E2: Mike Tousignant--Management Is Caring About People

Aug 19, 2019

This episode features BJJ Black Belt and CEO of Easton, Mike Tousignant. Mike started out as the manager of the Boulder academy in Colorado when he was a purple belt. In his conversation with Eliot, he talks about his trials and tribulations, insigths and lessons learned on the road to get Easton where it is today.

Listen:

Transcription:

- All right, here we go. Another episode, the second episode of the Easton.Online Podcast. I'm stoked to be doing this. And man, I'm here with probably, I got a couple best friends. But yeah, I'm here with one of them. Mike, what up, man? Mike Tousignant.

- What up, dude? Thanks for having me, Eliot.

- We're popping your cherry, huh?

- Popping my cherry, first time I have to be

- First time.

- in the public eye.

- Oh, you don't like it, do you?

- You're taking me from behind the curtains

- Yes.

- and pulling me out.

- I'm sorry. I know you like behind the curtains a little better. But, man. Where do we start this journey with you, Mike? You were... Okay, everyone was a student first, including me. There's been very little outside hiring.

- Very little successful outside hiring.

- Okay, there's been outside hiring but there's been very little successful outside hiring.

- Each time.

- And now we just don't do it anymore, really.

- Super rare. We may do it for this one thing coming up here

- What?

- but we're still undecided on that.

- Okay. What's that?

- That HR rep.

- Oh, the HR. Yeah, we don't really have any good HR.

- Yeah, we don't have that. But we're gonna train somebody from within so I think disbanded will help for now.

- Right. We could start right there. Not the HR but, yeah, we can't talk about that.

- That's why we're hiring HR, because we can't trust Eliot and ourselves.

- Yeah, 'cause Mike and I just get too hot and then, look, this is a good place to talk. Part of business is doing what you love, finding to make it so that you love it. You don't like the front of the house, right? That's what we just said. I brought you into the public eye. You're all nervous over here, looking. And I do, you know? I do.

- We each have our roles to play, just like when we pulled out those cards with Larry Dressler, right?

- Mm-hmm.

- If you guys ever need a business consultant, he is the man.

- I'm gonna get Larry on the podcast.

- Oh my god.

- Yeah, he's amazing.

- He's unbelievable.

- He's amazing.

- But we pulled out those cards, right?

- Right.

- Right then, we had to choose where we stood.

- Yes.

- And, you know, everybody pulled, right away, we knew what Eliot's card was.

- Yes.

- Evangelist. It was like, boom, there he is. Good thing if he was a religious leader, we'd know where he'd fit.

- You guys better hope I don't find Jesus, man.

- You know, we do worry about it but it will be entertaining.

- It would be entertaining. It would be entertaining. We'd be praying before every meaning.

- Yes. We had a mall as the cultural compass which is very, I think, on point.

- On point, yes, yes, he was the first guest.

- He was the first guest. There's a reason for that.

- Yeah. So, yeah. We're both in the same business. We teach martial arts, we teach jiu-jitsu, we teach Muay Thai, kickboxing. That's our business. But we have way different roles for a little bit what you enjoy, a little bit what I enjoy. And what keeps us happy and the reason that we're getting rid of it, if we're going to find an HR person, is because it's pushing us over the edge. It's making us almost hate the work.

- Yeah, the HR is, I think it's important we always have that human element in business. We wanna deal with every problem the best we can and finding a solution for it, but sometimes we have to admit our weak part, our weak spots. And, you know, with legal things, we can spend time on the phone with attorneys, but at the end of the day, it'd be good to have somebody in-house that we can reference to help us with things that don't make our life fun 'cause we wanna have our life to be fun.

- Yeah.

- That's important to us.

- The grind is way better when you're enjoying it.

- Yeah, man, I will work from four a.m. till 10 p.m. every day if I'm enjoying it. If I'm not enjoying it, I am a terrible person to be around.

- Yeah, and it's--

- And then it's not good for the company.

- It's not good for any of us.

- No.

- No. Yeah, with the HR thing, it just gets tiresome.

- What's tiresome?

- You know, it gets tiresome because the easy ones we can handle a little bit, but the ones that are drawn-out where you need two lawyers on the phone and if you're gonna, like, HR is way cheaper than a lawyer.

- Our lawyer is one of our black belts and we don't get any discounts. He usually actually has another attorney on the phone to make sure we're getting double-charged. But it's great, he's super helpful.

- He's super helpful. It's worth it, it's totally worth it. You need it, you know? Good accountant, good attorney in business. And hopefully, looks like we're gonna need good HR.

- With Eliot and me here, it's probably important. But not always.

- I know you hate when I say this, Mike, but if anybody's gonna bring this thing down, it's gonna be me or you.

- I know. It's why I hang out behind the curtains. If I'm behind the curtains, it's very hard for me

- It's hard for you

- to bring it down.

- to bring it down.

- I don't have the ability to stay as even-keel as you in a crowd.

- Anyway.

- What are we here to talk about? Are we here to talk about the business?

- We're here to talk about business, yeah. You started with us as the manager of Boulder. First, you were a student.

- Yeah, I think so.

- Then you were the manager of Boulder. Amal brought you in when Tony opened his own school.

- Something like that.

- Something like that. I wouldn't say he opened his own school. I think he still is a nut on that. And you were managing Abo's Pizza.

- Yeah, I came to Colorado because I was just a fuck-up most of my life in as far as staying in line with what society needed me to do. I didn't do well in school because I would get in trouble a lot 'cause I couldn't pay attention.

- Right.

- And I knew this was an important part of, if you read any business books, you read about some leaders or some great CEOs or founders, you read about their schooling, a lot of the time you find, not that I'm this person, but a lot of times you find that they had a hard time conforming to school and education. And if you look back on education, it's pretty obvious how it was put together. It was like built off the robber barons, right, and they set up school so they would create factory workers, so it was like getting people comfortable conforming so then they could put them into a factory line of work.

