Podcast: The Other “F” Word: Failure

failure in business is good

Laura, Joe & Keith sit down to discuss failure & why it should be encouraged, rather than avoided.

Podcast Part 1
Podcast Part 2

If there’s one thing we encourage here at PIN, it’s the concept of “failing forward.” When you take a risk on a new idea or strategy and it didn’t work, it’s not a big deal. In fact, it’s a good thing because you know what doesn’t work. There’s no shame in failure here, rather a celebration of a method that wasn’t right for us. When an organization refuses to take risks and innovate, declaring, “But we’ve always done it this way!” you may as well hoist up a white flag.

Think of the astronauts involved in the Apollo 13 mission. Due to a mechanical failure on their spacecraft, they had no choice but to abort the mission and come back to Earth. The problem was, they didn’t know how.

Engineers had to quickly determine which steps the astronauts should take by figuring out which methods worked and the ones that didn’t. By failing early (and frequently) in a testing environment, they were able to put together a plan that the astronauts could implement for a safe return.

Does your business allow for a testing environment where ideas, strategies, and tactics can be played with to spur innovation or are you just playing it safe?

Announcer: Coming to you from the DTC, PIN Business Network presents The Pulse on PIN with Laura Cromwell.

Laura: Hey it’s Laura with PIN Business Network live from Denver Tech Center. Today’s topic is the F word.

Joe: Hey, which F word are we going to talk about?

Laura: Not “funny”. Not “Frankenstein”. Not “fudge” but “failure”.

Joe: Oh, my gosh.

Keith: Failure?

Laura: Yes. Talking about failure. And why it’s good!

Keith: Failure why there’s no logo behind us? Too soon?

Joe: That this, too soon. So we’re playing around with this new video part that we can actually go live on. So we have a new podcast room. So we’re talking about a logo that does not exist behind us.

Laura: But it will one day someone failed to put it up there but once you see a failure, that just means you gotta do something.

Joe: All right.

Laura: So what do y’all think failure means to you? What does failure mean to you, Joe?

Joe: Keith, go ahead.

Keith:  Rude.

Joe: I want to wait. I need some help on this one.

Laura: And so with the help of whiskey, we’re going to do just fine here.

Keith: Well, in simplistic terms, failure. Failure means that whatever you were doing, you were unsuccessful. Very simplistic terms. But I think what you’re getting at is, is the idea that failure can still mean you were unsuccessful in whatever you were attempting to do. But it’s how you react to that failure and what you do. So similar to fear, failure can be something where you use it as an excuse not to continue or failure can be used as an excuse to try or to come up with another solution or another path forward. So I think the word in and of itself, again, just like fear is really, it’s a nebulous term. You can define it any way you want. But the point is when it occurs, which it will, what do you do about it? And so I think in that sense, failure can be viewed as, you know, as as a test environment. Right. It’s nothing different than a science experiment. And so, you know, you come up with a hypothesis. You create a solution. You test it. And if it works, great. And if it doesn’t, do something else and if you keep that mentality, then failure is just, you know, part and parcel of it of you being awake.

Joe: I’m woke.

Keith: I didn’t say woke, because that’s a failure. But I think it is interesting that there was recently there just been studies and maybe it’s because I saw it. The elevator was actually in the elevator. But I read the article before, maybe a couple of days before I saw it.

Joe: Was it spray-painted in the elevator?

Keith: Now, it actually said that that the ideal ratio of success to failure is 85 percent success, 15 percent failure. And then that ratio is the ideal way for people to grow, to learn new skills. And so if you fail more often than fifteen percent at a particular task-

Joe: You’re the other F word.

Keith: Yeah. Then you’re the other F word. But it’s actually more discouraging than it is encouraging for you to continue. So a fifteen percent fail rate at a test means you’re close and it means the solution is there and that you’re capable of actually figuring it out. And so anything beyond that is essentially beyond maybe beyond your capabilities as they exist today. And so I think, you know, it is kind of apt that we were having this conversation and it was delayed multiple times, which is a failure on my part. However, I think, again, whenever you’re talking about business, you’re talking about life or you’re just talking about, you know, the fact they’re trying to put a logo up behind us-

Joe: While we’re trying to talk.

Keith: They believe that they can find a solution to this. And so we can keep going. If they believed that they couldn’t find a solution to this, that they would stop. So failure, again, is just how you react to adversity when it hits you.

Joe: So besides, I did laugh. I laughed about the fact that that I said if you’re if you fail more than 15 percent, you’re the other F-word. I was kidding. Although I have a tendency to assign humor to pretty much everything that I say and do. So you’ll have to excuse me for that. But the other side is, is that, you know, there’s a saying that I have had that somebody wrote on the back of their picture when I was really young. I think I was like 14 or 15 years old. And it was failure teaches success. Always remember this when you think you’ve lost. Right. And so I’ve literally held onto that since I think I was fifteen or sixteen years old. It’s a saying goes on the back of a picture of a very beautiful girl. At the time, I was just a kid. But so it stuck with me. And I literally as I’ve gone through my life, I’ve used that as, hey, this failure is just a speed bump this, failure’s just speed bump, this failure is just a speed bump. We now have the logo. So I just want to add that. But, you know, and when we talk about failure, I think that we talk about the percentage of the failure and what you do with failure. The failure’s OK, And everyone wants to make you feel good. But failure is OK when it’s a post when it’s a meme when it’s happening to someone else. Or you can give them advice that, hey, failure is OK. But when it happens to the individual, there’s this thing that happens to you. Where you go through a good, bad, right, wrong. You know, what did I do wrong? Is it me? Is it them? You assign blame or you take blame. All sorts of things that happen when that happens. And I think that actually leads to that tipping point one way or another of that is that failure had a positive impact on being able to fix things and change things in it and to create a better either path or environment for it not to fail again. Or it can push you to the other tipping point, which is to just walk away from it right to admit defeat and just decide that a one is too hard or two. You don’t have the stamina or the desire to complete that to get it across the finish line.

