Interview with JeVon McCormick
Building a Thriving Business By Putting People First with JeVon McCormick
Today, I’m talking with JeVon McCormick. JeVon is the CEO of Scribe Media, a multi-million dollar publishing company that was recently ranked the #1 Top Company Culture in America by Entrepreneur Magazine.
His bestselling book, The Modern Leader, sold out on day one on Amazon and Ernst & Young recently named him Entrepreneur of the Year.
While JeVon has achieved unbelievable success, he’s also had to overcome many obstacles.
As a son of a black pimp father and a white single mother on welfare, his childhood and adolescence were mired in physical abuse and discrimination. But, JeVon refused to play the victim and used his difficult upbringing as a springboard to succeed down the road.
Since then, he has shaped himself into a role model for millions of young people worldwide. He inspires them to see the obstacles they face as opportunities and shows them what’s possible in life when they adopt that mindset.
In today’s conversation, we discuss the power of personal responsibility and ownership, why obstacles are opportunities in disguise, and why people are the most important asset in any organization.
Featured on This Episode: JeVon McCormick
✅ What he does: JeVon McCormick is the CEO of Scribe Media, a multi-million dollar publishing company that was ranked #1 Top Company Culture in America by Entrepreneur Magazine and has worked with 2,200 authors, including The Nobel Peace Prize Committee and David Goggins. JeVon has made millions in the stock market (even though he didn’t go to college) and was the President of a software company (even though he can’t code). Ernst & Young recently named JeVon Entrepreneur of the Year. He’s also the author of the WSJ and USA Today Best Seller, “Modern Leader”.
💬 Words of wisdom: “Privilege is only bad if you don’t use your privilege to elevate others.” – JeVon McCormick
🔎 Where to find JeVon McCormick: LinkedIn | TikTok | Twitter | Instagram
Key Takeaways with JeVon McCormick
- How the advice he gave to Tucker Max led to him ditching his high-paying job at a software company for being the CEO of Scribe.
- The mindset that helped JeVon grow Scribe to a multi-million dollar company with 115 employees.
- Why JeVon stopped running from his past and trying to fit into the playbook of corporate America.
- The power of taking accountability and ownership instead of blaming others for the cards life has dealt you.
- The strategy that turned Scribe into a company that people want to work for and that Entrepreneur Magazine ranked as #1 Top Company Culture.
- Why people who grew up in difficult circumstances are often most suited for leadership positions.
- Do schools prepare our children to thrive in life and in business?
- How JeVon helped David Goggins make one of the best-selling memoirs of all time that has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
- Take care of the people that work in your company, and they will take care of the company in return.
JeVon McCormick on A New Way for Entrepreneurs to Attract Talent and Provide for Their Team
JeVon McCormick Tweetables“No one person ever builds a great company. It takes an incredible group of people to build a great company.” - @jevon_mccormick Click To Tweet “We look to attract and provide, meaning we want to attract great people, and then we want to provide them with great pay, a great culture, fulfilling work. So, we want to attract and provide, not recruit and retain.” – @jevon_mccormick Click To Tweet
- JeVon McCormick’s Official Site
- JeVon McCormick on LinkedIn | TikTok | Twitter | Instagram
- Scribe Media
- Modern Leader by JeVon McCormick
- Dane Espegard
- The Dream Machine: A Leader’s Guide to Creating Teams of High Performers Who Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes by Dane Espegard
- Tucker Max
- David Goggins
- Jesse Itzler
- Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzler
- Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
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Read the Full Transcript with JeVon McCormick
Justin Donald: All right. What’s up, JeVon? So glad to have you on the show.
JeVon McCormick: My man, Justin. What’s going on, sir?
Justin Donald: This is great. Well, I’m so thrilled to have you on because your book is the most recent book that I have completed. Literally, completed it today prior to our session. And I’m just excited to get to know you even better. I mean, your book was incredible, and I just hope more people read it. It’s information. It’s counsel. It’s stuff that needs to get out into the world.
JeVon McCormick: Man, full transparency, the book caught me off guard. It actually caught all of us off guard. It sold out of Amazon on day one and ended up hitting, what, number three on the Wall Street Journal bestseller, caught us all off guard. None of us expected it, especially the book selling out on Amazon. So, it’s humbling, flattering, and also a bit proud of it, too.
Justin Donald: Oh, it’s awesome. I feel like hearing that, I’ve got some moments where because I’m an author as well and I wrote The Lifestyle Investor and we also did the same thing and we’re out and people are trying to buy it and people couldn’t get it. And I’m freaking out because I don’t even know what the heck I’m doing. Like, I don’t even know how to get more books. I didn’t even order them in the first place. It’s a really good problem but it’s still a problem that needs to be sorted out but I’m glad you’re able to do that and glad the books had so much success.
JeVon McCormick: Oh, for sure. And now the beauty for me is I’m surrounded by a group of people that know how to handle the bookselling now and what we need to do to print more and get it there. So, that’s the beauty for me on that one.
