and that.” I’d say, “If you can’t tell me what you do, how can your employees tell your customers what you do? If they can’t do it, how do you expect your customers to understand what you do? Why would they care?” They look at you and do what we used to call the Scooby-Doo head. They are going to go, “Huh? What?”

It makes sense to me also that people are in transition in their life or get to a point where they don’t feel like it. I love that the name of your book is Is That All There Is? because that’s a question that a lot of people come up with. Let’s say somebody who’s reading is caught in the grind. Everything’s moving so fast. I don’t have time to stop and think about what they want or give it specificity. They know that they’re not happy and they don’t want what they have. What are some simple tips that you can give to get them from this place of meh or urgh, or wherever they are, to a place where they feel like they have more control and they’re getting clarity?

How To Get More Control And Clarity

You said a lot of things, Penny, that are worth unpacking in that question. Everything is moving so fast that they don’t have time to stop and think about what they want but they have time to do those things that they don’t want to do because they think that’s what’s moving them forward. There’s a huge disconnect there. “You don’t like what you’re doing. You don’t have time to work on what you want to do but you have time to do what it is you don’t like what you’re doing. You’re unhappy with what you’re doing, which makes you want to do something else but you don’t have time.

There is a word that we can use in mixed company and keep your Apple podcast have a family-friendly rating. They’re creating a giant goat rodeo. Someone has to say, “Stop. You need to look at this with a more empirical viewpoint, not simply your emotional crazed.” I had a friend who had a couple of bad things happen to him. He got laid off at the same time as his wife told him she was filing for divorce.

Take Back Time | Bruce Turkel | Get What You Want

Get What You Want: You should look at this with a more empirical viewpoint, not simply your emotional crazed.


He’s got to find a job and decide what to do. He has all these crazy things going on. He has a mentor that he works with and he was going to call his mentor but his mentor said, “I’m on my way to a trip of a lifetime, in Iceland for two weeks. I need to spend time with you. I can’t do it for two weeks. Is that okay?” My friend said, “Yes, she’s not coming back and the job’s not coming back. Two weeks is not going to change things.”

I saw him a day before his mentor came back and he said, “It’s good that I didn’t see him when I called him but we waited two weeks because now, I can stop and think instead of being so overwhelmed by the adrenaline coursing through my veins, the depression, and all these things. I am comfortable with it so I understand. She’s not so wrong. We had problems and I get it. I know I’m partially to blame.” He went through all that because he had time, not for good reasons but to stop and think. Why do we have to have that time imposed on us unnaturally? He didn’t just dedicate a little bit of time to figuring this out. You asked, “What do you do?”

To me, these are reset moments. We need to give ourselves space to reset, step back, take in the situation, and see it for what it is so that we can decide what’s next. Everybody would love to hear some of those steps that you take people through in that process.

Steps To Reset Moments

Stop and breathe is a good one. These are much more complicated but I’m going to try to get into it quickly. Another one is to figure out whose life you’re leading. If you’re not happy with what it is you’re doing, there’s a reason why you got to where you are. It might be because you bought the condo and the BMW, and you had to pay them off. It might be because you have school loans. It could be financial pressure or who you marry. I don’t know why but it’s important to figure out how you get there.

Figure out whose life you're leading. Click To Tweet

There was a moment in time when what you were doing seemed like a good idea. It might be you’re living your parents’ life, the one they wanted for you. You go to law school or medical school. It could be you’re leading a guidance counselor’s life, a religious leader’s life, or a spouse’s life. It could be you’re leading a life that a bully wanted for you when they told you you’re no good and you’re proving to them, therefore yourself.  You don’t have to share this with anybody else. This is just you. Why are you leading the life you are leading?

I was listening to NPR one day and the reporter who was young was interviewing a man who was in his mid-70s. He was the leading oral surgeon in the world. He invented all these techniques. He’s very wealthy, renowned, and good at what he does. He’s then quitting and is going to do one of those woo-woo jobs. He’s going to be a sailmaker or candlemaker. He’s going to raise goats, yaks, or llamas. We’ll use llamas because they’re funny. He was going to raise llamas.

