Matt Higgins: Burn the Boats, Refuse to Die. Legendary Shark Makes the Case for No Plan B | E212

Matt Higgins: Burn the Boats, Refuse to Die. Legendary Shark Makes the Case for No Plan B | E212

Matt Higgins: Burn the Boats, Refuse to Die. Legendary Shark Makes the Case for No Plan B | E212

Matt Higgins spent most of his teenage years taking care of his single mother and scraping gum off of tables at Mcdonald’s. After he dropped out of high school at age 16, he graduated from Fordham Law School and became the youngest press secretary in New York City history during the September 11th attacks. Matt created an entrepreneurial career that has now spanned multiple industries. In today’s episode, Matt comes back on YAP to discuss his brand new book Burn the Boats and his winning formula to stop hedging and embark on a lifelong journey of breakout success!
Matt Higgins is an Executive Fellow and teacher at Harvard Business School, and, through RSE Ventures, the private investment firm he co-founded, an investor in some of America’s most beloved brands. He was a Guest Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank, and became the youngest press secretary in New York City history during the September 11th attacks. He then helped lead the effort to rebuild the World Trade Center site as Chief Operating Officer before becoming Executive Vice President of the New York Jets and then Vice Chairman of the Miami Dolphins.
In this episode, Hala and Matt will discuss:
– Why Burn the Boats is Matt’s most important project
– How “familiarity breeds contempt”
– Why your Plan B should be eliminated
– Compound decision-making
– Cultivating your own belief in yourself
– Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-reliance”
– Why Matt brought Kim Kardashian to Harvard
– Who is cut out for being an entrepreneur
– Harnessing the power of Linkedin
– And other topics…
Matt Higgins is a self-made serial entrepreneur with deep operating experience that spans multiple industries over his twenty-five-year career. Higgins holds dual roles as co-founder and CEO of the private investment firm RSE Ventures. His business-building acumen also earned him a spot as a recurring guest Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank during seasons ten and eleven. He is a prolific investor in the direct-to-consumer space and leveraged this expertise to become an executive fellow at Harvard Business School, where he coteaches the course “Moving Beyond DTC.”
A lifelong New Yorker, Higgins was appointed press secretary for the New York City mayor’s office at age twenty-six—the youngest in history—managing the global media response during the 9/11 terrorist attacks before ultimately becoming chief operating officer of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. After transitioning to the private sector, he spent fifteen years in senior leadership positions with two National Football League teams, starting as EVP of business operations for the New York Jets before serving as vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins for nearly a decade.
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[00:00:00] Matt Higgins: One common theme I have for successful founders is they refuse to accept things for the way they are. They just refuse to believe, that this is how it has to be cuz this is how it's always done. Two, they just always get back up again. You have to ask yourself, will you always get up again? Because the number one predictor of future success is past refusal to die.

[00:00:23] The idea of compounding applies equally as much to good decisions and bad decisions as it applies to money. If you could collapse the amount of time, it takes for you to go ahead and implement a bold decision. If you could limit the energy leakage that you devote to contemplating lack of success, you can pull forward your entire life.

[00:00:42] Everything has more time to exponentially compound.

[00:00:50] Hala Taha: What is up Young and Profiteers. You are listening to YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, where we interview the brightest minds in the world and turn their [00:01:00] wisdom into actionable advice, that you can use in your daily life. I'm your host, Hala Taha, a k a, the podcast Princess. Thanks for listening and get ready to listen, learn and profit.

[00:01:24] Welcome to Young and Profiting podcast, Matt. 

[00:01:27] Matt Higgins: Thank you. It's so great to be back. 

[00:01:29] Hala Taha: I'm so happy that you hear so Young and Profiteers. Matt Higgins is back again for second appearance on the podcast. If you don't know Matt, he's a self-made serial entrepreneur. He holds dual roles as the co-founder and CEO of the private investment firm, RSE Ventures.

[00:01:45] He's also a recurring guest on Shark Tank. It's ABC's number one show. He did that for seasons 10 and 11, and he's also an executive fellow at Harvard Business School. So the last time we had Matt on the show, we went super deep on his inspiring come up story. We got school, [00:02:00] done some major lessons in entrepreneurship.

[00:02:02] He's got a crazy journey from dropping outta high school at 16 to working at McDonald's. He jumpstarted his career as the youngest press secretary for the Mary of New York. He's got a crazy story and it was one of my favorite conversations of 2021. So if you wanna hear that conversation, go back to episode number 145 after you listen to this one, and I'll try to play it as a YAP classic when this episode airs.

[00:02:23] So it's easy to find. So in round two with Matt Higgins, we're gonna focus on his new book, Burn the Boats. It's out February 14th and we're gonna learn the winning formula to stop hedging, and embark on a lifelong journey of breakout success. So Matt, congratulations. It's your first book, which I was surprised to learn that it was your first book.

[00:02:41] I figured you must have had a few books under your belt. 

[00:02:43] Matt Higgins: I wasn't sure the moral of the story, so I had to wait to figure it out. 

[00:02:48] Hala Taha: I love that. As, probably know I do my due diligence and lots of research on this show, so I was, moseying around on Good Reads, and I saw a note that you wrote to your fans, and you're a man of many accomplishments. And you [00:03:00] wrote in that note that nothing you've done in your career matters as much as this book, and you call it the most important project in your life.

[00:03:06] So why is that? 

[00:03:07] Matt Higgins: You're getting me like, sensitive going, bringing that fast. I'm remembering when I wrote that note. It's because I think I figured out the moral of the story. So for those who go back to my origin, I'll let you listen to it. I feel like I bore witness to a lot of suffering as a young person.

[00:03:21] And you wonder not in a why me, but what for? That's the question I ask myself. And as time has gotten by and I've been blessed to be able to break out, and do a lot of crazy things, I've done an accumulated degree of wealth and influence. I just kept going back to that moment in time. That origin story of being 16 and watching my mother struggle and then ultimately die. And realize that there's no higher, greater use of my talent, and time and money than ameliorating suffering, and then hopefully providing some of the answers to the test.

[00:03:48] And I have a lot of, in incredibly rich, deep vulnerable conversations, people one-on-one. When you share a lot of your gut-wrenching details a little bit of tmi. It makes people feel safe and open up to you. But you can only do that so much. And I live a lot of [00:04:00] my life in guilt or anguish that, I don't have time and I have my own goals.

[00:04:03] I wish I had time for you. My book is an attempt to scale the things I've seen, the things I've learned, the pain I've felt, and actually convince people I am not an aberration like it's my book, but it's your story. And I really believe that and I killed myself for two years to make it interesting enough so that you're hooked.

[00:04:19] And the Trojan horse of the book is, I have all these incredible stories about great people include some gut wrenching details, but it's a little bit of an act of inception to seep into your subconscious. That there is a formula to achieve what I achieved, and I am no different than you. So if it were to work, if it was to connect with people, and people were to read and say, you moved me in a positive direction. What could be more glorious than that?

[00:04:42] Hala Taha: I have authors on all the time and I'm never like, this was such a good book. I really don't do that often. But I found myself like highlighting all these quotes, like this is a bombass quote, this is a bombass quote, and was really entertained by the book. So great job writing it. Very entertaining.

[00:04:55] Matt Higgins: Thank you. I love hearing that. Thank you. Even if you're just saying that, I don't really care. I thank [00:05:00] you for doing.

[00:05:01] Hala Taha: I'm not just saying that I'm not, my fans know that. I don't do that very often. 

[00:05:04] Matt Higgins: Thank you.

[00:05:05] Hala Taha: So let's talk about the title of the book. It's called Burn the Boats. And to me that's a phrase that basically means destroy your plan B. Give yourself no option to return or retreat.

[00:05:15] And I found out from you that it's actually an ancient phrase, that dates all the way back to the Old Testament, and it's usually related to times of war. So I'd love for you to give us a history lesson. What does Burn the Boats mean in your own words? And share some stories from Sun Tzu and Caesar and other people who use it in war.

[00:05:30] Matt Higgins: So throughout the course of my life, at different moments. This phrase, Burn the Boat, says, come up in a differing context. So most people associate it with Hernán Cortés and taking on the Aztecs 1519. Very bad man. I do not endorse any of his tactics, but most people assume that's where it comes from, right?

[00:05:48] But when you look backwards, actually it shows up in Art of war. When Sun Tzu uses the phrase, when an army is outnumbered, paraphrasing, you burn the boats and break the cooking pots. So they have no hankering [00:06:00] after home. It shows up in Caesar when he crosses the Rubicon and on to the ancient Israelites.

[00:06:04] And what's fascinating is you're talking about multiple different languages, multiple different centuries. But military leaders tend to be, tend somewhat ruthless, realize that the way to get maximum output, from your army is to extinguish any thought of retreat or any plan B. So this idea has resurfaced throughout the course of my career.

[00:06:23] And then when I worked for the New York Jets, those out there listening who are sports fans? Remember Rex Ryan in around in, I think it was 2011, I forget the year we were taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Were an underdog. And Rex gave a speech to the team the night before, and Rex is like a big guy with, big jowls.

