Great leaders know that adversity produces the greatest opportunities in life. I would say I could tell somebody, like so much about somebody, the way they handle a situation when it isn't going perfectly. It could be a car accident, some issue at work. You can just tell, right? You saw these, the way these people just react. And they're flipping out and it's a huge difference between somebody who's like, okay, there's nothing we can, like it happened, we can acknowledge something happened, how do we learn from it and get better to solve the problem. It's really solution-based versus problem-based. I told you guys my first business failure. That was an extremely humbling experience. And I had put probably hundreds of thousands of my own money into the business. I was investing in real estate when I was in the Navy. I was actually, bought an apartment building, was living in one of the units and renting everything else out. And I'd done really well and got out, decided I was gonna do th...
is big training facility 'cause in California, especially the southern part, there's not a lot of areas for police and law enforcement, fire, military to train. There's just a lack of real estate. And then you have a lot of, for good reason, environmental restrictions. And so we wanted to build this training center where the fire departments could come in and drive ambulances on a racetrack. The police could do the same and do high-speed chases 'cause at the time, and I think they're still doing it, they'll use stadium parking lots, and just when the stadium's not in use, they'll clear it out and it's just not as safe, and it's just not as practical. So I had this big idea to do this training facility. And boy, did I make some mistakes. I got involved with just, because of money, really, it's like, oh people would buy their way into partnership, and I was giving away equity. And it just started getting messy. And so, I mean, I learned lessons about partnership, even consultants. You know, there's like red flags now that I see. For instance, we make this gear, we have this gear club I was telling you guys about. We're now starting to manufacture our own equipment and go to factory direct, with our own designs, and getting the same kind of terms, like net payment terms as we would for, say, an equipment manufacturer. We could just go to the factory and say, deliver the product, we design, and 60 days later we'll pay you. And so I had this factory approach us. No problem, we can meet all your terms. I sent a guy, flew a guy out from the West Coast to visit the factory and we put our master sales agreement in front of them and then I get a phone call. Hey, we need money for raw materials. And we need money for this and money for that. And I told this guy, I said, look, like we're way, way down the process for you to be bringing, you telling me you don't understand that you had to buy steel to make a multi-tool? You're just figuring that out now? But it was like immediately a red flag for me. And I terminated the relationship immediately. I would have never known that had I not learned that lesson in my first loss of my business because sometimes you have to learn things through the smaller losses. You guys know the story, but for the sake of the people that are gonna tune in, I ended up losing the business because we went through a 3 1/2 year permit entitlement process. Bought the land. Got everything approved by the county. And then it was really a combination of two things happening. The housing market collapsed. Like everyone's seen that movie, The Big Short? That happened. And then a big environmental group, who was really acting like they didn't like a group of military guys were trying to do this facility. And so we were getting kinda biased a bit, but they went after the county and sued the county. And the county said, okay, we'll fight it, but you're gonna pay for it. Imagine writing the government a blank check to go fight a legal battle. Forget about it (laughs) like I knew enough about that, I'm not having this government bureaucracy manage this legal fight. I mean, you just write blank checks. Plus our capital dried up, like our access to capital just went away during the housing crisis. And if you guys watched that movie The Big Short, like the people that were paying attention made a fortune 'cause all the signs were there. They weren't that hard to figure out. So again, back to that lesson on situational awareness. Sometimes it's like all the signs are right in front of you if you actually take time to look. So I would say that failure was one of my biggest reasons that I was able to build a successful business today. Okay, so adversity. Don't just react right away. Adapt and thrive. Can anyone relate to that? Like something bad happens and someone, a friend or their family just handles something the way you wouldn't handle it? Can anyone wanna share a story about that? Don't be shy.
Talking about a success story?
No, I'm talking about adversity. I'm back to adversity.
Have you been in a situation where all hell breaks lose and that you've seen the way someone has handled either in a good way or a bad way?
Yeah. Well, my dad he's a contractor/laborer for years and eventually he wanted to own his own company. So he's an entrepreneur. And I didn't realize it until now that I'm trying to do the same thing, but he works out here in the city on a larger scale commercial level. And when he's, I mean, stuff happens like every single day when I'm talking to him on the phone. Like I'm worried about like little things as a photographer, I'm talking like, oh, my automated emails didn't send (murmurs) He's like, yeah, we're retrofitting the Bay Bridge and this thing didn't come in and I had to stop the entire four lanes of traffic. I'm like, oh. But he never freaks out, ever. Every single time some huge thing happens, he's like, well, I just had to either reschedule it and we re-routed it. It's very logical. He does not let his emotions get into play there, ever. Afterward, he'll kinda decompress and freak out at home, but not in the moment, never does, ever. And he's one of the best get stuff done guys that I know, so yeah, he's one of my prime examples.
