Intentional Mastery With William Buist: Mentor, Speaker, & Author
True mastery isn't a destination, but a deliberate journey where expertise, purpose, and joy intertwine to build better businesses and a more fulfilling life. In this episode, host Lance Tyson sits down with William Buist— speaker, mentor, and the author of Intentional Mastery. Together, they discuss the art of intentional mastery and its profound impact on building better businesses. William’s latest book serves as the foundation of the discussion, where he explores the three distinct phases of intentional mastery – the beginning of mastery, masterful strategies, and mastering joy. William also brings us through his journey (the joy you have to find in it) and the meaning of powerful words such as purpose, communication, skill, and strategy. This episode is brought to you all the way from England! Tune in now to align passion with purpose on your journey of intentional mastery.
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Intentional Mastery With William Buist: Mentor, Speaker, & Author
I’m really excited about this episode. I’d like to introduce William Buist. He’s a speaker and mentor. He wrote a book called Intentional Mastery. I thought having William on this episode would be important because so many of our clients at Tyson Group and people who tune in to our show are looking to grow their own businesses or lead their businesses to be more successful. It could even be some folks who are in sales who are looking to ultimately advance their career or journey.
William, welcome to the program. I appreciate you being on from the UK.
Thank you, Lance. It’s great to be here. I am looking forward to a fun conversation.
William and I were catching up. I was telling him I was sucked down a rabbit hole of watching the History Channel show Vikings for the second time. A lot of it is about the history of England and things like that. I was telling him I was familiarizing myself with different locations in England. You said you’re right between where again?
I’m in between Oxford and Newby, right in the middle of England. It is a little bit North of the M4, for those who know that major motorway across the country.
As we were talking about your speaking business and mentoring, and we’re going to get into your book, what got you to a spot where people were acquiring your services and your advice? What got you here to write a book?
I started my own business in 2004. It was after a career in the insurance industry where I’d been running some big projects and putting teams together within a large organization in one of the big British banks. I got to realize that running a big project in a large organization is like running a small business on your own. I found that quite exciting, so I set up my own business.
There was an awful lot to learn early on. There were lots of things from the outside that you think will be easy to do and they’re not that easy. You have to learn, do the miles, and get the experience under your belt. That got me curious about how people, developers, or business owners become the experts and masters of what they do. What do those things look like? What effort do they need to make to make those transitions? Through the years that I’ve been running my own business, I’ve been watching, listening, and asking questions about the businesses that I’ve worked with to understand that transition and that journey. I got to write it all down as well in the book. That was quite exciting, too.
I‘m always curious about titles, being an author myself, I always go back and forth. I’m like, “Is this the right title? Does this represent the pathway?” You chose intentional mastery. Why that?
You’re right. We went backward and forward with my publisher, to and fro, playing with different possible titles. All of them were related to mastery in some form or another. The two words are important. First of all, mastery is about something that’s more of an expertise. We’ve all probably met people who we can recognize have got something special in the area of knowledge that they are specialists in. They stand out. They’re not just an expert. They are probably the experts. They are the world experts or the ones who are right at the top of the game. It’s usually something very narrow. We were talking before the show. You had a great example of somebody who’s a specialist in looking after log cabins.
It’s possible to narrow down the niche to something really small but know everything there is to know about it and then become well-known for that.
The more I thought about the log cabin example in your business, especially the title of the book, what is interesting is you look at these people who are expert goalkeepers in sport. They’ve mastered that. It could be somebody who’s a speaker on botany and they get paid millions of dollars to go speak on botany. I’m making that up. In the US, there’s a saying called the riches are in the niches. We say niches in the US, but that’s niche. When you say niche, you’re right there. By intentional, do you mean on purpose?
The intentional part was a recognition that when I looked at the people who had become masters, it wasn’t something that happened accidentally. It happened because they made decisions early on as they were developing. They were thinking, “What do I need to do to get more knowledge, skill, and experience in this topic?” Also, they were intentional about narrowing it down.
Football is a great example. You look at the Premier League in the UK. This is soccer we’re talking about here. This is the round ball rather than the oval one. There are players who play the front and the attack or strikers. There are players like goalkeepers who are there to stop the other team from scoring. They’re very different skills. If you take a goalkeeper in the premier division, he’d be mediocre if he was out on the field because his expertise is in soccer but his mastery is at goalkeeping.