- So that you could just work for somebody.

- So you could just work for somebody.

- Right.

- And you find, and I know a lot of people that I came up with, that I grew up with, that were like me and most of them are pretty successful now. And the ones that were getting straight As, and I've done a lot of research on this as well, but I look back in my own history, and there's nothing wrong with this, but they're working for somebody. Which is not wrong either, but I know they crushed it in school and they had these high expectations to do all these things with their careers and they ended up just finding a job and working for somebody that was probably more like me or more like Eliot. It's interesting to see how that changed.

- I got good grades in school.

- Me too, I got As and Bs.

- Okay.

- But I was a nightmare.

- I wasn't. My parents were educators so it was like, I mean, I can remember the first time I got a bad grade and something went wrong at school. My mom didn't talk to me for a week. I had to come home, and this was, I had to come home, go upstairs in my room, and then I would just randomly walk downstairs at like six o'clock and they'd all be eating dinner. You know? They weren't even telling me when dinner was. I don't know, I'm a pleaser a little bit. Yeah, I was like, "Okay, "I'm never gonna let that happen again."

- That's true.

- Where like, I think, that's just my DNA, where I think other people are like, "Well, fuck you."

- You're not a pleaser now, though.

- No. 'Cause I rebelled against that.

- You rebelled eventually.

- I realized through when I had my breakdown that I was just trying to please everyone. That's just part of it, you know. I was trying to always make my mom happy, always make my wife happy, follow the rules, you know, and things like that. Even though I know I didn't have a very pleasing career, like I thought. But in my mind, I started to keep these couple people happy and that drove me over the edge.

- Yeah, and that's, I mean, I think it's important to work for somebody that you love and that you care about and that cares about you.

- Yeah.

- But for me, yeah, just dialing back there so we can catch up to the Easton piece 'cause I'm sure people don't need to hear my back story.

- Oh, we do.

- I think it can be important.

- No, no, no, no, no. We do.

- But for me, I finally found sports in high school and I loved football 'cause I was not very skilled. I was like 150 pounds and I couldn't touch a ball, I couldn't catch ball. But then they finally, like, "Oh, Mike, sophomore year, "let's put you as a nose guard on defensive line "at 150 pounds." I was like, "Cool, I'll do that, whatever." And first play, first varsity game, lights, they put me down and I sacked the quarterback first play, my first varsity game and I was like, "Whoa!"

- So, Mike makes people cry. Let's understand that. All athletic endeavors. We started CrossFit at the gym for a little while, right? And you're like, "Ah, whatever, whatever." And you had all these CrossFitters coming in, wanted to go to the Games. And they're like, this was their hope and they were looking at their numbers compared to other people and they were catching some people that were in the CrossFit Games so just, this is just you guys getting an understanding of Mike. And Mike started and within three weeks he had the same numbers as everybody else. You know, he's 150 pounds, dead-lifting 500.

- Well, I'm 170 now.

- Okay, I'm sure. He's 170 now, okay.

- Big change in sophomore year.

- Big difference, 20 pounds, right? He's had a torn ACL for I think three years now, can barely train, he's got a 10-pack. So, I mean, just understand when Mike says he's not strong enough, he's a freak athletically.

- Then I finally found my place in football and it was great. My only job, which I, something finally clicked for me for the first time in my life. School I could do but I was always in trouble.

- He hated it.

- I got kicked out of school three times, from kindergarten to second grade. I had to go to three different schools, back and forth, 'cause I had so, I couldn't pay attention. Then I found football and I was like, "Oh, I just have to tackle that guy "and hurt him as hard as, just kill him? "I can do that." And that, it was so simple to me. Just make that click, tackle that person every time, got it, no problem. So then I did that and then, you know, eventually, I'm 21 years old, I run into this person Ian Lieberman who's one of our general managers, and...

- Who's another one of our best friends.

- Exactly. He brings me into Easton. I was like, "Man, this is fun." And Eliot was there, this big, loud personality. Who, you know, he would shame us but I was used to that from sports. It was a pretty powerful experience for me and from then on out, it was like day one, I was like, "This is what I'm doing the rest of my life. "I'm gonna own a school." And it's been a cool journey. It's been a great journey. And then, you know, I went to Brazil for a bit. Competed a bunch throughout that time. I got back from Brazil and my hiatus on life at like 28 years old and Amal offered me the job and I walked into the office and he was interviewing me and two other people.

- Was one of them Torr?

- No, it was myself,

- Oh, thank God.

- Ian, James, and Max.

- Max?

- He's one of our students till now.

- All right, I don't remember.

- Anyway, I get back, he's in the office with this consultant we hired.

- I remember talking to him about this.

- And I walked in the office and the first thing I said, "You're a fucking idiot if you hire anybody else but me." He was like, "Oh, you have the job."

- So that works sometimes, okay. This is what I did on The Ultimate Fighter. This is how I got on The Ultimate Fighter, the same exact thing. They're doing the interview process and you walk into the room and, man, they gave us $30 per diem in Vegas. What the fuck is that gonna get you? You know? And this is before you're locked away. You can still go do whatever you want. And I walk in there, and they had this fucking spread, this delicious spread of food. I walk in and I look at the producer and I go, "What the fuck, man? "You give me $30 and you have all this?" I was like, "You fucking kidding me?" And that was, I was good, done, right there.

- Like, this guy is gonna be entertaining.

- And then I was boring as fuck on the show.

- And he was boring. But you were going through some tough times then.

- Yeah, but I wasn't... That show isn't my personality. I need true human, real interaction, not with these fake people and--

- And you weren't best friends with the enemy yet.

- Yeah.

- That was a big...

- That was a big part.

- Part of it.

- That was a big part. No, it was, you know? We talked about this the other night. So, you were managing Abo's. That was your job.

- Oh, that's right. At 21, I took over as the manager of Abo's, a pizza place.

- Pizza place.

- And I did that for seven years, first time managing.

