Tony Bridwell leads a global workforce of more than 2,200 employees at one of the world’s leading tax services firms, Ryan LLC. In an industry that’s often known for grueling work hours and little to no work-life balance, Tony cultivates a culture at Ryan that prioritizes employee wellbeing and overall wellness. From spearheading the company’s award-winning myRyan program, which gives employees incredible flexibility, to creating initiatives to minimize burnout and brownout from tax season, Tony is a leader in all things people.
In this podcast episode, Tony chats with host and Beni.fit CEO Kate King about his passion for people, why people shouldn’t go into “HR,” how the company mitigates burnout and brownout during tax season, and more. You’ll be nothing short of inspired after digging into this episode. Listen now!
[1:00] Tony explains why his title is Chief People Officer, not Chief Human Resource Officer
[6:00] Tony explains why people shouldn’t go into “HR”
[8:00 ] Tony talks about why culture needs to rise of the level of board oversight
[11:00] Tony defines culture
[16:00] Tony talks about the difference between pushing and leading
[17:00] Tony talks about the purpose of the paycheck to various generations
[21:00] Tony talks about the award-winning myRyan program
[23:00] “We went from focusing on activity, to results, and it was a massive, massive shift.”
[26:00] Tony talks about how Ryan minimizes burnout and brownout from tax season
[29:00] Tony describes what wellness and wellbeing look like at Ryan
[32:00] Tony shares the 3 rules he lives by. Hint: they’re profound!
[34:00] “We have a purpose and we have a reason to be here, we’re not an accident.”
[38:00] Tony shares his morning routine
[40:00] Tony explains why he keeps his journaling to one page per day
The Benifit Interview w/ Tony Bridwell, Chief People Officer at Ryan, LLC
Kate: Tony, thank you so much for joining us. I’m excited to talk to you today about your passion for people and your types of strategies and actions that you’ve instituted to create award winning programs in the industry. Before we get to the programs that you have created, could you just share with us a little bit about yourself, specifically, how and why you got into people leadership?
Tony: I love that. I love starting with the easy questions first, Kate.
Tony: Let’s just jump into the life philosophy. Why in the world do you do what you do? I am such a nontraditional HR person. Matter of fact, we don’t even call it HR in our firm. It’s referred to as the People Group because we deal with people all day long. My title is Chief People Officer. I’m not even the CHRO because we see it as much, much more than just wrangling humans around. I’m such a nontraditional. Look, I studied architecture theology and business in school. I round my way up to this spot and I’m like, “Whoof.” Okay. It seems like everything I’ve studied in life and everything I’ve done in life has brought me here.
It’s just been this purpose inside of me to help people find a better part of themselves and find their greatest potential. I just backed in here. Believe it or not, it was one of my clients, I was consulting in the industry for an international consulting firm specialized in culture and accountability, traveled around the world. He’s traveling 200 plus days a year working with some of the largest organizations in the world. Helping them, anywhere from tweak to transform their culture and in the process, learned a tremendous amount about [00:02:00] what makes organizations tick at the core.
One of my long-term clients, Brinker International, which owns Chili’s and Maggiano’s restaurants over the years, over 16 different brands of restaurants. One of my dearest clients I work with them since 2008, help them go through that crisis, put their culture back into place and really watch that organization come out the other end. You know what, at the end of the day, it was all about dealing with people. When the Legacy CEO chairman of the board retired, they put in a CEO in place. I’ve been working with him for five years. We went for dinner one night, he said, “Hey, have you ever think about coming off the road, 200 days a year and settling down and just work in one spot?”
He caught me on a good day and I looked up and I said, “I think about it all the time.” He said, “Why don’t you come be my chief people officer, the board wants me to have somebody who gets people.” I’m like, “Okay. Let’s go do that.” It has been an amazing ride ever since.
Since then, I’ve left Brinker in really good hands and now I’m with Ryan which is the world’s largest tax organization. I went from 60,000 people in 30 countries with about 50% millennials to 2,300 people in seven countries was 61% millennial and here’s the big difference. I went from a predominantly hourly workforce to a predominantly salary, super highly educated, world taxed neural sciences.
