Episode 14 - Dr Ivan Misner

Who is in your room? Making Conversations about Networking Count!

Dr Ivan Misner – Founder of the Global Networking Group BNI

Making Conversations about Networking Count!

dr ivan misner bni networking

Making conversations about networking count!

Dr Ivan Misner is the Modern Father of Networking. With 36 years of continuous growth through the BNI network he founded in 1986, the organisation now has over 275000 members across 10000 chapters in 72 countries. Compelling author and contributor of 26 books including his latest titles ‘Who’s in Your Room?’ and ‘Infinite Giving’.

In this episode, Ivan and Wendy explore how conversation is the foundation of all growth and learning. How times have changed, looking back and also predicting our future generations’ experiences, yet communication will still be the underpin even if how that looks has changed.

Tune in to hear this pivotal moment and how listening to your instincts can send you on a new trajectory of success. We just wish we had chance to ask about his amateur magician skills!


From the blog https://ivanmisner.com/
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Full Episode Transcript


Making Conversations Count – Epsiode 14

January 21st 2021

Wendy Harris & Dr Ivan Misner



00:00:00: Introduction
00:02:03: BNI’s global reach
00:03:51: The effect of COVID on BNI
00:05:40: The value of your network
00:07:03: Pandemic success stories
00:10:11: Ivan’s pivotal moment
00:12:21: Networking for the younger generation
00:15:42: A glimpse of Ivan’s bibliography
00:17:36: “Who’s in Your Room?”
00:20:01: Final thoughts

Wendy Harris: You are listening to the official Making Conversations Count podcast with me, your host, Wendy Harris.  I am so excited today to be able to introduce to you, author of “Who’s in Your Room?”, father of the modern networking, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, who has just celebrated a mammoth 36 years of growth and generated a record amount of revenue for its members last year; it is, of course, Dr Ivan Misner.  Ivan, how are you and where are you today?

Ivan Misner: Thank you, Wendy, I’m doing great; and, you obviously listen to the BNI podcast because Priscilla asks me that most of the time, because I travel all over the world now.  Of course, in this zoom era, I’m doing zoom travel, which is really awesome because not long ago, I was in India in the morning and then I was in the UK in the afternoon; and, I think I was in Dubai later that afternoon.  You couldn’t do that in real life.

Wendy Harris: Certainly!  Please pass on our best to Priscilla in the UK; we love her.  We just always hang on that first opening sentence to you and yeah, of course, it’s like we’re time travellers now, isn’t it; you really can travel the world?

Ivan Misner: So, do you know why we came up with that phrase?  We came up with it because years ago, I got this email from somebody that said, “You’re probably on the beach in LA drinking Mai Tais; you’re not really doing anything”, and I’m like, oh my goodness, this guy does not see my calendar!  And so, we started talking about where I was and it completely eliminated this, “Oh, you’re in your ivory tower” concept, where I was visiting regions.

I have 2.3 million miles on one airline alone, so I have travelled all over the world for BNI and it’s been amazing and I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s work.

Wendy Harris: Well, I think when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work, and that’s the best kind of work to do?

Ivan Misner: Yes, absolutely.

Wendy Harris: How many members have you got in the network now, Ivan?

Ivan Misner: We have over 275,000 members worldwide.

Wendy Harris: Wow!  And, I think I saw a little clip that you’d reached a target of chapters as well?

Ivan Misner: I’ll tell you the story.  I had a friend and I went to him and I said, this was the middle of 1986 so BNI had been around for a year and a half, and I said, “You know, I think BNI someday might be able to have 10,000 chapters?” and he looked at me and he said, “And, how many chapters do you have now?”  I said, “30”.  He laughed at me, “10,000?  It’s good to have goals, Ivan; very good to have goals”.  “No, really, seriously, I think it’s possible”.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, Wendy, I did the calculations.  I thought it would take 75 years to get to 10,000.  I didn’t think I’d see it in my lifetime.  We did it in half the time; we hit 10,000 chapters at the end of December last year; 10,000 worldwide.

Wendy Harris: That’s incredible, isn’t it, really when you think that you’ve done it in half the time?  So, here’s a question for you then, Ivan: what’s the next goal?

