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When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose

Not knowing who you are will hinder your growth. But when you focus on your purpose, amazing things start to happen. Paul Epstein is the bestselling author of The Power of Playing Offense and the Chief Impact Officer of PurposePoint. A consultancy company focusing on leadership and culture development. Join in the conversation as Paul shares with Dr. Gary Sanchez how knowing his WHY of Contribute brings out the best in him. He believes that the most powerful things you can learn about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different. Tune in!

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When You Focus On Your Purpose, Amazing Things Happen With Paul Epstein

We go beyond talking about your why, helping you discover and live your why. If you are a regular reader, you know that in every episode, we talk about 1 of the 9 whys, and we bring on somebody with that why. You can see how their why has played out in their life. In this episode, we are going to be talking about the Why of Contribute.

If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You do not necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you love to contribute in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish the success that contributes to the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories.

You are off and behind the scenes looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations. I have got a great guest for you. His name is Paul Epstein.

Paul believes there are two types of people in this world, those who play defense and those who play offense. These insights are around purpose, performance, and impact were gathered over a fifteen-year run as a professional sports executive, where Paul successfully steered business teams that executed billion-dollar NFL campaigns, broke Super Bowl revenue records, and generated league-leading sales results for seller dweller NBA clubs.

Paul’s proudest moment was when he was internally known as the Why Coach at the San Francisco 49ers, coaching others to find their why and act on it. Paul has curated the most actionable ways into leader’s playbooks of how he and his team produced this impact in these hypercompetitive environments. He calls it playing offense.

He is the Chief Impact Officer for PurposePoint and the Chief Purpose Advisor for the WHY Institute. Paul is a proud father of PJ, married his best friend on the field of Levi’s Stadium, and has a slight obsession with bacon, just do not make it too crispy. Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Epstein. Thanks for being here.

I’m fired up to be here. If you have any bacon, it is going to be an even better conversation.

Tell me about that. I can’t bypass that one. What is the story with the bacon?

I had some early childhood holidays down in Mexico. My mom is a proud Mexican descent, so we would normally cruise down there and spend some time with the grand folks. For my fourth Christmas, I’ve got a box. When they handed it to me, it was shaking and I see a little black wet nose coming out of it. In there are two puppies.

As a youngster, you think this is a normal Christmas. You get animals. You get pets. When the time came around before my fifth Christmas, they said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want a pig.” Of course, I’ve never got the pig. They looked at me like I was crazy and that is only half true but needless to say, I have been a massive fan. As much as I’m a 49ers fan, I am a bacon fan. Those two things have stood, tried, and true.

Paul, tell everybody where you are from. Take us through your journey. You have done some amazing things at a very young age. Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school? Let’s start back there.

I mentioned the roots in Mexico. That was very easy to take a four-hour drive because I’m from Los Angeles. My sports career had me visit a ton of different markets and spend years of my life outside of SoCal. The humidity, the cold, and the polar vortex, go West. We are going to come back to that because I have some fun stories about being in Angeleno in cold weather.

I will call myself the little softy there but I was born and raised in LA with my two amazing parents. I was an only child. My dad was an educator. My mom stayed at home to watch me like a hawk. She was one of those parents that were the president of the PTA, the Parent-Teacher Association. That was her way of making sure that I was doing the right thing and getting good grades.

Thank goodness because, A) Having a dad that is an educator, and B) Having a mom that I may not like at the moment but I now am a proud parent of a one-year-old, so we are very new in the journey but I get, see, feel and understand it. It took me three decades to get here. I kept my head on straight. I was an athlete throughout. Football, basketball, and baseball had my stints and I have always loved sports. I’m one of those classics go to the backyard, throw the ball with your pops kind of a guy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
The Power of Playing Offense: A Leader’s Playbook for Personal and Team Transformation – https://www.amazon.com/Power-Playing-Offense-Playbook-Transformation/dp/1645436241

If you want to talk about childhood, my childhood was amazing. Teenagers were amazing, but then something very tragic happened. This is very important in my story because it all connects to why I do what I do and who I am even now. I went to USC. I was not ready to fly too far away from the nest. I’ve got into some amazing schools but with the parents I have, I had to apply to fifteen schools.

Imagine how many essays that are. It was at Northwestern that I had to write four. Let’s say an average is 2, so 30 essays later, I’m at USC. It was the finals of my freshman year. I’m nineteen years old and I get a call that changed my life forever. It was a call that after decades of my dad struggling through diabetes, he finally had his final day.

It was a moment where instantly you feel you went from a boy to a man. You, as an only child, look at your one-standing parent being my mom. She goes from a parent to a partner. I drive home. It is a 10 to 15-minute drive. In some ways, I still remember like it was yesterday seeing my mom. We will get to my purpose, my why, my values, and how they have changed my life throughout this conversation.

One of the ways that I have been able to pull, reflect and apply a lot of those things in my life is because it all has an origin story, and one of my core values is courage. I’ve got that value of courage because of how I saw my mom that day and the next. She breathed courage into me. The Latin definition of inspire is to breathe life into. She breathed and inspired courage, and it is never left.

I will share a story if you would like at a later point in the conversation about my dad and the way he has been able to impact my life even more after the day he passed than when he was alive. That is the early years through the college years. A couple of years later was when I broke into sports. I’m happy to go there if you would like but I will kick it back to you.

She breathed it into you. What do you mean by that? There are going to be people reading this who are having their own trauma and stuff going on. What was that like?

Oftentimes, when fear or risk is highest, you could think of it on a small level. It is a setback, hurdle or obstacle. There is another level like a global pandemic and maybe a loss that happened, whether a person, place, job, or industry. It is the loss of being able to build a community and hang out with the people you want to hang out with whenever you want, those types of things.

At the highest level, maybe there is something that is terminal on a medical front. There is something where you lose 1 of the 2 most important people in your life at an age that you are not ready to lose them. I was nineteen. I had this thought in my head that this was supposed to be the end of the world. My dad died and I’m not even twenty years. I not only saw her strength. More importantly, I felt her strength.

When I wanted to crumble, she did not let me. She is the rock star in my life, the rock in my life if you will, so when you ask the question of, “How did she breathe life into me?” it is the same way that I measure people, action. She could have told me, “Stay strong, be strong.” If I saw weakness, if she did not show up strong or say the right things but did not do the right things, I do not know how I would have processed that experience. That is what I mean. Life is about how you show up. If it is not in action, it does not count.

You were at USC. What did you major in and how did you get into the whole sports world?

I was a business guy. Interestingly, in some of the other conversations that we have had, you always talk about the way you were raised. My family always told me growing up, “This kid can talk.” I would not shut up. They said, “You are going to be a lawyer or in sales. There are only two options.” That is not exactly why I’ve got into business school but I knew that I had a passion for not only speaking but more importantly, connecting with people.

I am not the cubicle guy. I am the guy that needs to feel there is a partnership. In my playing offense terminology, I say, “Meet me at the 50.” That is when two people have the same amount of energy and level of resources that they are bringing to the table. You are meeting at the 50 as partners. The way I like to think about it is, “I’m not just going to run through the wall for you. I do not want you to run through the wall for me. Let’s lock arms and run through the wall together.”

That is my philosophy on life, business, and partnership. That is why I’ve got into sales because I saw an opportunity to do that, so I go to school. Business, sales, and marketing were the background. I did not get into sports until a year after. I worked for Philip Morris. Now they are called Altria. For those that do not know, that is the pairing company of Marlboro cigarettes amongst other brands.

I had friends that worked at the company and they recruited me. I was like, “This is pretty badass. I’m 19 to 20 years old working for a Fortune 10 company. I do not even care what the product or service is. Do you know how amazing that is on a resume? That is how we think at a certain point. I’m a summer sales intern. I end up being a recruiting ambassador, meeting those tents in the middle of campus at a career fair.

To inspire is to breathe life into others. Click To Tweet

I’m the guy representing Philip Morris under one of those tents. I’m trying to tell people to join me in this army of Philip Morris folks. It went fine at USC and it was very pleasant in LA, then they sent me to the Bay Area at a school called Berkeley. For those that know the brand of Berkeley, there are some different cats up there. By the way, my wife went there as an undergrad. I’ve got to say, “Go, Bears!” just to stay married. Let me put that out there.

I’m at a Berkeley career fair. As I’m approaching with all of my materials, I see a flock of people that is a couple of hundred feet in front of me. I’m thinking, “What is going on? Is it a protest or what is this?” I creep up and they are right in front of the Philip Morris booth. Within five minutes to the start of the career fair, I had security on both sides of me. People are holding up signs in front of me. There were two signs that I will never forget. One said, “You work for the devil.” Another one said, “You sell cancer.”

You want to talk about putting things in perspective. All of a sudden, that Fortune 10, the brand, and the resume did not matter. You’ve got to think about tribes and values that you stand for, that are attracted to, and what repels you. That moment taught me that there are many superficial reasons to do things in life. Work for the big brand or go for the supermodel but you can’t even have a conversation with them.

There are all these things or places that we engage with for reflecting back on the wrong reasons but you’ve got to go through some life experience for it. That was my Berkeley experience. This is the break into the sport, and then I will kick it back to you. For those sports fans, there is a guy named Mel Kiper. He is a college football draft guru. He is a high-energy guy like the fire, the burn, and all that good stuff.

I’m driving in my Philip Morris van and I’m graduated. It is not too far from that Berkeley Career Fair. I’m on ESPN Radio. All of a sudden, Mel comes on, “Have you ever wanted to work in sports? Have you ever dreamt of working for your favorite MLB and NBA team?” I’m speeding down the road like, “Yes.” His call to action was, “Call 1877-SMWW.” SMWW stands for Sports Management Worldwide. Eight weeks later, I graduated from an online program. The deal was if you are a good student and can turn some heads with the professors, they will plug you into their network. That was my break-in.

They said, “Where do you want to be?” I said, “LA.” They said, “We have an opportunity at the Clippers.” The Clippers, at that time, were Lakers with Kobe and Shaq. Clippers were the redheaded stepchild here from a brand perspective. When I first started with them, ESPN called us the worst brand in sports. Sports Illustrated doubled down a year later and said, “You are the worst franchise in sports history,” so I had to sell that. That is my break into sports.

What was it like working for the Clippers in those days? I remember living out in LA. It was hard to get anybody to go to a Clipper game and it is almost embarrassing to show up at a Clipper game. You do not want to go to that.

Imagine you are entertaining clients. You are trying to paint this facade that it is a sold-out arena, push urgency that they are the last seats in the house, and there are 10,000 open seats around them. You say, “Maybe they are a little late to the game.” That’s what it was like. Here is the reality and this is good advice for life and something that I learned at a very young career stage.

You’ve got to control the controllable. I know it sounds a cliché. We have all heard it but, do you actually do that? There is a very short list of things that both, you either fully control or do not control. The majority of things fall in the middle. I call it the land of influence. Most things in life are gray. You influence them. The things you do not control are things like the weather or the economy if adversity enters your life.

I already shared a few of my stories and will flip the script. What do you control? It is all within you. It is things like your mindset, actions, attitude, and energy level, my actions, my attitudes, my reactions, my energy level, and not the selfish my but the self-awareness my or the perspective my. Working at the Clippers, if you listen to all of the outside noise that is so uncontrollable, whether the media, an annoyed fan or whatever it is, you are going to lose.

I was in a twelve-person recruiting class. I was the only person to make it to the second month on the job because they only wanted the glitz and glamor of getting into sports. I was doing it because I was on a mission to sell as much of the unsellable as possible. I would argue that early in my career, I do not want to work for the market leader. I want to work for the underdog.

What was that like trying to sell the Clippers and how did you eventually sell the Clippers?

I know we will get to the why process in a bit but it is not too different where there is a why and sometimes there is a why under the why. We would always call it single-game buyers. I would call folks that came to a Clipper versus Lakers game because they are locals. You remove a lot of the barriers and objections are out. Lakers’ seats are so tough to get and they are expensive. I’m already winning some of those battles before I even pick up the phone.

I start to understand why they come to games. I know they are Laker games but why and who do you come with? What is that memory and event that you are never going to forget and how have sports been a part of your life? You like coming with your son, daughter or better half. What is the coolest event that you have ever been to? What transpired because of that moment? It’s because of that, it forged a greater relationship.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: Think about values that attract you and you stand for.

 

I get very deep under the surface and into why they love the game itself, who their favorite players are, and all of these different logistics and details. I say, “What if you could be a handful of rows off the court, which does not exist with the Lakers, and you could have these amazing experiences with your family?” You hear them incremental yes. Let’s get this done. It is almost like they said yes to so many things that were important to them, they forgot that it was Clippers. I sold the NBA, family, and what I could control because I can’t control if the Clippers win games or not.

How did you learn to do that?

I will be humble when I say this. Some of this is a gift. I do know that but that is not all it is. I refuse to answer in a way that, “Some of us are gifted at whatever.” I’m humbled to say I know a lot of great performers, whether professional athletes or folks that are in the entertainment world. They did not get there overnight, and just because of their gifts.

I know for a fact spending fifteen years in sports, countless people have gifts, very few apply them. That is my fundamental belief because I was not the most talented. I believe I was talented. I am too humble to ever say I was the most talented but I had this hard hat mentality. When I say control the controllables and even when I became the sales manager a few years later, I managed the room that I once started in as an entry-level sales guy.

I always told folks when I was recruiting that my job as a hiring manager is to hire the best talent. Do not worry about whether you think you are amazing at sales. That is my judgment to make in this interview process. What I need you to do in our contract is I need three things. I need your work ethic, positivity, and coachability. That’s the lunch pill. Those are the non-negotiables. You give me those three things. I will take care of you for the rest of your career.

That is how I inspired and motivated teams to forget about the noise and the negativity of the market and start focusing on what they truly wanted and that deeper burn, that igniting of passion. I found that when you can understand what is important to other people, it is that Zig Ziglar thing. You help enough people get what they want and life tends to reward you, too.

I do not do that strategically. I do not take score or give with the expectation of getting. I just give. I’m a contributor. I always have been. I didn’t always know that because I did not take this wonderful assessment but reflecting back, that is how I inspired others and that is the same pep talk that I had to have with myself when I was on the front lines in a producing role.

You were in the Clippers for how long and what was the next step?

I was selling for about a year and change, and then I ended up managing the team. That was about a two-year run. In my two years as a Manager, the first year, we finished 28th in revenue. In the second year, we finished second in revenue. How did we do that? The Clippers won no more games in that second year than the first. When you said seller-dwelling MBA clubs when you were introducing me, this is what we are referring to.

How do you take bottom and league revenue to second next to the top? It was a partnership agreement that I figured out. Let me back up. I’m going to give tremendous credit to one of my guys. His name is Eddie. Eddie was the only person in the room that by age was older than me. Technically, he reported to me but I never viewed it that way. I believed that I learned more from Eddie than he could have ever learned from me.

He had already run his own real estate businesses. His family has given him the blessing to come in at a $7 an hour entry-level job with no other benefits and no bonus potential. He got that blessing and ended up being one of the biggest blessings in my life. Six months into that two-year run at the Clippers, Eddie and I go out for a bite. I say, “Eddie, I look around the room and I feel we have got this amazing locker room. There is such good talent. I’m so fired up but the scoreboard does not reflect that. Our sales revenue sucks. What is going on?”

He said, “Paul, what are we doing?” I said, “I do not know. We are hanging out and having lunch.” He goes, “Is it fair to say we are breaking bread?” I said, “Sure.” He hit me. He said, “When was the last time you did this with anybody else on the team?“ It was a very simple, yet profound message that I needed to hear because I basically was managing people the way I was managed, not leading because there is a difference.

I’m not going to claim that early in my sales career, I had amazing coaching or mentorship. I’m not knocking the guys. In the sports industry, there was a little bit of a transactional feel inside the front office. That is how it was. I’m not going to BS about it. You asked how I became a lot of it. I could probably owe 2 people like my parents and 2 others. Sometimes you need to extract life lessons and apply them to your business if you do not have all the right resources in your business roof. That is a reality of life.

Eddie woke me up. Relationships are the secret sauce of life and the currency of business. Trust is one of those things that you need to form within a team. Those sounds are so simple and fundamental but I was blind as an entry-level manager. Thanks to Eddie, I woke up. That is how you go from number 28 to number 2 in revenue. I know the people, the culture, and the leadership game. When I started to realize that that should be put ahead of goals, metrics, key performance indicators, and all this quantitative stuff, that is when the game changed.

Forget about the noise and negativity and focus on igniting your passion. Click To Tweet

Was it about the team or the culture? What made the biggest difference to take you from 28th to 2nd?

We had something called the constitution. It was a whiteboard in the room and this program of sales was called inside sales. It was designed to be 6 to 9 months. Let’s say you were hired on January 1st. That means that between July 1st and September, that is your window of getting promoted if you are a top producer. That is the environment.

Remember those three non-negotiables, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I connected with everybody and I said, “You give me those three things. I do not care how poor your sales performance is because that’s on me. That means I did not see a lack of a gift, talent, skill or ability in the recruiting process. I will own that. You will not be fired for lack of revenue but you will lose your seats if you do not have the work ethic, positivity, and coachability, and not most of the time, all of the time. This is not a 90% Rule. It is a 100% Rule.”

I created a constitution, made it sound very formal and said, “I will hereby,” and I put the three elements of the constitution, work ethic, positivity, and coachability. I would write the dates of their 6 to 9-month window next to their name. I would sign it and have them sign it. Let’s say, Susie, I would say, “Susie, you do these three things. In this three-month window, I will not only take care of you then. I will take care of you for the rest of your life.” That is what got people.

