If you did not learn a specific task, how can you be expected to know it? You can’t! The same goes for opportunities. If you are not aware of an opportunity, then you cannot go after it. Making everyday a learning experience by asking questions and allowing yourself to be taught, coached and mentored will allow you to have a bright future. Speaker, Author and CEO, JT McCormick, shares tough life lessons from his childhood that not only shaped him to adopt a winning mindset, but also lead to continued success.

  • 4:21 – Learning from volunteering
  • 7:00 – You don’t know what you don’t know
  • 10:22 – Applying the basics
  • 15:39 – Raw learning experiences
  • 21:17 – Why attention to detail is imperative
  • 22:26 – Direct report vs. direct support
  • 22:18 – Teach, coach + mentor
  • 29:03 – Thank god it’s Monday!
  • 36:32 – The importance of asking questions
  • 39:39 – Lessons learned through mistakes made
  • 43:04 – You only fail if you stop trying


Mentioned Books:

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company – Robert Iger

Tribal Leadership – Dave Logan

The Healing Organization – Raj Sisodia & Michael Gelb

Full Episode Transcription:
(Time code does not match final audio/video)

Derek: (06:09)
Todd and I both are both excited that you’re hear with us JT, to have this conversation. 

JT: (06:25)
Man I, you know, no pun intended, I’m an open book, so whatever you guys want to talk about or discuss, let’s make it happen. So I actually found out that I got unanimously elected to the board for conscious capitalism. 

Derek: (07:08)
Congratulations. That’s amazing. That makes me thrilled actually. 

JT: (07:12)
Yeah. They, they I, I guess a few people appreciated me calling people out on stage that way.

Derek: (07:22)
I love it. 

Todd: (07:23)
Were you challenging people at the event?

JT: (07:25)
You know, real quick, I won’t bore you with the details. You know, Conscious capitalism and Derek knows this. I had gone to several of the events, man, and I didn’t find some of these speakers to be very conscious with capitalism. You sharing the story about how you’ve gone bankrupt and then coming back and you’ve now got a $500 million company. Okay. It’s a great story and I love a come up story, but I didn’t find it to be conscious capitalism. And so for me, when I think capitalism, I think about what it’s done for me in my life and where I come from and the communities I come from. And so for me, you know, there’s no whole foods in the lower economic communities. And so many people, when you say lower economic communities, the first thing that comes to mind are black, Latino communities. But people tend to forget West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and they’re loaded with lower economic white communities. And so I always say to people, man broke is, does not know racism broke is, does not discriminate. And so when you say lower economic communities and conscious capitalism, I think about that. There’s no whole foods in those communities. There’s no chase bank. There’s, how am I supposed to know that I can be a barista when there is no damn Starbucks even in my community? So when I think conscious capitalism, I think about what capitalism could change if people just knew the possibilities.

Derek: (08:57)
You probably saw, we had Michael Gelb who wrote, co-wrote the healing organization, right? They’ve launched the book at conscious capitalism. I’ve been working with him personally. You know, obviously it’s a, it’s a, it’s a cause. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a way of living, frankly, right? The idea of using your financial means for the betterment of others and to use corporate structures and entrepreneurship driven businesses to make a difference. Like we, I think, I believe that was the thing that drew me to you and I think vice versa, why we connected right away. I could just see that in you. I felt that in you. And I think we share that bond. I mean, talk with us about, about your, your experience with this, not just from a leadership standpoint, but you’ve been walking this journey in your career as a, as a leader, as a business person, as an entrepreneur, and just as a person for your entire entire life. Right. Give us some of the milestones on the way for you to brought you here?

JT: (09:52)
You know, I had shared with you all earlier, I said probably some of my, my, my top three things and taking my family to Disney world, but, but you know, one of them as well. Something I’m, I’m most proud of is when I was doing my volunteering at the halfway house, the juvenile halfway house. And what this halfway house consists of is they’re taking high risk youth that are transitioning from juvenile prison prison to the halfway house back into society. And so in volunteering with, with the youth, I remember I met the superintendent, I walk in, I say, okay, what do these kids need? And he goes, they need jobs. And I said, why don’t they have jobs? And he said, I don’t know. So I walk over to the group of kids and I immediately said, okay, today we’re going to role play.

JT: (10:42)
And all these kids looked at me like, okay, what the hell is role play? And I realized that that moment, wow, we’re really going back to the basics here. And so it, it hit me. Wow. I’m one of these kids. I was 15 years old, I was 13 years old, 12 in juvenile. And so I immediately stopped and I said, Hey guys, I have made millions of dollars throughout my career. I’ve got $100,000 car. I’ve got $1,000 shoes on. And, and then I followed it with, and I’m not a rapper, I’m not an athlete and I’m not a drug dealer in their faces looked at me like, well, what else is there? And so it got their attention. And that’s what I knew. Okay, this is going to be my bridge on how I’m going to connect with them. And then I said, but no one told us about the fourth option, entrepreneurship, business being an executive, you know, how am I supposed to know that I can be a pharmaceutical rep when I don’t even know what a pharmaceutical rep is?