- So, no training, no management skills, no nothing.

- No, I'd just been in sports. I was the captain of the football team for like three years.

- Okay.

- And wrestling.

- But that's some popularity a little bit, too.

- Yeah, totally.

- And if you're good.

- Yeah, exactly.

- You know? The best player on the team is the captain.

- Yeah, I learned jack shit, I was just an asshole.

- Yeah, exactly.

- To be honest. I can look back and be like, "Yeah, I got all these leadership skills."

- Yeah.

- There were some great people, like a couple coaches, that kinda shaped me about what it was like to actually care about somebody, and I think that is what taught us about management. Like, what is management? Man, it's really just fucking caring about the people, you know, people first. And once you can really solidify that, everything else is easy because, you know, you wanna be cared about, people wanna be cared about. You realize that and you can pretty much move forward with any challenge.

- Yeah, yeah. The people part of it. What made me, I would say, as close to you as I think we are now is early on in my struggle, you said something. I was sitting on my front porch, I think. I wrote about it in my book, too.

- I remember.

- You were sitting on my front porch, I was crying. I mean, I was thinking about, we're on the phone, I was crying, and you started to cry a little bit, and you said, this is just to get to the people portion of it, you were like, "Look, man, I would die for a lot of people "but there's very few people I would kill somebody for, "and I would fucking kill someone for you." That, I think, was a big moment. I would even say it was a big moment for Easton, I would say, 'cause we knew that we were gonna run through this together, you know, like life and all of it. I would say, of all the things that's made us successful, I think it's just that we are really close. Like the core unit.

- I think a key thing here is I'm not some fucking altruistic person that's trying to say I'm some white knight. I don't believe that shit, right?

- No, yeah.

- But what I do believe is that it's important to be a good person. Eliot talks about this a lot and I think any great leader, any great person, any good person talks about being a good person. Well, what does that mean? Man, if something shitty happens, you're gonna run out there and try to save that person, even at the expense of your own life, because that's what good people do. It's not about being a white knight or being special or posting about it everywhere. It's about just doing the right fucking thing.

- Yeah, there was a post Enzo made yesterday, I told Jordan about it, principles. And I think we're very principled.

- Yeah, values are really key.

- Values are really key. Enzo made a post. He was like, "Man." He took a picture of his lawyer and he's like, "Man, this guy's suing me for $5,000." We're sitting down, he's having conversations. Him, his lawyer, the guy, and the guy's lawyer that's suing for injury at the school. And Enzo's lawyer gets the guy to agree to a settlement of $250, you know, from $5,000. And then they look at him and go, "Now, we're not gonna pay you a penny." Now, we're gonna go to trial and I'm gonna spend more at trial than you are, than I would on this $250. Because of the principle, because of the values that I stand with and that I won't move on. And I think that's one of the big things that we got to.

- Yeah, man. The values have been a really difficult thing. I talk to them a lot and with other businesses, not just jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu was the catalyst for all of this but values are, man, we know our core values. If you think and look at yourself just for a few hours, you can really figure out what your values are.

- Mm-hmm.

- But it's a whole 'nother thing to put those values out there for the world to see. Because once you put your values out there, you have to fucking stand by those or you're a fake.

- You're a fake.

- I journal whenever I can, especially when I'm having a hard time, and I feel that when I rewrite down the values, and like, man, I will fucking do anything to stick to this, so this decision that is hard and is gonna hurt, I put those values out there and it's important I stand by those, I'm not gonna falter anymore.

- No. And look, you fuck up on your values. We all do.

- Of course.

- But when you have them, you can go, oh, like, as soon as you realize you fucked up on them, you fuck up on them all the time, I fuck up on them all the time, we gotta talk like every six months, "Hey, office," for one of us, right?

- But we misstep. There's a difference between a misstep

- True.

- and then a complete, blatant disregard.

- Yes.

- It's like jaywalking versus a hit and run.

- Right, yeah. Good way to put it.

- We do some jaywalking occasionally, you know, it just happens. And we're like, "We gotta fix that."

- We gotta fix that.

- And we notice it.

- Yeah.

- We talk about it. It's when people in the organization, including ourselves, if somebody decides to do a hit and run, you know, if they do, really break the core values, man, it's fucking over. That is the key. This is what changed Easton. We've done a lot since I was managing Boulder and trying to figure out how to do these, like run the school.

- Mm-hmm.

- I just read book after book.

- We'll get into some of the books you read in a second but keep going.

- Yeah, so managing a school. Man, I made so many mistakes. I look back now from a year ago on how many mistakes I was making. I'm gonna do the same thing next year. Like, fuck, I made a lot of mistakes. But managing the school to just Boulder to make it as great as it could be. And it blew up. We did amazing things there by just, we can get into all the systems and how that changed, but I think what's really important is the past two-year journey for Easton. I think that is the most valuable thing we can share on this podcast for anybody that is in this journey with business 'cause we've failed so much over the past 20 years. And the past two years, man, it is fucking unbelievable, the connection, the cohesion, the transparency that is happening amongst the organization.

- One of the Denver students asked me the other day, Amy Fidelis, you know?

- Mm-hmm.

- She asked me, she was like, "Man, look at this. "It's July." 'Cause normally we're talking, you're talking dead, right? Like two, three years ago,

- Yeah.

- July at the Denver school? Empty.

- Yeah.

- Empty, right? Completely empty. Like five people, 10 people in a class, wondering, fuck, what's gonna happen? August, the end of August needs to get here so that people start, you know? And now, I mean, we're packed. And she was like, "What do you think it is?" And I was like, "Oh, it's simple." I was like, "We just have a culture." We have a culture in the school and now, now that the culture is so established, that it's so ingrained in everyone, top down, now you can go work on the actual things that the business needs to actually grow.

- Yeah, exactly. It's so much easier.

- It's so easy.

- It's so much easier.

- Yeah, it's so easy.