Ivan Misner: BNI wants to be in every entrepreneurial nation in the world, and there are some countries where that’s just not going to happen any time soon, but there are still many countries to go.  We’re in 70 countries worldwide, so we literally could triple the number of chapters that we have in the organisation, which means that we then would make a difference for more and more people.

Last year, in the middle of COVID, this craziness of COVID, our organisation passed almost 12 million referrals.  We generated for our members over $16 billion worth of business during COVID and, to me, this is the most amazing statistic: in December of 2020, our members generated more business for each other than they did in December of 2019, which is incredible.

Wendy Harris: Wow.  I think, in lots of respects, I know that the current global situation has had a devastating impact on all corners of life; however, I do also see it’s almost like from the ashes that the little seeds are growing, and there are so many good things happening that we’re kind of more focussed than ever before on making sure we’re spending time with the right people in the right places; would you agree?

Ivan Misner: I agree, and you use a word that I think is very a propos, and that is “focussed”.  I see people who get frozen by fear or focussed by fear, and BNI’s been around 36 years; I’ve seen that a lot.  We live in fearful times and I get that.  Those people who allow that fear to focus them are way more successful than those who just get frozen by fear.

Today, more than ever, you need your network.  Your network of people is there to help you and support you to get through difficult times, and I saw that over and over again in the last year.  I am humbled by the things that I’ve seen, in terms of BNI members supporting one another and getting through these challenging times; it’s truly amazing.

Wendy Harris: Certainly, with only being able to do very limited face-to-face in the little breaks in the UK, where we’ve been able to socially distance in very small groups of six, I’ve not really met any of my chapter members, apart from a couple of people that I maybe knew from before I joined BNI, or somebody that I brought into the chapter; and, I know that I can pick up the phone anytime to them.  Certainly, joining BNI through these times has made a real big difference to my business.

Ivan Misner: Our membership went up during COVID.  You know, I would say the first six months, many people were frozen in fear, and I’ve seen this in previous recessions.  At some point people go, “This isn’t working for me; I need to do something”.  And, during every recession in the past, our membership went up.

During COVID and the resulting recession, our membership went up because people recognised that their network is so incredibly important.

Wendy Harris: Well, certainly my network in my chapter, at any point they’re my safety net.  This morning, I had a little wobble about something else and I reached out to, you know, I would consider a really good friend, and basically she gave me a big strong talking to and said, “Pull your socks up”, and that’s the value of having a network.  Yes, it takes time, but it’s like family.

Ivan Misner: Your network is a beacon of hope in a sea of fear.  They are the people that are there to help you and to support you, and we certainly have seen that in this last year and I think we’re going to need to continue to see it for part of this year, at least.

Wendy Harris: I think it would be unrealistic to expect anything to change overnight.  BNI itself has just proven that you can continue to thrive.

Ivan Misner: Imagine if this had happened in the late 1980s or 1990s; there’d be almost no way to stay connected with people.  At least, we have the technology that exists.  Yes, it’s two-dimensional, but we can see each other and have conversations with each other.  We can have meetings and BNI has continued to have our meetings worldwide via our online platform, BNI Online, as opposed to in person.

If this had happened 20 years ago, I would have literally seen the company that I’ve worked my entire life for go up in viral smoke.

Wendy Harris: Yeah.  There are some small blessings that it didn’t happen sooner.  Certainly, in terms of the storm that we’re in, everybody’s in that same storm, but they’re dealing with their own individual circumstances.  What would you say is your best advice to sort of weather it out?

Ivan Misner: I think you’ve got to activate your network, sit down and have conversations with them.  I’ve seen people during the COVID pandemic do some amazing things and most of them came out of doing online one-to-ones with people; two that really stand out in my mind.

One was a furniture re-upholstery company in the US and she had to let go of all her employees, because it’s hardly an essential business.  This was back in March/April of 2020.  She did a one-to-one with one of her BNI members and the member just had an offhanded comment.  He said, “You have a lot of cloth, don’t you?” and she said, “I literally have tons of cloth”.  He said, “Have you thought about making COVID masks?” and she said, “No, I haven’t”.  He said, “You know, you could go into the COVID mask manufacturing business to hold you over during at least the first few months of this?”