Justin Donald: It’s nice. You work for Scribe. You guys produce, create, help people put their thoughts into written form in a very cool way. I’ve recommended a bunch of my friends, one of my closest friends in the world, Dane Espegard, and The Dream Machine. He worked with you guys and a bunch of my other friends have, and you guys just do incredible work. It’s great to see.
JeVon McCormick: My man, I appreciate it. It’s, gosh, what, we’ve worked with over 2,000 authors now. We’re seven years old. Man, it’s been an incredible run. Matter of fact, right now, we’re literally in the middle of an office expansion. I know most people are shutting down offices and workspaces but we’re actually expanding our offices and workspace. And so, yeah, it’s been a great run and the next 3 to 5 years you’ll really see us go next level to where the company goes.
Justin Donald: I love it. Well, I’m friends with one of your partners, Tucker Max, and the original founder, co-founder of Scribe. And so, I remember when he was pivoting, transitioning from being an author to starting this company, I’m like, “What are you doing? You’re like crushing it in the writing category.” Like, some of his stuff is like just crazy. I mean, you sit there and you say, “Could this really happen? This is nuts.” And then he’s like, “Yeah, I’m totally changed. I’m not like that anymore. I’m starting this company. I’m going to help people write books.” I mean, what a big shift that is in the first place. And then what’s really neat is to see how that company is scaled and then bringing you in to run it and all the things that have happened since then. I’d love to hear some of your experience with some of this before we get into some of your childhood and kind of how you got to where you are today.
JeVon McCormick: Yeah. So, I was actually the president of a software company when I first met Tucker and I set out on the journey to write a book for my children. I was never interested in selling any copies. I was doing it as a legacy piece for my children so they would know my background, where I came from, so and so forth. And I got introduced to Tucker. Tucker came over to the office and we’re in this big conference room at the software company. And as we’re wrapping up, he says, “Man, you’ve built an amazing company here.” And I said, “Man, no one person ever builds a great company. It takes an incredible group of people to build a great company.” And he said, “Hey, as you’re going through our process, will you give me feedback on your experience?” So, I said, “Yeah, why not?” And so, I get my first email from what was then Book in a Box and now it’s Scribe and I said, “Hey, you still want feedback?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “Okay, this is good. Keep doing this.” I go, “This is broke. I don’t know who thought of this. Don’t ever do this sh*t again.” And he goes, “You got all that from an email?” I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Would you sit on our advisory board?” “Yeah. Okay. Why not?” And then he invited me to an executive meeting and then the next thing I know, Zach and Tucker, the two co-founders, were sitting at Starbucks and they offered up the opportunity to be the CEO of the company and offered me equity in the company.
So, literally, and I’ve told the story so many times but it’s the truth. I sat there when they offered it up and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. Okay. I’ve been the president of a software company and I can’t write code, and now I can be the CEO of a publishing company and I don’t know one adverb from an adjective and I can’t spell.” And I remember saying to myself, “God bless America, I’m in.” And so, here I am, man. They were about 13 months old at the time. You know, they were really a startup. So, we’re seven years old. I’ve been here for six of those and, man, we’ve done from a people and culture perspective, we’ve been named the number one place to work in Austin, the number two place to work in Texas. Entrepreneur Magazine named us the best company culture in America. And then for me, I’m still wondering how this happened. Last November, I was named the best CEO in Austin. And then Ernst and Young, EY, about a month ago named me Entrepreneur of the Year. So, it’s been a hell of a ride. It’s been great. And like I said earlier, 2,000 authors. There was 115 people within the company. So, it’s been awesome, man.
Justin Donald: Yeah. That’s incredible. And what I love is that your story of how you got here, you know, it’s littered with adversity. I think most people experienced some form of adversity. I think you had very extreme adversity in some respects and really just, you know, at least from my perception, an atypical childhood. I’d love to hear more about like what kind of defined you. I mean, when I was reading Modern Leader and you are talking about how your dad was a pimp, and I was like, “You got to be kidding me,” and that you were like involved like you would ride along and that you had exposure to these women that he was communicating with. And like even at a young age, you’re formulating like, “Hey, I wouldn’t treat them like this. I would treat them better. My dad’s missing this. He’s missing the boat. I could create a competing business and put him out of business because I would treat these women with respect.”
JeVon McCormick: Man, it was and it’s interesting. I’m going to pick on a word here for a second. So, right now in our country, we weaponized the word privilege. And specifically, we’ve weaponized the words white privilege. And we’ve done it in a negative way where if you come from a two-parent home, you got to go to college and your parents are still married and you were upper middle class, we’ve almost looked down upon you, “Oh, you were privileged,” and like that’s a bad thing. And for me, privilege is only bad if you don’t use your privilege to elevate others. So, I start with that word is, yes, my dad was a pimp. He put women on a street corner. They sold their bodies. He took every dollar. My mom was one of his prostitutes and I grew up in a world of chaos. I know things about this country that most people will never experience. What key to what I just said is that too is also a privilege. And because of the privilege I was able to receive in that chaos, I now have a deep responsibility, not obligation, deep responsibility to go back and share what I have learned with the communities of where I come from. So, again, we’ve weaponized the word privilege but there is great privilege in my childhood. I grew up in chaos, understanding how to organize chaos, how to overcome adversity, to build resilience. You know, what some people call stress? I don’t see it as stress. So, my childhood truly was for me a privilege because the things that I got to see, learn, understand, overcome, deal with, priceless.