The other thing about mastery is things happen organically for a reason. As I was talking to you about how I was learning the map of England watching the show, I even thought about that show and thought about the trades and somebody who forged a sword. You talk about this in the book. You talk about the journey in the book. Mastery is not something you do. It’s something you arrive at through a journey.
If somebody was forging a sword, and not to genderfy this at all, you’d be an apprentice or journeyman, and then ultimately, you’d become a master. People would come to you because you were the master of making a sword a certain way. Is that where the mastery part came with the title also? It’s a strong word.
The intentional part is that you can’t make those choices about which niche to choose without being intentional about it or without making a conscious decision. If you’re a school kid playing football, you might play in all the positions. There’s a point at which you say, “If I’m going to be really good here, I need to make a choice. I’m going to be a goalkeeper. I’m going to be a forward.” That’s the intentional part, and then you develop.
The words you used are great. I talk about people who right at the beginning of the journey are explorers. They know nothing, so they’re looking for knowledge. As they get that knowledge, they start to develop a bit of the skill. They are what I call novices. Novices make lots of mistakes. They learn from those mistakes. They’re building and developing the skill in the first place then they become practitioners.
Most of what we do in most things will be at the practitioner level. Our employees in the businesses of teams are good at what they do in the context they do it. They’ve got skill and knowledge. They’re doing a great job every day. Maybe what they need to move to expertise is experience. It’s no surprise to me that those two words, experience and expertise, are closely linked in terms of the origins of the word. The experts will have used that experience to be able to take and do the job, whatever it is, in almost any circumstance.
I agree. It’s interesting that you’re saying that because I’m big on the meanings of words. Too many people throw words around and they don’t know what they mean. I was talking to a group of executives. We were talking about decisive. They kept throwing that around like, “We got to be decisive.” I said, “Do you know what that word means in Latin and Greek?” They said, “No.” I said, “That means to cut off from.” It’s very similar to the word incision. It means to cut from. When you make a decision, you’re cutting from any other possibility. The word is very strong. Are you ready to make a decision or are you toying around with this? Your use of words there is outstanding.
For the audience, as we were talking in our pregame, William and I were talking about an example. My wife and I had made an investment in a log cabin. I didn’t know anything about log cabins and quickly stated. I realized that every year, for three months of the year, we battle carpenter bees. I noticed there are holes in the cabins. I sought out somebody who was an expert in log cabins. I didn’t realize that was a whole business.
When I talked to that gentleman, he did something else. He built a log cabin and decided there was a better way and make these connections. He would practice and they gained the experience. He is the foremost expert or the master. There are probably only ten of them around the world when I researched. You happen to be close by. That is that journey. That’s a wonderful example. Nobody thinks through it that way. They think they’re going to arrive and be this expert or master. It doesn’t happen that way. It takes a while.
We can end up in a career where we are doing a great job for the business. We are part of a great team doing great stuff. We’re doing the same things every day. Unless we step out and start saying, “How do I get new experience? How do I do this? The fact that I’m doing it in a way that works doesn’t mean it’s the best way. How do I get new insight?”
One of the things with mastery as opposed to expertise is that the masters are bringing insight from other aspects of life and other things they come across. As an example, you were talking earlier about the Vikings and watching the program again and learning about European and British history. There will be some insights that will trigger a thought in you about selling the coaching that you do that enables you to think, “There’s an analogy here. I can draw something from the way the Vikings built swords and apply it in the context of making a decision.”
If you make a sword with a strong blade that is sharp and stays sharp, you can make more decisive decisions and make them last longer. There’s something around that. With what the masters do, they make those connections that help other people to get hold of the understanding that they need. Your expert in carpenter bees, I’m sure, was explaining to you what was happening, what they were doing, why you needed to take action, and what sort of action you could take but in the language, you could understand without the knowledge that he has from the years of work that he has done it. That’s a little piece of mastery, too.
That is a great lesson there. As I was looking at your book, I was reflecting on myself and where my business is. I announced to my executive team that I was going to start to take a little bit of a different role in the business. I called it the five Rs. I was going to focus on Revenue, Relationships, Recognition, Recruiting, and the last thing was Refinement. That was a refinement of the whole business.