I treated them not as an employee or even as a team member but as a family member. That family workaround in business is way too much. Ninety percent of the time, you do coaching and consulting, Gary. Do you go in and you are like, “This does not feel like a family but you all say you are a family.” It is situations like that. Some would say, “Paul, you are overcommitting yourself. Why would you ever put yourself on the line?” I’m like, “How could I not?” It is because I essentially had to become the leader that I never had.

Amazingly, you were able to do that at a young age. You were in your early twenties, right?

Yes, probably at that time mid-ish twenties.

Where did you go next? Keep us going on the journey.

I had to fly away from the nest. The way it works in sports is you either wait for your boss to leave or you’ve got to go external. For me, at this time, you are feeling yourself because you are riding some mojo and you get second in the league in the NBA. I had a lot of opportunities but the one that I ended up landing and that felt right was going out to New Orleans, from Hollywood Boulevard to Bourbon Street, if you will.

That was crazy. Mardi Gras is a real thing. What was even scarier is that it is almost 365 but it was a heck of a time. Here is what I learned in New Orleans. I’m not knocking the folks I was working with. I’m simply saying that a void in my life to that point was, I was still looking for that business leader that I would do anything for. I was still looking for the mentor that I would dedicate my life. I wanted it but I was not going to force it. You can’t force anybody’s leadership style.

I went to New Orleans because I fell in love with my fellow leaders. When I look to my left and right, I’m like, “This is thunder buddies for life. This is awesome.” What made it even more interesting was that eventually, there is a little bit of sadness and tragedy in this story too but it leads to purpose. The NBA team in New Orleans is called the Pelicans but they are called the Hornets at that time. Their Owner, Mr. Shinn, became very ill with cancer. He had to give up the operations of the team, so the late Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, comes in.

He has a group of people, which still exists in the NBA. They are called TMBO, which is Team Marketing & Business Operations. Think of them as the superwomen and supermen of the teams that get promoted to the league. They fly in with capes and fix things, whether it is your sales, marketing, game day or operation.

Whatever gaps you have, they accumulate best practices throughout the league and give you the playbook. In a case like this, because they took stewardship of the franchise, it was not giving us a playbook. They were locking arms and executing with us. If you want to talk about that void I had of working for amazing people with amazing gifts and talents, I stumbled into it by being in New Orleans at the right place at the right time.

Commissioner Stern was a little bit of a bulldog. He studied the books of the franchise and we were the worst. We were the least viable, in economic terms, franchise in the NBA. On the books, there is no team that you would rather own less for finance reasons than the Hornets. He gave us an ultimatum. “Sell 10,000 season tickets, which is the gold standard in the NBA or you are going to lose the franchise.”

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: The three non-negotiables are work ethic, positivity, coachability.

We had a buckle down. Thankfully, we had a lot of support but it was a scary proposition because if I could be real with you and everybody reading, the South is a football part of the country. Basketball was an afterthought. I can take it at the Clippers. I love you. I hate you. I can have those conversations. What I can’t do anything about is apathy.

What do you do when somebody does not care? I can’t make you care. If you do not care about basketball, how do I inspire you to join this movement that is going to save the franchise? What if you do not care about that franchise? We went back to the drawing board. We said, “If they do not care about basketball, what do they care about?”

For those that are either in New Orleans, from New Orleans or have been in New Orleans, Nolans as they say, you know that people are passionate. They have pride, whether it is the jazz, the food, the drinks, or the parades, they love themselves some knowledge. That is what they love. There is a tremendous amount of identity, whereas where I’m from, LA, there are not a lot of identities. There are a lot of transplants, a melting pot or whatever but not the best identity. Identity lives in New Orleans.

We captured that magic and said, “Let’s build a case around what it would mean if we lost the franchise and how it would be the scarlet letter on the identity of your city.” We started this campaign called “I’m In.” We pulled in all these influencers from the World’s Top Chefs and politicians, people that call New Orleans home. We said, “Host events in your home because that is authentic. Pull people into your living rooms. Invite them in and rally them to be in. If they are in, here are the benefits to the city that you care so much about.“

We made it bigger than basketball. That was my first lesson about organizational purpose. Even if you do not love the product or service, if you love the purpose, why you do what you do, and you feel you are a part of something bigger than yourself, whether as an employee or as a customer, the power of purpose is real. Thankfully, there is a happy ending to the story. We’ve got to the number without purpose. I 100% know we do not even come close.

You were there for a couple of years. Where did you go next?

I was in Sacramento Kings, and that was my quick one-year-ish stop. There was an NBA lockout. I was in charge of company culture during an NBA lockout. I do not think anything in life is impossible but that is pretty close to it because your livelihood is taken away. I can laugh about it but that was a tough chapter. My next up is New York and we will go there in a second. Remember that relationship lesson from Eddie.

In New Orleans, I befriended in a very human and authentic way, not because I wanted them to take care of me. I fell in love with that NBA crew that I referenced earlier. Some lifelong friendships organically came out of it. How did I end up in Sacramento? One of those NBA folks was helping the Kings and said, “Paul, can you come help?”

How did I end up in New York? The same guy said, “I’m with an agency, Legends, owned by Yankees and Cowboys. We are based in New York. We’ve got some clubs out. There is a little soccer, football, baseball. We would love to plugin. Do you want to join us?” “I do.” I was not following the place. I was following the people because I finally found my people. I found folks that I could align with on a deeper level, bigger than a career. I genuinely felt we synced.

That is what led me to New York. It was not that I ran away from the Sacramento adversity. We were throwing paper airplanes in an office, which for somebody that wants to contribute and make an impact, throwing paper airplanes, while it sounds fun, gets old after about a day. You want to go back and make a difference in the world. That is what took me to New York and how I’ve got into the sports consulting space. That is what led me to the NFL League Office where I ran a national sales campaign.

We ended up breaking an all-time revenue record for that game, which was a tremendous accomplishment. My heart was always in football. I loved all these pit stops in the NBA but I always wished that I could get into that granddaddy of them, the NFL. My agency had some connects at the NFL League Office. I’ve got to have strategy sessions with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was a tremendous experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.

You went into the NFL League. Did you end up with the 49ers?

Yes. You will notice the trend here. I say this from a very humble place but out of fifteen years, I will give you two stats and they are almost oxymorons of each other. For anybody reading, if you are a sports fan, let’s say you root for the “fill in the blank” team for fifteen years, what are the odds that they are going to make the playoffs?

You would say 1/3 of the time, 1/2 of the time or 2/3 of the time. You are not going to be it every year but you are also going to make it sometimes. I worked fifteen years in sports. The teams I worked for made it to the playoffs once, 1 out of 15 years. Here is the second step. Out of the fifteen years, we hit goal 14 out of 15 times. This is not necessarily your job on the line but more about, this is how you get rewarded, recognized and how your career grows.

If you love why you do what you do, you’ll feel you're a part of something bigger than yourself. Click To Tweet

Imagine you are consistently achieving success. We break a revenue record in the NFL. The Super Bowl was a project. It was full-time at the moment but it was a nine-month sprint. My agency was brought in. I was the point guard and the leader of that national sales campaign. There were 50 people spread throughout the country but I was the only person with boots on the ground in headquarters in 345 Park Ave.

We did the impossible and it turned a lot of heads. One of those heads was then the COO, now President of the San Francisco 49ers, Al Guido, who is a dear friend and an amazing leader. Al comes calling and says, “How would you like to come back to Cali? We are opening up Levi stadium.” Essentially, they created a role for me. They were doing well. They were on pace but they wanted to level it up. I had some relationships in common with Al. He believed in me through the people that he referenced. All of a sudden, I’ve got out of the polar vortex world and I made it back to California.

What was your position with the 49ers and what was that working for them?

It was the best job I have ever had, the best place I have ever worked, and the best leaders I have ever worked with and for. Had I not found my why? I would hope that I would still be at the 49ers. It was like a family to me. The magic question is, “Why would you ever leave a place that you describe like that?” My role was Head of Sales and Biz Dev.

Think of 70,000 people in the stadium. The sales team is responsible for putting the butts in the seats. Who calls Levi’s to eventually become Levi’s Stadium and all those corporate sponsors? Who sells all those luxury boxes and the premium hospitality? You need a sales team. There is a lot of outbound effort that needs to happen to monetize what this sport is.

Do not get me wrong. There is a lot of incoming interest as well. To close the gap, fill the place, and maximize revenue, that is where the sales team comes in. It is not because sports can’t sell themselves but if you price it aggressively, you are going to need some muscle for that. We were the muscle. My role there was to recreate what was an old revenue model of, “You have ten games and maybe we have some concerts and a soccer match here and there.”

At 365, we light up the building 20 times and the other 345 are dark, AKA you do not make money versus our president and our owner wanted to monetize it year-round. To do that, from things having restaurants on-site, to stay stadium tours year-round, to private banquet events, Facebook did a holiday party for 20,000 people in the stadium. There were weddings. One might have been mine, full disclosure. We had weddings at Levi’s Stadium. You are not going to believe this, Gary. It was her idea, not mine.

You married, right?

I did. I converted to a Raider fan. That is even better.

It is not easy.

That was my role there. It was awesome. There was a retreat in year 3 of 4 of my journey with the 49ers that eventually led to my Jerry Maguire leap from them.

It seems like being in a great spot is going to take something big for you to want to leave. What happened?

What happened is, in August 2016, there was a two-day offsite retreat that changed my life. I found my why. It was led by Simon Sinek. I know you know him and you have been very kind about your relationship with him and his team. They led the experience. This was after he had done a keynote. The message of why was permeating throughout the organization, even ahead of that.

A small group of us got offsite and tapped into our why. We all walk away with a why statement and identifying our core values. I knew that something special had happened. I did not know what was going to come and what was going to follow but I knew that life was different. Fast forward, I get back in the office. I’m radiating this extra level of energy.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you identify your core values, something special happens, and you know your life will be different.

Folks are like, “What was in the punch? What did you drink at that retreat? Paul, you have already got too much juice. You are at another level. You are at a ten. We need you at a two.” That is how I shot out of a cannon back into the front office. I shared what happened at the retreat, and that was the end of that conversation.

The next day, one person that I shared it with came up to me on the side and said, “Paul, that thing you did at the retreat, do you think you could coach me through the same process?“ The next day, another person. 1, 2, 5, 10 to nearly 50 led, and all water-cooler buzz that started on the business side eventually made its way to the football side of the organization. That is how I became known as the Why Coach of the San Francisco 49ers. It was a passion project that I was paying the gift of purpose forward. I found why. It felt like a special thing and I could not contain it to keep it inside of me.

That is very much my story as well. Did you get to work with many of the players?

Toward the tail end of that 50, yes. It started almost exclusively on the business side because those are the folks who I knew best and was around with every day. It happened in the offseason but we’ve got into the season and they were around. We share a cafeteria. If you ask what the number one thing I miss about sports is, I miss the freaking 49ers player cafeteria. It is a tremendous place.

When you share a cafeteria, you are going to be sitting at the table with the who’s who of the NFL and the 49ers. You drum up some relationships. I do not say it lightly but there was a water-cooler buzz. There was, “This guy has got a little bit of the potion. This guy can get you to your why. I was probably having 2 to 3 hours of sit-downs and that is about the time it was taking me to get them from start to finish. At 6:00 AM, we were showing up, in the evenings, and on weekends. This is a side hustle.

This was not a part of the day job but what is interesting is that HR caught wind of it. I get a cryptic email that you never want from HR. They say into the head of the HR’s office. I’m like, “Is this my last day? What is going on?” It is quite the opposite. They said, “Paul, we heard through the grapevine what you are doing. We think it is phenomenal and tremendous. What are your thoughts on integrating it into the recruiting or onboarding process here at the 49ers?”

I’m not a list guy. I do not know if that is a top 5 or top 10 but if you could say the proudest moments in life, that has got to be close to the top. It was having that resonates deeply in a community I cared so much about, they saw the value in it, and they wanted the why to become a part of the fabric of the company.

You are at an amazing team and culture. You love everybody there. You are getting to do what you want to do, and then you leave.

Part of the challenge of finding your Why is when it inspires you, it becomes an obsession, and you almost need to follow it. Forget almost. In my case, I had to follow it. I felt called to do this work. I then started to do internal introspection. My why is the start of it. That has my North Star elements and what gets me out of bed.

The parts I was able to apply more actively in my life on Monday morning were my core values. My core values, in no particular order, are belief, growth, authenticity, impact, and courage. Those are my five core values. I started to assess how I made decisions in life. Am I being congruent with those values in my why? Am I aligned? Is how I show up connected to what I believe and to who I am? Is there alignment there? When I train this, those are the three layers of our identity from the inside out, who we are, what we stand for, and how we show up. Are those connected?

If you are not in alignment, you are not being true to your purpose and you are not living your why. When I gave myself that stress test, I realized that I was not living true to my purpose. I was doing a good job, not a great job. I had some gaps. I started to tear through the muscle. I still order to implement. I found that when you apply one value, it can help you overcome a deficiency in another area. I leveraged my value of courage to make tough decisions.

When I was afraid and knew there was a risk, I’m like, “Paul, are you a man of courage or not?” I would almost have that locker room talk with myself. When I was like, “Express courage.” It helped me make other decisions. I told myself, “Paul, think of something you said you would never do but maybe you would reconsider.”

One of those things was going back to school. The school was fine. I took high school seriously because of my folks. College was a party, I passed and did not see the need. In business and sports, you do not need the three letters, MBA. In some industries, you need it. In that one, you do not. I tore through the muscle and I committed to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. They had a Los Angeles cohort satellite program.

It was this perfect, once a month. I had no anticipation of leaving sports at the time but here is what it led to. This is the lineage and here is how I want to connect to the audience here. When you follow your why, these inexplicable connections start to happen. You reflect back and say, “If A) Did not happen, B) Does not happen, then C) Does not happen.”

When you stay true to your purpose, amazing things happen. Click To Tweet

You do not know that if you forecast forward. You need to take action. If you are being true to your purpose and letting your why to be your operating system, in this case, that is when the amazing things happen. I went back to school. The best ROI on the school was not in the classroom. For the first time in my life, I had an executive coach.

I remembered going back to my sports days. I always wanted that leader. Sometimes it is different when they work in your industry. What if they know your boss better than you? It is a weird thing but an executive coach is an executive coach. They are neutral, unbiased, and just there to serve you, with no outside agenda. Her name was Sue Ann. I talk about her tremendously in my book, The Power of Playing Offense. She was a life changer.

Sue Ann said, “Paul, I know what you do. You are the Head of Sales for the 49ers. What do you love and hate about it? What do you tolerate?” I answered all three, and she said, “Go deeper on that love bucket.” I said, “I love the people side of the business. I love building a culture, rallying a team, motivating, inspiring, and coaching.” She said, “On a good day, what percentage of your time do you do that?” I started to slouch in my chair because I knew I would not love the answer. I plus it up.

The truth was probably 10%. I told her 20%, so I would feel better about myself. She said, “Paul, if I was to wave a wand and you become your boss, does that number 20% go up, down or sideways?” I said, “More strategy, fewer people, so down.” She said, “What about your boss’s boss?” I said, “The same.” This was the question. She said, “What are you after?”

It is so simple, Gary. There is nothing magical about the question, “What are you after?” Shame on me that I had never thought about that. My NFL boss told me, and apparently, I did not listen. He said, “In life, the easiest thing to do is to stay on the treadmill you are on.” He told me that, and it did not register but now I can connect the dots and say, “That was tremendous advice.” That is where she was bringing me.

The easy thing to do was stay on the treadmill I was on. As I realized how I felt about my day-to-day, I loved the industry and the organization. I fell out of love with what I did every day. That is the juice and the fuel. Mentally, as I processed the answer to that question, I knew I was going to leave. It took about 2 to 3 months to make the call because I had to figure out what I was going to do and where I was going to go. I knew mentally that I had to follow my calling and passion. I based it on a value, which is impact. That is my number one value by far. I asked myself, “Can I create more effect inside the walls of this industry or beyond?” When I framed it like that, it was one of the easiest decisions I ever made.

Tell everybody a little bit about PurposePoint.

That is a new partnership and a new family for me. I will give a quick backstory. I was in sports until the end of 2017. I joined the same company that helped and facilitate Simon’s team, and facilitate my why discovery at the 49ers. I joined that Leadership Institute and spent 2018 and 2019 with him. I treated it like a leadership laboratory. I was such a geek of the space, the people side of the business. I just fell in love and wanted a stress test. It is the things that I thought to be true after fifteen years in sports. Are they industry-agnostic?

It became an experiment for me. I’m coaching C-Suite at one of the top airlines and I’m coaching Navy SEALs. I’m in these environments I never would have been in had I stayed in sports. It is exercising my core values of growth and belief. How much do I believe in what I do? All of these core values are this wonderful melting pot.

I’ve got to fully express them over a two-year journey with this Leadership Institute. That took me to 2019. I started to realize this ecosystem of thought leadership. It is one that you are and it is one that I’m in. A lot of your coaches are in as well. I thought, “What if I could permanently change industries from the sports industry to the leadership development industry to the people industry? How does that feel to me?