- And it's reading that got us there, right? It's just, I don't know Mark Twain's quote, maybe Jordy can pull it up.

- Jordan, Mark Twain quote!

- The one where he talks about--

- Jaime, Jaime!

- The one where he talks about, I think everything is plagiarism or all great things are plagiarized. I don't know the exact quote but it's true. I was talking to Alex Huddleston earlier, one of our black belts that just moved up to Boulder, very intelligent individual, very insightful, and I've been using a lot of the words he uses lately 'cause I like how they're cleaner and not, I don't know, they don't bring people down. And I'm like, "Man, I steal from you all the time." He's like, "Man, I'm just stealing this shit "from other gurus, man."

- Yes, yes.

- And I love that. It's okay to do that and it's been really powerful for us.

- It goes back to the same thing as there's no such thing as self-made.

- Yeah! No, man, it's fucking luck, education, grit.

- Look, for me, I have a delineation point in my life. I have a very clear delineation point. The two people that got me through, that I, it was three, actually, the three people that really got me through it were you, Will, and Ian.

- Will and Ian are brothers, by the way. Go figure.

- Yeah, they're brothers. So, you guys are the three guys that I would say 70% of the time were in my life, were talking to me through the night. We can talk about that story, go to "The Gospel of Fire." But I had nothing to do with that. You guys just happened to walk into the fucking school when I was trying to be a pro fighter 10 years ago, whenever that, I don't even, whenever that was. I didn't make that in my life and now I'm way over here down this different path but you, and like, man. I made my life? Are you fucking kidding me?

- Yeah, man, it's back to the video you just showed me. Don't be a victim, man. Once you fucking remove that victim mentality from your mind, and it's hard to do, man, that woe is me, those FOMO and that FOBLO shit.

- Yeah.

- Fear of missing out, fear of being left out, you gotta leave that shit behind, man. That thing that, another great piece of wisdom from Huddleston, right, was, he's like, "For communities, man, you have to, "community's about participation, not invitation." And man, when you're sitting at home feeling left out and down on yourself, this is what it was in high school, right, 'cause you didn't get invited to that party, or now if you're missing something, you think the person intentionally left you out? No, man, they're just busy with their own life. You know, remember there's perspectives, remember there's, leave that inner dialogue behind and be a part of something.

- And the same thing with the fear of missing out and all that stuff, just don't think you're so great. You didn't create this. It wasn't all you. But I think there's, people have FOMO and then they're like, "Oh, look at me. "I don't have FOMO, I'm the one who made all of this." So, look, it's somewhere right in the middle.

- Yeah, man, balance, right?

- Balance.

- That book I wanna write one day, it's gonna call "Be Balance," all right, I can say this on here, right? "Balance, Don't Be a Pussy."

- Yeah. Look, I mean, when we're talking like, this is how we are. When I talk to the HR lady, you know--

- We gotta give him a heads-up.

- Yeah, I told her, I was like, did you talk to her again afterwards?

- I have not yet.

- Okay. I told her, I was like, "Look, you gotta understand "we aren't, my biggest." I went the other way with her when I spoke with her. I was like, "Look, we need HR "but understand who we are." We curse. We play rap music. I micro-aggress, verge on macro-aggress all day.

- No, no, you're misunderstanding. He doesn't micro-aggress at all. He is straight a fuck, he's a Mack truck aggressor.

- Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

- Which is better. It's the truth versus this hidden aggression.

- Yeah, it's not hidden at all. People are cursing in the school. Not at four o'clock when the kids are around. But I was like, but understand, we hit each other. This is a, we're fighting, basically. We're teaching people how to fight so understand, when we talk about HR like we were earlier, she's gotta understand who we are here, you know? It's who we are.

- I feel like if we continue, we will just go on tangents all day long, talking. I don't know if we should stick to some stuff but I'm happy to keep continue this conversation.

- Homie.

- You want me to put that away?

- Homie. You put that away.

- Okay, cool.

- We'll get there.

- Got it, got it.

- Look, you can't, this is when podcasting goes bad.

- When you trying to go to a script.

- When you go, okay, now, I'm supposed to ask Michael Tousignant, "When you first started "managing Easton, what was a typical day in the life "of Mike Tousignant like?" This is how you end up with 100 listeners and when you get to 110, you're like, "Yes!"

- You're my podcast guru, bro.

- Well, I just follow Rogan. I talk about it all the time. I just follow Rogan. You sit down. I won't talk to people about, like when people ask me what they, what are we gonna talk about? I was like, "I don't know." They're like, "Can I get a heads-up?" I'm like, "Uh, we're gonna talk about your life." And like, "More?" I was like, "No, no, I can't do that." I can't script. I was like, "Is there anything "you don't want me to talk about?" How about that? And if they say they don't want me to talk about something, then I avoid that. But you can't, you know, I have some rough ideas, man, I'm looking at the screen.

- Oh yeah, oh, they're right there!

- I have them right here, man.

- Okay, cool. I don't want people to think I'm bored with the story but I think it's pretty funny.

- No, but this is where it's at. The gold is this kind of stuff. Dude, come on, Mike. How many books are written on business?

- I don't know. Millions, probably.

- Millions, right? Millions. But the problem with the book and the problem with a news clip and this is why podcasting is great, in my opinion, is that you can't get the story behind someone. You have this little section, you know? Even in an interview on TV, it gets edited and you don't really know what that person really said. The longform podcast is the way to go because they can be like, damn, they get attached to you.

- It fleshes it out.

- It flesh, yeah. Like you can say something a little bad and then, but then they can listen to the whole thing and be like, "Oh, I see his point."

- I'm gonna talk about that real quickly.

- Okay.