JT: (11:47)
And Derek, you remember this, I said this when we met with each other, I catch a lot of flack for this, but damn, and I’m standing by it. Every drug dealer knows the first rule is the first sample was free. Well, what do pharmaceutical reps do for a living? They give away free samples. So I am truly a believer that if you took so many of these kids from the inner city that had dealt drugs, they would be phenomenal in the pharmaceutical game, especially when you tell them, Hey, you can make $150,000 a year. You get a company car, a company credit card, an expensive account. 

Todd: (12:26)
And you get to sell drugs!

JT: (12:26)
And you get to sell drugs!

Derek: (12:26)
Legal, legal drugs, legal drugs.

JT: (12:31)
Legally, you don’t even have to worry about going to prison. So man, I’m just passionate about it. And my whole thing is, Derek, you know this is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And if you remember when I stood in front of the crowd, I said, how many people in here know how to perform brain surgery? How many neurosurgeons? 200 plus people in the room. No one raised their hand. Unfortunately, in these lower economic communities, there’s a lot of, excuse my language, a lot of stuff we don’t know. And so again, how am I supposed to even know that I can be a barista when I don’t even, there’s no Starbucks here. So I’m really huge on showing, not always telling. We’re so busy always, you know, telling people, wagging the finger, but show me something. And so if I had a massive initiative that I could implement within the school system, your freshman year, I would have all the kids start taking a class called show and tell and not in the sense like my six year old where she brings in her favorite toy and she tells you about it.

JT: (13:39)
It would be, show me how to shake hands. Tell me why it’s important. Show me attention to detail. Tell me why it’s important. Show me a certified financial planner and tell me that I can become one with no degree. Many people don’t know that and so how am I, how am I supposed to aspire to want to do these things when I don’t even know what exists in here? I’ll wrap up or this piece, here’s the travesty behind this whole thing. This is a factual point. 40% of all graduating youth in our country. I don’t care where you fall on the economic ladder, 40% of all graduating high school students will never go to college. But we expect you to go into society and be productive and we’ve not taught you how to shake a hand. We’ve not taught you punctuality. Attention to detail, high interest credit cards. You know, we’ve not given you the basic fundamentals to even have a chance in our society.

Derek: (14:38)
That’s the purpose of college. Go ahead Todd. 

Todd: (14:41)
I was just going to say I’m, I am so there with you JT, on every single thing you’re talking about here. The fundamentals are not taught. It is like backwards. They spend 12 years memorizing facts that are not going to get you a job when you get out. There’s not one class that I know of in irregular zero to 12th grade. That’s about selling a product, right? If you could just know that one thing and nothing else, you’d be fine. 

JT: (15:13)
Here’s, here’s my favorite piece and, and again, I’ve caught some, some hell for this. We’re still teaching that Columbus discovered America. Well, we know damn well he didn’t. And so it’s like, okay, we’re teaching Columbus day, but you don’t even teach children how to shake hands. How you know the details. Yes. things that you need a man. So when I was at the juvenile house, one of my favorite things, I said, okay, we’re going to start with the basics. Let’s shake hands, man. 40% of these kids. I said, okay, shake my head. They put their fist up to give me a pound. They didn’t, they didn’t even know how to shake hands. Right. And the ones that did give you the, you know, look down the limp handshake. And so I said, okay, now we’re going to practice. What would you say if you walk into burger King to get a job? And you know, cause these kids are trying to get their first jobs. And when, when a black kid walks up to me and he goes, y’all hiring and I go, not you. And, and so, but he didn’t even know. So I, I would practice with the, with the kids and I would teach them. When you walk in, you’re going to say, excuse me ma’am. Excuse me sir, do you have any employment opportunities? I said, you know why? Because no one is saying that when they walk in. And one of my proudest moments is about Six weeks later, every one of these kids had jobs. 

Derek: (16:44)

Todd: (16:45)
Wow. The basics.

Derek: (16:49)
And they applied the lesson, right? 

JT: (16:50)
They applied the lesson. Man, it was, I used to, I used to go in every Tuesday and my favorite thing is when these kids would just line up and say, Mr. McCormick, Mr. McCormick, I got a 10 cent raise. Mr. McCormick, they’re giving me more hours because they were proud that they work and they earned it. And it w it showed and it reflected. But no one had ever taught in that. And again, I’m just, I’m so convinced that we can change 30% of the landscape of the lower economic communities. And why is it 30%? We’re, we’re always gonna have those people who don’t want to change, who don’t want to put in the effort, who don’t care. Okay great. I don’t, I’m not talking to you, but for those people who just need to understand the power and capitalism, I truly believe that we could change that.

