Interview with Jon Gordon
Jon Gordon on The Power of Positive Leadership
Have you ever wondered what makes great leaders so great? What do they do differently that inspires the people around them to perform at their absolute best?
In today’s conversation, you’ll find out, as I’m speaking with leadership expert, Jon Gordon.
Jon’s leadership principles have been put to the test by numerous world-renowned organizations, such as NFL, NBA, MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, schools, hospitals, non-profits, and more.
He is the author of 24 books, including 6 best-sellers: The Energy Bus, The Carpenter, Training Camp, You Win in the Locker Room First, The Power of Positive Leadership and The Power of a Positive Team.
In this episode, we discuss the importance of following your calling, why the ‘tough love’ approach to leadership no longer works, how to build a lasting legacy, and Jon’s biggest leadership lessons—which have impacted hundreds of thousands of people worldwide!
Featured on This Episode: Jon Gordon
✅ What he does: Jon Gordon is a 12x Bestselling author on the topic of leadership. His clients include The Los Angeles Dodgers, Campbell’s Soup, Dell, Publix, Southwest Airlines, Miami Heat, The Los Angeles Rams, Snapchat, Truist Bank, Clemson Football, Northwestern Mutual, West Point Academy and more.
💬 Words of wisdom: If you develop the relationship and you really invest in that person and you care about them and they feel it and know it, you then earn the right to challenge them, to push them, to make them uncomfortable. Discomfort leads to growth. And if I truly care about someone, I won’t let them settle for anything less than their best. If I care about them, I’m not going to let them be average.
Key Takeaways with Jon Gordon
- Why parenthood is all about selfless leadership.
- Leadership lessons you can learn from Clemson University’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney.
- If you had all the money in the world, what would you do? Jon shares how he discovered his calling and stuck with it, even when the money wasn’t there and the path wasn’t clear!
- The power of positive leadership.
- Why the ‘tough love’ approach to leadership no longer works—and what to do instead if you want to push people to be their best.
- How to think about building your legacy.
Jon Gordon Clip | Doing What You Were Meant To Do
Doing What You’re Meant to Do
“If someone gave you $100 million, what would you do with it? For me, it’s the same thing I’m doing now. I wouldn’t change it. I’m doing what I’m meant to do. It’s not about the money. It never has been and it’s not now. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s what I’m called to do. So, even if you gave me all the money in the world, I would still do this work.” – Jon Gordon
When You Appreciate, You Elevate
“When you appreciate, you elevate. When you appreciate, you elevate your mood, your performance, and the people around you. So, appreciation is a key part of leadership. Also feed yourself every day so that you can feed others, because if you don’t have it, you can’t share it. So, a lot of our work is about being gritty. It’s about being resilient. It’s about being mentally tough. How do you feed yourself each day to be mentally stronger so you can be more positive for the others that you’re leading through the challenges you face? How do we overcome negativity as a team and as an organization? How do we build great relationships as a leader and as a team to be our best? And so, it’s understanding that negativity is real. We’re going to face all sorts of adversity and challenges and it’s how we overcome as leaders in order to make a positive impact and also achieve greater results.” – Jon Gordon
Great Leaders Lead with Love & Accountability
“We call it ‘love tough’ instead of ‘tough love’ and we call it love and accountability. Great leaders lead with love and accountability. They get to know you love them. And if you develop the relationship and you really invest in that person and you really get to know them and you care about them and they feel it and know it, you then earn the right to challenge them, to push them, to make them uncomfortable. As you said, we grow the most through discomfort. Discomfort leads to growth. So, I have to make you a little uncomfortable at times. I have to challenge you. And if I truly care about you, I won’t let you settle for anything less than your best. If I care about you, I’m not going to let you be average. I have to push you. So, you earned the permission to challenge and push but love must come first. If they know you love them, you earned the right to challenge them and be tough with them. So, ‘tough love’ no longer works. It’s ‘love tough’ that works.” – Jon Gordon
Live with the End in Mind, and Build a Lasting Legacy