We go in and find some of the most difficult things there are when it relates to tax. It’s different groups of people but at [00:04:00] the end of the day, they’re all people. Everything I’ve ever done in my career, Kate, has gone back to helping me navigate through this old transactional HR which I’m desperately trying to, on this mission to change HR out of this transactional drudgery into this very strategic operational business moving vehicle because at the end of the day, it’s all people. Norman Bricker used to say this all the time. It was one of the greatest things and several people say, True Café, a Chick-fil-A [unintelligible 00:04:35] and Starbucks said it, several great leaders have said this.
Norman used to say it all the time. He used to say, “Look, at the end of the day, we’re out in the burger business serving people, we’re in the people business serving burgers. We can never forget that.” I think that leaders that lose sight of that, they do that at their peril. For me to come and sit in this chair, I quite frankly, I got the best gig in the world. I get to work with people all day long in all our frailties, our faults, our brokenness and I get to see tremendous leaders and future leaders really find their greatest potential and there’s no greater joy.
I’ve seen my career, architecture. Look architecture, taught me what structure looks like what it looks like to take something apart and the pieces and put it back together in a way that works in a functional way. In architecture, we used to say Form Follows Function. Lot of times people will just make something look really good but it didn’t work, right?
It’s like, it’s a beautiful chair but just don’t set in because it’s the most uncomfortable thing ever. We learned that we had to make something that worked but also was aesthetically well. Architecture taught me all about structure, and all about organization, all about design.
Theology obviously brought me really close to the human need and understanding [00:06:00] people at their core. Then business, at the end of the day, you just tie all three things together and here I am. People ask me all the time, Kate, ”Hey, I’m thinking about going into HR, what should I study?” The first thing I say is, “Well, one, don’t go into HR. [chuckles] Find somebody who doesn’t want and the classical traditional transactional HR, don’t go into that. Two, don’t study HR, study anthropology, study psychology, study anything.” What we’re finding is a lot of the programs now, the HR programs now are not fully preparing people to come into what the new future space of dealing with people looks like. Especially when it comes to dealing with culture, especially when it comes to dealing with some of these basic human needs that we have. I backed into it.
Kate: I love what you said, tick at the core and that’s really using your background of the form function with the architecture, theology. The tick at the core is– I haven’t heard those words in that order before. [chuckles] Can you just give me a little bit more flavor on, is this something that you did at Ryan? You’ve done everywhere? You’ve done in yourself? I really like this tick at the core because I feel like a lot of people get to your point HR is transaction but building a culture really takes a significant amount of energy to really not only just know the business dynamics but to your point, how to really honor the human in that.
Tony: Yes. It’s interesting that in NACD, the National Association of Corporate Directors so it’s the organization [00:08:00] of board directors. The NACD just commissioned a Blue-Ribbon Commission to look at the impact of culture and it’s a very fascinating report. If you go out search for it, it’s definitely worth the read and there was 10 recommendations that came out of this.
By the way, the Blue-Ribbon Commission is made up of the who’s who of board directors. This is the cream of the crop of people around the country that sit on corporate boards and the out of the 10 recommendations, here’s the primary recommendation. Culture needs to rise to the level of board oversight because it’s the greatest corporate asset available. Now that is a huge change from just 10 years ago, when you’d walk into an organization and say, “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about your culture.” The CEO would look at you and go, “I don’t have time for that warm and fuzzy stuff. I got to go get some business done.”
Kate: Didn’t we set up a little working team on that? [crosstalk] -on a Friday? [laughs]
Tony: Exactly. We got ping pong tables and foosball tables down the hall, we got all the culture that we need. I don’t need any more of that warm and fuzzy stuff. Then, what happened is the economy corrected at a level we hadn’t seen in a generation. The stock market goes from 12000 to 6000. Unemployment goes double digits and now all of a sudden, we’re staring at an environment that quite frankly many CEOs in their career had not experienced and they didn’t know what to do.
I was consulting at the time and in our business, we noticed two types of leaders emerge. One type would go into the fetal position, burn all the furniture and just try to stay afloat and the other leader would stand up and say, “Now’s the opportunity to pour into our people and get the most out of
[00:10:00] what we have to work with.” Those leaders came out the other side with double-digit returns. Those leaders came out the other sides, buying up all of those other organizations. Those leaders came out the other side understanding the true value of managing the culture so it doesn’t [inaudible 00:10:17].