It started to excite me more by the day. I started to think about the how. How do I execute this? I know the why behind the spirit, mission, calling, and cause. How do I want to show up and what differentiates me? I’ve got to wrestle with that. I said, “What do I do? How do I express this?” The answer and the one gap I had was my old company was not massively into keynote speaking, and I love keynote speaking. I have been doing it since I was in sports.

If there are 5,000 people I speak to and 50 ways to talk to you after, those 50 people prove to you that there is impact. They prove to you that it was the right message at the right time and they were transformed. You feel like, “What if they pay this forward?” How tremendous of a scalable impact of genuine, compassionate reasons do you have?

Keynoting was this portal for a contribution for me. That is when I bet on myself. I do not have a great crystal ball because I started my own live event/speaking company in January of 2020. It was a fantastic two and a half months but everything that has happened since March of 2020 while it was certainly not easy in the beginning, I will not sugarcoat it.

I probably am not an author if I did not have months in quarantine or would not have been a proud member of PurposePoint. The way PurposePoint came to me was when I started my own company. It almost reminds me of the WHY Institute’s mantra of getting clear and playing bigger. I thought about it like, “Is there a bigger, faster, stronger version of Purpose Labs out there?” I met them in 2021 and they became PurposePoint. I’m Chief Impact Officer. Again, that core value, my number one value is impact. I’m there to make a difference. This is a beautiful message. It is why I was so drawn to it, why I was drawn to them as people, and equally as important, their mission.

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your Purpose
Focus On Your Purpose: When you come from a place of abundance, you’re happy to help however you can.

 

Every company starts with a point of purpose. They invite people to join them on the journey. As the journey evolves, you start to create a process, measure performance, and eventually, calculate profits. There are a lot of Ps going on. I have seen that over time. The further away you get from that foundation, there is a drift away from that origin and purpose point. You start to care more about performance, profit, and process more than the people and the purpose. Those other three Ps are critical. They are necessary. Otherwise, there is no business to run but the order matters, and the harmony amongst all those Ps matters.

Most companies we see are over-flexing the performance, profit, and process. They are neglecting the people and the purpose. The outcome is you have this thing called a global pandemic, and voila, there is a Great Resignation. Why? It is because people fell out of touch with their why and purpose. They had a time-out forced by the world to look within themselves. I think of the Great Resignation as the Great Awakening. When I heard PurposePoint speak about this awakening, it drew me in and I decided to join a bigger, faster, and stronger tribe. That is why we are here.

I would love to finish with one last question for you because you have taken us on the journey. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, a lot of lessons you have learned, a lot of places you have been things, and things you have done. What is the best piece of advice you have ever given or gotten?

This one is going to hit close to home because it is right up the alley of what you are preaching every day. The best piece of advice that I have given is because I was not told this and it led to a lot of angst and maybe not loving the early stages of my career, even though it was very fun. It is because I was over-focused on the What.

I was solely focused on what I was doing. They would bring in trainers to try to help you how to do it but nobody ever told me to focus on why I do what I do. They never asked me questions about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become. I was playing the doing game when there was a sequence to it. Doing is great but you must first know who you are being, who you are, and why.

Those two are the most powerful things you can know about yourself. The how, whether through a five-minute discovery or life experience, if you are passionate about something, you will figure out the how but you’ve got to first be a believer in the why, and the what you do becomes so much more of a blue ocean.

I used to think I had this singular purpose in life. If I do not do X, it puts so much pressure on you, and you feel like you have this one North Star. That is BS. I can do 20, 30 or 50 different things I should not because of bandwidth but I can. That was an empowering feeling. I’ve got my freedom back when I started to apply my why and live on purpose. That is what perspective I would share with everybody.

What is next for Paul? I know you are going to be doing some great stuff with us. We are looking forward to that. Let’s talk for a minute about that.

WHY Institute and Paul Epstein are meeting at the 50 to touch and inspire a billion lives. That is what’s next. The part I feel the most excited about is I’m in the earliest stages of writing my second book, which is called On Purpose. The big question I’m trying to tackle is, “Are you living your life on purpose or is life just happening to you?” My process, my how, and the system I will introduce in this playbook are when you can align your head to your heart to your hands, that is when you are living on purpose.

I have been ideating this thing that I’m calling the Triple H Equation, Head plus Heart equals Hands. If you are going to take action, make sure that your mindset and your heart are onboard because otherwise, you will fall out of purpose. You will still live but in six months, you wonder, “Why am I no longer fulfilled? Why do I feel stuck? Why do I not have a deeper burn?”

Maybe there is a self-limiting belief that is preventing you from taking action. That is the point. It is the green, yellow, red light philosophy. The Head is in, the heart is in, green light. If only 1 of the 2 is in, yellow light, then proceed with caution. If it is 0 for 2, your head and your heart are out, stop. That is a red light. This book is about living on purpose. The flip side is, it is to get people to stop running red lights in their life.

There is a company I’m going to introduce you to. That sparked something in me. I want to connect you with a girl named Liz Ellis because she was the CEO of a big production company, and she changed her position to Chief Heart Officer. It is right up your alley. She said, “I’m going to put somebody else as the CEO because I can find people to do the thinking or the head part. We do not have anybody to do the heart part, and that is my specialty. If we have got lots of hands and brains, we need the heart.” It is fascinating. You will love it.

That is the beauty of these types of conversations. We are all connecting and expanding our tribe. I would have never known a Chief Heart Officer if it was not for this conversation. When you are living your calling, and everything is coming from not only the heart but the head, and you are taking purposeful action, that is what life is all about.

If people want to get ahold of you, Paul, what is the best way for them to connect with you? How do they follow you and learn from you? What would be the best way to communicate with you?

The most powerful things you can know about yourself are who you are and who you’re being. Click To Tweet

PaulEpsteinSpeaks.com is the best way. That is the home of all things. As far as, not only where to find me but I’m somebody that I get intimate with the folks in my community, in the sense of it is me engaging and responding because that is a core value of mine. There is no pedestal here to me. I mean everything I have shared already but if you ask me why am I writing the second book, it is to democratize purpose because we all deserve to be in that space. Find me at Paul Epstein Speaks and shoot me a note. Follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram at @PaulEpsteinSpeaks. You can find me very easily and know that it is 100% me connecting with you to meet you at the 50.

Paul, thank you so much for being here. I loved our conversation, more listening for me, which is exactly what I wanted, so you did awesome.

Thanks, Gary. I’m fired up for the journey ahead.

It is going to be fun. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you.

It is time for our last segment, which is Guess Their Why. Since we talk sports, I want to use Aaron Rodgers. He is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He is one of the most successful. He has won MVP awards and is also very controversial. He had that whole thing around the COVID being immunized versus having the vaccine. I would love to know what do you think Aaron Rodgers’s why is?

I have a really good sense. I happened to listen to him a little bit more. He has been on different podcasts and various television shows. I believe that Aaron Rodgers’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. He is not somebody that wants to follow the rules and draw inside the lines. He wants to do it his way. He has his whole life. He has got his little man bun now. He didn’t talk about following traditional medicine. He wanted to do it his own way and get “immunized.”

If you have been reading the show and you love what you are reading, please give us a review on whatever platform you are using and bring this to more people. Our goal is to impact one billion people in the next five years. The show is going a long way toward doing that. I look forward to having you on the next episode. Thank you so much for reading.

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About Paul Epstein

BYW S4 17 | Focus On Your PurposePaul Epstein became the go-to fixer for NBA teams, NFL franchises, and league executive offices because he’s mastered the come-from-behind win. He recognizes that victory comes from the inside, and requires an All-In culture empowered by a growth mindset and a belief that we all have unlimited potential – when we double down on our strengths, gifts, talents, and passions.

Today, people and organizations everywhere are struggling. Maybe you’ve lost sight of the fuel that motivates, inspires, and pushes you forward— or maybe you never found it. It’s purpose, and the feeling of leading with purpose is more thrilling than you can imagine.

Maybe your lack of purpose is manifesting in terms of traditional achievement— you’ve fallen behind in sales, your culture is a mess, or your growth has stalled out. Maybe you just can’t seem to turn your vision and goals into momentum and purpose. You know the What, but you just can’t seem to find the Why.

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Podcast

How The Why Of Contribute Bleeds Through Leadership That Rocks With Jim Knight

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks

 

Jim Knight has upheld a passion for contributing in any way he can, anywhere he can. How does that bleed through and influence his work? Jim is a keynote speaker, coach, and author of Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results. He spearheaded Global Training for Hard Rock International for two decades and now teaches organizations how to attain their own rockstar status. In this episode, he joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to share how he’s morphed his passion for serving with his experience in HR. Jim talks about leadership and its relation to culture in his latest work. Tune in as he gives tidbits of insights from his book and more on creating a culture that attracts rockstars!

Watch the episode here:

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How The Why Of Contribute Bleeds Through Leadership That Rocks With Jim Knight

In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the why of contribute. If this is your why, then you want to be part of a greater cause, something that is bigger than yourself. You don’t necessarily want to be the face of the cause but you want to contribute to it in a meaningful way. You love to support others and relish the success that contributors make for the greater good of the team. You see group victories as personal victories. You are often found behind the scenes, looking for ways to make the world better. You make a reliable and committed teammate, and you often act as the glue that holds everyone else together. You use your time, money, energy, resources, and connections to add value to other people and organizations.

Now I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Jim Knight. He teaches organizations of all sizes how to attain their own rockstar status. Although his illustrious career started at Gatorland Zoo in Florida and he has the scars to prove it, he cut his teeth in the hospitality training industry and eventually led Global Training for Hard Rock International for decades. His customized programs show how to amp up organizational culture, deliver world-class differentiated service and build rockstar teams and leaders.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results

He’s known for signature spiky hair. He is the bestselling author of Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture. It was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the five books that will help you transform how you do business. His new book Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results launched in May of 2021. A portion of his book sales, podcast revenue, speaking fees, and training programs proceeds go to No Kid Hungry and Cannonball Kids’ Cancer. Jim, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much, Gary. I appreciate it. I don’t know that I gave you the long bio. That was quite an introduction, but you touched on a couple of things that are probably going to fit into our conversation. First and foremost, I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you.

First of all, you can’t see Jim’s hair so I’m going to try to describe it. It looks to be about 5 to 6 inches tall, perfectly straight up, and multi-level, multi-colors. How the heck did that come about and how do you do it?

I probably have always been known for my hair and since I’ve been an adult. Once I started to work on my music degree and for 21 years, I was at Hard Rock International. We had a chance to look, be, say and do whatever. I worked with The Island of Misfit Toys. Believe me, this hairstyle is safe compared to a lot of my rock and roll friends with piercings, colored hair, bollocks and the whole thing. I used to have long hair. I had a mullet and I could sit on my hair about 2.5 feet at one point, then I decided several years ago to grow up a little bit and started speaking professionally. I went up so it’s got some spikes in there.

To answer the second half of your question, it is multilayered. I have somebody who does the hair once a month. She uses razors instead of scissors and that’s the first secret. The second is I use this product called Got2b Glued. I’m sure a lot of people in your audience probably have seen this before at CVS, Walgreens or Walmart. It’s in a yellow tube. It’s the same look, smell, feel, and consistency as Elmer’s Glue. I throw that stuff in there a little dollop and 30 seconds later, this is what you get. It’s like Sonic The Hedgehog all day long. This thing is hurricane-proof in Florida.

You go to bed looking like this. What do you look like in the morning?

It’s almost the same. I took a shower in the morning but if I go to sleep like this and I was laying on one side, it might get a little bit matted. You can throw some water in there and it reconstitutes the glue. If I wanted to, I could not wash my hair for 3 to 4 days and it would still be spiky like this. I’ve lived pretty well on Survivor for about 3 to 4 days. After that, it’s sad and it gets weak and flat. Water is my nemesis. If I jump on a pool, it’s game over.

Take us back to when you were a kid. Where did you grow up? How did you get into hospitality? Take us through the quick version of your life back when you were in high school.

At the heart, culture is about people. Click To Tweet

My quick version is I wanted to be a musician. When I was in middle school and high school, I started thinking about wanting to perform. I did a bunch of community theater. I did go to school and have my Music Degree in Associate of Arts, Music, and Education. My first job was at Gatorland Zoo. I live in Central Florida so I live in the land of theme parks, Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. There are like 27 theme parks here in Gatorland. It’s one of the best-kept secrets. That was my first job. While I was doing that in the summertime, I started to go to college. While I was at university to make a living, I found out that being a musician, you had to be good, so I changed careers.

They say those that can’t do, teach. I became a middle school teacher and did that for six years. I’m a product of public education and I’m happy to have taught in that. Eventually, I needed to make some money in the summertime. As you can imagine, teachers don’t make any money in the summer. I take a little summer gig at Hard Rock International. The Hard Rock Cafe at that time was the new thing in Orlando. It’s the busiest restaurant in the world. I was a host deceiving people. I did that for a year. I became a trainer. They paid me to start traveling and opening up Hard Rocks around the world, Madrid, Mexico City and Paris. I got to hang out in London.

I traveled the world as a kid. A couple of years later, I became a manager and was running shifts for that building, which does anywhere between $42 million and $45 million a year, which is unheard of in hospitality. Your skills get sharp. Your head and ego get big. You’re hanging out listening to 90 decibels of Zeppelin and meeting rockstars left and right. It was a gas to do that. Within a year, I went over to the Corporate Sports Center and ran training and development for them. That’s the long answer. The short answer was several years ago. I decided I wanted to have a little bit of a louder voice and I wanted to contribute more to society.

I still pull the levers of music, education and hospitality. I put all of that together to make this edutainment in the programs, whether it’s something as a writer, eLearning and certainly as a keynote speaker. Several years ago, I left. Instead of being in hospitality, I wanted to go vertical. Now I speak in front of bankers, insurance agents, clowns, and funeral directors. If there’s an association and they’re looking for a speaker, I want to go out there and talk about culture, service, building teams, and those types of things. Leadership is hot and heavy right now.

What did you notice that Hard Rock did better, different and unique that allowed them to scale to $40 million to $50 million per restaurant?

I would say that’s probably three. You usually would take New York and Los Angeles. Las Vegas was probably one of those, as well as Orlando. Those four would do those types of numbers. Everybody else is between $7 million and $20 million, depending on the market. You had to be in a big A-location. That was what Hard Rock started with. They’re now in a lot of C markets. They’ve decided that there’s a lot of earth where they can plant their flag.

They’ll bring the Hard Rock brand to a country or a market because some people in these countries aren’t ever going to travel to Western Europe or the US, which is predominantly where the Hard Rock is. Their future is all franchise cafes. Although a lot of people still go, “Hasn’t that thing been around for 50 years?” They have and they’re still opening up properties, but the future for that brand is hotels and casinos for sure. That’s where all the money is.

Particularly, a casino will do what ten hotels do. That’ll do what twenty cafes will do. You’re limited on where you can do that in the world. To answer your question, Hard Rock is cool as I thought it was. To me, it’s still one of the awesome, great brands in the world. The product is fantastic. I love the environment, the music, the memorabilia, the retail, all of that stuff is cool. None of the buildings are the same. There’s no cookie-cutter. They build pyramids, inherit castles, and they put a bar on the side. It’s crazy. It’s always about the people.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If you were to keep all of your awesome people, but change everything, logo, font, corporate sports center, tools, process, employee handbook, e-learning, whatever it is. If you change all of that, but keep the people, you wouldn’t make a huge dent in the culture.

 

The silver bullet for them is, I’m going to find the most unique people I can find because unique people bring some unique experiences to the party. They’re also going to make sure that these people have tremendous work ethic. It’s not just because they’re freaky people and they look different, which by the way, you see more companies starting to do that now. I’m thankful that I worked for a company for two decades that was doing that before it was popular, allowing tattoos to be seen, crazy colored hair, being on a first-name base with the boss, pushing back, challenging the status quo, and not having any fear of something happening to them. All of that stuff mattered. When you can do that, do you know what you get with the team members? They stick around and that’s loyalty.

Hanging out with that interesting collection of humans, and the value orientation that the company had were the two things that kept me going. I’d say it’s a tag team. It’s the unique people they went and found, but also the values like save the planet, take time to be kind, and all as one. These were emblazoned on the walls for no other reason but to keep us all honest. That allowed me to want to stick around a little bit longer and invite my buddies to come and work with me.

How did they go about finding all these unique people? What was their process or thinking behind that? Was this something that came about randomly? Was it a strategic thing that they thought or you thought about? At one point, you were running one of them. How did you do it?

I was running shifts in the mid-‘90s but I ran global training for the whole brand. I wasn’t running all of the individual properties. I came in in the early ‘90s. The thing started in 1971. There were two Americans that were hanging out in Great Britain and they had two issues. They couldn’t find a great burger. They wanted to make sure they had a little bit of some of that greasy Tennessee Truck Stop, Southern-style food that you couldn’t get in the UK at that time.

There was also not a big middle-class in the United Kingdom. You were either very rich or very poor. The fact that there were two lines for people, if you were rich, you stood in this line, if you didn’t have any money, you stood over here this line, they didn’t like that. That was red meat for some civil rights activists people that were coming out of the ‘60s. You know what was going on in our country. Those were the two reasons I did it.

To answer your question, it was extremely strategic. They will have the best food, shakes, environment, they’re going to put music in there, but their real goal was, “Let’s go find some people that were unique.” Ironically, they didn’t go youthful. Every single 1 of the 42 original servers had to be over 30 years old and they had to be women. A lot of them were redheads. It was funny to think you got this group of older redheaded women who are slinging food around and they’re going to push back a little bit.