[00:06:39] And he gave, he started crying in this emotive speech about Cortés and saying, he burned the boats and all I'm asking you to do is give me one game. And the team went out there, they won the New York Times, did a big article about that speech and how the team, the players said it unlocked another level of effort.

[00:06:56] Okay, interesting. After Shark Tank, I was on a panel with [00:07:00] Kevin O'Leary and Mark Cuban, and Bethany and I made some reference to the crowd about burn the boats and Cuban's burn the boats. What are you talking about? And I was like, I thought this was deep in the, in the gestalt, everyone knew the phrase and I realized they don't.

[00:07:13] So that got me thinking, what do military generals intuitively know about us that we don't fully embrace? And it's the idea that humans perform better without a safety plan. My purpose with this book is one, to demonstrate to you that is true. A lot of people listening to me right now say, what are you saying, Matt?

[00:07:28] I have to pay the rent. I need a backup plan. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that when you have less choices, you actually perform with more conviction and more focus. How do we take that idea and appropriate it for peacetime? 

[00:07:40] Hala Taha: I thought that was so impactful. Like just seeing the visual of people in war.

[00:07:45] You burn the boats and you're left to do nothing but fight to the death, right? And make sure it's a life or death situation. There's no chance of retreat. And then your analogy of using that in business is just so powerful. So let's talk about how you [00:08:00] burned the boats in your life. So like I mentioned, I covered your story for an hour in episode number 145, but I know not all 50,000 people who are listening to this is actually gonna go back and listen to that.

[00:08:11] I know you've never been to war like Caesar or Sun Tzu, but you did burn boats many times in your life. So talk to us about the times in your life where you didn't have a plan B, you burned the boats and went on to accomplish your dreams. 

[00:08:22] Matt Higgins: Absolutely. And one more historical context for those listening.

[00:08:25] If you think it's an aging concept and we've all outgrown it with social media, whatever, think about Zelensky. A lot of people remember this when he was invaded. Conventional wisdom was that he was gonna be toppled within days. Even the United States, the CIA, all of our resources predicted this man did not have what it takes.

[00:08:40] The Ukrainians don't have what it takes. And we he was offered in a secret conversation, a ride by President Joe Biden, and he went public with the conversation and he said, I don't need a ride. I need ammunition. And if you think about that was his way of telegraphing to the world. I have burned my boats.

[00:08:57] I will die here. And that was the warning, you were gonna [00:09:00] be assassinated. And he told his people, I'm all in. And look what it did as a catalyst. It actually enabled, got everybody to slightly escalate their commission commitment until we were all in. Nobody would've predicted the United States would be spending billions and billions of dollars to support Ukraine.

[00:09:13] So a little bit more of the bringing that historical context out. So as it pertains to me, without going through all the details, having grown up in ab abject poverty. I was so desperate and depressed taking care of my mother, and felt like if I don't do something radical to change our circumstances. I know how the story's gonna end.

[00:09:29] She's gonna pass away and I'm gonna live in squalor. And I came up with this crazy idea after watching what she did. She was a high school dropout. She got her GED as an adult when she was 38 years old and enrolled in a community college. And when I was in seventh grade. Earning like 3 75 at McDonald's scraping gum under the tables.

[00:09:47] I was like, there's gotta be a better way. I read a newspaper ad that was inviting people to apply for a job delivering flyers. I think it was like $8 an hour. I was like, wait, I can two and a half X my salary if I just get this thing called the college student. How do I [00:10:00] do that as fast as humanly possible?

[00:10:02] And I came up with this idea that I was gonna torpedo my education. I was gonna drop outta high school at 16 and get a GED. But I realized once I started floating this conventional wisdom was like, you're gonna be branded a loser forever. You're never gonna shake the stigma. People don't do that.

[00:10:17] I'm like people don't grow up on a dirty mattress with eating government cheese either. So that isn't working so great. And then I had, I don't know where this came from, but I realized the only way for me to go forward with this plan is if I fail every single class. And I sit in the back of this homeroom with the kids wearing beepers, doing drugs, whatever.

[00:10:35] If I just fail everything except for typing. I mentioned that before that I will have no choice but to go forward. And so I share that as the genesis moment of my entire career. That single move to drop outta high school and stick to my conviction, to ignore conventional wisdom because they didn't have context.

[00:10:51] And to implement my radical plan, pulled forward my entire professional life, by two years so that I went from a high school dropout one day to a [00:11:00] college student at 16 the next day. And by 26 I was press secretary to the mayor of New York. I went from making 375 an hour at McDonald's to making $105,000 a year.

[00:11:09] All because I burned the boats and I gave myself no other option to. 

[00:11:13] Hala Taha: I love that. And then when you were Press Secretary of New York, that also was a time where you burned the boats. I think that's how you got that promotion, right? You actually quit your job. Tell us that story. 

[00:11:23] Matt Higgins: There's a lot of talk about quiet, quitting, like what do you do in the different circumstances?

[00:11:26] So I've nuanced opinions on this, but at the end of the day, one, you have to always know you're worth, and everybody's always gonna try to put you in a box. There are different managers out there. They're the goodhearted ones, which are the minority. The majority of people just extracting value from you.

[00:11:39] And if you don't know your own worth, you don't know how to set your boundaries. However, increased opportunity is a leading indicator of your future success. So what that means is you're gonna get more responsibility, before you get more money. Compensation remuneration is a lagging indicator, so you have to be a little bit of patience and accept the responsibility, and try to make yourself [00:12:00] indispensable.

[00:12:00] That's always been my thing. Every job make myself indispensable. I'm not a quiet quitter. I'm an aggressive promoter and get what I want or I quit. And so at the Mayor's office, I found myself ghost writing speeches at age 23 I think, cuz I had been a writer and I was doing all this great work, but I was ready to be promoted and it wasn't happening for me.

[00:12:19] I was deputy press secretary at a young age and the message I got back was, wait your turn? Young man, right? Which in retrospect, I was outta my mind to think it was my turn. But I said, I have a better idea. I'm gonna quit. And so I actually quit working for Mayor Giuliani twice. This is a different version of the Mayor Giuliani America's come to know, so well

[00:12:38] I quit twice. And you have to have the courage to go all in on what you know is true about yourself. And four months later, they called me back after saying I would never be invited back. And they offered me the job as press secretary at 26. So I share that story and the balance to say your first instinct should always be patient.

[00:12:56] Give people the benefit of the doubt that they're gonna do right by you. Advocate for [00:13:00] yourself, but not too forcefully. But when the time comes and the balanced tips in favor of the idea that you're being exploited, then you gotta be prepared to. 

[00:13:08] Hala Taha: I found that with my own journey as well. When I was 19 years old, I worked at a radio station called Hot 97 for free for three years.

[00:13:15] And when I wanted a paying job and they refused to give me one, I left. I started my own website blew up, became a very popular entertainment website. And then all the same DJs who wouldn't pay me minimum wage, started hiring me to host their parties. And then all of a sudden I went from intern to Pier, like on the flyers with them and everything.

[00:13:33] And it happened right away because I just took control. And I was like, you know what? I'm not appreciated. I'm gonna just do something on my own. And they came back knocking. And I find that a lot of people are so worried about taking that big risk, and burning those boats. When it's the fastest way towards your success. It helps people appreciate you more, I feel.

[00:13:52] Matt Higgins: A hundred percent. And for those who don't know, this phrase is really important for the rest of your life. Familiarity breeds contempt. It's annoying. It [00:14:00] shouldn't be that way, but that's just the way a lot of humans are wired. That it, when they know someone and they're in a desperate situation or they ha they need a problem, they always look outside the organization. They're looking for that fresh savior.

[00:14:11] So understanding that managers often are wired that way. Tells you that, one, you have to know your own worth. People don't respect those who don't respect themselves until you gotta be willing to take the gamble. And once you take the gamble, like what happened to you, everyone looks at you differently.

[00:14:24] You had the courage to quit. You must be valuable because you bet on yourself. So hard thing for a lot of people to come to terms with cuz they don't like conflict. And it feels like asserting your worth feels either greedy or unbecoming. I think the opposite at the end of the day. Like you gotta know your own worth and you gotta be willing to bet on yourself.

[00:14:41] Hala Taha: Totally. So let's talk about how we've been programmed to have a plan B and to hedge our risk, because your book really turns this idea on its head. So what is the problem with having a contingency plan or a plan b? 

[00:14:53] Matt Higgins: So I wrote the book very, in a sort of bombastic way to provoke a reaction because of a lot of the reaction from people is that's not [00:15:00] true.

[00:15:00] I need risk mitigation. I didn't say toss your risk mitigation overboard and be recklessly irresponsible with your kid's. 5 29 plan. It would be a long title too. I said Toss plan B overboard. And what that means is advocate for a process. When you're making bold moves, there's a template and a blueprint for how to do it, and by definition, you're gonna feel uncomfortable.

[00:15:19] You're gonna feel like an imposter. A lot of things are gonna challenge you, so you need to make provisions for the journey. The first provision you need to make is to synthesize and contemplate the worst possible thing that could happen. What's the worst possible thing? I quit this job and I didn't get the job I wanted.

