Kevin Brown is one of the most in demand speakers today. He is the author of the best-selling, acclaimed book, “The HERO Effect® – Being Your Best When It Matters the Most”. He is a branding and culture expert with a 30+ year career in franchise development. He spent the last 19 years of his corporate career as an executive that built a little-known family business into the #1 franchise in their industry with annual revenues exceeding $2 billion dollars.
Kevin has received numerous honors, including being named one of the ‘Best Keynote Speakers of 2019’ by NorthStar Meetings Group; one of the ‘Top 41 Motivational Speakers Who Can Energize Any Sales Team’ by Resourceful Selling.
Kevin is so well liked because he is as talented a presenter as they come, a riveting storyteller, very funny, and delivers real content that can change your life.
For more on Kevin or to book him to speak, use this URL: speakers.cal-entertainment.com/profile/32335
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Kevin Brown: The Hero Effect… Do You Have It? – Virtually Speaking
Joining me is Kevin Brown, one of the hottest speakers in the speaking business, a former executive of a little-known family business, which he helped turn into the number one franchise in their industry with annual revenues exceeding $2 billion. He’s an author of the critically acclaimed bestseller, The HERO Effect. He has another much-anticipated book on the way. Please join me for a great conversation with Kevin Brown.
Kevin Brown, thank you for joining me on the show. How are you doing?
Chris, I’m doing great. It’s great to see you.
It’s great to see you too. I’m excited to have you. You’re one of my favorite speakers. I recommend you all the time. Everybody loves you. You’re so likable and easy to fall in like and love with as a speaker, the meeting professionals out there. It’s amazing. You’ve only been on the scene for a few years. I know you’ve spoken hundreds and hundreds of times, so I know that you’re busy and in demand. It makes sense. You’re funny. You’re likable. Your message is amazing. I do want to say, you are heroic to me. You’re my new latest hero because you’ve got my logo right next to you on the screen. Is this your studio? This is great.
I wanted to surprise you with that. I’ve been in the studio doing some virtual events. We did a virtual keynote live. We also did some prerecorded events. I said to my producer, Walter, “Let’s put Chris’s logo on the screen and see if we can get a smile out of him.”
The HERO Effect logo is there. That’s a great brand name. It’s a great call to action. It’s a great title for a book. I know you have a bestselling book by the same name. You’ve sold tens of thousands of copies. It all makes sense. When I first heard The HERO Effect, I was like, “Is he a hero? What’s he talking about?” When I found out the story of how this came to be, the central core belief and core message to what you’re saying as a thought leader, it’s moving. Tell everybody a little bit about how you came to that title.Being a hero is about being your best when it matters the most. Click To Tweet
Not to be cliché, I know I’ve heard other speakers say it. I don’t think we raise our hand one day and say, “I want to be a speaker. I want to be a keynote speaker. I want to be on the road 200 days a year. I want to sleep in hotels and be away from my family.” It did pick me. I had a great career, 32 years in corporate America. The last years, I was with a little-known family business. I was one of two non-family executives in the company. Life was good. About a decade ago, this seed was planted in my mind about heroes. It became The HERO Effect. The through line was being your best when it matters the most. I started talking to people.
What does it mean to be a hero? Nowadays, we hear the word hero, we hear about being essential but back then people talked about heroes but it was hard to get your arms around what does that mean. Our military men and women are heroes, doctors and nurses, first responders, moms and dads, teachers. There are heroes all around us. This idea of what does it mean to be a hero, it took on a life of its own. When I started, I had the definition of the hero wrong. Everybody I asked said heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. About 1.5 year into this journey, we decided that wasn’t the right answer. We believe that heroes are extraordinary people who choose not to be ordinary.
When we started looking through that lens, Chris, it changed everything. That’s one of those lines where it makes people tilt their head and go, “What did you say?” What we realized was that if you believe that heroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things, you have first to convince yourself that you’re ordinary in the first place. We don’t think that’s how it was drawn up. We think everybody was put here with talents, gifts and abilities that they can use to help somebody else. When we help somebody else, no matter how big or how small it may seem, that makes you a hero in our mind, when we lift each other up, when we pick each other up, when we help move people from where they are to someplace new, we think that’s extraordinary. That’s our definition, extraordinary people choosing not to be ordinary, being your best when it matters the most. In years, we’ve been in front of over 500 organizations from Fortune 50 companies to mom-and-pop teams up and down main street.
It’s a great thing to be teaching, spreading the word about, talking about to people and planning everything you put out there as a thought leader around. I feel like there might be a coinciding timeline there with your son. Is that right?