Laura: So what would be your most memorable failure? And what did you learn from it?

Joe: I mean it, so this can get if I am being transparent, I would talk about the most catastrophic failure that ever happened in my life, right, so that, you know, we all went through what happened in 2007, right? My fiasco started in early 2006. And I was, I had a lot of wealth. I was a very young guy that had a lot of wealth. And that wealth was something I self-generated. I was really successful, did a lot of really cool things, had multiple companies, had lots of people that worked for me. And I’m still young, by the way. You guys missed that.

Laura: I mean, do I have to talk about the millennial versus boomer podcast, Joe?

Joe: Well, let’s just say that in my early 20s and late 20s, I had accumulated a vast amount of wealth for the average person. I could have retired very early on in my life. Right. So, but that didn’t happen. I wanted to take this wealth that I had and turn it into something much greater. And so I started investing in an idea. Right. So I’ve always been that entrepreneurial spirit that, you know, is actually gotten us to where we are today. Right. So I am fearless. I take a lot of chances, inquisitive, constantly looking for new solutions. Sometimes it’s the new shiny, you know, shiny toy. Right. Oh, there’s something really cool, let’s go over here. And I like to think that now we have a whole lot more wisdom and structure. And frankly, other people in the team that helped me to kind of manage my desire to run off and build the next, you know, Apple. And in actuality, we don’t need to build an Apple because Apples already exist. Right. So what do I 2007/2008 2006/2007, you know, I did not leverage myself. I started spending millions of dollars of my own money on this idea, built a ridiculous infrastructure, got people to buy it off on it, built a network of people that were very wealthy. And, you know, I set off on to, you know, turn my millions at that time to billions. I was like, I’m going to do all this great stuff. And I didn’t listen. Right. So I started burning cash, an alarming rate. I start taking advice from people I shouldn’t take advice from. And frankly, I had some other businesses that were great enterprises, and I ignored those enterprises to the detriment of the company. And this is long-winded. Right. But so what ended up happening is, just to put bookends on this, I lost 17 million in 18 months. I got defrauded by a hedge fund, a ten and a half million dollars at one point two million dollars in development capital stolen from an account. I’ve gotten a number of lawsuits. It was absolutely catastrophic. But the end, the day I mismanaged people and capital. I could have stopped that bleeding long before it happened. I just felt like I was never going to run out of money, that I was doing too well and I had too much going on for me and that I had drank my own Kool-Aid. So that if you want to talk about the extremes of failure, that was the extreme. Like I lost 90 percent of my worth in less than two years, literally overnight that money was gone. So from you know, we’ve all had personal failures. And but, you know, there’s something that defines you like that, like a business failure typically would push you to the point where you’re not likely to recover, right. But I didn’t lose somebody else’s 17 million, I lost my own, right. I didn’t borrow any money. I didn’t leverage the company. So at least I had 17 million to lose, number one. But the worst part about that deal is that failure, although it may have represented 1 percent or 2 percent up to that point, some people would call me a leprechaun or sort of a horseshoe up my rear end. My luck ran out, right. And that failure defines me today because every decision I make now is based on looking at some of the risk values associated with what we do and making sure that I don’t put myself or anyone else in a position where the dream can’t happen, right. That we can’t execute on the things that we’re trying to execute on. Whoo! That was a lot.

Laura: How ’bout you, Keith?

Keith: Well, I don’t have, my risk tolerance is different. Oh, yes, it is. And I’ve had I would say I’ve never had a fatal wound, right. I’ve had thousands of cuts. I’ve had little tiny failures of personal failures, of professional failures of failures in sports and, you know, whatever in relationships and whatever, family. But I, my I think my wanton desire for big hits if you’re using gambling terms like I would never be the person that would take a disproportionate amount of money that I had and bet it. I would take tiny pieces of money that I have and sort of enjoy an hour’s worth of fun with the expectation that it was all going to be gone. And so I think in that sense, I haven’t lost greatly or I haven’t had major failures that I think define me. But also on the flip side of it, as Joe was talking about, you know, his age and having 17 plus million dollars, I’ve never had anything close to that. Right. So there’s sort of like an, if I think of Joe’s story, as you know, you’re here and I know you can’t see this, but you’re kind of low and then you go super high and then you go super, super low. For me, it’s sort of if there’s this median line, I’m sort of like waving a right around that median line. And for me, I think that comes from.

Joe: But that’s why you’re the president.

