2-26: "The Legacy Builder" - Josh Wyatt

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"The Legacy Builder"

Josh Wyatt is the CEO of Neuehouse. They describe themselves as a private cultural and collaborative space for prominent creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. A lot of people I know have launched and run their businesses from spaces they’ve rented at Neuehouse.

Josh is intentioned, thoughtful and present. He cares about what he does today. And he cares about the impact that has on tomorrow.

So, this episode is called, “The Legacy Builder”.


Three Takeaways

  • Define success for yourself.

  • Take clear, specific action.

  • Be willing to trust.


"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 2-26: "The Legacy Builder" - Josh Wyatt

Hi. I’m Charles Day. And this is ‘Fearless’.

Josh Wyatt is the CEO of Neuehouse. They describe themselves as a private cultural and collaborative space for prominent creatives, artists and entrepreneurs. A lot of people I know have launched and run their businesses from spaces they’ve rented at Neuehouse.

Josh is intentioned, thoughtful and present. He cares about what he does today. And he cares about the impact that has on tomorrow.

So, this episode is called, “The Legacy Builder”.

“There would be no greater pleasure for me, looking back on this 20 years from now, let's say, and you know, 10-20 of the people in the company today have gone on to create amazing businesses, you know, or done amazing things in the political world or the social enterprise world. I want to see our talent eventually become alumni of NeueHouse. And that alumni base creates great companies.”

There are lots of definitions of leadership. One of my favorites is a Nelson Henderson quote that Steve Shiffman told me. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you will not sit.” Steve left his position as the CEO of Calvin Klein this week, having re-fashioned the organization for the future. His successor, the former President of Calvin Klein North America, is Cheryl Abel-Hodges, the first woman CEO in the history of that iconic brand. Both Steve and Cheryl have been guests on this show. Steve also brought in the company’s CMO - Marie Gulin Merle - one of the most progressive CMOs in the industry. And he refocused the company away from high fashion and into a more agile, digitally smart, consumer-centric business. Those trees he planted are already providing a canopy.

I’ve been producing this podcast for over two years and have interviewed almost a hundred leaders. In my role as a confidant and advisor to some of the most creative leaders in the world, I’ve gotten to know many more. 

This conversation with Josh Wyatt has stayed with me in the days since we recorded it - as much as any of them.

Josh thinks a lot about the impact he wants his life to have. He wants to make a difference, for his family, his friends, his partners and his talent - his description for the people that work for him.

Josh’s desire and determination to make a difference are not unique.

The circumstances of his life, the environment that created that desire and determination, are.

His is an extraordinary story. Of leadership. Of legacy. And of life.

Here’ s Josh Wyatt.

Charles:

Josh, welcome to Fearless. Thank you for being here this morning. In fact, thank you for having me here this morning. We're in the basement of NeueHouse. When did creativity for show up for you? When were you first conscious of something being creative?

Josh Wyatt:

Well, first off, it's great to be here this morning, and that is a fantastic question to open with. I think for me, creativity really found its spark when I was 19. When I was 19 I had a family situation whereby my parents actually passed away. And I was thrown into a moment of having to make some incredible decisions very quickly.

That really drove forward a sense of firstly solitude, but secondly a sense of meaning. Which was that real sort of direct moment in time, I had a choice. Which was live a life of sort of ordinary, following a certain path. Or take what was, in a sense a tragedy, and turn it into an incredible creative opportunity.

And that moment forward, I remember looking in the mirror or looking at myself in the mirror, I was 19, 1993. I looked at myself and I sort of square my shoulders and I said, "I have one life to live, and make sure that that life is going to be something that is truly creative and interesting." And that has really informed my philosophy, both from a creative perspective, a social perspective, and an emotional perspective for the last 25 some odd years.

Charles:

How did they die?

Josh Wyatt:

It's actually a very crazy story, and I don't mind sharing it. I share it with people now. I used to not talk about it. But my mother was actually murdered by my father, and my father committed suicide.

Charles:

Oh, my heavens.

Josh Wyatt:

It was a crazy story. And one that, this is sort of pre-internet, right? This was on the front of all the News at Six, back when the News at Six was a thing. It was a moment where, again, going to my opening statement, it was a defining moment where I had a path in life, right? And that path in life, obviously it was more than just about being creative. It was about building something that really meant something to me.