Look, there’s some fundamental components on culture that everyone needs to know whether you sit in the CPO chair, in the CEO chair or whether you’re just a director or an individual contributor. Everybody needs to understand this. Every organization has a culture, every organization.
Now, when I say organization, you and I are having the conversation, we’re talking business but I’m talking family organizations, I’m talking non-profit organizations, I’m talking about your community, your church. Every organization, you get two or three people gathered together, you’ve got “culture.” Rarely, rarely do people fully understand what culture is.
The simplest definition is, it was classic. Earlier this year in February Texas A&M– One of the professors down at Texas A&M has been, if I come down and teach a class to grad students and their HR program. I asked them, “Hey, define culture.” This is a grad class. These are graduate students in the HR program. I thought, “Okay. I’m going to throw them a couple softballs. We’re going to get this thing rolling.” I asked them, “Okay. Define culture.” I swear to you, Kate, somebody Googled it. Somebody asked Siri, “Hey, what’s culture mean?” Because they’re reading off this dictionary definition that makes you want to be yawn because nobody really understands culture.
Look, if you strip it all down, culture is really, really simple. It’s the way people think feeling it. That’s it. Who makes up the culture? All the people in the organization make up the culture and what is culture? Culture is the way people think doing it. It is not any more complex than that.
Now, every organization has a culture whether you know it or not. The results that you’re getting in the organization, guess what? Your culture is perfectly aligned to get what you’re getting today [00:12:00] because what you’re getting today is produced by the people and the people make up the culture, so what you’re getting today, you’re absolutely perfectly 100% aligned to get what you’re getting, your culture.
The question that you have to constantly be asking yourself as a team leader or as a C-Suite, the matter is– Hey, look, can I get different, better, bigger, harder, more difficult results in the future with what I have today? The answer is almost always, no, I got to think and act differently if I’m going to get different results.
Well, if you think about that, I got to think and act differently. We tend to only lean into one of those two words, think and act. We tend to only lean into acting. We don’t really understand or have a full appreciation for the fact that people think and there’s a reason why they think. They hold a set of beliefs. They hold a set of values that drives what they do, think, do, act. That’s just the quenching in every mind, think, do, act.
Experiences cause what you think, they form what you think, what you think impacts how you act, how you act impacts what you do and what you get and it creates this big gigantic circle. Culture is not difficult. Unfortunately, we look at it incorrectly, we think of it as ping-pong tables and beer pong Fridays and flip-flop Tuesdays or whatever the case may be. While those are components of things, it does not make up ultimately the big picture. Organizations can actually control their destiny if they just simply paid attention to their people and how they think, feel and act.
Then, managing that with the proper set of tools and models to allow them to coach each other, to have better conversations with each other, that all guided by set of principles and values and beliefs [00:14:00] whatever you call them. Those are the organizations that make it through wobble times. Those are the organizations that accelerate through good times. Those are the organizations that gobble up others in the process because they know what they’re doing and they can get that in a sustainable way. Don’t get me started on that, you won’t shut me up, when you start talking about that.
Kate: Yes, I think you’re absolutely right. I think that many C-Suites and they’re really looking to create a coach or the coach is already there, you have what you have.
Tony: The coach was there. Yes, that’s right.
Kate: It’s bit like human form, right? You are who you are.
Tony: Yes. Well, you actually nailed it, Kate, because, look, every organization has a culture. Every senior that walks inherits culture or it’s part of the culture or has culture, every team leader. Let’s take this all the way down to team leader. I’m the new senior manager, I just inherited a team of five people. Guess what? You’ve a culture on that team and you have two options. You can manage it or it will manage you, you can be a pusher or a leader. We talk about this internally all the time. You can be a pusher or you can be a leader.
A pusher will push their way through to get a result. It is possible to go into manic control mode. We refer to it internally as muscling the result. It is possible, highly possible because it happens every single day. It is possible for a team leader or a C-Suite or whatever to actually muscle a result. Not delivering is not an option so I’m just going to get in there and I’m just going to push. I’m going to drive my people, I’m going to drive my team, I’m going to drive myself and I’m going to push. I’m going to push and push and push and you can actually get a result. You can actually get desired results by doing that. That’s the good news.