Keith: Well, maybe. But I think that that comes from, you know, the things that I did when I was a kid in terms of how I grew up and playing sports and so little failures on a minute by minute basis while you’re playing or you’re in practice while you’re in class with your classmates. Right. Personal failures. So you learn. I kind of describe it when people come and talk to me about where they’re at. You know, personally or professionally. And I can talk about sometimes you push a little bit too far. And because we’re here in Colorado, everyone kind of knows what it feels like to fall when you’re on skis, you’re going down a mountain having fun, right. Then you push yourself just a little bit too far. You get out in front of your skis and bam, right. There’s the explosion. But most of the time, those wrecks, right. Is people on the lift will laugh at you’d people in front of you won’t notice it. People behind you will come and help you, right. And particularly if your skis are caught, you know, they slope down-

Laura: This is why I snowboard.

Keith: Same deal. Right. Turn, turn the edge into the wrong and turn off the wrong way. And a face plant. Right. So in that sense, when that happens, those explosions, they don’t kill you. They’re not pleasant. But then you recognize, OK. So this is what I assumed. This is how I talk to myself. I assume that these kinds of these decisions that I was making were snowballing or rolling in the right direction. And then you just had a reality check come your way. So reset those expectations and then go again. And so you will see in interactions, I think if you spend any time with Joe and I think you will, you will actually see where we’ll be having conversations. And there is this dichotomy where he will go. He will get much, much more excited than I ever will. And he’ll get much, much, much more angry than I ever will. It’s not that I don’t get excited, nor do I get angry. It’s that there’s something about my personality that just attempts to level off. And so sometimes. So in order, maybe it’s a protection mechanism. But in order to not feel the massive lows, I don’t really care about the massive highs, although I do. I just look at failure for me as not one catastrophic event that defines my life, but just sort of the work to avoid those major failures. And so we before we came over here, we’re having a conversation about investing in the market and things like that. Joe is constantly giving me feedback and razzing me and giving me advice. And I will say to him, like, yeah, that’s wonderful. He said, well, if you listen to me like you’d have this. Right. And my response is like. Uh-Huh. Yeah. And in that sense, it’s not that I’m afraid of failure, that the way that I approach success and failure is different. So I don’t really have a life-defining moment. I mean, I’ve done really cool things. I’ve lost things. I’ve had great relationships. I’ve had terrible relationships.

Joe: But you’re a leprechaun.

Keith: I also do think there is a piece of the fact that I historically I actually believe I mean, other people may have different opinions, but I believe that I work pretty hard. I believe that I’m pretty passionate about whatever it is that I’m doing. And I will sacrifice my own personal gain for the greater cause. I mean, that I think that’s something that’s ingrained in me from playing sports and having brothers talk to you about what is and isn’t appropriate. But at the same time, I think that also serves me to the point where I don’t feel, you know, when companies go through I’ve gone through dramatic changes in company life and I’m I was always I wasn’t like the Teflon person, but I was always the Teflon person. So, you know, 25 percent of the workforce will get laid off and I would get a raise like reconcile those two things. And I think it just comes from the fact that when push comes to shove, my head goes down and I do work. I don’t pop my head up and then complain about what I think I should have, nor do I envy what other people have. I’m just I wonder how they got that and what they did. But I also have had life experiences where me following your path is not a good thing. So there is a point, a part of me that wants to trudge, you know, my own or create my own path. You know, like climb your own path up a rock. But at the same time, sometimes people will say, look, that is the easiest path. You should go that way. And I may listen and I may not. So, I mean, again, you asked me what my largest failure, I probably would have gone back to losing a freakin soccer game in college. That’s literally where my head went. And I think that just says a lot about, you know, I don’t consider things that have happened to me in my professional life to be failures. I’ve had some dumb I’ve done some dumb things. I’ve had some weird things happen. But most of the time, I would say the trajectory of my personal and professional life has always been ticking upward.

Laura: One thing that you know from working here, you’ve encouraged the thought or the mindset of “failing forward”. Can you talk about that some more?

Keith: Sure. So you and I have had conversations. I think I’ve actually said this on a podcast with you before, that I’ve had some really good mentors and some really good bosses. And one of the things that they’ve always, what they’ve always showed me that no one’s really ever said it. I couldn’t recall being told. But they’ve always shown that the way that I view whatever I’m capable of doing today. That’s a fraction of what I’m actually capable of doing. And so as a person, I would set limitations on what I think is possible of myself. And really the only way that I have found that I break those self-imposed limitations have someone to challenge me because my personality will accept a challenge to do other things. And so I try and lead that way in terms of when, you know, people, employees come into my office, you know, co-workers, come into my office and ask questions, or maybe they’re unsure about how to get these things done or they’ve never been asked to do something like this before. And I will say things often they sound flippant or they sound detached or like I’m like, I’m not listening to what you’re saying, but I think the reality is I don’t believe that you can tell me the way I have to do something, nor do I believe I should be the one holding your hand or joysticking you through, you know, through a process like just you know, it’s that’s not how it works. You have to create that or solve that problem yourself. And you have to learn what it takes to actually do that, even if while you’re doing it. I know I could get you over that hump faster. The challenge is that the next time an issue arises, you’re going to look to me to solve that problem. And at that point in time, your capabilities are not being stretched or grown. You’re just going to wait for me to solve all of the issues that come your way. And then the moment I’m not there, then what do you do?

Laura: So to that point, what would you say to an organization that keeps playing it safe, trying to avoid failure at all costs, trying to keep things status quo? What would your advice be for them?