As I decided that I had to master not being Lance the salesperson or the trainer, and I don’t do all of our training because I do probably less than 20%, I realized with some of that time being spent, I got to master scaling a business. You broke your book into three parts. The first part is the beginning of mastery, and then you said masterful strategies and then mastering joy. Talk a little bit about that first grouping. I like that you broke it up and there are chapters inside of each of those sections. There was a flow to me there that I noticed immediately.
I think of that first piece in the beginning of mastery. You said, “You have to decide that you’re going to build a better business because your audience is those small to mid-size businesses and the people that operate those,” so those masters. You talk about the concept of mastery and then you get into purpose. Talk about that section. If you’re me as Lance the business owner or the present CEO of a small to mid-size training company, talk to me about that first piece.
The first chapter is about building a better business. I want to make it clear that better isn’t something I’ve defined. I’m not saying that there is a form of better that everybody should aspire to. Better is a very personal thing. For some people, a better business is a bigger business. For other people, a better business is one that gets better reviews on Trustpilot from its customers. It might be one does better in environmental work. It could mean any number of things to a business owner.
The first part of that first section is encouraging people to step back and think, “What does better mean for me and my business?” You’ve touched on that. You said you wanted refinement. The piece of what you talked about is about making your business better. You want to refine it. That’s important. The second part of this is thinking about why that is important. What’s the purpose behind that better business? What skills does it need? What expertise or mastery does it need to make that change to make it a better business? That’s what that whole first section explores and encourages people to think about and challenge themselves to define it.
As I read that, I said to myself, “What I feel William is saying to me at this point is I have a current situation and there’s a desired situation. I have to address the fact that there’s a gap there.” If that current situation and the desired situation are close together, I’ll probably do nothing. That might not make me a master. That might make me an operator. If the current and desired have a gap there, I’ll want to make that journey. It’s the should-be or the could-be or however you say it. Would you agree with that at some level?
Yeah, I do. This is why purpose is so important. You won’t make that journey if it’s not important to you at an emotional level as well.
Purpose is so important because you won't make that journey if it's not important to you at an emotional level as well.
From there, I like the next grouping. I was listening to something. It was masterful strategies. I was watching an interview. There’s a military leader in the US. He has a really good and colorful name, which is Mad Dog Mattis. He was the Marine Commandant during the Trump administration. I don’t want to get into politics. He was the Secretary of Defense and had left the organization. He had a lot of good quotes. He wrote a book that is on my list that I’m going to read.
He said that strategy is about priorities. That struck me. I put it in my Evernote. I said, “Your strategy is about prioritization.” Everybody looks for those 1 or 2 things to make something complex very simple. You said masterful strategies have six components. One is strategy, self, skill, system, and sales. I jumped on this word, which is signposting. I was like, “What the heck is signposting?” I read it and I go, “That’s like marketing.” It was a different word than I heard. We were talking about the difference. Even though we both speak English, some words mean little things differently. Talk about those masterful strategies a little bit.
I’ll start with the signposting thing. It is marketing, but it’s more than that. It’s thinking about all of the ways that the business communicates with its stakeholders. That might be marketing to new prospects, but it’s also about how you construct your communications with customer service emails and all that stuff, too.
I talk about signposting because a lot of businesses try to tell their prospects everything all at once. If you imagine driving down a freeway as you would in the States or a motorway as we do in the UK, if every destination that you could go to on that freeway was on every sign, you would never be able to read them all. They’d be far too complicated.
What we have in the UK, we have signs that say things like, “The West,” on the M4. If you’re heading out of London towards the West Country, it says, “The West.” That’s telling a driver that they’re on the right road. If they’re intending to head West, they know they’re on the right road. That’s okay. They don’t need to know that it’s near Bristol until they’re near Bristol. What I’m talking about in that section of the book is thinking about your communication so that you tell people what they need to know, but importantly, you tell it to them when they need to know it.
That was a deeper dive for me. Talk about some of the other things. I get excited when you say sales. Anything around sales, I wag my tail. Talk a little bit about the other connections there.