It's like I said earlier, you can tell a lot about a person the way they handle that kind of, when they handle like stuff that happens. I'll tell you a couple stories. So we had one of our largest advertising clients, it was a credit union. You know, the banks generally, credit unions, very conservative, as like an organization. And one of my media properties is a news site run by veterans. That site does apolitical news and all the journalists are veterans. We have some, maybe some CIA analysts, intel people, the people that really know what's going on in the world. And the site focuses on foreign policy, security, and military news. And it's one of our biggest sites. And we ended up, I ended up having this guy, Chris Beck, come to me, who was a Navy SEAL and says, I'm now Kristen Beck. And so it was the first transgender Navy SEAL. And she had retired and wanted to come out. And so we had this, at the time, I was more involved in the editorial side of things. We had this pretty big story, right? This was, I don't know, god, it was probably, I forget, I'm gonna guess, but I would say 2015? And so we broke the story and it was crazy. Like traffic everywhere. I was getting calls from The New York Times, CNN, Fox, everybody wanted to get access and interview the first transgender Navy SEAL. And the day the story broke, I was at a meeting talking about a multi-million dollar ad campaign with this credit union. And by the time the meeting ended and I got to the airport, I got a call from their agency and said, pull all our ads off, we're not advertising with you anymore. And I was like, wow, that's a couple million bucks gone. And an existing campaign. They're like, we're out, everything off the site. And my reaction was okay, you know, I can get upset about this, 'cause I did, I'm human just like everybody else. I was literally thinking like, you bunch of bigots. I was having that thought. I'm like, how many of your, it was a military credit union, I was like how many of your customer base is in the LGBT community? And then I was like, nope, I can't. I have to just be practical about how to deal with the situation. And I thought about it, I thought it through. I was like they're, I don't know whether it's the credit union or the ad agency, but they're gonna figure this out that this is a bad thing for them to do. But in the meantime, how do I, it made me really think about how we make money on the news. And I said, we're gonna go subscription because, and we did, like within a week we communicated to our audience and said, this has happened, and this is an example of the tail wagging the dog, where advertisers are trying to put pressure on you to do certain content. And it made me just completely, it was the first time that we had considered doing a digital subscription. People were like, oh, you're crazy. This is the craziest idea. But then there was a whole, our majority of our audience base said, yeah, we get it. We're coming along with you for the ride. And now that's an extremely profitable piece of our business, but just the way I looked at it and then CNN called me, Anderson Cooper's news unit and said, we wanna do a documentary and work with you on this. And I was like, yeah, absolutely. We did the first couple news hits with Anderson Cooper, and then the credit union had a change of heart, like that, and came in. The agency called me, it was like, okay, it's back on. But how do you deal with those certain things in crisis, it really, I just realized that's out of my control. I can get angry and yell and scream, but at the end of the day, is it really gonna have an affect? What can I do right now that's solution-based and that is in my control and that I can have an impact on? And I chose to act the way I just described to you. Another situation, the same news site. It's called SOFREP.com. We may rebrand it, but that's what it's called today. One of my guys, my managing editor and one of the journalists got a hold of this ambush video that was, I don't know if you, it was, I think four US special forces got ambushed in Niger. And we actually broke that story. And a lotta people had no idea that we had troops in Niger. And we ended up getting a hold of, one of the guys had a GoPro cam on, and the bad guys got the GoPro footage, did a propaganda video. We grabbed the video, we found it, stripped out the propaganda, and my guys decided, my editor Jack Murphy, he said, they launched this video. And I remember I got out of the pool on a Monday and saw my personal social media, like my author pages just blown up by, it was like the trolls have invaded. And the stuff, I was like, what the hell is happening? What's going on? I have no idea, but they were just outraged over the fact that this video went up. And it was crazy. Like the death threats, threatening my family, kids, like there was this whole group of people on the internet that was just like, how dare you show this? And of course, it's the same group that's showing other videos. And it was bad. Like then we had another advertiser see that this was happening 'cause it was, the news site does a certain thing, but we had our entertainment site that shared a common name and that was something I talked about in an earlier lesson, about the brand separation was a huge lesson I learned. We were having like a, I don't wanna say it was a crisis, but it was definitely a minor PR crisis. Our existing fan base, who follow the news site, they knew that that's what we do, but there was this whole other new group that were just outraged. And you guys have all seen how fast the people kinda light the torches on the social media sites and the mob gathers. And I lost a couple of million in ad revenue with the span of a week, couple million ad revenue. A girl I had just started to date left. And I for sure it was the stuff that she was reading on my Instagram. I was like, wow, okay. I guess that's, and I was like, that's actually a blessing, right? Like sometimes these things happen and you're like, okay, I can see people's true colors come out. And some of my team was flipping out. Like they didn't, and I was like, calm down. Like look, I'm being affected. And me and a couple of editors on our personal social media accounts, way more than you guys, like just settle down, take a deep breath, and we got to figure out one, how are we're gonna deal with the situation? How