Keith: There’s a different stream playing to win and playing not to lose. The thing that you just described, I described as playing, not to lose. So if what you’re afraid of is failure, then you will fail because your mind doesn’t recognize negative. So when you say when I say things like that’s not possible, what the mind hears is that’s possible. So when you say, you know, if you were ever, you know, my mom used to say, you know, be careful, don’t get in a wreck. What your mind hears is, is get, you know, get in a wreck. It doesn’t hear the negative word because your mind thinks in pictures. So there is no opposite that your mind pictures of driving safely, the opposite of getting in a wreck is driving and not getting in a wreck. So when someone tells you don’t get in a wreck. What you what your mind sees is a car crash. Right. So now you’re manifesting the idea that that’s a bad thing, but your mind is thinking about a car crash. Ok. This is sort of a squirrel. The point is, when you are thinking, “I don’t want to lose,” your mind is not recognizing the word “don’t”. It’s “I want to lose”. That’s what’s happening. Because you cannot picture not losing. You can picture “I want to win” or “I want to lose”. And so when your risk when you’re, not when you’re risk-averse, when you’re failure-averse, what you’re saying to yourself is, “I don’t want to win” or “I don’t want to lose”. And that will be the proper way to say it that “I don’t want to lose”. And then at that point in time, you will make decisions that you think are the right things that inevitably will end up in you losing. And so there is a difference between playing to win and taking risks and taking chances. And if those things don’t work out. So what? Versus “I am so risk-averse”, or, “I am so afraid of losing or failing that I’m not even going to take the chance”. And then in a business sense, other people will and they’ll beat you to the finish line. And then at that point in time, if you’re second to the market or your product is not as innovative or it’s not as useful or the technology has passed you, then no one’s going to buy it anyways. So there’s a million different ways that you can be successful, but you have to be willing to play to win, which means you have to accept the fact that you will lose. Right. There are times when you will play that you will lose. And that happens in every sport. It happens in every person’s life. You will put yourself out there. I mean, we were joking the other day about Denver being the worst place for dating in America.

Laura: I can confirm.

Keith: Well, the interesting thing is you have two choices. You can either keep dating. And risk the fact that you might date some more losers.

Laura: At least I get free drinks out of it, just saying.

Keith: Or you can not go on dates because you can resign yourself to everyone you’re gonna go out with is going to be an abject failure or a loser. And then the outcome is exactly the same. So either you’re going to play to win or you’re going to play not to lose and end up losing.

Joe: Yeah. So, you know, Keith and I, we talk it’s really interesting that we have the same ideas of how we think a path should take, but our risk tolerance towards failure is totally different. And I say that because I don’t have a fear of failure at any level. And you know, part of that is and we’ve talked about, you know, some of the ways that I’ve put checks in place to make sure that the failures that we have as a company are lessened because, I’ve mean, Keith, I’ll tell you, we’ve got we got in the restaurant business and the first one was really good. Right. And the second one through the fourth one was not so good. Right. So as an organization, we tried different things. We go out and buy companies, we acquire things. And we got the restaurant business and we thought it was just a transactional business and it was service-based. And hey, we did really well with this gastropub. Why not try this other thing? Well, we lost a lot, you know, we tried for a couple of years and finally, we decide to sell those things and say, hey, look, even though we’re really good at driving people there, we have food costs of a lot of different things you have to control. And we had to throw in the towel and finally admit defeat. But the secondary part of that is, is that we’ve tried other things. Right. We’ve you know, we’ve you know, I’ve pushed us to spend you know, we spent two hundred fifty thousand dollars and it’s kind of a talk about dollars, but that we spent that on beacon technology and we’re like, the new thing is really beacon technology. We were two years into this deal and we’re talking about putting beacons all over the country and that we can actually track you. And then someone came up with a G.P.S. pulsing technology that made that obsolete. And that two hundred and fifty thousand dollars was flushed down the toilet and you’d say, hey, you failed. Maybe we learned it. We turned it an incredible amount from it. So I think that we try to put caps on, you know, the significance of the failure. And I’ve seen people lose very little. Right. Financially, emotionally, but not be able to recover from that small failure. And then you see guys that have lost an enormous amount in certain areas. Right. It doesn’t even have to be financial. And they bounce back. Right. So I think that, you know, we have to be careful assigning a value to the significance of the failure. But at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for not running away from failure, because the company that we are today, we are that company today because I took a lot of chances and we failed miserably. Like we fantastically failed. And through that fantastic failure, we found an enormous amount of success. We said, OK, that did not work. Let’s try this. That did not work. Let’s try this. And by taking it kind of taking that approach, that failure is OK, I think that we’ve, you know, if I had to give people advice, I think failing in character is much more significant than failing in business, right? Failing in how hard you work and what you do in your life is a thousand times more significant, how hard you’re willing to work. Right. If you just show up just to show up, warm body doing the minimum to get by. That to me is a failure. Huge failure because not only are you failing yourself, but you’re failing everyone else around you. Right. But the failure a failure for me in stuff didn’t work out well. Frankly, if you work really hard, if you’re working really hard and you put in the time and the effort to examine why things are failing you, it’s human nature. If you don’t do it on an island, you will find a solution. You will find a way to make that opportunity turn into some sort of gold. It’s it’s it’s inevitable. And we could talk about massive brands, Kmart, Sears. Right. They had a brand. Right. They had a magnificent brand. You say whatever we want. They could have pivoted in a hundred different ways to stop them from failing. But you know what they did? They closed, they closed. Ultimate failures, just admitting defeat. If you’re never defeated and you’re always trying to find a resolution to actually be successful, that you’re never really failing. You’re failing at the moment. You’re not failing in the grander scale of things. So, I mean, I. I do. Keith and I are different. I don’t mind highs and lows. Right. I’m very passionate about what I do. Right. Although I think he has just as many highs and lows as I do, he just hides it more. Right. But I think that if we look at it differently, we look at it from a strictly transactional standpoint, that failures are, it’s a commodity just like success. Right. It has transactional value, just like success. And it’s a debit and credits. And as long as you’re pushing towards the ability to generate a positive outcome, you know, I think that you can step over those failures no matter how significant they are and find a way to move forward.