[00:15:36] I'm not as good as I think I am, and then I gotta go back. Hand in hat hand and say, can I, can I get my job back? They'll probably take me back. What you find is when you process the worst possible scenario at the beginning of the journey. You can then refer back to that exercise and say, when your mind plays tricks on you, what if?

[00:15:52] What if you say, no, not now. I already did that. I already processed the worst case scenario, and it turns out I could live with the worst case [00:16:00] scenario. And the alternative of doing nothing is actually worse than the speculative possibility, that this is gonna go terribly wrong. And analyzing why people are afraid to make the move.

[00:16:09] The number one reason is because they invoke risk, but they have not taken the steps to synthesize and actually process well. What is the magnitude of that risk? It's an excuse. We don't want to ask the question about what's the worst possible thing to happen, because we don't want to know the answer, because we don't want to be challenged to take that step.

[00:16:27] So I'm deliberately trying to provoke you into saying, just hear me out. Just ask yourself, if you were to actually take that step. What's the worst possible thing to happen? I am the most paranoid risk taker you're gonna have on this show. Like I don't take a step without agonizing all the things that are gonna go wrong, when I've taken a move.

[00:16:43] Like even this book, I've included some details in this book that make me cringe. Why'd you share this? And then I remember you already processed the worst case scenario. You're talking about your divorce, because there's somebody out there who's desperate and broken right now. And you decide to send a little signal to them that it was gonna be okay. Even though you'd prefer [00:17:00] not to mention it, you already did it.

[00:17:01] And so even myself, every single day as I make these bold moves. I'm revisiting the exercise that they I did at the beginning to ask, what's the worst that can happen? 

[00:17:11] Hala Taha: I love that. And is there any data or science, that backs up the fact that contingency plans and plan B actually slow us down from what we want?

[00:17:20] Matt Higgins: I'm a science junkie. I tried to hold back, so I didn't bore you with my book, but I love studies. I'm always reaching for a study to prove. That I can get through something or disprove something that's happening to me. But there was a great study outta Wharton in 2014. Where they just decided to assess what is the impact of just contemplating plant B.

[00:17:39] They, and I won't go into the study details, but it's in the book. But what would happen, if you had two groups of students and one was told, suggested you're allowed to think about another way to succeed. Just allowed to, not even starters. And what they found in a empirically measurable way that not only did were students less likely to be [00:18:00] successful, by just thinking about it. They cared a lot less to actually achieve the result.

[00:18:04] They measured both desire and they measured likely success. So it's really fascinating and I bring it up in different contexts, but science 100% bears it out that the mere contemplation of an alternative, to achieve your result will make it much more likely that you ever get what you want.

[00:18:21] So the two statements that I just said a second ago, and that statement must always be together. I'm not saying don't process the worst case scenario. I'm saying doing it the beginning of the journey and then later on when your mind plays tricks on you or that frenemy tries to undermine your ambition, you'd be like no.

[00:18:36] I already thought it through before I started. 

[00:18:38] Hala Taha: I think that is such great advice. So like I mentioned, I kept highlighting quotes in your book. One of them I really liked was, by learning how to confidently burn the boats and set a match to whatever corrosive plan B. You're cradling you will collapse the time delay between insight and action, and you will reap exponential returns.

[00:18:56] So I thought this was really important. I'd love for you to break it down. 

[00:18:59] Matt Higgins: I love that. [00:19:00] I love that you pulled that sentence out. It's just Warren Buffett those of you, Warren Buffet fans out there, talks a lot about compound interest is the most important principle in all finance, and he's right.

[00:19:10] Caveat. The idea of compounding applies equally as much to good decisions and bad decisions as it applies to money. So let's talk about good decisions. If you could collapse the amount of time it takes for you to go ahead, and implement a bold decision. If you could limit the energy leakage that you devote to contemplating lack of success or the frenemy who is trying to undermine you. If you could collapse that you can pull forward your entire life.

[00:19:35] I share my autobar biographical details, not because I think I'm particularly important or it's particularly compelling. It's because I'm trying to illustrate, what happens if you drop outta high school at 16 at start College. What happens if you do what Hamilton does in a play? And he writes like he's running outta time.

[00:19:51] If you always treat everything with a degree of urgency, and you act more decisively. Everything has more time to exponentially compound. I am [00:20:00] simply the byproduct of compounding of a human life that started a little bit earlier. So I love that sentence and it's such a hard thing to communicate in words. Which is why I use all the storytelling in the book.

[00:20:11] Hala Taha: I loved it too. I mean as a CEO and entrepreneur, like that hit me so hard cuz I was like, man, I need to make decisions faster, cuz like I know what the right thing is to do, but sometimes I get too emotionally attached. I feel bad for people, whatever it is when I just know sometimes the right thing to do is cut the cord, move on. Make a decision fast because you'll be more successful faster.

[00:20:32] Like we all know what the right thing to do is inside most of the time. 

[00:20:36] Matt Higgins: That's the bottom line, right? That's the point of the book. We all know what the right thing to do inside, interesting. In my Harvard class, I teach at HPs and I bring in all these incredible founders and leaders and we always leave the last one minute for them.

[00:20:46] What's the most important message you want to communicate to the students? So I have this longitudinal study of incredible CEOs, Kim Kardashian, like a wide range of people. What's the message they wanna leave people with? And by and large, the most [00:21:00] successful people I bring to the class, always have the same consistent message. Which is don't overthink it. 

[00:21:05] You already know what you need to do. So if you can figure out how to do what you already know you need to do faster, than the world is telling you to do it. You will be successful. And those people tend to have put together the most outlandish dreams that I'm like, how did that 28 year old pull it out?

[00:21:20] And it, when they give that talk. It's because the thing you knew more than anything else was your capacity to just figure it out. 

[00:21:27] Hala Taha: Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors.

[00:21:35] I love that. So I know you mentioned in your book you've got lots of different stories and you do tell a lot of different stories about entrepreneurs from Lola to Airbnb, all these great success stories. Can you walk us through some of your favorite examples of an entrepreneur who burned the boat and went on to achieve their dreams?

[00:21:52] Matt Higgins: My favorite so many good stories in a book. It was fun for the book. When you get to write a book, you get to celebrate all the people around you. And I have been around so many strong female [00:22:00] founders, and women in my life. Who've made a huge difference, and so it gave me a chance to showcase them, which is amazing.

[00:22:05] So in the aggregate, those are my favorite stories. One of them actually is about a woman who rejected a job for me only to build her own firm, and sold it at the same time as I sold the firm that we were creating. My favorite story in the book though, is about an Irish bartender named Aiden Kehoe, who came to the country with nothing except tremendous charisma and drive.

[00:22:25] And he had went from being a bartender to creating a cybersecurity company. That I had purchased, and Aiden and I became very close, but I noticed, and he was young. That there were certain things that he didn't want to deal with. And I go through the archetypes of different types of leadership, and I would put 'em in the category of a martyr.

[00:22:42] The CEO who takes on everything on their shoulders because they're probably not wanting to deal with some type of conflict to get the best outta somebody else, that they take on every job, but nobody's a superhuman individual. And ultimately, crack started showing up in the business. And so about three years in, we had taken on a new [00:23:00] investor.

[00:23:00] The business model wasn't playing out. He had tolerated certain employees, that he probably shouldn't have tolerated. It just wasn't working. And I get a phone call one night. I remember, I stepped outta the restaurant to take the call and he's threw tears. He says to me Matt, I'm sorry. Like I failed you.

[00:23:16] I know you bought the business. I'm so sorry. I'm gonna resign. In December, and as he is talking, I hear this beeping in the background and I'm like, wait, what? What is that noise? Where are you? He goes I'm in the hospital. My daughter is getting test done. We're not sure what's going on with her health.

[00:23:30] And I was like, Aiden, first thing, when you're done, I'm perfectly fine giving you this phone call. I'll let you know. I'll be your friend. I'll be the first person to let you know, I think you failed. Second thing, you need to be okay with the possibility, that it won't work out. You're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and it's forcing not face things head on because you're scrambling to stay alive another day. 

[00:23:51] You actually need to contemplate the worst say scenario. Hang up the phone, call me if you're ready to do the work again. Whatever calls me back a few days later and he goes, it was such a relief [00:24:00] to contemplate. That this might not work out and that it would be okay.

[00:24:03] That it's given me the con, I'm ready to go to work. Long story short, I always use industrial psychologists. I'm just that person. I just love looking inside my head, and we bring an industrial psychologist. It was one of the most uncomfortable reports that I've seen anybody go through, and this report's supposed to be private, even I don't read it cuz it's the exercise of allowing somebody to guide you that matters.

[00:24:22] Not whether I know what happened or why. He goes ahead and says excuse me for a moment. Walks into the room where his entire staff is meeting, puts the report on the center table and says. You might as well read this and pass it around because I got a lot of work to do and you already know what's broken.

[00:24:36] In two years he turned the entire company around. An incredible success story creates a culture of self-awareness and transparency, and sells it for nine figures. And he is one of the most talented human beings in my life. The person I turn to for guidance all the time. And the reason why I share that story is it shows the power of self-awareness.