“To me, legacy is continuing to do the work that I’m doing and impacting lives. I live with the end in mind, and here’s my legacy. Here’s my definition. My kids will meet someone and they will say, ‘Hey, your dad made a difference in my life.’ Something that I said or wrote in one of my books. They read it or they heard me talk, and they will tell my kids that I impacted their life. For me, that’s the definition of leaving a legacy. And somehow, some way, I will have done that in numerous lives and I would say this leadership program, this training program and the mentoring I do, the people that partner with me that I work with, the consultants, the trainers that they become better for having worked with me. They become a difference-maker. They become an impactor. So, then I’m a multiplier of that. A life touches a life that touches a life. So, at 50, I have an optimistic goal. It’s to go for 100. I’m going for 100, Justin. And in the words of the great American philosopher, Jon Bon Jovi, I’m halfway there.” – Jon Gordon
Jon Gordon Tweetables“Every organization today has a mission statement, but only the great ones have people who are on a mission.” – Jon Gordon Click To Tweet “When you appreciate, you elevate. You’ll elevate your mood, your performance, and the people around you. So, appreciation is a key part of leadership.” – Jon Gordon Click To Tweet
- Jon Gordon Website
- Power of Positive Leadership website by Jon Gordon
- Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else by Jon Gordon
- The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World by Jon Gordon
- The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon
- Breakthrough: A Sure-Fire Guide to Realizing Your Potential, Pushing Through Limitations, and Achieving Things You Didn’t Know Were Possible
- Ed Mylett
- Erwin McManus
- David Nurse
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Read the Full Transcript with Jon Gordon
Justin Donald: Jon, so great to have you on the show. Thanks for making the time. I’ve been looking forward to this for a few months now.
Jon Gordon: I have too, Justin. Great to be with you. And when we talked to maybe about six months ago now, we’re supposed to do it then but I believe now is probably the right time that we were meant to do it. And I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time so it’s really exciting to do this with you.
Justin Donald: Well, thank you. You know, I have so much stuff but I feel like we could go down so many rabbit holes. But I think it would be fun just to even set up the fact that I felt so good about connecting with you after hearing from multiple friends, from David Nurse, from John Ruhlin. I mean, I probably had like six, seven, eight friends that are like, “You guys have to connect,” and I’ve just really enjoyed our time getting to know one another. And I think that we’re on the same page on a lot of things. So, thank you for your willingness to kind of hang out and for us to create some fun conversation for people to listen to.
Jon Gordon: Well, I can’t wait to have you on my podcast as well.
Justin Donald: That’s going to be fun. Tons of stuff to talk about. So, you are a father. You’ve got two kids, right? And they’re fully grown as I understand it. So, you’ve kind of gotten past more of the micromanaging, like hands-on type of days but as I understand from my friends that have older kids, you’re never done being a parent. You don’t ever retire being a parent. And I’m curious to hear what this stage of life is like for you.
Jon Gordon: I would say the job of a parent is actually harder now that my kids are older. You have to be more of a leader. You have to be a coach. You have to guide them. You can’t tell them what to do. You want to offer suggestions and advice, and you have to sit back and wait for them to come to you with questions, with an ask for help, and then you have to guide them along the way. So, you have to be more patient, have to be more calm. You have to bring that wisdom that you’ve accumulated after all these years of mistakes that you’ve made along the way. And I would actually say this is definitely a harder time but my kids are 23, 21. My daughter’s out in L.A. My son is home right now. He’s going back to school. He took a semester off. He’s going back in January, back to Clemson. And so, yes, it’s about mentoring, coaching, guiding, and being there. But you’ll love them just the same and you talk about your past. You talk about like, we’ve sat around and said, “Okay. What have I done wrong as a dad? What could I have done better?” And they will tell you what you did wrong and they will tell you what you could have done better, and so that’s been really helpful as well. We just sat around the table one time and they told me. It’s so funny, though, being a parent, when you are a young dad and your kids are young, you make a lot of mistakes along the way.