So, she went out and made 100 masks and gave two of them to each one of her BNI members and a few friends and said, “One’s for you; one, would you be kind enough to give it to a hospital worker, you know, a nurse, a doctor, a senior centre employee; somebody that really, really needs these masks, and give them my card and let them know that I’m now making these?”

She got so many orders, she was able to rehire her entire workforce because now, she became an essential business.  She rehired her workforce and they physically distanced; I don’t like the term “social distancing”, we need to be more social than ever.  And, she hired them all back and she got into the COVID mask manufacturing business.

I talked to a member in Australia, who’d had a brewery, and he had to close down his brewery.  But, somebody in a one-to-one said, “You have a lot of alcohol, don’t you?” and he said, “Yeah, of course”.  He said, “Have you thought about making hand sanitizer?” and he said, “No”.  So, he went into the hand sanitizer business.

Wendy Harris: I know exactly who to blame for the gin shortage now!

Ivan Misner: Yes!  It’s been amazing and it’s all happened when people got focussed by fear, as opposed to being frozen by fear.

Wendy Harris: My business sort of closed overnight.  I had one day a month work at the end of March.  My husband, he’s self-employed, but he can turn his work on and off like a tap.  For most businesses, it is really not that simple, and he couldn’t understand why I was going up to my office all the while, working hard and talking to people.

What came of that was a transition, a book, my podcast, which I’m so proud of, and joining a network that was my safety net.  All those conversations that were compounded at the beginning of the crisis has meant that I wasn’t on my own, and that I was able to help other people in their need as well.  We are, as you say, physically distanced, but even more socially connected than ever before.

Ivan Misner: Yes, very important to stay socially connected.

Wendy Harris: So, Ivan, I ask every guest to think of a pivotal moment in their life or career that really has created a turning point.  I think that these stories really do help up-and-coming business leaders, and even people like me.  I’ve been in business 16 years and I’m still learning every single day.  Please, share with me and our listeners, your pivotal moment?

Ivan Misner: For me, I like to call it “my Brody moment”.  Martin Brody is the character played by Roy Scheider in the movie, Jaws.  When he saw the shark for the first time, he said, “We’re going to need a bigger boat”.

I think my Brody moment came in December of 1985, and it stemmed from a conversation that I had in March of that year.  But, in December of every year, I sit down and I reflect, how did this year go according to plan; where do I want to be a year from now, five years from now?  And, in March I had one chapter at BNI and a woman came to me.  She couldn’t join that chapter, because her profession was already represented and as you know, we only allow one person per profession in our BNI chapter.

She said, “This is amazing.  I could get a lot of business, but I can’t join.  Would you help me open up my own group?” and at first I said no to her.  This isn’t what I do; I’m a business consultant; I don’t run a network.  And she said, “Well, this is kind of consulting.  You’re helping me build my business”.  I was like, “That’s kind of a stretch, but okay”.  My head was saying, “Don’t do this, it’s not your business”, but my intuition was speaking to me and I think it’s important to listen to your intuition, because it’s your soul talking to you.

I said yes and I’m so glad I did because, as a business consultant, I could maybe help a dozen clients, 15, 20 clients at a time.  But, in BNI, this company’s helping 275,000 people and I really feel like that was my Brody moment.  That was my pivotal moment in my career, listening to that little voice inside me saying, “Yeah, you should do that”.

Wendy Harris: That need to help that comes to the forefront?

Ivan Misner: Yeah, exactly, because we don’t teach this in colleges and universities anywhere in the world.  We don’t teach networking, referral marketing, social capital; it’s just not taught.  And, one of the things I determined at that time was that we need to teach it; I should be writing books, articles, material; and, we need to teach people how to build their business through referrals, because it’s not being taught in school.

Wendy Harris: Yeah.  But, something that I know is a hot topic of conversation is how our younger generation are coming through and they’re so indoctrinated with screen time, than having a conversation and knowing how to approach a stranger or somebody new or whatever, that it’s even harder for them to socially connect without it being on a keyboard.

Ivan Misner: Maybe.  There’s certainly some truth to what you’re saying, but I look back to when I was a young man.  I started BNI when I was 28 years old.  I had no idea how to network; I was clueless.  The one thing that the younger generation has that I did not was they do know how to network.  It’s online, but they do know how to connect.

