THIS STUFF WORKS Ep 1: Phil Hudson
Each month a new guest sits down with Leif Babin to share how the principles of Extreme Ownership worked for them whether in their personal lives or in business.By Leif Babin
The audio version is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast, and RadioPublic.
TRANSCRIPT: Leif Babin (00:00:00): Phil, great to have you on here today. It’s awesome to talk leadership with you and you and the Rook Digital team have been exceptional partners for us at Echelon Front. Love what you guys do, and you brought a tremendous amount to the table for us. So it’s really cool to just pick your brain, talk to you a little bit about how you came upon Extreme Ownership, the Jocko podcast, what we do at Exelon Front, and wanted to get your take on how the leadership principles that we teach have affected you and your business. And not only on the Rook Digital, the marketing side, but on the Hollywood side that you’re working on now as well. (00:00:41): So before we kick it off, I just wanted to just quickly give a bio to you, everybody listening here that may not know who you are. And Phil Hudson is the CEO and co-founder of Rook Digital, a full service digital marketing agency. Phil has 13 years of experience in the digital marketing world with skillsets and SEOPPC and CRO. He’s worked with businesses of all size to help implement digital marketing strategies to increase revenue and drive more business. And he’s also worked in Hollywood for the past six years, including acting and producing in the TV show, Tacoma FD on truTV. He went to Santa Fe University of Art and Design as a Robert Redford scholar, which sounds really cool. We got to hear some more about that. Phil Hudson (00:01:21): It’s real fancy, man. Leif Babin (00:01:22): I know you grew up in Oklahoma, but you now live in Los Angeles, which is a big change, I’m sure. And just I’ll add, we’ve been working with you in official partnership I think for about a year now, right, with Rook Digital? Phil Hudson (00:01:39): A little bit under. January, I think when we first kicked everything off. Yeah. Leif Babin (00:01:44): Well, it actually feels longer than that. And I mean that in a good way because you have built some really strong relationships with our team and acquired a ton of leadership capital. I think what’s awesome in my perspective is it’s really… I always say that if you’re going to distill cover, move down to just a single sentence. It’s not about you, it’s about the mission, right? We’re talking the overall mission, the overall team. And that is what you brought to the table for us, where it is clear that you’re invested in our long-term strategic wins, our long-term strategic victory at Echelon Front, that we reach as many people across the world as we possibly can to impact them with the principles that we teach, so that we can help them be better people, to lead better teams and make everyone around them better. (00:02:31): And you’ve clearly demonstrated that you’re deeply invested in that mission over the long term. And I think when I think about cover move, right, it’s about not about you, it’s about the mission. But when you want us to win and we win, Rook Digital wins, everybody wins. And I think that’s been awesome because there’s so many, particularly in the marketing world for people that we’ve worked with, there’s looking for the little short term like uptick, but doesn’t really mean a lot in the long term. And I think that’s been something where when you talk and you provide some guidance or say, hey, maybe we should take a look at this, people are listening on the team because it’s been proven. You’ve proven yourself through that. So I really appreciate you and what you brought to the table for us at Echelon Front, and that’s one of the reasons I was most excited to talk to you here today, because I think you really understand what we do and you believe in that mission and you want us to spread that mission as far and wide as possible. Phil Hudson (00:03:25): Yeah, absolutely. And it’s been a dream to work with you guys as well. I’m sure we’ll get into how I found Extreme Ownership and Jocko and came became to be familiar with what you’re doing over there at Echelon Front. But ultimately, I can tell you that the ripple effect, it’s very symbiotic. Spending time and having my team on calls with your team, seeing how you’re implementing the things that you preach, absolutely resonate throughout my entire team at an exponential level to a point where we’re having the best year Rook’s ever had. And it’s not because we have some ridiculous contract with Echelon Front, it’s because the things that you do absolutely work and you absolutely believe what you teach. And we feel that. (00:04:04): And the more we implement that, it permeates throughout my whole organization and we are all stepping up, taking more ownership, and that helps us move the ball down the field at a greater level and having a greater impact in what we do as well. Our mission is to basically shut down the snake-oil salesmen and charlatans that you were alluding to. There’s a few shadier industries in the marketing world because people are chasing tricks and hacks, and we’re very against that. Most people we talk to have been ripped off by somebody at some point in the digital world, especially in SEO because they’re just people just pretending they know what they’re doing. And we’re very much focused on the details and the data, and that very much comes and correlates in with what you’re teaching there at Echelon Front. Leif Babin (00:04:44): Well, I appreciate that. I think it’s most important to… It’s so cool to have you on this podcast. We were throwing out ideas about what do we call this thing. And in the live sessions, when we do for [inaudible 00:04:58] live, people will use the hashtag in the chat there, this stuff works, this stuff works when [inaudible 00:05:04] a sit rep. They’re updating us, giving a situation report about how they’ve implemented the guidance that they got from the Echelon Front instructor team. And they’re talking about how well this stuff works and they’re just kind of blown away by it. So you know, live and breathe out all the time, and I think you’ve demonstrated like, hey, let’s try this. Let’s see if it actually works. And then you’re coming back and showing us that what you’re doing in the marketing world actually definitely works. We’ve been able to reach so many more people, hundreds of thousands of more people as a result of that effort, which is incredible. Phil Hudson (00:05:36): Yeah. Well, I give credit to your team, first and foremost, the team there, the things that they’re doing are powerful. The messages that you’re sharing are powerful, the way that you and Jocko and JP and the other coordinators there, your team leads. Everyone is preaching the same message that’s unified around these principles that are universal and that everyone’s a leader and leadership is the key to success. And I think my biggest takeaway from all of this, man, is that this stuff’s hard. It’s really hard to do. I watched some clips that we’re promoting for you guys on social media or through ads, and I’m like, man, that just sounds so daunting because it’s so difficult. But you’re the first person, Leif, to own up and say, yeah, you fail every day too with this. You’re trying just as much as everybody else is to get better every single day. And it’s not an event that we arrive at, it’s a journey we take. Leif Babin (00:06:26): It’s not easy for anybody, certainly me first and foremost, but as long as you can take ownership, right? It’s humbling, but it’s liberating to know that everybody makes mistakes and just own it, move forward, learn from it, and drive on and get better all the time, which is awesome. So talk to me about… I know you grew up in Oklahoma, Phil. Talk to me about how you came to be where you are now. How did you launch Rook Digital, and how did you get into Hollywood? Phil Hudson (00:06:53): Yeah, yeah, I appreciate it. So I was originally born in Utah and I lived there till I was about eight. And then I moved to Oklahoma for about my middle school years. And during that time, the state of Oklahoma had a creative writing test you have to take in fifth grade and eighth grade. And that was my first experience with storytelling. And I took that test and I was like, man, this is all I want to do. It just allowed me to escape some of the circumstances I was in, which weren’t the greatest circumstances. I grew up in a divorced home, well some people might call it broken home, but I had a wonderful father who led our family very diligently and taught us important principles about what it means to live your life with honor and to do your best. One of the things he’d always say is never try, just do your best. (00:07:34): And that stuck with me. So that’s where my writing bug came from. And then I moved back to Utah to go to high school, and I served a two-year mission for my church. And when I came back, that was 2008 and the recession hit and I was managing a couple delis at the time, I was making 10 bucks an hour, and it just got so bad I had to take a second job. And my friend had been trying to recruit me for a sales team at a company that was called StoresOnline. It was a predecessor to what you might call Shopify or BigCommerce. And they taught people how to do e-commerce. And I just had to take the job because I couldn’t afford to pay my bills during the recession. And while I was there, I had zero interest in sales, zero interest in marketing. (00:08:10): It was just a job while I was trying to make enough money to go to college. And at the time I was going to pursue business, and I got an