The reporter says to him, “Why are you going to raise llamas?” He says, “I’ve always loved llamas when I was a kid. I went to Peru and saw these llamas. I’ve always wanted to raise llamas.” “Why didn’t you raise llamas before?” “I was in school and then I wanted to get into medical school. I went to dental school and became an oral surgeon. I did all these things.” He says, “Why did you decide to do it now?” The guy says, “I’ve accomplished all these things that you listed in my introduction and enough’s enough. I decided I don’t want to live someone else’s life.”

Take Back Time | Bruce Turkel | Get What You Want

Get What You Want: Don’t live someone else’s life.


The reporter says to him, “Whose life are you living?” He said, “A seventeen-year-old boy.” The reporter didn’t understand it. The guy says, “If a seventeen-year-old boy today told me what I should be doing from 75 to however much I’m going to live, I wouldn’t listen to him. Why the heck am I listening to a seventeen-year-old boy now?” The reporter still didn’t understand but we all did. He was talking about himself.  When he was in high school going into college, when he was 17, he decided to be an oral surgeon and he did well at it but it was time to live someone else’s life, his own. That’s number one.

Figure that out. It might be like this guy, you’re living your life but now you’re someone else so you want to do something else. Number two is you need to figure out where you are, what I call UQ or Uniquely Qualified. It’s easy to figure out what you’re bad and average at because you don’t do those things. I’m bad at accounting so I hired an accountant. I’m bad at cooking so we go out to eat a lot.  My point is we go out to eat a lot because I don’t like to cook. I’m bad at ironing so I take my clothes to the cleaners. That’s easy.

It’s easy to figure out what you’re adequate at. I could mow the lawn but I’d rather pay somebody to do it. I could clean the pool but I’d rather pay somebody to do it. The things you’re good at are the things you like to do. People pat us on the head if it was good.  Many of us stop there. We stop at what we’re good at and become good at those things. There are lots of good lawyers, dentists, seamstresses, and everything else. If it’s not about making money, good gardeners, bakers, or musicians. The trick is to figure out what you are uniquely qualified to do. What is it that you can do that nobody else can? That’s not so easy.

Let’s unpack that there are a lot of people who might feel, “That’s great that you can play the guitar and harmonica. You’re awesome at this and that but I don’t have anything I’m great at.” What do you say to that person?

Let me show you how that works. If you take one thing that I’m good at, I’m not that good of a guitar player but I’m a good harmonica player but so what? Good harmonica players are a dime at least. I’m sorry to say but good harmonica players are a penny. Not because there’s anything wrong with it. I wish I was but there are lots of good ones out there. It’s not about one thing.

When I ran the ad agency, I was good at coming up with ideas for our clients. I don’t know why. It’s a gift. There were things I couldn’t do and could do. I can come up with new ways of looking at things. Lots of creative people do that. Lots of them in our office did that and some of them were better than me but I’m also good because I can draw, play music, write, present, speak, and play music. I can express my ideas. It’s not just a matter of coming up with them but I can also express them.

Skill Stack

We have lots of good creative people but if I would say, “Tom, go show Penny the program we did.” “What do I say to her? I don’t know how.” All of a sudden, it’s the fact that we were both good at coming up with ideas but I have this other skill and then I have a third skill, which is I can get people excited about those things. Maybe it’s from being a musician, being on stage, or it’s God-given talent. I don’t know but the truth is when I get my clients with a new idea, they’re excited so I can come up with the ideas, express ideas, and get them excited. That combination of what I call a skill stack is very rare.

Take Back Time | Bruce Turkel | Get What You Want

Get What You Want: A skill stack is very rare.


I’m not showing off, Penny. You have a skill stack as well. Every single person watching this program has their skill stack. Unless you’re the best of the best or you’re the Tiger Woods of golf, being a good golfer is not enough but a good golfer who’s bilingual or trilingual so they could be successful in other countries, who is gorgeous, or who knows how to speak to reporters or whatever you want, all of a sudden, you have this other thing and we all have it.