I have a son. His name is Josh. In fact, he goes by Josh-Brown. If you met him, he would tell you his name is Josh-Brown. He thinks it’s hyphenated, all one word. Josh has autism. We’ve known that since he was a little bitty guy, 2 or 3 years old. We started to see the signs. When he was five years old, he was diagnosed. Fortunately for me, I’m married to a hero. I married a real-life Wonder Woman. Her name is Lisa. We’ve been married for years. She’s one of the most amazing people I know.
When the world put that diagnosis on our son, when they tried to make that his storyline or his truth, this hero that I’ve been married to for years took that storyline and she started to rewrite it. She told her son, “That’s not your destiny. Their opinion is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. All that matters is what you believe.” They told us this kid wouldn’t graduate high school. They told us he wouldn’t go to college. He did both of those things. He has continued to defy the odds because his mom has had a gigantic vision for his life. It’s been a powerful thing to watch from my perspective as a dad, as a leader, as a speaker. I stand in awe of the two of them because they keep knocking it out of the park.
You were an executive at a company. When you started getting into the speaking business, I’m trying to figure out when you made that jump from being an executive to, “I’m going to be a thought leader,” where was the moment? My other question is also as that executive at that company, you must have been one who was in front of people a lot. You have a natural ability in front of an audience. It’s clear cut head and shoulders above 95% of the speakers that anybody will ever see. It’s because of your ability to be funny, your sense of humor, your comfortableness, your poise. You could have been a stand-up comedian, in my opinion. Tell me a little bit about how that was already inside you before you became a speaker. Was that also something you used as an executive?
I grew into it. I was always a behind-the-scenes guy, an introvert in so many ways, not an upfront person. In my corporate role, I evolved into becoming the culture guy inside the organization, focused on people, focused on the customer experience inside the organization and outside the organization. By virtue of that, it started putting me on stage a little bit more. I was blessed I had a mentor and a boss, one of the owners of the organization that saw something in me that I didn’t see. He pushed me on stage way back in 2002 in front of 1,000, 1,500 people, something like that. John Maxwell was our keynoter that year. John Maxwell was in the front row. My boss sends me out there to do fifteen minutes. The only thing I remember was he said, “Be funny and don’t mess this up.” Those were my instructions.
I remember John Maxwell’s there in the front row and he’s watching all these people. Something clicked in my mind. They loved me back. I loved being there. From that point on, it started to grow. The humor piece, I have a very dry sense of humor. It’s subtle. You have to pay attention. I have to be funny because I have a poor resting face. My wife tells me all the time, “You don’t look like a speaker. You look like security.” She told me I looked like The Wolverine. I said, “You mean I look like Hugh Jackman?” She said, “I didn’t say anything like that. I said you look like The Wolverine.” She always tells me to smile. This is my happy face. I’m ecstatic to be on the show with you. The humor is a great part because I don’t look like I’m going to be funny. I look buttoned up and protective.
You look like one of their leaders, one of the executives of any company you speak to. You look like that salt of the earth guy next door, a tough guy, football player, sports athletic guy, not a nerd, a fun guy. It’s funny the first time I heard you speak, I was like, “This guy is funny.” That was a couple of years ago when I first found out about you. It was weird. I remember 2 or 3 people in my world had said your name, that they had booked you, that they were interested in you, they’re seeing you and liked you. I was like, “Who is this Kevin Brown? I’ve been doing this for fifteen years.” I never heard of you. I was like, “This guy’s cool. The HERO Effect, that’s cool.” As soon as I saw you, I was like, “This guy’s got it.” You’ve got to give it to me. Give everybody the magic.
Do you remember you called me? After you’d heard my name a couple of times, you called me. I’ll never forget it. It was a Friday afternoon or Friday night. I was at home. I lived in Nashville back then.
I made it feel like a Friday night but it was a Wednesday or Thursday night.
You’re so much fun. You always make it feel like Friday. You called me. I’ll never forget. The first thing you said to me is, “Who are you?” I said, “Who are you?” You said, “I’m Chris Lee, CAL Entertainment,” which I knew the name. I knew who you were. I was like, “Chris, hi.” You said, “I’ve heard your name. I have no idea who you are,” which is a story of my life. Everybody thinks I’m the Kevin Brown that played baseball for years in the Major League. I’m not that guy. That started our relationship. You and I had a great conversation. That’s how this whole thing has gone for me. We’ve done almost zero marketing. It’s been purely the message. It’s been purely the gifting. That’s how I view this. I view this all as a gift, that it was an opportunity to pour into people, to give back, to help train other leaders and to help bridge the gap between where people are and where they’re going. I’m so lucky to do what I do.