It was a little irreverent and unpredictable but then even as time went on, their goal was, “Where can we go find some rockstars? Maybe it’s outside of the usual. Maybe it isn’t going to be another restaurant. Maybe I will go find somebody in tattoo parlors or concert halls. Could I go and find some in a retail location that had no food and beverage background at all.” They wanted people to have some experience but they certainly wanted to populate it with unique humans that had killer personalities. I almost think of the old TV show, Alice. If you think about that and you think of flow, some of your audience members may be old enough to remember. It was chewing gum and pushing back on everybody.

If you could find that person somewhere in your sphere when you went out to eat, drink, shop, stay, play or do whatever, coerce them, convince them, and pay them probably a little bit more to come work for you. All of a sudden, you’ve got a rockstar. You got a diamond in the rough who is probably going to create some unforgettable memories. That was their goal. It was completely strategic. I hope the brand is still doing that. I haven’t been there for years. That would be a miss if they stopped hiring some interesting humans.

“You want to have a fantastic, awesome culture?” Number one, you got to go find some rock stars. That's got to be your absolute focus more than anything. Click To Tweet

It worked awfully well for them. You were there for two decades.

I started in April of 1991. I left in April of 2012.

What was it like for you to leave that comfort and start speaking? The middle school teacher gone culture, spiked-hair guy is now going to go speak to who?

I was crazy nervous. I had a little bit of some tricks up my sleeve. Part of it was the last several years before I left Hard Rock while I was the Senior Director for training and development, I had a great team of nine people. I started speaking on the side at that time. The very first one, like almost every speaker out there, we do it for free. Somebody asked me to come to do a little mini-orientation at Hard Rock. It had nothing to do with what I talk about now. No leadership, services or any of that stuff. They just wanted to have somebody do the Hard Rock story because they lived in a state in the US where there wasn’t property. I was like, “I’ll go do that. I’m not going to send my team.”

What happens is what happens with everybody. I went and spoke and somebody in the back of the room came up afterward and said, “That was awesome. Can you come to do it for my company? How much do you charge?” That’s when the light bulb went off. I started charging people, but here’s the cool part. I never took any money. I gave the brand. I gave Hard Rock all of the money because I wanted it to be above reproach. I never wanted my boss, the CEO or anybody to ever challenge me and say, “He’s having fun doing his side job than doing the regular day-to-day stuff.” It did allow me to feed the beast, get my sea legs, and get a lot better at platform speaking.

I was sharing stuff that I loved. I was impacting and influencing audiences to check out Hard Rock. Maybe they didn’t even know about the brand. Everybody wonders, don’t I actually get paid? I just put it into my budget. In training people, we spend money. To be a revenue-generating initiative was great. I never went over budget. My boss always loved it. What you probably would imagine did happen to me was I started loving that gig a lot more than the details of the day-to-day making the donuts.

I’ve decided to jump off since I was already doing it. I was doing about one a month. I had a couple that was ready to go when I jumped off. I was scared to death thinking, “I’ve got a cool job. I traveled the world. I’m getting paid well and looking at all the benefits. Am I going to leave all that because I think somebody will pay me maybe the same amount? I’d be happy if it would’ve been the same amount. Am I going to do that for a living?” It was crazy. I jumped off the deep end and I’ve never looked back. It’s been fantastic for me.

The platform that you started speaking on was culture.

It was the Hard Rock culture. If I got to be honest, I was pulling the lever of the brand. I tried to immerse people in the spirit of rock and roll. That’s where I probably got my focus more than anything else. It was on culture, which then led into some of those other things, service, leadership, building rockstar teams, that type of stuff. I’ll probably forever be known as the Culture Guy, and that’s cool.

What is it that makes a good culture and why is a good culture important?

We alluded to this already. If I was ever going to write or talk about it, I do define exactly what culture is right upfront. If you and I did a survey of your audience members or even if I asked you right now, “What do you think it is?” I will probably agree with you. I’m in the everything is culture camp. They can be all of the stuff that I mentioned before. At the heart, it is about the people.

Let’s say you’re a legacy brand. You’ve been around for 15, 20, 40 or 100 years. It doesn’t matter. If I were to have held on to the exact group of people that started the thing in the first place, you’re the founder, the president, the CEO, you’ve been doing it for 40 to 50 years, you could have held onto that group. You’d have the exact culture that you want. If you fast forward a couple of decades, it doesn’t work like that because people come and go.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: The more that you can be open-minded to change, and you can put more arrows in your quiver, you’re more likely to look somebody in the eye and go, “This is what it will take with this person right now to rock their face-off.”

 

I know that if I was to keep all of my awesome people but change everything like logo, font, corporate sports center, tools, process, employee handbook, eLearning or whatever it is, but I kept my people, I wouldn’t make a huge dent in the culture. I’d have exactly what I want. Let’s say that I love all of that infrastructure. I keep all of that stuff but I kick everybody out in the organization and replace them with a bunch of other people. I’ve completely revolutionized the culture

I will talk about a lot of nitty-gritty details but I can’t emphasize enough when I’m in front of an audience saying, “Do you want to have a fantastic, awesome culture? You got to go find some rockstars.” That’s got to be your absolute focus more than anything else because the rest of the stuff is you being a good manager but you’re not thinking like a business owner, entrepreneur, big brand. You’ve got to love on them. You’ve got to do everything in your power not to muscle the result and manage the threats, punishment and fear, which I still see out there in a couple of industries.

If you can throw your arm around people, teach them, and have a little bit of a heart-centered mindset, they stay with you longer. There’s a direct correlation between turnover and top-line sales. It’s not just in hospitality. I’m starting to see that in almost any industry. I know that’s a long answer but it’s always about the people. Do I want to focus on all the other stuff? Totally, but those are the little rocks. The big thing that makes a difference is I got to populate the thing with people who can slake it. They’re showing up going, “I’m in the memory-making business now.” They show up and do that every day, “I’m going to put Herculean results.”

When you’re leading the team and you’re trying to love on them, but you’re not getting the result you want. How do you handle that? I’m sure there are people reading that are dealing with this. Their key person isn’t quite doing it like they were, could or you wanted. How do you love on them yet get results?

First, I’d look in the mirror. Maybe the common denominator is the leader. Sometimes, I’ve got to change their tactics or they’ve been doing it the same way. They’re banging their head against the wall going, “How come they’re not responding to me?” This is why you go to conferences. You read books and listen to podcasts because the more that you can be open-minded to change and you can put more arrows in your quiver, you’re more likely to look somebody in the eye and go, “This is what it will take with this person right now that rock their face-off.” I would say that anyway from an end-user, a guest or a customer but we have to think the same way from an employee.

These associates and team members have different needs. For some of them, it might be a tiny little bit more money. Others need you to spend a little bit of time with them, look them in the eye, care about them, and ask them about their family and what did they do this weekend. Others want development. “Put me on a fast track. Give me a program so I can start hitting some things to ultimately become promotable.” It doesn’t guarantee me the job but it’s less likely that you’re going to go to the outside if I’ve been on the AAA Ball Club and I’m ready to be called up.

There are a variety of things. It could be surprising them with small little things, whether it’s buying sometimes a lot of tickets, stopping and getting an Icee or a Slurpee on the way. Sometimes it’s doing contests and having fun when you’re at work. Maybe it’s dressed down day. Maybe you’re allowed to have a company dog or you change the benefits in favor of them where it doesn’t cost you a lot of money. There are many things.

I have an entire chapter dedicated sometimes with all of these ideas bullet-pointed. I freely admit and go, “Please don’t do all of these. It’s ridiculous, but pick and choose the ones that would make sense from a tactical standpoint.” If leaders just sat back and thought, “I need to say thank you a little bit more. I need to tell people they rock. I need to care about them as a whole person and let them be seen.” Have discussions that if something is not working, don’t be freaked out about it. Come to me and let’s figure that stuff out.

It isn't about competence anymore. It's not just about character. You need all three Cs: competence, character, and culture fit. Click To Tweet

Sometimes it’s the easy and free things that would make a difference. This could be a whole episode discussion for me talking about how to keep employee engagement going and loving on people. When I say love on them, it isn’t just throwing your arms around them and going, “Come on, guy or girl.” It’s not about that. When people feel like this person does care about me, and there’s a relationship and trust factor, I’m willing to follow that leader off the edge of the cliff. When they do leave the company, I’m going with them.

What’s interesting is your perspective on this is right in line with the why of contribute. You look at it from the perspective of, how can I help you? How can I make your time here more fun, better and more productive? How can I be part of your success? Not every why sees it that way. It’s interesting to see leaders from how they think. It would make sense to somebody who’s why is contribute. Of course, I would do it that way but somebody else would look at it and say, “That seems like a lot of extra effort for trying to get them to do what I paid them to do.”

This is why your show is great because I love the idea that you take in these different tenets and you look at these and go, “Let’s dissect it. Let’s talk about each one.” If you take any of these personality assessments, DISC, Colors, Myers-Briggs, Franklin Covey, you name it. Everybody realizes there have to be different types of people on the team. If all of us were wise, there would be a lot of kumbaya and we’d be giving a lot, and nobody would get stuff done. I realized that but it’s been part of my DNA. I’ve always been like that because of my parents. Probably a little bit because of religion and going to church early on.

It’s certainly working for a brand that did not have a single marketing initiative that didn’t have some type of philanthropic charitable component. A lot of people don’t know that and they never wanted to scream from the top of their lungs but I knew. My Hard Rock buddies all knew and that’s part of the reason we stuck around. I love the idea of giving back if for no other reason but propping other people up because I know that it’s in my interest. Sometimes they’re not a part of my inner circle. It’s just I want people to succeed. By the way, I’m a consumer. I personally am an experiential starved consumer.

When I go out in shop land, I care about the store, the restaurant, the hotel or the place I’m going. It doesn’t matter. I want to be around awesome people. There are some small ways that I can give back, whether that’s a nugget of information, advice or some real mentorship. I’m all about that. Sometimes, it’s money too. I don’t mind helping people out. That’s how I’m wired and I get it. You’re right. There are going to be some that are like, “Not my bag. It’s not my gig.” That’s okay. I sign up for that. I’m the one who volunteered to say, “Put me in that role.”

It is what we were talking about the why of contribute. You use your time, your money, your energy, your connections to push other people forward. That’s the essence of how you view the world, which is awesome why for what you do. Let’s transition that a little bit into leadership. What is leadership from your perspective and what makes a great leader?

It’s probably like culture. These are both esoteric and nebulous words. Everybody’s got a different opinion about it. I’ve taken the slice of leadership from creating, maintaining or even completely changing and revolutionizing a culture. I had to start with that because that was a little bit of my background. I have been to many courses and I’ve seen many things. You talk about the difference between a manager and a leader. There are many important elements that come out of that.

Probably the number one characteristic that I see more than anything else is somebody who is trustworthy. If you trust that person, they’ve got a good shot of having some leadership. You’re trustworthy. Therefore, I trust you and all the other awesomeness in our relationships happens from there. The book that I wrote and the things I talk about are trying to dissect several of those. What does critical decision-making look like when you get to a point and you’ve got to make a decision?

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If you trust that person, they’ve got a good shot of having some leadership. You’re trustworthy. Therefore, I trust you. All the other awesomeness in our relationships happens from there.

 

Is it time for me to be quiet, subtle, cool and humble? Is it time for me to be loud, over the top, grandiose, and bring the thunder? It’s different for different moments. Can I be heart-centered? Can I still get things done? Could I still marshal the resources that I need but do it in a caring, loving and kind way where it’s the carrot versus the stick? I remember back in the ‘80s. You can push people uphill and you can muscle the result. Those days are long gone.

Gen Z or even if you still go back to the Millennials, they’ll laugh at you because a rockstar can always get another gig. As employers, we need them a whole lot more than they need us. Sometimes, the way that you treat people is the linchpin. They’ll go, “I’m out of here.” They’ll go right up the street and probably work for your competitor. I think about that from a leadership standpoint. I think about mentorship. I’ve gotten to the point that I almost dissect that into five different areas. You could be an internal, external, peer, public mentor. You could even be a reverse mentor. You can learn a lot from somebody that you’re mentoring. I have somebody who’s 25 years my younger and I learned from that person all the time.

Even having an unparalleled work ethic, which I know some people are going to throw certain generations under the bus. I don’t want to do that. I liked being extremely positive and also probably contribute to my contribute. I do think that there have been some things that have been lost. Sometimes, having a little bit of a pep in your step, a sense of urgency, attention to detail has been lost a little bit. I know it’s not always taught by parents. It isn’t being taught anymore in public education. If you’re not in charter, private school and in public school, I don’t know where you get that.

I used to think I was a good trainer. I cannot train people to have a personality and I can’t train you to smile. Either you have it or you don’t. If the juice isn’t running through your veins, you’re going to be impaired. You’re going to not be of use to me unless there’s a place for you in the back where no one will ever see you, which is highly unlikely. I need people to have a little bit of this work ethic mentality.

I have a good friend of mine who runs a frozen dessert concept in Chicago and it’s populated all with Gen Z employees. They’re young and they don’t have a lot of these skills. She has to make the decision to go, “There’s no way I’m going to hire you. I’ll move on to somebody else or I see something. I see the personality a little bit. They might be a diamond in the rough. Maybe I’m going to be their first and best job. Maybe they’re going to always think favorably. Maybe when they finish college, they want to come back to be a manager.” She’s made a cognizant decision from a work ethic standpoint. If they didn’t get to somewhere else, let me be that person. She almost probably has the same mentality. I bet her why might be contribute as well.

I think about those things, how can you be a catalyst for change? I talk a lot about change because times are changing. Changes are coming. You can either freak out about it. You can run away from it. You can lean into it. You can be a part of the change, or you can prepare the team for it. I spent a lot of time talking about that stuff. I don’t know if I rattled off 4, 5 or 6 things, but I try and chunk it down. If I’ve got time, an hour keynote, a three-hour workshop or somebody is flipping through the book, at the very least, they go, “I get it.” It’s in the sphere of culture but around work ethic, a heart-centered mindset, or critical decision-making. Could I be a catalyst for change? Can I enlist in some mentorship because maybe my company doesn’t have that? How can I go to the outside and make that happen? Can I think about everything that happens to me be a personal culture shift? Things are happening to me or things are happening for me.

You use the analogy of Shrek. Life is like an onion. There are layers in there and every time something happens to you, you can either be mad or you can be like, “This sucks but it’s okay. I’m going to use this to my advantage. How can I get better? How can I make sure I don’t make any more mistakes?” I ran off on a tangent there, but leadership is the number one characteristic. If I can trust you, then I’m willing to follow you. Now I’m more open-minded to doing the things you need that I might not have done on my own.

What part of being a great leader comes back to who you hire? Is it you can take anybody and lead well?

I’ve always been to the camp that there are three types of people. There are people who don’t know, can’t do, and don’t care. If it’s a don’t know, you can train about anybody. It’s a knowledge dump and there are many different ways to do that. Somebody might be visual versus auditory. Maybe they need a little bit more time, whatever it is. The don’t knows, I can deal with.

All the best training in the world isn't going to help a bad hire. Click To Tweet

The can’t dos is where leaders tend to get a little bit frustrated because you try. Maybe you are somebody who gives somebody 2, 3 or 4 opportunities but they can’t do the gig. A lot of them are willing to cut ties and move on. I would see if there’s a place for them somewhere on the bus. Do they maybe have a skill? It’s the old Marcus Buckingham Gallup approach. Can I focus only on their strengths instead of pointing out their weaknesses because everybody’s got strengths? Do I need that on the team?

The can’t dos is tough. You might have to cut ties with them, but there’s also a whole bunch of don’t cares out there. I have no love for them. As a leader, if somebody were smart enough to think, “I’m going to focus on every area of the employee life cycle but at the very least, I’m going to focus on the front end. How I recruit, interview, what’s my stereotypical employee, how do I hire, and how do I train? Before I step back and go, “They’re an employee. I don’t have to watch them anymore.”

There’s a lot of things that go into place from recruiting collateral, non-negotiable interviewing standards. Do you know what you’re looking for? Because it isn’t about competence anymore. It’s not about character, although those two C’s I care about a lot. Now, I didn’t think about culture fit. You need all three, competence, character, and culture fit. If the leader is smart enough that they’ll go and find great people, then all the other stuff falls into place.

If you’re asking me, could I be a great leader and still do it through the product being first to the market, keeping everything clean? Is it just a physical building? How do I handle stuff when it’s online or on the phone? Regardless of what the product or the industry is, there are certainly a lot of things that I would do. I do care about the 997 things that somebody should be focusing on if they’re in a position of power. If I can’t get some end-user to think about the last three questions that always show up on a survey, “Are you coming back? Are you spending more money? Are you going to talk about me positively?” If I can’t get them to say yes to those three, I haven’t created a memory. I haven’t created some incentive for them to come back.

That’s another long answer. There’s a lot that somebody could do. I am now a firm believer, and I study and love many brands that I have huge crushes on. I have fallen madly in love with some great cultures out there who now swear that the only reason they are the way they are and their cultures is because of their people. You can steal all the rest of this stuff but if you can’t get my people, you’re never going to be able to replicate what we do.

Here’s a great example, Southwest Airlines. I cannot understand why every airline has not copied their onboarding and their departure processes. How they bring people on because they’re still number one in departures, landings and arrival. They’re still the most profitable airline out there. They have some fun when they’re doing safety announcements in their uniforms and all that stuff. Just the fact that they have no fees for baggage and they can onboard everybody quickly. Nobody else can figure that out. I go, “Why haven’t they done that?”