Justin Donald: Yeah. I mean, that’s such great perspective, JeVon. I feel like most people probably wouldn’t show up with that type of perspective. I think it’s a lot easier to play a victim than to say, “Hey, what’s the gift in it? Like, what did I learn in this situation? What’s going to make me better as a leader?” And that really has been your MO since kind of day one, since you’ve realized that you have a voice that resonates with others. And even just the story of just the simple concept of your name, I’d love for you to talk about what it was like first growing up using the name JeVon, but then changing it to JT for a period of time and then getting back now today to the roots of JeVon, your original name. I think there’s so much to unpack here. I mean, I was very moved and really just, you know, I would say that you had a profound impact on me just hearing that story in the way that life shaped around something as simple as a name. Right?
JeVon McCormick: Let me go back to what you said there for a second. It’s another place. You said victim. Was I victimized as a kid? Yeah. You know, I was sexually molested from the age of six, seven, eight years old. One of my dad’s prostitutes used to force me to perform oral sex on her. And if I didn’t do it right, she’d slap me in the face, punch me in the head, and tell me to do it right. So, was I victimized? Yes. But as I got older, what I realized is you can’t change the past. You know, I can’t change who I was born to. You know, my dad was a pimp. My mom was an orphan. I, to this day, don’t know where my last name comes from. My mom got it in the orphanage. We have no clue where, why, how we have this last name. So, I’ve never been one to play the victim card. Oh, why me? Why did this happen? And you see this as well in our country. We had a massive drop-off into what I find to be very pivotal words, accountability and responsibility. You know, it’s always someone else’s fault. We blame other people. And for me, I just take accountability and responsibility. And the fact is, okay, I can’t change the past but I can change the next hour, day, week, month, and years. I’m going to focus on what I can change versus, “Oh, my dad was a pimp. This is unfair. My parents were never married.” And so, I don’t get caught up in victimhood, if you will.
And to jump forward towards what you asked about my name, yes, my name is JeVon McCormick and I’ll go right to the story of it, man. When I was trying to advance my career, if you will, and this is old school, man. I’m 50. So, this was early 90s. So, when I was trying to get on people’s calendars and making the cold calls and drop off resumes, man, I could not get a callback. So, one gentleman, white guy, answers the phone one day and he says, “Hey, how did you get a black first name and an Irish last name?” And keep in mind, I just said I don’t know where my last name comes from. So, the fact that he told me my last name was Irish, I was like, “Sweet! My last name is Irish. I didn’t know that.” So, I was so excited to find out my last name was Irish. But when I hung up the phone, what jumped out to me was, “Oh, okay, they’re looking at my first name, JeVon, and that’s why I’m not getting callbacks.” So, my full name is JeVon Thomas McCormick. And so, that day, right after I hung up the phone, literally within an hour, I said, “Okay, I’m going to go by JT McCormick because no one will know who that is.” The next week, Justin, oh, man, I got callbacks. I got appointments. I got on people’s calendars.
And I can’t tell you how many times I showed up at someone’s office and they’re like, “JT McCormick?” And I was like, “Yes,” and like, “Oh, you’re not who I expected.” And you’re standing there like, “Well, what did you expect?” And so, but what was interesting is I had gotten in and I realized, wow, okay, the JT McCormick thing worked. Now, it was bittersweet and the sweet part was, “Sweet. I got in.” The bitter part was I had to edit myself just to get a damn interview, just to get an appointment? Come on.” But I kept the name. I kept JT McCormick throughout my entire career up until two years ago, right after the George Floyd murder. And I remember watching all the things that were going on after the George Floyd murder, specifically the stupid-ass virtue signaling. You know, Blackout Tuesday on social media. Like what does that do to progress anything and bring change? And, Justin, you and I both know this, so many people were only doing it so they didn’t get called out for not doing it. And so, then what were we arguing about? A syrup bottle, a damn syrup bottle. Like what does that actually change? But actually, what really jumped out to me, there was an article I’d read and it said that there were only at the time three Fortune 500 black CEOs. I was like, “Interesting. Who are they?”