opportunity to move to the sales team. And I was handed a set of DVDs by the CEO… Not the CEO, but the vice president of marketing for that company who taught all of the trainings. And I put them in and I just like, oh my gosh, there’s this whole other world that exists outside of just Pleasant Grove, Utah or Tupelo, Oklahoma where I’m originally from. It was like, I could do something with this. And I just started doing the things that were taught in the video series. Very quickly I replaced my income from the sales team, I was making more money on my website. They moved me over into account management. And then about that same time I’d moved to Arizona where I was the senior account manager. (00:08:58): I was still traveling back to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. And so I had been in… Going to do that for about four years. And just being myself and just trying to be a part of Hollywood, because it was just seemed like the most distant thing possible. That bug had been reawakened during that time. And I was like, I just want to be a screenwriter. I just want to write movies. I just want to impact people in a big way with these stories that I love telling. And Redford’s assistant offered me a scholarship to go to film school, and I was like 28 at the time. And so I left the corporate gig, went to film school at 28, very quickly learned the 18-year-olds and 28- year-olds do not see the world the same way. Did my best to get out of there as fast as possible, graduated, moved to LA and then just been working my way up in the Hollywood industry ever since. Leif Babin (00:09:41): That’s awesome. When did you start Rook Digital? Phil Hudson (00:09:45): Oh yeah, sorry, I missed that point. So when I left the corporate world, I had a non-compete and I had a 401k and I cashed out my 401k, and that’s what I lived on for my first year. And when my non-compete expired, my clients actually came back to me and said, hey, we want you to take us on as clients, because the other company was transitioning out of SEO in digital marketing. So Rook very much just started from that. So it was like 2014, I’d say, and it was just out of a demand from people I’d worked with before because they just liked the way that I talked about these things. (00:10:16): When I was on the sales team at that other company, literally every business owner I talked to had been ripped off by some digital marketing agency at some point. And it became clear that the best way to sell to people is to give them as much information as possible, to not hide things, to educate them. And then you build so much trust when you do that, that they want you to do it. And then because they’re educated, they’re better clients as well. So that carried through. Those people, it resonated with them, they came back. And then so slowly started expanding from there, moved to LA, continued to grow the business. And yeah, we’ve just been doing that ever since. Leif Babin (00:10:52): I think what’s been cool for us is so often in the SEO world, particular everyone’s want to just pawn everything off. Hey, you write this or you do that. And one thing I love about what you do is you provide training so that you’re teaching us how to do it ourselves so that we can do more of it, we can better understand it. And it’s a long-term education process, that it takes time, but it’s certainly of way better benefit over the long run than just, hey, just farming that out to somebody else who can figure it out. It’s awesome. It’s been great. Phil Hudson (00:11:26): And on our end, we really took that approach with a couple companies and it just meshed. And I’m glad it’s working for you guys too. But we look at a team that like Echelon Front that has a team of really talented people, just really talented people who know what they’re doing and just need a little bit of guidance and coaching. And then you take what’s already an asset and you multiply it. And so you take your marketing team who may not have had a robust background in digital marketing, SEO or Facebook ads or Google Ads or conversion rate optimization, and you start teaching them those principles from the bottom up and now they can operate and they can do things in a way where they’re a stronger asset to your team. (00:12:03): And it also helps us implement and focus our energy where your team can’t, some of the more complex things that just don’t make sense for your team to do. We can invest more budget and more time and energy where it really moves the needle because your team’s shoring up some of those easier to handle things and they’re doing it in a way that corresponds and benefits what we’re doing on our end. Leif Babin (00:12:24): Right on. And we were talking right before this about how you met our colleague, Ben Duff. Ben is, for those that don’t know, is one of the guys behind the scenes. He does a ton of stuff with Echelon Front. He’s been with us for a number of years now and is just always thinking strategically. I’m always amazed at Ben’s strategic vision. And so he talked to me about meeting you, and I wanted to talk about how you guys get introduced, because it was through one of the members of Broken Lizard who did the Super Troopers movie, right? Was that Erik Stolhanske? Is that correct? Phil Hudson (00:12:57): Yeah, that’s spot on. Leif Babin (00:13:00): And so, if you haven’t seen the movie Super Troopers, that was a giant hit in the SEAL teams for a while. We were constantly dropping quotes on operations and training missions from Super Troopers. In fact, one of my favorites was, “Do you need me? Do you need my assistance? Unit 23, come in 23.” Yeah. So you would hear that over the radio, over the Intra-Squad Radio on just random SEAL operations all the time. It was hilarious. So how did you guys meet? I know Ben knew Eric and Eric said, you got to meet my friend, Phil. Can you talk about that connection? Phil Hudson (00:13:40): Sure thing. When you move to Hollywood and you’re starting to build a career there, you just have to start at the bottom up. And we can tie that back to Extreme Ownership for sure, because you have to humble yourself and you have to set your ego aside when you go from being the president of a company and generating decent revenue for yourself and personal income to step down to a minimum wage job where you’re literally making coffee and getting lunch orders for people. And that’s what I did. And I said, that’s the path to become what I want to be in life. So I’m going to start as a production assistant. And I worked on sets, I worked in offices for a couple different shows, and again, through the act of serving and educating, one of my very first clients when I was at that agency, her husband just happens to be a showrunner out here, which is an executive producer on TV show. (00:14:26): He’s written on King of the Hill, and his name is Michael Jamin. You can see him, he and I have a podcast together on screenwriting, but King of the Hill, Just Shoot Me, Wilfred, Maron, Brickleberry, Beavis and Butthead. I mean, he’s had a career since 1996 doing this stuff, and I had no idea. And I served his wife as best I could, even taking phone calls on weekends when she needed help, because that was what she needed, and it was the right thing to do, and that paid off. You talk about leadership capital. I mean that paid off in droves for me. He put my name in the hat, he was writing on the show Tacoma FD, which is run by two of the guys from Broken Lizard, Kevin Heffernan, which is Farva, which is the do you need my assistance guy. That’s Farva. (00:15:06): And then the guy who played Mack, Steve Lemme, and then written with Paul Soter, who’s another one of the Broken Lizard guys. And he put my name in as an option. He had enough leadership capital, they were like, no question. Let’s do it. Hire him on the spot. And I just started working my way up on that show. So I’ve been working on that show for three seasons. Right between season three and season four, we shot another Broken Lizard film called Quasi, which is coming out pretty soon. So that’ll be on Hulu for anybody who’s a Broken Lizard fan, you can go check that out. I may or may not have a cameo that I didn’t know was going to happen, Leif, so be warned. But we were doing the rehearsals for that, and all the Broken Lizard guys were there along with our lead actress. (00:15:51): And Eric was wearing an Origin Maine hoodie, and I saw it and I was just like, is that an Origin hoodie? And he’s like, you know Jocko? And I was like, well, no, I’ve never met Jocko, but I do know Origin. And I was wearing my Origin Maine boots. I made a pilgrimage out to Farmington, bought my boots there at the factory shop they have, and that’s what I wear on set because they’re just awesome boots. And so after that day, at the end day I got an email from him, was like, hey man, you mind if I introduce you to Jocko’s people? And he sent an email introduction to Ben and Ben and I just started talking movie and film and all that stuff and more of what you guys do. And that’s how I met you guys. Leif Babin (00:16:31): That’s awesome. That’s awesome, Phil. Yeah, with your Origin boots on, it was meant to be, man. That’s totally good to go. Outstanding. Well, let’s talk about… How did you come by Extreme Ownership, Jocko Podcast, Origin Boots? What brought you to that? What first? Phil Hudson (00:16:53): Yeah. Yeah, because I was deep in the entrepreneurship world while I was in film school trying to grow my agency. And prior to that, Tim Ferris wrote a really powerful book called The Four Hour Work Week. And it’s- PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:17:04] Phil Hudson (00:17:03): Tim Ferriss wrote a really powerful