That's what I've really embarked on since then. I actually would almost label myself as a carpenter, an architect. Someone who builds things wherever I go, whether it's building my family - I have three amazing children and a lovely wife. Building companies, which in this day and age of capitalism, is a form of creativity, right?

So whether or not one believes completely in the social or capital constructs of the society we live in, there are certain tools that are given to you. And you have to play with those tools in this day and age. My tools have been a approach to business, to build a collaborative business that's almost, in a sense, a family. I've done that in pretty much anywhere I've gone.

I've built probably four official large companies, and probably unofficially maybe two or three offshoots of those companies in the past 20 years.

Charles:

Did you have brothers and sisters?

Josh Wyatt:

I didn't. I'm an only child.

Charles:

So you went through this by yourself?

Josh Wyatt:

I did. As an only child, I actually had no family. It was a real sort of interesting survival moment. I looked back on it with a detached sense, in a way a detached sense of almost an out-of-body experience looking back in and I still do today. I give this advice to anyone who's gone through tragedy or trauma, which is you should absolutely embrace it, because it makes you who you are. It makes you human.

The way that I think about things back then, obviously I'm much more developed and experienced today versus 25 years ago. But the way that I think about emotions today is, emotions and really leaning into tragedy or trauma is a way that I think can make leaders truly great, actually. It can either destroy you or it can build you up.

In that moment, again, I've evolved obviously, but in that moment it really ... I saw it very clearly, believe it or not, and it was a fork in the road for me. I think I would argue that I took the right road in terms of wanting to build. And wanting to be an architect of great moments, of creative moments. And really bringing a sense of happiness to people around me. That to me, if I were to leave a legacy, it would be creating opportunities and happiness for other people. And trying to give that opportunity to people.

Charles:

Did you have any instinct to shut down? But I mean, the choice you made was clearly the right one, but it must've been an incredibly difficult one in that moment.

Josh Wyatt:

It sounds crazy, but no, I had no instinct to shut down.

Charles:

[crosstalk]-

Josh Wyatt:

I had an instinct to actually push forward. I mean, I remember doubling down immediately on two things that really interested me. One was a school. So, I came back, it was during spring break of my freshman year. I came back and I actually signed up for summer classes, and took a full course of summer classes that summer.

Then I looked at my opportunity set and I said, "Okay, I've always wanted to travel. I want to learn other languages." So I immediately put a backpack on and studied abroad for two years. At the time, I mean again, this is 1993, '94 pre-internet, carrying A Lonely Planet travel guide in your backpack. And going to places that many Americans had not really frequented.

So getting on a plane and going to South America and living in Chile. Getting on an airplane, going to Easter Island for a week at 19. Going to Africa and training around Africa and camping throughout Kenya. Really trying to push my intellectual and creative boundaries to try to understand the world back when the world was a very different place. And was much more off the beaten track versus where it is today.

And that has informed my business in terms of growing travel businesses and hotel hospitality, really understanding different cultures. It's been a true great privilege actually, in a way. I know it sounds crazy, but what happened to me in a way I think has really informed a life of success and happiness in a truly bizarre way.

Charles:

No, I'm sure that's true. I'm struck by the fact that at a moment where most people would have collapsed in on themselves and become very protective, that you actually went exactly the opposite way. Where do you think the instinct to do that came from?

Josh Wyatt:

It's a great question, and it's a difficult question to answer. I think if you look at people who perform at high levels, whether it's from a creative perspective, athletic perspective, from a leadership perspective or a political perspective, they do things at certain times where they are not expected to do those things. Right?

So they pivot. They see the playing field, and instead of everyone running to the right, they run to the left. It's not just for the sake of doing something different, because the sake of doing something different often leads to poor results. But the high performance individuals that really can see the field and understand where flow is happening, whatever that flow is ...

Again, it could be music, it could be art, it could be sports, it could be business, it could be politics. But seeing that flow and saying, "I'm going to take a stake in a stand and go in this direction, and really stand behind that decision," is a powerful way to lead your life.