You make it seem so easy. You make it seem like you were born to do it. I’m thinking to myself, “What is it that makes a speaker great?” People have to watch your content. This is a great way for people to get to know you. Watching you on stage is like watching a polished performer. When you watch early Jerry Seinfeld, you see that he was already polished. As a brand-new comedian, he already had it all figured out and written out. He was confident and he had great lines. All the other comedians said, “You had it together more than any of us. You knew what you were doing.” That’s what you exert, Kevin. It came to you.Heroes are extraordinary people choosing not to be ordinary. Click To Tweet
That’s what I tell a lot of speakers. I’ve said this many times. You can’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to be a keynote speaker. All these people are making money speaking. I can do that.” That’s not what happens. What happens is the world around you tells you, “You should be a speaker.” Your friend says, “Can you come and tell your story at our church or at the school?” Your boss says, “Can you deliver a speech for fifteen minutes in front of a well-known speaker and 1,500 people? Don’t screw it up.” They knew you could handle it. They knew you had the messaging, the talent, the ability and the likeability. I’m putting a lot of emphasis on this but it’s true. You are polished and funny. I know you make a point of this. No two speeches are the same. You always customize it and make sure you listen to the clients. I’ve heard that from the clients you’ve spoken to as well that you hit it out of the park with their themes and with their topic.
It’s important, Chris. It’s part of why you do what you do. We’re co-creators in this process for the people we serve. Their theme, their values, their mission, their vision, not me pounding my message into their world but rather supporting what’s important to them. I’m going to do my due diligence. I want everybody in that audience, virtually or otherwise, I want them to think that I work there and they just haven’t met me. To your point, I don’t think this is something you teach other people. I view what I do with a lot of gratitude. I have speakers come to me all the time and say, “Can you teach me how to do what you’ve done?” I’m transparent with them. I tell them I can’t because I don’t quite understand it.
We have an obligation to the gifting or to whatever talent is there. We have an obligation to develop it, to hone it and to work with it. The more we give it away, the better we get at doing it. We give that to our clients. We give that to attendees. We do have fun with it. We have a great time. A 75-minute speech feels 15 minutes for me and for them. I hear that a lot. To me, I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet to be able to do what I do, to partner with people like you, to take events to a completely different level.
It’s awesome to be able to recommend somebody who you know is going to get a rave review guaranteed. After the thing is over, you’re going to hear that. That’s what my job is to suggest the perfect person no matter who they are, who represents them, to get the perfect person in front of that audience for that client because then that clients can say, “Chris Lee suggested this guy and hit it out of the park. I want him to give me suggestions again.” That’s the whole goal and the whole point. Let’s dive deeper into The HERO Effect. I’ve enjoyed listening to you talk. You have this opinion that everybody is extraordinary.
Everybody has something inside them that’s special. You don’t have to be a leader. You can be a frontline guy. You can be anybody in any respect. You can be a mom. You can be a gas station attendant, whatever it is and hit it out of the park. You also said this thing that I heard that I never forgot. It’s almost like you could change the name or your title to The MacGyver Effect. You talked about how you love that TV show. That sums up in a lot of ways how you look at life, how everybody can look at life and that’s how you become a hero. You take what’s in front of you and you use it to your benefit. You take the bad news of the pandemic and say, “I’m going to rewrite the story.” You take the bad news of a “diagnosis” and you rewrite the story. Please, talk a little bit about all that.
MacGyver, that’s near and dear to my heart. That goes way back. I’m not talking about the modern remake of MacGyver. I’m talking about Richard Dean Anderson, real deal, a guy with Swiss Army knife, jumper cables, a quarter. He changed the world. If there’s a metaphor that fits what I do, that’s it. It’s about take what you have. Somebody said it years ago, “Do what you can with what you have right where you are.” That’s what we’re called to do. The reason we got so distracted with this hero thing is because our humility says, “I’m not a hero. I’m just an ordinary person.” I understand why we say that. It aligns with our humility but it makes no sense because what we’re doing is saying, “I don’t have to do anything special. I don’t have to use these gifts that I was given.”