So, I go and I look them up and it was Kenneth Frazier, Roger Ferguson, Marvin Ellison. And as a bonus, the wealthiest black man in America is named Robert Smith. So, immediately I smiled and I was like, “Oh, four very ethnic-free names if you will.” And it hit me right there. I said, “Oh, whatever you’re not changing you’re choosing,” and in that moment I realized, “Oh, I’m choosing to continue to be part of the problem.” And I said, “Okay. I am going to reclaim my name and I’m going to go by JeVon McCormick.” And again, I didn’t do it for me. I had built an amazing career as JT McCormick. I actually did it because, like I said, I was part of the problem. I continue to edit myself to “fit in.” So, I wanted every Revante, Laquanda, Lucretia, Jesus, Rosalia to see a JeVon from my background with the GED made it to the CEO chair. And, yeah, I’m not a Fortune 500 CEO, but we’ve got a few accomplishments. The whole goal was maybe one day, maybe one day when you enter the business world, you can work next to a JeVon and not just a JT.
Justin Donald: That’s powerful. There’s such a sadness there that that is the reality. I mean, it’s great that you can figure out a hack but it’s a shame that you need to do that to get ahead to like get the edge and you have firsthand experience of that. And I know that you spoke in your book about really just the Fortune 500 recognition started back in 1955 and there were no black CEOs for 32 years. So, 1987 was the first time that there was a black CEO, right? That speaks volumes to change and progress that needs to be made.
JeVon McCormick: Well, think about that for a second. I’ve had so many people ask me because I continuously talk about the playbook is broken. The playbook is broken. It’s a broken playbook. You know, corporate America, the business world as we know it has been built on this playbook but this playbook is now broken. And I’ve had so many people ask me, they go, “Okay. Well, if the playbook is so broken, why did we run the playbook so long?” And I say, “Well, personally, I’m convinced the same people who created the playbook also created the phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'” Because for so long it served a group of people who fit the playbook. So, if it was working for those individuals, why would you need to change it? But what happened is, and in my opinion, it really started to shift and show itself right after the recession in ’07, ’08, ’09, you saw a shift come and it’s just broken the way this playbook has been built. It’s an exclusionary playbook that does not welcome everyone. And if you don’t fit the playbook, you don’t know the rules of the playbook, you don’t understand the playbook, you don’t speak the language of the playbook, it’s damn near impossible for you to get in.
Justin Donald: And so, you’re referring to the old playbook, but there’s also a new playbook. And the new playbook is something that you and really your team, really the culture of Scribe has embraced. And I’d love to know what that new playbook looks like.
JeVon McCormick: Well, so it’s interesting. I’m going to take a little poke at you, Justin. We actually don’t call it a playbook. And the reason being is it’s my book, Modern Leader, there’s a little tagline we put in there, “This book is not a playbook because leadership is not a game.” And I rubbed some people wrong when I use this comment. There are over 20,000 books, leadership books with the word playbook in it. And I ask the question, “Can you truly be a leader if you’re following a playbook?” And what you’re seeing right now in our society here in America is that right now, I don’t care where you fall, we can go Warren Buffett who’s in his 90s all the way down to the 22-year-old startup founder. There is no one walking the earth right now in our society who has ever experienced all of the things that we’re going through right now all at once. Now, Warren Buffett has seen racial tension. He’s seen the Vietnam War. He has seen high-interest rates in the early 80s where they were 17%, 18%. He’s seen inflation. So, he has seen all of these things actually happen. I mean, think about this. He’s even seen Roe versus Wade come and go. But none of us, none of us have ever experienced this all at once.
So, what’s happening right now, especially when you mix in the virus, you mix in diversity, you mix in how we’re choosing where to work, there’s no playbook for it. So, you’ve got a lot of what I would call playbook leaders who are just stumbling all over themselves because they do not know how to operate because there’s no playbook for this. The old playbook doesn’t work. So, directly to your point, I’ll start with this at Scribe. You hear so many companies say, “Oh, yeah,” and I applaud them. They’ll openly admit and say, “Yeah, we’ve got a diversity issue. We’ve got a diversity problem,” and I applaud them. Good for them. Great. At least they’re owning it. The first step is admitting it. Great. But here’s what’s interesting. They’ll say they have a diversity problem but in the next breath, they will literally say, “We only hire culture fits.” Think about that. If you’re saying you have a diversity problem, but you’re only hiring culture fits, do you not see your problem there? And so, one of the things with us, we don’t look for culture fits. We want culture adds. We want people who are going to add to the culture. And to take that a little bit deeper, it does not matter who you voted for. It does not matter how you identify, if you’re transgender, if you’re gay, if you use pronouns, what your race is, who you voted for, none of that matters.
Are you human? Are you willing to uphold the values performing your role, drive results? If you’re willing to do those three things, welcome. So, what we’ve called a culture of welcome, not acceptance, not tolerance, not belonging. Belonging is this new hot word that they’re tacking on to the end of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The reason why I’m not a fan of belonging is because it implies someone does it. But a culture of welcoming, we are going to welcome you in. And when you’re here, we’re going to continue to welcome you.