I would try to inspire anyone I work with, anyone that I socialize with to think that way. I think it leads to a much more fulfilling life. Maybe it does lead to some sense of frustration at times, but I would argue, if you have that choice and opportunity set, you should take it.

Charles:

So you were really drawn to and guided at a critical moment your life by making a difference. The idea of, “I want to contribute. I want to show up. I want to be present. I want to make a difference.” Has that informed how you look at other people? I mean when you're hiring people for instance, what's the lens that you bring in terms of evaluating and judging the way other people show up?

Josh Wyatt:

I think the question of “I want to make a difference and I want to give back,” I think takes ... There is a deeper sense of analysis in terms of what that really means. Because anyone can give to charity, right? Anyone can say that they give back. Then the next question is, well, what is giving back? Right? And where does that really articulate itself?

I would argue that looking at organizations, including NeueHouse and how we think about things, and how I think about things as a leader, is looking at how you can bring out the best in people. And allow them to actually succeed and what makes them happy. If you do that, that I think drives the organization forward. Or drives the movement forward as well.

I'll give you a good example. One of our members here at NeueHouse, is Time's Up, right? And if you look at their political and social agenda in terms of how they communicate with people, before they can actually achieve anything, they have to understand what they're actually trying to do. Then look at their organization and say, "Okay, can we actually, from a peak performance perspective, can we actually take this movement and drive it forward with the focus and clarity? And do we believe in it?" Right?

That's the type of people I want to surround myself with, right? So whether it's our members, or our employees. And looking back in my prior career, working with or working for great individuals who have always pushed me to do better. If we can provide that platform, again from a personal perspective or from a company, then I think we're doing a pretty good job.

Charles:

As you look at the world today, it sounds like purpose has been a big part of your personal life, and it's also a characteristic that you're attracted to in companies around you. Talk to me about purpose and what role do you think it plays?

Josh Wyatt:

I think purpose defines, at the end of the day, defines who you are as an individual. And that purpose can manifest itself in many different things. I would argue, and/or I would push those around me to define really what their purpose is before they wake up in the morning. Because your day will be a lot easier and your year will be a lot more fulfilling.

So, again, putting on many different hats, right? Purpose, for example, could be you wake up in the morning, and as a father or as a parent, you have purpose to be an incredible parent to your children. That is, in a sense, almost a moral obligation, I would argue. But extrapolating it out into the professional world and saying, "What is the purpose of the individual in/or the team, right, that actually drives what is happening?" If it is a purpose that is clearly understood by that person and by that team, then you can achieve great things. Now, I would argue that most people don't understand or know, or are too either embarrassed or scared to ask themselves what their purpose is. Now, it took me years, right? So-

Charles:

How do you articulate yours?

Josh Wyatt:

Well, I articulate mine in the sense of going back to an earlier point that I made, which is, I like to build things, right? So when I wake up in the morning, I think about, I call it my concentric circles of influence and purpose, right? Family first, right? So I have three kids, wife, really focusing on my family. That's my first small concentric circle.

My second concentric circle is my company, right? So, I've always, rightly or wrongly, right? And I'm sure you could argue against this comment, but I do take great pride and an alignment with the company that I'm working with, or working for or that I've created. Whether it's in the past or now at NeueHouse. That is for me, a purpose.

Then the final purpose that the wider concentric circles, so sort of three concentric circles, that last large concentric circle is my social or intellectual or emotional influence on the people that I run into. So I actually do think about what my impact is, positively or negatively, on how I interact with people.

The ultimate purpose of that third final circle is if I can bring happiness and success and high performance to those around me, then I've succeeded in those three concentric circles. At the end of the day, most people don't think that way. They don't actually get up and say, "Okay, what am I here to do today or this month or this year or this decade?"

It's not a question of planning everything out. You can't plan for everything. There's just too much change. Especially as you get older, you see things that happen that are completely out of your control. But it's more of a question of figuring out and being honest with yourself. For many years, I was mostly honest, but I didn't fully embrace what I wanted to do or what my full purpose was. It took me years to really ideate on and evolve.

But now I really feel and I really sense and I can really see where I'm going, why I'm doing certain things. And 95% of the time I'm on point. There's always, obviously, people have their off days or their off moments, or they get intellectually tired or lazy. But generally speaking, I do wake up with that purpose and I'm aligned and focused on it.