And even when you do good things, you’re not getting the recognition. You’re not getting rewards. It’s not like your son is saying, “You know, dad, you’re doing an awesome job parenting me. I love the way you are punishing me right now. I love the way you’re holding me accountable. Great job that’s sticking to your principles. They don’t think about that then, right? They’re not giving you recognition. So, as a parent, it really is about being a selfless leader. I tell leaders all the time, that’s my work in leadership. If you want to be a great leader, you have to study parents because parenting is all about selfless leadership because you’re giving everything you have to help them become all they’re meant to be. But you are getting beat up in the process. You have a lot of worry. You have fears. You have struggles. And your kids, as I said, are not giving you the recognition or the reward. You get it maybe when they’re 30 or 40 years later but not as you’re raising them. So, it’s really hard. And now you’re not getting the recognition, either. They’re trying to create their life, trying to create their future. So, for me, it’s just about trust and it’s a surrender, and it’s about knowing that this is their journey. I’ve lived my life. You know, I’m living my life now. This is about their journey. How can I help them be the best on their journey?
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. I mean, what great words of wisdom, especially for so many of my audience that happens to be parents and many of which are professionals, entrepreneurs, and have younger kids in many cases and so great words of wisdom. I also love the fact that you have a connection to Clemson with your son. Dabo Swinney happens to be one of my all-time favorite coaches. I know you recently had a chance to connect with him. What a cool experience that is to kind of be tied into such a special program, something very magical from a small school, what they’ve been able to do in college football. I know this is not maybe the season that they’ve won in but the last four or five have been incredible.
Jon Gordon: It has been a great, amazing, and really special journey and a huge part of my life. I started working with Clemson football 10 years ago in 2012. Dabo read my book in 2011, my book, Training Camp. Chad Morris, who was an assistant coach at Tulsa, he gets the job at Clemson. He brings the book that he read, Training Camp, when he was in Tulsa and really impacted him in amazing ways. The book fell at his feet when he was in a bookstore. This is how he found the book. It was fate. It was destiny. Definitely some…
Justin Donald: Definitely divine.
Jon Gordon: Yeah, definitely divine because he sees this book. He decides to read it. He thinks it’s about excellence. And there’s a whistle on the cover. He’s like, “Okay. I can read this,” but it’s really about overcoming our fear, finding our faith, being who we’re meant to be, and really, what separates the best from the rest. And so, he reads it. He gives it to Dabo. In 2011, Dabo had a thing called “Best is the standard.” He just created that. This book was What the Best Do Better. So, he used the 11 characteristics of this book to shape his message to his team. And I don’t even know that he’s reading the book or sharing the message with his team but he is. But every Saturday, I would turn on the TV and a Clemson game seemed to be on, and I started watching this team that I never watched before. I love this coach. I love these players, Tajh Boyd, Duane Allen, all these guys, like, man, I love this team’s energy, love what they’re about, love that coach. So, I’m watching them every week having no idea they’re using my book. After the season and it was a good season, they won over ten games that year, so it was a really good season because the year before was a really poor season. And so, they turned things around and Chad Morris reached out and said, “Hey, would you come speak to our team next year during training camp for next season? We’ve been using your book all year.”
Justin Donald: What an honor.
Jon Gordon: I’m like, “No way.” I said, “No way. I’ve been following you guys. I would love to.” So, he said, “I’ll set you up with Dabo.” We talked on the phone. It was an instant connection. I told him, “Hey, read The Energy Bus. The Energy Bus is something you really love. You are the energy bus. When I work with teams, mostly they’ll read The Energy Bus. So, read it and I’ll come there and I hope you get the book for all your players.” He did. He read it. He loved it. Brought me to speak 2012, and I’ve been speaking with the team every single year since, sometimes twice during the year because I’ll go back during the season, speak at Florida State on the road. I remember speaking there before the game, spoke before South Carolina before the game. I had one in five years. Spoke to the team that night. It was a really cool story. Cool time, really divine as well. And then spoke this time. Ed Mylett was supposed to speak to this team on Friday. Erwin McManus began Saturday. I was bringing them all together, introducing them to Dabo, making it all happen and I get up there and Ed had an illness and he could not make it. And so, I spoke to the team on Friday, and then Erwin spoke on Saturday. David Nurse was with me on the sidelines for the Saturday game. He has a book coming out called Breakthrough and we were able to experience a breakthrough with this team, win in this game.