[00:24:55] It shows what happens when you stop looking without, but turn the lens within and [00:25:00] are not afraid to f to find out what's there. Why am I not functioning the right way? What trauma have I not dealt with? So it's an incredible story. 

[00:25:07] Hala Taha: So in this story, it's almost like he burned the boat on himself.

[00:25:11] Matt Higgins: That's my point. So I love that you said that by the way. love talking to you cuz you always hit on the the nuance. In my case, I'm using boat as a metaphorical boat. It's not the like Cortés boat, where we literally can't eat and the boat is on fire. It's the things in your life that are preventing you from fully committing to your full potential internal and external.

[00:25:28] The image on the cover, for those who haven't seen it, this is the image on the cover. If you notice, it's meant to actually trigger. It looks like a paper boat in a child's bathtub. And the reason why I went with that image is because so many of the boats that we need to burn, actually go all the way back to childhood.

[00:25:42] It's these legacy issues that we carry with us. And my journey began ultimately when I was brought to my knees with the idea that I need to shed my shame. I need to come to terms with the fact that my childhood was torture, and I watched my mother die perilous. And I have a lot of resentment against the world and I need to process that.

[00:25:59] So [00:26:00] boats is a metaphor for everything in internal and external. That you need to literally burn in order to do what you are meant to do on this earth. 

[00:26:06] Hala Taha: Beautiful. Beautiful message. So your book is to split into three parts. I thought it could give everybody like a high level of what they can expect.

[00:26:13] If you can briefly go over it. The first one is get in the water, no turning back and then build more boats. 

[00:26:19] Matt Higgins: So big picture, the boat is meant to boat is premised on the idea that the joy of living is in the striving. There's a ton of science, and I touched upon it in the book, that demonstrates why do we feel melancholy after we finish the marathon?

[00:26:32] Why does an Olympian suffer from depression after the games? And it's because what we really enjoy in life is the pursuit of our full potential is trying to like, what's the ceiling of my potential? What did the, what did God put me on this earth for? What am I capable of? We are all endlessly trying to figure that out, but that's not reinforced in society.

[00:26:49] What's reinforced is the podium where the anthem is playing. What's not reinforced is the 4:00 AM jogs, and the cold, whatever. So the whole book is premised on this, the idea that the joy of living is in [00:27:00] the striving, and I am a hundred percent sure of that. So then the question is, the book is meant to construct in three parts.

[00:27:06] That journey, that cycle. So the first is how to prepare yourself for the journey, and it begins with self auditing. It begins with increasing your belief in your own intuition. It begins with clearing the deck, so to extending the boat metaphor of the things that are getting in the way of you trusting your own intuition.

[00:27:25] Then it's. It takes you to, how do I stay on this journey? How do I deal with the things that try to derail me all the time. That try to undermine me as I'm going on this journey, and the corporate saboteurs in this world who are, throwing rocks at you and you feel it, but you can't articulate it.

[00:27:39] And I go into how to put words to those things that you, into it about your manager or the whatever's trying to hold you back. And then lastly, like how to stay on that. How to continue, how to, when you achieve something. How to consolidate your gains, so that you're not, what my partner calls a grasshopper.

[00:27:56] I did this Matt side, Harvard, now he's doing a TV show. How's he making sure Harvard's [00:28:00] successful? How to ensure that you consolidate your gains so that you can build this life of perpetual pursuit, but you don't look back and behind you is half-measures. Like where you, because that'll erode your self-esteem.

[00:28:10] So I also talk in the book about how to consolidate your gains. How to use the fact that through habituation, things do get easier the second time you do it. Second time I went on Shark Tank. I didn't have imposter syndrome the first time I did. So I can take that extra energy that I was using to combat imposter syndrome, and now redirect it to teaching in Harvard. Where I did have imposter syndrome.

[00:28:31] So it's, again, it's meant, and forgive me for the metaphor. The boat metaphor does work, but it's meant to be a narrative framework to take those three aspects, and then convince you and show you how to begin the journey again, and why it gets easier and easier each time. 

[00:28:45] Hala Taha: I'm super happy you had that breakdown because I wanna dig into a lot of things that you just said.

[00:28:49] So let's talk about the importance of trusting ourselves. If you don't trust yourself, you miss the chance to be extraordinary. I always say something similar. I'm always telling people like, you gotta believe that life is [00:29:00] limitless. And then you also gotta believe in yourself. To me, those are like two rules of life if you wanna be massively successful.

[00:29:05] Talk to us about your guidance for gaining more trust in yourself, and your skills and your talents, because I feel like a lot of people have a hard time actually trusting themselves. 

[00:29:15] Matt Higgins: That's, by the way, I love what you said about limitless possibility. I was thinking about this book. This book only resonates and only works if you want to believe that anything's possible.

[00:29:24] If you don't wanna believe that anything's possible or want to believe the die is, or the deck is stacked against you, the book doesn't work. It won't resonate. So I totally agree with you that you know anything is possible in terms of cultivating, your own belief in yourself. It begins by asking, honestly, why don't you believe in yourself and accepting the simple premise that you have one fundamental job on this earth, which is to love yourself.

[00:29:48] And that you can't outsource that job to mom or dad, to your spouse, to anybody. You have to believe that your fundamental purpose on this earth is first to love yourself. And then second to say, okay, what's preventing me [00:30:00] from actually having faith to actually believing, that I have the answers and honestly, a lot of it, maybe I have confirmation bias because of my childhood.

[00:30:07] I do think a lot of it comes from the nature and the influences, that are around us that undermine us. A lot of people are in toxic relationships. I talk about this in a book where they have a partner who is I really like. Bill, because he puts me in my place, he brings me back down to earth.

[00:30:22] He grounds me. And I was talk about this book, like Grandma wants to be grounded, airplanes are grounded when there's a traffic jam in Newark Airport. Like I don't wanna be grounded. And so to be honest, when you audit what's preventing me, honestly from believing that I actually have good instincts, that I have good experience, right?

[00:30:41] That I may, I have good judgment. It usually is something in your environment that has influenced and undermined your confidence, so start there. Sometimes it's anxiety, which can be treated in so many different ways by staying present through meditation, through medication, but for recognizing that we all need a degree of anxiety to perform at our best.

[00:30:59] I talk in the [00:31:00] book about this balance and the study that finds that there is a state of optimal anxiety, too little, and you're not motivated to do your best too much and you're paralyzed. And I illustrate what both of those look like. So summarize one, audit, what might be preventing you from believing in your instincts.

[00:31:15] And two, if you have something fundamental potentially in your factory settings. Then let's mitigate it by re embracing it, understanding it, not be ashamed of it, and maybe treating it through medication or meditation or whatever it takes. 

[00:31:26] Hala Taha: I love what you're saying here, what you said about your environment and the people that used to run yourself really hit home.

[00:31:31] For me, I was with somebody for 11 years, basically married, and he didn't want me to be an entrepreneur, and I started my company and he was furious with me and I actually had to leave our house, move out. And as soon as I did that, my whole career skyrocketed. I got on the cover of Podcast Magazine. It became a number one podcaster, my company two, like 5 million in two years, 60 employees, all this stuff.

[00:31:56] As soon as we broke up, because like you said, if you're with [00:32:00] somebody who doesn't want you to shine and grow. I was doing great. I had a great corporate career, whatever, but I was as great as he wanted me to be. And then as soon as I wasn't with him. I was allowed to be my full self and have my full potential.

[00:32:12] So sometimes even I still love him, he's my friend, but like even if people that love you. They can't see your own potential, only you know what you're capable of. 

[00:32:20] Matt Higgins: Can we go deeper on that? I love this conversation because you may be different, but often I find there are two fundamental reasons why people will accept that situation.

[00:32:30] One is they either don't believe they deserve more, so it's a lack of self worth, or two, they don't believe there's anything better. It's not like we have a ton of reps. We can remember our past life or whatever you believe in. I remember, that was a much better relationship and we're all starting out.

[00:32:43] We do, we honestly don't know better and then a lot of ways we're conditioned to believe that somebody will complete you. That we are we're not born whole. And the reality is we are a hundred percent born whole. It took me going through my divorce to recognize. Like objectively, I am born whole, technically I am born whole.

[00:32:59] [00:33:00] I can only see the world through my own two eyes. I don't know what red looks like for you. And so as a result, we are technically born whole, but we're not taught those things. We're not actually conditioned to believe any of them. And it's very insidious because then when you align yourself with the wrong person. It can unravel your entire life.

[00:33:17] I talk a lot about my partner, Sarah, and not in a cliche way, he really likes this way. No. Sarah is the reason I'm on Shark Tank. She's the reason I teach at Harvard. She's the reason I've been so successful because she's a force multiplier. She derives pure joy out of helping me unleash my ability, and I derive pure joy outta watching her shine.

[00:33:35] It is out there, but if you don't believe you deserve it or don't believe it exists, you won't go find it. And I think that's the reason why a lot of people stay in sec. I heavily weight the insidious impact of people who are in your foxhole, who aren't rooting for you, because nobody can win.