Charles:

95% on point probably puts you about 75% ahead of the rest of the world, I suspect. But I want to pick up on something you just talked about, the second of your concentric circles. About it being aligned to your company. One of my growing views is that I think people are not demanding enough of the businesses that they work for.

They don't put specific enough intention around the kind of environment they wanted to work in. They're not clear with themselves about what they expect. I think they are too willing to put up with stuff that actually suits or serves neither them nor anybody else.

So, I'm a big believer that you should really care about being aligned with the business you work for. And if you not, then go and look somewhere else for both of your sakes. When you're looking at creating alignment, what does that look like and feel like? How does that show up for you?

Josh Wyatt:

First off, I 100%, 1,000% agree with your comment. Life is too short, right?

Charles:

Yep.

Josh Wyatt:

I mean, to become a true high performance individual, no matter what you do, again, whether you're an artist, whether you're a musician, whether you're a lawyer, banker, whatever it is, you have to do something for many years to become truly great at it. I believe you have to really love what you're doing to really step into a situation where every day you're waking up and achieving very, very high, or if not peak performance. Life is simply too short to do something, and/or work with someone or an organization that you don't believe in. Now, obviously saying that is a little bit of the luxury, or in the context of an economy that allows you to do that, but we're blessed, right? I mean, sitting here in the United States, or in Europe, or in Asia with the economies the way they are, we are blessed to be able to make certain choices.

I would argue that any leader or any leadership team that doesn't understand what his company stands for, and doesn't communicate it out effectively first off to its employees, and then secondly to its customers, or members, or clients, is a company or team that will not achieve success. So one of the things that we focused on here at NeueHouse, and it's something that I focused on in my prior roles at Equinox and Generator, was to really clearly define what is the vision of the company, and what are the core values of the company.

You'd be surprised how many people just don't stop to actually ask those questions. I can safely say or proudly say that I think our team here at NeueHouse 100% believes in what we're doing, and shows up to work virtually every day. Again, everyone has their off days, but people show up virtually every day motivated and inspired by what we do.

Now the question is why, right? Why is that? Very simplistically, we are creating moments in all these different areas of the creative circle, every day within the four walls of NeueHouse and outside of the four walls as we broadcast out. Whereby the content, the people, the hospitality, the design is truly inspiring. And we always say that if it's not inspiring to your employees, it won't be inspiring to your members or customers.

So the foundation of the company was created on this concept, and the communication, the daily communication, or weekly communication that comes from myself and the other executives is to constantly reinforce that message. And it's just so easy to do, because we are sitting here first off, in a designed environment that is truly inspiring. It's warm, it's intimate, it's a place that really allows people to firstly be themselves, and secondly be approachable, and thirdly to socialize amongst other like-minded, creative people.

That confluence of moments really drives forward how the company feels. Now, the downside to that is sometimes it's hard to articulate emotion, and warmth, and acceptance, and intimacy. It just simply is, right? And I struggle with that. I struggle with trying to balance the reality that we are running a business, and a brand, and as an executive or CEO it's hard to be overly emotional, or overly emotive, let's say.

That said, there is various symbols, or words, or gestures that you can do. Again, as a leader, as a team, and I think we do that very well. Again, to our members, and to our employees. So, I would say this, I mean we want everyone in the company whether it's anyone down from the person working in the actual floor, right? Up to the executive team, and our investors, and our members to understand what we stand for and to buy into it. And for those that don't buy into it, it's perfectly okay. There's a big world out there. It's fine. We want people to be here with us that really genuinely believe in, and have a deep sympathy, and passion for what we do.

Charles:

So one of the reasons I was really glad when you agreed to come on the show is because I think you sit in such an interesting place. You are running, as you've just said, you're running a very creative dynamic business that is really a reflection of the way the modern economy is evolving, right? I mean you are a reflection of the gig economy in the best senses, in all the best definitions.

And you also are charged with creating environments, which creative companies can actually come in, and thrive, and flourish. There's been a big movement towards open planned space. There's a lot of conversation recently that open planned space is not that conducive for creative businesses. What have you learned about creating an environment in which creative companies and people can flourish?