We look at a generation and we see sometimes what we want to see.  There’s this great quote, and I’m going to really mangle it, but it’s something to the effect of, “The younger generation today has no respect for their elders.  They play games rather than work”.  Do you know who wrote that?  Socrates.

Wendy Harris: Okay!

Ivan Misner: It’s an issue that goes through the generations and I think, “Yes, you’re right”.  They are very much online and they need to learn how to network in person, but I didn’t know how to do that when I was in my twenties.  I method acted my way through the process and there are tools and books and materials and websites and videos that help the younger generation that we didn’t have in my generation and so, I wouldn’t give up on them.

I think they have more opportunities to learn than I did when I was in my twenties.

Wendy Harris: I think you make a good point there actually, Ivan, that in lots of ways, they’re practising online.  So, it’s kind of like a mirror, a reversal if you like, whereas where I method acted was on the market stalls, and you’d see the characters that would shout and scream and get attention and draw the crowds to their stalls and things, and you would adopt little nuances that you could see that worked that got people’s attention and how people wanted to be treated.

So, yeah, I guess it is just a question of what’s fashionable, because trends come and go.

Ivan Misner: They come and go; it’s what’s available too.  We didn’t have any of that available to us and for me in particular, my generation, networking was basically face-to-face cold calling.  We didn’t understand how to network.  We didn’t understand that networking was more about farming than it was about hunting.  I wrote the first doctoral dissertation on networking ever written.

Wendy Harris: I didn’t know that!

Ivan Misner: Yeah.  It was published in 1993 at the University of Southern California.  I wrote the first book on networking back in 1989.  We didn’t have any of that.  So, we look at who we are now and we compare ourselves to the young people, we compare young people to us, but we have to look back at who we were in our twenties; and, I think we had as many disadvantages, just different disadvantages than they do.

Wendy Harris: I would be interested, Ivan, to go back to that book from 1989 and you could almost create a new book just by referencing back how things were there.  My training was in 1988 and I see a lot of what I was taught initially, I’m relying on as my foundations now to everything that I do.  So, I wonder what would crop up as the rising stars and the rising changes in that initial book?

Ivan Misner: The first book I wrote, I think sold like 20 copies, so it didn’t do well.  But, I took content from that book and expanded it greatly, and that became a book called, “The World’s Best-known Marketing Secret”, and I published that in 1994 and it’s now in its fourth edition.  I think that book has done what you’re suggesting there.

What’s interesting is that I took it to 43 publishers.  42 publishers rejected it; the 43rd said yes.  That book now has sold over 250,000 copies; it’s been translated into probably half a dozen to ten languages, so it’s done pretty well.  But, the marketplace just didn’t see the need.

Do you know what the number one question I got in the 1980s from the media was?  “Isn’t this networking thing just a fad?”  That was the number one question I got!

Wendy Harris: That’s what people are talking about now about Clubhouse.  If you’d like an invitation, I have a spare one; I’d invite you?

Ivan Misner: I’ve been invited!

Wendy Harris: I bet!  It’s what stands the test of time, isn’t it?  I think that it is that we just genuinely want to be connected and we do want to be helpful, and that’s the reason for getting up in the morning, isn’t it?

Ivan Misner: It is.  I just did a book, I don’t know if you’ve seen it?  It’s called, “Infinite Giving”.  I did it with two Brits; a yank and two Brits.  We had to figure out whether to do it in Queen’s English or American English, so we did it democratically.

Wendy Harris: But, you did it phonetically?

Ivan Misner: We flipped a coin and the yank won!  It’s called, “Infinite Giving: The 7 Principles of Givers Gain” and one of the things we say in there, and I’ve got a whole chapter on this, is that, “Giving isn’t new-age psychobabble; it’s science”.  We quote the studies done by Yale, by Harvard, by Claremont University, about how giving actually improves performance; giving thanks.

Helping people actually increases performance for both the giver and the receiver, and it’s hard science; it’s not new-age psychobabble.

Wendy Harris: I think it’s incredible.  I love your latest book, the “Who’s in Your Room?”

Ivan Misner: Infinite Giving actually came out after Who’s in Your Room.

Wendy Harris: Oh, did it?  You’re just a prolific book writer, Ivan.

Ivan Misner: It’s what I do now.  I’m working in my flame.  So, would you like a minute on the concept of Who’s in Your Room?