I love the skill stack. It’s the combination of those like a telephone number. Everybody’s got a different telephone number. It might be the same numbers. They’re just in different orders and that order matters.

If you can figure that out, all of a sudden, things change. I went through all this myself. I’m saying it like bang but it takes work. I have charts and graphs. I can show you how to do that. You can lay it all out. When I sold the agency and figured it out, I said, “I have these skill stacks. I see things differently. I came up with great ideas. I can express those ideas and get people excited about them.”

I look down on the bad part of this chart that I made. “What am I bad at?” The things that I’m bad at tend to be things with repetition and details. I don’t have a lot of patience and a great attention span. I’m not interested in those things. I said, “Moving forward, I want to do things where I can do things differently, express those things, and get people excited about them. I’m then done.”

Keynote speaking and writing books are right in that sweet spot. “I’ll work for months without lifting my head to write the book but when it’s done, it’s done.” I do marketing consulting but I don’t do the implementation. I say, “When I’m done, I’m giving you the ideas and everything. I’m out.” This is a longer story, which I’ll spare you, but someone said to me once, “You are like a Jack in the Box.” I say, “What do you mean?” He said, “We ship you somewhere and press the button. You jump out. We put you back in the box and sent you away.”

At first, I was pissed but the more I think about it, he’s right. I’m a Jack in the Box. That’s what I want to do. I want to use my talent, get excited about them, help other people, and then I’m off to the next one. I know the parameters around where I’m going to find happiness, success, and fulfillment. I have to find those opportunities, go out, and make them happen. No one said this stuff was easy. However, it was a lot easier knowing what I wanted to do.

When I left the agency, I was offered a job with an International Network of Agencies. The money was quite good. We’d have to move but that’s okay. Our kids are gone. It wasn’t a problem but it was administration. I said to my wife, “I’m not going to do it.” She said, “You’re not going to do it for X amount of money?” I said, “No.” She said, “What if they paid you X plus Y?” “No.” Finally, she got going up and I go, “If they offer me that, I’d have to think twice.”

The truth is if they offered me the job where I was the International Creative Director and I would fly to their office in London and help the team put together the presentation and we’d make the presentation and then I’d get in a plane and I’d fly to Florence, I’d love that job but if I had to be the one who had to fill out all the forms, there’s not a chance in hell that I would do that. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done this work. I would have thought, “That job looks great.” There’s some administration stuff. I can do that but I’m bad or inadequate at it.

I don’t know about everyone but I have a moment in my life where that happened for me too. I needed to get clear and I didn’t want to continue down a path where I was living someone else’s dreams and what someone else wanted to achieve. For those people who are reading, either they’ve had a moment like that in the past that they can reference and know that it works, or it is the time. This is a wake-up call. It’s a reset moment for them to go, “What I need to do is dig a little deeper, see why I’m doing what I’m doing, and find my path.”

There’s an old Zen saying, “There are two times to plant an oak tree, twenty years ago or right now.”

We can always meet again and talk about some of your other great stories and tips. Maybe to close out before you tell us where we can find out all about you, can you give us a little music?

Let me give it to you with a little example. There was a guy, and we all know him, named Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote this. 200 years later, there’s a guy named Sonny Boy Williamson. You might not know his name but he wrote stuff that was done by Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, The Animals, and Led Zeppelin. He wrote a song called Peach Tree.

I know what you’re thinking, which is, “Why are you doing this?” It’s because both of those guys, Johann Sebastian Bach and Sonny Boy Williamson are as different as different can be. Both of those pieces of music are as different as different can be but they both use the same seven notes. Every piece of Western music ever written uses the same seven notes.

You love Adele but hate Billy Joel. You love Black Eyed Peas but hate some other man. The point is every piece of music uses those building blocks. It’s the same thing when people look at their lives. We all have the same skills and talents but not all of them. Some people are good at some things and some people are good at others. We all have those notes but Sonny Boy Williamson and Johann Sebastian Bach took those notes and put them in different orders.