If you think about life in itself, science tells us the day we were dropped off at the pool, there were 100 million other kids dropped off at the same moment. I’ll give everybody a second to let that sink in for a minute. The day we were dropped off at the pool, 100 million other kids were dropped off at the same moment and only one got through. There are 100 million opportunities for somebody to get here and it turned out it was you. You were the best swimmer. You were the little Michael Phelps that made your way through the crowd. You got here first. You think about that, talents, gifts and abilities as unique as your fingerprints. You got here 100 million opportunities for somebody to exist and it turned out it was you. I think that’s extraordinary. I don’t think there’s anything ordinary about that.
Over time and conditioning, it beats into us that we’re simply average. We’re like everybody else. We shrink down to that level. We go through life in this rut. I love what Paul J. Meyer used to say. He said, “A rut is nothing more than a grave with the ends kicked out.” Most people go through life and all you see is their head. They’re going through life, bobbing up and down, marching in line with every other ordinary person that they know. The reason that we’re drawn to certain people, the reason that we pull them out of the pile and we lift them up and we separate them from everybody else is because when they show up and do what they do, they do it differently. I use this analogy in my keynotes. I talk about when we were kids. Nothing sums up this idea and this belief of being a hero than when we were kids.
I had heroes when I was a kid. I don’t know about you. I bet you did too. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. I knew she was something special. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys, Tony Dorsett, all those guys. Of all the heroes, Chris, I wanted to be Superman. Every little boy wanted to be Superman. I used to tie a bath towel around my neck, run through the house, jumping off furniture, pretending to fly. It drove my mother crazy. My wife doesn’t like it either. I’m running through the house. I’m jumping off furniture, pretending to fly.
You’re still doing it with your wife?
It drives her crazy but it’s okay. I have to be a little more careful because it’s easier to get hurt at this age. Think about when we were kids, there was nothing we couldn’t do. My brother, sister and I, we used to live for the day when somebody in our neighborhood would buy a washer or dryer. We wanted the box. I knew that you would get this. We wanted the box because it wasn’t a box. It was a spaceship or race car, army fort. We would spend all day long to the heavens and back in a single afternoon in a silly cardboard box. We would splash our color on that box. There were no committees. There were no silos. There was no pretense. There were no politics. It was just us alone with our imagination.
The problem is we grow up and we outgrow that vision that we had as a kid. We grow up and the box looks different. We grow up and we start trying to convince ourselves that we need to think outside the box when the fact is the game is played inside the box. The reason that we stop in our tracks and admire certain people, the reason that we separate them from the competition is because some people never stopped learning how to decorate the box. They show up every day, whether you’re Roger Staubach, whether you’re Michael Jordan, whether you’re Serena Williams. They show up and they splash their uniqueness on that box. That’s why it looks different. We’re drawn to them. We want to work for them. We want to be married to them. We want to be friends with them. It’s because they never lost that ability to color the box, to bring the best of themselves and splash it all over the people in their life.
I want to ask you a question. You have a son with autism. This is your message. Why do most people, in your analogy, which is the truth, listen to the negative feedback? Why do they believe that they are not special, that they shouldn’t have fun, that if they’re different, it’s in a bad way? I have my own answers. I think our brain is trained to think negatively because we’re always thinking of the fear to protect ourself from being in the wilderness, from the lions, the tigers, the bears and everything that’s in our DNA to protect us. The fear and the negativity are innately ours but is that still why people listen to it? How do they get out of it?
I think part of it is you’re right. We’re trained to think negatively. We’re trained to listen to authority. I grew up in a generation where a doctor said it must be true. If it’s on the internet, it must be true. That’s only part of the answer that we’re trained to buy this diagnosis. When I watched what my wife did with our son, she listened to the diagnosis. She took it in and then she had to make some decisions based on that. We had to make some decisions as we talked about it. The reason some people accept it is it takes the pressure off. If somebody says you can only go here, then we don’t have to have any expectations to go here. We can stay right here. A lot of people go through life believing less than is possible for them because somebody told them that was the case. I don’t have to aspire to more.We have an obligation to give our talents, to develop and hone them. The more we give it away, the better we get at doing it. Click To Tweet
What my dear wife showed me was, “That diagnosis has nothing to do with his prognosis. It has nothing to do with his potential. It only has to do with their limitations to treat him.” She took it upon herself. She said, “We’re going to treat him. We’re going to find him specialists. We’re going to find people that have a bigger vision of their capabilities to help him discover his possibilities.” That’s what changed everything. She wrote the vision for his life. This kid graduated high school with honors. He went on to college. His dad didn’t even go to college. I’m a high school dropout. I was homeless for a period of time in my life. I was betrayed by some adults when I was a young man that sent my life spiraling out of control. My son has done so much more than I ever did. He stands as an example to me of all that’s possible.