That was the thing. They’ve not had a great season. Every year it’s been like success, success, success, college football playoffs, first time in years. But you know what’s been great? Justin, what’s been awesome is seeing how Dabo is leading during this time. I’ve been talking to him. I’m watching him. He is encouraging. He is believing. He is speaking life into his players. He’s loving them. He’s supporting them. He knows the negative backlash they’re getting from the media and the fans, and he is right there with his team, right there supporting them, loving them more than ever. And you see the kind of man he is. You see the kind of leader he is. You see how consistent he is. And that consistency will go a long way into the future. This is a guy that his team will know, “We trust you. We can trust you because you’re here for us during our darkest hour, during our toughest time.” And Dabo told me that he’s been able to teach them lessons that he would not be able to teach otherwise. It was a result of this. He’s finding the opportunity and the challenge. He’s telling his players, “Hey, this is going to equip you for your future. You’re going to be so much stronger. You’re going to be better as a result of what you’re going through.” So, it’s so cool to see a leader I admire still leading the right way because I haven’t seen him really have to lead this way and in a long time. And so, to see him lead this way now, after all the success he’s had, after the big contracts, he’s still the same person, still humble and still positive. And he is really the real deal.
And you know what’s great? Erwin McManus came with me. This was the first time he’s met Dabo, and he was just blown away, blown away by his genuineness and by his kind spirit. And you don’t really get that on TV. You don’t fully see that on TV but Erwin experienced what I experienced in person of the kind of genuine caring person he is and he was blown away by it.
Justin Donald: That’s incredible. And you know, when you talk about leadership and you look for people that exemplify just the right qualities of being a leader, the way that you communicate with people, the way that you lock arm-in-arm with people and you move forward, I think what’s important to recognize is that these young men that are getting this experience with Dabo, whether they win or they lose, that the lessons that they’re going to experience and be able to live the rest of their life is incredible. They may not even recognize the gravity of what they’ve learned for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, but the quality leadership and the molding of these men and doing so through positive reinforcement and through love and appreciation, these are things that are going to set them on a path to do the same in the future. So, even if they have a bad season or a not-up-to-standard season, it doesn’t change the impact that good quality leadership has.
Jon Gordon: You know, it’s so great that you said that. I mean, they’re five and three. It’s not like it’s a really bad season by Clemson’s standards where you go undefeated every year, you have one loss. Yes, it’s a bad season but they’re learning the lessons that they will need to learn, and Dabo was all about the lessons along the way. Because let’s face it, when you’re older years from now, what will you remember? I played lacrosse at Cornell University. We were a powerhouse lacrosse program, one of the top programs in the country. And so, being a part of that program, I saw when we won how it felt and I saw when we lost. When I look back, what I remember most are the relationships. I called up my coach who’s over 80 years old now. He’s probably 82, 83, who’s not really doing well with his health. It was his birthday and I said, “Coach, I love you,” and just started talking to him. He said, “Jon, remember, teammates are forever. Teammates are forever.” I said, “So are coaches who change your life.” This coach changed my life. I would not be who I am today if he did not bring me to Cornell University and if I did not play in that team, so I’m so grateful. I’m so thankful. These players right now for Dabo and all these other teams around the country are learning the lessons. The trophies collect dust but the memories and the relationships and who you become and the relationships you develop, those are forever and they’re really important.