Josh Wyatt:

I think first and foremost, design drives a lot of that equation in terms of high performance results in the creative space, or high performance results in the professional space. Without exceptional design, and by design, I think it's important to identify what that really means. But without exceptional design, so for us exceptional design means the physical box, but it also means the hierarchy of senses and needs within that box.

It means having the right lighting, having the right air temperature, having the right food, the right drink, the right smells. All of that sort of feeds into how someone feels. If you feel fantastic, that's a good place to start, okay? So you feel fantastic because you've been influenced by the physical surrounding that you reside in every single day when you come to work.

You are flowing, as I mentioned earlier, you feel the flow of what you're trying to achieve because the temperature, the smells, the environment that you're in feel good to you. That's sort of the base foundation of creating a high performance creative environment. Then we go to, how are the spaces actually designed in terms of the flow of people and teams.

I 100% agree with you that open plan has its moments, and there are other times where open plan can be challenging to creating a great creative product, or a high performance creative team. If you look at how NeueHouse is designed, it's almost like a jigsaw puzzle. So there are probably seven to eight moments within this New York property that we sit in today, or in our Hollywood property which has actually probably more moments to it, where you can sort of circulate, plug-in, plug-out based on what your needs are.

Because if you think about the course of a day, right? You wake up at 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM whenever it is. Your needs at that moment are going to be very different from 6:00 PM. You're going to go through this flow of various times in the day where your needs will be different. We have tried to design for that. So we have breakout areas where it's private, where you can meet as a private team.

We have media areas where if you need to create media content, you can create a podcast. You can create technology in media within some of our rooms in Hollywood. Sometimes you have to actually broadcast out what your message is, or what your brand is, or what your movie is, or what your presentation is. We have screening rooms for those moments where it's a very comfortable environment to actually view media, which I think is becoming increasingly important in this highly, for better for worse, highly visualized world is how people really communicate today.

And then we have the public spaces, i.e. the gallery where yes, you can come in and get your dose of energy. As we discussed, right before the podcast, we were discussing how our day flows. There are moments where you have energy lulls where it actually has been proven that if you're around other human beings, your energy will pickup. I mean, the entire restaurant and nightclub industry is predicated on that. If you actually program music, you program smell, you program the sound, it's almost like symphony or an orchestra of various moments.

Just the sound of coffee being consumed, or the clink of glasses, or the soft music overhead, or the rustling of the trees and the plants that we have inside of NeueHouse. These all create these moments where you can re-energize, and then you can go back up to a private space, private studio, private conference room to work. I think that's the way the world is going, by the way.

It's going, not only in the work place, and in the office space environment, but even in how homes are designed from residential perspective. If you think about 20, 30 years ago children, husband, wife, partners they would retreat to their own rooms after dinner and work, or watch TV, or whatever it is. How homes are designed now are these big public spaces where everyone comes and sits in a public space and either consumes media, or shares a meal, et cetera.

Same thing with hotels and hospitality. The rooms in hotels are getting smaller, and smaller. I mean I built a half a million dollar company on this concept. Smaller, and smaller rooms, larger, and larger public spaces where people can still have a quiet moment, i.e. you can go to sleep quietly. You can have a quiet moment to read in your room, a quiet romantic moment, whatever it may be. But when you want to plug down into the public space to have that energy, and to be really inspired by the creative design around you, you can do that.

I mean, it's a multi-billion dollar industry in the hotel world. It's a multi-billion dollar industry, trillion dollar industry in the residential world. And the office world, the office industry is just now catching up to it. I mean it's 10 years behind where hotels are. So the next decade I think you'll see extraordinary change and evolution in how teams are designed, and how office spaces are designed.

Charles:

And is that in response to shifting demand in society? Do people want to spend more time as part of a community, and more time together? Is that a-

Josh Wyatt:

I don't think it's a shift. I think it is finally people being honest with themselves and having the shackles taken off. This cubical environment that you saw 20, 30, 50 years ago has increasingly been cast aside to allow people to try to truly express themselves. I think to my earlier point about individuals being honest with themselves about what they want their purpose to be, right? Or what they want their goals to be, or what drives them, what really makes them happy.