Derek: (17:40)
Okay. So let me ask you this question just a little bit outside the system cause I agree with you. So, so first I, I think a lot about the ideas of that. You know, Benioff has actually pitched this in the past, I don’t know if you know, that like the idea of adopting schools like companies and entrepreneurs and your quote unquote adopting schools, right? Cause the idea is that there’s the system of how schools are funded and then there’s the bureaucracy of how those funds are allocated. And then there’s a standardization for how we’re measured from a government standpoint to receive certain aid and metrics. I mean like what are your thoughts on how we provide more back to personalization support to enable actually elevate the standard in those schools that really want to really want to Excel beyond the rules that are in place. I think that’s one of the challenges that exists systemically right now in the, in the undergraduate or the, you know, the pre collegiate levels is that, you know, there was an established model that’s quote unquote working for some, but obviously not for many. So it’s like how do we, how do we work around the system in a way that it actually achieves the outcome you’re describing?

JT: (18:43)
You know, I mean, you know, this that’s such a long entangled government that the word government alone, that just slowed down the whole process. But it, that’s why for me, when I look at this, it doesn’t take any money to do what I’m saying. You start a class freshman year through your senior year called show and tell that that takes no, the only change that takes is implementing the class. No reallocation of funds, nothing. And, and it’s the damnedest thing. I have the incredible fortune. There’s, there’s 50 folks in our tribe that I, I work with. Every person in this company has a degree except me, 75% of them have master’s degrees and we’re talking people that have gone to university of Chicago, Duke law school, Harvard. And I went and I asked all of them, I said, did college teach you attention to detail? And all of them, no. Did they teach you how to shake hands? No. Unfortunately most of those types of lessons are learned within certain homes, but certain homes don’t, don’t even know how to teach those lessons. So why not take the, take it to the place where all of these kids go to school and you don’t even have to reallocate the funding. You don’t have to to sit there and go through a bunch of government red tape. This is literally implement a class called show and tell. That’s it.

Derek: (20:08)
Yeah, I make sense to me. It’s a perfect idea. So for you personally, how did you develop these skill sets? You don’t have the degree. I mean you’ve, you have, I know you looked at your background obviously, but like for you, you, you’ve learned it through personal, firsthand experiences as why you understand the idea of really showing someone, experiencing it yourself. So you can pass the lesson. Talk to us about where, where specifically those two lessons. 

JT: (20:30)
Oh man, did he learn it? You’re going to, you’re going to dig up some, some pretty raw stories here. So I’ll get, I’ll share three stories with you. One, where did I learn to shake hand or to to say hello? Be kind and show respect to everyone. So when I was eight years old, my father, my father was a black pimp and drug dealer back in the 70s he had 23 children and one weekend my father had me for the weekend and we’re walking through the grocery store for whatever reason, man, I’ll never forget this. I was eight years old and a little girl walks past me and she, she says, hi Javan my actual name is Javan. I didn’t say anything. I put my head down. I feel this massive blow to the back of my head. And my face, my face hits the ground, my nose starts bleeding, then I get snatched up and I got a forearm in my neck and I’m up against the damn frozen food section and my dad’s like two inches from my face.

JT: (21:26)
And he yells at me, he says, I don’t care who it is. You show respect. Be kind and say hello to everyone. Man. Since that day I’ve been saying hi to everybody. So and here’s the thing, I won’t teach my children that that way, but, but it’s a hell of a thing because it’s been so impactful. It’s one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned. 

Derek: (21:55)
Always going to be there. 

JT: (21:57)
Always going to be there. And then I’ll share my story of to you where I learned punctuality. You know, my, my stories came from some harsh places, man. So punctuality. I bounced around with a lot of relatives in and out of juvenile. I was in juvenile three times as a kid. I bounced around a two different relatives house and I ended up landing with one of my uncles. Yeah, my uncle Bobby, man, this was a, this was a good man. He only had me for about 18 months, but it was very influential. So summertime comes around and my uncle Bobby was a devout Jehovah witness. So he’s deep in the church and we were going on church vacation. Well, first of all, I didn’t even know what the hell vacation meant at that point. I’m like, you know, 13/14 years old. And so he did Friday night, he says, tomorrow morning we’re leaving at 10:00 AM great, 9:30 the next day comes around. My aunt Ida and my four cousins, they go to the grocery store. My aunt says, Hey Bobby, I’m gonna go get those nuts that you, you forgot. And he goes, uh uh, you forgot something and you’re trying to blame it on me and the nuts. And so I had figured out the dynamics of the house. I was like, okay, Uncle Bobby controls the money. I’m staying here.