It was because of the parents.
The great Les Brown used to say, “Someone else’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.” My wife, thank God, she buys into that theory. Thank goodness that over the years, I’ve trained myself. I’ve been listening to tapes. I’ve been listening to stuff since I was a teenager when my life was going south. The only way I got out of it was because of a mentor who introduced me to Earl Nightingale and The Strangest Secret. It started feeding my young mind with a different vision of what was possible versus my past. It’s quite profound what can happen when we buy into a bigger vision.
That’s interesting that you brought up this tough childhood that you had. A lot of people would go through that tough childhood and they would not come out on the other end better for it or learning some lessons and growing from that. They would come to it. Maybe get into drugs or maybe get into that depression and never emerged from it. It sounds like you had a mentor. You also had the inner strength to want to listen to that mentor, listen to those tapes and read those books. There was something inside you, even though you were let down by some adults. Tell us a little bit about that period of your life. It’s interesting that you turned into the guy you are now.
I look back and it almost feels like a completely different life, almost like the tale of two lives. When you look at my life from 0 to 26 years old and then 26 to 53 years old, it’s two different stories. What I said comes from my own experience. If you are beat down, if there is no expectation of you, if you didn’t even finish high school and there are no expectations of you, then you can fly under the radar and you become invisible. You become invisible to the world and literally, you slip through the cracks. I left school. Nobody even knew I was gone for a month. I lived in hospital waiting rooms. I’m dragging around this old duffel bag with everything I own, which wasn’t much but it was a cassette tape player and some things like that.
I slept in hospital waiting rooms. Nobody would question it because they don’t know if you’re there waiting for a loved one. I bounced around. I wore out my welcome, friends, family spare rooms, garages, couches, all that stuff. I’m going through life miserable, hating life, hating myself, wondering why this is happening to me. I was mad at anything and everybody who had ever crossed my path. It wasn’t until I met a mentor who was willing to teach me some life skills, some principles, was willing to give me a chance, taught me how to be a salesperson, and changed my life financially forever. Not only did he teach me how to sell, he taught me how to see.
My wife with Josh-Brown took that storyline. He also took the storyline of a thirteen-year-old kid who was broken, who was defeated, who had no vision for his life. The only vision he had was his past. He was willing to confront that kid. He was willing to discipline that young man. He became a second father in my life. He taught me how to have a sense of humor, taught me how to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously. He’s one of my biggest champions. I lost him a number of years ago. He passed away. I always say heroes never die. Heroes live on in the lives of the people that they shepherd, mentor, and pour into. I hear myself say things sometimes and it’s him. I hear myself say things sometimes and it’s my dad. Heroes never die.
Would you have found somebody else? I think about that when you say, “He came into my life.” You were looking for that. You were looking for somebody. I feel like if that guy hadn’t come into your life, you would have had a horrible life and none of this would’ve happened. Maybe not, maybe there would have been somebody else. I think you have to be open to that or you have to be putting it out there, “Maybe I need a second father.”
I had a young man tell me one time. This was late in my corporate career before I retired to do what I do. He came to me. He knew my story. He knew some of my backstory. He came to me and said, “That’s great for you but a lot of us don’t ever have any mentors in our life. Congratulations to you. For the rest of us, life sucks.” I told him oddly enough. His name was Chris, as well. I said to him, “Chris, mentors have always and will always be around you but until you’re ready to see them, until you’re ready to embrace them, more importantly until you’re ready to receive what they have to offer, you’ll never see them. They’ll always be invisible to you.” That’s how my life was. I think I was hungry. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working. I knew that I didn’t like myself. I knew that I didn’t like my circumstances. I knew that I had let a lot of people down, that I let what happened to me as a thirteen-year-old boy. It went on for 13, 14, 15, 16.
What happened during that period of my time, I let it define me. I let it become my badge that I wore around, the poor pitiful me. I would dump it on everybody in my path. People get tired of the dark cloud when it comes around. People get tired of the saddled story but they don’t always know how to help. David, my mentor, knew how to help. He knew that he could help reprogram, recondition, help me revision my life, restore my life in so many ways. He did it. He kept me between the ditches. When I’d fall off the tracks, he grabbed me. He pulled me back. He’d keep me between the ditches. It wasn’t easy. The guy was a saint. The guy listened to me. He could tell the story of the thirteen-year-old kid better than I could. I told him that many times.