I think the same thing is happening in a macro level in the workforce, where the workers are voting with their feet to say, "I want to work for companies that understand what creates a sense of happiness and high performance, and a high sense of creative results." Right? That flow from really the bottom up to the top, the smart executives, and investors by the way, because at the end of the day the investors are the ones that are rewarding the executives and the management teams with capital to pursue their business plans to this end.

That sort of hierarchical system where the bottom is pushing up to the top, I think that is the shift, right? But I think the innate human desire to be part of a tribe, right? And it's always been this way for tens of thousands of years, that innate sense of being a tribe, you can't be a tribe if you're in your single hut, i.e. your single cubical, or your single sort of lonely apartment.

People want to be a part of something, whether it's 10 people being a part of something, 1,000 people being a part of something, a million people being a part of something. There is a strong identification that is only becoming more and more powerful and pronounced as leadership starts to see what's really happening down within the initial working classes that are moving the message up the chain.

Charles:

One of the challenges of leadership is that you're directly connected to a community, to a group, right? You are responsible for that group through many different lenses. But at the same time, there is a need to take care of yourself and to become self aware as a leader, that I think many leaders miss. They are overly indexing to some point on, to some extent on, the needs of the group and the responsibility towards that.

In the conversation you and I were having as we were setting up for this, you talked about your own journey through the day and I had Dan Pink who's the author of When on the show about a year ago. And the book focuses explicitly on the dynamics of time and the effect of time, sometimes during the day, sometimes over longest periods, on our synapse performance, and on our lives. Describe for me again the way that you manage your day, because you've become pretty clinical in fact, I think, and self aware about how you work best during the course of your day.

Josh Wyatt:

So, I think it's a great question and I think it's something that many CEO's, leaders, founders, entrepreneurs often overlook until it's too late. I read a book on leadership by the former head coach of Manchester United who talks about this issue.

Charles:

Oh yeah, Alex Ferguson.

Josh Wyatt:

Alex Ferguson, who also taught at HBS on this particular point about how in his early career he was so focused on winning when he was coaching the Rangers up in Scotland that it almost led, just by the fact that he was making money and winning, it almost led to his financial, and emotional, and family ruin because he couldn't manage his own personal life, family life, and health.

I would have to give, in this area I think I have it down pretty solid and I would have to give credit to Harvey Spevak who was my former boss at Equinox. Equinox is really probably the highest performance lifestyle and fitness company in the world. It's an incredible organization, and I really looked at what Harvey did from his personal life in terms of how he managed his time, his physical health, how he sort of interacted with various people on his team, and various investors, and clients.

The ability to truly I think, achieve high performance in your life I think starts out with understanding to your earlier point, what your purpose is. So when I wake up in the morning I'm pretty clear. I mean again, unless maybe I've gone out and had a very late night, or my children have been up crying all night, but I wake up pretty clear with what my purpose is, and then I start about executing on that.

And that really starts with taking care of yourself from a physical perspective. So believe it or not, I think the best thing that anyone can do is get in a great amount of sleep. Eight hours of sleep, and I by the way had nine hours last night so I feel fantastic, but eight hours of sleep focused on really being religious about how you sleep is so important, right?

So we have studies done, in fact one of our collaborators, Arianna Huffington who runs Thrive, she focused a lot on sleep science, right? So making sure, for example, that sleep is incredibly important to how you perform is vitally, vitally important. Number two, I think if you study some of the incredible longevity studies of the blue zone for example, where there's certain factors that create longevity in life.

One of them is consuming less meat, being plant based diet. These are all simple things that you can start to make small changes in your life that lead to much better performance. And then the third thing I think is really understanding and managing time, right? So I was terrible at that in my 20s and 30s. I've gotten much better in my 40s, again looking at some of the mentors that I've had, really understanding how to say "yes" to moments, but also how to say “no,” but in a way that is polite, respectful, and leaves the person with a sense of, at the very least, a sense of hospitality. I call it the “hospitality no,” which is, hey, yes, I would love to take this meeting with you. Or yes, I would love to go out to dinner with you tonight or I'd love to go have a bottle of wine with you. But in the back of my mind that's probably not going to lead to an optimal result for you or for me so I'll respectfully decline that. How you do that, I mean, the best, most charismatic leaders have sort of got that down. I think that's important for anyone, whether you're a 22 year old just starting out in your career or you're a 60 year old CEO or politician or an artist or whatever it may be.