[00:33:50] Now I'm going to war metaphors, but true. Nobody can win a two front war. Nobody can, not you, not a country not anybody. 

[00:33:57] Hala Taha: I love that. So I hope you guys take heed, especially my young [00:34:00] listeners. Your partner in life is so important, and once you feel like somebody who's around you that you're spending a lot of time with is actually trying to hold you back, that's time to move on.

[00:34:08] Even though it's gonna hurt short term, long term, you're gonna be way happier, I promise. 

[00:34:12] Matt Higgins: And that's why insecure people are really dangerous, if you have a partner. If you're listening out there and somebody's actually always trying to be a little bit like one, make you afraid of the danger on the other side, or two, make you feel as if you're not equipped to handle it.

[00:34:25] One, they shouldn't be doing that's not a friend, but two, they're probably doing it because they're insecure, that if you shine too brightly, you'll leave them. You'll start believing yourself more and it kind stems from the fact that there's something they feel is ugly about themselves.

[00:34:36] But look how corrosive that is. Now you're with somebody who's insecure, has low self-worth. Now they're using that to undermine you, to destabilize you so that you stay put. You're not just gonna stay put physically in the relationship. You're gonna stay put in every other area of your life too. If you don't feel like you're worth worthy of a good partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, you're not gonna feel like you're worthy of a raise or worthy of a better job.

[00:34:57] It cascades throughout your entire life. So please [00:35:00] believe if I say one thing, that person is out there who could be the greatest force multiplier of your life. But it starts with knowing that you deserve it. 

[00:35:08] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh. Powerful conversation. 

[00:35:10] Matt Higgins: I love talking to you and I love this topic. I honestly, I don't care about talking about NFL teams or whatever the stuff I've done.

[00:35:16] I care about talking about these issues cuz they're more important than anything else. 

[00:35:19] Hala Taha: 100%. Nobody talks about them. So let's talk about this habituation concept. So in the third part of Burn the Boats, you say that habituation can hurt us. What do you mean by that? And why should we wanna take more risks?

[00:35:31] Matt Higgins: I think that we should not habituate our behavior any more than necessary to extract more from ourselves. What I mean by that is certain things are more efficient by habituating, right? Like certain routines make sense, certain things about self-care make sense meditating, which I, don't do enough of things that make sense, that unlock you.

[00:35:51] But however, a lot of society tries to make you conform to a consistency, so that you stay in a box and we treat a [00:36:00] degree of inconsistency or excitable or open-mindedness, as if it's haphazard or you don't have a plan, right? So there's a lot of pressure trying to make sure that your behavior looks consistent and why does that matter?

[00:36:12] Because a lot of people say I can't quit the job after six months cause I'm gonna look flaky. I can't change my major, cuz my dad's gonna be disappointed at me because I'm always trying to do something different every day. So there are a lot of forces in this world that are trying to organize your behavior.

[00:36:26] It goes back to our previous conversation. Why do we think they're doing that? Why do those forces exist? Because people don't want to put the pressure on themselves to do the same thing. So if the entire world is being told, stay in your box and stop being so haphazard. Then at the end of the day you're eventually gonna conform to it.

[00:36:42] So I'm trying to articulate this unsaid force in the universe, that tries to get people to behave consistency for no good reason to open your mind. Who says I can't quit that job? And by the way, why do I give a shit if somebody's gonna judge me? It's a crappy job. I want to get outta here.

[00:36:56] Emerson, one of my favorite writers on planet Earth. If I was on an island and [00:37:00] I could only take one essay with me, forget about me with my book, don't take my book, take Self-Reliance from Emerson. He calls out this idea of foolish consistency, that's meant to placate people around you. That's what I talk about.

[00:37:12] Make sure that you're not habituating things in order to please some constituency, so that you don't look flaky. 

[00:37:17] Hala Taha: Okay, so let's talk about a gut sandwich. So you talk about a gut sandwich. In your book, you give the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. I'd love to understand what a gut sandwich is and how we can use it in business.

[00:37:31] Matt Higgins: What's great about writing a book as you get to, to put, make words for concepts that are in your head. So I've taken the liberty, make them gut sandwich is one that I've made up and it's a beta way to articulate, like what are the ways in breakthroughs happen. And what I have found in observing founders that I work with looking at breakthrough innovation, right?

[00:37:49] They begin with an intuition about the way the, how the world could work or should work. Something is broken. Lola is a good example on the book, right? But there are tons of others. Hey, something is [00:38:00] happening to us or being put in our bodies that isn't good. And two, it shouldn't work that way. And there's a better way to do it, right?

[00:38:06] So usually that's how innovations stem. Now, what happens next? We all look for data or confirmation from friends, from people. Again, I talk in the book about how be very careful with who you consult with your nascent dreams because they're fragile. And since a lot of people have a negative bias. You wanna make sure you consult so pragmatic optimists.

[00:38:23] People are inclined to think positively and think about potential, but can give you, honest feedback. So we consult people and then we look for data to support our intuition. Here's the problem. Opportunity arise before the tipping point of evidence. And I'll say that again.

[00:38:37] Opportunity arrives before the tipping point of evidence, meaning that the real breakthrough innovations happen, before there's gonna be any confirmation in data. And so if you end the inquiry based on data and want data to give you the green light. Most of the time data will give you a red light, and that's where innovation dies.

[00:38:54] So I came up with this idea of gut sandwich to give you out there confidence to say, I'm never gonna find [00:39:00] enough data to support my groundbreaking innovation because it's arriving before the tipping point. I'm gonna have to make the call based on intuition. And every single breakthrough I've seen has been based upon intuition as to how things should work or will work.

[00:39:14] Hala Taha: To me, this was such an interesting part of the book. The fact that data actually can deter you from starting something before you even start. And too many people are numbers based, facts based. My business partner is such a numbers guy, I'm totally the opposite. And he was like, we gotta follow the data.

[00:39:29] And I'm like, no, I'm following my heart. Let's go this way. I do that every time and always win. 

[00:39:33] Matt Higgins: No, but let's but to stay with that. But how, that's a great point. To stay with that. At the end of the day, if we were to use these two words. Who is most likely to make breakthrough, groundbreaking innovations or revolutions in society, and operator executor or a visionary, and of course you'll say a visionary, right? 

[00:39:49] But the visionary is not operating on data. So if those are the ones responsible for birthing the best things in life, of course they weren't operating on data when they made the choice. 

[00:39:58] Hala Taha: We'll be right back after a quick break [00:40:00] from our sponsors.

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[00:43:37] And I think people get that wrong, especially nowadays. Everyone's like data analytics, big data, whatever it is. And so like we're like programmed, just follow the numbers. Follow the numbers, it will tell you what to do. And it's like there's lots of nuances, that you need to be aware of, I love the story of Lola.

[00:43:51] I thought that was great because. I'm a woman. I remember for years I was like, what is all these chemically enhanced products? It's so bad for us. I'm gonna get cancer [00:44:00] from these things. There's nothing else out there. And I always felt that way before a product like Lola came out. And it's just so interesting, that the data told them otherwise, but they just went for it knowing that there was, if they felt like that, then other women must be feeling like that.

[00:44:14] Matt Higgins: I love the Lolo story too, because I'm a guy obviously. So as a guy, one step remove and you're listening to them explain the why this isn't how products should be made. And they're envisioning an entire new category, you would say that makes sense. And actually when I consulted a lot of women to say, what's they thinking?

[00:44:31] No, it'll never work. Women have too much brand loyalty to their existing pro. They'll never switch. Isn't that interest? 

[00:44:37] Hala Taha: I would love for you to share this story. For some people are like, LOLA, what? 

[00:44:40] Matt Higgins: LOLA is is feminine care products that use, much better ingredients. They eliminated bleach.

[00:44:45] Start there, right? And just all the ways in which it's made just, more enlightened, right? Big picture. And they started that movement. Now, there are a bunch of other products on the market. So it was actually started by my partner Jesse's wife. And as I was deciding whether to invest or not, [00:45:00] and I'm consulting, women on it by and large the feedback was people would never switch.

[00:45:03] And I liked sharing that because this is the consumer. So the end consumer was predicting human behavior in the aggregate, that they would be more loyal to the brand and even the end consumer couldn't anticipate, how they would respond to LOLA's messaging. Once LOLA's explain what's in your feminine care product?

[00:45:19] So the founders had to say, I need to look past that initial feedback, including my wife too. She was like, I don't think it's gonna be successful. And in the end of the day, they had to go on intuition instead of data. And a lot of VCs also said the same thing. You can't take on these big juggernauts, women won't switch too much brand loyalty.

[00:45:34] And they did it anyway. 

[00:45:35] Hala Taha: I love it. And now they're everywhere. I think they're in like Target and they're pretty much everywhere. 

[00:45:40] Matt Higgins: Walmart, everything. 

[00:45:42] Hala Taha: So let's switch gears. Let's talk about vision. So like we mentioned, you teach at Harvard, and I heard you, were you the one who brought Kim Kardashian into Harvard?