Every piece of art uses the same colors, ROYGBIV. That’s all there is. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo and Blue. There are variations on a thing. You can make them darker, lighter, yellowish, or a little purple but they’re all the same. Every book written in English uses the same 26 letters. Dr. Seuss went on beyond zebra but no one else has. We all come to this with the same issues and problems.

I say to my clients, “I don’t understand because we can’t do that or this but my stories and backgrounds are different.” All of our stories are different. The facts are always different but the truths are the same. If we consider that, all of a sudden, you realize you have as much as anyone else. Some things hold you back. Some things hold them back. Something’s pushing you forward but you have to know what they are.

If you don’t know what they are, how do you use them? What I find is it’s not a lack of skill, talent, drive, interest, or ability. It’s a lack of knowledge. People don’t know what they got. They focus on the negative, not on the positive. They’re much more likely to be insecure about what they can’t do instead of being positive about what they can do. They don’t understand the concept of skill stacking. Recognizing skill stacking changes everything.

Thank you so much for sharing this. Where’s the best place for people to get a hold of your books and see more about your speaking? Where could they hire you?

Remember, I’m a marketing guy. If you’re a marketing guy, you realize that the only way people can do something with you is if they can find you and the only way they can find you is if you keep it simple. KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s all my name. My website is My email address is If you go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, it’s all under Bruce Turkel. My phone number is on my website. Call me and I’ll answer the phone. It all works.

Thank you so much for being here. This is awesome.

It was a treat. I appreciate you inviting me. You are a great interviewer. You did your research up front which I truly respect because you focused.

You don't recognize that you're good at it if something comes easy. Click To Tweet

Thank you all for being here. No matter whether you’ve done this process before and you know exactly who you are, where you’re going, and what drives you, we change. Things and circumstances change. It’s always a good time. It is the perfect time to take what I call a reset moment. Step back and look on your calendar for some me-time that you can schedule so that you can plan the time to have a little think about this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to make a realistic time, take a step back, and take a look. Thank you all for being here. Bruce, do you have something else? 

I have one suggestion. Ask people who know you and care about you. “What am I good at? What am I bad at? Don’t worry. You’re not going to insult me. What do you know that I’m good at that I don’t see?” You’re going to get some surprising answers. A lot of them are going to be about things that you never thought about before. Other people will be like, “No. You’re amazing at them.”

If something comes easy, then you don’t recognize that you’re good at it. Thank you everybody for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.


Important Links


About Bruce Turkel

Take Back Time | Bruce Turkel | Get What You WantBruce has helped some of the world’s most compelling brands get what they want, including Hasbro, Nike, American Express, Charles Schwab, Citicorp, Discovery Networks, Bacardi, Sol Melia Hotels, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, HBO Latin America, Canyon Ranch, Miami, and many more. He is a keynote speaker, author, musician, artist, and runner.

Perhaps you’ve seen Bruce on TV. He is a frequent guest expert on the national news and appears regularly on CNN, CBS, MSNBC, CCTV (Chinese Television), and NPR.

Perhaps you’ve read about Bruce. He has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Communication Arts, AdWeek, and Speaker magazines.

Perhaps you’ve heard Bruce speak. He has spoken at MIT, Harvard, TEDx, and hundreds of corporate and industry conferences around the world. In 2017, The National Speakers Association inducted Bruce into their Speaker Hall of Fame.

Perhaps you’ve read one of Bruce’s six books. His latest Is That All There Is? was just released. Bruce’s last book, All About Them, was chosen as one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 business books of the year.

Perhaps you’ve heard Bruce playing his harmonica. Bruce fronts the popular Miami R&B band Blackstar.

Perhaps you’ve seen Bruce’s artwork. Bruce is an incessant doodler and is famous for his caricatures of the local and national business leaders he’s worked with.

Perhaps you passed Bruce in your last marathon. He is a dedicated — but slow — runner.


Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!