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

Jon Dorenbos is a former professional football player and magician.  He played for 14 seasons in the NFL as a long snapper with the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles.  He had a parallel career as a magician and was a finalist on America’s Got Talent, placing third overall amongst tens of thousands of competitors. He is a regular guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and his new book is called “Life is Magic: My Inspiring Journey from Tragedy to Self-Discovery.”

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Don’t listen to that negative inner voice which is constantly doubting yourself. Rather, you should talk to yourself out loud and say where you plan to go in life. The narrative you tell yourself is going to ultimately become your own reality.
  • Magic was more that tricks. It was a form of meditation that helped him heal his emotional wounds.  Magic allowed him to quiet all the negativity and just be lost in the moment.
  • On his path to becoming an NFL star, he had to first get picked up by a division I school and to do so, he doctored up some long snapping footage of other players to look like it was his own. He knew in his heart he was really good enough and was willing to do whatever it took to give himself a chance.
  • Being a long snapper requires extreme mental toughness. You might only play 10 plays the entire game so you have to be able to have closure quickly, you have to be able to forgive, and you have to be able to move on.
  • Things are easy or difficult based on how we perceive them in our mind. If you think it’s easy, it is, and vice versa.
  • The key ingredients to success for both magic and football are discipline, hard work, passion, and a drive to want to be great and change the world.
  • You need to decide which story you choose to hold onto. Focusing on the negative or positive stories in your life will dictate the kind of life you’re going to live.
  • “Excellence is about showing up. Showing up every day, showing up on time, and showing up ready to work.”

Steve Schwarzman is the co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, one of the world’s largest and most successful investment funds with over a half trillion dollars under management. Steve is an active philanthropist with a history of supporting education, culture, and the arts.  He holds a BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  His new book is called What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He has always been very competitive. When he graduated from Yale, he insisted upon an extra $500 a year in his offer from a prestigious investment bank so he could be the highest paid graduate from his class.
  • “What I lacked in basic economics, I made up for with my ability to see patterns and develop new solutions and paradigms, and with the sheer will to turn my ideas into reality.”
  • He single-handedly advised Tropicana on getting acquired, which was the second largest transaction in the world that year, even though he had absolutely no M&A experience up until that point.
  • “To be successful you have to put yourself in situations and places you have no right being in. You shake your head and learn from your own stupidity. But through sheer will, you wear the world down, and it gives you what you want.”
  • They closed on their first fund of $1 billion the morning of October 19th, 1987, aka Black Monday, the largest one day drop in stock market history. Just one day later and Blackstone might not have ever gotten off the ground.
  • After losing some money on a deal, he re-architected the entire investment decision making process to be much more rigorous with the goal of engineering out the risk so as to never lose money again
  • He has a philosophy to only hire “10’s”. Those people tend to be intelligent, articulate, calm, energetic, curious, and can envision the future.
  • “Excellence is being the best that you can be at whatever you choose to do.”

Jill Heinerth is a cave diver, underwater explorer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker.  She has starred on TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel, and the BBC, and has consulted on movies for directors, including James Cameron. Her new book is titled: Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Fighting off a burglar during college taught her how to deal with challenges in life. Having had this harrowing dance with fear probably saved her life in the long run.
  • Despite having enormous success as an entrepreneur in the advertising business, she knew in her heart that it wasn’t what she was meant to do so she built up the courage to quit and begin her life of adventure under the water.
  • There’s very little margin for error in cave diving. More people die while diving underwater caves than climbing Mt Everest.
  • Most accidents happen before someone even steps foot in the water. It is the lack of planning and preparation that causes most issues.  They are entirely preventable.
  • There is significant mental preparation. Before each dive, she closes her eyes and walks through all the worst case scenarios and rehearses all of the solutions.
  • She has the 7R gene which explains much of her risk seeking behavior. She is always seeking new challenges, new adventures.
  • “Excellence is your willingness to nurture and support the next generation. To ensure that if something’s important to you, the people below you eventually move beyond you.”