Laura: So do you think there’s something called the “success trap” like you’re so failure-avoidant that you do not know how to fail and how to recover from that?

Joe: Yeah. So we. Yeah. I mean you wouldn’t you say that most platform companies, companies that actually just resell other people’s products are that? Yes. Yeah. They’re they’re chasing a solution. Right. And there are enormous risks to doing what we do as a company. Right. We hunt for and look for data and building personas and building things on people. Right. Creepy stuff, right? And then we wanted to take an ethical approach to that and say, I want to strip away the P.I.I. So there’s no risk to the individual. We’re just talking about, we’re talking about an asset at that point. And now it’s just can I put a message in front of that asset that makes sense to that person that they can actually bite onto? Right. But we want a de-platform. So we’re actually saying we built our own tech. Well, how much risk is there in building your own tech?

Laura: A lot.

Joe: Right. So when you’re playing in the Google pool, where you’re playing in the Facebook pool, we talk about paid media or even if you’re talking about, you know, Washington Times, New York Times, The Los Angeles Times. I mean, Washington Post. Denver Post. Even if you talk about those, those are platforms, right? So if you resell that, the risk is that that five hundred thousand pound gorilla changes direction, just go find a new widget to sell. Right. You find a new partner, a new MSA and a service agreement, master service agreement with that particular business. When you start building and integrating and creating opportunities for success for businesses, your only goal is to solve the problem for them. The amount of failure that you should experience is significant. Because now we have to manage people. We have to manage process. Got to manage technology. And we got to manage the expectations of the final client. Let’s not kid ourselves. We have to be results-oriented, driven towards results. The amount of leverage, the amount of space that you have for a client to fail is nil, because the second you start degrading they lose, they’re throwing out the boat anchor. Right. They’re done. Let’s stop here. So. You know, at some point, failure has to become the thing that drives you to be successful. And anytime you actually concentrate on, you know, the the the want of success, success, success. I can sell something because I know it has credibility. Right. And you don’t try to build credible solutions for clients or for who you’re trying to service. I think that that’s the danger. I mean, that’s the danger that we face. That causes those large brands to go out of business.

Keith: From an employee standpoint, we deal with this all the time. Any business owner, anybody that works in business, anywhere that manages people, right. On the micro, the personal side, you know, the analysis paralysis. Right. The idea that there has to be a right answer. No, there’s no. There is not the big secret. The big lie is that there’s a right answer. The secret is there is not a right answer. There is simply an answer that you decide is the best for you with the information that you have available to you. And so here in the company, we deal with analysis paralysis at the employee level. Should the creative look like this or this or this or this? Well, there isn’t a right answer. There is only whatever you whatever, whatever information you have decided is the most relevant to allow you to make the choice. That’s the choice you have to make. So you ask the question, right, about failure and you ask the question earlier about how we kind of deal with it and failing forward. And this is kind of what we’re talking about at the macro level for the business. You all look at Joe, you look at me, you look at Kevin. Right. And you say, Chris, those guys, that team has to make sure that the decisions that they make allow us as a company. We can keep doing what we’re doing. Right. The asked the implicit guarantee is you get your paycheck when you get your paycheck. In our case, twice a month. Right. You get your paycheck twice a month. And then it comes on the days you’re expecting it to come. And the trade for that is you. We expect you to do your job. And then the scary part is sometimes you have to make choices and you don’t know whether or not I would make the same choice. Or Joe would make the same choice. Or Kevin or Chris would make that same choice. And what we’re saying to you is it doesn’t matter because you have to be willing to make that choice. And if the outcome of that choice works, do it again. If it doesn’t work, good for you for making the choice. Now do something different. The belief in yourself that you’re actually empowered to do that. There’s nothing I can say that will actually get you two to believe me if you don’t. And so if you believe me, great, because you should see it on a daily basis. That happens. And if you don’t write, then you have to find a way in yourself to either acknowledge that you don’t and choose a different path, either to let it go. Right. Just surrender to the fact that that is there or go do something else. Because, again, if you’re waiting for me to make that choice for you, I don’t have the time, nor do I have the desire. And actually, probably switch those two. I don’t have the desire. And so, therefore, I don’t make the time to actually do it, because you won’t learn in that environment. And in your expectation of me, your expectation of Joe is that at the same time, we are following that same idea, that same philosophy. It’s just the questions we’re asking and answering are different than the ones we ask you to ask and answer.

Laura: Mm-hmm. So how would you encourage failure of someone outside business leader came to you and said, “I don’t know how to get things moving”, “I don’t know how to get people to think”, and have them take agency of their work? How do you encourage them to fail, basically, in order to gain that success?