[00:45:49] Matt Higgins: I was the one who brought Kim Kardashian to Harvard, which I haven't talked about. If you want to talk about that for a second. 

[00:45:54] Hala Taha: I saw the pictures and stuff. I had no idea, you were the one, who brought her in. 

[00:45:57] Matt Higgins: That's my courts I created with my my fellow faculty [00:46:00] members.

[00:46:00] And it's devoted to direct to consumer. So we bring in over the course of a week. It's crazy intense and it's very well curated, up to 20 classes over a course of a week. And it's meant to to really dissect the omnichannel journey. Which usually starts with direct to consumer, but morphs into retail.

[00:46:15] So all those brands that people out there know and love, it's Hymns and Allbirds and all these great consumer brands, they usually began as dtc. I put this lollapalooza of e-com at Harvard Business School, which is amazing. I've been doing it for four years .So we always like to bring in a couple of celebrity founders. That have crossed over into to trying to become business people because they also expose a lot of vulnerability.

[00:46:35] Celebrity brands as much as they have a huge following on the fan side. They tend by investors tend to think is this for real? Are you really committed? They actually have to overcome a lot of the hangover from celebrities. So we brought in Scarlett Johansson is a good friend of mine.

[00:46:49] She's zoomed in from set. Bobby Brown is a good friend of mine, Bobby Brown cosmetics. Now I'm really name dropping, but is what it is. And then Kim Kardashian, which was fascinating and I'll tell you why, so Kim Kardashian co-founded [00:47:00] a business called SKIMS. Everybody probably knows that this business is such an extraordinary success.

[00:47:05] That I don't think it gets a fraction of the coverage it can as simply a business case study. So we wanted to bring it in and say, why is SKIMS so successful? And one of the core themes that played out over the course of the week was, DTC is really struggling right now because customer acquisition costs are very expensive.

[00:47:23] A lot of these companies became very dependent upon the pandemic cuz everybody was home. It was easy to get customers, it was cheap. So we peak people became dependent and suddenly pandemic ends. The model doesn't work. Acquisition's, expensive supply chains up. Kim Kardashians company, SKIMS has defied those trends.

[00:47:39] Her customer acquisition costs are very low relative, to the average order. And the reason why is when you have a celebrity at the top of a brand, storytelling becomes everything. And they're able to use organic customer acquisition through storytelling, social sharing to subsidize. Their acquisition costs and bring those numbers down a lot.[00:48:00] 

[00:48:00] So we bring Kim in with her co-founder, Yens for an hour and 45 minutes. The students at Harvard Business School do not hold back. They asked every question you might ask. How long will celebrity last and like to delve into the authenticity. And I told Kim afterwards, I was so surprised, the extent to which she held her own with the best founders in the country.

[00:48:21] So thoughtful, so nuanced. I said, is there a reason you don't share that? It's not like I watch keeping up with the Kardashians or have any exposure to Kim Kardashian. And I would admit it if I did, but I did not perceive her as being this extraordinary female founder. I was so impressed and she had said to me off to the side. I wanna share that, but back in the day, didn't think it was that interesting.

[00:48:41] And she just, so for me, I was fascinated to see this incredible female founder. Who I don't believe gets a fraction of the coverage she deserves. So it created a great backlash, which was entertaining to watch a lot of people saying. What does Kim Kardashian deserve to be at Harvard?

[00:48:53] She deserved to be there just as much as some of the greatest founders in the country that came to that class. 

[00:48:57] Pretty remarkable. 

[00:48:58] Hala Taha: Really interesting. Now you make me [00:49:00] wanna try to get Kim Kardashian on the show.

[00:49:02] Matt Higgins: You should. I'm mostly inviting all the negative, tweets that'll come outta here, but I don't really care.

[00:49:06] Like it is what it is. And she was remarkable. By the way and I'm also an investor in fair, I should disclose that. I'm investor in SKIMS. I invested in the last round, which is like 3 billion valuation. Obviously you can reject everything I just said, but I thought you was amazing.

[00:49:17] Hala Taha: I teach a lot about personal branding and there's something really powerful. When you have poll marketing rather than push marketing. A lot of founders get it wrong. They're pushing ads, like you said, high acquisition costs. Unsustainable. They think they're doing great, but really they're just pouring money into something.

[00:49:32] When you have a content marketing machine, like you said, storytelling spokesperson, things just come to you. You don't have to chase it all the time. So that's what she's getting. People are finding out about it organically, and to me, that's so powerful. 

[00:49:44] Matt Higgins: I've been thinking about this a lot that we need to migrate the KPI, that we analyze businesses on.

[00:49:50] We need to go from customer acquisition cost CAC to customer conversation cost ccc, because anybody in America listening to, or you could be a small business listening to your [00:50:00] podcasts. I don't care where you are. You have the ability to create a conversation around your brand, that starts with making people evangelical about you or your product. First, deliver something exceptionally surprise and delight, and then you need to foster a conversation.

[00:50:13] It begins by having the confidence that what you have to say is worthy. When I talk to small businesses a lot, or LinkedIn, whatever, they're like, man, nobody cares about what I'm doing. I'm like, that's not true. 20 people on your block kind of care, and I think to be successful in e-com especially, but in business in general. This in America now, you need to have the loudest microphone on your block, and it's not hard to do to actually draw a page from Kim Kardashian.

[00:50:37] The good part is she's competing against. Civilization, like lots of conversations happen when you're in, main Street, USA. Most small businesses around you aren't putting in the time cuz they don't believe that what they have to say is important. It's a lot easier to compete.

[00:50:51] So I've been thinking about this idea a lot about C rather than CAT customer conversation. How are you fostering it? You've done it yourself and you see the benefits and you know why customer [00:51:00] acquisition costs are so high. It makes sense. If the conversations are happening everywhere around us 24 hours a day on TikTok, on Instagram. It would make sense that the interloper, the ad is going to have to pay a lot of money to interrupt that conversation.

[00:51:12] But if you are part of that conversation, you pay nothing.

[00:51:15] Hala Taha: It reminds me of something I had the founder of the NPSs survey, Fred Reichheld on the show a while ago, and he talks about this KPI of like customer referrals, and that nobody's looking at how many people are telling their friends about your product as a future projection of growth, right?

[00:51:31] People are just looking at the revenue that's coming in and not necessarily, how many people are referring your product? 

[00:51:36] Matt Higgins: That would actually be an amazing metric because even back to my point about customer conversation metric. That it really, from the beginning, beginning of the time, that's how stories were passed down, was word of mouth.

[00:51:47] That's how people get confidence. And it would make sense that somebody's going to trust somebody who is less biased, who isn't being paid. They're gonna trust that recommendation than the paid chill or the ad, which is the worst form of schilling, right? And, but [00:52:00] yet there's no way to measure it actually, and therefore it's undervalued.

[00:52:03] That's what I love about the book process. Which you'll see one day when you write a book like that, you can work really hard to try to, improve your ranking on Amazon. Try to sell a lot of books, whatever. But that only works for a very short period of time. The cream always rise to the top with books because people vote through referral, they vote for reviews.

[00:52:21] It's like one of the last pure forms of the echo chamber. And you probably know this too, whenever I read a book that's pretty high up on the Times List or the Wall Street Journal that's been on there for three, four weeks, the book is always damn good. Like I've never been like, I don't get why this is almost, it's like.

[00:52:34] Hala Taha: Exactly.

[00:52:35] Matt Higgins: And so that's just a proxy for what happens when there's word of mouth. Because in a book world you really can't spend money efficiently to advertise. It doesn't work. So it's basically cuz people like the book. 

[00:52:45] Hala Taha: And I hope that happens to you. I hope I see you New York Times bestseller, wall Street Journal bestseller.

[00:52:50] I have a feeling it's gonna happen.

[00:52:51] Matt Higgins: From your mouth to God's ears and your listeners . 

[00:52:55] Hala Taha: Go buy the book. Okay. So like we were just talking about you teach at Harvard [00:53:00] Business School and in your book you mentioned, that sometimes they seek advice from you. What they should do after their college career.

[00:53:06] So what private equity firm should they go to? What consulting firm? And you always tell them to take a step back and you say, I don't wanna hear what you wanna be. I wanna know who you wanna be. And I thought this was a great lesson for all my listeners. 

[00:53:17] Matt Higgins: I'm always amazed. I went to Queens College and I imagine if I ever went to Harvard Business School. I wouldn't have a care in the world because you went to Harvard Business School. You'll get every job you ever want.

[00:53:26] Your life has been de-risked and having these conversations with students. The first year I taught, I was like, wow, you're just as vulnerable as anybody. You're it is just this sort of confused trying to figure things out. And what I would find is they have so much pressure know the answer of which private equity firm are you gonna go to?

[00:53:41] Should I go back to consulting? 10% of the student body is being subsidized by a consulting firm. Anyway, all these very tactical questions. But if I would ask them the big picture, X existential questions, they had put so little effort into in figuring those out. And what do I mean by that? I think the questions of what kind of environment do I thrive in?