Let’s say they did do all that. They can do every one of those. If they can’t take the Southwest employees, all you’re doing is moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. All you’re doing is changing and swapping systems. You’re not focusing on human behaviors, which are all learned human behavior. They’ve done a fantastic job getting the right people and that’s why I’m a fan of their still.

The next question I was going to ask you led right into that. Do people have it or don’t have it? Maybe you answered that with the three types of people but I’m wandering back to training. How much training do these organizations do? Let’s take Southwest Airlines. How much training do their team go through before they meet a customer? Is it a little or a lot? Do they hire somebody who already got those skills? How does that work?

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: If the leader is smart enough that they’ll go and find great people, then all the other stuff falls into place.

 

They do a lot. When you’re looking at travel, you’re going to spend a lot more time because of the safety requirements that are in there. It’s probably even more than whatever the stuff is. My knowledge base is way more around retail, hospitality and theme parks. That’s what I learned and I sat on the certification governing board of the National Restaurant Association. I have to say the long way because if I just say NRA, they’re thinking of the other NRA. When I think about the work that organization does and I’ve seen about all of these statistics, the average restaurant day one orientation is around two hours. The good ones are around three hours.

At Hard Rock, because we had much more, food, beverage, retail, local marketing, group sales, dealing with celebrities, live music and all this other stuff, we spend an entire day. I thought that was short. I wish we had two days, but it’s one-day orientation and then you started training the next day. When I hear most restaurants are doing two hours, it blows my mind. When I think about a company like Chick-fil-A, this is a fast-food chicken place. They do no training until day three. It is two days of orientation. Their story, values, vision, mission, they dunk you in the culture. When you come up out of it on day three, you’re either all in or you’re not. It starts to prove that the awesome companies out there are spending a little bit more time.

The first part of your question was, “Do you just have it?” I’m a firm believer now that you don’t. You learn everything. You and I and your entire audience are not the way we are because we were born that way. It’s the difference between us and the rest of the animal kingdom. You learn everything. You learn it from your parents, school, friends, playground, religion, lack of religion. By the time you come to me as some 18, 19 to 20-year-old kid, you either got it or you don’t. You either have the smile. You’ve got the amp to want to be around people or you don’t.

People can fake it for a while and then you become unmasked. You fall back into your natural disposition. Training and leadership help. There are some things that I can do not to fake and coerce people into doing the things I want because as a leader, most companies aren’t going to have the boss micromanaging over their shoulder. At some point, you’ve got to step away and hope that they know what they’re doing, and they can represent the company, the brand very well. I do think you ought to do all these things, train, develop, communicate, reward, recognize, and all of that stuff.

On the front end, if you don’t have people who are coming to the party with some of that oomph as you said, it’s going to be a slog. You’re going to be pushing people uphill. I still think there are people that just because of their environment, they have the ability to wing it. They can shoot from the hip. They certainly like to gab. Even those things, you got that from somebody from somewhere.

I do believe and I’m such a huge fan that everything is learned human behavior. When I’m in front of an audience, I have to go, “You’re all recruiters now. You’ve got to put on your human resources hat.” If I was honest with myself and I had a time machine, instead of being a training and development guy because I had no say in how people came onboard or how they left, I can train the best that I can with what you give me but all the best training in the world isn’t going to help a bad hire. I would push people.

I would go back in time to be a recruiter because, at the very least, I felt like I got my finger on the pulse of what I needed. I will hand them off to the training guy or girl and they’ll be in a much better place. If they don’t have that DNA, it’s going to be tough. I don’t believe that you’re naturally born with it because I’m sure it’s controversial for some people too.

I’ve got a baseball team for you to follow. Follow the Washington State baseball team. The coach, Brian Green, had taken over the worst team in the NCAA, which was the New Mexico State Aggies. He turned it around to being five winning seasons in a row. Multiple players picked it to the Major League Baseball and then he got hired away to Washington State. I’m not sure if this is correct but I think his first twelve days of practice, they don’t touch a ball. It’s all culture. That’ll be a perfect example for you as well because it’s all about the culture. That’s what’s changed the game for many of them. He speaks on that now. I’d be curious to hear what are some other good companies that you’ve fallen in love with that have a great culture. I heard Chick-fil-A, Hard Rock, Southwest Airlines. What are some others that you like?

A single person with a great idea can start a revolution. Click To Tweet

This is where I’m always stretching to do more outside of hospitality because I could probably name a lot of those. Your readers will probably know Zappos. They are amazing to me. They only sell shoes and do it online. They don’t even sell their own shoes. They don’t even have their own branded shoes. They sell other people’s shoes. When I see brand health studies, they’re always in the top ten. It blows my mind that their founder, the late Tony Hsieh, decided they’re going to have the best culture and customer service regardless of what they do. They sell online shoes. They get propped up quite a bit.

There’s a computer server company called Rackspace. A lot of people will not know who that is. These are tech people and IT people. They set up infrastructure companies, but yet they internally have one of the greatest cultures to the extent that some of their employees get the Rackspace tattoo on their shoulders and on their calf muscles. That blows my mind. Harley Davidson still does a great job out there. Some of my music roots, Fender and Gibson have their own unique cultures.

There are a couple of places that I love that are restaurants here locally in Central Florida. Yellow Dog Eats is one of those. I talk about them quite a bit. It’s mostly because of the executive chef, the founder. He is one wild, interesting guy. The food is great and the atmosphere is fantastic but this guy has no filter. Every time he’s in the building, he creates memories. People have discovered him when they’re out and about.

Hotel-wise, I know people will talk about the Ritz-Carlton, but I’m a fan of Kimpton Hotels. From a culture standpoint, they’re fantastic. I got to still prop up Hard Rock. A lot of people don’t even know there are Hard Rock Hotels and there’s something like 30 of those on the planet now. It’s got some of these unique people you don’t normally see in the hotel space. Those are ones that I think of right out of the gate.

I spent a lot of time with the US Air Force now. I do some stuff up at Andrews Air Force Base up in DC which is where the presidential aircraft go off. I spend time with the Brigadier Generals, all the new ones that come on board. They have a fantastic culture. If you’re probably in any of the Armed Forces in the US, they will say that there’s a distinct, specific culture. I’ve met a Colonel at that time. She’s a Brigadier General now who works over at the Pentagon Space Force. She was at Andrews and on her own started to change what was going on at that airlift because it was not top-down like, “You will do it this way or else.” We probably think about the military. It was like, “Let me love on you. Be a little bit more kind. I want to hear feedback from you.” They are very open-minded and they cared about what happens to you and your families. Realizing you’re not just serving but the whole family is serving. I love that approach.

I almost hate using the words kinder and gentler armed services. To some degree in our country, at least, when you’ve got an all-volunteer military, you have to go there now for some of these young kids that are going in. You can’t go out there and be wrapping knuckles. That doesn’t work anymore. That’s 5 or 6. I’m trying to think outside of hospitality but my book will certainly list a whole bunch more, especially in this last one because I’ve talked about leadership. My next one is Service That Rocks. I want to want to highlight that. I wonder if I could get Brian Green in there from an employee standpoint for my 2023. It’ll be Engagement That Rocks and that’s all about some of the discussions that we had upfront. Let me check out Washington State. I think that’d be cool.

You’re going to love him. Last question for you. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

In my podcast, Thoughts That Rock, that’s the only question we ask on all of our people on there, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? You turn the tables on us a couple of times. I like it. I’ll give you two. My father who was instrumental for me passed away of cancer. He always said, “You need to start small and crush those things.” What happens is when you get the win, somebody recognizes that. They invite you to the party and you get promoted. You take on more responsibility. I probably needed a little bit of a refresher. My first real corporate boss when I got over to Hard Rock said the same thing. Between my first real good Hard Rock boss and my dad was a real big step for me.

BYW S4 6 | Leadership That Rocks
Leadership That Rocks: You still can make a difference. At some point, when you put your ideas on the table and you get recognized for that, you’re going to get more responsibilities

 

I teach people now my mantra. My main piece of advice is and I still believe this. I think a single person with a great idea can start a revolution. That’s how dictator-led countries were overthrown. That’s how philanthropic movements are started. That’s how cultures get perpetuated for all times. Even if you’re a new up and coming, maybe a middle manager and you think, “I don’t have a lot of responsibilities. I barely have a staff. I got a small budget,” I don’t care if you’re making widgets. You still can make a difference.

At some point, when you put your ideas on the table and you get recognized for that, you’re going to get more responsibilities. The things that used to be in your circle of concern that you cared about, but you couldn’t do anything about, now they’re in your circle of influence. Now you have a bigger influence, which is what my driving force has been forever. I want to allow their voice, “How can I contribute to the world a little bit more in my own unique way?”

If there are people that are reading, and they want to connect with you, follow you, and get your book, where do they go? What’s the best way to connect with you?

The best place is my website. All roads lead to that. It’s my last name KnightSpeaker.com. You’ll see the podcast, my books, and the programs that I do. I’ve got a book marketing company and some fun little apps out there. We help people discover their next great read. There are a lot of things that I play in. I love the format of your show and I appreciate you having me on this. This meant a lot to me to be invited because I’ve seen some of the people that are on your show. It means a lot.

I am glad we got to talk and I’ve got three pages of notes here on what you talked about. Culture is something that I think about all the time. It’s something that we’re working on all the time and we’ll continue to work on it. That was helpful for me. I’m sure it was for the people that are reading. Thank you so much for being here. I look forward to staying in touch as we go on our journeys.

You got it. We’ll talk soon. Rock on.

Thanks.

It’s time for our new segment, Guess The Why. I want to do somebody that everybody knows, at least they think they do and that is Simon Cowell from American Idol. What do you think Simon’s why is? Let’s think about him for a minute. Every time you saw him on American Idol, what was he wearing? He was always wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and who knows, maybe tennis shoes. They weren’t perfectly starched, but he was always wearing a white T-shirt. I think at one point, he changed to a black T-shirt. Now everybody has a big to-do about he switched from a white T-shirt to a black T-shirt and what does it mean?

Every time he gives advice to people or has feedback, he is very direct to the point. Don’t give him the fluff, just tell him what it is. Based on that, I would say that Simon Cowell’s why is to simplify. To make things simple, direct to the point, and don’t give him the fluff. Tell it like it is and don’t beat around the bush. He simplifies things to the point where people can do them, use them, and be effective with them because it’s simple. I believe Simon Cowell’s why is to simplify.

What do you think? Let us know what you think. I want to thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com. Use the code Podcast50. You can get it at half price. All of our interviews will be much more valuable for you if you know your why. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you’re using so that we can help spread the word. Thank you very much. I will see you next time.

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About Jim Knight

Jim Knight teaches organizations of all sizes how to attain their own “rock star” status. Although his illustrious career started at Gatorland Zoo in Florida (he has scars to prove it), Jim cut his teeth in the hospitality training industry and eventually led Global Training for Hard Rock International for two decades. His customized programs show how to amp up organizational culture, deliver world-class differentiated service, and build rockstar teams and leaders.

Known for his signature spikey hair, Jim is the best-selling author of Culture ThatRocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture was featured in EntrepreneurMagazine as one of the “5 Books That Will Help You Transform How You DoBusiness”.

His new book, Leadership That Rocks: Take Your Brand’s Culture to Eleven and Amp Up Results, launched in May 2021. A portion of Jim’s book sales, podcast revenue, speaking fees, and training program proceeds goes to No Kid Hungry and Cannonball Kids’ Cancer.

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Podcast

What It Takes To Be A Good Coach: On Leadership And Culture With Jamy Bechler

BYW 34 | Good Coach

 

Jamy Bechler believes that it is a coach’s responsibility to help and inspire their people to be the best they can be. They can only do that when they learn how to step outside of themselves and see where others are coming from. This separates the good coach and leader from the rest. An author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular “Success is a Choice” podcast, Jamy fulfills his why of “makes sense” by seeking to find better ways to solve problems and get something that makes sense and useful.

With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. In this episode, he joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to discuss what he sees are the differences between winning and losing programs. He shares his understanding of what a good coach and leader are, all the while highlighting the importance of leadership, culture, and teamwork.

If you’re looking to step up your game as a coach as well as uplift others and build that bond with them, then join in on this conversation and allow Jamy’s insights and process to guide you.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

What It Takes To Be A Good Coach: On Leadership And Culture With Jamy Bechler

If you’re a regular reader, you know that we talk about 1 of the 9 why’s and then we bring on somebody with that why so we can see how their why has played out in their life. We are going to be talking about the why of makes sense. If this is your why, you are driven to solve problems and resolve challenging or complex situations, you have an uncanny ability to take in lots of data and information, observe situations and circumstances around you, and sort through them in order to create order. You consider factors, problems, concepts, and organize them into solutions that are sensible and easy to implement.

It is not even that you enjoy problem-solving necessarily. You simply can’t help yourself. It is the lens through which you view the world. Interestingly, it is not necessary for you to share your solutions on a continuous basis. It is sufficient that you yourself have solved the problem or resolve the complexity of the situation. Often you are viewed as an expert because of your unique ability to find solutions quickly. You also have a gift for articulating a solution and summarizing it clearly in understandable language for your benefit and the benefit of others. You believe that many people are stuck. If they could make sense out of their situation, they could find a simple solution and move forward. You help them understand and see their way through.

I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Jamy Bechler. He is an author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular Success is a Choice podcast. With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. He is recognized as an expert in leadership, culture, and teamwork.

Jamy, welcome to the show.

That was a mouthful. I appreciate the great introduction, Gary. Thanks for having me. I listened to that why and I’m like, “That’s a lot to live up to. Someone that’s solving stuff or make sense of the world that we live in sometimes.” As a motivational speaker, I’m not sure I motivate all the time. Saying a motivational speaker, that’s like someone introducing you as a comedian. “Say something funny, funny guy.”

Jamy, take us through your life. How did you get into coaching? Were you an athlete yourself? Did you play sports? Give us a little bit of a tour of your life.

I was a stereotypical kid athlete that played every sport. I went to camps. I did every sport possible because we didn’t have iPhones. We had a black and white TV until probably I was in high school, which is crazy with the three channels and then PBS. Younger people don’t even know what I’m talking about. We had to stay outside, so we played sports all the time.

There's always a baseline of competence in talent. Click To Tweet

Where’d you grow up?

I grew up in Michigan. Even in the wintertime, we’re shoveling snow off the cement in front of our house to shoot hoops. Eventually, my dad built this pole barn and he put this basketball rim in there. It was a little bit shorter. It was only 9’6”. A lot of us were able to dunk on that. All winter long, we’d be inside with this little space heater but it was great. We’d shoot. You had to know the right angle to shoot the ball, so it didn’t get stuck in the rafters. It wasn’t a big enough barn where you could put a lot of arc on it. The point is, we were always playing sports. We were always doing something. I’ve read this book in seventh grade.

Before getting into high school, at seventh grade, I’m in English class and my dreaded English teacher, Mrs. Shannon, who I thought was the devil, did one good thing in my life. She had this library in the corner of her room and we could check out books. There was a John Wooden book, the great legendary basketball coach from UCLA. There was this book called They Call Me Coach. I read this book as a seventh-grader. I would love to say that I was this mature seventh-grader that said, “One day, I want to be a coach like John Wooden. I want to be the guy that helps people. It doesn’t matter if you’re a benchwarmer or you’re a star player. I’m going to be the coach that loves you.”

I wasn’t that mature but I read it. I was like, “I want to have a coach like that.” I recognize that there are good coaches and there are bad coaches. I want a coach like John Wooden that loves me, even if I make a turnover or a shot. That was the first time I thought that there was a difference between coaches that there was good coaches and bad coaches, good qualities and bad qualities. I got a little bit older. I realized I probably wasn’t going to go to the NBA. I started thinking more about coaching.

As I got into college, I went from being a star athlete in high school to my best friend who was the water cooler and the athletic trainer. I started to look at basketball a little bit differently. I started to look at the whole forest and not just my tree because I wasn’t playing very much. A lot of people will be bitter, be mad, or be a victim. I started looking at it from the perspective of, “I’m not playing much but I want to be a coach. I know my career is not to play, so I want to be a coach. I want to soak in as much of this as possible.” I was a good athlete and a bad athlete at times.

I became a coach for about twenty years. I was Coach of the Year. I was a good coach. I was also fired. I also had losing seasons. I also have some players that hate my guts. I also have players that we still keep in touch with. I had some ups and downs as a coach is. We’ll get into what I’m doing in a little bit. That’s helped me because I’ve traveled by plane. I’ve traveled first class. I’ve had programs with big budgets. I’ve coached at all different levels. I’ve also driven fifteen-passenger vans after losses where you eat sack lunches from the cafeteria. You put your own peanut butter and jelly on. You put your ham and mustard on.

I’ve seen all these different perspectives, which has helped me in my consulting with sports teams because I’ve been where they’ve been at, whether they’ve been successful or terrible. Knowing what it’s like to struggle through a season, whether it’s your fault or not, you’ve struggled through that season. I’ve lived it all and been an athletic director as well. For years, I’ve been on my own. I’ve been self-employed or unemployed depending on the day as an entrepreneur.

We don't step out of ourselves sometimes and see from other people’s perspectives and where they are coming from. Click To Tweet

Where did you play basketball? Where did you coach basketball?

