The year is 2018, and thousand of elite business professionals have gathered for a seminar in Dallas, Texas known as the Million Dollar Mastermind. A man named Sean Whalen was one of roughly a dozen speakers, but his time on stage will stay with the crowd forever. There was something different about the way he delivered his words. He meant what he said, and he casted an aura of confidence and courage over the audience. Many people were even in tears after he shared his story of struggling with depression and almost committing suicide in his 20s. I wondered, how could someone so successful, with hundreds of thousands of followers, and multiple thriving companies ever consider ending their life? This guy had it all – a gorgeous and successful wife, a beautiful family, huge home, fast cars, thriving businesses, his health and handsomeness in tact, and millions of dollars in the bank.
In order to get an understanding of how Sean made it from the lowest of lows, to the highest of highs we have to quickly rewind. Sean didn’t always have this momentum going for him. There was a time when he was in the real estate industry as a 20-something year old young man. These efforts led to him becoming a millionaire all before the age of 30. However, just as quickly as he seemingly had it all, he lost it all. The money and success caused him to become distant with what mattered most – his family, his wife, his business, and his morals. This quickly led to depression, anger, and eventually losing everything. This period of Sean’s life ended in divorce and an empty bank account. Depression and thoughts of suicide crept in. What else was there to live for now that it was all gone? How would he climb his way back up? It seemed he not only lost it all, but was now even further behind then when he had first started his climb to success almost a decade prior.
Fast forward to today, and Sean Whalen is a best selling author and one of the world’s most leading business coaches. His coaching program known as the ‘Lion’s Den’ is home to thousands of entrepreneurs, millionaires, and successful business owners. Sean’s lessons from the past helped him overcome depression, pick himself back up, and begin his climb back to the top. In order to do so, he had to set aside his ego and become brutally honest with the man he saw in the mirror. That man is the person I had the honor of interviewing on October 1st, 2021, where the business mogul and influencer answered questions from the media.
Below is a transcript of the questions and answers, which are gently edited for clarity and length.
So what really happened? How did your past become so toxic?
I grew up in a single parent home and had to grow up quick. I was a multimillionaire by 25 in the real estate and mortgage game. I’m 31 years old. I burned everything to the ground, left my marriage, and left my business that I had grown from zero to 170 employees, and for lack of better words, I stuck my head up my ass for 18 months. When I went through that experience I was just super angry all the time. I had everything that I was told success was “supposed to be” – I had the houses, I had the cars, I had the money, I had the wife, I had the kids, I had the white picket fence, but I hated my life. I didn’t know why I was doing any of it, and I wasn’t happy. This is what we’re seeing all over the world today; a lot of people making money, but their spouse hates them, they’re completely disconnected at home, or they’ve never coached their kid’s games or been present.
I fell down that path too because it was what I had been taught, which is; go to school, do the deal, get a job, climb the corporate ladder, blah, blah, blah. Then all of a sudden you’ll be rich and happy and healthy. Except, my life was the exact opposite. I left my marriage and my business and spent almost two years trying to figure out why I was even alive on this planet. I couldn’t answer the most basic and simple questions:
- Why am I a dad?
- How do I find my purpose?
- How do I change the world?
- How do I create impact?
- Why the am I on this rock spinning through the cosmos?
During that journey, I started asking myself more questions and detaching from things that I thought I believed in, and the phrase Lions Not Sheep came to me. One day I was just reading a magazine and saw a reference to sheep, not something – and the thought literally just popped into my brain. It was just one of those things that just exploded in my brain and it didn’t leave. It kept echoing getting stronger and stronger in my mind. Today Lions Not Sheep embodies everything that my team and I do, that my companies do, and that my coaching community does.
Everyday it seems like there’s a new coach or guru coming to light, could you tell us a bit about what makes your coaching community different?
The Lion’s Den coaching group is simply for people that want more. Everybody wants more money, everybody wants more connections and relationships, everybody wants better fitness, everybody wants more opportunity, and more time. The Lion’s Den is for people that want to grow personally and professionally, and it doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re making a hundred thousand dollars a year or $10 million per year – every single person in between, above it, and below it want more.
My entire philosophy and ideology with this movement I created, Lions Not Sheep, is based around this concept of Core Four, which allows you to grow all four primary areas of your life, your relationships, your body, your mental capacity and your business.
Why do you feel you can relate to your members? Why can they trust you and rely on the information and guidance you share with them?