[00:53:58] Do I wanna be in [00:54:00] a place where it's very prescriptive and I have a boss telling me exactly what I want, what I should be doing? Or do I want to be in a place where I have the freedom to innovate? Do I wanna be in an environment where I'm in charge? Or do I want to be part, of an army? Am I a creator or am I a builder?

[00:54:15] Like they sound so obvious, but a lot of people bypass these questions. What environment will I thrive in? And so I always try to break it down. Hey, don't let's not worry about whether they go to K R or Blackstone. Let's find out, do you really wanna be in private equity? And just because somebody told you that you should be a founder because you've been watching videos on Instagram about hustle culture. Do you really think you have what it takes to be a founder?

[00:54:35] Do you even wanna be? And it's not really. I don't want to be in charge. So a lot of times I find that there's like a gravitational poll, that people follow that make them try to focus on the doing rather than who they want to. 

[00:54:46] Hala Taha: So one last question before we start to close out the interview. You just alluded to, it made me think of the question.

[00:54:52] So obviously you're around entrepreneurs all the time, right? You invest in companies. You're a serial entrepreneur. You're friends with all entrepreneurs. You know what it [00:55:00] takes to be an entrepreneur and there's equally, you can have a great life, not being an entrepreneur. Not everybody has to be an entrepreneur.

[00:55:06] This is pretty much an entrepreneurship show, but I've seen lots of successful people, more successful than entrepreneurs, I know who are corporate executives, and they're doing great in those types of rules. So I'd love to understand from you like what are the, what's the personality type or the type of people that thrive as a founder, and how can you tell if you're cut out for entrepreneurship?

[00:55:26] Matt Higgins: Such a great question. I like the first point you made. There's way too much social pressure on trying to, value being a founder over being part, of a team. And then there's also way too much. There's way too much papering over of all the bad parts, that go into being a founder and how hard it really is.

[00:55:41] And I won't, be Debbie Downer here. It's just a fact. So setting that aside, cuz I know you addressed that stuff. I do think the one common theme I have for successful founders is they refuse to accept things for the way they are. They just refuse to believe that this is how it has to be, cuz this is how it's always done.

[00:55:58] They just always have a very strong view [00:56:00] about how things could be done and how things should be done. And that's number. Two they just always get back up again. Like they, no matter what I find, I talk about this in my book. Those without Landish breakthrough success that we can't even like conceive.

[00:56:14] I do find a common fact pattern in them in that they tend to absorb the wins. When there's a win, it begin it. It enhances their self-esteem, their self-worth. And when they have a loss, all they do is expand the definition of what winning looks like. So in other words oh, whether it's it's good that happened because as a result I saw this and now I'm gonna do it a different way, actually comes across as borderline delusional.

[00:56:36] So I caveat that like I'm not built that way. I actually scrutinize my losses very heavily. And because I'm intellectually curious, I do absorb the losses a bit. I'm not gonna lie. I'm an amalgam of losses and wins. But the most successful people manage to completely repel, reflect, the losses.

[00:56:52] Big picture for anybody listening out there, you have to ask yourself. Will you always get up again? Cuz that is the number one predictor of future success, [00:57:00] is past refusal to die. When I see a company that has nine, like life and death moments, that company's not lucky. That's company's driven and led by somebody who refuses to die.

[00:57:10] So being an entrepreneur. I'm having literally right now, three near death moments like around me every day. All I do is wake up in a state of your death with something that I care about that is completely undermining, any joy of some aspect of things that are working out. People are like, you have a book coming?

[00:57:24] Isn't it great? I'm like but, that's what being an entrepreneur means. And it's a little bit like whack-a-mole. One moment you're like, thank God. And then so do you have what it takes to never give up? Do you have a, what it takes to live in an unending state of putting your finger in the dam and just trying to prevent catastrophe?

[00:57:41] Because if you do, you'll probably be successful. Ask yourself, have you been socialized by Instagram to believe, that there's something better about being an entrepreneur than doing something else? Cuz that's a lie, a complete lie. The world doesn't work without people who are part of teams and are willing to draft behind, creators and help them.

[00:57:56] Hala Taha: I totally agree. I feel like you said, it's like a personality type. The [00:58:00] person who's is unwilling to just give up. That's what an entrepreneur is cuz you always have to like, pivot and burn the boats to your point, and move on to the thing that you think you wanna go for cuz you think, it will have a better outcome.

[00:58:12] And just always switching gears. That's what I feel like entrepreneurship is. 

[00:58:16] Matt Higgins: Jeff Bezos had a great quote. He goes you have to be rigid in your conviction and flexible in your execution. So I think that's like the burning, the boats has to be like believing in the vision.

[00:58:24] But when you're actually rigid in your execution. Like you just said, that means you won't make all those little pivots along the way. No business resembles five years later, the original PowerPoint mostly. And so if you're not willing to make those pivots. You never get to the five year later version of the PowerPoint.

[00:58:37] People who are very rigid in their execution are not successful entrepreneurs. They're successful enablers of entrepreneurs. People who are rigid in their vision are successful entrepreneurs. But people who have self-awareness, will make the course corrections before they're imposed upon them. They don't need interventions from an external cuz they're intervening all the time with their brain and saying like, where am I going wrong?

[00:58:55] They're intellectually curious about their own mistakes. So I would summarize saying [00:59:00] that vision. That rigidity of the vision, the confidence, the willingness to the to never die, but the self-awareness, to constantly reflect upon what's going wrong, and the confidence and humility to acknowledge what's going wrong and make those course corrections, before the universe imposes them upon you.

[00:59:14] Hala Taha: It was so good though. It recapped a lot of what we just talked about and it's also making the decisions quickly. Following your gut, not just like the data and the numbers and following your intuition. All right, one last question. We'll close this out. I know that you went through a lot of failure during the pandemic and I would love to understand, the types of failure you went through and how you overcame them. And some lessons that we can learn in terms of overcoming failure.

[00:59:40] Matt Higgins: I would say that the number one most important thing, obviously failure was happening, everywhere with the businesses and trying to stay flood, but I actually think the pandemic period was less about failure and more about survival and triumph. If I'm being honest, when I recall the pandemic, I recall triumph and the central theme was predicting how things were gonna play out.

[00:59:58] Not needing for them to play out in [01:00:00] order to act on them. That's the most important variable in being successful in business is the willingness to act on danger, before you have pure evidence that the danger is gonna materialize. Do you need to see the iceberg up the bow in order to be able to course correct?

[01:00:14] Or can you use feedback data intuition to say, lend me course correct. And so when in the pandemic applying to that. We had a paradigm across the portfolio and I would talk to our founders and say, every time I found we were acting on old assumption. Say, wait a second. Is this the business we would build if we were business building this business today?

[01:00:32] Maybe it's liberating that we can't open our stores anymore. We did that with Milk Bar, with Christina Tosi. It was like we were scrambling to reopen the stores and we were like, why are we scrambling to, Who needs store? What are stores? Why don't we just sell cookies, at retail? And so I would say that to me, the pandemic is an exercise in crisis decision making. Where you just simply say, how do I make the most of the situation?

[01:00:52] And what I liked, what I take with me from the pandemic is we shouldn't need a crisis to have a clarity of decision making. We should accept the fact that too many [01:01:00] options is paralyzing and we should accept the fact, that we can avoid disaster before it's upon us. And that speed of decision making is more important than perfect information.

[01:01:08] So I look back at that a year and be like, that was actually pretty remarkable. That every business I care about, nothing went under. 

[01:01:14] Hala Taha: I love that. Matt, this has been such a wonderful conversation. I always enjoy you coming on the show. You're somebody that I highly look up to. I recommend your book, Burn The Boats.

[01:01:23] Like I mentioned, one of my favorite reads so far this year. 

[01:01:26] Matt Higgins: Thank you. I love coming on. I appreciate it. It's such thoughtful, great questions. Got me all jazzed up for this week. 

[01:01:32] Hala Taha: I can't wait. And I'm gonna tell all my podcaster friends to make sure they interview you because you've got a lot to say.

[01:01:38] So again, thank you for coming on. So we always close out the show asking two questions. The first one is, what is one actionable thing our Young and Profiteers, can do today to be more profiting tomorrow? 

[01:01:51] Matt Higgins: Wow. Such a good question. I believe that everybody has inside them a leverageable asset. And that leverageable asset comes from a few different places.

[01:01:59] A [01:02:00] lot of times it comes because you sit in a stream of data, of information. Everybody sits in a stream of data. I was on my TV show, that I'm working on that helps business entrepreneurs buy a business for the first time. And I met this amazing woman from the Bronx. And she had a bunch of Airbnbs.

[01:02:14] She was like, and I was like what's your business model? She's I focused on visiting nurses who are coming in from different places, and I said why them? She goes, because they can stay for 30 days and they can pay a higher rate because it's being subsidized. I was like how'd you figure that out?

[01:02:27] I was working as a clerk in a hotel and I would overhear all the people checking in with visiting nurses, and I decided I was gonna go ahead and create an Airbnb business based on that. Wherever you are, whoever you are, just like that woman from the Bronx had a leverageable asset that came from a proprietary insight.