are we gonna talk to our fan base, our audience base? And then what lessons can we learn and apply right now? And that was it. Like I didn't get, I was stressed out for half a minute and then realized okay, this is completely out of my control. This is something I have to deal with. I have a guy that helps me manage my social media account, I blocked or lost close to a thousand followers in a week. And I was like, good riddance. Those are not the kinda people I want to follow me anyway. The ad revenue hurt, but again, I know that that, back to that other story, I just know that that's the game that exists currently within news media especially. Advertisers, they wanna be around safe content, but news isn't always safe, which is unfortunate 'cause that, the way the current system is, it's set up to where you don't always get like the true investigative journalism like we used to do years ago. You get safe stuff that's like tailored to a certain group. And that's extremely unfortunate. But the point is how my company reacted in that situation. My team did a great job and I was extremely proud. We took this other video channel and said we've got to just rebrand it. It has nothing to do with the news, but it had a common name and people were automatically, it was getting bias from the sponsorship point of view too and it should be completely separate. And we saw some of our other brands were completely unaffected because we had brand separation, so that was a huge learning experience for myself. So I honestly can look you in the eye and say when bad stuff happens, and it doesn't matter if it's a family health thing, I'm like, okay, there's something to be learned here. There's always some gold in there no matter how bad the situation is. And I just, when you have a habit of looking at stuff like that, the way you deal with stuff, and bad stuff happens to all of us. It's a really powerful way to live your life and just not let adversity take control. I just put a comment in there about records are broken in the arena, not in practice. That's more of an Olympic reference, but you've got to get out there in the real world and do stuff and experience adversity 'cause there's no, I don't think we can think of any world record that's been broken in some practice session, right? And one thing I learned in SEAL training, and there's been times when I was like, how am I gonna get to breakfast, let alone the next 15 minutes, and I showed up out of those 220, I was singled out. I was in probably the worst shape out of all the people in that class. I could meet the bare minimum requirements to get in, but I had no idea how much I should have been training, and so every day was a special day for me. I got singled out, put on this extra list that's called the goon squad. Like it was a rough couple, rough, probably six weeks for me. And it's that saying, right? Sometimes you get through life by just, like you eat an elephant, one bite at a time. Sometimes you just have to take things a step at a time. Has anyone had anyone they know that's experienced trauma in their life and it's just kind of taken control and they can't let it go? Like it's become their identity? Does anyone wanna share?
Yeah. I actually had a friend whose husband left her for her best friend. And it was like 15 years ago, and she talks about it like it just happened yesterday and we're just trying to be like, I mean, you'd be so much happier if you would just move on. He's married and they have a baby now, and like it's really time for you to find your own life. But she, it's just like this bone she can't let go of.
Yeah. No, that's a great example. I see it so many different places, including like divorce is one. I have friends that just can't let go of the, they just can't stop talking about it. Or even the way it shows up to me, where I see it the most, especially for own SEAL community, guys are at the top and they have a certain identity, and then they can't transition and let go. So I put it in this section because usually it's some type of trauma or adversity that people can't let go and move forward. And I see it also in career identity. It's like you had, yeah, you were a SEAL, that's great. But outside of the SEAL teams at Starbucks, five bucks will get you the same cup of coffee, right? Like, that's what it'll get you. You got to still pay like everyone else. And so guys in my own community struggle 'cause they're like, how come I can't, I'm a SEAL, I should be doing, I should be successful and have all these things. I'm like, no, you got to work at it just like everybody else. And part of that is letting go. You have to transition, let the past go, and transition on to the future. And it's just like adversity. It does you no good to sit there and dwell on it. Even had snipers, we used to call it, you take a shot, and if you miss, it's like, oh, it's gone. You can't take it back. You just got to make the next one count. So it's just so important. I put that in there 'cause it's something that shows up to me, I see it all the time. I see the veterans that can transition and do really, really well. And there's a lot of groups that just can't. And it's the same guy I see wearing the, guy and gal, they wear the hats, like veteran this and that, they just can't let go and they're just almost in a cage of identity, and they just can't drop it and become something else. So I see that in a lot of people with, like you're saying, with relationships, a career, and they just can't let go, let go of that past career, or that trauma or adversity, and just give it up and move on. And this is my friend's book. It's a great book, Kamal, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. He also, I put his other book on there, Rebirth, which is a novel, but it's really based on his true story. It's a beautiful book. And a lot of what we just talked about, Kamal writes about in that book as well. Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It and Rebirth, by Kamal Ravikant. And Kamal, he was involved with WebMD. Built a successful business in Silicon Valley. If you guys know like AngelList? Kamal's brother, Naval, that's his brother who started AngelList. Kamal's involved in that as an equity owner. But great books. And he's had an incredible life journey, dealing with depression, and kind of how he had to deal with it, that he writes about in those books.