- My wife, I fucking love her dearly. We're very, you know, we're opposite in many ways. She works out like a fiend, it's amazing. I love that she works out a lot. But we argue a lot. She's smarter than I am. She is great academically. She goes to school and she just crushes it. Whenever she decides to go back to school, which is, you know, it happens here and there. That's another story. But she's really good at school. She's really good at critical thinking. She's really good at reading stuff. And I think I wanna talk about critical thinking a little bit. I think this is really important to discuss when you're running a business, when you're leading people, shit, when you're reading a book, when you're walking through life. If you don't have the ability to critical think, I think this is why ideology like religious literature can be dangerous. If somebody doesn't have an education or was never taught how to critically think, they will read something and take it as the gospel. They don't realize you can pull some great things out of everything. And there's another quote in Buddhism that talks about always be learning or have a white-belt mind or have beginner's mind, so I read a lot and some of it is shit but I tell you, every time I read something, I learn so much and I can take the stuff that works, I can try it on, and I'm like, cool, this works, I'm gonna keep using it.

- And you get your mind changed.

- Yeah! And then I can try it out, just be an open, I was not like this five years ago. But I do stress about people listening to just one podcast person or just listening to one guru, because they're believing this person is a fucking god, a sage, whatever you wanna call it, and they're not experiencing anything else. In my bathroom, I have this whole, let's talk about this real quickly. I have this routine that I stick to 90% of the time 'cause it's self-work and it's really important and I recommend everybody giving this a shot. There's plenty of different routines but they do help. Mine has been fleshed out over the past few years. And, man, I wake up 4:30 or 6:00, depending on if I have the late-night meetings or not, I get out of bed, and first thing I do is I turn the coffeemaker on, the espresso machine now that Eliot gave me, thanks, Eliot, it's amazing, and then I go meditate for 10 minutes with the Sam Harris podcast every single time, the Waking Up podcast. After that meditation happens, I make my coffee and then I read for 25, 30 minutes. And the reading, it's very important what I read. It's more intense technical reading. It's actually, right now, the book I'm reading is Chet Richards. He was a acolyte of John Boyd, another great person. Jordan gave me this book. It's more technical. He's a mathematician and I can read it in the morning 'cause I'm really fucking caffeinated, I'm centered, nothing's bothering me yet. So, I get my reading in, I journal, and then I get on my computer and I work for two hours. At eight a.m., I take my kid for two hours to give my wife some free time. And then at 10, it's fucking on. All the hard work's done. Now, 10 a.m. to four or five p.m., I am just hanging out with Easton people, just working, getting to know people, dealing with meetings, people problems. And I always end my night with, oh, hold on, in there, I drive a lot so I have a book I'm listening to audio lately. This is important, I think. It's a book that's either kind of lighter business stuff or it's a memoir, something that's cool about a human being, a biography like "Team of Rivals" about Lincoln. And then at night, it's a biography, something that I can really get into and go to bed and listen to that.

- You're doing some World War II stuff, aren't you, at night?

- Oh, man, we can get into this shit. Man, I fucking love, this is the cool thing. When you read, what happens is when you read a lot, you start going down these rabbit holes and you find these things that interest you. You can start, this morning, I really traced some shit back which is interesting. In my bathroom, I keep another kind of reading. I keep philosophy and religious reading or "The Art of War." 'Cause you can't sit down and read those kinda books. You can read like a page or two at a time and really absorb them while you're taking your morning dump. So, it's great bathroom reading.

- For me, for me, I don't push my coffee machine. Dude, why are you pushing the button on that?

- I gotta turn it on.

- Oh no.

- What do you mean?

- I didn't show you this. It's got an automatic turn-on feature.

- Oh, that's okay, I changed my time to wake up. It's ready by the time I'm done meditating.

- Okay, so you don't mind.

- It's perfect. It's all calculated right.

- All right, no worries. I mean, I take a dump first and then meditate. That's how I do it.

- I need my coffee before I dump.

- Yeah, so no, I don't.

- Anyway, I was reading, this actually is fucking Jordan again, sparked some of this World War II stuff. I read this stuff about this John Boyd character and he gets really into military strategy. I was like, "Oh, this is interesting." So, I started watching a lot more about, you know, war, like the Civil War, World War II. Finding it pretty interesting learning about blitzkrieg and creating the fog of war. And I like the idea of strategy, it's really cool. So, I kept learning more and then everything you read goes back to Sun Tzu, right, "The Art of War"? Am I saying that right? Sun Tzu?

- Mm-hmm.

- "The Art of War." And then I'm reading "The Art of War" this morning and "Art of War" traces back all the way to Daoism, right? So, it's so far back and it's so simple.

- What it does, though, look, your World War II, that has nothing to do with our business. But it does.

- Oh, it does, right?

- Everything does.

- Everything does.

- Because it's just like you were saying, it gets you down these rabbit holes and then you're like, "Oh, and then I can take this "and I can put it there," you know? Just the idea, the idea that you're constantly changing and you're constantly evolving, more and new information is constantly coming in your mind from this person over here and from that person over here and from somebody I might disagree with.

- Yes.

- I go back to them all the time, Jordan Peterson. I can't figure out whether I like the guy or hate the guy or what it is, but I love listening to him 'cause he makes me think critically.

- I don't wanna say I hate any of them. That's the thing.

- Yeah.

- I'm stoked these motherfuckers put some time in and wrote these thoughts out.

- Uh huh, uh huh.

- Right, and I disagree or agree, there's still wisdom in there.

- Yeah.

- I don't like labeling mentors but there's a person in my life that definitely helped me see some of this stuff. You look at, do you guys know who Charles Munger is or you know who Warren Buffett is, right?

- Right.

- Charles Munger, he's like second in command. Charles Munger's like 92, 94, Buffett is like 88, and these guys are fucking with it, 100% with it. My grandfather was not very with it at 80.

- My grandfather was with it until the day he died.

- These two people, they fucking read voraciously. They're constantly working their mind and it improves their memory, it improves their business. There's a reason they're worth billions of dollars and they're extremely, you know, they're pretty happy people that influence the world. It all stems back to reading. It's just non-stop reading. 'Cause you get to learn about the human condition. And I don't give a fuck what you're reading. I used to read only fantasy. Now, when I go back and wanna read fantasy, man, I'll read about a king some author wrote about in this fucking fantasy book and I pull so much, I'm gonna use that today in my speech or I'm gonna talk

- Yeah.

