EPISODE 2: Blake Mycoskie on mindfulness, living with authenticity and finding balance
In today’s show we talk about:
- living with authenticity
- the importance of finding a work life balance
- why he decided to take a sabbatical at the height of his success
- his stance on paternity leave
- AND what he has done every day for the past 15 years
Blake Mycoskie is best known as the founder of TOMS shoes. The socially conscious company that pioneered the buy-one, give-one business model —for each pair of TOMS shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need.
10 years later TOMS doesn’t just give shoes away; it funds sight-saving surgeries, helps provide safe drinking water, and creates jobs in communities, just to name a few..
He is also the bestselling author of “Start Something That Matters” which inspires others to turn their passion and dreams into a reality.
Blake is a leader in the realm of conscious capitalism and using business as a force for good. He is even using $100 million of his own money to back other socially driven companies.
President Clinton called Blake “one of the most interesting entrepreneurs he’s ever met.”
Blake is an incredibly mindful and self-aware guy. He leads his life in a way that inspires me. And I am so honored to have him on the show. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
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LINKS FROM EPISODE:
“Start Something That Matters” Blake Mycoskie
“The Art of Power” Thich Nhat Hanh
“Essentialism” Greg McKeown
Excerpts from the episode:
TAKE TIME OFF!
SARAH: Can you have it all? Find the balance where you are the best in business, and then also be the best family man?
BLAKE: I think it’s hard to use the word best when you want to have a real work-life balance, so I’ll start with that. I think the concept of being the best really does require someone to make a lot of sacrifices, and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on someone. So one thing that I recently have spent time learning about myself and understanding is that I don’t need to be the best at business, and I don’t need to be the best husband, or the best family man, I need to be like a really good husband, and a really good father, and really good at being an entrepreneur. And that takes a little bit of the pressure off, and I think that allows you to make choices that are more in line with having great balance.
I think for me I’ve always put a priority on time off and hobbies and friendships over business, much more than my contemporaries as entrepreneurs, and I don’t really know why, I can’t really think back to like, “Well, I saw my parents do that,” because my dad worked a lot. So maybe I don’t know if maybe seeing my dad work so much as a doctor growing up and maybe him not doing some of the things he wanted to do caused me to say that.
Even if I’m gonna work hard, I’m not gonna sacrifice everything for work. Because even in the early days of TOMS I would take like every January off, and just go disappear on some adventure, and people would be freaking out. But I always found that it really helped the business, and helped the people I work with, because it required them to do a lot of things on their own, but it also showed them how much confidence I had in them.
So I think from a business perspective, it’s really good to take some significant times off during the year to clear your mind, but now being a dad and a husband, now it’s like I have to be really careful that I make sure that I have enough time for family, my hobbies, my travels, and work. And so that’s where I’ve really settled into this idea of, I’m wanna be good, or good enough in these areas, and not put the pressure on myself to try to be the best.
“I uninstalled my email service from my laptop and phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it. It was difficult at first, I realized I constantly looked at my phone for important messages, they validated that I was important, but I soon found that the best validation came from Heather, who kept commenting on how present I was. Going off the grid made it clear, being fully unplugged is really the greatest offering we can make to the people we care about.”
SARAH: You took 12 weeks off when Summit was born, and I can’t tell you how much I love that. Tell me about your experience taking time off to be a dad.
BLAKE: It was the best. I’m hoping my wife will get pregnant again so I can do it again. I learned so much on my paternity leave about myself, and about what it really does mean to be present, because we are so connected to our devices, and I do think we all feel a sense of validation, and self importance, and worth through simple messages. I think that’s why they’re so addictive. Every time you get a text message, or an email, or a Facebook update, or someone likes that Instagram photo, it’s someone saying, “Hey, I see you, you’re there.” And that’s, as a human being, one of our primal needs is to be seen and to be known and recognized. And so when you shut all that stuff off, you’re left with yourself, and your close loved ones that you’re in company with, which was my wife who had just had the baby, and our son, Summit. And it was nice to feel validation and self worth without all those external stimulus.