Keith: So you would start, with if a business owner came and said that too, if I was sitting in the room and they said that out loud in a room then the way I describe it is, so you’ve heard me say this before. You cannot you cannot see anything in someone else that you cannot see in yourself. So if you don’t know it about yourself, consciously or subconsciously, then it’s not possible for you to see it in someone else. And so a lot of times people will talk. In the third person, because it’s easier. Right. You do this so you know, and people and, you know, then people go and they do this. No, no. You don’t know, you don’t know what they’re going to do. I don’t know what they are going to do. The hard way to actually talk is to say, “I would do this.” And so if someone is sitting in the room and they are talking about their company’s not, you know, not following that same kind of cultural philosophy that we have, then I would respond to them, “Because you don’t.” Because you cannot see things in other people that you don’t see in yourself, people the way you perceive them in my mind, the way I perceive you. You are a mirror of me right now. There is a lot of things that are different between you and I. Laura, There’s a lot of things that are different. Some of them are really readily apparent. If someone was to look at the two of us, but I’m talking about his personality-wise, there are things that I think I see in you, right? Good, bad and indifferent. Those things only exist in my perception of you because they exist in me. And so when I talk about, I can, I’ll hold you capable. I’m also saying it to myself. I’m holding myself capable of doing the same thing. So if someone came in and they said, “My company culture is adverse to failure”, I would say, “It’s because you’re averse to failure”. So you’ve got to start there. So this company, our company, PIN Business Network, is in my mind. It’s almost a carbon copy of Joe’s personality. Like everybody’s work desk is some manifestation of a little piece of Joe’s personality. And there’s the cautious side of Joe’s personality. And then there’s just the extravagant like, let’s go side of his personality. And if you walk on the floor, people will fluctuate between those two extremes. That dichotomy all the time. And there’s sometimes where people will take amazing risks. And other times, well, they’ll sit there and they’ll say, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. And I have seen all of those things. And I will. People will ask me about the culture and I will say, right. It mirrors our CEO. That’s what we do. And that that has been the case in every company I’ve ever worked for.

Joe: I just wish that we’d have more of the risk part. But I would not say that it mimics me as a CEO. I think it mimics both of us because some of the more cautious walking is more what you will do and more, you know. Let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s execute. Let’s innovate on my side. And I think that that healthy balance helps us not drive the herd over the edge, so to speak, and create some resolution. But, I mean, I think that in today’s age, we’re seeing technology go at a pace it has never gone before. So as a result of that, you know, there’s a feverish pitch on my end to implement and to do things, I think, with a higher risk than we did previously. Because businesses are panicking. Businesses are trying to find solutions. And right now, their solution is it has to cost less. Right? And costs less is not a solution. That’s not a strategy that’s it just costs less. Doesn’t mean it causes action. Yeah. It doesn’t mean it. So it costs less. And you’re going to go to costs less, costs less, costs less, costs less, costs less. That’s like saying I have gas, I don’t have gas. I don’t have gas. I don’t have gas. I don’t. You’re still quick. You’re going down. Right. And so what I say is if you’re gonna go down, you know, go down fighting. And most businesses don’t have you know, they have this retraction, you know, reaction where they won’t retract. And so, yeah, I would agree with that. But I would also agree that you know, I push people for a living. Right. I don’t lead people. I push people to just have a higher risk tolerance and to fail. And that is so uncomfortable. It’s ridiculously uncomfortable. And I recognize that. But at the same time, I also recognize that nothing great ever came without. Great sacrifice and risk.

Laura: And growth is supposed to be painful and supposed to show for something. That’s why stretch marks are a thing.

Joe:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Laura: But, you know because my generation, because we were taught to play it safe constantly. Because when you graduate into the Great Recession, you had to play it safe in order to get a job and you’ve to play it safe in order to keep that job. So you have to break a lot of habits with a lot of younger mentalities because they’re worried that tomorrow I’m not going to have a job. I’m not going to you know, I won’t have a job for months.

Joe: So I’m going to talk about that for a minute. I think the greatest failure is how people fail. Right. So you’re defined by those experiences that you have coming up through the recession that give you certain fears, whether they’re real or they’re perceived. There’s still fears. I think that based on what I see today, we had someone in the company that said I can go get a job somewhere else. And I said I’d just heard about it. Right. I said I think you should go. But in fact, I think you should go right now. Now, I heard about it later. And but at the same time, and I’m trying to be you know, this is the sharp edge of the sword that I try and I mean, I don’t bring it up in a podcast and say, hey, is the sharp-edged sword but it’s the sharp edge of the sword. The idea that you exist, that you don’t have to be accountable and that you get paid to do work and that work doesn’t necessarily have to equal what the company needs, and they still have an obligation to keep you and to pay you. Is wrong. It’s wrong. I think businesses don’t have an obligation to their team. I think the team individually and collectively have an obligation to the company. I think it’s the opposite. I mean, people say, I want, I want, I want and I would say the greatest failure that we’re experiencing holistically as a society is that there is a group of people and it transcends, I think, different generations. There is a group of people that feels like they can operate at a C average. Just do the minimum to get by. And that that actually should transcend into success. And then if they’re patient, that option is a success. And if somebody does recognize that they’re just being mediocre to get to that success, then it’s on and it’s on them, not the person that’s actually mediocre. And I think that that that type of behavior and business is going to lead to the largest degradation of success as a country like we are going to fail miserably as a country. Right. Big F like, huge F like. Here’s F failure. OK. Fifty percent time to fail. And as a country, we allow this behavior to continue to exist. I think is going to lead companies to shun away from or stop taking risks on innovation. And then the only people that will be left to take those risks in innovation will be big companies, the Amazons of the world. That, by the way, just to say you go work for them, seems to be this badge of honor. I mean, they’re their attrition rate as a company is like 50 percent. Right. So if 50 percent have a badge of honor until 50 percent decide to leave. Right. And 12, 15, 18 percent of their entire workforce is over in India or China or some of these other places. So, you know, I guess I look at that mindset of, you know, just maintain as the most dangerous thing to an individual’s ability to succeed, that could ever exist and stop.