A business without sales isn’t going to last that long, so it’s really important.
A business without sales isn't going to last that long.
I tell my customers all the time, “Sales solves a lot of problems.” At the end of the day, make a sale and everybody is happy. We had the youngest person on our staff. Her name is Stacy. She’s one of our newest salespeople. She made the first big sale of her career by herself with no help. She was ecstatic. Sales cures a lot of ails.
She’ll remember that first one for a long time.
You’d be proud of us. We celebrated on Slack. We called her. She’s out in California and we’re here. She was pretty jacked up about it. It was good stuff.
That leads to one of the other strategies, which is about good systems and having the means in place in the business so that you can be consistent. Good systems will make sure that if you’ve got great customer service, every customer gets it because you’re finding the same pattern.
A predictable process yields predictable results. I say this a lot of times and some people don’t realize it. I go, “Isn’t it amazing that there’s a company out there that produces millions of dollars per store and it is run by teenagers?” Somebody says, “Who’s that?” I go, “McDonald’s. McDonald’s is run by teenagers. Every store is run by a teenager. Do you ever think of why they’re so successful?” I was saying to one of my sons, “It is because everybody that works there knows when the beep goes off to take the fries out of the bin and pour a little salt on the box.” The systems are predictable. It’s a franchised way to think, but I agree. The system drives success.
Whether you love McDonald’s or hate them, you know what you’re going to get. The systems thinking in a nutshell works really well. Two others then. Skill is clearly important. You need not just the skill that you are a master in, but a business needs a whole range of skills. It’s got to be able to sell. It’s got to do customer service. It’s got to have accounts, be able to collect money, and all of those other skills. We’re not going to be good at all of them. Doing an audit and cross-checking that you’ve got all the skills you need in the business or maybe you buy in and outsource with other companies to provide them is an important strategy to make sure that everything runs smoothly.
The last one is the most important. It’s about the business owner and the business leader themselves looking after their own emotional awareness, their physical well-being, and their mental resilience. If you’re running a business and you’re not there because you’re ill, the business isn’t going to run as well and might even fall apart completely. You’ve got to be reasonably fit and healthy. You’ve got to be looking after yourself. One of the things I’ve seen over the years I’ve been running my business is the businesses that are successful have got healthy people at the helm.
I would agree with that. I talk a lot even with my own clients about how it is pretty hard to lead an organization if you can’t lead yourself. It’s almost stoic thinking. Seneca said it. You’re going to struggle leading other people if you can’t lead yourself. That’s a holistic approach. It’s health and mindset. I was saying something to one of my clients. She was upset about some things. She was upset about her dating life and what was going on internally.
She goes, “I can’t even get this right.” I said to her, “Sometimes, your mind is like a bad neighborhood. It’s not good to be alone in it sometimes. You might need to talk to some people more about all kinds of things than this because you get so hyper-focused. It’s offsetting your personal life.” That’s where she was going.
It’s a really important point. It’s important for all of us to have the opportunity to take time away. Some things will bring us stress. If you run a business, there will be times when it’s stressful. There’s no escaping that. You need that time to step away and say, “What gives me joy?” It leads us into the last part of the book as well.
I’m sure your clients are always looking at markers that drive success. There are very natural markers like what’s revenue, what’s our profit margins, and all those things. There are two simple questions. I always ask one question. What’s your brutal truth? You could be like, “What do you mean?” What’s your brutal truth is your business or however you want to answer it. I don’t care. That’s not positive or negative.
With the other thing I always ask, you probably know this. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this. It’s interesting. I rank my own business. I have successes. How long could I go on vacation before the business turned into Lord of the Flies? It’s easy to say to go, but can you leave because you have your fingers and everything? I ask decision-makers all the time, “Could you go away and relax?” I know for myself, it takes three days before I calm down and unplug. Would you agree with that at some level?
Absolutely. My partner and I both enjoy skiing so we take time in the winter to go away skiing. The first day or two, there was always this hangover from the business. It is like a hangover. It’s like having drank too much the night before. There are all these things in your mind that you think, “I wish I’d done that before I’d gone away. I wish I cleared that bit up. Don’t send that email.” Nobody is really that worried about it.