JT: (23:08)
And so my aunt, my cousins went to the store. Long story short, about five minutes till 10 comes around, I say to my uncle Bobby hey i’m going to run upstairs, get my football. And he goes, I know what you’re doing. I’m leaving here. At 10 may at 10 o’clock rolls around, we get in the van, he shuts the door, starts the car, and we leave man. And this is like 81 82 there’s no cell phones. No, we leave my end cousins on church vacation. So we get to the place and lo and behold, about four hours later, who shows up? My aunt, my cousins, my aunt loses her mind. She’s in my uncle Bobby’s face. She’s yelling, she’s going at it. Five minutes straight, she stops and my uncle. Bobby says, are you finished? And she goes, yes. He goes, I said, 10 o’clock man. I, that was the day I learned punctuality. Like, okay, don’t be late. And to this day I tell people all the time, in fact, be 10 minutes early. No one’s ever gotten fired or missed an opportunity. I mean early, no one. So again, that’s another lesson that I teach the, the youth, you know, punctuality. In fact, here’s, here’s what I used to do. Show up a half hour early. And even if you, they have to go in and they’re like, Oh, bill, Susan JT is here to see you. Even if bill and Susan are like, Oh God, it’s 30 minutes early, guess what you get to do in the interview. You get to sit there and say, Hey bill, Susan, I apologize that I was early, but I’m a firm believer that no one’s ever gotten fired or missed an opportunity for being early that’s going to stay in their mind and they’re going, Oh wow. Impressive. So yeah man, my lessons have come from some harsh places.

Derek: (24:56)
Yeah. Well I mean, first off, thank you for that story, for both of those stories and for, you know, just sharing those. I mean that’s, unbelievable and enviable at the same time. So take it a step further. Punctuality, not just punctuality, but attention to detail broadly. I mean like that’s one example, but I mean like where, how has that carried over because I mean again, you’d through that experiences of that, of that how you grew up, right? How did you then transfer that into, where you, where you eventually gone?

JT: (25:20)
You know man. For me, every everything you do, I live by this. Some people will do their best work when they think everyone is watching them. HL2START The fact of the matter is people are watching when you don’t believe they’re watching. So in most cases when you think they’re watching, they’re actually not paying attention to you. It’s when no one’s around. That’s when people are actually watching how you perform. So I believe in who you are when no one is looking is who you are all the time. So if I go to the restroom right now here and there’s paper towels on the ground, great. They’ve got a cleaning crew that comes in and cleans up. But you know what? It’s going to take me two seconds to bend over and pick up those paper towels and put them in the trashcan. Why not do it? 

JT: (26:08)
Am I above picking up a paper towel? No. So, so it’s attention to detail. Everything you do, make sure you do it to the best of your ability. So, you know, even my first job when I cleaned toilets. This, when you say where did that come from? Actually, uncle Bobby’s the one told me attention to detail. But my first job was cleaning toilets out of high school. And I remember where the real attention to detail came from. We’ve all been to a restaurant where you go in and you get ready to sit down at the table when you pull out the chair and there’s crumbs in the chair, I used to take great pride in not only cleaning my table, but cleaning the chair and cleaning the salt and pepper shakers. It was interesting because a couple would come into this restaurant every day for lunch and they watch me for about three months. And then they offered me a job and I asked, I go, why? Why did you offer me the job? They said, we watch every day how you cleaned the table, you clean the chairs, you clean the salt and pepper shakers. I never knew somebody was watching me. So that really taught me that when you don’t think anyone’s watching, people are actually watching.

Derek: (27:18)
Yeah. So, okay. Translating this intention. So I love that. First off, we agree again, shared value. It depends how you do one thing is how you do everything. That’s a big quote that literally reminds me all the time. How are you translating this style, this, this well this ethos of who you are, right? How have you translated that into your team, into your companies? Obviously you’ve done it cause you’re, you guys consistently are winning best place to work, best culture, great team, great performance you’re doing all the things right. What have you done and what things do you do tactically speaking to really convey that and get that to be owned by your team so that it becomes their own behaviors in their own way of living.

JT: (27:57)
So I would say number one, and you know that one of, one of our great credentials that we’re very proud of is over a year ago we were named the number one company culture in America by entrepreneur magazine. And that was awesome. But our, our culture has a lot to do with what I called a bottom up mentality. Most people have this top down mentality. So I’ll explain bottom up. If you go to our, if you go to most companies about us page on their website, the first thing you see is the leadership, the C suite executives, founders, blah, blah, blah. Well, if you come to our about us page, you have to scroll to the bottom to find the leadership. So if you’re looking for me, you got to go through all the people who actually do the work long before you make it to me, I believe if you are in leadership, you are a direct support.

JT: (28:50)
HL3START You don’t have direct reports, you are a direct support. You support the organization in helping them achieve their career path, helping the clear roadblocks to make them be able to perform in their role. So as the CEO, my role 100% is to serve and support the organization. And so if you’re looking for me, you got to come to the bottom of the page. A couple other things we do because it’s never just one thing. Couple of other things. No one works for me. People work with me. No, I’m no one’s boss. I’m no more important in this organization than the other people that work with me. And why that’s important is yes, I’ve got three letters after my name, but three letters don’t make you a leader. I don’t give a damn what the letters are. You can have dr in front of your name, doesn’t make you a leader. You can have general in front of you. It doesn’t make make you a leader how you support serve people and lead people. That’s what makes you a leader and you’re only a leader if people allow you to lead. So it’s, that’s my, my belief in our philosophy throughout the organization. We just, again, we don’t do direct reports. You directly, if you’re in leadership, you directly support someone. That’s what your role is to support.