Rich Karlgaard is a bestselling author, award-winning entrepreneur, and speaker.  He is the publisher of Forbes magazine and is based in Silicon Valley.  He is a renowned lecturer on technology, innovation, corporate culture, and a number of other important business issues and the author of three books, his latest one titled: Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • His time at Stanford poring over Sports Illustrated in the library would later become the genesis for starting up what would become a highly popular technology business magazine.
  • Starting up Upside Magazine which had a unique style and voice ultimately led to a coveted role with Forbes despite the magazine not being a financial success.
  • Our cultural obsession with early achievement is detrimental to society.
  • Some people are successful because they’re competitive and set goals for themselves. Others achieve success because they are explorers chasing their curiosity without an end in mind.
  • Between the ages of 18 and 25, our prefrontal cortex is still growing and our executive function skills are still developing. Yet, this is the exact time when we’re supposed to be laser focused on launching our future careers.
  • One of the most important traits CEOs of high performance companies look for in new recruits is curiosity because without curiosity there’s no growth.
  • Notable strengths of late bloomers include curiosity, compassion, resilience, insight, and calmness.
  • “Resilience isn’t just the ability to be tough but the ability to have enough built in flexibility so an unexpected failure doesn’t shatter you.”
  • At any given time, there’s an optimal use of your time, your talent, and your effort.
  • “Excellence is the intersection between your perfect native gifts and your sense of purpose that is so deep you’re willing to sacrifice for it.”

 

Links:

Find Rich Karlgaard’s book Late Bloomers here.

Find Rich Karlgaard’s personal website here.

At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life for murder.  He turned his life around while in prison and was released after 16 years.  Today he is the owner of Barclay Investment Corporation, a social enterprise specializing in residential and commercial contracting work and employing out of work Baltimore residents.  His other business ventures include the House of DaVinci, a high-end furniture restoration and design company, and Master Plan Productions, a social impact content development company. His book is called: The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life in prison for murder.
  • Despite being sentenced to life, Chris believed that if he focused on turning his life around, he would get his sentence reduced and be set free after 7 years. He called this kind of thinking a “positive delusion”.
  • While in prison, he created a “Master Plan” which was a list of goals he wanted to accomplish in his life. He shared the list with his grandmother and the judge because he felt it was important to have others hold him accountable.
  • It was also important to include a number of shorter term goals on the Master Plan which were easier and quicker to accomplish to boost his confidence and create momentum.
  • He went to therapy to learn how to stop making excuses and take full responsibility for his past actions in order to move forward.
  • Instead of chasing money and living an easy life, he chose to give back to the community by starting a company which employed out of work residents including recently released prisoners.
  • It’s important to surround yourself with a support system of people you can turn to in order to stay on track and not revert back to bad habits.
  • “Excellence is pushing yourself to achieve high standards and doing so in a way that’s humble and considerate.”

Eduardo Strauch is an architect and painter living in Montevideo, Uruguay.  He is also one of 16 survivors from a 1972 plane crash in the Andes mountains which was charted by an amateur Uruguayan rugby team.  He survived 72 treacherous days trapped high up in the mountains.  He wrote a book about his experience called Out of the Silence: After the Crash.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Learn how he and 15 others managed to survive for over two months with minimal provisions, subzero temperatures, and thin air which was very difficult to breathe.
  • Learn how spontaneous meditation helped free his mind and save his life.
  • Mental strength was as important as physical strength for survival. You had to maintain hope and continue to have positive thoughts and believe that things would eventually work out.
  • You had to learn how to control your mind in order to do what was needed to survive. “It was essential to strip away the deep associations of the past from our actions and maintain that strict separation to be able to act.”
  • Once they ran out of food, they had to get past age-old societal norms and resort to cannibalism to survive.
  • “We all occasionally fell into bouts of deep depression, but then the group would notice it and act in support of that person, like a living organism trying to rebuild its own weak cells.”
  • From the very moments following the crash to this day, Eduardo has learned to appreciate the value of life.
  • “Excellence is to be in peace with oneself and ensure that you are living the life you must live.”

Jerry Colonna is the founder and CEO of Reboot.IO, an executive coaching and leadership development firm whose coaches are committed to the notion that better humans make better leaders. Previously he was a successful venture capitalist with JPMorgan Partners and Flatiron Partners focused on technology startups. His new book is titled Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.  He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Growing up in a chaotic environment with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother drove his associating money with safety.
  • There was a dissonance between the way he felt internally and the way he was perceived in the world which led to a deep depression.
  • You can’t be a better leader without being a better human and you can’t be a better human without going through radical self-inquiry.
  • Radical self-inquiry is the process by which self-deception becomes so skillfully and compassionately exposed that no mask can hide us anymore.
  • We all have psychological baggage – our inner demons – which hold us back as leaders and we must confront those demons in order to grow.
  • It is a fallacy to think that leadership is all about having all the answers and not having any fear or any doubt. Authentic leadership is about accepting your imperfections.
  • Learn about the important difference between grit and stubbornness.
  • “We have to be willing to accept life as it is, not as we wish it might become. To live in the reality of what is today, not what might be in the future.”

 

Links:

Book: Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up

Reboot Website: www.reboot.io

Jerry Colonna Bio: www.reboot.io/team/jerry-colonna