I lived most of my life as a sheep. I did what I was told in religion, at home, and through standard education. I did everything I was ‘supposed to’, but I didn’t know why I was doing it and I wasn’t happy. So this mantra of Lions Not Sheep become a very strong focal point in my life. I chose to question everything that I was doing, and instead I looked at it as a choice. Am I doing this because I want to do it? Am I doing this because it’s what a lion would do, or is it what a sheep would do?
A sheep just follows, and many people fall victim to this without even knowing this, as did I. To break it down is simple – a lion does whatever it wants, and they call it the king of the jungle for a reason. When he wants to sleep he just sleeps, nobody tells him he can or can’t sleep. When it wants to eat, it just hunts and eats when it wants to. Whereas a sheep will only do what the other sheep are doing. I realized I lived most of my life as a sheep and I didn’t have my own voice. I didn’t share what I believe or talk about the stuff that was burning inside of me because people just don’t generally do that.
Religion taught me that was the right path – don’t talk about sex, money, politics, religion, divorce, depression, bankers, you just simply don’t talk about these things. They’re not “socially acceptable”. I lived most of my life up to 31 years old, not talking about any of these things, and over time I knew I needed to draw a line in the sand. Instead, I say let’s talk about it. I’m brutally honest an open with my audience, the people around me, and especially my coaching clients. We are here to do the hard thing, not what is easy.
Millions of people have been watching my journey through technology and the connectedness of social media. They’re watching me go from divorced and depressed to building a new successful life. It’s like watching a car wreck – you can’t not look at it. It’s fascinating seeing me truly rebuild in a day and age where so much is fake.
A lot of other leaders online pretend they are living the dream, and then all of a sudden they end up divorced. This is the reason that Lions Not Sheep and everything we do is so important. We are an open book. The brand itself is growing so much because people are watching us find true success, strength, and happiness in real time with full transparency.
I talk about the darkness. I talk about the light. I talk about the struggles of relationships. The world has watched me go from divorce, to dating, to then finding a queen and getting re-married to my wife Saxony. Who does that? Who shares that type of personal perspective of their own life? I’m living it, breathing it, and embodying Lions Not Sheep in every single action that I take.
Today your clients trust you because you have real-world results and run multiple multi-million dollar companies, could you tell us a bit about Lions Not Sheep and the e-commerce business?
It’s really an interesting story because every day thousands of people buy our gear and I get messages daily from people sharing that they feel like they’re putting on armor when they’re putting on a Lions Not Sheep tee shirt. That may sound cheesy to a lot of people, and I get it, but I relate to that because it’s such a powerful message. It’s such a simple three word declaration. People come up to me all the time when they see me wearing the hat and shirt and ask – “what’s Lions Not Sheep?”. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. There is no gray area or middle ground. You’re one or the other – your choice, your words, your actions, your life, your marriage, your relationship, and your business – you’re either doing whatever you want because you want to and it’s what burns inside of you, or you’re following the masses and being a sheep.
Lions Not Sheep has evolved from the very first time that it popped into my brain in 2014, to me then making a single tee shirt, to now it literally being a way of being for millions of people. That is why the brand is successful. The reason we are able to achieve over a million dollars per month in sales through the store is because we are not just a company with a product. It’s a belief and a way of life for anyone who is courageous enough to take part.
Do you have any parting words of guidance or advice for people reading this article, or who want to get involved with the Lion’s Den and Lions Not Sheep?
We all have a different voice and different angles that we approach things, but my philosophy is to just kick in the front door. Let’s rip the band-aid off and get right down to the obstacles, because the truth is that we don’t know if we have another day. You don’t know if you have 10 more years, or if your sacred five-year plan is even going to become reality, you really have no idea.
I don’t want to not be present and not act on my thoughts and goals today just because I have a five-year plan, and then all of a sudden I’m dead in six months. I am in your face because there is no time. You might be dead by dinner. That’s not morbid, it’s just simply what motivates me and it should motivate you too. What drives me to eat, to hunt, to win, to love, to connect is all because if this is the last conversation you and I have, I want to know that it’s all in there.
So imagine, this today is the last time you see your wife and children. You’d want to know that you went all in, one hundred percent. That is what separates lions from sheep. What are you doing? What are you living? What are you building? I want to show people that everything is possible, and the only way to do that is to show them exactly what I’m doing. Get in shape, get your money in order, get your relationships in order, and invest in your mind. What really separates me is transparency. I am showing the world that I still struggle, but I’m pushing through it with every ounce of strength that I have, and forcing my goals forward with all of my might. My best advice to you is that you do the same, and I invite you to become part of the Lion’s Den and begin moving your life forward alongside us.