Justin Donald: Yeah. And I think that goes along with something that you talked about where a lot of what maybe happens in the past in the hiring process is you have a resume and you’ve got certain things on your resume, maybe it’s the college you went to or your past history. But a lot of people kind of just I guess heavily weigh those things over maybe the experience someone has in another industry or maybe the work ethic someone has that you may not see, you may not be able to figure out necessarily, but maybe someone’s worked at the same job for a long period of time and maybe someone’s moved up that ladder. They’re in a different industry. And I like your take of, “Hey, let’s see. Like, do they share the core values? Is this someone that could excel?” They don’t have to have gone to a certain college. They don’t need to have been in the industry. Are they a hard worker or will they fit in? Will they give their effort? Do they show up in integrity? Well, let’s give them a chance. Let’s interview them like anyone else and let’s see how they shine during the interview process.
JeVon McCormick: Totally. And you know this. Right now, so many… Here’s one thing that companies could start with right now. Go to your job description, your career description, and look at the roles and then ask yourself, does a person really need a degree for that role? You know, think about this. If right now we’re hiring for an assistant project manager and you have a liberal arts degree, the hell does that tell me? Nothing. And take this a step further. So, I have four children, eight, seven, five, and three. So right now, my kids are incredibly blessed that if they want to go to college one day, it’s already paid for. So, they’re good if they want to go to college. So, when I say this because so many people are going to think I’m attacking them because they have a degree and I don’t. No. If this holds true for my kids, then I’m going to say it to them. If my kids go to college and their role is to go to class, go to library, study, and they will graduate with no student loan debt. They just get to go to school. They don’t need to hold a job, whatever. They just get to go to school and they get their degree. What the hell does that tell me about my kids? Nothing. That is glorified high school. The only difference is mom wasn’t there to wake you up each morning.
So, because you went and got a college degree that your parents paid for and you don’t have any college debt, you didn’t have to work to school, what does that tell me about you? That you went to class? Well, if you graduated high school, that kind of tells me the same thing. You want to class. So, when you look at a resume, you got to ask yourself, do we need a college degree for this role? Now, for us, we’re in the process of hiring for CFO. Yeah, I kind of want that person to have a degree, have experience in the role as a CFO but we’re hiring an assistant project manager. What’s the degree? So, ask yourself, as a company, can we teach, coach, and mentor this role? Because so many times think about this, Justin, even if the person had a degree, even if they have a little bit of experience, are you still not going to have to teach, coach, and mentor them into the role within your company? Yes. So, why not open up your candidate pool, and maybe you get to interview someone that comes from my background of just chaos? I tell you what, a lot of those chaotic backgrounds are masterful at organizing chaos because it’s what we had to do. We grew up in chaos and we know how to organize it. So, I would say that’s one place where companies could start right off the bat is just really ask yourself, do we need a degree for this role?
Justin Donald: I think that’s great. And by the way, I think a degree is becoming less and less relevant just across the board in so many industries, you know? I’m going to share this and there are probably going to be some people that don’t care for my opinion on this, but I’m going to share it anyway because I don’t think that college is what it used to be. You know, I don’t think that the level of education is what it used to be but I also don’t think that the jobs and the careers and the opportunities that people are going into, that they’re going to experience are, you know, that you’re getting that training in college unless you’re specialized. There are some specialties. If you’re going to be a doctor, if you’re going to be a lawyer, there are definitely specialties where I think it makes sense. But to the masses, I think college is pretty irrelevant. I actually hope my daughter doesn’t go to college. It’ll be her choice. But I think that you can gain way more skills just working with someone that has experience, having some sort of an apprenticeship. I think you pick up more bad habits than good habits in most instances. And so, I don’t know, like the trade-off there of like the bad habits that you pick up, this experience. Like, I don’t know, I’m just not convinced today that college is even necessary for the majority of careers that people are going to pursue.
JeVon McCormick: I mean, I totally agree with you. You know, people can say what they want about Tucker Max. Tucker said something to me that really jumped out to me one time. And keep in mind, again, say what you want about him. Tucker went to the University of Chicago and also Duke Law School. And so, when it comes to academic credentials, he’s got them. And he said something to me, he goes, “Man, the best thing that ever happened to you is you didn’t go to college.” And I had spent so much of my life wanting those college credentials and I’m looking at him like, “What?” And he said, “Here’s why. You didn’t get clouded by all the bullsh*t they teach you in college.” And so, I was like shocked. That was the first time anybody had said that. But to your point, you truly do have to look back and I know for me, some of the greatest lessons in business did not come from obviously I didn’t go to college and I asked a lot. We’ve got a ton of people within our organization that have Ivy League degrees, Stanford, UT, you name it, the big known school, and I’ve asked them this, “So, when you were in college, did they teach you impeccable attention to detail?” And people look at me like, “No.” I go, “Did they teach you professionalism?” No. And so, it’s interesting. Did they teach you punctuality? No. And so, some of the greatest lessons that have served me in the business world, you don’t even get when you get a degree. So, again, I’m not knocking it. I’m like you. If my kids choose that they want to go to college, “Hey, God bless you and dad will pay for it but I rather pay for you to start a business.”