I played basketball in college at a place called Hiram College in Ohio. I was the epitome of mediocrity. Not only did I play basketball, I went to play basketball there but I also played some football and ran track. There are only two types of people that play multiple sports in college. One is the absolute maniac people that are amazing, the Bo Jacksons, the Deion Sanders. The other is the people that aren’t any good at any of the sports. The coaches are okay with sharing you because you don’t help them out anyways. I was fell in that category where the coaches didn’t care about me as much.

Where did you coach?

I coached a lot of schools, mainly in the South but I did start off at Kent State University in Ohio as a graduate assistant. I went to Anderson University in Indiana, LeTourneau University in Texas, Newberry College in South Carolina, Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga, Bryan College in Tennessee, and then Martin Methodist College in Tennessee was my last coaching stop. I was an Athletic Director at Marion High School in Indiana. The fifth largest gym in the world for high school. Nobody’s won more boys basketball state titles than that school had. That was a fun place to go to be an Athletic Director since I was a basketball guy.

That is a lot of interesting experience that you had. You didn’t just stay at one system and saw one thing. You got to see a whole lot of different organizations and leadership styles. What did you see was the difference between the winning programs and the losing programs?

Certainly, there’s always a baseline talent. No matter what we’re talking about, there’s always a baseline of competence in talent. Putting that to the side, the number one thing was the buy-in, the ownership of the players, and the coaches for a common goal. Are we bought-in to what we’re trying to accomplish? We can call this culture. Culture is a buzzword. Culture is something I talk about all the time. Ultimately, that culture is a buy-in tour. We’re all going to try to get to the same place together and in the same way. Sometimes we want to get to the same place but we don’t all want to go the same way or the same route. It’s having buy-in from, if not everybody, most of the people. That’s coaches and players.

Sometimes, the players and the coaches are on different pages. They’re not even in the same book. They have completely different agendas and selfish motives. You see this in businesses too, a lot. When I’ve consulted with a lot of businesses and I’m sure you’ve seen this as well, it’s the upper management, CEO level, or supervisory level. They’ll be like, “Come in and fix these.” We’re all part of the problem and the solution at the same time. It’s not us versus them.

I get that a lot with coaching. Coaches think, “It’s not my fault. Jamy is doing this, Jamy missed that shot, or Jamie didn’t know what he was doing.” It might not be your fault but it’s 100% your responsibility to help Jamy to know what he’s supposed to do, to help make Jamy the best he possibly can be, or to help have Jamy be inspired. That’s a big thing. We see this all the time with coaches. “These players are this. These players are that. They’re bored in practice or they don’t pay attention.” You don’t give them a reason because you don’t engage with them. You don’t inspire them.

It’s the same with businesses. “Our employees don’t want to be here.” It’s because you don’t make it fun. “I pay them a lot.” That doesn’t matter. How much you pay them doesn’t matter when they’re in that job doing it. That only matters on Saturday and Sunday, the days off, or on their vacation. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how much you’re paying them. You have to inspire them in other ways if you want more out of them. Everybody being on the same page going together, it’s our team. It’s our goals. It’s not, “Gary is the boss, so it’s Gary’s team. It’s Gary’s goals. We’re trying to accomplish what Gary wants.” It’s not that. It’s, “We’re all going together. We’re all going to celebrate success together. We’re all going to overcome challenges together. We’re going to win and lose together.”

How do you teach somebody to get buy-in?

BYW 34 | Good Coach
They Call Me Coach

It’s a two-prong approach. In my case, I work primarily with sports teams. I certainly work with businesses but sport is my bread and butter. That’s my lane for the most part. You’re working with students but you’re also working with the coaches at the same time. With the students, you’re trying to find out what makes them tick. You’re trying to find out what their hopes and dreams are, what some of their challenges are, and understanding them. Also, trying to get them to understand the coaches, what the coaches are going through, and what the coaches are trying to get at. All of this comes back to trying to get everybody to see the whole forest and not just see their own tree. We’re trying to get them to understand as much as possible not to be understood.

A Stephen Covey’s great book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of those habits is seek first to understand then to be understood. A lot of us don’t ever do that. We want to be understood. “You’re not seeing where I’m coming from.” That might be true but you haven’t even seen where I’m coming from. It’s one of these things. As coaches, we don’t understand what a sixteen-year-old is going through or what a sophomore in college is going through. We can’t understand that as a 40-year-old, as a 50-year-old, we don’t understand them and they certainly don’t understand us. The thing is our sixteen-year-old self probably wouldn’t understand the sixteen-year-olds now in a lot of ways.

We don’t step out of ourselves sometimes, see where other people are coming from and see their perspectives. That’s one of the very first things we will do when we work with any team. It’s gotten them to see other perspectives. We have a lot of little activities we’ll do that are fun that blows people’s minds and different things like that of understanding in perspective. We talk a lot about seeing things from a different viewpoint, from a different lens because you’re never going to get common ground. It can’t be, “Gary disagrees with me on this. Gary has this opinion. I have my opinion and so we’re done.” You got to work with each other. We’ve got to figure out a way to how can, “I can do what Gary can’t do. Gary can do what I can’t do.” Together we’re going to fill in gaps. Together we’re going to complement one another. We’re going to play our roles to the best of our ability.

One of the things I talk about a lot is cars. I don’t know much about cars but with teamwork, with filling gaps and stuff, we’ll talk to kids, “What’s your favorite kind of car?” They’ll give this expensive $100,000 car. I’ll show them this little $5 spark plug. First of all, most kids don’t even know what this is but I’ll show them this spark plug. I’ll be like, “This $5, $10 spark plug can keep your $100,000 car from driving. It can sideline your car. This $5 spark plug can also make your car be $100,000, be cool, and work effectively.” Roles are important. Every role and person has value. We need to see the value and see what other people can bring to the table, whatever that is. Understanding in perspective is one of the very first things needed in order for everybody to come together.

What popped into my mind when you were saying that is tell us how you felt about that kind of a conversation when you were sitting on the bench as the player in college wanting to be the star but finding yourself next to the water cooler.

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem. Click To Tweet

Most players that are in my situation would have hated it. I hated it because you’re embarrassed. As a college athlete, maybe you spent 18, 19 years of your life, depending on what the sport is preparing to be a college athlete and then you’re a failure. Your whole life, you’ve been successful. Your whole life, you’ve got up at 4:00 in the morning. You’ve grinded, rise, and grind type of stuff. You sacrifice. How many tens of thousands of dollars have you paid out or your parents have paid out to go to travel ball? You don’t expect to sit. It’s embarrassing, especially in a team sport.

Team sport is a little bit different than individual. In team sport, there’s a difference of opinion. There’s interpretation. It’s not just that, “I’m better than Gary.” We can’t prove that. Maybe I’m better than Gary at one-on-one or a better shooter but the team needs what Gary can offer more. In track, if I’m not on that four-person relay, it’s because I’m slower than those other four people. There’s some objective. Not that makes it easier but it’s less blame. There are more things that I can do personally to make myself better or to change the situation. In a team sport, most people sitting at the end of the bench are most people that don’t have a role that they don’t like. They’re not going to act the right way about that. They’re sometimes going to make the problem worse.

I love a quote from one of the greatest literary scholars of all time, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. He talks about the problems not the problem. The problem is your attitude toward the problem. The problem is not that I’m sitting on the bench. The problem is my attitude towards sitting on the bench. Coming back around to answering your question specifically, what you have to do with a young person or with anyone, an employee. You have to connect with them and you have to develop a strong connection, a strong bond that you can have some difficult conversations with them.

We try to have tough love. “I’m keeping it real with you, Jamy. I’m telling you what you need to improve on.” We have these tough conversations but we don’t have a strong bond. “I don’t trust that person. I don’t trust Coach Sanchez when he’s trying to tell me something because we haven’t developed this bond. I don’t trust him that he has my best interest. I don’t care if he has the other people’s best interests. I want him to have my best interest. If he’s looking at me as a commodity or this is a transactional relationship, I’m not going to believe in what he’s saying.” As managers, as leaders, or anyone in a position of leadership, we do that all the time.

We try to have a conversation with someone without having a bond or any kind of connection. You have to have that so you can figure out what makes me as the athlete tick, what’s important to me. You also have to ask a lot of questions. Ask me questions. Find out where I’m at. Find out what’s important to me. Find out as much as you can about me as the person so that you know what buttons to push as well. There’s also one major thing that leaders don’t do very well is they don’t find a way to utilize me as an employee, to utilize my strengths, to add value to me, or to catch me being good. However, that is, they don’t utilize me. Going back to the basketball analogy, how many times is there a blowout in a game? “Maybe you leave the starters in an extra five minutes longer than maybe you should have. You could have utilized me in that game a little bit more. Maybe I’m a great shooter and the team was playing a zone. You could have used me to shoot the ball a little bit more.”

Have you always been a good problem solver?

BYW 34 | Good Coach
Good Coach: It doesn’t matter how much you’re paying your employees. You have to inspire them in other ways if you want more out of them.

 

I don’t know. I understand that why and I understand I do like making things better. Saying I’m a good problem solver, I don’t know that. My wife might say I’m not a very good problem solver sometimes. I like making things better, whatever that is. I will go into a fast-food restaurant. I can’t help it. I will see ways that they could be better at things, especially if I’ve gone into a Chick-fil-A and then I go somewhere. I’m like, “Why can’t everybody copy the way Chick-fil-A does their drive-through?” I’ll fly a different airline in Southwest. I tend to be a Southwest snob. I’ll fly Southwest Airlines all the time.

It’s only a problem when there’s a problem. If there’s a problem with your airline or with your flight, Southwest will try to work with you a lot more than another airline will. When you have a customer support issue or customer service, you see the culture of an organization. I do see things like that. How can we make things better? You always want to be improving. Probably the answer would be yes. I’ve always tried to make things better. I’ve always tried to make myself better in whatever way I can. You call it problem-solving. That’s great.

My wife, that’s one of her strengths. When she’s interviewed for jobs and stuff, she says, “I love to solve problems.” She comes at it from more of a puzzle standpoint. She’s also a person on our Kindle or on our tablet who’ll do puzzles. She loves to solve those kinds of problems. I never do any of those things. Life has enough issues and problems to solve. She likes it from almost a game standpoint. I see it as how we can always get better.

You’re the head coach. You’ve got a lot of pieces moving. You’ve got a lot of challenges that you’re looking at. Are you somebody that enjoys having a lot of things coming at you at once and trying to figure out what to do?

I wouldn’t say I enjoy it but it doesn’t intimidate me. It’s not something that I get stressed about it. I understand I’m juggling a lot of balls. If something’s going to mess up and I’m going to lose those 3, 4, or 5 balls, I’m going to make sure I catch 1 or 2 of those balls. 1 or 2 of those is more important than the others. You’re always going to focus a little bit more on a couple of things. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it but I certainly don’t have a problem with it. It’s something that I can take in multiple information. Let’s see a lot of different perspectives. One of the problems with that is sometimes I would be a little slower with making a decision. I have an athletic director who is one of the best athletic directors I’ve ever worked for. He would be somebody that says, “We may not make the best decision but we’re going to make a quick, good decision.” I’m not saying that was good or bad but it worked for him. I thought he was a great athletic director.

Take care of people the way they want to be taken care of. Click To Tweet

I tend not necessarily to be paralyzed, paralysis by analysis but I do tend to, “Can we find a better solution? We come up with this one but can we come up with a little bit better?” It’s one of those tinkering type of things where I tinker a little bit too much sometimes. Not necessarily drag my feet or that could be looked at. I’m not a procrastinator but sometimes I will wait a little bit longer to make a decision because I want to get a little bit, “Can we see this perspective a little bit differently? How can we look at this problem a little bit more so that we’re making the right decision as opposed to a good decision?”

When you walk into a sandwich shop that you’ve never been before and there are 30 choices of sandwiches on the menu, is it easy for you to figure out which one you want to order or does it take you a while to make a decision? If it does, how do you then make a decision?

Did my wife tell you to ask me that? I tend to go last, all under the disguise of, “I’ve got to pay for it,” so I’ll go last. Everyone can go before me. If I go into a new sandwich shop, it would be because I’ve heard that they make this good sandwich or they have this reputation for something. If it’s one of those, Gary that you’re like, “Let’s go to this shop,” I’m going to ask you, first of all, what are they known for? I’m probably going to look for do they have that little icon or little logo next to one of their sandwiches that’s the chef’s special or this thing that they’re known for? I know I’m going too deep into the details.

A hole in a wall sandwich shop, they’re known for something. That grandpa started that shop many years ago because he made one sandwich good for the family and then it became something else. I want to do what they’re known for. I want to experience that. If that’s not the issue, then I’m going to go with it. “I love Reuben’s. Do they have a Reuben something like that?” I’m going to try to find what do they have and then compare it to other sandwiches that I’ve had in the past. If none of that works, I’m going with, “I’ll take the club. Do you have a club?”

Here’s a question I have for you. Do you feel more successful when you’re able to make things understandable or when you’re able to find a better way?

I love the process part of it. I love working through the process. That’s not 100% answering your question. I would rather be having a good process and the result wasn’t quite what we wanted. The result will be there but the process wasn’t good. It’s not repeatable. It’s not something that we can rely on. I love process type of stuff. I love knowing that what we did was probably the right thing. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Here’s why I’m asking you this. I’m sure the readers that read a lot will know. As you’re answering questions, it sounds like your why might be to find a better way versus to make sense of the complex and challenging. However, what I’m thinking is your why is to make sense of the complex and challenging. How you do that is by looking for better ways. Your process is about finding better ways but your ultimate result is to get something that makes sense, useful, usable, and we can do something with it.

I want actionable. I want things, “How is this practical? What can we do with this information?” I wouldn’t call myself the best student ever. I was a good student but not a great student. I don’t want just academic stuff or theory. What can we do with the practicalness of it? What you say makes sense. Isn’t that the why part of what makes sense? We’re back to that.

That’s what I think your why is make sense but your how is a better way. How you do it as you’re in search of a better way? Ultimately, what you bring is something we can still explore so that we know, “What is that thing that Jamy brings?” Every time he speaks, coaches, and interacts with people, there’s something that you bring that you deliver. We can continue to work on that. While we’re thinking about that, Jamy, what is culture? How do you define culture?

Culture is the identity that your group takes on, to put it in the simplest way. I also think that identity is intentional. A lot of people will argue with that, they’ll debate that, or they’ll disagree with that saying, “The culture that we have isn’t what I wanted.” That might be true but you were very intentional about allowing your culture to be what it is. “I didn’t want it to be like this.” We make choices every day and you make choices, maybe as a leader. Your group made choices along the way to choose to do or to prioritize something over here, as opposed to something here. This got you to where you are. We’re always intentional about, “I’m choosing something over something else.”

BYW 34 | Good Coach
Good Coach: Culture is the identity that your group takes on.

 

Those choices don’t happen accidentally. What happens is the result ends up being something that we didn’t want sometimes. The culture is the identity of your group. I do believe it’s intentional because the choices we make every day lead into that. Our actions, our behaviors, and our thoughts that become actions, the standards, and the things that we allow or emphasized will end up being our culture. Sometimes as leaders, we don’t like that. We’ll say, “We don’t have a culture.” It’s like, “You do have a culture. You just might not like it.” If you don’t know what your culture is, then it’s probably not a healthy, strong culture.

Everything that you do should be geared toward where you do want to end up. Almost reverse engineer it backwards. How are we going to get there? What are the day-to-day things that we can do to help in that culture? When I was an Athletic Director, I was tasked with changing the culture. If I had $1 for every time somebody said change the culture, we’d be rich. Everybody talks about changing the culture and they don’t even know what they’re talking about half the time. I was tasked with changing the culture.

One of the first things I did is not necessarily to change the culture but we redid our whole athletic department offices. We put on fresh new paint, put new posters up, and did all this stuff. We also changed stationary, all this trivial skin deep type of stuff. None of that came close to mattering as much as how I treated my secretary. I could put out the best emails, put up the best posters on the wall, and have the best staff meetings but if I treated my secretary poorly and our interactions that caused her to maybe not be happy or inspired, she’s going to interact with hundreds of people that one day, either on the phone or the people that come into the office. She’s going to be the first face that they see.

I can do more for our culture, good or bad, based on one interaction with my secretary each morning. With your salesmen, with your HR people, or your billing people, you can do more for your culture than any memo you’re going to send out. Your culture isn’t your posters on the wall, your fancy slogans, your billboards, or your website. Your culture is what’s going on around the water cooler. When Gary and Jamy are talking at the water cooler or in the break room at 9:15 break in the morning, that’s your culture. If you want to know what your culture is, it’s what those employees or your team members are doing when you’re not around. That’s your true culture. That’s either by what you emphasize, what you reinforce, or what you allow.

Businesses are so different. For example, our company got team members in Austin, Denver, New York, India, and all over the place. How do you build a culture with more of the virtual type of companies?

It’s even more intentional at that point. COVID has introduced us to Zoom. It introduced us to a virtual type of stuff. Not working at the office, not having touchpoints, and not being in-person. That means that you have to be even more intentional about, “How I’m going to reinforce and emphasize the certain culture that we want. I don’t see Gary every day. We can’t high-five each other. We can’t hang out and watch the game together as easily. We can’t have casual Fridays.” Every Friday could be casual because we’re at home. We have to be more intentional about it. Some businesses have fallen way behind in their culture because they haven’t been intentional and proactive. They’ve been reactive.