Wendy Harris: Yeah.  Really, since I discovered this, it has dented the front of my brain.

Ivan Misner: Right, here’s the concept.  Imagine you live your life in one room and that one room has only one door, and that one door is an “enter only” door, so that when people come into your life or into your room, they’re there forever; you can never get them out.  Luckily, this is a metaphor, Wendy, but if it were true, would you be more selective about the people that you’ve let into your life?

Wendy Harris: Oh, definitely.  I’d be pushing them out the way.

Ivan Misner: I would argue that it’s actually more than a metaphor.

Wendy Harris: Yeah.

Ivan Misner: Here’s what I want you to do and if you’re listening to this podcast, I want you to do the same thing.  I want you to think of somebody that you got out of your life and I want you to think about why you wanted them out.  Were they toxic; were they difficult; what were the reasons you wanted them out of your life?

Now, I’m not going to make you say who it is, but I want you to think of someone.  Do you have someone in mind?

Wendy Harris: Uh huh!

Ivan Misner: Now, if you’re listening to this, I want you to do the same; I want you to think of that person.  Now, I want you to think about why you wanted them out; what did they do to you?  Think about something specific they did that just really upset you which was maybe one of the reasons why you wanted them out of your life; have you got that in your mind?

Wendy Harris: Yes, I’m holding on to that.

Ivan Misner: Okay, so here’s the thing.  If they’re still in your head, they’re still in your room, and they will be for the rest of your life, because the room starts on this temple and ends on this temple.  It is everything in between your head, your mind; that’s your room.  So, the people who have come into your room, have come into your life, they’re fingerprints are all over your brain and they will be forever.

So, it’s very important for us to learn how to screen people out from getting into our room who aren’t a good fit, and we talk about how you do that and what techniques you use to do that.  Then, we need to figure out how to deal with the people who have gotten into our room.  Sometimes, they’re family members; we had no choice.

Wendy Harris: That’s really helpful.  I will check out some of those exercises to exorcise the people that I don’t want in my room.

Ivan Misner: Well you can never get them out, but you can put them in a box and put them high on a shelf in your room.

Wendy Harris: Yes.  Ivan, honestly, I just love talking to you; I could talk to you forever.  I’m sure there are lots of valuable insights there for the listeners.  I know that they can pick up the conversation with you; you have your own website.  Where’s the best place for them to find you?

Ivan Misner: Ivanmisner.com.  I’ve been writing there for 14 years, twice a week, tons of free content.  And of course, on social media, I’m on most of the platforms; Facebook, in particular, I’ve got about 175,000 followers on my Facebook page.

Wendy Harris: That’s brilliant.  Ivan, thank you so much for coming on the show.  For the listeners, please do make sure that you subscribe on our channel; it’s www.makingconversationscount.studio/podcast.  You can listen on any of the platforms of your choice.  Do subscribe, because you don’t want to miss any of our past guests, future guests, and I just thank you for tuning in today.  Ivan, thanks again.

Ivan Misner: Thanks for having me, Wendy.



We don’t want the conversation to stop there!

All of our listeners are important to us, so we would love it if you can connect with Wendy on LinkedIn and send her a message with your favourite episode!


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Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater business coaches

Episode 19 – Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater

Making conversations about partnerships count. In a Making Conversations Count first, we are joined by two dynamic guests in this episode. Both Taz & Asha provide business coach services in different areas. Joining Wendy chatting about all the elements that make up a great debate. You are not going to want to miss the observations with Taz Thornton and Asha Clearwater around questioning, opinions, debate and discernment that makes for wonderful colourful conversations.

Vicki Carroll O'Neill

Episode 20 – Vicki Carroll (formerly O’Neill)

Vicki works with entrepreneurs, small business owners and executive leaders who are stuck in their business and need someone as a partner to coach them to their next level of success. Vicki offers growth marketing consultant advice, strategy plans & also organises in-house marketing teams.

heidi medina business coach

Episode 21 – Heidi Medina

This episode contains one of our most important conversations, so we’re definitely going to make it count!
Wendy Harris brings Heidi Medina into the conversation today, who opens up the conversation about abuse she has encountered.
She’s a Linkedin expert and business coach who is the exact opposite of the classic ‘my way or the highway’.
Whether you meet Heidi online or in person she is the same.