Justin Donald: Yeah. That’s a great reframe. And it’s interesting, it kind of brings it full circle to just kind of the whole genesis of where you are today. So, for those that don’t know, you wrote this incredible book. You referenced it earlier, The Energy Bus, but I don’t know if people recognize that you have sold over 4 million copies of this book, and this book single-handedly was a tool, could have been a tool for you to retire or not do anything else. Just sit still based on the success you had based on what you were able to do from a speaking standpoint. Like, you don’t have to work but you show up with this energy and this passion for leadership in leading men and women. I’d love for you to speak about that. I can see the impact that your coach had on you, obviously, the impact that you’re even experiencing from coaches that you’re aligning with that aren’t necessarily coaching you but you’re on the same team. So, there is an element of mentorship and menteeship. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Jon Gordon: You know, I asked myself years ago, “What am I born to do? Why am I here? What is my purpose?” And writing and speaking came to me. I was in a really dark time in my life. I was miserable, negative. My wife almost left me because I was so miserable and negative, and it was in that moment that writing and speaking came to me. I didn’t know that that’s what I would do but it came to me and it felt like a divine appointment, a divine mission. I’m like, “Okay. I’m going to do this.” And I ask myself now like, “Okay. If someone gave you a billion dollars, someone gave you $100 million, what would you do?” And it’s the same thing I’m doing now. I wouldn’t change it. I meet people who have become billionaires, and what are they doing now? They are writing and speaking. They love this work. They are called to it. So, for me, I’m doing what I meant to do. It’s not about the money. It never has been and it’s not now. It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s what I’m called to do. So, even if you gave me all the money in the world, I would still do this work. The only thing I would change is I would buy an airplane. I mean, the only thing I really want right now is an airplane. If I have an airplane, it would make my life so much easier just to fly all the places I need to fly to. I’m looking into maybe try leasing a plane. I’m looking into that. I’m trying to find people who do that but that would be the only thing I would actually really want. And the rest is to do this work.
Every organization today has a mission statement but only the great ones have people who are on a mission. And I believe this work doing what you and I do like it has to be a mission. If it’s not, you’re not going to be successful at it. If it’s not, people are going to disconnect from you. But if it is a mission, they’ll sense it. They’ll see it, they’ll feel it, and they’ll want to be a part of it. So, it’s about really being authentic and real and focused on doing something that’s going to change the lives of others. And the minute I focus on others besides myself or others before myself, that’s when my life changed. I used to be a very self-focused person, and once I came to the end of myself and I said, “How could I serve? How can I make a difference? How can I impact the lives of others?” That’s when everything started to improve in my life. And The Energy Bus was a great test of that because when the book came out, well, first it was rejected by over 30 publishers. But when it came out, no bookstores would carry the book. So, I had to go in a 28-city tour, paid for myself. Publisher wouldn’t even pay for it. So, I go from city to city, sharing the message in the book, and there are five people there. There are seven people there. There are 10. The most we have are 100 people in Des Moines, Iowa. They thought Jeff Gordon was coming. That’s why they showed up, the race car driver. I came to Austin, Justin. You did not show up. We had a decent turnout at Austin. I think we had like 30 or 40 but that’s not a lot of people, right? It was a very inefficient tour, but I had to learn along the way the hustle.
And also, am I doing this for the right reason? And because I wasn’t getting the feedback, I wasn’t getting the crowds. So, it taught me early on to be humble, make a difference. One person at a time was my mission to impact as many people as possible one person at a time. And it really was one person at a time in some of these events. But I would say that’s where my passion was born to really do even more of this work and also my humility to know it’s not about me, it’s about others, and I was being tested. “Jon, is it really about you or is it about others? Who’s it about, you or others? If it’s about others, you’re going to keep on going forward to do what you have to do to make a difference.” And that tour was sort of like a refining period of my life, you know, stripping away the kudos, the accolades, and nothing but saying just show up and do the work. And to this day, that’s how I live. When COVID hit, I didn’t know if events were going to happen again, when, how long? It could have been a year or two years. We didn’t know. So, everything was being canceled. We were losing tons of money in training and consulting and speaking events, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I didn’t know what the future held but I made a decision right then and there that I was going to continue to do this work. I went back to my rookie mindset of when I first started. “Jon, be that guy again. Encourage everyone and anyone. Just do the work. Show up. Make a difference.”