book called The 4-Hour Work Week, and it’s about how to do a lot of the e-commerce stuff that I do. And it’s a book I’ve listened to every year on Audible since it came out. And I was listening to his podcast and he introduced Jocko and I never heard of Jocko and just listening to Jocko talk impacted my soul in a way that no one else had talked about. I mean, the way he discussed, I consider myself to be a patriotic person. The way he discussed what he did, what you guys did there, the impact that you had and the power of leadership, it really resonated with me. So I immediately looked up Jocko, and then Jocko podcast was a part of my daily life as soon as it came out. I mean, I absorbed everything I could and have and continued to do that. (00:17:46): I mean, I think the first thing I did is I immediately downloaded Extreme Ownership on Audible. And I remember I had a drive to Utah from New Mexico when I was in film school, and that’s an eight to 12-hour drive I think, depending on which route you take. And I was just listening to that book my first round through, and I got to my friend’s house where I was staying, and I literally would just drive around the block until it ended because I didn’t want it to end. It was such a powerful book Leif and credit to you and Jocko for putting that thing out, because from that moment it really just changed the way I think about leadership. It was some ethereal thing before that, and now I’m looking at it’s like, okay, it starts with me. It starts with the way I live my life, the way I handle myself, my communications with people. (00:18:26): We might have called that integrity when I grew up. Right. You’re only as good as your word is. I think that’s some good southern leadership principles there too that ties directly into extreme ownership. But yeah, it impacted me from that moment on and I just dove super deep into what you guys have been doing. And then I’ll just say this, you get to a point in life where you get so busy with things that you kind of slip things up. I stopped listening to Jocko podcast. And back in 2021, man, I was really hurting. The pandemic had hit, things were really sting into my business. (00:18:59): And I’ll tell you, I leaned back immediately into Extreme Ownership. I leaned back into what Echelon Front was doing and I just said, what more can I get from these guys? What can I do? And I went to your website and I found, I think it was the Extreme Ownership Academy at the time, your online portal. And I signed up and man Leif, taking those assessments and realizing you think you know so much and then you’re failing every assessment on the leadership side, it humbles you pretty quick. Leif Babin (00:19:29): That’s awesome, Phil. Well, we were just writing, I think that was one of the first media things just that we did when Extreme Ownership came out was Jocko did the Tim Ferriss podcast. And I didn’t know a lot about Tim Ferriss at the time. I didn’t realize what a powerful voice he was in the world and the influence he actually had until Jocko was like, Hey, check this guy out, Tim Ferriss. I’d heard of the 4-Hour Work Week and those books, but I had not read them at that point that he’d written. And so when he had that, I remember the picture that he used for it was, I think the title of his podcast is The Scariest Seal I’ve Ever Met, Phil Hudson (00:20:11): Yeah. Leif Babin (00:20:12): That first one that he was on. So he had this picture of Jocko just looking a straight-up ax murderer and we’re about to launch the books. So literally that was a week prior. The media week is happening the very next week. We’ve been working on the book for a year and a half at this point. It’s about to come out. And I was like, I looked at Jocko, I was like, bro, we’re trying to get people to hire us as business consultants as Echelon Front. If you’re looking like an ax murderer, they’re going to be running scared. But, Phil Hudson (00:20:39): Yeah. Leif Babin (00:20:39): So many people had come to Echelon Front and came to Extreme Ownership through the Tim Ferriss podcast. It’s pretty amazing to see. And that’s awesome to hear, man, how it affected you with the Extreme Ownership. I mean, for us, it was really just a way for us to pass on the leadership lessons that we learned on the battlefield. It was what we were teaching in the leadership courses that Jocko and I were running when we came back, having been extremely humbled. (00:21:05): You’re talking about taking the assessments and I mean, there’s nothing more humbling than being in some difficult, violent combat operations. I mean every single day, day in and day out. And it was just way more humbling than anything I could have ever imagined. In fact, we talk about the lesson we brought back with us, humility, ownership, teamwork, and that very first thing, just letting the next generation of seal leaders know, Hey, look, you think you’re prepared, you think you’re ready, you’re actually not, and you better be ready for the most chaotic, difficult, emotionally overwhelming situations you could possibly imagine. And frankly, some people just, that was part of what we did was trying to prepare people for that. And we see that now when people that we’d put them through training and they’d push back on stuff and say, well, this isn’t realistic, or I don’t know where I’m getting shot at from. (00:21:55): And I’d say things like, man, you know how many times I had absolutely no idea where I was getting shot at from? I mean, just about every time. Bullets are erupting around you. Hey, is that enemy? Is it friendly? Is it five guys shooting at us? Is it 50? I have no idea. So you just had to be able to take a step back, detach and assess situations. But if they’re not prepared for the realistic challenges they’re up against, they’re not going to be successful. And I think leadership’s the same way to your point. So oftentimes, particularly people, when you’re starting on the front lines and you’re kind of trying to work your way up the ladder, you don’t really realize, oh, if I was the boss, it’d be super easy. Everything would be easy. And we didn’t have any of these problems. And yet only when you kind of get there and you realize like, oh, leadership’s hard. (00:22:43): Leadership’s actually really hard. It’s much harder than I thought it was going to be. Hey, how this person reacted to me trying to offer them a bonus or an opportunity to get promoted was totally different than what I thought it was going to be. So now I have to kind of reassess myself. And I think when people realize that it’s not an ethereal thing like you talked about, right? Leadership is actually a skill. It’s a skill that has to be taught and has to be learned. And you don’t want that just to be through trial and error alone because you’re going to make all kinds of horrible mistakes that you could avoid if you can actually follow the path and learn from other people. And you can advance rapidly if you treat it as a skill and you spend time to actually develop your skillset. Phil Hudson (00:23:28): Yeah. We think about frameworks and the way we think about things. And one of the frameworks I adopted recently that I wish I would’ve had much younger in my life, and if there’s anyone listen to this right now, is super young, this is a really important framework to think about. There are rules to everything in life. Life is a set of things. You can call them games if you want. And there are rules to those games. You cannot expect to win a game of Monopoly if you don’t know how to play the game of Monopoly. I know you do BJJ and I’m a very unpolished, unrefined white belt who’s been humbled many times there too Leif. But BJJ has a set of rules, right, and it has a thing. There’s a system that we have to work in. Leadership is no different. And if you’re trying to understand leadership, I mean Extreme Ownership are the rules to that game. (00:24:12): And sorry to tell you first thing it starts with is you. You have to be in check first before you can even affect anybody else in your life. And so many of us are thinking, well, if I was that person, I would do it differently. And the truth is no, you would do it the way you’re doing it right now until you change the way you’re doing it right now. So lean into that framework and understand if you’re trying to be a better leader with more impact, Extreme Ownership is the path to do that. Leif Babin (00:24:37): No question about that. And when you say a set of rules, where do those rules come from? Well, like you’re talking about Brazilian jujitsu, I mean the rules came from people who were testing out different things and to see what actually works and what doesn’t work. And that’s something that Jocko and I have talked about. We didn’t really invent anything new. A lot of this stuff’s been around for a long time. We might have just kind of given it, maybe the term Extreme Ownership or cover move wasn’t used. But really what we’re doing is just, is showing what works and there’s what works and there’s what doesn’t work. And it’s kind of funny sometimes when we, I remember particularly before the book came out, oftentimes when people didn’t really understand what we were going to teach and they really kind of had no idea what we might talk about, they would often ask me, well, I need you to explain to me what you’re going to teach my team because I need to make sure that it’s totally in alignment with our culture here at the team. (00:25:35): And so it would almost be kind of laughable. So we just kind of ask them some questions like, well, are you telling people to point fingers and make excuses and put the blame on everybody else so that problems don’t get solved? And of course