Justin Donald: Yeah. I for sure would. And that’s something that we’re working on right now with different entrepreneurial opportunities and exposure. I mean, I think that I learned there’s very little that I use from college. I actually think what I learned in college was how do you do the least amount to get the best result? So, like maybe I became resourceful in the fact that I got pretty darn good grades hardly attending class and doing way too much social stuff and things that just today I say, “Gosh, yeah, it was a good time. I don’t know. I don’t know if those are great choices. I wish I would have done it differently.” And I think it was a worse influence on me than if I had just started a business, if I just been someone’s number two in their business or whatever, like just getting hands-on experience at a young age because I was hungry and I was moldable and I was eager for that opportunity. But what was in front of me was like the path of least resistance to get good grades but do as little as humanly possible. And by the way, I succeeded masterfully at that. You know, I don’t know if I should be proud of that or be disgusted by it.
JeVon McCormick: Hey, you succeeded masterfully and you have the piece of paper to prove it.
Justin Donald: Yeah. You know, and I just think it’s not, you know, outside of some specialties, a degree is just not what it used to be. And I have learned a lot more in really just even interacting with people that are doing the things I want to do or that know the things that I don’t know. Yeah. So, I like your take on it. You know, it was interesting with your book so I listened to your book. I did the Audible version, which was narrated by David Goggins. And I remember when I first learned about him, I was reading Jesse Itzler’s book, Living with a SEAL, and I thought that was great. I was cracking up. I was like, “This is unreal.” And then I learned, well, you learn that David Goggins is the SEAL. And then just this crazy, I mean, just an awesome story. But then when I read his book, Can’t Hurt Me, I was blown away and he in his book did this little Q&A session like a podcast after each of the chapters. And I said, “That’s cool. I’m going to do that in my book.” And that was really the motivation for me to do the same thing. So, I’ve got a Q&A, like a little podcast session in between each chapter of my book, just like you do and I really enjoyed hearing you and David talking. I’m curious how you met him and how you figured out or decided that he’d be the right fit to read it.
JeVon McCormick: So, as you may know, so we published Can’t Hurt Me, so Scribe Media published Can’t Hurt Me. So, we had the honor to be the company that he selected when he chose not to go traditional. And he’s been very public with the story. He got a, I believe, like a $350,000 offer from traditional to do his book. And you know when you go traditional, essentially they own your ass. They own the rights to your book. Yeah. You got the advance but you get crumbs on the back end, 10%, max 15%. So, David said, “Nope, I want to own my own story. Not going to do it,” and he said, “I’m not going to go traditional. I’m going to publish it myself.” And his agent dropped him. People told him he was a fool. And so, that book is one of the bestselling memoirs of all time. And so, he believed in himself and he invested in himself. I don’t say bet. I don’t gamble. And so, what had happened that that book, oh man, coming up on four years ago in December is when it first published. No one expected that it was going to do what it did in the first couple of weeks. And so, we got caught flat-footed. David got caught flat-footed, and we needed to print a ton more copies of his book. So, I’m on the phone with the printer that’s up in Minnesota the day before Christmas Eve trying to get this book printed and shipped out. So, I go up to the printer the day after Christmas.
And so, when I’m there, I take a picture of David’s books coming off the printer and I send him a picture of it, and we kind of hit it off from there because he appreciated the fact this idea of it’s day after Christmas in Europe and they make use of this book prints. And so, from there, I actually got to spend some time with him. We worked out together multiple times, and that’s brutal.
Justin Donald: I’m sure.
JeVon McCormick: Yeah. There is no… I said this to him, “One does not prepare to work out with David. You either work out with David daily on a consistent basis, which there is no one that gets to do that. Or you just go in and do all you can to finish the workout.” Now, I’m very proud to say I finished my workout all three times but damn. He had us doing this thing called five intense. You do five pull-ups and ten push-ups nonstop. So, he does five pull-ups, gets down, and does ten push-ups. And while he’s doing his ten pushups, I’m doing the five pull-ups and we just keep going around. You do that nonstop. No water. 45 minutes. Ugh.
Justin Donald: Whoa.
JeVon McCormick: Ohh. And as soon as we finish, then he said, “We’re going to do weighted lunges.” And it’s just, yeah, working out with David is some different, excuse the language, that’s some different sh*t. And so, yeah, one does not prepare. One only attempts to finish. And so, we hit it off. It’s been great. He’s genuine. You know what? What you hear is who he is, but very private, but hell of a guy. And so, yeah, I was honored that he wrote the foreword to my book. And so, yeah, I can’t say enough about it. I’m a huge fan. We have some similarities on our backgrounds and some of the challenges we went through and things of that nature. So, very much hit it off with him.