Bad news is, guess what? Every single day you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to push. We all know the data. [00:16:00] Look, it doesn’t take an MIT grad to figure out the data on this, that if you keep pushing, ultimately with full employment, we’re setting at full employment for the first time in, I don’t know what generation. You push people too hard and one day they’re going to wake up and go, “Why in the world am I getting pushed this hard? This doesn’t feel good,” and they’re going to leave. [inaudible 00:16:24] don’t go up, tension is going to start to wobble, you’re going to start losing valuable knowledge and they just don’t understand, well why is it.
Unfortunately, we end up throwing money at it which sometimes works but doesn’t always work because one misses the point. I’ve got so much data pulled up on my screen right now because I have a couple of speaking gigs later this month and I’m just going over some of the most recent data out. Monster.com just did a pretty substantial survey of gen X and gen Z and millennials along the way. Believe it or not, the gen Z group coming in and that’s anybody born after 2000. They outnumber millennials by about a million. This is a group that we’ve got to start paying attention to because they’re coming in to the workplace as you and I are speaking right now. [laughs] They’re coming into the workplace every single day and it’s absolutely fascinating that the gen Z group will tell you immediately that the purpose of the paycheck.
It’s very interesting, 70% of that group will say, “Paycheck’s pretty important to me, don’t screw me over on my paycheck.” A large portion of that group will come in and say that the purpose of the organization ranks ahead of the paycheck. Now this is what’s fascinating. 66% of the gen X’ers, and that’s 1960-1980, they said the same thing. 67% [00:18:00] of boomers, I fall into that category, my dad’s a boomer and I’m a boomer, I’ve been pissed my whole life because I don’t even get to get my own generation. I’ve got to share a generation with my dad.
Tony: It’s bad enough growing up in Oklahoma sharing the bathroom, now I’ve got to share a generation with him. I’m in that boomer generation barely. 67% of the boomers say, “Hey, purpose is important.” You pay me fairly, but at the end of the day, you better have purpose in your culture. 74%of the Z’s said purpose of the paycheck. That’s something that organizations need set up and pay close attention to going into the end of this decade as we’re cruising into 2020 and beyond because that is coming into our workforce and that all has to do with culture.
If your culture is not purpose driven, you are going to be behind. You’re just going to be throwing money and muscling your way through day in day out and while that will get you something, it will wear you out pretty quick.
Kate: Okay, good. Tony, thank you. I love the passion in which you’re sharing especially with regards to– We have a lot of discussion around generations and millennials and gen Z’s but you’re absolutely right that things have taken precedence around purpose now and it has been for a while, culturally driven purpose is very important. I think to your
[00:20:00] point of double digit-growth, double-digit results is no longer is something that a small team can do. This is the C-Suite. This is everybody including the board getting involved and really driving this all the way through, and not top-down but everybody being present.
I’m going to switch gears with you for you to talk about myRyan. This is something that you have been doing I think and instigating an award-winning program. Perhaps you can share for our listeners what it’s all about, why it came about and what you’re getting from it.
Tony: myRyan has really changed the path of the organization. We were just recently this year recognized as one of Fortune’s top 100 places to work in the United States, we’re number 77.
Tony: Thank you. In the Dallas Fort Worth area, we’re the highest ranked, in the Dallas Fort Worth area. As a matter of fact, that was a fun text to send my peers because the other two people recognized were close friends of mine. Of course, I’ll send them the screenshot of that list and it’s always fun. Coming out of that, we’re number 44 on Fortune’s list for best place to work for millennials, and we’re the highest rated in the DFW area also and 44 in the country for best place to work for millennials. It’s 61% of my US based population is millennial, 98% of my India population is millennial. This is something that we had seen coming for a while and how people work, how people need to work–
When the firm was started 27 years ago, we were no different than any other service firm. It was chained to your desk 80 hours a week. 27 years ago, there weren’t a lot of laptops, right? Let’s just be real honest about it. There was a lot of desktop computers and so people were chained through the desk, and we [00:22:00] got work done. People quite frankly years ago would walk up down the halls and see who was present and who wasn’t. It was one of those unwritten rules that if you weren’t in your chair working, you were a slacker and probably wouldn’t make a good year for Mr. Vic. Then, we started seeing the shift and to the credit of our CEO and COO, really started seeing the shift in the workforce early.