Derek: (30:04)
So you literally, just so I’m clear on this, you literally have no reporting structure. It’s the opposite. It’s literally it’s your support structure.

JT: (30:10)
It’s a support structure. We have no direct. So who, when something’s going on in the organization? We say, who is your direct support? Who directly support you?

Derek: (30:22)
The really, really interesting small detail, but again, that nuance of report versus support is a massive change and the energetic and like how that is perceived and how you conduct yourself as a peer, as a leader, as a, as a, as a mentor whatever you want to call it. Like it’s a totally different shift that I’ve, I’ve really, I mean that’s huge.

JT: (30:44)
Oh yeah. I’ll give you one row real fast too. Derek. I had a, Oh gosh, it was a teaching organization, I believe. They like superintendents or something and they said, JT, if you were the principal of a school, what would be one of the first things you would implement? I said if I was the principal at the school, the first thing that I would do is move my desk into the middle of the school and they go, what do you mean? I go everyone since I was a kid. Oh, the principal’s office. The principal’s office. If you truly are the principal, your number one role is to support the students and the teachers. How can you support them in a damn office? Be on the floor during classes, changing walking by the, the classrooms, asking teachers how’s everything going? Can I support you with anything? And it’s the same thing here in the office. My, my, my desk is on the middle of the floor and I’ve had so many people go I’ve got an open door policy where if you didn’t have a door, you wouldn’t have to have a policy. So I told, I tell people I have an open chair policy. You can come and sit down whenever you want. And I do believe that scales, if I’m not here to serve and support the people I work with, then what the hell is my role for?

Derek: (32:01)
So we shared values. So let me ask you this question. So in that same lens, because you are as your, as your default is to support and reach the best of others, obviously we know there’s challenges with performance. You got to manage things that are deficient or gaps or, or you know how they kind of evolve as a person, as an employee, as a team member. How do you, how do you do that? How do you personally, how do you do that when it comes to the tone that you set around management, managing the weaknesses, managing the gaps, managing the faults. And, and I mean put it even more bluntly, how do you manage terminating someone? Like, I mean is that even this, I mean I assume it is, we back to conscious capitalism. How do you navigate the conscious with the capitalism, right? And the context of your model.

JT: (32:40)
So, so a couple of things. One, first and foremost, and this is important for us, again, we’re, we’re big on vernacular in our culture. So we do not train. There is zero training. You train a horse, you train a dog, you train your body, you train a dolphin. We teach, we coach and we mentor because if you teach coach and mentor, people feel supported in that me just training you to do something and it’s like training the dog to do the same thing. Or you go to the gym and you train your, your body. Great. So we teach coach and mentor because we want people to know we’re vested in their careers as well. Now that’s called what it is. It’s business. Things don’t always work out. The greatest thing that we can do is when we have to exit somebody, we put together first, we have a 30 day plan, we identify what the problem is and we say, Hey, let’s work on this over the next 30 days.

JT: (33:36)
Let me pause there for a second. Important. We do not do quarterly reviews. I think it’s a travesty that if you’ve got a, if I underperform in January and you gotta wait til April 1st and tell me about it, that’s just a disservice to the individual. So we do what we call 30 day check-ins and if someone is stumbling, we make sure we identify that immediately by their direct support. Pull them to the side. We put together a 30 day plan. We made sure we’re starting to see improvement. If we’re not seeing improvement, we want to support them in the exit plan. If it’s not working out, it’s not working out. We’re, we’re, we, we generally, unless it’s just an egregious, you know, theft or something outrageous. We provide our folks with a four week severance and we want to give them an opportunity to find a place that that’s right for them.

JT: (34:34)
Pause there for a second. Here’s something else that’s very important with our culture and this, this comes directly from me. If someone says to me, TGIF, thank God it’s Friday, you might get fired because they thought it’s Monday. If you’re in a place, if you’re in a place that you got to trade two for five, you’re in the wrong place. So let’s, let’s just separate, you know, you’re, you’re a bad fit for us. We’re a bad fit for you. Go find a place that you are happier. And even if you’re not happier, you can’t be here. So if you’ve got to say thank God it’s Friday, no thank God it’s Monday, it’s Tuesday because there’s a lot of people that would thank God for this role right now. And last piece when this man I live by, the one mile radius rule, go outside your office, go outside your home and within a one mile radius there’s somebody that will trade places with you right now.

Derek: (35:32)
I’ve never heard that concept, but you know what that’s a really powerful idea. 

JT: (35:37)
And when, whenever, whenever, and you know, and it’s a mindset, you know, we, we all struggle. You know, something’s going on and you’re, you’re, you’re frustrated, you’re angry, whatever. But we have to check ourselves as individuals and say, okay, wait a minute. If I walk out of this store right now within a one mile radius, there’s somebody that will trade places and take this problem that I’m dealing with right now. 