I did over 330 Zooms, as I’m sure you did that year, between that and podcast and some pro bono stuff and a bunch of pro bono for schools and people who could afford it. Because I said, “Hey, whatever you have, I’ll do it for,” because a lot of people were struggling there at that time, and it was a really amazing year when I looked back. It was a lot of struggle. Yes, there was some pain. I lost my uncle, but overall, making a difference this way and really living the real mission, that was a good testing period as well when it surfaced again. And now I’m busier than ever, and I really believe it was because of what I put into it during the past 20 months, and it’s actually paying off right now. And again, when you invest in the root, you get great fruit. If you focus on the fruit of the tree, your outcome and your numbers, and we have to measure the fruit, but if you focus on it and you ignore the root, the tree dies. Invest in the root and you get a great supply of fruit.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. What a great message. I have so many thoughts on what you just shared. One of them is that, well, first of all, one of them is easy. One of them is I can help you. If you want to know people that has some access to jets, want the inside scoop, I have several lifestyle investor mastermind members that have planes and we got one that has a helicopter and we got all kinds of fun stories. A couple of my good friends have some planes. So, if you ever need the inside scoop, I can definitely connect you there. So, no problem and that is a fun way to travel. But another thing that you had said, Jon, is that you are doing what you wanted to do regardless of the income. I think one of the greatest questions that I journaled when I was unsure what my next chapter was going to be, what next steps were going to be, I had heard this from a friend and they had said, “Hey, if you had all the money in the world, what would you do?” And at first, that’s hard to like answer right out of the gates for most people. I think you have to take the time to like go deep and actually really, really study it, think about it, meditate on it, pray on it. And like more fruit, as you say, kind of starts to come into fruition the more time you spend on that.
So, it was like I wrote down a few things and then the next day I wrote down a bunch more. And by the end of the week, the next week, at the end of a month, I mean, I had literally like pages of what I would do. And like you, I’m doing exactly what it is. And so, I think that that’s valuable, valuable insight. And for you, I know you have a passion for developing leaders and you have this, you know, you’ve got a framework not only for developing leaders but developing coaches that also develop leaders like a coach’s coach. And I’d love to hear more about that framework and what you’re doing right now.
Jon Gordon: I appreciate you asking about that. Well, first, the first half of my journey, the first 15, 16 years was all about, I believe, like building the platform with the books that I write, making a difference one person at a time, speaking to all these different companies, organizations, sports teams, nonprofits and I’ll still do a lot of that. But I know the next half what I’m really focused on, what I’m meant to do is develop leaders and develop leaders of leaders. So, we have a positive leadership training program. It’s based on my book, The Power of Positive Leadership. Evan Spiegel, founder of Snapchat, now called Snap, read the book, invited me to come speak to his leadership team. I went up there and spoke to his leadership team, and this is when they were really struggling with Instagram coming after them, struggling in the marketplace while she was beating him down. And they really adopted the message. I had Evan on my podcast and he talked about how positivity and leadership impacted him as a leader, impacted his company. So, this is real. This is not Pollyanna positive. This is not about like ignoring reality. It’s about maintaining optimism, belief, and faith in order to create a better reality. If you follow Snap’s success over the last few years, you can see how they turn it around with their positive leadership. So, we have this program on positive leadership. I work with the Dodgers on it, the Rams, Miami Heat, all these major companies, organizations.
So, we have this program. It’s a full-day training program that we do for leaders. And then we have a Train the Trainer program, where we will train you to be a coach, speaker, facilitator/trainer where you could actually deliver this program to various organizations or within your own organization if you want to do it within a company, within a hospital, within a business. And so, we have people now getting certified and trained to do that. So, we do public events now around the country where we do a full day training on day one, day two. We do the Train the Trainer and it’s awesome. We’ve had over 150 trainers get certified. But my mission now is thousands, right? I want to develop thousands of thousands of trainers who are going out, impacting tens and thousands and millions of leaders around the world to impact people with this model. And this model is not just a nice way to lead. It’s the way to lead. It’s the principles and practices that make great leaders great. And it’s based on this, the foundation of leadership, having worked with all the greatest leaders on the planet. Well, not all, but many of them, right? Talking to Alan Mulally, who turned around Ford nearly losing $14 billion had them profitable in a few short years, one of the greatest leadership feats in history, he defined his leadership style as positive leadership. So, I interviewed him for this book, and then I went through every single principle and said, “Okay. Is this truth? Is this truth? Does this practice really work? Is it replicable? And the truth is yes.
And so, really excited about the program, excited about the training program, and people can find out more at the PowerofPositiveLeadership.com and also my website, JonGordon.com. We’ll link to that. So, we’re always doing events around the country and we also have something for teens as well. And I love this for teens that we’re doing on Sunday nights every couple of months because we have all these teens from around the country in the world actually participate and now we’re impacting the next generation. So, really excited about that.