We sit down, we put together a team and said, “What got us here may not get us there. What are the components inside our culture that are working really well? What do we need to consider shifting?” Through that conversation came myRyan. myRyan quite simply stated is the flexibility to work when and where I need to accomplish a world-class product for my colleagues and clients. That’s myRyan in a nutshell. It basically says if I’ve got to pick a project done and I don’t need to sit in traffic for 45 minutes both ways. I need to work from the house today, then I’m going to work from the house today.
We went from focusing on activity, to results, and it was a massive, massive shift. Many organizations get caught up in this trap of believing that activity, busyness is a result and while it is a result, it’s not necessarily a desired result. We just simply shift the focus. It wasn’t about, “Hey, did you put in 80 hours?” It was, “Did you deliver for your colleagues and for the clients?” It was earthshaking. It was massive.
We have won the highest engagement scores in industry in our space. We have an amazing retention number. [00:24:00] Our first-year retention rates are in the 90s. Our second-year retention rates are in the 90s. It’s just an absolutely amazing story. Again, it goes back to, “What’s the right thing in the culture? Does this fit within who we are and how we deliver?” The answer was yes. It changed almost everything.
Kate: Fantastic. Tax and tax season is always really challenging from a work perspective especially for colleagues and your customers. I feel that and certainly many people feel burnout is very real. Does myRyan really focus on understanding if any team player is burning out or burnt out? Are there any other programs or initiatives especially for your company around that really heavy tax season to ensure that employees are taken care of, or contractors are taken care of?
Tony: That’s a great question. It’s interesting, a lot of times when people hear tax, they think of a normal tax season because you and I pay our taxes on a cadence. April 15 where we filed for an extension, it’s August or October, whatever. We work in the space of tax that is so specialized and so unique that our tax season is yearlong. There are obvious spikes to when certain things have to be filed at the state level, etc. It is quite seriously a 12-month process and so we absolutely pay attention to burnout.
For us, Kate, one of the bigger challenges is actually brownout. Look, our bodies are beautifully and wonderfully made and you get to a certain point, it will flip the switch. [00:26:00] You will shut down and your body will tell you double tap, we’re done and something will happen. Heaven forbid that ever be the case, we have some programs in place, I’ll talk about that in just a second, but for us, brownout is that that point in time before you get to burnout to where your productivity, your engagements, your innovation. Everything in you starts to drop and you feel like you’re just going through the paces.
You wake up and it’s Monday, and for some reason it’s Groundhog Day. It’s Monday, it’s Monday, it’s Monday. It’s not fulfilling anymore and you’re just going through the motions. We really, really, really try to pay attention to that because if we can get you before you get there, then we minimize the burnout.
It’s an interesting stat, but burnout typically happens in one group of people. I can always tell you what burnout is going to happen. Burnout is going to happen in your highest potentials. Because they’re the hardest workers, they’re the ones who give the most to and they’re the ones that you pay the least attention to because they’re self-motivated or they’re self-starters. They’re drivers and they do all these things. We don’t pay as much attention to them. The bulk of the burnout happens in those hardest chargers.
What we’ve discovered over time is, that’s happening because we’re not taking enough time to slow them down or long enough to recharge them to get them going in. We deliberately putting programs in place to a modulate their pace. We call them booster shots internally to where we actually slow high performing teams down for a day, half a day, within the cadence of the year, caused them to take a break and we [00:28:00] pour into them. We just love on them from the standpoint of– Let’s talk about what’s working for you. Let’s talk about what would make you even stronger.
What we’ve noticed is, when we slow them down, they come out even more engaged. If we just let them run hard for 12 months, they will run out eventually. That’s when you start to see, we can see in teams and if we take our eye off the ball, we can see the teams that they’ll start flipping people pretty quick because it just burnout. We try to find them in brownout mode. We look at engagement pretty quickly. We asked a series of pulse questions throughout the year to check in on people. That helps us identify where they are.