Life and your daily interaction is a complex set of choices. If you can distill those choices down to really sort of simple, hard yeses, hard nos, it makes life a lot easier and it removes the clutter. That's one thing that I've always tried to focus on. I've gotten better as I'm now 45. I've gotten a lot better at it today than I was 10 years ago.

Charles:

What gets in the way of that? What makes that complicated?

Josh Wyatt:

Well, I think ultimately, and as in anything in life, again, so if you look at great musicians, great artists, great athletes, other than maybe the geniuses, there are very few that can actually consistently perform for 20 years straight and consistently produce incredible albums, incredible art or win the championship every year. Maybe it's Roger Federer in tennis and you think back to, in terms of art, Picasso, someone like that. But it's very hard to consistently perform.

One trick that I use is to acknowledge when I'm going into a period where I can't make good decisions quickly and/or when I start to get distracted or I start to have people pull me off my agenda or my purpose. One of the things I've done in my leadership style and how I interact with people is I actually calm down and I move very slowly. For me, doing nothing or moving slow and speaking slowly, even just with body language is a mechanism to sort of calm the moment down and to coolly assess what's happening.

Part of being a leader I think is instilling a calm sense of confidence and clarity to the goings-on around you. I sort of view it like the old cartoons where they're in a food fight and people are throwing food back and forth, and there's the cartoon guy's sort of under the table, putting his hand up and grabbing a bottle of ketchup and grabbing a hamburger and grabbing a salad and at the end of this crazy food fight with all this chaos around, the character has a nicely set table with a nice meal and out of the chaos and all the flying objects, he's been able to assemble a great moment.

The same thing if you're assembling a company or you're trying to project an artistic or creative moment, create a movie, create a piece of art, create a music, an album. It's bringing a calm sense of clarity to what is usually panic mode around you for whatever reason, and trying to just execute slowly. When things get out of control for me, I try to calm everything down. I'd rather do nothing. I'd rather go to sleep. I'd rather read a book and come back the next morning stronger and better with more clarity.

Charles:

Powerful. I'm conscious of the time. I've got a couple of wrap up questions. Before we get to those, part of the challenge of leading is that, as you've talked about, you have to set a vision, you have to be clear about where you're trying to get to personally and organizationally, and then at some point you have to turn over day-to-day responsibility for getting stuff done to other people. How do you go about, what's your philosophy about managing other people?

Josh Wyatt:

I love this question. I think my response is probably going to be not terribly popular. I've had this discussion and debate with some of my peers and colleagues and I've done a lot of thinking on it.

It goes back to one of your earlier questions about happiness of people and really allowing them to find their true creative North Star and whether or not you empower that North Star or you dim the North Star. My management style is the same way, which is I came into NeueHouse with a clear agenda to delegate and to empower.

The way that I view it, and I think this is actually a pretty apt example, given our presence in Hollywood and the number of different entertainment members and clients that we work with. I view myself as a movie producer and my goal and my job every single day is to assemble and attract the right tools to allow the final result to get made. Part of that job is to empower and protect, empower and protect. Those are the two words that I think about when I'm dealing with and/or interacting with my, whether it's my immediate peers on the executive team or the directors underneath.

It's allowing the talent underneath and I call the employees “talent” because that's really what they are. The talent underneath, it's not that they're a junior director or it's not that they're an employee reporting up to the CFO or the Chief Brand Officer or the CEO or the Global Head of Membership. Those are the four executive spots that we have, but it's rather that we have talented individuals underneath us who have incredibly explosively amazing ideas, 80% which are great, 20% probably are crazy.

My job is to just guide and direct and allow greatness to happen. More often than not, greatness does happen within this company. You can't put it on a spreadsheet. It's probably one of the most amazing but yet frustrating things because as we think about how do we expand the company? What is the value of the company? Oftentimes it's very, very hard to articulate what I call this whimsical sense of intimacy and magic that happens within NeueHouse for the employees.

Empower and protect. If I can actually achieve those two things, I think that we can actually grow this company into a very, very special place. It's very rare that you actually get that opportunity. I always tell my talent, I say, "Look, you may or may not realize it right now, but when you do encounter times of frustration or unhappiness with what you're doing, take a step back and look at the bandwidth and the free level playing field that you have to achieve some pretty amazing things here at what is oftentimes a very young age."