Justin Donald: That’s awesome. It’s really just exciting to hear about, and I love hearing your vision. One of the things that I was eager to ask you and I’ll ask you here in just a second. But side note, one of the greatest things I ever did in helping to scale any of the companies that I was with or for retention of the teams that I’ve worked with was just this whole concept of appreciative leadership where you appreciate what people do. You can still point out what areas of opportunity but if you can really sandwich that in what they’re doing well and why you’re excited about working with them in the future and you frame everything positively, I just think that it steers the conversation. It steers the morale. I know that that has been a key ingredient, if not the key ingredient to the success that I’ve had in the teams that I’ve run and managed and companies that I’ve helped scale. So, I love that you’re sharing this and teaching this to all ages, not just business professionals, but to teens, to anyone who will listen and is eager to learn. I think that’s incredible, Jon.
Jon Gordon: I appreciate it. You know, you just nailed it. When you appreciate, you elevate. When you appreciate, you elevate your mood, your performance, and the people around you. So, appreciation is a key part of leadership. Also feeding yourself every day so that way you can feed others because if you don’t have it, you can’t share it. So, a lot of our work is about being gritty. It’s about being resilient. It’s about being mentally tough. How do you feed yourself each day to be mentally stronger so you can be more positive for the others that you’re leading through the challenges you face? How do we overcome negativity as a team, as an organization? How do we build great relationships as a leader and as a team to be our best? And so, it’s understanding that negativity is real. We’re going to face all sorts of adversity and challenges and it’s how we overcome as leaders in order to make a positive impact and also achieve greater results. So, I’m glad that you see that and understand that. But I just want people to know it’s about excellence, not just kindness. Positivity and winning, you don’t have to separate them. They can occur at the same time like positivity leads to winning. And I think all these great leaders I get to work with are great examples of where you see it play out in real-time like you’re watching these games on Fox or ABC or NBC, ESPN, you’re watching these games that you see it play out.
And I know it’s happening behind the scenes and you see how these leaders lead, and it’s incredible to actually watch and know and ultimately see these principles come to life. I just love it. It’s so much fun to watch them come to life when you know what a leader did, how they did it, how the team adapted, how they adopted the principles, how they innovated, and ultimately how they broke through. Like watching Clemson break through on this past Saturday. I’m sorry if you’re a Florida State fan but watching them break through and win a game that maybe they should have and could have lost to win towards the end like they did was just really special, knowing what they’ve been through.
Justin Donald: Well, and that’s the thing. You said excellence. It’s really about excellence. It can go hand in hand with positivity and I think the idea here is in order to achieve excellence, you really have to push people out of their comfort zone. You can do so in a loving manner, but the growth happens when you’re in a place that you haven’t been before, right? And so, for appreciative leadership or for using positivity to kind of corral the team, what you still have to have around that is the ability to push your people, have tough conversations, get permission from them to have the tough conversations first, right? And just when you get that type of acceptance and buy-in, that’s when the magic happens. So, I love hearing this.
Jon Gordon: We call it love tough instead of tough love and we call it love and accountability. Great leaders leave with love and accountability. They get to know you love them. And if you develop the relationship and you really invest in that person and you really get to know them and you care about them and they feel it and know it, you then earn the right to challenge them, to push them, to make them uncomfortable. As you said, we grow the most through discomfort. Discomfort leads to growth. So, I have to make you a little uncomfortable at times. I have to challenge you. And if I truly care about you, I won’t let you settle for anything less than your best. If I care about you, I’m not going to let you be average. I have to push you. So, you earned the permission to challenge and push but love must come first. If they know you love them, you earned the right to challenge them and be tough with them. So, tough love no longer works. That model no longer works. It’s love tough that works.
Justin Donald: I like that. That really resonates well with me, and I know it’s going to resonate well with our audience. So, I’ve got a question for you just based on legacy because you just celebrated your 50th birthday not too long ago this year, and that is often a milestone for people of like, “Okay. First half is done. Second half is here. What does the impact I have look like? What does this look like inside my family? What does this look like inside my career, with my spouse?” All those questions often tend to come to the surface and I’m curious what legacy means to you because it means so much. You know, to some people, it’s like, “Oh, I want to give this much money or I want…” but to other people, it’s like, “Hey, I actually want these things to happen, these specific ideals to be in place.” So, I’m curious what that looks like for you.