The other thing along with that is, we’re looking more at the wellbeing of an individual than the wellness. This is really important for us and we have some amazing wellness programs internally. I know that I’m getting really close to your love language on this, but we have a ton of wellness programs. Ultimately, end of the day, we’re much bigger than just wellness. We leverage some of the tremendous research done by Gallup indicating the five areas of wellbeing for an individual. Their career, their purpose, their fiscal wellbeing, financial, social, community wellbeing.
We have programs and processes in place to help support each of those areas of an individuals wellbeing so that they move into this thriving mode. We catch them before they get into the struggling, which is that brownout or that suffering which is the burnout mode.
[00:30:00] We’re trying to catch them and keep them in more driving areas, in all areas of their life, just not in their career.
We had this problem at Brinker, it had 60,000 people around the world and we get a tremendous amount of development along the way. When we sit down and looked at it, we realized, “Holy cow, we’re spending all of our time and money developing them to run great restaurants. Woohoo, that’s awesome, we can run a great restaurant.” We take for granted that they can balance their budget, we take for granted that, they can take care of their physical needs, we take for granted that they’re being active in the community or that they have a social life that allows them to be fulfilled and thriving.
We shifted that focus and it made an enormous impact there with the same focus here and it keeps us in the best of the best, the top, the gold standard of who we are in the industry.
Kate: Tony, thank you for sharing, I think that what you’ve been able to give listeners is not only how to get out of an HR transaction driven culture. Much more into the examples you give a phenomenal in terms of being human-centered and human-based. To your point of well-being, I agree with you, health, wealth, belonging is so critical. Especially to your very high performers because I would imagine, certainly from my experience, those high performers are even beat out from themselves even more if they see any of their performance drop, actually has a much bigger impact to their overall wellbeing pillars within their life.
Kate: Thank you very much for sharing that, I think you’ve also given a ton of insight and examples of programs people can put in to play. Tony, back to you. I have two more questions for you. One is, what three rules do you [00:32:00] live by, yourself, and then the second one is much more based from, you have a daily wellbeing routine and if there are elements of that where you feel makes you a little bit more successful than you were before, could you please share that.
Tony: You ask all the good questions. I absolutely love this. Where do you want me to start first on that one because–
Kate: Start with the three rules you live by.
Tony: I love asking this question and matter of fact with people I interview, and I interview hundreds of people here. One of the questions I always ask them is, “If you had to give a graduation speech, what’s the one to two things that you would share with a graduating class,” and that really helps me understand what are the key elements and what makes these individuals tick. That really came from a moment in my own life when I sit down several years ago and asked myself that same question, what I did is, I wrote a blog post and it was an open letter to the younger me and it was these three things that you talk about.
It’s become an annual tradition now, I add on to it, what’s the three things that I should tell the younger father, etc. The three basics, if I could go back in time and tell the younger me something to stay focused on, it will be these three things. One, and golly, I wish I’ve learned this early in my life. We’re all put here for a reason, we’re not an accident, we’re put here for a purpose. I tweeted this out just this week, “We all [00:34:00] have a purpose but not everybody has purpose.” That’s the thing that really catches me sometimes is that we’re all put here for a reason, never forget that we’re put here for a reason. We have a purpose and we have a reason to be here, we’re not an accident.
The second thing is, life is going to feel chaotic, find the simple. Too often I have taken something very simple and make it complex. One of the key components that I try to pour in to every young person that I mentor is, our role is to take the complex and make it simple, look for the simple. I’m not saying dumb it down, but I’m saying, take the complexity out of it, through all of the chaos, what’s the one to two things that you need to focus on. Find the simple.
The third thing is, I do control my destiny. It’s very easy and I’ve coached and mentored and counseled my fair share of young people and even folks my age, to where they come in and they just seem like, “Everything is out of control, I’m a victim.” I’m constantly reminding myself, I do control my destiny and I do that. Look, every time I face a circumstance in life, Kate, I have two choices. I could be a victim or a victor. I make the choice. I have equipped myself over the years with the tools and the models to help me understand that when I’m facing a circumstance, I have to make a choice. Am I going to be a victim of my circumstance, or am I going to rise above it?