I would rather go down that route rather than being a micromanager or being like a highly dictatorial person because again, life is too short. I may be wrong, by the way. I may go down in a sinking boat on this premise and if so, I'd rather be in that boat sinking rather than running my life and running the company in a different way.

Charles:

I couldn't agree with you more about the notion of describing the people that work for you as talent. I think it's a mistake that companies fall into too easily. It's just lazy to call people “employees” because it kind of categorizes them through a certain lens, even if you don't really quite mean that.

I think one of the points that I make to a lot of my clients is the people who work for you have a choice every morning. They don't have to come and work here. I think as we create companies that promote this sort of level of self awareness and the ability for people to decide, “Is this really the right company for me?” People will make those choices even more easily than they do to say, "Actually, this isn't working for me. I don't need to work here." The notion of saying, "These are talented people and I want to create an environment in which I am unlocking that," works for them and therefore works for the business.

Josh Wyatt:

I say this to the talent and to the people that are sort of making ... They're in this called second, third turn on their career. They've made it out of the first couple years after university and they're now finding their identity. I say this, there would be no greater pleasure for me, looking back on this 20 years from now, let's say, and you know, 10-20 of the people in the company today have gone on to create amazing businesses, you know, or done amazing things in the political world or the social enterprise world. I want to see our talent eventually become alumni of NeueHouse. And that alumni base creates great companies.

There's some great leaders in the hospitality space and in the design space where if you look back on their true legacy, is it that they built a couple of amazing companies? Maybe. Yeah, I'd argue that's great. But what's even greater is looking at people like Ian Schrager, Barry Sternlicht, Andre Blahs, Harvey Spevak, people that have worked for these people have gone on to great companies. That's a great legacy. If I can be on a beach somewhere or surfing, 65 years old and look back and there's some of our people have gone on to create those companies, it would give me no greater pleasure in life.

Charles:

Yeah, well said. What are you afraid of?

Josh Wyatt:

Well that's a good question. It's funny, I'm afraid, I suppose, of ultimately waking up one day and really losing my sense of defined purpose and losing that drive. I've gone through, just like anyone I suppose, my ups and downs. When we sold Generator, which was an incredible financial success and brand success, if I had had it differently I would've held onto that company. It was my baby. I spent nine years building it with a couple dear friends of mine and it was a great run.

When we sold it, I lost purpose. I had nothing to do and I wouldn't call it depression, but I would certainly call it a deep sense of sort of whiddling in the wind. That's something that I don't want to feel again. That does scare me.

The other thing that scares me probably is Rafael Nadal beating Roger Federer's records. Other than that, actively following that one. But life is pretty good. I'm not scared by too many things.

Charles:

I resonate with your story about having sold the business and being in a situation for a bit of wondering what happens next and having to do something to catalyze that in a positive way. It was about the wonderful time and also a strange time.

I wrap every episode with three themes that I've heard that I think contribute to your success. One is you have, I think, established very clear definitions of success. You know what success means to you, both personally, for your family and for your business. I think, again, I find that to be rare in many leaders. They don't spend enough time thinking about what would this look like if it was actually working the way I want it to.

Second is you're clearly able to be very focused on doing things that then are going to drive towards those definitions of success and that clarity it seems to me would make it much easier for you to be able to actually get stuff done that matters to you and has meaning and consequence and impact.

Third, and there are a number of things I was thinking about as defining as the third one, but the one that really stands out most to me is your willingness and ability to trust. I mean given what happened to you as a teenager, I would think most people would have a very hard time trusting the way that you do, and the fact that you can, is I think already a competitive advantage from a leadership standpoint. I think great leaders do create an environment to which they can. I think coming from what you've gone through, that really stands out to me as remarkable. How do those sound?

Josh Wyatt:

Well, thank you. Those sound great. No, trust is absolutely key and I'd rather go into a situation trusting and hoping for the best for everyone. And more often than not, you're always pleasantly surprised.

Charles:

Josh, thank you so much for being here today. What an amazing conversation.

Josh Wyatt

Thank you so much. It's been fantastic.