He said something to me one time that was powerful. He said, “The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence. You keep telling me you want to go somewhere new but all you talk about is where you’ve been. If you want to go back there, you’re going to have to go by yourself. If you want to go somewhere new, I’ll take you.” He did. He will never ever be far from my thoughts. He’ll never ever be far from the words that come out of my mouth. That’s for sure.
I always think about that. You must have had a shred of love. You said you didn’t like yourself. You were self-pity and all of that. You love yourself enough to listen to him and to know you needed him. It’s sad that there are going to be people who maybe have those opportunities to listen to somebody and they aren’t ready to listen or they don’t love themselves enough to listen. It’s interesting to find out, to figure out and hear these stories and see that some people don’t have that love in there and that belief in their self. Sometimes it’s in the same family. They’ll have two kids who grew up under bad circumstances. One grows up to be successful and one grows up to have a lot of issues. It might be a little bit of DNA again or it might be maybe a little different experience they had with the parents. I don’t know.
I think there’s a yearning inside that you know there’s more, you know there’s something different, you know there’s something better but we live in a tragedy mindset. We live in a scarcity mindset. The world we live in is so much easier to be a victim than a victor. It’s so much easier to have people feel sorry for you than to cheer you on as you’re headed toward the next big thing in your life. For me, the biggest turning point, the biggest thing that David taught me was that I had to be my own best advocate. I had to be my own best cheerleader. It wasn’t up to anybody else. Nobody cared about my story except me. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing the story. The greatest joys in my life, I never got into this to chase money. I had a nice corporate career. I did well. I did this because I was called to do it and I feel like I have a responsibility to do it.
The greatest reward I get are the emails, the handwritten notes, the things that people send me in the mail book that they thought over and the notes, Chris, what they write to me about. They’re in the audience and it was a moment when they were ready to receive it, when they were ready to hear it, when they were ready to do something with it. That was the other part of the thing. When I was a young man and I was listening to all these tapes, Earl Nightingale, Jim Rohn, Napoleon Hill and all this stuff. I could recite it all but I didn’t know how to apply it. David helped me learn how to apply it and start building those blocks of success. You have this little success and that leads to another one and then another one. When somebody sits in my audience and they catch it, maybe they’ve heard it 1,000 times but the way I said it or maybe they laughed when they heard it, it clicked. It resonated and they go, “I can do this.” I’m blessed because I mentor a lot of people.A lot of people go through life believing less than is possible for them because somebody told them that was the case. Click To Tweet
David lives on through you. If you think about it, he was your mentor but he also has mentored all of the hundreds of thousands of people that you have mentored and that you have talked to. That’s a cool image.
On his death bed, I promised him that I would tell his story every chance I got. Mind you, I wasn’t on the big stage yet. I wasn’t doing what I do. I promised him that I would always tell his story and never knew that the doors that have opened for me would open. I’m sure he had something to do with that.
Do you think the hero in The HERO Effect is David?
The hero in my life certainly is David. The hero in The HERO Effect is every single person that reads it and every single person that’s represented in the book, whether it’s my wife, whether it’s my son, whether it’s David, all of the people. My wife said something to me when I started talking about heroes. She said, “If you want to talk about heroes, go look in the mirror. When you’re done looking at yourself, notice all of the people who are standing there with you, all of the people who poured into your life. If you don’t see their reflection next to yours, then you’ve missed the picture completely. Ego has overtaken your life and you need to get back to thinking about other people.” She’s so right. When I look in the mirror, I see David, my dad, my son, my wife, my fifth-grade teacher, a seventh-grade history teacher, people who tried to save me back then but didn’t know how. Thankfully, David was able to put me on the right track.
What’s the number one story that you like to tell in your keynotes? I know you are similar to some of my other favorite speakers who have some stories that don’t insert to their speech for the right audience, the right time for the right themes. What’s your favorite story to share and would you share with us?
I’ll tell you a part of it. I won’t give the whole thing away. I can tell you that Apple pancakes is one of my favorite stories to tell. It involves my son. When he was seven years old, he discovered Walt Disney World. If you know anything at all about Walt Disney World, you know it’s a magical place. It’s magical because when you go there, your money disappears. When Josh was seven, he discovered it. Kids with autism, when they get something on their brain, it’s the only thing that exists in the whole world. For two years, he obsessed about Walt Disney World. We waited until he was nine years old to make the trip. We wanted to make sure that he could enjoy it and it wasn’t so overwhelming for me. I’m not a good vacation taker, I never have been. For years, Lisa thought she was married to a laptop computer. I always had family time but I would always have the laptop open, present but not accounted for.