no one is doing that. Right. Because it doesn’t work. Are you telling them not to build a good relationship so they can actually support each other toward the overarching goal they’re trying to accomplish here? Are you telling them to be so complex that no one understands what’s going on and so they can’t execute? Are you telling them to spread themselves into the resource so thin that they can’t actually accomplish any of the priority tasks because they’re trying to take on too much stuff instead of focusing on the highest priority efforts? Are you telling them to sit there and wait to be told what to do and not do anything until the one person in charge tells them what to do? (00:26:19): Of course not. No one is doing that stuff because it doesn’t work. If they are doing that stuff, they’re failing and they wouldn’t have the ability to hire us anyway. So I mean by whatever you call this stuff, it’s what actually works. Right. And that’s why this podcast is, this stuff works. But that’s where the rules come from. The rules are established by, if anything, what Jocko and I and the instructors that we have here have benefited from what I think is probably the most incredible leadership laboratory ever, which was not only seeing this stuff in combat but then coming back and running leadership training so we could see a bunch of different people over the course of years go through all the same scenarios and to see who performed well, who didn’t perform well. So we really got to see what worked and what didn’t work. (00:27:09): And now at Echelon Front for the last 10 years, we get to see this in the business world and just about every industry that’s out there and even the nonprofit and education space and others where we get to really see what works and what doesn’t work. And so people that try to push back on that stuff, they either don’t fully understand what we’re talking about or they’re just kind of in denial. Because look, if you’re casting blame and pointing fingers and making excuses, you’re not going to get problem solved. Right. If you’re not actually following the laws of combat, your team is going to struggle. You’re not going to be able to perform well. So that’s something that we’ve learned. And I’d love to hear from you. Where have you implemented this stuff in your world and seen impact as a result on the real digital side, on the personal side or certainly on the Hollywood side? Phil Hudson (00:27:57): Sure thing. First thing top of mind that comes is my agency for sure. I was a solopreneur for a long time and then I started hiring virtual assistants in the Philippines. And then I brought in some other, a friend, my business partner Paul, who I think you’ve been on a couple calls with, we joined forces because he’s doing something similar and we already worked together and we knew each other and we had the same outlook on a lot of these things. But then you start bringing on team members and I started getting really frustrated because I would speak and people would not hear me and I would just be like words mean things. My teammates just say that all the time to me now just to kind of mock me because it was all ego driven and I can laugh at it now, but I was like, words mean things guys. (00:28:38): And it’s like the way I’m saying it is obviously not resonating. So that means I need to take ownership of that and change my approach, what I’m doing, right, take the indirect approach, whatever it is. So I’d say fundamentally just kind of across the board it’s change the way that I interact with everybody on my team. I mean, I start looking at it instead of how would I do this, what would they do and then how can I help them tailor that approach and give them opportunity to fail and learn so that I don’t have to be the stop gap every single time. I mean that was a huge problem when I started onboarding my first couple people. They would literally do what you just said. They would sit and wait for me to fix the problem. They would ask me a question and wait for me to solve their problem. (00:29:17): If I told them to go Google it and find a solution, they would spend hours looking for things and still not act on things because they didn’t want to upset me. And that was all coming from me. It was all coming from the way I was reacting to them. If they did something wrong, I would attack them and I wasn’t screaming or yelling, but that’s the feeling they got, was me shooting them down or shutting them down because they didn’t do it the way I wanted it done. And it’s so much of just letting go of that control so that you can replace yourself. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. And I got plenty other examples beyond that. Yeah. Leif Babin (00:29:48): I think that’s a fantastic example. And we see that all the time where leaders will complain that I need my people to step up and lead. I need my people to step up and take ownership of stuff and I need them to stop asking me to solve all their problems for them. And yet that leader’s not actually looking at themselves. I mean just as you said, right? It’s how you interact with them dictates that. And most people actually think they’re doing a good job by simply just, okay, give me a task, do that task, okay, what else do you want me to do? Phil Hudson (00:30:13): Sure. Leif Babin (00:30:14): And so you really have to kind of reeducate them to help them understand what does decentralized command actually look like? Right. And if you realize that in order to have decentralized command where your leaders will step up and take ownership and maneuver the team and make moves to move you in a positive direction toward accomplishing your goals, well they have to understand what that goal is. They have to understand the commander’s intent. And if they don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, what the purpose and the goal and the insight you’re trying to achieve is. And also if they don’t understand the parameters where they can make decisions, and where they can’t make decisions without getting permission or running that up the chain, they’re not going to be able to execute with any kind of confidence whatsoever. (00:30:55): So once leaders recognize they’ve got total ownership of that, and if you start to train your people that this is actually what you need them, and yet are they going to make mistakes? For sure, they’re going to make mistakes. And then you don’t smash them down. Because the moment that you smash them down, when they do make a mistake, particularly if it was a well-intentioned mistake, trying to move the team in the right direction that they thought was going to be helpful, then they’re never going to do that again. (00:31:21): And so I think that’s really a failure of extreme ownership by a lot of leaders that we work with who love Extreme Ownership, who love what we do, and yet don’t realize that they’re people aren’t stepping up. Simply it’s not the people, it’s them. Right. It’s how they treat their people. It’s how they actually, rather than just, Hey, even if I, let’s say I take a group of super default aggressive seals in a seal platoon. The moment that I put together a plan, I dictate every aspect of the plan. I say, you do this, you do this, you do this, you do this. Go execute. They’re going to go out on the battlefield and they’re going to just do exactly what I told them to do and they’re going to just wait to be told what to do next. So I’ve completely dictated that. (00:32:03): Whereas if I’m saying, Hey guys, here’s the over arching mission we’re trying to accomplish. Here’s the end state that we want to achieve. How do you think we should accomplish it? And I give them ownership of the plan. And then maybe they’re way off. We can make some adjustments. Maybe they don’t understand the time constraints and the resources. We can make some adjustments to the plan they come up with. But it’s their plan. They have ownership of the plan. I let them go out and execute that plan. They’re not asking for what to do when they encounter a problem, they’re going to figure out a way to solve that problem. That’s the kind of team that you want to build. And so what you just said is it seems like a small nuanced thing and it’s actually not. It makes all the difference in the world. Phil Hudson (00:32:40): Yeah. But I think being able to express commander’s intent, being able to express the end state, those two skill sets, I think are not natural for anybody. I think you have to acquire that skill and learn it through trial and error. In my world, I think a lot about personal development. And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. Have you heard those terms before? Yeah. And so for those who are listening, right, there’s a famous book called Mindset by Carol Dweck and she talks about the difference between in her psychological practice and her studies of people, she learned that there’s really just two ways people think about things. One is, I am smart and one is, I am learning. Right. And so those who are in a fixed mindset want things to be easy and they’re afraid of failure. (00:33:25): And so they’re not willing to take risks because they don’t want to look dumb or maybe not look like they have the right answers. And the growth mindset people are like, Hey, I’m happy to fail because I’m learning, I’m growing and I’m progressing here. And to be an advocate and an implementer of extreme ownership, you definitely have to develop a growth mindset. And I say develop because you may not be there now. And I definitely wasn’t and may not still be there myself. I’m working on that every day as well because I was praise as a child for my intelligence and for my ability to just get things