Derek: (35:58)
Yeah. So let me ask you this question too, along, the idea of coaching and teaching and mentoring, do you even have a central part of the organization that is focused on education or is it everyone’s responsibility? 

JT: (36:09)
Everyone. We’re all, we’re all vested in, in growth. We have a monthly masterclasses from how to construct an email to how to conduct yourself on a, on a call to how to deal with challenging authors. You know, we work with authors just like this. Here’s, here’s another mindset. When you talk about the culture, we don’t have bad authors. The minute you say someone’s bad, you’ve put a negative outlook on it. And so, no, we have challenging authors. I mean, at the end of the day, these people are paying us, you know, our services aren’t cheap. So we don’t have bad authors, we have challenging authors. It’s just a different vernacular in a way to look at things. One of our, our core values is optimism. I don’t do negativity. I just, negativity has never changed or done anything for anyone. Optimism and being positive has moved mountains. So I choose to figure out, okay, this is the challenge. How do we solve it? Period.

Derek: (37:12)
I have so many more comments. Go ahead Todd. I can tell you’re chomping. 

Todd: (37:17)
I have so many JT. Oh my gosh. Jeez. I, and I hear in your, in the stories you tell the, the language you use is very carefully selected. Even you’re talking about not firing someone, someone’s, you call it an exit plan, exiting them and you said, let’s make a plan like we have something to solve, right? Good friend of mine back in Los Angeles, Dave Logan, do you know the book tribal leadership? 

JT: (37:48)
Oh yeah. 

Todd: (37:48)
Okay. Dave’s author of that and, and it’s all about language, right? The five stages that he’s kind of described around language. And I, I just love, I’m listening. And picking up on all these little nuances.

JT: (38:01)
Oh man, you gotta let me throw this in Todd. So, so here’s a big one with language. And people are like shocked when they joined the organization and they hear this, I always tell people don’t think and they’re like, what? I said, look, you think in the shower, you think in your bed at night looking at the ceiling, you think on your commute to work. But if you’re in the office, your on a call with an author, if you don’t think they’re paying us to know, and here’s my example of this. If the three of us, Derek, Todd, me, if the of us decide we’re going to go up Mount Everest, we’re going to pay our 80 grand. We’re going to get a Sherpa. We’re going to put on our backpacks, we’re high five and we’re excited. Yeah, we’re going up the mountain, Mount Everest. And then we look at the Sherpa and we say, Hey, are we going this way?

JT: (38:50)
If the Sherpa says, why think we’re going to hold the hell? What? What do you mean you think? No, I’m paying you to say no, we’re not going that way. We’re going here, base camp this night. Weather permitting. We’re going here whether or not permittee we’re coming back down this way. So I’m big on vernacular vocabulary words that that we’re going to use because they’re very influential in what you’re saying. If I’m on a call with you and I’m like, well Todd, I think the best thing would, wait a minute. I’m paying you 36,000. I’m not paying you to think I’m paying you to tell me what to do

Todd: (39:25)
This is exactly what to do. Yeah, I, I, that is a great one. It’s hard. Is it? Do you find that it’s hard for people to drop it even after they learn it and they like that idea?

JT: (39:35)
Oh, totally. But, but we call each other out on it. You, you, you’ll, you’ll walk around the office. Another big one that we use, and you’ll notice this in our conversation. I rarely say I’m constantly telling people, look, slow down. Think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t say um. 

Todd: (39:56)
Don’t tell them you’re thinking about it.

JT: (39:59)
I even said, I said, in fact, if you slowed down and you take pauses, the actual person that’s listening to you will be more engaged because they’re going to start thinking about, okay, what are they saying? What are they waiting for? So always slow down. Think about your next word. Don’t just put a filler in there. Like no. Slow down. Take your time. You, if you’re engaged in the conversation, they have to listen to you.

Todd: (40:30)
There’s so much good stuff for your Derek, do you, I got another one. I’ve got a few different directions to go and I’ve been.

Derek: (40:37)
Go ahead.

Todd: (40:37)
In the very beginning, JT you talked about something, I actually did a talk on this at an event that I emceed which is there’s things you know, there’s things you don’t or things you know you don’t know. And then there’s this mysterious world of stuff you just had no idea. You didn’t even know what a barista was. You didn’t know that you could make money at a certain job without a degree. How do you, how do you get people through the, through the barrier, how do you get people to want to seek out those things? Like other than if they happen to be at your company or at the classes that you’ve worked with that they do their show and tell, like how do you get people to find out things they don’t even know are even in existence?

JT: (41:23)
So you know, a couple of things there, I’ll touch on what I find maybe three different sections. One, I’ll give you an example with us internally. One of our company principles is ask questions, why that one is so near and dear to me because I’m the one that added it to there. I have built a career out of asking questions to this day. I will sit in meetings and again I’m sitting in rooms with people that have gone to Harvard and again, all the, all the credentials and so they’re, they’re writers. I’m around a bunch of creatives and intellects don’t use vocabulary words that I have no clue what they’re saying. It’s all say wait a minute, time out. What’s that mean? And I do it for two reasons. One because I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but two, because I want people in the room to see.