On this particular trip, she made me sign a metaphorical contract. She said, “Dad, we’re going to Disney for eight days. I need you to be a dad. Your son, this is the trip of a lifetime. Be a dad.” I did what I always do. I said, “Yes, ma’am.” The briefcase and the laptop stayed at home. We went to Walt Disney. He was nine years old. On the first day of our trip, we go down. We’re eating in the same hotel that we’re staying in, which was great planning on their part because I don’t like trams. I don’t like crowds of people. We go down to this restaurant and the hostess greets us. She’s got a gigantic smile, “Welcome, Brown family. We’re so glad you’re here. We have a table just for you.” I’m making mental notes. I’m in the people business. I told Lisa that I wouldn’t work but I’m at the customer experience mecca of the universe.
I’m paying attention with a giant smile. That’s brilliant. Brown family, we love the sound of our name. That’s a nice touch. The table just for us, how special. Chris, she takes us to our table. She hands us menus. She steps back and she says, “Brown family, may I be the first to wish you a magical day?” I’m thinking like, “You people are good at what you do.” She leaves. The waitress comes over and has zero expression, looks a little bit ticked off. She comes over. She looks at Lisa and says, “Can I get you something to drink?” Lisa says, “You can but I need to tell you my son’s on a special diet. There are lots he can have and lots he can’t.” Before Lisa could say another word, the waitress put her hand on my wife’s face. She said, “Ma’am, I need to stop you right there. I’m not going to be able to take your order. You’re going to need to speak to the executive chef.” She disappeared. I’m ticked off.
I’ve got a boatload of money wrapped up in this trip. I have a few expectations. Smiling is one of them. If you could whistle while you work, that’d be great. We appreciate it. In fact, if you could hum It’s a Small World, that’d be terrific. Lisa was looking at me. Lisa knew I was upset. She said, “Bite your tongue. I don’t need Captain Freak Out to show up. Let me handle this.” I did. I didn’t say a word. The executive chef comes out and it’s easy to spot. She’s got a big white coat and a giant Chef Boyardee hat. She comes out. She looks right at Josh-Brown. Chris, she looks him dead in the eye and she says, “Good morning, sunshine. How are you?” Josh lowered his head and he said, “Good morning.” He’s super shy. She said, “My name is Bea. I understand somebody is on a special diet. How can I help?” She pulls a notebook out and starts writing down everything that Lisa says he can have and everything that he can’t. She starts asking questions. “What’s in that? How do you make that? Where do you get that?” The most important question, “What’s his favorite?”
When she gets done, she puts her notebook away. She says, “Sunshine, what’s for breakfast?” Josh says, “Apple pancakes, please.” That’s his favorite. She said, “Sunshine, I’m so sorry. Mom told me how to make them but I don’t have the ingredients. How about some bacon, eggs and some special toast?” He nods. She leaves. Ms. Personality comes back and takes the rest of our order. We ate. We left. We were completely satisfied. Most people would end the story right there and say, “We were satisfied. We had a good morning. That’s great.” The problem with that is satisfaction doesn’t get us a ticket to the dance anymore. I’m amazed at how many people chase satisfaction, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, vendor satisfaction. Satisfaction makes us like everybody else.
I love what Kelly Swanson says. She says, “Nobody notices normal.” That’s so true. Nobody notices when we simply satisfy the customer. Mick Jagger has been chasing it his whole life. He can’t find it. We were satisfied but it wasn’t anything we were going to tell anybody about. What happened the next day, we got up bright and early. I said, “Josh-Brown, where are we eating breakfast?” He said, “Dad, I want to go see Aunt Bea.” “Who?” I looked at Lisa and she said, “Bea, the executive chef. Bea.” He said, “Dad, I want to go see Aunt Bea.” I said, “We’ve got all these other places to go.” He’s said, “Dad, I want to go see Aunt Bea.” She had made an impression on our boy. Out the door, down the escalators then we get to the restaurant. The hostess greets us with a giant smile, “Welcome back, Brown family. No reservation, no problem. We have a table just for you.” I’m thinking, “I’m sure you do.” She takes us to the exact same table we were at the day before. Guess who’s working our section? Ms. Personality.