done. And that puts me in a fear state where if I feel like I’m going to fail at something, I’d rather not even take a step. Imagine writing a screenplay that takes six months and hours and hours of thought process… PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:34:04] Phil Hudson (00:34:03): Writing a screenplay that takes six months and hours and hours of thought process and not just typing on a computer. And then, you go put that out there and it doesn’t sell or it doesn’t win an Oscar your first at bat. And you’ve been told that’s what you should do. That’s going to shut you down. But in business, it’s the same thing. If I delegate to my team and they don’t accomplish it and I think that they should have, I’m going to be upset. I’m not going to want to try anymore. I’m going to feel like it’s a failure. “What’s the point? This should be easy.” Those are definitely signs that we need to take a step back and realize, “Hey, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m trying again. Like I said, it’s a path to something, and I need to appreciate each step along that journey.” (00:34:37): And if you can, you’re going to slowly develop a team that understands and becomes proactive, because they’ve got to rip out all of that scar tissue, if you will, from all the times you snapped on them or berated them, in their mind. You may not have actually done that from your perspective, but the berating that they get via email or via text message, when you’re questioning why they did something that was proactive, that is fundamental to all of this, you just have to understand, ” I’m learning and I’m growing, just as they are. And that’s okay. That’s part of this leadership path.” Leif Babin (00:35:07): Yeah, I think that growth mindset, it’s really about the power of extreme ownership, the idea that no one has it all figured out. No one has the answers. This aspect of humility, and we say that’s the most important quality in a leader. Because let’s say you and I disagree on something, and I can just assume, “Phil doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’ve been doing this for years now. I’ve got all the experience here. He just needs to get on board and listen to what I’m saying.” Or I can actually recognize that, “Hey, you know what? Maybe Phil knows something that I don’t know. Phil, why don’t you talk me through what…? Okay, I want to go with plan A. You want to go with plan B. Talk me through plan B. Let me hear how that works.” (00:35:48): I’m only going to get better. I’m only going to learn from that. And it actually doesn’t make me look weak. It makes me look strong, because the people who are most confident in themselves, they know they don’t have all the answers. So they’re not even going to pretend, versus the person that’s trying to just pretend they have all the answers and fake it till you make it type stuff, which doesn’t work. Sets people up for failure. Phil Hudson (00:36:11): There’s this conversation about how to identify an expert. And we’re just really bad at identifying experts. Because we expect experts to have short, quick, simple answers. And a real expert on something is going to be like, “Well, I don’t know. There’s so many variables we have to consider. We need to think about X, Y, Z. If A happens, then B needs to happen.” And so, experts kind of don’t sound like they know a lot, because they’re thinking about all the variables and the fact that they don’t know everything. Whereas, everyone else is really mired in, “Well, this worked this one time, so I know for sure this is going to happen.” And I think that’s exactly what this is too. Leif Babin (00:36:43): Play musical instruments. But have you ever sat down with someone who’s plays a guitar, and someone who’s a novice guitar player be like, “Oh yeah, I play the guitar. I can play this and that.” And if you talk to someone who’s a really unbelievable guitar player, they’ll be like, “Yeah, I just mess around a little bit. I’m not too good.” And then, you sit there. And my brother’s one of those. He’s a phenomenal guitar player, and he’ll just kind of rip on himself, that he can’t really play. So I think that’s pretty consistent anywhere in life. Phil Hudson (00:37:15): And I think you have to take that mindset as a leader. “I don’t know. I don’t know. And that’s okay.” And show some empathy to your team and say, “These people are me as well. I just had a different position than they are, and how would I feel if I was in this position?” And if you can do that, it makes it a lot easier to communicate with your team. Leif Babin (00:37:36): Sure. Are there places when you’ve tried to implement extreme ownership or these laws of combat leadership principle we’re talking about here, are there places where you’ve seen pushback or people said, “Hey, that isn’t for me?” Or where have you seen that in your world? Phil Hudson (00:37:53): Oh, life, man. This is one of the most painful things that’s happened to me as a business owner recently. So I mentioned 2020, the pandemic hit us pretty hard. First thing people will cut in their budgets is marketing. Whenever there’s some economic global crisis or something, recession, marketing gets cut. The pandemic happened. We lost 40% of our business overnight. And I got it down to the point, where, to keep my people employed, I was just living off of the minimum wage I was making on the TV show I was on. And thank goodness that was considered a… What do you call it? A required working position during the pandemic, because it’s such an economic impact on the state of California, that the television industry is considered a… I can’t remember what they call it. Must work basically, like you were required, it was okay to work. You know what I’m talking about? Leif Babin (00:38:41): Yeah. What was it? It was a critical business or… Phil Hudson (00:38:44): Yeah. Something like that. Leif Babin (00:38:45): I can’t remember what the term was. Yeah. Phil Hudson (00:38:46): So as ridiculous as its… Essential worker. That’s what it was. Yeah. So we were required to be essential workers, and that’s what I was living on. And so, during that time, that’s where I was in this, what I described as truly suffering as a business owner. Because I was making no money. I was trying to keep my people on board. I was trying to give them tasks to work on for ROOK, just to keep them busy, while they were doing things. That’s when I found your online academy stuff. And I really dove into that and really learned my shortcomings. And I started training my team on that. I started holding weekly… In our all hands meetings, I’d build a PowerPoint presentation about one of the laws of combat, and we’d go in through it and we’d talk about it. We use examples of things, trying to get buy-in from my team on how to do that. (00:39:26): And a couple months later, one of my employees, she was someone who had been with me for a couple years, she reached out and she said, “Hey, I really want to step up my game. I want to come on board full-time. I want to have more of an impact here. I love what you do.” And when I got that call and she said she wanted to meet, I was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to quit. We’re going to lose our business. I need her. I don’t have the time to hop in and do account management for all these people.” And I was really stressing. And when she said she wanted to buy in more, I was like, “Awesome. Extreme ownership is absolutely working here. They’re getting this, and I’m getting through to my people.” And then, all of a sudden, her performance just dipped. We doubled her pay, and her performance just went down the drain. And I was like, “Wow, this is really weird.” And then, I get an email forwarded to me from her, and it’s our attorneys were one of their clients, one of our clients at the time. And because the courts have been shut down during the pandemic, they were delayed like six months. They’re like, “Hey, we can’t sustain our marketing budget. We don’t want to end everything. Let’s cut it back. Let’s cut it back by 50%.” And I was like, “Okay, awesome.” And I was like, “All right, you need to go just communicate with them, hop on the phone, and just explain, a lot of the things they’re asking us to do are out of scope already. And with the reduced budget, we just need to cut back, and we’ll provide training for the things we’re doing for them, so that their internal team can do that.” (00:40:39): And you’ve experienced that with what we do at Echelon Front. We’ll train you happily, so that we can just really take care of things. But it just wasn’t profitable to maintain these out of scope extracurricular things that we were doing, that weren’t in the contract. So I said, “Just have a phone call and go do it.” And I get this email forwarded to me, and I saw it. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is a nightmare.” Her email was, “Unfortunately, because you’ve cut your budgets, we’re no longer able to sustain the amount of work that you’re doing. And so, we need to cut back the amount of work that we’re going to do for you. If you have any questions, give me a call.” And I was just like, “This is horrible.” And so, I just replied and I was like, “I’m hoping this is a follow up email to the phone call conversation I asked you to have.” (00:41:22): And she was like, “No, that was my email.” And I was like, “Okay, here’s what I’d like you to do. I want you to email them back and say, “Hey, I read my email. It sounds like what I meant to say didn’t come across well, I’d love to have a phone call and discuss what I meant by that.” And she replied with an email. It says, “Phil says he wants me to have a conversation with you about this.” And it’s just like, “Man, this is failing.” And I’m sure you’re seeing all of the problems with the way I tried to handle this on my end, in addition to the way that she handled these things. So I’m just as culpable as she is in this. And I replied to her and I said, “That is how a client fires us.” And I wake up the next morning, and our attorneys, who are friends of ours, had terminated their contract with us, because of that email. (00:42:04): And I was like, “Okay, so assessing the situation, what am I going to do here? How am I going to resolve this? I’ll reach out to them and we’ll have a conversation. But how do I resolve this with my team?” And I thought, “Okay, so I can fire her or we can coach her.” And so, I just said, “All right, I just want you to send me an email with 10 things you could have learned from this experience and what you might have done differently.” And then, the next thing I hear, I’m hearing grumblings from other teammates that she’s pissed off and that I’m asking her to do things that are belittling and demeaning to her. And I was just like, “Wow, this is totally backfiring.” And then, she asked for another meeting with me and my two partners, and we got on the call and then, she just proceeded to berate me for being a toxic leader and how I’ve put her under the thumb and I’m always talking about how “I’m the boss and you got to do it my way, because I’m the boss” and all these things. (00:42:52): And I was just like, “Wow, this is not how I expected this to come from someone who…” We’re actively trying to instill extreme ownership in our team at this point. And when we talk about the dichotomy here, I had to take a step back and say, “Is what she’s saying true?” And I was like, “There are many things she’s saying that are true, but the dichotomy here is, this person is not taking extreme ownership either. This person is not being a team member.” And so, I just asked her, I was like, “Do you want us to try to save you as an employee? Or are you ready to leave?” And she’s like, “I’m ready to leave.” And I was like, “Okay, well, thank you very much for the feedback.” And then, we parted ways. And I can’t tell you, the amount of fear I had for her leaving that position was replaced with the absolute calm of knowing that someone who did not understand the culture that we were trying to build here had left the door. (00:43:39): And then, I had to have conversations, really hard conversations with my partners. And say, “She said this and this and that about me. Is that true?” And they were pretty blunt. And they told me, and I had to again humble myself to hear what they were saying. And then, that changed the way that we do our implementation, the way we talk about things. So it was both, simultaneously, one of the worst things that could have happened to me as a business owner and the best thing that could have happened to me as a business owner. And it set the stage for us to have one of the best years we’ve ever had, because I had to take ownership of the situation and also understand that this person’s not a good fit for us anymore. And that’s okay. Leif Babin (00:44:14): [inaudible 00:44:15] example, Phil. And that’s a tough, tough challenge to come up against. I think it’s a really common issue. It’s why we wrote the book Dichotomy Leadership, as a follow on to Extreme Ownership. Because so many people struggle with this, and they’ll take this idea of extreme ownership and mean, “I got to go bash people on the head with extreme ownership. And you are making excuses and you need to start taking ownership.” And I’m not saying you were going to maybe to that extreme level, but there are certainly people that are. And when you get people that are, look, some people are just not going to be a fit for the cultural organization, there are those torture geniuses out there, that are just going to push back, no matter what. They’re not going to accept any constructive criticism, no matter how obvious there failings, or any ownership whatsoever. (00:44:59): But most people will, and most people will recognize it. And I think, when you realize that building a culture of extreme ownership, that’s the most common question that we get from leaders that we work with, over the last decade that we’ve done this. “How do I get my people to take extreme ownership?” And the answer is, “You take ownership. You take ownership.” Because even when I see an email like that and you’re like, “Oh, I can’t even imagine sending an email that way.” As hard as it is to do, just to say, “Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job explaining why this is not the response that we want and how we need to build strategic relationships with our clients and how we’re going to benefit from that.” And if you start that way, it just opens people’s minds. They get less defensive, and there’s much more of an opportunity that they’re willing to listen and learn as a result. (00:45:49): And maybe it still doesn’t work out, because not everybody is. There’s the idea of you’re going to have to let some people go. That’s a struggle as well. People took a chapter two of Extreme Ownership: No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders, some people interpreted that to mean, “Well, it’s always my fault and I can’t fire anyone ever.” And so, we had to write this chapter in Dichotomy Leadership, called When to Mentor, When to Fire, so that people realize that, look, there’s an escalation of counseling. And while you start with ownership and you do everything you can to train someone and mentor them and get them prepared and help them overcome obstacles, if you give them every opportunity to succeed and they simply can’t do it, then you got to take extreme ownership for the good of the team and the mission, to let that person go and get someone who can do the job. (00:46:33): So I think that’s a really common issue that we see. And oftentimes, you’ll see people that kind of go way too default aggressive, way too direct approach on stuff. That’s in my nature. I’ve had to really learn the hard way on this stuff as well and to go, “Okay, I need to slow this down. I need to go direct approach. I need to have a longer term view. And it’s going to get me to people accepting this as part of the culture and taking ownership themselves, when I take ownership of stuff, rather than pointing fingers and casting blame.” And by the way, if you’re in charge of a team, you are in charge. You are responsible. You have to own every single thing that team does. So this isn’t lip service. It’s the truth. And you got to fully believe it and accept it. (00:47:17): And I think, when you do fully believe and accept it, then you realize that extreme ownership then becomes, not just retroactive when bad things happen, but it actually becomes preemptive, so that, when you say, “Hey, this person on my team maybe doesn’t have the best rapport with that client, or maybe doesn’t understand how she comes across on emails, let me actually help her craft an email to make sure that we don’t have an issue like that.” And so, you prevent bad things from happening in the first place, when you realize that you can’t just blame it on that person, but you have to actually take ownership of everything they do. Phil Hudson (00:47:50): Yeah, I think everything you said absolutely resonated with what my experience was from that. And those are some hard lessons to learn, but they’re some of the most valuable and impactful lessons to learn as well. And that’s a case where we talk about that growth mindset, fixed mindset. That’s a case where I had to have a growth mindset, because I had to take a look at it. And prior to that, I would’ve been like, “What does she know? Is she wrong?” Or I would’ve just crumbled inside and been like, “What’s the point of doing any of this?” Instead, I looked at and said, “Okay, how can we fix this in the future? And how do we screen for this in new hires? What are the problems when we peel back the work she was doing?” There’s another bunch of problems. She did a bunch of things proactively, took extreme ownership, did a bunch of things absolutely contrary to the processes and checks that we’d set at our company, to the detriment of some of our clients. (00:48:36): So then, I have to call all of these people, and I have to say, “Hey, you know that account manager that you had, unfortunately, she did some really bad things on your website. And I’m here to fix that. A hundred percent my fault. I should have been checking this. I didn’t want to have to do the follow up. And because I didn’t take ownership in the follow up, I allowed your website to have detriment done to it.” And then, we had to spend a bunch of other time and resources fixing those things. But I’ll tell you, those conversations with those people, those people absolutely trust us now, because we owned our mistakes, 100%, instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. We proactively said, “Here’s where we messed up, and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it.” And they’re probably going to be lifetime clients because of that. And they saw the results from it. Leif Babin (00:49:15): No doubt. I think that is an amazing result of extreme ownership, that you’re like, “Well, the client’s not going to trust us if we admitted to our screw up.” And yet, just as you said, you’re building trust by owning that problem and fixing that problem. And so, you’re building trust going forward is exactly what we did in the first chapter of Extreme Ownership with that horrible blue on blue friendly fire incident that happened. We actually built trust coming out of that with our commanding officer and our leadership by taking ownership and implementing