No matter what business we're in, we're in the people business, ultimately. Click To Tweet

They’ve been reacting to everything that happens. They’ve almost been shaking their head saying, “We can’t do this.” Instead of saying, “What can we do?” Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do like some of the best companies, best teams, even. I work with sports teams a lot. I’ve had a lot of sports teams that I’ve been consulting with that have been in quarantine. I’ll give you one example. There are countless of these that I’ve dealt with. You’re in quarantine, whatever that reason is. One of your kids tested positive or you played a team that tested positive. You’re in fourteen-day quarantine.

You’re in a basketball team and the coach says, “What do I do? I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “Have you had Zoom meetings?” “They’re all zoomed out.” I’m like, “What would you be doing every day with practice? What we’d have in practice? What time would you be having practice?” “3:00.” “You don’t think they’re all practiced out. You don’t think they hate to practice. They don’t like practice. You still do it, though. You need to do Zoom meetings.” “I know but they’re so boring. What do we do?” I say, “You don’t have to do it for your two hours but every day at 3:00, you need to touch base with them on Zoom or whatever platform you use. Don’t call it a Zoom meeting.”

Put lipstick on a pig. Call it something different like motivational Monday. “We’re going to have Monday Motivation at 3:00. We’re going to have a guest speaker. We’re going to talk about something inspirational. On Wednesday, we’re going to have Wacky Wednesday and we’re going to have fun. We’re going to have Tuesday Chalk Talk.” I know that’s not alliteration. It’s going to be X’s and O’s. Every single day of your fourteen weeks, you’re still going to have practice. You’re going to have it for 30 minutes at the normal time so you can touch base with them but you’re going to do something different every single day. You’re getting on Zoom but you’re never going to call it a Zoom meeting. You’re going to call it something different.

You’ve got three assistant coaches. They can come up with stuff and idea but you’re going to do something every day and you’re going to touch base with some of your athletes and some of your team members. You’re going to have them come up with some ideas as well. It’s not going to be all Jamy Bechler because Jamy Bechler is not smart enough. It’s not going to be all Gary Sanchez. Even though we’re smart as coaches, we’re not smart enough to come up with something creative every day for 16-year-olds or 21-year-olds.

We’re going to talk to some of our key leaders. Get them to come up with some ideas and have them have ownership in what we’re going to do. That’s one specific example. We walked through a lot of ways that they could execute that effectively. Essentially, what it’s doing is not looking at what you can’t do but what we can do. You can have Wacky Wednesday, karaoke night. They’re all there. They’re all singing the same song on Zoom being stupid. They can all have their phones go on and making social media of that. We’re all seeing the screen. We’re all having fun. You can watch a movie together. There are so many things that you can do.

The internet is full of Google, what you can do during COVID on Zoom calls. As a coach or as an employer, you’re not going to do quite that much as an employer but you’re going to figure out, “What can we do to make it a little bit more creative?” Gary, you as the leader, “What can I do to bring Jamy into this where Jamy’s all the way across the country? We can connect on Zoom but how can I make him want to be more engaged and want to make sure that he’s not checking his phone so often or not disengaged from this Zoom call?” It’s no different than when we have in-person meetings. If you have a boring in-person meeting, then your people are going to be disengaged. You’re not going to inspire them. You’re not going to have the culture that you want, ultimately. It’s finding solutions. How can you put lipstick on a pig?

Last question I got for you, Jamy. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received I wished that I had always lived up to is, take care of people the way they want to be taken care of. We can get into nuances about different things but we talk sometimes about, treat people the way you want to be treated. Sometimes we project. I don’t like birthdays at all. I’m not a birthday guy or whatsoever. If nobody wished me a happy birthday ever, I would be fine with that. I project that onto others. I forget people’s birthdays or I don’t make it a big deal but it might be a huge deal to you, Gary.

Saying take care of people the way you want to be taken care of or treat people the way you want to be treated sometimes doesn’t go far enough. I 100% get the sentiment. It’s better than treating people terribly. Ultimately, you want to treat people the way they want to be treated. You want to find a way to inspire them. It’s about them. You need to understand them. No matter what business we’re in, we’re in the people business, ultimately. We need to treat people the way that they want to be treated whenever possible. There are some nuances to that and there are some dynamics. You can’t 100% do that in every situation but if you follow that road, it’s going to get you to a good place eventually.

Jamy, thank you so much for taking time out to be here. I appreciate it. If people are reading and they say, “I would love to have Jamy come talk to our group. I’d love to meet with him,” how can people get ahold of you?

The best way is if they’re on Twitter, they can follow me. My direct messages are open. That’s, @CoachBechler. In my website, they can get ahold of me, see my books, the podcast, and all the free stuff that we have. That’s at, CoachBechler.com. Those are the two best places. I’m on the other social media platforms as well but Twitter is the best place to get me if you’re on social media.

Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.

I appreciate the work you’re doing as well. This is a great show. Keep it up. Thanks for having me.

It’s time again for our new segment, which is Guess the Why. We’re going to look at the why of Kanye West. If you had to take a stab at it knowing the nine whys, what do you think Kanye why is? I think his why is to challenge the status quo and think differently, think outside the box, do things differently, not follow a traditional path, and do it his own way. He’s done that in the way he does his music. He’s done that in the way that he’s changed the direction of his life. He’s still married. I don’t know if that’s going to be the same thing when this show comes out.

I would guess that his why is to challenge the status quo. What do you think it is? Put it in wherever on your social media. Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at WhyInstitute.com. You can use the code Podcast50 and you’ll get it at half price. If you love the Beyond Your Why show, please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us. It helps us gain more readers so that we can bring the why to the world and reach our goal of helping one billion people discover, make choices, and live based on their why. Have a great week. We’ll talk to you next time.

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About Jamy Bechler

BYW 34 | Good CoachJamy Bechler is an author, motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and host of the popular “Success is a Choice” podcast. With a background as a championship athletic director, award-winning college basketball coach, and business consultant, he works with high-level sports teams and businesses helping them maximize results. He is recognized as an expert in leadership, culture, and teamwork.

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Challenging The Status Quo And Managing The Imposter Syndrome With Veronica Kirin

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome

 

Our society has expectations for us. That is why so very often, we tend to put ourselves inside a box, hesitating to go beyond it and do what it is we really want to do. It is time to get outside of the box and challenge the status quo as Dr. Gary Sanchez sits down with anthropologist, author, and serial entrepreneur, Veronica Kirin, to tell us how. Facing the natural struggle of having an imposter syndrome whenever we try something new, Veronica offers her insights and advice on how we can manage it. She further breaks down some of the common reasons we find ourselves feeling in the wrong place and how to overcome it. Veronica also taps into defining our identity, the choices we have to shape it, and the roadmap it provides to our lives. What is more, she then takes us into her award-winning book, Stories of Elders, an anthropological study about the paradigm shift of the high-tech revolution.

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Challenging The Status Quo And Managing The Imposter Syndrome With Veronica Kirin

We are going to be talking about the why of challenge. If this is your why then you live outside the box. You don’t believe in the norm, following rules, or drawing inside the lines. It is far more natural for you to rebel against the stereotypical or classical way of doing things. You aggressively seek unique ways of approaching the world and finding solutions that no one else has considered. You like to create and innovate, especially in game-changing ways.

You have eccentric friends, eclectic tastes, and a larger variety of both. You may have diverse interests with little in common with each other. As an entrepreneur, you prefer to create a new market versus serving an existing market. You love to be different, think differently, and challenge virtually anyone or anything that is too rote or conventional. People with your why often accomplish amazing feats. When you say you want to change the world, you mean it.

Pushing the envelope comes naturally to you. I’ve got a great guest for you. Her name is Veronica Kirin. She is an anthropologist, author, and serial entrepreneur who works with business leaders to scale their impact and income while managing imposter syndrome. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Stories of Elders and the creator of Stories of COVID, which documents the pandemic in real-time.

Veronica, welcome to the show.

Gary, thanks for having me.

Tell everybody, where are you?

I am in Berlin, Germany.

What the heck are you doing there?

We are talking about the challenge here. It’s so apropos for everything in my life. I wanted to have the opportunity to live in a different place than what I had grown up in. I wanted to see what else the world looked like in the pandemic. Believe it or not, it made that easier because it helped me cut ties, which is heartbreaking in a way. I desperately miss my friends and they know it but I wasn’t seeing them anyway because we wanted it to all be safe. When the opportunity came to move to Berlin, it was an easy yes, and we are loving it. It’s been glorious.

Where are you from then? Tell us a little bit about your story? Where were you born? How did you get into Anthropology versus where you are now? That’s an interesting twist.

It’s unusual for me to be asked where I was born. I’m usually the one asking where someone was born as the Anthropologist. I was born in Michigan, the Great Lakes State. I grew up in Michigan and a little bit between Michigan and Pennsylvania which is where my grandparents were. My grandparents were very old-world-style grandparents and lived in an old steel mill town. I got very used to this romantic feeling around brick roads and eating pellets and go with my grandmother, which is a Croatian style crepe, except for much more fried than the crepe is. It’s a lot better for you. I grew up already straddling two worlds.

Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are in the wrong place. Click To Tweet

Talking about the challenge as your why. It appeared very early for me. I was bullied in school. I didn’t know it at that time, but I had that challenge in my head. When I was made fun of for being nothing like the other kids, I was going to the beat of my own drum. I was able to pull out of it and think to myself, “Why is your way the better way?” Automatically, the challenge was appearing in my life and it was protecting me. No surprise than that I would become an anthropologist if I, at that early age, was already thinking, “Why is your way, your society, and your culture the better way?” Anthropologists study cultures and intentionally remove themselves from their own culture in order to be as much a tabula rasa as possible thus having an unbiased lens to look into other cultures and societies.

There you go with that string of events. You ask where did I move to Berlin? The short answer is, I was living in Los Angeles at the beginning of the pandemic. I thought I wanted to try out the LA dream. I prefer warm weather because my blood is Croatian. I meant to be in Mediterranean-style weather. I simply don’t do well in the cold. It’s a running joke with friends and family. It’s the truth. LA didn’t feel very good to be surviving a pandemic and I didn’t have a support system there yet. I’d only been there six months. I went back to Michigan, where my partner still was. We regrouped in Detroit and moved to Berlin.

How do you like it there in Berlin? What’s going on there as far as the pandemic? How are you guys surviving there? Do you speak German?

I speak Spanish fairly fluently, French, a bit of Croatian, and a little bit of American sign language. None of those are helpful right now. We’re learning German but we love it. The status of the pandemic here is we’re in a soft lockdown. Public transport is still open. Grocery stores are still open but some of the bigger stores or the soft sell stores are all closed. We wanted to get new bicycle, and we had to find a store that was allowed to be open in order to buy a bicycle, for example. I can go on coffee walks but you can’t go on coffee dates. None of the cafes are open.

It’s an interesting way to learn a new culture and society because it’s almost like an intentional baby step into Berlin since nothing is open. I’m able to get to know public transportation in baby steps. I’m able to get to know the grocery stores in baby steps rather than doing it all at once. We love it. I’ve been having incredible meetings and networking with entrepreneurs since there are no networking events. We’re doing it all via Zoom. Everyone has been welcoming. It’s been fantastic.

Tell us a little bit about imposter syndrome and how did you get involved with that.

If our identity hasn’t shifted to the new level we’ve reached, imposter syndrome will emerge. Click To Tweet

I have faith n imposter syndrome. I was talking to a client about it because she’s experiencing her own imposter syndrome. She’s going through a growth spurt. I went through my growth spurt and with growth comes imposter syndrome. It doesn’t matter if you have done whatever you are doing now a million times. If you do it in a new and different way, in a new industry, or with a new title, oftentimes, imposter syndrome rears its head because it’s tied to our identity. If our identity hasn’t shifted to the new level we’ve reached, imposter syndrome will emerge.

What is imposter syndrome? Define that for us.

Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are in the wrong place, you are literally an imposter, and you’ve fooled the masses into thinking that you are capable or knowledgeable. Oftentimes, it comes even more for people who are minorities, women, and people of color. They find themselves in a room where there are other people that don’t look like them, sound like them, or act like them. They wonder to themselves, “How did I make my way here?” Even though you have done it through your own merits. I work a lot with entrepreneurs with imposter syndrome because they’re going from founder to CEO mindset. That usually is when imposter syndrome rears its head.

Does anybody not have imposter syndrome?

If they tell you they’ve never experienced imposter syndrome, they are lying to themselves.

I’ve experienced that at many different times in my life. As you’re growing up, how could you not? When you’re thrown into a new situation, you’re the newbie, and you don’t feel comfortable. How do you help people with it?

The first thing is to identify what’s the root cause. Is it your inner child that is being triggered because something feels scary and you’re worried about being exposed? If you’re exposed, and you lose out on your subsistence because now nobody wants to work with you. Is it your inner bully? Sometimes, our inner bullies are our mom or dad’s voices in our heads telling us we can’t do it. If you’re feeling, “I can’t do it,” sometimes, that’s simply your inner bully coming out. We have to stand up to our inner bullies and tell them that we can.

Sometimes, it’s the identity shift. It’s nothing super psychologically profound, but it still needs to be resolved within us. What I told my clients was that, “This is going to take time, but remind yourself that everything you are being asked to do by these clients is all things you’ve done before. If you remind yourself of that, your identity will start to settle as a consultant and you’ll start to feel like you’re finding your sea legs.”

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome: Anthropologists study cultures and intentionally remove themselves from their own to be as much a tabula rasa as possible thus, having an unbiased lens to look into other cultures and societies.

 

How much of overcoming imposter syndrome is the action, just doing it? You have to do it. Can you not do something to overcome imposter syndrome?

No, because our minds are plastic the way our brains work, but they need new input in order to rewrite. Even if you’re sitting in meditation to overcome imposter syndrome, you are still taking action. You can’t do nothing but you’re never not doing nothing.

What got you interested in imposter syndrome? What was the story that led you to say, “I got to help other people with imposter syndrome?”

To rewind a little bit, I was thrown into some intense experiences when I was younger. Taking my why of challenge. I decided to take a gap year halfway between sophomore and junior year of university. I joined the National Civilian Community Corps, which is a branch of AmeriCorps in the United States. NCCC is the national guard but with hammers rather than guns. We train on a base and we deploy all over the United States. Sometimes, we do in partnership with FEMA or the American Red Cross. I was wide-eyed, bright eyes, bushy-tailed, suddenly I am down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been told that I am going to be starting the case working program for a nonprofit organization. I’d had no such experience except for I’m a people person, as you can tell. I did the research.

For those who don’t recall, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 20, 2005. The internet was a different place. The research was a different place. I was still using a flip phone. My research into figuring out how to make this happen was different. By the time I finished my role there, which was only two months, I had over 300 cases, 3 filing cabinets, all color-coded, all figured out, double lock and key, and making sure that people’s information was secure and safe. They’re also being served. I was a twenty-year-old having done that.

The first thing you start thinking is, “Can I do this? I want to do this.” It doesn’t matter if you want to do it because the brain still wants to go, “Can I do this?” As an entrepreneur, as I have pivoted into new roles throughout my life, it rears its head. Becoming an author rears its head. Becoming an Anthropologist and getting my degree. What does it mean to be an anthropologist? What does it mean to be an entrepreneur, especially a web developer without a degree in web development because your degree is in Anthropology, as a coach, and as a consultant?

We live our life by labels for better or for worse. Click To Tweet

For myself, I found it to be key. The faster I can pivot around imposter syndrome, the better my work is. As I am scaling clients because my work day-to-day is working with entrepreneurs who want to scale up their businesses or they’re in pain because they’re hitting their human 24-hour limit and they don’t know what to do. It’s time to scale. If you’re going to scale, you’re going to hit imposter syndrome. It’s critical that we work your way through that as fast as possible, but also as holistically as possible. Not ignoring it, you can’t ignore it, but it’s critical to work through it. That’s why it’s become enormously important in my work as an entrepreneur coach.

There’s going to be a lot of entrepreneurs reading this. They’re going to soon be facing that imposter syndrome. What do you do with them? What’s your process? How do you help them get past it?

It’s different for every case but there are broad strokes that are available. The first is to think about when has imposter syndrome ever reared its head before in your life. Is there a pattern? If there’s a pattern, that’s awesome because now we can start to see where your triggers are, and we can predict when it’s going to come. If we can predict when it’s going to show up for you, we can get ahead of it and be prepared. It will still happen, but rather than feel the panic and sink into the, “Can I do it,” instead we see it and say, “Hi, imposter syndrome. You’re here again. Let’s start working our way toward integrating this new identity of growth.” That’s the biggest key for me. It’s figuring out where your triggers are for imposter syndrome.

If you discover that it’s an inner child issue, something inside you feels unsafe because of this new growth. I asked my clients to tell their inner child that they’ve got this. That’s your mantra for that time period, “I’ve got this.” That’s where my client I said, “Everything you’ve done for your clients, you’ve done this before. You’ve got this.” It was the inner child coming out, then the inner bully is very mean. We are strong back at them and say, “No, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I can do it. You need to be quiet. Go sit down.”

Are those the two most common reasons or is there a most common reason why people have imposter syndrome?

Those are the broad strokes. There are all kinds of little nuances. Those are the two categories as to the voices in our heads that often are naysayers.

When you know this, are we able to preempt the strike? Imagine you’re on an airplane and you’re scared of turbulence. Turbulence is coming. You prepare yourself, “If there’s turbulence, this is what I do.” Is it the same thing?