JT: (42:12)
That’s what I mean by ask questions. Someone challenged me on this. They said, I put in there, there is no such thing as a dumb or stupid question. Shout out to mrs D deck, my third grade teacher who taught me that. But someone challenged me and they said, JT, that’s not true. And I go, okay, how? So? They said, what about the person who asked the same question over and over and over? I said, the dumb or stupid person is the person who keeps answering the same question over and over and over. Because obviously you’re not explaining yourself. This person’s not getting it or they just don’t care either way. It’s not the person asking the question over and over, that’s dumb or stupid. It’s the person who’s answering it. So to your point, I’m big on asking questions. Something I do believe has to come early in life where we express to our children, the youth in school. No question is dumb. You know, with our organization, people come on their first week of onboarding. This is, this is factual. Most companies, we all know this. You can get fired for asking too many questions. I express to people on their first day. You can get fired here for not asking enough questions if you make a mistake because you’re so prideful that you didn’t want to look dumb. You can’t be a part of this tribe, you’ve got to go.

Derek: (43:39)
I love it, man. I’ve seriously, like we’ve done a lot of interviews, but personally for me personally as a fellow leader, I’m getting a ton of value just reminding me and just hearing someone else doing the good work and modeling it. It’s really, it’s really inspiring. I’ve taken a ton of notes just to, just stuff like, Oh yeah, and that and that and that. Right. And just, it’s really, it’s, this has been a really fun interview. Just hearing you kind of apply the lessons that instinctually I think we, we know as leaders or at least we should be applying. Right. So so let me ask you a question. Where as this continues to evolve for you, I mean, obviously you’re, in my opinion, you seem like you’re just getting started and you’ve got a very young family. You’re still a young guy. I mean, where do you, where do you see your career as a leader, as a business person, as an entrepreneur, as a conscious capitalist? Where do you see that evolving over the next decade?

JT: (44:30)
You, know Derek, I’ve been so fortunate that I believe I found my lane in life. I love business. I love leadership, scale growth companies, you know, for, for me, being able to watch Bloomberg or CNBC and just the, the markets and business and who’s making what decisions. I love Bob Iger and what he’s done with Disney and all the acquisitions and just leadership styles. I will share this, I won’t go off on a tangent here, but what I find interesting in leadership as well, go to LinkedIn, go to any blog posts where wherever you consume content, and it’s funny, everyone is sharing, Oh Jeff Bezos top five things to success. Steve jobs, top 10 things he did to be successful. But then we turn around and we have the audacity as a society to say that we learned the most from our mistakes. Well, I don’t give a damn about his five things he did to be successful. Give me the top 10 mistakes. That’s what I can learn from. So I find it interesting that in our society, no one is sharing mistakes. Everyone’s on LinkedIn and telling you all the good things they did and awards they’ve won, but no one’s sharing mistakes. So for me, every Tuesday I post lessons that I’ve learned throughout my career, mistakes that I’ve made. And I’m a big believer that you only fail if you stop trying. And what I mean by that is we all make mistakes in life and in business. But you only fail if you stopped trying. HL4END And where did that first hit me? I was 2021 years old and I was reading the book thinking grow rich. And I’m paraphrasing here, there was a story about Thomas Edison and how it took him 10,000 times to, you know, discover electricity, the light bulb. And he said, did I fail 10,000 times or did I find 10,000 ways it didn’t work?

JT: (46:21)
And from that day forward, everything for me became okay, as long as I learn, grow and don’t repeat my mistakes, that’s what the goal is. So I love business. I’m fortunate to be in this lane. I grew up in chaos. So business for me became a very safe Haven. It’s structured, it’s routine, it’s consistent. You can measure it, man, when you grow up in chaos. Oh my God, it’s, you know, there’s none of that. So this became a bit of a safe Haven for me. But as, as a company right now, we, I, I referred to us as the, the true unicorn. We’re five years old, no private equity, no VC money, and we’re profitable name a five year old company that can say, I go, we’re real unicorns. So, you know, but we have no, we have no desire to go IPO. We have no desire to, to sell. We love what we do. It’s meaningful work. We’re providing a phenomenal culture, benefits to people. It’s, I really enjoy the people aspect of it. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re doing this for, is to, to make the world for for you a better place. And for those that work with you, a a better place. So I damn sure don’t want to go IPO, man. I’ll never report to shareholders. Just, I, I refuse to do that. Some broken stuff over there. 

Derek: (47:47)
Yeah. So man, this has been, I’m just blown away. I love it man. It’s like kindred spirits, different worlds, but kindred spirits and so, yeah.

Todd: (47:59)
And JT, I am 100% gonna recruit you. I’ve been dying to do an idea that I have called failure Fridays where we do like a little mini podcast episode.