solutions to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. So it’s counterintuitive, because it’s hard to do and it stings the ego. And yet, you’re a living example of how that helps. And look, again, there’s only two measures that matter. Effective and ineffective. When you’re talking about, hey, best year ever for ROOK Digital, coming off of some big mistakes like that, I think that’s not an accident. I think that’s a direct result of the leadership principles that you’re implementing too, and building that and the culture of your team. Phil Hudson (00:50:15): And even just having a conversation with you to talk about taking on stuff for Echelon Front, I really had to internally do a check and say, “Is this something I can commit myself to, because I’m not going to mess around with Jocko and Leif. I know what these guys can do. They can get in my house if they want to. So if I’m screwing up, the Jocko and Leif are going to come knock on my door, JP just stumbling through my house in the dark.” But I had to check myself and say, “All right, am I going to continue to run my business at the level I am? (00:50:40): Or can I step up and be the business I know it needs to?” And 100%, when I talk about that symbiotic relationship from working with Echelon Front, it permeates our business, because we all have to take a step up. Because we see you implementing it. I was just on a phone call with Dave Burke. He joined one of our morning consultations. And man, Dave’s an intimidating dude. He doesn’t come off that way on Jocko Podcast. But he came in and he was no… PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:51:04] Phil Hudson (00:51:03): That way on Jocko podcast, right? But he came in and he was no messing around, asked a bunch of questions. And just listening to him and the way he talks about the way… He exudes extreme ownership in a way that is just admirable. I mean, I had a conversation with Ben just privately on another phone call. I was like, “I learned from watching Dave talk to me and the team and the way he vetted us and the things we were doing, making sure that it was all data driven. I learned more about how to be a better communicator to my team from one phone call with him than I have in probably seven years of being in business.” Because he literally said, “I don’t want to know. I want to know what you want to do and verify that it’s going to work. My job is just to make sure it’s going to work.” (00:51:44): And it’s powerful stuff, man. I just really hope that this podcast can reach as many people as possible to help them learn. You can change the way you fundamentally think about all of this and you can implement these rules in a way that will absolutely impact your life and your business and your family and your health and all the other aspects of everything we’re doing. Leif Babin (00:52:05): Phil, that’s awesome. Do you have any examples from your personal life that you can think of where you’ve implemented these principles? Phil Hudson (00:52:11): Oh, man. I’m a married man, Leif, so, of course, I have examples. My wife is just the absolute sweetest person in the world. And I was 30, 35, 36 when we got married, somewhere around there, maybe 34. And I married her because I just knew she was the kind, sweet person that I always looked for. But she would call me out on my BS more than anybody else would. And she would do it with such love, I couldn’t deny that. She was the mirror that I needed to say, “Where am I messing up in my personal life?” (00:52:46): And when I get in a little tiff with my wife, inevitably ends up with me having to take a look in the mirror again and say, “Man, I am a raging a-hole here. This is 100% my fault.” And I have to take ownership of it. And it gets to a point, it’s not like we fight all the time, but when we get into those little tiffs and arguments, I end up saying, “Hey, man, I’m sorry I’m being a tremendous jerk right now. This is a hundred percent my fault. And I’m dealing with something else and this has nothing to do with you and I’m sorry it affected you.” (00:53:12): Gets to the point where she’s just like, “How can every fight we get into be your fault? That doesn’t seem to make sense.” And it’s like, but they are, Leif. They’re all my fault because I have to take a look and say, “No, this is because I got off a phone call with some client who’s upset about something and that upset me or delayed me because of this thing I wanted to do and I didn’t get to do it. And it’s all ego and selfishness.” So, if anything, it’s made me a better communicator in my marriage and a better assessor of my own fault and weaknesses in that relationship that is the most important relationship I have in my entire life. Leif Babin (00:53:43): I always say that it’s most hard to detach emotionally from the people that you’re closest to. And so when you’re talking about your spouse or your kids, your siblings, your parents, the people that you have these lifelong relationships with, it’s most hard to detach emotionally. And yet, it’s also most important because these are the most important relationships in your life. And one of the things that I see with that in myself as well, it’s easy for me to get frustrated. It’s easy for me to cast blame or point fingers if I disagree with my wife about something or see something a little differently or think we should go do this with the family and she wants to do something else, which happens quite often. And the reality is, if you don’t take ownership of that situation, one, it’s a problem that never gets solved, but you’re also in a hopeless situation. (00:54:34): It’s a hopeless situation where I can’t change her mind. She’s intractable. There’s nothing that I can do to make that better. Whereas if you take ownership of the situation, it’s not a hopeless situation. You actually control the outcome. You actually… When you simply can put those emotions in check, put your ego in check and say, “Look, what could I have done to contribute to a better outcome for this situation?” Yeah, I could have maybe not come home from the office angry. I could’ve maybe been a little more conscious of my tone and how I asked a question. Or I could have told her about this thing that I wanted to go do with our family and started to give her some information about it so that she understood that this could be a fun thing that would be good for everybody and it might be something that we want to do together. (00:55:23): So when I think about those things, I actually have control of the situation. I’m not in a hopeless situation. I can take extreme ownership and I certainly can contribute to making a more positive… Doesn’t mean I get my way every time. It doesn’t mean that she’s always going to do what I expect her to do, but I think that it gives me control. It gives me ownership, and I can contribute to a positive outcome for everybody. And, to me, it makes all the difference in the world and it’s reassuring. So you’re in that hopeless situation. Nobody wants to be there, man. I can’t change other people, but I can certainly change me. And that can certainly change the outcome. Phil Hudson (00:55:58): A hundred percent. What’s interesting is most of those tiffs or arguments we get into are about her saying something that I feel is critical towards me. And I say feel because, although there may actually be some judgment behind it, I have to take a step back. And when I detach and I assess the situation, that’s literally the thing I fell in love with about this woman. (00:56:19): It was her ability to criticize me with love to make me a better person. So now I’m all up in arms and upset because my mind’s on something else and she’s interrupting me, pointing out my flaws, and I’ve had enough of that from everyone else today? It’s just a very powerful thing to right there, detach and assess and say, “Look, this is literally why I love this person and she’s only doing this to make me a better person, which makes us a better couple, which makes us better parents, which makes us better citizens.” It’s everything that I want in my life and I can’t be upset about that. Leif Babin (00:56:53): But there is what we call the ladder of alignment, climbing the ladder of alignment. And, really, it works in business too. I mean, if you think about where is someone coming from, what is their goal? So let’s say Jamie Cochran, our Chief Operating Officer, who’s an fantastic leader herself, as you know, or Dave Burke, as you mentioned, who’s an incredible leader. We have an extraordinary team of people. (00:57:18): If we disagree about something, then the question is why? “Well, I want to go this way, but they want to go that way.” And the reality is, okay, why is that? All I need to do is put my ego in check enough to climb the ladder of alignment and say, “Okay, what does Jamie want? What does Dave want?” Well, they want Echelon Front to be successful. They want us to actually impact the leaders that we work with and they want to spread this message as far and wide on the widest scale possible across the world as we possibly can. (00:57:44): If they want those things, then how can we actually have a disagreement? What we’re actually disagreeing about is actually a really, really small thing. And the bigger things, if I just take a few steps up that ladder of alignment toward the more strategic goals that we’re trying to accomplish, those are totally aligned. The small things are pretty minuscule, pretty immaterial. And I realized that I actually don’t care that much about the small things. “Oh, cool, they want to do something a little bit differently than I would’ve done it. Cool, let’s do it that do it that way. No factor.” And it certainly works