She still hadn’t got the memo. Don’t you think during onboarding, somebody would tell her she works at the happiest place on earth? No clue. She saw that it was us. She didn’t even come to the table. She went to the back of the restaurant. From the back of the restaurant, Aunt Bea comes out. She says, “Good morning, sunshine,” to which I promptly said, “Good morning.” She said, “I’m not talking to you.” She looks at Josh and she says, “Sunshine, what’s for breakfast?” “Apple pancakes, please.” “You got it, sweetheart. Coming right up.” “Timeout, Aunt Bea. Do you remember us from yesterday?” “Yes, sir. I do. Sir, why are you calling me Aunt Bea?” Fair question. “Bea, yesterday you didn’t have the ingredients, true? Today you do?” “Yes.” “Where did you get them?” “In the store.” “You sent someone to the store?” “No, sir. I stopped on my way home last night. We have them all over Florida. Anybody can go.”
I looked at her, Chris, and I said, “Bea, why would you do that?” It was a powerful answer. She looked at me and she said, “I thought that’s what he wanted.” I thought, “Let me make a note. Give the customer what they want or need, whether we serve it or not. Ballgame.” We ate there every day for eight days. When we left, we bought a card. Josh signed it. We put money in it. We wrote her boss a letter. We bought another card, put money in it. We bought her birthday presents. Disney is still costing me a fortune is what I’m getting at, but isn’t it true?
We’ll pay a premium for that. In the absence of that kind of experience, we’re commoditized and compete on price. Aunt Bea became a permanent member of our family because of one moment in time. We’ve had multiple encounters with her over the years. There are three more parts to that story that keeps writing itself that this young man keeps having these intersections with Aunt Bea because of one moment in time when he was nine years old. It’s our signature story and it’s taken me around the world.Heroes never die. Heroes live on in the lives of the people that they shepherd, the people they mentor, and the people that they pour into. Click To Tweet
It’s powerful stuff. You are filled with inspirational ideas. It’s centered around thinking of others, doing the best you can with whatever circumstances you have and not taking a status quo for the answer. That’s amazing. I appreciate it.
We live in a world, Chris, where the world could use some Apple pancakes. The world most definitely needs heroes. When my time on this planet is done, I want people to say he did everything he could to help people recognize the heroes around them but more importantly, discover the one that’s in them. Here’s what I truly believe. If people go through life thinking that they’re simply ordinary people, then they not only cheat themselves out of a great life but they robbed the rest of us of their greatest contribution. What disease could have already been cured? What problem could have already been solved? What thing could have already been given to this planet if somebody believed that they were extraordinary in the first place?
It’s serious and it’s amazing. It’s funny because I remember seeing a Wayne Dyer speech years ago. He was called the godfather or the grandfather of motivational speaking. He said something and this was years ago. I saw it on TV. I wrote it down. I’ll never forget it. It’s almost exactly what you said. “You must be what you can be.” That’s something that I think about. Am I being what I can be? Am I giving up on an idea I had, a dream that I had because I’ve been lazy, I’m afraid or I don’t think I can pull it off?
It’s fear and it’s uncertainty. Think about it. I say it a little bit differently. Wayne Dyer is one of my heroes too. People say this all the time. They’re like, “I’ve done all I can do,” which is never true. My thought is, “If all you can do is all you can do, then by God do all you can do. Please do all you can do because if you don’t, what do we lose as a people if you don’t show up and do that?” There are times when I don’t want to climb on another airplane. There are times when I don’t want to sit in front of the camera but that’s not my choice. My decision was to honor the gift. My decision was to honor the message and to honor the call. I love what Bob Dylan said. Bob Dylan said, “A hero is somebody who recognizes the responsibility that comes with freedom.” What a powerful quote that is. The enormous responsibility that comes with freedom is pouring back into everybody that also enjoys that freedom and doing our part to make this world a better place.
I think that in this pandemic world that we’re living in, there are more heroes than have ever been before. More people have stepped up and done amazing things than maybe ever in history in humanity.
It proves my point. They’ve always been there. They just haven’t been visible.
Your message resonates and is needed. It needs to come out and highlight these people even more than ever. It’s a perfect timing to have you on my show. I’m so excited that you agreed. I’m so excited that you’re here. I’m so excited that you’re out there spreading this message because I believe in it from my heart. I know that many people need to be reminded. Sometimes it’s being reminded of who you are and what you can do. You’re great at that as well. This has been awesome. I could talk to you for a long time. This has been a great chunk of information and definitely somebody to watch more than once.
Thanks. What an honor to be on your show. Congrats on all the success with the show. I think it is much needed. I’m proud of you for doing this.
Thank you so much, Kevin. You are the man. I will see you again soon. This has been great. I look forward to talking to you soon.
Thanks. I can’t wait to see you. I’ll talk to you soon.
Take care. Thanks.