Jon Gordon: Well, first and foremost, success is the fulfillment of God’s plan for your life. I heard that from Dr. David Jeremiah, and I love that. That became my new definition of success, the fulfillment of God’s plan for your life. So, am I fulfilling that plan? So, for me, that’s what being a success is. At 50, I realized I’m doing what I’m called to do. So, that’s been great. I’ve already written more books than I ever thought I would write. Even one was more than I ever thought I would write. I’ve had more success than I ever thought that I would have. So, to me, every day is a bonus. My mom passed away at 59. I’m 50. So, even if I only live nine more years, that’s not a long time. If I lived 20 more years, I’m 70. Wow, 70 years old in 20 years. My wife and I often talk about, “Wow. You realize in 20 years we’ll be 70. We better make sure we enjoy today. We better make sure we’re enjoying what we’re doing, loving what we’re doing.” So, to me, legacy is continuing to do the work that I’m doing and impacting lives. I live with the end in mind, and here’s my legacy. Here’s my definition. My kids will meet someone and they will say, “Hey, your dad made a difference in my life,” something that I said or wrote in one of my books. They read it or they heard me talk, and they will tell my kids that I impacted their life. For me, that’s the definition of leaving a legacy.
And somehow, someway, I will have done that in numerous lives and I would say this leadership program, this training program and the mentoring I do, the people that partner with me that I work with, the consultants, the trainers that they become better having worked with me. They become a difference-maker. They become an impacter. So, then I’m a multiplier of that. A life touches a life that touches a life. So, at 50, I have an optimistic goal. It’s to go for 100. I’m going for 100, Justin. And in the words of the great American philosopher, Jon Bon Jovi, I’m halfway there.
Justin Donald: I love it.
Jon Gordon: And living on a prayer with the desire to make a difference one person at a time. So, yeah, that’s the legacy, one person at a time, reach as many people as possible. It hasn’t changed since the beginning and continue to do the work. Do I want to do a movie based on Training Camp? Yes, I would love to. Damian Lillard read Training Camp twice before his rookie season. Do I want to make a movie, another book? Am I actually getting ready to write? Yes. Do I think it can happen? Yes. But those are ideas, those are dreams, those are possibilities but the core of my work is doing this. Everything else would be just a bonus and fun but this is what I hope to do and accomplish and the legacy I hope to leave.
Justin Donald: Well, it’s a powerful legacy. It’s also a beautiful legacy at the same point in time. And you said something really important there. I love that you said, you know, hey, in 20 years, we’re going to be, you know, you and your wife are going to be 70 years old so we got to live life now. And for those that are listening that are younger, life just happens fast. You’ll see this as you have kids. For those of you that do, many of you have kids and it’s like, “Holy cow, how did they grow up so fast?” But the same is true of you. It’s like, “How did I get this old? How am I already this age?” And so, I just want to encourage people, and the whole reason that I started my brand was to help empower people to be able to live an incredible life today and not wait for retirement, not wait and go through life through these golden handcuffs or through the routine of security and safety but rather to live an incredible life where you’re passionate and you’re vibrant and you’re able to exude that and impact and influence people around you because of that. So, I appreciate your vision of legacy and the way that you can articulate that in vivid technicolor for our audience. It is so cool. And I want to leave our audience with one more, basically, the thing that I care most that they do every single time. But before I do that, I want to give you just one more chance to say where people can learn more about you. I know you said it earlier but let’s give everyone another chance to find out more.
Jon Gordon: Thanks, Justin. JonGordon.com is great. J-O-NGordon.com or Twitter, Instagram @JonGordon11. I’m always sharing tips or different ideas, different encouragement if you want to join me there.
Justin Donald: I love it. Thank you. And to all of our listeners, to all of you watching, take some form of action today. Whatever that action might be, take a step, move in the direction of financial freedom, financial independence, and a life by design, not by default. So, what’s one step you can take today to make that a reality? Thanks. And I’ll catch you next week.