And from the paternity leave I now try to really be more cautious and aware of how much time I’m checking in on my phone. It was just a great experience all around, yeah. ‘Cause it’s not only to bond with your son so much at those early stages, but also just to have time to sit, and think, and just be still, was really nice.
STAYING TRUE TO YOUR VALUES
Sarah: You have a sign in your kitchen that says “Put family first, be present and give generously” What are the practices you use to help you stay in alignment with the values that you are trying to live by?
BLAKE: Well, I think the first thing, and you noted it is that we have a sign in our kitchen that has them, so I think part of a big thing of staying committed to any goal or values is to have it be visible. Because then not only you are seeing it every day, but then your friends and guests at holidays and stuff see it, and they comment on it, and it really becomes a part of your identity. So the more you can positively reinforce these values, and kind of put ’em on your bathroom mirror, or in your kitchen is a good practice.
BLAKE: I think the other thing is really taking time to make sure that the values are really personal to you. And then also that you will, that you keep reinforcing those values with experiences, and choices that you make. And so, sometimes when Heather and I are talking about what we’re going to do for vacation, or a trip, or a weekend, we might look at that and it says, okay make time for play is one of our values and staying curious is also one of our values. And so that helps inform the decisions that we’ll make. And so that’s something that I’ve always done in business, but this is the first time I’ve done it in my personal life, and it’s been a really valuable exercise.
SARAH: I’m a huge fan of journaling, I’ve been journaling forever. You’ve been journaling everyday since you were 15, is that true?
BLAKE: Yes, extensively.
SARAH: I love that. Everyone has a different journaling process. Is yours at any particular time of day? Are you writing just personal insights? Are you writing to-do lists? What is your journalling process?
BLAKE: My journaling process has changed so much throughout the years. I think initially I took to journalling more like someone who writes in a diary like, “Dear diary… ” All your thoughts and your ideas and your secrets, it was very much that was a part of my adolescence. And then I think then I moved into more of a historical journalling. Of like, “This is what happened today.” So not really as much sharing, and more just like, “I did this, I did that.” And I think that was in my tennis days, when I was playing in high school then college. It was very much like, “Okay, I did this much workout, I ate this.” Kind of just that accountability. And then as I became an entrepreneur I found that I used to originally keep two journals. ‘Cause I had one that was all my work stuff and my to-do list, and meeting notes, and all that stuff and then I had another one that was more back to the original, diary type stuff. And about, I don’t know, maybe, gosh, before TOMS maybe 11, 12 years ago, I just said, “You know what, my life is all one. I’m just gonna roll through journals in both ways.” So now I have you might flip through my journal and find three pages of meeting notes, a to-do list, and then a deep thought about my relationship with Heather. It’s all one. So if anyone ever does go through it after I die, they’ll really understand the context of the personal stuff ’cause they’ll see the business stuff interwoven.
BLAKE: I just think for me it really helps me think and process, I think that’s the main thing. If I just have all of these thoughts and ideas in my head then I can get stressed, or overwhelmed, or these types of things… Sorry I’m yawning, I’m jet-lagged from Asia. And so journaling helps me process things and think through things which gives me a relief, and it feels like I’m not as overwhelmed.
Living with authenticity
SARAH: As we grow and evolve our passions, and our priorities, they shift. And I think it’s important to come back and reassess where we’re coming from, and what we want. Do you do that often? Do you kinda come back and say, “Okay, who am I? What am I looking for?” Because I think we can go on in life for years thinking we still want what we wanted five years ago and then, “Wait a minute, I don’t even like this anymore.”
