Jim McKelvey is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, and artist.  He cofounded the mobile payments company Square and sits on the Board.  He also founded Invisibly, a digital content company, LaunchCode, a nonprofit that teaches technology literacy, and a glass art studio. His book is called The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He has never had a life plan and because of that, he’s become very comfortable with uncertainty.
  • He was a state debate champion and owed much of his success to the ability to read the judges and adjust his strategy accordingly.
  • “If you want to be successful and make some money, copy what works. But if you want to have a phenomenally successful company, you have to do something original.”
  • The big insight was rather than going after an existing market of merchants already using credit cards, Square decided to go after a market that didn’t even exist – the tiny mom and pop merchants without access to the credit card payment networks.
  • They designed a small card reader that looked really cool and got your attention but was flimsy and difficult to use. But the novelty of it turned every Square sale into a Square advertisement. This allowed the product to go viral without needing to spend one dollar on advertising.
  • What allowed Square to survive a competitive attack by Amazon and thrive as a standalone company was their innovation stack. An innovation stack is a series of innovations needed to provide a new product or service and that collectively work together to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Training as an artist was a big help in mentally preparing to be an entrepreneur.
  • “Excellence is something that’s above and beyond normal good. It’s something that’s surprisingly wonderful.”

 

Show Notes

Book: The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

Non-profit: LaunchCode

New startup: Invisibly

John Mackey is the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market and co-founder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism. He is a co-author of the book Conscious Capitalism as well as his latest book called Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He had a food consciousness awakening when he moved into a vegetarian coop in his 20s. He learned that food could affect the way you feel, your health, vitality, and overall intelligence.
  • Early on, the conventional supermarkets didn’t take Whole Foods and the natural foods sector seriously since it was a relatively small industry. By the time they got to scale and supermarkets started to pay attention, Whole Foods was a formidable competitor.
  • John came close to being fired by the Board at Whole Foods. That’s when he turned inward and learned to be a more conscious, more emotionally intelligent, more spiritually awake leader.
  • There’s no better time to learn and grow than during challenging times. “Crisis is a tremendous opportunity to accelerate your own life growth, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually.”
  • The higher purpose of Whole Foods is to nourish people and the planet. As you scale an organization, you can’t take purpose for granted. If you want the purpose to stay alive, you have to put purpose first which means embodying it and teaching it.
  • Leading with integrity entails integrating one’s shadow which is the part of our being which we aren’t conscious of. Generally the things that we don’t like about ourselves are easier to repress from our consciousness and keep in the shadow.
  • “Excellence is doing something with all your attention and all your heart as best that you can do it.”

Show Notes

Whole Foods Market

Books:

Conscious Leadership

Conscious Capitalism

Jimmy Wales is the founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and co-founder of the privately owned Wikia, Inc. including its entertainment media brand Fandom.  Wales serves on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit charitable organization he established to operate Wikipedia. In 2019, Jimmy launched WT Social – a news focused social network. In 2006 Jimmy was named in Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ for his role in creating Wikipedia.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Jimmy was an avid reader as a child and used to devour the World Book Encyclopedia.
  • He took a cautious and conservative approach to entrepreneurship, taking manageable risks, learning to fail fast, and always spending less money than what he took in.
  • “I like to get up and do the most interesting thing I can think of to do and I try to live my life like that every day.”
  • The core value of Wikipedia, which is to present high quality, neutral, factual information, is what allows the organization to maintain its integrity and consistency.
  • He set a very aspirational mission for Wikipedia which is to give every person on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
  • The success of Wikipedia is staggering. It’s now a top 5 website globally with over 54 million articles in 300 languages and 1.5 billion visitors each month and growing.
  • To be a successful leader, you have to have clear and consistent values that people can buy into.
  • “Excellence is about doing something interesting and having fun. It’s got to be interesting because otherwise what’s the point?”

Jim McCloskey is the founder of Centurion Ministries, an organization devoted to exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners who are serving life or death sentences.  To date, the organization has freed 64 innocent people. His new book is titled: When Truth Is All You Have: A Memoir of Faith, Justice, and Freedom for The Wrongly Convicted.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Today there are dozens of innocence organizations but Centurion Ministries was the first one. Jim was the father of the entire innocence movement.
  • He learned first-hand early on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
  • He was able to leverage his consulting background piecing together market research to figure out how to solve these wrongful convictions.
  • Building a relationship and rapport with key witnesses was just as vital to proving these cases and Jim had a natural ability in that regard.
  • Not every case would work out. He sometimes had false positives – clients he was trying to help who he later learned were actually guilty.  When that happens, it’s important to just admit the mistake and move on.
  • “This is a story of how I learned what a cruel, mindless, mean machine the justice system can be. How, in trying to combat evil in the world, the system can become just as evil – more so, because it is evil done in the name of all of us.”
  • To date, Centurion Ministries has freed 64 innocent men and women who collectively had spent 1,350 years behind bars.
  • “Excellence is doing what you feel is right for you given your personality and makeup.”