[01:02:42] Something she could only see from sitting in the stream of data. You're sitting in a stream of data that could form the nucleus of your own business or a new life or a promotion. So just ask yourself, what are the proprietary insights I have that can become a leverageable asset to change my life. 

[01:02:57] Hala Taha: That's so brilliant [01:03:00] because you brought it up.

[01:03:01] Can you tell us about the new TV show at all? 

[01:03:03] Matt Higgins: I can. I shot it. It's basically, I'll shorten this into 30 seconds. It's Shark Tank appeals to all the people who have an invention or an idea, and they want Mark Cuban or Kevin O'Leary to write a check. We all love it, yet very few of us can actually relate to it because very few have an idea, that they're gonna seek, venture funding.

[01:03:18] So why do we love it? Because we all love the idea of being free, of calling the shots, of owning our own business. We fantasize about it. And so I wanted to create a show with Mark Burnett, creator of The Voice and Apprentice, that teaches people the other 99%. What if I only have 75 grand? And I want to start a business.

[01:03:36] I'm buy a business. How do you buy a business? How do you value a business? Oftentimes it's usually a couple. And so what are the misperceptions about what it's gonna be like to work together? All these derailers that I call that get in the way. So that's the show, where we shot it so fun to do in Florida, eight episodes and now we're looking to fight at home.

[01:03:53] It's originally gonna be on CBC, but they went to know the direction this year with their content. So we're finding a home. So by next time [01:04:00] I come on, we'll be talking about the premier of this show. 

[01:04:02] Hala Taha: That's so exciting. And I've been hearing this as a trend. That a lot more people are gonna start buying businesses instead of creating new brand new businesses.

[01:04:10] So this is like right on trend. 

[01:04:12] Matt Higgins: By the way, anybody listening out there. You really need to think about it because objects in motion tend to stay in motion, if you have an existing business and you could determine why it is at the seller selling. A lot of times as they're tired and they've been at it for 20 years, if a business crosses a certain threshold of duration, they're less likely to go under.

[01:04:27] Whereas if you are in the cohort that just launches a business, you have a 50% shot of being bankrupt in a few years. If you buy something that's already been around for over five years. You move into a different cohort. But people don't know how to buy a business. It's like a big mystery and they certainly don't know what to pay for it.

[01:04:41] And that's the purpose of the show. It's basically house hunters for business. 

[01:04:44] Hala Taha: Really cool concept. So I hope you find a home. And our last question that we ask every guest on Young and Profiting podcast is, what is your secret to profiting in life?

[01:04:53] Matt Higgins: I ask myself the same question every week, sometimes every day.

[01:04:58] What is the highest and best [01:05:00] use of my time, energy, and resources today? So to break that down, there's a concept in zoning called Highest and best Use. It's a flaw, it's a legal principle, which is every piece of land must be put into its highest and best use in the current context. A warehouse in Tribeca in 1920, its highest and best use was a slaughterhouse.

[01:05:20] In 2020, it was for Leonardo DiCaprio's Bachelor pad. Everything changes. You change every week based upon the accumulated experiences you've had in this life, and those accumulated experiences enable you to do something different. When I went on Shark Tank, just being on the show opened up all sorts of doors and it unlocked, this dream that I had been harboring but didn't feel like I could pull off. Which is what if I could be a professor at the best business school in the world?

[01:05:45] How do I do that? And I spent a year of my life creating it because I asked that single symbol question. What is the highest and best use of my time, energy, and resources today? Now that I've been on Shark Tank? Every one of you listening right now has done something different, harder, better today, this year than you did last year.[01:06:00] 

[01:06:00] If you're moving along in a progression. You need to audit what you're capable of now, what you have permission to do now, because otherwise you find yourself, you're on autopilot, you wake up in 10 years and you're like, this isn't the life I wanted. And it's because you never ask that question with enough discipline to make sure you're constantly. Pushing yourself. 

[01:06:17] Hala Taha: I love that advice. 

[01:06:18] Matt Higgins: I love being put on the spot with your questions cuz I'm like, all right, let me, those two things were the first thing that came to mind. So they must be very important. 

[01:06:24] Hala Taha: Exactly. Like those questions are meant to be like, all right, what is this value that you have to share that you didn't get a chance to talk about?

[01:06:31] Because usually that piece of value is like floating in your mind, right? So I like to get that out at the end. Where can everybody learn more about you and everything that you do and your new book Burn The Boats? 

[01:06:41] Matt Higgins: Okay. I have a website for the Boat, In terms of where I spend my time, it's largely on LinkedIn cuz it's like a warm bath.

[01:06:48] Everybody's civilized. You can also find me on Instagram mhiggins, Matt Higgins on LinkedIn. But I tend to engage more on LinkedIn and I'm on Twitter for in small business. 

[01:06:57] Hala Taha: You guys have two of the biggest LinkedIn influencers on one [01:07:00] call right now. I love it. 

[01:07:01] Matt Higgins: Yes. By the way, doning, don't sleep on LinkedIn, youngins. I know it's not interesting, but eat your vegetables and LinkedIn. You can go viral and you can't go viral on Instagram. TikTok is great, but it'll probably be gone in a few years, so spend some energy on LinkedIn. 

[01:07:15] Hala Taha: Couldn't agree. I've got a LinkedIn masterclass if anybody's really curious about it. 

[01:07:20] Matt Higgins: Take it, by the way. Take it. That's the most value that you could provide, is to take her masterclass because there's an alchemy to LinkedIn, and there are certain hacks that change the outcome. And if those out there who listen, like I tried, but my content didn't resonate. LinkedIn, especially social media generally, tactics are everything.

[01:07:34] Strategies less lowering the tactics that make your content resonate will change the outcome. So take that class. 

[01:07:40] Hala Taha: 100% LinkedIn's algorithm is actually hackable, and I don't think any other algorithm is so 100%. Matt, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on. I can't wait for you to come on again.

[01:07:51] Matt Higgins: Thank you so much. Bye everybody.

[01:07:53] Hala Taha: YAP fam, I've had Matt Higgins on the show two times and he's always [01:08:00] a favorite of mine. I loved learning the psychology, behind why the same Burn the Boats mentality. That worked in ancient wartime also works in modern life, relationships and business. We've all been pre-programmed to always have a plan B and to hedge our risk, but like Matt says, hesitation kills more dreams than speed ever will.

[01:08:17] And when you hesitate hedge or divide your attention between your goal and the safety net, you think you need to build it all. Just begs the question, what are you waiting for? Research has shown that backup plans can actually hurt us on the road towards success. That abundant choices end up making us feel paralyzed.

[01:08:34] Your plan B that you think is giving you peace of mind is actually getting in the way of your plan A. Breakout success means boldly taking an opportunity before the tipping point of evidence. Making a decision in that space between intuition and data, it's following your gut. In fact, I saw this recent quote from Alex Hormozi, who was a recent YAP guest, and I'm just gonna try to find it really quick.

[01:08:55] Opportunities only look like opportunities in the rear view mirror today. They [01:09:00] look like risk. Totally reminded me of this episode. I hope this episode inspires you to burn your boats and to set a match to whatever corrosive plan B, you're cradling, so you can collapse the time delay between inside and action and reap exponential returns.

[01:09:14] Thanks so much for tuning in today's Young and Profiting episode with Matt Higgins. If you like this episode, the best way to tell everyone your favorite way to listen, learn and profit, is by dropping us a five star review on Apple podcast. That's the number one way to thank us here at Young and Profiting podcast and share this podcast with your friends and family.

[01:09:31] Let's spread the word about Young and Profiting podcast. You guys can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn by searching my name. It's Hala Taha and we're also on YouTube, so subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you like to watch podcasts. Thanks so much to my YAP team for all their hard work behind the scenes.

[01:09:46] This is your podcast Princess and the LinkedIn Queen Hala Taha signing off.[01:10:00] 

[01:10:06] Darius Mirshahzadeh: Hope you enjoyed this episode. I'm Darius Mirshahzadeh, hosted of the Greatness Machine and part of YAP Media Network, the number one business and self-improvement podcast network. So what's the Greatness Machine? The Greatness Machine. are a badass podcast and we're about two things. We're while people are living their passions and those who are creating greatness in the world.

[01:10:22] Doing so despite the odds. Cause we know that creating greatness is not necessarily an easy road. What do I do in all my interviews and episodes? We're gonna be diving into origin stories. What makes people tick and why they did what they did to get where they're going. I interview some of the greatest minds in the world, turning their wisdom and their experience into learning and advice that you can use in your life.

[01:10:42] So that you can level up and you can create some massive greatness in your life. You're also gonna get to hear solo episodes. This is like my greatest life learnings, the things I wish someone had taught me. Join me as I go deep with guests like Gabby Reese, Amanda Knox, former FBI negotiator, Chris Voss Stanford Behavioral psychologist, BJ [01:11:00] Fogg, and my boy NHL, hall of Famer and Olympian, Chris Pronger, and so many more.

[01:11:05] You can find the greatest machine on listening platforms everywhere, so be sure to check it out. We launch episodes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Listen now.

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