Niraj Kapur online sales coach

Episode 22 – Niraj Kapur

In this episode, Wendy is joined by Online Sales Coach Niraj Kapur from “Everybody works in Sales” a business that helps companies with their sales processes.

Steve Judge paralympian motivational speaking

Episode 23 – Steve Judge

A life-changing accident that almost claimed a life but actually birthed a mindset shift.  Making conversations about speaking count!

Imagine losing your limbs in an accident.

That’s a real human test.

Most people would fall into one of two camps.

Feel the loss, and struggle to overcome it, before essentially accepting your ‘job lot’ and just becoming a bit angry.

Many would. And they’d be forgiven.

Then there are others, who would not let it defeat them, or define them.

Steve Judge is definitely in the latter of the two camps.

Nikolas Venios the ideas agency

Episode 24 – Nik Venios

We reflect on how this business man helped his poorly mother solve a household challenge which led to a career of making conversations about ideas and innovation count. We will all eventually lose our parents. Sadly, it’s a part of life. Not many of us have to suffer that loss at the tender age of just six. We couldn’t think of a nicer guy to help us with our goal of making conversations about ideas count. Truly, if anyone can hold a conversation about ideas, it’s Nik Venios of the Ideas Agency. Did you know that NASA has a genius test? During this episode, you’ll find out all about this, and the fascinating stats surrounding it.

Jonny cooper hates marketing

Episode 25 – Jonny Cooper

Most business owners hate marketing. That’s probably because they don’t understand it. Someone who does get marketing is Jonny Cooper, and even he can’t stand it! In fact, he despises it so much, he built a business around it. Welcome to Jonny Hates Marketing! This week we’re making conversations about messaging count. Messaging is so important to get correct. Your entire marketing voice depends on it. That’s why you need to listen very carefully to Jonny Cooper.

Wendy Harris telephone trainer how to sell over the phone

Episode 26 – Wendy Harris

Wendy Harris is an expert telemarketer, who has years worth of experience in cold-calling and doing it right. Now a podcast host, Wendy shares her story and how she became an advocate for making conversations count!

Will Polston Make it happen

Episode 27 – Will Polston

Making conversations about wealth….and Clubhouse….count! Paying it forward. Acting from a position of generosity and giving within the law of reciprocity. We’re talking to Will Polston.

Ray Blakney Live Lingua

Episode 28 – Ray Blakney

Making conversations about language count… Ray Blakney is the CEO And founder of online language school Live Lingua. Can you speak another language other than your native tongue? Wendy admitted to the “Making Conversations Count” team that she doesn’t, and we can’t help but feel she’s definitely not alone.

Many Ward write my book cuddle monster

Episode 29 – Mandy Ward

Mandy Ward is a book mentor, helping people to write their own books under the company ‘Write my book’. Mandy is also an author herself, including the popular children’s book ‘The Cuddle Monster’.

Sarah Townsend copywriter survival skills for freelancers

Episode 30 – Sarah Townsend

Sarah Townsend is a freelance copywriter and best-selling author of the book ‘survival skills for freelancers’. In this episode, we discuss the importance of conversations in the freelance world, and how things can lead to many opportunities…

Paul Furlong visual branding advertiser videographer

Episode 31 – Paul Furlong

Paul Furlong is part of Opus Media, producing TV advertising, videos, and photographs for businesses. He knows a thing or two about visual branding, and is considered a advertising guru!

Hear what people are saying about the show

Informative, Charismatic and Meaningful Conversations

The perfect companion on a short drive.

As well as an insight into the human character, you’ll learn just as much on how to hack your day-to-day business operations.

In a State Agent via Apple Podcasts


Wendy expresses genuine curiosity about her guests. I felt like we were all sitting around the table for a warm cuppa getting to know each other.

She truly has a gift at listening to her guests and making each conversation count.

As a listener, I left each conversation feeling engaged and connected. I’m looking forward to joining Wendy every week to learn about the pivotal moment in her guests’ lives. Elizabeth Krajewski

Izzy2Wander via Apple Podcasts

Enlightening and fun

One of the most enlightening and fun podcasts out there. Wendy is an incredible host no matter who the guest and I am thoroughly enjoying this podcast. One you must put on your weekly listen list.

JayDa11236 via Apple Podcasts

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