Links

Book: When Truth Is All You Have: A Memoir of Faith, Justice, and Freedom for the Wrongly Convicted

Organization: Centurion Ministries

Sarah Frey is the founder and CEO of Frey Farms which she founded at the age of 16.  The farm grows thousands of acres worth of fruits and vegetables.  Dubbed “the Pumpkin Queen of America” by the New York Times, she sells more pumpkins than any other producer in the United States.  She is also the owner of Tsamma, a bottled watermelon juice sold in over 1,500 stores all over the country.  Her new book is titled The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life – and Saved an American Farm.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Because she grew up poor and had to spend most of her free time doing chores around the farm, she learned to use her active imagination to escape.
  • Growing up without means was a strong motivator to find the freedom to live a better life and to have more control over her own destiny.
  • Her lack of scale and sophistication early on (no warehouses, distribution centers, extra drivers) became a competitive advantage, as delivering direct to the stores meant fresher and higher quality produce for the customers.
  • A lot of her success was due to her ability to exude confidence, even when she really wasn’t sure what she was doing.
  • Scrappiness is in her company’s DNA. A core philosophy from the beginning and just as relevant today is how to do more with less.
  • Always make sure that the customer’s needs are met. “Take care of the customer today and they will take care of you in the future.”
  • She doesn’t look for the polished, well educated, perfectly buttoned-up kinds of people but rather, the ones that have some imperfections. “Often the most imperfect people are the sweetest on the inside.”
  • “Excellence is loving what you do.”

 

Links:

Book: The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life – and Saved an American Farm

Frey Farms

Tsamma watermellon juice

Alain Robert is the world’s leading free climber and is known all over the world as the “French Spiderman” for free climbing skyscrapers. He has climbed 163 buildings in 70 different countries. He has a documentary on Amazon Prime titled My Next Challenge and is the author of a book With Bare Hands: The True Story of Alain Robert, the Real-Life Spiderman.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • His insecurity as a child was the early motivation to try something to build confidence and to stand out.
  • He didn’t start climbing because he wasn’t afraid of heights. He climbed in spite of his fear of heights.
  • Alain used to do free solo rock climbing and was considered by many to be the best in the world.
  • As climbing gained in popularity, he lost interest. “Climbing wasn’t about racing or competing but about freedom and self-expression.”
  • Most people aren’t really enjoying their lives. They do what they need to do to make a living but are bored with their work and just live for the weekends.  They are wasting most of their lives away.
  • “It takes a certain amount of energy to climb a building. If you have the energy, you’ll make it to the top.  If you don’t, you’ll die.”
  • “What scares me the most is a boring life.”
  • “Most people are dreaming their life but I was on the other side living my dream.”

Colin Follenweider is one of the top professional stuntmen in Hollywood. He has performed stunts in Spider-Man, Transformers, Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America, Avatar, and Die Hard and has 86 total stunt credits to his name.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He is one of Hollywood’s top stuntmen and has performed stunts in dozens of blockbuster films.
  • It’s good to know the direction you’re heading, even if you’re not sure of the ultimate destination.
  • His motto was “Action, Inspiration”. If you always wait for inspiration to hit, you’re going to keep waiting.  But if you start doing something, you’re going to get inspired how to do it.
  • He wasn’t necessarily the best at every kind of stunt but he could do most stunts well enough and unlike many stunt people, he was really easy going. People enjoyed hanging around him which made them want to work with him again and again.
  • Stunt work is a highly collaborative effort. “Spiralling in” is when you start with lots of ideas around the outside and slowly tweak them on the way toward reaching a compromise that works for everyone.
  • Even if you’re very confident in something, when you lose your nervousness about it and you take it for granted, that’s when accidents are most likely to happen.
  • “The pursuit of excellence is more important than the accomplishment of saying ‘I’m excellent’. Being mildly disappointed helps the pursuit of excellence, as you’re always striving to get better.”

David Fajgenbaum is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the associate director for the Orphan Disease Center.  He is also cofounder and executive director of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network and the cofounder of the National Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers Support Network. He has received numerous awards including the Forbes “30 Under 30” for healthcare and the RARE Champion of Hope Award for science.  His memoir is titled Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • David has a hyperfocus variant of ADHD which allows him to focus for hours upon hours on a topic which has enabled much of his success.
  • The way he started living life with no regrets was through his new mantra: “Think it, do it”. If he thinks about doing something and it’s really important, he doesn’t over think it like he used to.  He just does it.
  • He was able to see humor even in the most dire of circumstances. “I came to understand that in no situation other than facing death is a sense of humor more necessary. Humor made me look my suffering in the eye and laugh at it. Facing my horrible moments with laughter was just as fundamentally a rejection of Castleman’s dominion over me as anything else I was doing.”
  • We still have a long way to go. 95% of the 7,000 rare diseases that affect 30 million Americans don’t have a single FDA approved therapy.
  • Either you’re hopeful and you wait for that thing you’re hoping for to become reality or you’re very action oriented and you take matters into your own hands. He has learned to turn hope into action.
  • Don’t just sit back and wait for the silver linings to appear but what can you do to create the silver linings. It’s up to you to make some positive out of something terrible.
  • “I consider myself to be very fortunate. My experience has liberated me to follow my passions and has given me peace, knowing that I’m making the most of every day while my clock is ticking.”
  • “Excellence is doing exactly what you feel driven to do to the absolute best of your ability.”

 

Show Notes:

Book: Chasing My Cure

Castleman Disease Collaborative Network

University of Pennsylvania bio page