with your spouse, it works with your family, it works everywhere, in every aspect of your life. I think it’s a very powerful thing to think about. Definitely. Phil Hudson (00:58:24): Absolutely. And outside of personal life, I got plenty of examples in the Hollywood side of things, Leif. I mean, I just had a couple really recently that hit me. I don’t know if you want to dive into those. I know we’re getting a little long in our podcast today. Leif Babin (00:58:37): Yeah, if you want to give me an example, man, go for it. All good. Phil Hudson (00:58:39): Yeah. I mean, look, so as we talk about humbling yourself and you’re going into something new and that’s definitely what I had to do to be a production assistant. And I was a writer’s PA on Tacoma FD season two. And then, because I did such a good job preempting what they were thinking and thinking about those, and then again, this is not pat Phil on the back time. This is really just demonstrating the power of being a humble servant and really thinking about, “What can I do to make that person above me really shine?” I mean, it’s literally what you guys talk about. How can I make that other person look so good that they want to keep me around? Well, I did that and then they opened up a position for me during production. And so I worked in the production office on season two. (00:59:20): And because I did that there, they opened up a position for me in the post-production. And normally you work one job. You’re a writer’s PA, you’re an office PA, you’re a post PA, you’re a set PA. But I was able to see all aspects of how they make this TV show from implementing and living simple principle, how can I make my boss look even better? How can I make their job easier? How can I carry a burden for them that they’re not expecting me to carry today? And I did that. So they did the same thing for season three. And, again, in between season three and season four, they brought me to be a producer’s assistant on the film Quasi. So I got to sit in and be more involved in some of the creative decisions and see how they did that. And then they moved me back into the position of being a writer’s PA for season four. (01:00:03): And that stunk because everyone agreed that I should have been bumped to the next step up at this point. I should have been made a writer’s assistant. And due to some of the politics that are going on, I wasn’t able to make that jump. And they put someone in that role who hadn’t worked in the writer’s room at all. And it was zero control over it, Leif. I was not able to do anything to do that. And I just had to take a step back and say, “Okay, I can be really hurt by this or I can accept the fact that this is something that’s completely out of my control. And what can I do to continue down my path?” (01:00:32): And I had to take ownership of that situation, and that’s what made me do some of the best writing I’ve done in my entire life this year. It’s just really sitting down and saying, “No one’s going to hand it to me. Even if you think you’ve earned it, you’re not going to get it necessarily. And you just have to work your tail off until you get what you want out of it.” And that script, actually the one that I sent over your way to get a little technical consulting, if you will, that’s one of those scripts that came out of it this year. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever written because I had to, because it moved me out of my stagnant position into being a better, more developed and more refined writer. Leif Babin (01:01:08): Yeah, that was a good cool script. I appreciate you sharing it with me. And I enjoy our conversation around it. I look forward to that being made into a show [inaudible 01:01:17] It’s very, very interesting. Definitely it would be good to see it on the screen. An entertaining show about a special operator that’s kind of the burned out special operator on the ragged edge. Pretty cool. Definitely. Phil Hudson (01:01:31): Yeah, Well, I wanted to take a… Just spinning off of that too. That transition into this. I could have walked away. I could’ve raised my ego. I said, “Hey, this is not what I wanted. I’m owed this.” And everyone would’ve agreed with me except for the people who made those decisions. And they made their decisions above the pay grade of the people who make the decisions for our show. I could’ve walked away, I could’ve gone to another show. And who knows what would’ve happened, but I stuck it out and I just did the very best I could. They invited me to sit in the writer’s room as more of a higher station than I normally would’ve. I got to be in Iraq, I got to pitch jokes. Some of the jokes I pitched made it into the show now. So I’m actually contributing in a more impactful way to this thing that I’ve grown to love. (01:02:13): And then they moved me into the office to be a PA again. And very quickly, they realized that something needs to change. And they bumped me to be an associate producer on the show. They gave me a ton more authority and leeway to do everything I needed because I’d earned so much trust with the team that I would stick it out and I would handle things in the right way. And all cared about was the end result. We talked about the commander’s attempt at making the best show possible that I was given a major promotion and something that most people don’t get when they’re doing this type of job. So a hundred percent credit to extreme ownership and the principles there of understanding how to humble yourself again. Set aside your ego, try to impact things and move the mission along. Leif Babin (01:02:56): Credit belongs to you, my friend. Definitely. We can pass on the lessons learned and we can talk about what you might should do to solve a particular problem, but you actually have to go implement that in real time and that’s a hard thing to do. So good on you for making it happen, Phil, and I appreciate you sharing that. Any final thoughts on extreme ownership? How it’s affected you before we wrap up for This Stuff Works podcast here? Phil Hudson (01:03:23): Yeah, there are probably a thousand examples I could go into in every aspect of my life about how this stuff has impacted me. And there are probably a million other opportunities where I could have stepped up and done a better job. And that’s that humbling piece of all of this is really just saying, “Man, no matter how much I try, I’m still going to fall short.” And what I’ve come to learn is that that is extreme ownership. It’s owning the fact that you aren’t there yet and you may never get there, but every step down that path makes you a better leader, makes you a better person, makes you a better husband, father, business partner, business owner, servant, whatever it is you’re doing. And it’s worth it. It’s worth every step of implementation. When it gets tough, just like every other aspect in life, whether it’s losing weight, whether it’s trying to lift heavier, whether it’s doing Brazilian jujitsu, whether it’s just trying to be a kinder person to your daughter, it’s worth every single step. (01:04:18): And when it gets tough, that’s when you’re right on that maximum edge of making a huge leap forward. And you need to keep pushing because if you don’t, you’re just going to slip back, you’re going to atrophy and you’re going to have to start all over. And it might come back a little bit faster, but it’s still going to be a painful path. No reason to keep walking the painful pathway. We can just learn from our lessons, keep moving forward, apply these principles and everything’s going to be better. And I think that’s a pretty good end there from my end. (01:04:48): Leif, I got one other thing I want to share with you, Leif. You don’t know this. My buddy since third grade, his name is Paden Thompson, he’s in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Ramadi, Iraq, after you and Jocko and Seal team three went in there and did what you did. And so, in a very real way, I wanted to take an opportunity to thank you because because of the things you did, the lessons you learned, the sacrifices you guys made, my best friend came back and he’s got a wonderful, beautiful family. And I guarantee he would’ve been in a much, much worse position had you not applied these leadership principles in a wartime situation and learned them and done the wonderful work that you did there. So thank you very, very personally, from me to you. Leif Babin (01:05:27): Yeah, Phil, that means a lot. I look forward to meeting one of these days. Phil Hudson (01:05:32): Yeah. Leif Babin (01:05:32): I feel like I know you well as we talked many times on the phone, but I’m really excited to meet you next week in person for the first time. I know you’re coming to Muster, so I’ve been giving you a hard time for failing to prioritize and execute. You picked up the muster prior, but it’s going to be awesome to have you in Atlanta with us next week. Super excited about that. Phil Hudson (01:05:50): Awesome. Thank you, Leif. Thanks for having me on. Thanks for everything you’re doing. Keep it up. Leif Babin (01:05:53): Appreciate it, Phil. Thank you.
President & Co-Founder of Echelon Front
Leif Babin, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the President and co-founder of Echelon Front LLC, a leadership consulting firm. Leif is the co-author, alongside Jocko Willink, of the New York Times bestsellers, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, and the Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win. Echelon Front teaches the principles of Extreme Ownership and the Dichotomy of Leadership to help leaders apply them in their world to solve problems, accomplish their goals, and achieve victory in business and life.