This one thing is not going to kill it. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority at the end of the day. Let’s get into that joy. You said making a difference, sharing insight, and being yourself. There were concepts in that very third section. Talk about that piece. You picked a word there that when I looked at the word, I was like, “I don’t know if I love the word joy.” As I started to read it, I thought, “I can understand why he wrote it that way.” Talk about that.
I don’t think being masterful or being a master at something could ever happen if it wasn’t something that brought you a lot of joy as well. It’s knowing that you’ve done a great job. I can see from our conversations and reading your books how much sales means to you. You are getting to see the joy in that whole process and in helping people to become better at selling. You talked about the person in your business who has made their first sale. I could see the joy and the pleasure you were taking from their success. To me, that’s the piece around mastering joy. If you are bringing something to the world through your talent and the skill that you’ve developed over a lifetime, it sure as hell should be bringing you joy. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Being masterful or being a master at something may not ever happen if it wasn't something that brought you a lot of joy as well.
Would you type pride in work to that joy, too?
Absolutely. Sometimes, people look at people who are making a big deal of the great work they’re doing and might even think it’s a little bit arrogant. This is about recognizing the effort that you’ve put in to get there.
Also, as I read through this, I hate to be the 50-year-old who says, “When I was younger, etc.” I don’t buy into that. As we all get older, it looks a little different and feels a little different, so it had to be different. I look more at what’s the same every time than different. Even coming up through the ranks myself, you would look at somebody who was a master at something or successful at something, however you defined it, and think sometimes they arrived there. We don’t respect the journey. If you said the current situation is everything from now and what has happened in the past, the history, there is pride of ownership and in delivery.
The guy that did the log cabin, we’ll go back to that. I might have to throw his name out there. He had great joy in educating me. I know more about log cabins. I know what’s great about my log cabin because he took pride and joy in educating me about log cabins. It wasn’t a waste of time because he made it sound interesting. He was an expert. He was a master at that. He even said, “Your log cabins look like Lincoln logs. Do you know what that means?” I go, “No. What does that mean?” They were set like one log was engineering another. He goes, “This is a good log cabin. It was engineered really well.” I’m like, “That’s great. I made a good investment.” I felt good. He took that pride in things.
I love our conversation. As you’re reading, there are the beginnings of mastery of purpose and intentionality with the title, then there are strategies. The strategy I took is you have to be able to lead yourself at some level and then know the direction you’re going. That last thing is you make a difference and have joy about it and have pride about it, but that comes from the journey. You don’t arrive there one day because it’s all on purpose. I appreciate you being on. Where can my audience connect with you and buy your book? If they wanted to ask you a question, how would they do that?
Thanks, Lance. I have an unusual surname. You can find me on LinkedIn. There are only 1 or 2 others with that surname, so I’m quite easy to track down. WilliamBuist.com is my website. You can reach me there. As far as the book, you can get the book on my website. You can find links there to buy that or it’s available at Amazon. It’s on Audiobooks as well. You can have a few hours of me reading the book to you if that’s your favor. It’s on Kindle too.
William Buist, Intentional Mastery: Step Beyond Your Expertise and Build a Better Business, I appreciate our time. I’m sure we will stay connected. Thank you so much for being on the show.
That’s great. Thank you very much, Lance. It was lovely to talk to you.
About William Buist
William Buist enables business owners to become the masters of their markets, operate more effectively, and stand out from all their competitors. With a strategic focus on building better business daily, his clients are at the heart of their work, making better decisions and empowered to excel.
William thrives at supporting his clients as they develop a better, resonant understanding of their strategic intentions to create a company that is more aligned with their purpose. He knows that by asking the right questions, effective decisions will result. Those judgments will be based on a deeper, more complete understanding because of an unbiased analysis of the appropriate elements.
William prides himself on his well-honed skill, posing questions that unlock blocks and barriers. William is a speaker, business mentor, and author of “Intentional Mastery: Step Beyond Your Expertise and Build Better Business.” He is a keen photographer, walker, and skier.
William Buist works with business owners so they become masters in their markets and stand out from competitors. Through a daily focus on building better businesses, clients make better decisions and are empowered to excel. William is a speaker, author, and business mentor and enjoys photography and skiing.