The simple, simple cadence and I teach this to everybody I come into contact with, is that when you face that situation, what you need to [00:36:00] always go look for, is what’s the one thing that’s inside your control. When we feel like we’re out of control, when we feel like our destiny is in someone else’s hands, you always ground yourself back to, what is the thing I can control? It’s when we get stuck on focusing on what we cannot control, that’s when we spin out of control. That’s when we feel like someone else is in control of our destiny. That’s when we become a victim of our circumstances. It’s when we stay grounded and focused on what we can control, we actually can create a path forward and control our destiny.
Kate: I love it. We’re here for a reason, find what it is and live it. Keep things simple. I think we’re all really good at making things very complicated. I love for one, the third one which is, really that focus on what you can control and then get into that victor mode versus the victim. Fantastic.
Talk to me about your daily routine. You hear a Tim Ferriss, with his meditation, his make the bed first thing. Do the journaling, or at night write down your to-do-list, or on a Sunday sit down and figure out what your priorities are for the week. Is there a certain routine you have and is there one element of that that you found makes you more productive or more successful in your own life?
Tony: Yes. Look, Ferriss is a stud. He’s gotten it down to a science and I’d like to think he stole it from me or I stole it from him. There’s a couple of things I know that works and, Kate, there’s a couple of this I know that doesn’t work. I’ve gotten my fair share of skin knees and scar tissue on what doesn’t work. When I found myself into this simple routine, my purpose in life keeps me grounded. My purpose is very, very simple. I was put here to help others find the greatest [00:38:00] potential. I’ve spent my entire life in some way shape, fashion or form helping other people find their greatest potential.
What happens is, as I’m helping and serving other people to find their greatest potential, guess what? I tend to find everything that I’ve ever needed or wanted to walk away. It’s all about serving with honor, because of that, my personal faith keeps me very, very grounded, keeps me very focused on people. I have a pretty simple cadence. I’ve written three books on leadership and the last two were about purpose and integrity, and love and honor, and how we should lead with love every single day.
For me, it is an early rise every morning, I’m usually up between 5:00 and 5:30 every morning. I spend that first 30-40 minutes with a just wonderful cup of coffee. It’s all about the coffee at the end of the day, after all, let’s be real. It is freshly roasted, it’s ground on the site, it is brewed straight up. I pull it straight out of the pot and I get my coffee. I read a tremendous amount. I am dyslexic so I have a learning disability so it takes me a little bit longer to read. I consume a ton through Audible and in that way but I do have a reading routine every morning. I also have a journaling routine.
My journaling routine is a little different though. I love fountain pens. Of course, I studied architecture and I practice architecture, so I love the art side of it. I have trained myself, Kate, that every morning, I’ll read and then I’ll write down what I’m learning but here’s the key, everything I have to put on one page. I get [00:40:00] one page in my journal. That’s it. It has been, for the last couple years, one of the greatest training tools for me, personally, because I use to get up and just write in my journal. I’d look up and I’m six pages in. I’m like, “Wow, God.” Just going on, and on and one. I’m like, “What the heck have I just said?” I have disciplined myself that I’ll read, and then I’ll reflect and then I’ll say, “Okay, what is it that I’m taking away?” I’ve got to communicate what I’m taking away, one page.
It goes back to simple. I’ve got to keep it simple because if someone said, “Hey, what’d you take away today?” I got to be like, boom. What’s the one thing that I took away? It’s my favorite cup of coffee. It’s up early. It is journaling. It is writing things down. I have a very deliberate cadence. I’ve got to be able to write it down on one page. Constantly to think about, and put my thoughts very succinctly. As an author, it’s a training mechanism that helps my writing style.
The things that I know that doesn’t work for me, I cannot pick up my digital device before 7:30 or 7:45. I just refuse to even look at it before that time because it distracts me off of getting centered on my day. I’ve made a pretty firm commitment that at night, anything related to emails or text messages, there’s a turn off time out. Then, at morning, I pick it up before 7:30, 7:45, then that gives me a couple hours to just get centered everything.
Kate: Fantastic. Tony, thank you so [00:42:00] very much for sharing that with us and all of your insights. An incredible experience in the world and art of people. I truly appreciate your time today, thank you.
Tony: You are so sweet. We should do this every week.
Kate: [chuckles] Sounds good.