- to leaders about that.

- There's so much, you know, there's so much. I don't just read.

- Oh, I listen to audio, too.

- I'm just saying, I don't just do the book thing. 'Cause I'm doing the digital marketing stuff, right, like the Easton, like for this podcast, you know, so I'm trying to, so I have to watch some, I have to watch a lot on YouTube.

- Yeah.

- Right, like I have to watch how people do things. It's not reading so it's not quite the same but it's just information-gathering, you know? In my opinion. It's just information-gathering from this source or that source. I'm like, "Oh," and then you go down the rabbit hole with that person, you know? Like Amy Porterfield, I bought her, she's the one who, for our show, it's the course I took for the digital marketing, you know, to make a digital course. And then she's got this list builders course and now we're, I bought that, and now Jordan and I are watching and going through that. And I don't even care, I don't even care that I have to spend money on some of the stuff but it's like, yeah, I wanna do the, oh yeah, yeah.

- It doesn't matter.

- Doesn't matter.

- The ROI on your fucking unlearning is unbelievable. And yes, I read a lot because I set my life up so I can and because I'm in a cool position now where there's amazing people in the company and we can get to the structure. I think this is really important. But I get to read a lot so I can think about working on the business

- We're gonna have to do

- instead of in the business.

- another podcast on the structure because we're almost done.

- Yeah, yeah.

- You know, it can only, a podcast, you can only go so long.

- Yeah, so I think that I'd say that it's an important piece then. Let's just say that for a minute, that education piece. I don't think it has to be reading, right? Like I read The Wall Street Journal but I also read a bunch of these articles all the time. You have to be constantly in-taking education because, again, back to what we first talked about, it's about the people, right? And how do you understand people? You have to learn about the human condition. How do you learn about the human condition? You have to be open to every piece of information that comes your way and you gotta think about it. You can read about it, you can fucking write about it, you can talk on Voxer for hours with different people about it, you can have meetings, you can do, whatever it is, as long as you're open to in-take information constantly, you can understand the human condition and then you can really help manage people. I have a hard time with the word lead people. I feel like, I don't know, maybe it's this--

- It creates the guru thing.

- Yeah, maybe this is Stockholm Syndrome where I'm worried that I'm not good enough and I shouldn't be saying those things.

- Dude, it's all I talk to my therapist about.

- You know?

- I talk to my therapist about four things: my wife, my mom... and leadership. And goddamn, I can't be seen as someone's guru. I can't be this leader. Not that I can't because I want to be. I want to inspire--

- I don't want the fucking label.

- I don't want the label. I don't want people to look at me like I'm unflawed.

- You're fucking flawed.

- Because goddamn, am I flawed.

- Thing with Eliot is you see Eliot, one Eliot, but Eliot's this big old teddy bear. I'm gonna break your persona.

- No, it's okay. Ana and I had to go through this. Years ago. Two years ago, she was so standoffish a little bit but I could tell that she loved me, you know? And I'm like, "Look, what do you"--

- They know who Ana is?

- Oh, it doesn't matter. Ana's my ninja student, a fucking lovely little girl.

- I'm gonna bust his balls real quick. I make fun of him a lot when he says "my student," too.

- Oh no, she's, you're all mine. See, you're not on social media. I gave this great post about my students.

- Oh, that's another thing. I got off social media so I could read more.

- I know. You're all mine. Every single one of you.

- You're all his.

- Yeah, and I don't know how you possess a person. I wrote this, that's what I said. I was like, "I'm not sure if possession is okay."

- This is a, coming from a black Jew.

- Yeah.

- If anybody can discuss this, it's you.

- It's me, I know. I get passes everywhere I go just about, bro.

- I'm a white guy, I don't get passes.

- Yeah, I know.

- I don't deserve them.

- Now you guys are, everyone's mine. Amal's my teacher. Even though he's above me, right? And I--

- So if you can't, so what he's saying is, guys, if you can't beat that whole ownership thing, he's gonna fucking embrace it, is what he's getting at.

- Yeah, yeah. I do, I do.

- I respect that. I heard this.

- I feel like everyone's mine. That's my wife, those are my kids. And I can't tell you what to do or any of that. That's not what I'm saying. But goddamn, there's a piece of every person that is in my life that when I say "mine," it attaches love to them, for me, you know?

- Yeah.

- And not like I can tell them what to do. Like I said, I just want to, and I know where this goes bad, too, I know it's a fucking slippery slope, I'm aware.

- I gotta comment on this.

- I know, but give me a second.

- I don't know, yeah, go ahead and finish.

- I think they know I love them. I hope they do.

- Yes, yes. The people that are close to Eliot that he calls mine for the most part know he loves them. Like I know he loves me. When he tells me he's my boss, it pisses me off sometimes. And like, it's cool, I know Eliot has good intentions.

- When was the last time I told you I'm your boss?

- You haven't in a while

- Okay.

- but I'm just bringing that up.

- All right.

- But it's the collateral damage that I would say is when it can be dangerous. This is where we talk about Eliot's an evangelist and he's on the stage promoting Easton and making, helping show what we're trying to do to the world. And I'm behind the curtains because I don't trust the things that come out of my mouth because I can see there can be collateral damage with words. And Eliot is a big personality and when he's giving this speech and the people in the room, they love him and trust him implicitly 'cause he deserves to be 'cause he's an amazing person, will be like, "I get what he's saying, man, he's the man." But when there's somebody on the kickboxing mat 100 feet away, "Who is this big scary guy "over there yelling? "I don't wanna come back."

- You wanna know what I did yesterday? Are you ready?

- That's what we're trying to find the balance.

- Yeah, we're trying to find that balance, it's hard.

- Again, there's that word.