Laura: And I honestly feel like in a year and a half that I’ve been an employee here, that this is the first place in the 10 years I’ve been in the working world where I’ve actually felt that I can explore and, you know, do try something new for the sake of trying something new. Just to see if it’ll work. And maybe do content differently. Maybe do this SEO approach differently and not get yelled at. Not be told no, not be, you know, not have any naysayers.

Joe: Right. We’ll there’s still naysayers.

Laura: I mean, I don’t get told “no” a lot. And that’s great. And because you want that, when you play it safe, you get into a negative feedback loop. And there’s no disruption and when there’s no disruption, there’s no change.

Joe: Yes. And typically, the people that don’t want to take those risks. Right. Are the ones that are the naysayers, the ones that walk around acting as if they’re smarter than everyone else. Right. And so that the danger in letting those people actually thrive in an environment of innovation leads to more failure because then you break down the fabric of being able to get across the finish line with urgency. And we deal in our world, we deal with businesses that suffer from anxiety, every business. Right. Marketing directors fear the anxiety of not being able to push enough leads through the funnel. Right. Owners look at net profitability and they have to balance that with compensation for their team and exit strategies or sales or any of the things or retirement or, you know, any of the exit strategies that they may have in place in new innovation there as well. Like how do we compete? How is GM and Ford competing with Tesla? How is Tesla competing with this new kind of brand that’s coming out, this new electric car? How are they competing with, you know, Jaguar and Porsche, you know, launching the electric vehicles? Right. And I think that there’s a certain amount of tolerance that we seem to put up with, because all the posts that we ever see that we see on LinkedIn everything else is “empower everyone”, “treat them so well”. What does not holding people accountable lead to if you’re raising kids? Let’s start there. I can tell you, it leads to. The highest generation of drug use that’s ever happened in a hundred years. I’m not sure I can talk about this in the podcast, but that actually is happening right now. And, you know, lowest test scores and, you know, being fifty-eighth or whatever in math and all these other things, a lack of accountability, there’s something fundamentally wrong. Keith, you and I are talking about this. Right. That is literally the symptom that we start looking at to the problem, which is, you know, effectively how we actually look at failure and what we define as failure.

Keith: Right. The idea that, I mean, it’s it’s a very complex issue. Right. So no matter what example or no matter where you try and pierce the bubble, you’re always going to sort of there’s always there’s a million different ways to pierce the bubble. But if you start from the idea that, so for me, envy is it is one of the seven deadly sins. And when I hear the conversation, some of the conversations that happen here, I’ve seen things on LinkedIn before. I’ve watched television commercials, I coach youth sports. Right. The idea that I should or that I deserve to have something is a dangerous thing. Right. If you work for it and you earn it, then you deserve to have it. If you haven’t done that work, you don’t deserve squat. So I saw a post on LinkedIn and I’ll butcher it. But the general idea was it was about, you know, it’s an ad, but it’s a tech guy. And he says, you know, you’re paying me three hundred dollars an hour, not because I can finish a project in 30 minutes, but because the 30 years of experience that I have allows me to finish that project in 30 minutes. That’s why I’m worth what I’m worth. That’s what you’re actually paying for. And so I think the the the failure is. I mean, if you think about pro sports again friggin’ guys, I mean, talk about sports because that’s what guys do. OK.

Joe: You like sports.

Keith: Look, if you’re sitting here, if you were sitting here and you are saying to yourself, “I deserve to be in the NFL and I deserve to make $8 million a year from an NFL contract.” Right. That’s ridiculous. And everybody that would look at you, because, by the way, we have no NFL quality athletes in this in this company. Like no one’s good enough to play in the NFL that works in this company.

Joe: I was.

Keith: Now?

Joe: Now I’m not.