Your identity is that je ne sais quoi part of you that comments on your own lived experiences. Click To Tweet

Yes. You train yourself almost like a fire drill like, “How do I want to react to this?” You don’t always know when the turbulence is going to happen, you know that it’s going to happen. “I’m on an airplane. It’s going to happen. I’m an entrepreneur, imposter syndrome is going to happen.” If you pre-train your brain and decide who you want to be or how you want to react in those moments in order to navigate it, you are going to have a better outcome. You’re going to get through it either way, but it’s that moment of decision of, “Am I going to get through this, learn from it, and grow, or am I going to let it get the better of me for days, weeks, months?” Heaven forbids you to get to the better of you and you let go of your business.

From my perspective, I would see imposter syndrome being a box that you put yourself into. We know how you like being put into a box. You’re like, “I’m not staying in this box. There’s no way.” Who says, “I have to be in this imposter syndrome box.”

Who says it has to be a box?

You help people get out of the box they put themselves into.

To grow the box, to reshape it, whatever it needs to be. We live our life by labels for better or for worse. That shapes our identities. We come straight down to identity. What box have you been put in or have you put yourself in, and how do we grow you out of that because the opportunities are in knocking.

Let’s talk for a minute about identity. I hear more about it. How would you define your identity? What is identity?

Your identity, in my opinion, is that je ne sais quoi part of you, that comments on your own lived experiences. We have this nature versus nurture balance, the question of the world. We all have experiences and our experiences shape us. Why do two people have the same experience and choose different things? It’s that je ne sais quoi, that part of you that we can’t define whatever makes us human or makes us conscious. I almost did a philosophy minor, but I didn’t. I’m not going to delve too far into this, but it’s that piece of you that even though you’ve lived for decades, your still you, and you know you’re still you.

Is your identity something that you define? Is it five sentences about who I am, is it a feeling, or what is it?

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome: It doesn’t matter if you have done whatever you are doing now a million times. If you do it in a new and different way, oftentimes, imposter syndrome rears its head because it’s tied to our identity.

 

You are delving into the realm of Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche, and all of the philosophers who have been grappling with this issue for the ages. Have we got a firm answer? Not really, but I can say as an entrepreneur and working with my clients that we have a choice that goes on top of our lived experiences. It is in those choices of who we want to be that can shape our identity. You’re still you, but it is you that has made those choices rather than those experiences making those choices.

In what way do we use identity?

It’s our roadmap for life. Our identity shapes our reactions to our experiences. It shapes the choices we want for our careers. Why’d I chosen Anthropology or Disaster Relief instead of Science or Math? If you could think of the folds of our brain as a map and our identity are those pieces, it tells us yes or no. It helps us to describe what we want. Sometimes, it comes straight down to what food do you want to eat that day. I identify as somebody who loves Italian food, so I’m going to choose pasta over the salad. It can be so tiny, and yet it shapes our world every moment of every day. I’m going to say the word guru because usually, the guru is applied to people who teach meditation or yoga. Meditative gurus would argue that we can reshape our identity. It’s that ability to make choices about ourselves. We’re choosing to change the roadmap, which then changes how we react to the world around us.

Tell us about your book, Stories of Elders. What is that?

That is an anthropological ethnography. It’s an anthropological study about the paradigm shift of the high-tech revolution. My favorite thing as an Anthropologist to study is paradigm shifts. In 2015, I noticed tech was affecting my life as an entrepreneur in tech, but it was also being talked a lot about in the news. My friends were talking about how uncomfortable they were with Facebook, which we’re all still having that conversation. I’m a challenge why.

I wanted to do something about it. I don’t want to sit around and let somebody tell me what to think. To me, life is understood through lived experiences and stories. That’s ethnography. I didn’t feel that I could adequately understand how technology is affecting our society unless I spoke with the people who had lived through as much of the high-tech revolution as possible. That’s why the book is called Stories of Elders. I went to people who were born before 1945. Before World War II, before that tech revolution that happened due to the war then afterward, we know it was an enormous boon to our economy and our technology. I spoke with people who grew up using crank cars. Now, they’re using an iPhone. That is the foundation for understanding that I was seeking. That’s what the book holds within its pages.

What’s the essence of the book? Is there a theme, “This is what I learned,” or more of the stories about those people?

Our identity is our roadmap for life. It shapes our reactions to our experiences and the choices we want for our careers. Click To Tweet

It’s less the stories about those people, although you get to know them because some of them appear over and over throughout the book because they’ve had such a front-row seat. For example, I interviewed Ned Gould, who engineered our first spy satellite for the US government. If you want a technological conundrum, try getting a film into space, taking pictures, and then sending it back to be developed. We have it easy these days with digital photography. People like that appeared over and over and you got to know their stories but it was about their reflection on technology. The book is organized into the twenty most common topics around technology that emerged through these interviews. Things like communication, relationships, community, and that’s what the book was seeking. How is it affecting our society?

If I were to talk to your parents and I ask them your upbringing or the way you lived your younger years more typical and traditional or more different in your way, what would they say?

They would say that a large part of our conflict came in from them being rather traditional parents and me being a challenge why. I was quite a good girl. I was Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. I follow the rules but there was tension because I knew that I wanted to explore more. What drew me to Anthropology? Once I was allowed to explore myself and I found Anthropology at university, it all clicked together and I was able to explore both what makes me culturally, but then also what’s reinforcing that, what’s breaking that down, what’s reflected about me in other cultures, and what are other cultures reflected thing to us. It went on from there. It’s still going.

One of the interesting things about the why of challenge is how they react to people being bullied or bullies in general. What’s your take on when you see somebody being bullied or being bullied yourself? They’re the person that stands up for the one that’s being pushed down. Has that played out that way for you?

I’m oddly conflicted adverse. Instead, I befriend the person that I feel is being attacked and be a resource or a stanchion of strength for them to reinforce the fact that they are okay despite whatever is going on. I will stand in the way of somebody being a total a-hole. I’m not going to go to fisticuffs and I’m not going to go out of my way. I had a lot of friends who were on the fringes of our school society back in the day and I worked hard to make sure that they felt like they were okay as well.

Your friends were more of the eclectic ones that we talked about? You had a wide variety of friends, not just jocks? You had a lot of different kinds of friends.

You need to have a unique subset of friends in order to be a good coach and consultant to entrepreneurs. Click To Tweet

I was very much the floater.

One of my friends who’s one of the world’s leading economists. He writes a weekly email newsletter to millions of people. He has your why. I asked him one day, “Why do you have such a wide variety of friends?” I was at his 60th birthday party and there were many different kinds of people at this party. I couldn’t believe it from Newt Gingrich to the boyfriend of the hairstylist. He said, “It’s my job to be able to explain to the world what’s happening. If all I know is my perspective, then that’s one perspective. I need to be challenged by other people. I need to see it from other people’s perspectives so that I can accurately tell what’s happening versus one opinion.” How does it speak with you?

It feels very familiar. I have the full spectrum of friends still. You need to have a unique subset of friends in order to be a good coach and consultant to entrepreneurs because you’re going to have a variety of clients. I feel like if I had only one type of friend, I would get bored.

You got to keep you stimulated.

There’s so much out there to learn. We have one life that we know of. It’s already overwhelming to consider it, “How will I taste the fruits of this world while I have it?” It’s the same conundrum of people who love to read and they say, “I will never be able to read all the books in the world.” You’ll never be able to experience everything in the world. If I have only one type of friend, I’m already cutting myself short.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received or the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received from one of my colleagues in NCCC when I was still wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was very upset that she wouldn’t wear her seatbelt. I’m a little bit like a Doberman in that way like, “The rules must be followed.” Oddly, for a challenge, “What’s going on? Why won’t you wear your seatbelt?” My nickname on the construction site is Vern. She turned to me and said, “Vern, not all rules are made to be followed.” I was twenty years old. It’s shocking and true as a challenge that unlocked something within me because, as I said, I grew up traditionally. To have somebody say that to me and validate that little whisper for me, that allowed me to grow into who I am.

The best piece of advice that I give is it’s for entrepreneurs but it works for anyone that, “If you have an idea, you wouldn’t be able to have the idea if you weren’t the right person to make it happen.” People like to fool themselves into thinking that they can’t do it for whatever reason. Here we are back at imposter syndrome but you have what it takes. If you didn’t, you couldn’t have conceived of the idea. If you have an idea of banging around in your head, you’ve got to make it happen. You know how to find the resources, get the education, and what you need to do because you were able to conceive the idea, so do it.

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome: We have a choice that goes on top of our lived experiences. It is in those choices of who we want to be that can shape our identity.

 

Don’t let anything stop you. Veronica, if people are reading this and they say, “I would like to reach out to you. I’d like to connect with you. I’d like to follow you.” What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?

They can hop on my website at VeronicaKirin.com. All of my social media is on there. My books are on there and that email form goes directly to me. It does not go to my assistant. It’s a direct line to myself. If you want to talk more, go ahead and get in touch.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your day in Berlin. How long are you going to be in Berlin?

We don’t know yet but it’s indefinite.

It’s great to get to know you and know your story.

Thank you so much, Gary. I appreciate it.

There’s a lot in there for people. You get people outside of their box. They put themselves in a box, and you get them outside. What is your message as far as your coaching? Why would somebody choose you?

I have a unique take in a couple of different ways. I work to scale small businesses, but I use startup tactics to do it. Small businesses are the door that we can unlock to freedom for everyone, especially in the LGBTQ community. A lot of business owners don’t have the resources or attention that startups do. They get stuck at their 24-hour limit. They can’t grow, get stressed, and don’t know what to do. It wasn’t the freedom they had drawn out. Freedom is possible for them, but we need to unlock that door for them.

Not all rules are made to be followed. Click To Tweet

I get what you’re doing and I get the tactics that you use, but why would I choose you over everybody else who does what you do?

I’m not going to let you fail.

What is it that you believe? You’re the perfect person for what you’re doing and the reason for that is because people put themselves into a box, into limits, and limit themselves, and you don’t think that way. You’re going to get me outside and pass what I thought I could do. You’re going to push me beyond the box that I stuck myself into, whether that’s imposter syndrome or all the tactics that you have.

The question is not about what you’re going to do for me or how you’re going to do it, but it’s, “Why should I choose you?” Which goes right back to your why. If you start your answer to that question by saying, “I believe.” If I believe what you believe, then you’re the right person for me. If I don’t believe what you believe then you’re not the right person for me, and that’s okay too. If you don’t tell me what it is you believe, you’re telling me all these things that you do, you leave it up to me to figure out who you are.

I went inside my head one day and I thought hard about what is the meaning of life. What I came out with is that I believe that life has a chance to happen and we have this one moment in history to become everything that we were meant to be. My calling is to help you get there.

How I do that is by all these other things. What I am is an entrepreneurial coach or whoever you’re talking to at that moment. It starts with what you believe in. If you’re looking for people that are looking to do something amazing, in their own world amazing, and don’t know how to get there and feel like they’re trapped. What we talked about is to challenge that thought, “Who says you can’t do this? Who says you can’t have the impact you thought you could?” That’s where your why, how, and what. Did Dan take you through your how and what?

Yes.

If you have an idea, you wouldn’t be able to have the idea if you weren’t the right person to make it happen. Click To Tweet

What’s your how and what?

Making sense of the complex is my how, big surprise, and my what even bigger surprise is helping to contribute to other success. Big surprise that went into disaster at first.

What you said with your why, how, and what is exactly the summary of our entire conversation because you challenge the way things are done, you figure out solutions to big problems that people think are big, and you grabbed their hand, help them do it, and contribute to them. If it’s the imposter syndrome, let’s challenge that there even is such a thing or that it’s going to limit you. Let’s figure out what it is that is limiting you and then let’s see how we can have a bigger impact when you’re outside of the limiting factor. The better able you are to articulate that, the less you’ll get stuck on what you are doing or how you’re going to do it. This is what I’m going to do for you. How do you know that’s what I want? How do you know this is what I need? It allows you to get to the essence of, “Why quickly should I choose Veronica to help me move forward?”

It’s all of the things that I know but it’s easier to do for clients than it is to do for yourself. I appreciate you doing it to me.

That’s when you know their why, how, and what becomes crystal clear. I know the language that you speak now. I know the conversations that you’re having. I know how to create a program, a plan, or to help you get past those because I know the way you think. It speeds the process. Thank you so much for being here. I’m glad we got to connect. If there’s a way that we can help you, if there’s a way you feel the why, couldn’t work with what you’re doing, let us know.

Dan and I had a great conversation about how it can fit into my coaching, and I’m quite enthused. I love you, guys, for sure. Simon Sinek was an Anthropologist.

I can imagine that you are a lot of fun to hang out with.

Maybe someday, we’ll have that chance. I hope so.

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome
Stories of Elders

My wife has the why of challenge. I know what it’s like to hang out with you.

You have fun every day, don’t you?

Yes, I do.

Those fights are pretty fun, too, aren’t they?

No, they’re not. There is no filter. Here’s one of the things I’ve noticed about people with the why of challenge and maybe this isn’t you but it’s my wife and a lot of other people with that why that I know. Sometimes, I don’t feel like people with the why of challenge has a sense of the way they said something in that it can come off a little bit aggressive where they don’t even know it. “I’m just talking and we’re talking here.” “That wasn’t a talking conversation. That wasn’t a little bit more than just talking.” “What do you mean I was talking? We were having a conversation.” “That wasn’t a conversation.” I don’t know if those kinds of conversations were happening with you.

It certainly sounds familiar in my own relationship but I have found that one can turn it off or at least tone it down. If I’m being intentional about like I am on this interview, I’m doing a speech, or I’m talking to a client, there’s a bit of a switch that I’m able to flip in order to be a little bit more intentional with my words because I’m smart enough to be able to do that. When you’re tired and when the filter is off, sometimes the words come out, and you’re like, “That didn’t mean to sound like that.”

It would be interesting to ask your partner.

Who is an explainer, so that’s fun too. Dan and I talked about that because his wife is also somebody who wants to makes end and he’s a challenge. I found that even as a challenge as well, sometimes challenging in the argument rather than being a team member in the arguments was not where it should be even though the intention is to continue to argue as a team member.

Do you feel like you would make a good employee?

I’ve had one corporate position. I was only an employee at that company for four months and they promoted me. I went from executive assistant to the director of an entire department. Because of that, I had the latitude that I was comfortable with at that age. I didn’t know what I had within me and what I was capable of. At 23, it was the right position for me. I don’t think I’d be a very good employee anymore. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over many years. I know what freedom feels like. You’re not going to tell me what to do.

You show up on time or do it this way.

I will show up on time because I want to respect you.

Do you feel more successful when you’ve been able to help me or when I trust you?

When I help you because I’ll help somebody in the grocery store, they don’t know me. Do they trust me? I don’t know, but I still help them.

Thank you for being here. Have a great time in Berlin, however long that is. I’m excited for you. You did what you wanted to do and you’re making it happen. A lot to be said for that.

You are as well.

I retired from dentistry. It’s such a relief to not be in that box that I was in. My brother has the why of the right way. He’s very structured, rigid, and particular about everything, but it takes a lot of creativity out of you when you’re put in that situation. I had a lot of years of, “I’ll do it.” Not the passion for it. Now, every day is awesome.

Congratulations. Thank you. I appreciate it.

It’s time for the new segment, which is guest the why. We are going to guess the why of Madonna. What do you all think the why of Madonna is? I have what I think, but if you had to guess of the nine whys which why would Madonna be. I think Madonna has the same why as our guest, Veronica, which is challenge. She didn’t follow any rules. She didn’t do it the way anybody else does. She did her own thing, beat her own drum at every age, including now. I’m sure she’s doing it her own way. That’s what allowed her to be so successful, different, fearless, create things that we’d never seen before.

That is I think Madonna’s why is challenge. Let us know what you think. Thank you for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why you can do so at WhyInstitute.com. Use the code Podcast50 and you’ll get it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe. Leave us a review and a rating on whatever platform you’re using so that our show gets reached by more people because our goal is to help one billion people discover, live, and make a decision based on their why. Thank you for being here.

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About Veronica Kirin

BYW 30 | Imposter Syndrome

Veronica Kirin is an anthropologist, author, and serial entrepreneur, who works with business leaders to scale their impact and income while managing imposter syndrome. She is also the author of the award-winning book “Stories of Elders” and creator of Stories of COVID™ which documents the pandemic in real-time.

Veronica Kirin graduated with anthropology honors and recognized as a Forbes notable graduate of Grand Valley State University with the intent to enter the nonprofit and humanitarian sector. She immediately enlisted with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps where she was personally presented with the Spirit of Service Award by President George HW Bush and received the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Congressional Medals.

Unfortunately, that disaster relief work left her with PTSD, and she was unable to continue her service work. She suffered silently for years, afraid of the stigma that comes with the condition. In 2010 she founded a nonprofit organization in an attempt to continue her service work. Though that organization ultimately failed, it was the spark that lit the entrepreneurial fire.

Today, Veronica is recognized as a Forbes Next 1000 Honoree, 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40 by Business Equality Magazine, is Founder of the award-winning tech company GreenCup Digital, and Entrepreneur Coach to socially-minded business leaders driven toward positive worldwide impact. She has leveraged her anthropological training to study paradigm shifts, resulting in an award-winning book “Stories of Elders” which documents the high-tech revolution through interviews with those that lived it, and is today documenting the pandemic in real time through worldwide interviews.

She has spoken at entrepreneur conferences and events around the world and has presented two TEDx talks on her research. She is most passionate about LGBTQ Rights and Social Equity.