- You wanna know what I did yesterday?

- Always.

- All right. I walked into the--

- Do I actually? Is that the right answer?

- I don't know, we will see. We've had this discussion before and we've never got, known where to go with it. Okay, we live in Colorado, everyone. We are in Colorado and marijuana's legal. So, I walk into the Denver locker room and I had to take a piss in between classes and it reeked, bro. It fucking reeked of weed.

- And you're surrounded by grows around there.

- Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's two grows around us. But it wasn't that. Somebody either walked in and smoked or was smoking, something like that, right? And I was like, you know--

- Dude, I work in the Boulder gym a lot.

- I know, so I was not, and I'll be clear, I'm not afraid to say I like to smoke some weed sometimes especially like last night, for example, I come home, it's 9:00, 9:30, and I'd just trained for an hour, right, an hour and a half. I'd been on, I'd been jacked up. I mean, if you take my class, I don't know, man, I'm giving everything in my class. I am teaching the best, I am not holding back. You know? So it's a lot of energy for me and then I train at the end of it, right? And then, man, it's hard for me to go to sleep. It's hard for me to come down at 9:30 at night and get to bed before three.

- I drink lots of whiskey 'cause I get too paranoid with weed.

- I can't drink.

- Yeah, I know.

- I'm not wrecked, I can do everything. And then I come home, I smoke a little bit, so I'm not against marijuana. I don't do it every day, it's not my thing to do every day. But, sorry, my ear itches. But I walked in the locker room and it was terrible. And so, I walked back out onto the mat and I bring my class together. It's the end of the intermediate, beginning of the advanced. I was like, "Look, guys, I just want everyone to understand, "how the men's locker room smells right now is not okay. "And it's not body odor, it's marijuana. "And I'm not faulting you, any of you "for any of your decisions or anything like that. "What you do, it's fine, I don't care. "But don't bring it in here on other people."

- I agree, man, it's the same thing when we were, before marijuana was legal. If somebody came in smelling like booze, it'd be like, dude, get the fuck out of here. This is a martial arts academy. Don't forget that.

- Don't forget that, exactly. And then I walked to the kickboxing mat and these guys don't know me that well. I was like, "Hey, guys, everyone bring it in. "I'm not mad at anybody, "I'm just telling you don't do this again. "If it's you, I don't know who it is, don't do this again. "This is a place of respect and a place of honor "and you're gonna treat it that way."

- Yes, and that is a disrespectful

- And that is a disrespectful

- thing to do.

- thing to do.

- So, that tone for the whole class?

- For the whole school, the whole school. We'll see how that went over with the kickboxing people.

- I think that's fine 'cause you went up and talked to them.

- It's when they're not hearing.

- It's the collateral damage.

- When they're hearing me from over there.

- Yeah.

- Yeah. The kickboxing program's still growing. We're all right.

- Yeah, we're doing fine. We're doing fine. And Ian and me are there to have the conversations with people to be like, "Don't worry, he's a great dude.

- Just stick around

- "Just get to know him. "Stick around, you'll learn."

- Just stick around. Stick around.

- Eliot's had to save my ass a few times. I have a pretty bad temper. That's why I meditate so much. I have a really bad temper and Eliot has definitely saved my ass on more than one occasion when I have definitely been out of line so I can, I'm happy to do the same for him.

- The guy who asked me if I was gonna fire you? And I was like, "Are you fucking crazy?" I was like, "For this?" I don't know, maybe you would've gotten fired at other places, but no fucking way. No fucking way. You know, are you crazy?

- People first.

- People first. And look, that's, I mean, so if there's any theme that is of this, of the podcast and the business that we've had so far about how we got to where we are, it's people.

- People, let's talk about that real quickly 'cause I think will tie it in together. I think we should have another podcast discussing more of the business stuff, like the structure, 'cause I think it is important.

- It's important but you can't do it without people.

- This is what happened, this is how this all went down. Without being like...

- Move closer.

- I don't wanna come off as arrogant here 'cause that's something I always worry about when I'm speaking but I live in a lot of passion when I discuss these things and with my passion, I get emotional occasionally, as Eliot knows.

- Yeah.

- I remember as a kid when I would get in fights all the time, I'd cry in the middle of a fight while I was fighting somebody.

- You'd be beating someone's ass and crying?

- I'd be crying, dude. I just get emotional, man. I'm an emotional, passionate person. And that comes off when you get to know me. So, when I talk about this stuff, I get really passionate. Easton is doing really well but I always want more. I'm always like, not for me personally but for the people. What was happening is Amal, Eliot, and I are very different individuals and we all have our roles we play. Amal is the visionary, he has his own quirks. I love the guy like a fucking father. Eliot is like a big brother to me and he's been amazing to me these past years. But I was running into this issue couple years ago where I couldn't figure out what my place was. I was trying to run the company for the past three or four years but I was just the GM of Boulder. And I didn't know what to do. So, I kept arguing with Eliot, with Amal, and then Eliot would try to fix us.

- It didn't go well, my fix made it worse.

- It never worked out well. Finally, I met this guy. I was like, "Hey, I need help with this." He's like, "You need to speak "to this person, Larry Dressler." So, I called Larry Dressler. I was like, "Man, here are my issues with these two. "How do we figure it out?" He's like, "Well, let me meet with them." And I was like, "What about me?" He's like, "Yeah, not yet." And I got bothered.

- Mike was so mad!

- I was like, "Motherfucker, I called you to fix this problem "and you're ignoring me?"

- I can remember the first time. I was like, "Oh, I just had my meeting with Larry." Mike was like, "Good for you, fuck off," hang up.

- But you have the process sometime, right? Sometimes, you do jiu-jitsu at the beginning or Muay Thai, like, why am I doing this? And then it comes full circle if you trust the person that you're trying to listen to, like trusting in your teacher. So, we went through this process. He met with them, they figured out, he figured out what they wanted, and then he met with all of us. It was me, Eliot, and a few other key people, Sachi, Vellore, Ian. When we were all running the schools, we only had three main schools then. We have six now, we've added three to the equation.