JT: (48:09)
See man you should do mistake Mondays. 

Todd: (48:14)
Mistake Mondays. I just, I really, really love that. And I think there’s, you know, there’s value in your own learning about yourself when you share and reflect on those things. But for your team that you’re supporting to see you share where you screwed up is, is really valuable. And I just, I can’t say how much I really admire what you’re doing there.

JT: (48:35)
I appreciate that. I, I say to people all the time and when I was a first time president of a software company, especially, cause I don’t write code, Oh my God, the mistakes that I made, but the fact of the matter is, again, you only fail if you stop trying. So for me, I’ll just never stop trying. I’ll just keep going. You know, I got a lot of failed relationships cause we broke up and we stopped trying. Okay, so that you failed there. But as far as business goes, the goal is to learn, grow, and not repeat the mistakes. So here we encourage people to say, I don’t know. It’s okay. You know, I’ll sit in a room all the time and I tell people my role is CEO. My role is not to know all the answers. As a matter of fact, here are my three leadership lessons, rule number one, surround the company with people far smarter than yourself. Rule number two, surround yourself with people far smarter than yourself. Rule number three, repeat rules one and two. That’s it. I’m done.

Derek: (49:38)
So on that line then, tactically, what, what’s your personal habits for learning, for education, you know, for, for educating yourself and how do you expose yourself to that level of growth and, and you know, just comfort if you will, in the path of mastery. Like how do you, how do you do those things personally?

JT: (49:54)
Yeah, you’re asking me a question that if you entertain me for a second, I’m gonna give you a broader answer. So how do I surround myself with learning growth? Whatever. One, I’m not a fan and everyone knows this. I don’t buy into the work life balance stuff. The fact of the matter is we all have to work and we all have to provide for our families. There is just life. And for me the people say, well what does that mean for you? We’ll figure out what your pillars are. I keep my pillars at five God, health, family, business, and investing. If it doesn’t fall within those five pillars, I don’t do it. I love golf, loved golf. But golf takes four and a half hours to play around. And I’d rather spend that time with my children playing on the floor or doing, doing whatever.

JT: (50:42)
I love football. But unless Tom Brady’s sending me part of his, his $20 million contract, I really don’t give a damn. So I, I figured out what are my pillars? And it just pains me when you hear people running around all the time talking work, life balance. Oh, the four day work week. Don’t pick your phone up in the morning, don’t work. All these hours. Don’t work 50 60 hours, but no one ever addresses the life side. How about you not binge-watch Friday from Sunday. The fact that binge-watching is a turn is disgusting and you know and, and how about you not stand in line 24 hours for the new iPhone that does two new things than the stuff you already have. You know how, how about you not eat like crap and then complain that you’re 30 pounds overweight? Take some accountability, take responsibility for something. When’s the last time somebody said, I binged studied my 401k all weekend?

JT: (51:37)
When’s the last time somebody said that? No, no one says that. So when you come back to the point of what do I do? I just immerse myself in reading Bob Iyengar’s book. We were so fortunate and I’ve been so fortunate that I’ve grown up with the internet. The amount of information that is out there. The great majority of my personal net worth has been made in stock trading. And the way I taught myself to stop trade was all publicly traded companies have to report all of their financials so you can go study their balance sheets, the annual statement, I’m like, wow, they give you this for free. It’s almost like you should be legal that you can do this. I’m like hold on, you can put $100 in, turn it into a thousand and turn it into 10 and I’m like, okay, somebody’s gotta be coming to get this money sometime or another.

JT: (52:34)
But it’s all about what do you want to do? Do you want to consume yourself watching nonsense videos on on YouTube or do you wanna watch actual instructional content that can help you learn, grow and be successful at whatever you want. And then the last piece I’ll say to this, Derek, and this is more geared towards maybe those entering into their careers. And it probably a lot of older people too, don’t let Instagram and Facebook define success for you. It’s so many people get caught up in looking at somebody with the house, the cars, the money, whatever. And they’re allowing things to be defined for them. Success can only be defined by the individual and you can’t let Facebook and Instagram define success for you.

Derek: (53:26)
Yeah. Steals your joy. Literally. Man, this has been so we’ve had some amazing guests on. This has been one of my favorite interviews. I have to say that truly like this has been, I mean again, I really have valued this time and just really appreciative that you spent it with us, JT, and I’m really pleased to know that there’s guys like you out there in business and in leadership and that are striving to make a difference in the world and, and positioning themselves yourself in organizations that can do so. And I’m just excited to work with you, support you, and to be a part of that journey together over the next however long it goes, man. So I’m just really, really grateful for you right now.

JT: (54:01)
My man, Derek, Todd, I appreciate it guys. Mindset choices and hard work equals success.

Derek: (54:08)

Todd: (54:09)
Love it. Love it. It was fantastic. JT appreciate you taking the time buddy. 

JT: (54:14)
Excellent. Thanks guys. 

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