BLAKE: Yeah, I think that’s a super important thing to do, and I will say that that’s not a practice that I have had for a long time, but it’s something recently I’ve done. I recently went to this amazing retreat called The Hoffman Institute…
BLAKE: I went eight weeks ago and it very much helped me really examine, Am I living the life I authentically wanna live, or am I living the life that has been created through all the patterns and things that I’ve done so far? And it definitely, there were some wake up moments at Hoffman where I was like, “I’m dedicating a lot of time to this, and I don’t really know if I really still care that much about it.“ And that has been a really great thing. And then the other thing besides Hoffman that’s been great, going back to books. There’s a book called “Essentialism”, and it is an easy read, and it is so good because it helps you really understand, are you spending your life doing the things that you really feel are essential, or are you spending a lot of time doing what people say you should do, or you could do but really aren’t essential? And so that book and the Hoffman are like two of the greatest ways I think of really examining your life, and making sure that you’re spending the days the ways that you really want to, and not how you’ve been programmed to.
SARAH: And as a public persona, do you ever feel like people are projecting onto you kind of what they want you to be?
BLAKE: All the time. Well, I think the hard thing is, is that… I’m super grateful for how everything has turned out with TOMS, and I’m really grateful for the reputation that the company has, and then therefore the reputation that I have in the space of using business to do good. But the problem with that is too, is that people put you on a pedestal that is just impossible to live up to. Just because we do a lot of great stuff in business, doesn’t mean that I do everything perfect, or I’m always the most charitable person with my time, or that I don’t act selfishly, or these things. So having that is really a challenge, and can put a lot of pressure on you. But once again Hoffman really helps you deal with that type of stuff.
SARAH: Called “Start Something That Matters”, you talk about how all fear is rooted in the unknown. What is your relationship to uncertainty, and how do navigate that?
BLAKE: Well, I personally I think thrive with uncertainty because when things are totally certain and kind of totally spelled out, I think I lose some of my excitement, and there’s not as much of a challenge, or I’m not maybe kind of forcing myself to be prepared for multiple outcomes that could happen. So I kind of like uncertainty. Now I know that everyone is not in that same frame of mind, but I’d say the way that I deal with uncertainty is to try to prepare myself to be okay with a myriad of outcomes. I think one of my favorite poets, Rudyard Kipling, wrote this poem “If” and one of the lines it says, “If you can meet triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.” And I love that he calls both triumph and disaster imposters, because what that means to me is that it’s never as good as you think it is, and it’s never as bad as you assume it is. So uncertainty is a lot easier to deal with it when you realize that even the best outcome is not gonna really affect your life positively that much, and the worst outcome is not gonna set you back so far you can’t go forward, so that’s the way that I, I really look at it.
SARAH: What do you think as humans we are ultimately looking for?
BLAKE: Man, I think it goes a little bit to what we were saying earlier about we want to be seen. It’s really a simple thing, but I think that’s why we have friendships. I think that’s why we get married. I think that’s why we have jobs that we can create stuff. I actually think at the end of the day we want to feel that our life mattered, and that comes in a various different types of acknowledgement. And so that’s probably why social media is so addictive because it helps people feel like they’re being seen.
BLAKE: I think my greatest teacher has been experience. I’d be tempted to say my parents ’cause I learned a ton from them. Or I’ve had several amazing business mentors. But as I really think about what has taught me things, how do I have whatever wisdom that I’ve accumulated in 39 years, it’s really just experiences. I communicate better with my wife today than I did three years ago, not because someone taught me to, but because of having positive experiences some days and negative experiences another day. I think I make better business decisions at TOMS because I sincerely have had great success and I’ve had some really bad failures and I’ve learned from both of ’em.
BLAKE: I really think I’ve learned a lot from books, I read a ton, as you referenced earlier, I probably read four or five books a month, and a lot of them are kind of business or self-growth books. So I learn a lot through that. But ultimately what creates the greatest lesson is going through an experience.
SARAH: What advice would you give to your self 10 years ago?
BLAKE: Ooh, wow. 10 years ago is right when I started TOMS, so I can think of a lot of advice business wise I would have given myself. I think that same quote from Rudyard Kipling, is that I would tell myself basically, “Hey, don’t sweat it either way, don’t celebrate your success too much, and don’t wallow in your failures too much either. Either one is really kind of an imposter because they’re all just life experiences, and your successes you might not learn from as much as your failures, and your failures, while you don’t want to experience them that much, might lead your next big success. But no matter what try to keep an even keel because that’s gonna be more valuable than either.”