Keith: Nobody is good enough to play in the NFL. So no one in this off office walks around and says that they deserve an NFL contract like an NFL player gets. But in the next sentence, they will talk about what they deserve from a salary standpoint, a benefits standpoint, an experiential standpoint. Right. Because instant gratification requires that because I see it, I deserve to have it. No. The world is is saying “no”. Right. So there’s a great saying and it says, “Results: Often harsh. Always fair.” So if I just speak for myself, if I look at Joe and say, well, you know, I’m only a few years younger than him, I deserve to have what he has. Joe would look at me and say, “No, because you haven’t made the choices I have. You haven’t done the things I have done.” And then I would say, “But I did these other things over here.” And then his response would be, “Correct. And you have created what you have created through the choices that you have made,” and that somehow I am owed what he has because I see it, and I want it, is a huge disservice. And when people here are talking about what they deserve. Right. My response is always the same, “According to who?” Because it will always come back to according to them. And at that point in time, I’m not beholden to your version of reality. Right. The reality of our business is this is where we’re at. This is the value that you provide. This is what I’m willing to pay for the value that you provide. If you want to be compensated that, then awesome. You and I will get along famously. If you believe that your worth or your value is more than I’m willing to be to compensate you for, then the door is right there, the sharp edge of the sword. And that’s not a mean thing, because I would tell you, if that’s what you think your work is worth, then go find somebody that’s willing to pay you that worth. But don’t ask me to overvalue what you do or where you are in your career. Because you think that you are owed it or that that’s what’s fair. So I will say to my, you know, my wife all the time. I’ll tell her stories about the kids that I’m coaching and they’ll get upset. They’ll be upset that certain things happen or they wish that they were better at certain things or that these things came easier or, you know, I’ve played on this team and I want to be on the team. That’s one above them. Well, they’ll ask the question. So what do you think you have to do in order to make that happen? Well, I have to do this. I have to do this, I have to do this. OK. Well, it’s one thing for you to say it. It’s another thing for you to do it. Because where the rubber meets the road is that you’re actually willing to make the sacrifices that are required in order to gain that skill, to make that understanding, to learn that new process or that new idea. Right. Consume that textbook and consume those homework assignments and actually complete them. Because if you’re not willing to do that, then don’t ask me for the reward. That is the biggest failure. I’m not going to talk about politics, but that’s the crap that I see on TV all the time. You deserve some sort of shortcut to happiness. I’m sorry. There is no such thing, the shortcut to happiness because once you’re given that thing, you’re just going to ask for something else. Because how hard was it to just throw a temper tantrum like you were, two? My daughter’s really good at throwing temper tantrums. And she’s two and a half. She’s really, really good at it. Right. I’m not rewarding you with anything. Throw a temper tantrum. Go to your room. Hang out in your crib. You get no toys. And then you can throw a temper tantrum all she wants. She’s not getting what she wants. If you can’t grow up right and you can’t recognize that there is a reality that exists where you’re not by yourself and you don’t get to just have whatever you want to have the moment you want to have it. Then you recognize that the only alternative you have is to bet on yourself and work hard. I hate, sorta said this at the beginning, I hate participation trophies. Good for you. The participation trophy is you’ve got to participate. Good job. Don’t bring that home and tell me how wonderful you are because you participated. Win be better, right? Strive. Fail, lose. Work harder, be better. And then good things happen to you. If you’re not willing to go through that journey, then you’re not, you don’t deserve the outcome of that journey. I don’t deserve what Joe has because I want it.

Joe: I’d give it to you.

Laura: Aw.

Joe: He’s like sign here, press hard, three copies. And that goes down to that risk, right? That that can you withstand the risk of failure at the rate that you’re willing to fight for it. I mean, are you. Are you willing to work hard enough that you can offset the risk associated with failure or just accept the failure and then find a solution on top of that in order to become better? Are you willing to do that? And can you find enough people that go along with you to that on that journey? Right. So we we’ve gone through this, right. I mean, as a company, we’ve gone through we’ve seen people on the team that, you know, they’d literally walk around thinking, I know better. I’ve heard it said, right. So and I know that there’s some CEOs out there that are listening to this podcast that will say, yeah, everyone, they become callous to it. They don’t want to have a conversation with the team because frankly, it’s painful for somebody to come out and say that, yeah, we have a village idiot that runs a company. Right. And I’m not afraid to say that some people that have been here and probably some people here think they know better than I do. They know better than Keith does. They did better than Kevin does. Right. They know better than even some of the people that are on the team getting stuff done. Right. They think they know better. Right. I can do it better than you can. That whole philosophy. Right. I can do better, I can do better. And I think that we tolerate it. We let people stay on the team that have those behaviors until we don’t. Right. Until we finally say, hey, we built this company on a cocktail napkin seven years ago and where we are today, seven years ago cocktail napkin, no outside capital to where we are today. Oh, you think you can do it better, then I think you should go do that. I think you should go fail forward. And I think you should go do your own thing. I think that that’s something you should try doing. Right. And then they say, “no”. And then they leave here and they’re in a position. And then they go out in the real world and they’re surprised that they can’t go work somewhere else doing the same thing or someone won’t value what they achieved at PIN. Right. And part of that has to do with the fact that that’s a part of their journey of failure is that sometimes in failure you have to be able to fail and make sacrifices in environments during that failure that allow for you to lean on other people you can trust in that environment. And so I think that we talk about failure at PIN, it’s much different. The failure that we feel at PIN because of the culture and the protective environment we have to innovate is much different than it is out there. And that really nasty, mean world of people wanting to play, CYA, and not take care of the people next to them is deep.

Laura: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, that’s about all the time we have.

Joe: Laura’s like, “I’m done after that!”

Laura: Unless you have something you wanted to add. But you know, it’s failure should be encouraged and the failure should be supported. You give that, you create that “failure cushion” the trial and error if you will. But don’t look at it as a failure. Just look at it as a way to say, “OK, that didn’t work. Let’s try this way.” And if that doesn’t work, just keep going.

Joe: Right.

Laura: And yeah. Thank you, Joe and Keith, for your time and the wise words. Your F-words.

Joe: My F-words. Keith’s F-words.

Keith: Fancy.

Joe: Fantastic.

Laura: I appreciate you guys.

Joe: Free and footloose.

Laura: Visiting with me and talking about F-words.

Joe: It’s been fun. Thank you. 

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