Justin Donald: Well, I feel like it’s very fitting for you guys to partner up on this because his background is just chaotic, very similar to yours. And I mean, his book when it came out, that was my favorite. So, I didn’t read it in December but I read it in either Jan, I think I started in January and finished it in February and it was my favorite book for the year and I just loved it. I told everyone I knew about it and I did a bunch of the workouts from Living with a SEAL, and I was just like, “Holy cow! Like, this is crazy.” Even just a simple like pull-up workout is just nuts. So, yeah, I just have so much respect for everything that he’s been able to kind of endure and then rise above. And so, it was cool hearing your story and hearing him share it as he’s narrating what’s going on with you and your childhood and how you rose up and how you figured out how to elevate at every level, wherever it is. And it’s neat. It’s really a masterpiece what you two have been able to do.
JeVon McCormick: You know what’s crazy? You said that. So, one time I’m out with him, out of his spot, we’re working out and we did back-to-back four. He had had, I don’t know, several weeks before he had knee surgery. So, he wasn’t running back to running yet. We did back-to-back 45-minute SoulCycle sessions. Man, one was brutal and we literally did back to back. There was a ten-minute wait in between each one. Oh, my God. And just whoo! Yeah. That’s a different man right there.
Justin Donald: No kidding. Well, something I thought was cool. So, you know, some people may say, “Oh, my goodness, what kind of lessons could your dad as a pimp taught you?” Like, there’s so much bad stuff or negative stuff. One of the cool things that I liked is that he took you to the nicest neighborhood and gave you this idea of what it could look like. And now, today, you live with your family in a gorgeous, gated community and have been able to provide the thing that he pointed out to you that I assume became a motivation for you.
JeVon McCormick: You know, it’s interesting. You know, I’m big on what’s possible. And follow me here for a second. So, right now Chicago, the City of Chicago is so bad, they’ve nicknamed it Chiraq and they’ve got more murders there this year than any other place in the country. And so, think about this for a second. So, you’ve got children growing up in “Chiraq,” poverty, murders, incarceration, drugs. And think about how simple of a concept this is. So, if I’m a child and I’m growing up in this environment, where do I even learn that I can be a forest ranger? A forest ranger? Force rangers make like $40,000 a year. Not a high-paying career. But what if we were able to tell these children, yeah, here’s what a forest ranger does. They’re out in nature all day, in the fresh air, the peaceful environment. Like where do these kids even get to learn that? So, why I share what’s possible there is my dad, he never said a word. I don’t know if he was driving through for him. I don’t know if he was driving through for me because there were no words spoken. But at ten years old, he drove me through River Oaks in Houston, Texas. Incredible neighborhood, $10 million, $15 million, $25 million homes.
And some of these homes were bigger than the damn housing projects I was growing up in and come to find out one family lived there. And so, I remember at ten years old, I did not know how, didn’t have a plan, but I said, “Okay, I’m going to have one of those one day,” and it was all because my dad showed me possibility. How am I supposed to aspire to become something when I don’t even know what’s possible? And so, I’m a big all about what’s possible. I don’t ever want anyone to introduce me when I’m coming on stage to speak as a motivational speaker. I’m not looking to motivate you, but I do want to show you what’s possible. It is possible to come from my background and still achieve your dreams and goals, create your happiness, create success for yourself, whatever that may be. But yeah, it’s sad because in my opinion as a kid growing up in these low-income neighborhoods, we knew what a food desert was because there’s no grocery stores there. But we don’t know what a financial planner is, what a wealth advisor is. We don’t even know that there’s a corporate tax attorney or mergers and acquisition attorney. But all we know is that there’s a court-appointed attorney that sucks to try to keep you out of jail. But yeah, where do you learn what’s possible? So, to your point, yeah, I’m huge on being able to show people what’s possible.
Justin Donald: Yeah, it’s incredible. And since we have a lot of entrepreneurs that tune in and listen to this podcast and that watch this podcast on YouTube, I’d love for you to share I thought one of the greatest ideas that you discussed in your book for like creating culture and creating retention in an environment that is stress-free was this idea of the emergency fund where you just basically equip people with knowing that you don’t have to use this, but I want you to know that you’ve got $1,500 that you can borrow at any time that you might have some emergencies, something may happen. I just don’t ever want you to freak out because this is here. And I’d love for you to share that. And I hope that more entrepreneurs take this idea and kind of create a methodology in their business around it. I think it’s brilliant.
JeVon McCormick: Okay. So, Justin, you know, I got to poke at you because I’m big on words, although I got a GED, man, but I’m intentional with the few words that I know. So, you said retention, retain. Man, we don’t use that word. Here’s why. Look at the definition of retain or retention, “To keep possession of.” I’m not trying to keep possession of anyone so we don’t look to recruit and retain. We look to attract and provide, meaning we want to attract great people and then we want to provide them with great pay, a great culture, fulfilling work. So, we want to attract and provide, not recruit and retain. Now, to your point about the emergency fund, I had read an article that said that 45% of Americans don’t have a spare $400 in cash in case of an emergency. Now, growing up the way I did, my mother and I never had a spare anything. I don’t even know if we knew what the word “spare” meant. So, when I saw that, I thought to myself, “That’s no way to live. So, how do we help with that?” And I figured, “Okay. Let’s create an emergency fund,” meaning if something happened, someone could come borrow $1,500, no questions asked and then we set them up. They start paying about 60 days later and they pay it back on payments, interest-free.