- Since Larry.

- Yeah, since then. Anyway, Larry kind of, all the issues I was having, he didn't address at all. What he made us come up with was our vision.

- Our vision and our core values.

- And our core values. I talk to a lot of business owners that are at that spot now when they're struggling with what the next step is 'cause they're working in the business every single day and they don't know how to back off to let somebody else take the reins. Larry made us put our vision together and we came with our vision and it was a lot of work. It took fucking 20 hours of meetings.

- Oh, more than that.

- Maybe more than that, right? 50, I don't know, 30 hours. It was a lot, and a lot of money, too. But it was, what we came up with is priceless.

- What's our ROI on that?

- Fuck.

- Hold on, hold on. Can you put a number on it?

- No.

- Can you put a number on it?

- I don't know, a million dollars.

- People sometimes think about everything in terms of an ROI, and it's hard.

- I can't put a number on that, man, because this is what this did. It fixed the problems with Amal and Eliot. They started getting what they got, we found out what their roles were. And then I found out what my role was. And then I got to move to the CEO and run the company with them kind of sitting there, helping guide me, and I'm meeting with them occasionally to make this all work out. Anyway, the vision was a big piece of it and our vision was like, what was the first iteration? It was like, the battle-test, recognized internationally

- Yeah.

- as the best martial arts school. I changed it a little bit. Eliot doesn't quite agree with this but I moved it to make it simple and to make it, back up a little bit. What we had to come up with to help get that vision was what our BHAGs were, big hair audacious goals. We had a bunch of them in mind. One that we wrote down was careers. Let's think about what careers means. That means it's for the people. Eliot, Amal, and I, we're doing good, but the careers are for the people, right?

- Yes.

- And then when we made that our fucking vision, that our focus, we're like, "Okay, let's have 100 Eastons." 'Cause what does that mean? It doesn't mean that Eliot and Amal and all of us make more money. Yeah, sure, we're gonna make more money, but we're gonna make the opportunity for the same person like me who started putting stickers on a car, driving around Boulder, Colorado, putting stickers on signs for my membership to running Boulder to running the company to building it to 100 schools. Because we see all these people at Easton that dedicated their lives to jiu-jitsu, to martial arts. Now, it will give them the opportunity to run their own school and we're trying to create that path for them. And don't get me wrong, it's getting very competitive and it's getting harder every day, and a lot of people won't be able to do it. But man, we're gonna have the opportunity for them to make this happen. So, we focused on building careers for people and our vision will help get them there. The big caveat to that is you can't just, you can try to get to 100 schools but if you have no values, you will fucking burn bridges, you will make some mistakes. The core values, something you're willing to lose friends and money over, are how you get there. You have to filter all your decisions through your core values and make sure you know where you're going with that vision.

- Let's hear the definition of core value again.

- Core values. What you're willing to lose friends and money over.

- Simple.

- And you fucking better believe it.

- You gotta die on it.

- And we did, man, we made

- Yeah.

- the biggest decision, we don't have to get into that, but it was, we made the hardest decision we've ever made in our lives, probably.

- There was probably four of us that were really close. You three were even closer. We had to fire and kick out one of you for good. And we told this person that they don't talk to us again.

- And I wish the best for that person because--

- I hope, I know you might disagree, I hope we're friends again someday. You don't have to comment on that.

- I won't comment on that.

- I hope that he gets his life together so well and makes such an impact and changes that he and I are friends again. I really hope that and I wish him all the best. But where we are right now, can't do it.

- And let's talk about that, too, real quickly 'cause I think it's important to note that this person, though it may have hurt, it was probably the best thing for him, you know, 'cause it was just this repeating loop. It's like when you have an addict in your life and you keep holding them up, they're never gonna actually fall. And I'm not saying we did this, again, altruistically. This was done organically and we decided it was the right decision for Easton.

- Yeah.

- So he's gonna leave. He's working on himself, I'm sure. But what happened was, it was insane. It made an impact.

- People looked at us and were like, "Oh, fuck, they aren't fucking around."

- We are not fucking around anymore. And you know it, if you own a jiu-jitsu school and you're one of those new owners, you have all these little things that happen and you're like, "Oh, we'll just let that guy slide, "let that guy slide." Every time we've had to let somebody go that we thought it'd be so painful, and we don't like firing people, we've done like three people

- Ever.

- in fucking 20 years. But a lot of them are recently. And it's like three days of pain is what they call it. I think I got this from that book "Traction." It's three days of pain. It hurts really bad but three days later, your organization turns around. It is so powerful.

- People just looked at us. 'Cause you can talk about core values all the time and all that stuff but when you fucking do something hard, you know, when you really put your money where your mouth is, that's when you gain some respect. That's when your clients, your staff, your students, and all of that stuff, that's when they look at you and go, "Oh, fuck, they're for real."

- And it can't be about the money, man.

- It's like, the beauty of jiu-jitsu, it's like the first time you touch jiu-jitsu, right? The first time you experience jiu-jitsu and you're like, "Man, I'm gonna beat this person's ass. "Oh, man, I'm tied in knots, I couldn't."

- Yeah, man, jiu-jitsu's a great metaphor for everything.

- Yeah, I couldn't. Mike, let's end it right there, man. That was amazing.

- That was a lot of fun, man. I really appreciate it.

- We're gonna have to do it again about some particulars. But people, you gotta understand, I don't care what business you have, I don't care what it is you're doing, if you start doing those things for money and if you start doing those things for profit and all that stuff and you aren't focused on the people and the purpose and the values and the why, you will not be successful.

- You will not be successful. People will fucking find you out.

- People find you out, exactly. Your mask will be taken off.

- Sweet.

- All right, man, thanks.

- That was a lot of fun, man.

- We'll do it again. Guys, that's it. Episode two, all done.

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