And the whole goal was think about how many people drive around day-to-day and think, “Oh, man, if something happens, I don’t have money for a flat tire. What if my car breaks down or my kid needs something?” And so, my goal was, how do we take that stress off of the people we serve and support here at Scribe? Now, Justin, you know this. There’s always going to be one negative ass out there that’s going to critique. And so, someone hit me up and said, “Oh, well, if you paid your people more, you wouldn’t need to create an emergency fund.” Well, the average salary of our Scribe members is $77,900. So, I won’t even say I nicely pushed back. I slapped that and say, “No, it’s still putting something in place that is a good thing for people to have in case of an emergency.” And it’s just one of those things that you know that’s there just in case.
Justin Donald: And the irony is at the time of writing the book, only four people have used it. So, it’s like this opportunity for so many people and hopefully, anyone who needs it uses it. But the reality is a lot of people don’t use it, but just the peace of mind to know that it’s there can help people feel safe and secure in their career.
JeVon McCormick: So, you nailed it right there. And for me, that’s part of the old broken playbook. They said it’s the peace of mind to know that it’s there. So, let’s go back a little bit and talk about the old broken playbook. You know, again, I’m 50. I came up in corporate America where you left your home life and half of yourself, if you will, at the door. Don’t bring that sh*t into the office. No one cares. No one wants to hear about it. And I find that just so limiting because we’ve got 115 people. I’m more than confident someone within this organization has experienced something someone else is going through, divorce, single parent, a loved one with some type of terminal disease, some type of addiction, debt, someone looking to get married for the first time. So, my attitude is, what if we were able to share those things with one another and connect with one another and have a sounding board with each other with, “Hey, how did you work through being a single parent?” You know, in a true example, one of our Scribe members was $30,000 in debt. He and his wife were recently married. They want to have children. They want to buy a house but they knew they needed to get out of debt. We sat down together and we built a plan. Nine months later, completely out of debt.
Now, all that money that they were putting towards a debt, they were able to put towards a house. Bought their new house. Now, they have two kids. And so, my whole point is and you and I both know this, how many people each day are walking around with mounds of debt and no clue how to get from up under it? No clue that they can lower their student loan interest rates, no clue that they can lower the interest rates on their credit cards or consolidate their credit cards. And again, what does this go back to? What’s possible? And you don’t know what you don’t know.
Justin Donald: That is powerful. Well, you built an incredible life for yourself but more important than that is you’re bringing other people along with and helping them to create amazing lives through the impact that you’re having, the education, the opportunities with Scribe just to work there to bring people in. I’d love for you to share a few things. Number one, how do we learn more about you? Number two, how do we buy your book, Modern Leader? Number three, how do we learn more about Scribe for anyone that wants to write a book or anyone that’s like…? You know, I didn’t think I could write a book. I dictated my book and then filled in the gaps later on. And it was actually really fun because I don’t consider myself an author or a writer like that. I didn’t sit down and write. I’ve never done that. But it was really fun to walk around and talk about ideas in my head and then put it in place and then have people interview me and ask me really good questions. And so, yeah, for anyone that’s unsure whether you want to write a book or if you have the ability to write a book, with the right coaching and guidance, truly anyone can write a book. And so, I love all the things that your organization offers. So, tell us about how to find more about you, how to find more about Scribe, and how to get access to Modern Leader.
JeVon McCormick: So, Scribe Media, that’s an easy one. Go to ScribeMedia.com. Every FAQ you can possibly think of is on there, tons of success stories, how people utilize the books, what they use the books for so you can find out anything you want on the website. Myself, probably the best place to find me is at LinkedIn. I find it to be the most professional of the social media places. But I got to share this with you. So, unbeknownst to me, I have a TikTok presence now. So, so many times throughout the office they’ll video a conversation that I’m having. They’ll ask me a question and they have always got cameras rolling in here. So, they started cutting up this footage and posting it on TikTok. Well, unbeknownst to me, I think I got like 53,000 followers on TikTok now. And all it is I call it this, “Sh*t JeVon says.” And so, my opinions and, of course, some people agree and some don’t but I learned at eight years old everybody ain’t going to like me so I’m not going to spend my life trying to get everybody to like me. So, yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, TikTok. It just seems so weird to say that. And then the book itself, you can find it on Amazon or you can go to ModernLeader.com and you can find it there as well.
Justin Donald: That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much, JeVon, for spending this time with us today. This has been an awesome episode and I just love learning about your story and all the cool things you’re doing. And I just want to wrap up with really the closing remarks I have after every episode, which is this: What’s the one thing you can do, the one step you can take today to move towards financial freedom and living a life that you truly desire on your terms, not a life on default, but a life by design? Thanks. And we’ll catch you next week.
JeVon McCormick: Thanks, Justin.