Mike Smith: Storyteller, Community Builder, Guide
This is a written Transcription for the Midwest Mindset episode: Mike Smith: Storyteller, Community Builder, Guide
Full Written Transcript of The Episode
Mike Smith: Storyteller, Community Builder, Guide
Matt: Would you rather have a legacy or more likes? You can get the likes on Instagram and Facebook, but what’s that actually doing to move you and your business forward?
Today we are joined by the guest of the author of the book here, A legacy Versus Like Mike Smith, also written with Andrew Norman, and we are excited to talk about how this translates into your happiness, your success, and the impact you leave.
For your future.
Matt: Welcome back to Midwest Mindset, the podcast that makes marketing simple and easy to do. My name is Matt Tompkins. Here, your host with the most toast from neither coast. There we go. See, I just did an ad lib rhyme in the middle there to kick off the episode. That was beautiful. A+.
Ben: I heard you practicing that.
Matt: But I did throw the with no coast. The new coast was new. All I got through was the host with the most toast.
Ben: Just left out. Rump roast? Yes.
Matt: Who has six toes?
Mike Smith: And Omaha. Omaha doesn’t coast. It doesn’t.
Matt: It doesn’t coast. Yes. And we’re nice.
Ben: Still don’t know what that means.
Matt: Yes, yes. Uh, also joined by, of course, Ben Tompkins, the other brother from the same mother. Yeah.
Ben: We look exactly alike. Yes.
Matt: Neither one of us were adopted. And as I mentioned in the intro there, Mike Smith here with us. Mike, uh, it’s a pleasure to have you here. It’s been a long time coming because I.
So this book here, legacy versus likes. You wrote this with Andrew Norman and who my my wife knew Andrew from the reader and had this connection. And so I’m reading this book and I actually be honest, I stole this book from, like, she was reading it, I walked in, I’m like, hey, this looks kind of cool. I started reading it and I didn’t give it back. And so I kept reading it and it was, you know, related to it on a lot of levels.
Coming from a small town in the middle of Nebraska, like Ben and I grew up in, uh, Hastings, Nebraska. Uh, so similar backgrounds, but it really hit home, uh, because I think this is an issue that is only gotten more, uh, has more more of an impact. It’s more important now than ever before.
But you wrote this, it came out 2017. Uh, and we’re looking here six years later. I think it’s more more prevalent. It’s more important for people to focus on this.
And it doesn’t matter if you focus a lot on helping kids and you help us a lot on on families, parents and kids and and not getting this current generation too sucked into defining their self-worth by how many likes they get, how many views, how many heart emojis.
But it also pertains equally, I think, to what businesses are doing, uh, you know, with their companies, because I think it’s a big misstep to think that that’s all that matters, that that’s the only metric is how many likes, how many views. And it usually doesn’t, you know, may not push the needle at all. So excited to have you here.
I guess that was kind of a long introduction, but, uh, Mike, you’re also the co-founder of a rabble mill and founder of the Bay, residing from Lincoln, Nebraska. Give it up for Mike Smith, everybody. Yes!
Ben: Insert studio applause.
Matt: I hope we don’t have any like Omaha. Lincoln rivalries go down in this episode. No, no.
Mike Smith: No, I love Omaha, love Omaha. We’re, uh, we’re expanding into Omaha, which is exciting. So we’re we, uh, we do a lot of programming at the Bay in Omaha after school programming and stuff, but we’re headed here. So.
Matt: So when you were writing this book, like, Take us back when you started, like, what was the thought? Because legacy versus likes. It’s a cool title. Yeah. Um, I think it’s kind of self-explanatory.
But take us back to where you started with this project you and Andrew worked on with this book. Like, was this just something you were just observing in real time around you on social media?
You’re like, man, I’m. I’m motivated, I moved, I got to speak out. I got to say something, uh, because I think most people probably feel the same way. They just don’t articulate it into words like you guys did so well in this book. Sure.
Mike Smith: So in 2017, I was, um, actually a youth speaker speaking all over the world. So I would host these tour stops and events where schools would bus in, you know, 10 to 100 kids to an event center or a college.
And it would be this, like all day leadership conference where we would talk about how to make an impact back on your campuses. And so I was speaking in front of hundreds of thousands of kids every single day, and social media was, you know, I don’t TikTok wasn’t around.
Snapchat was kind of in its infancy stages when we wrote this. And I think everybody I was seeing a generation of kid get more and more sucked into their phone every year. It would be cellphone was the issue. Social media was the issue.
There was more issues happening online than in real life. Every single year. It was like that was increasing more and more. And when school principals are telling you something, hey, this is happening in our schools all across the country at the same time, you kind of got to listen to it because that’s the finger print of finger on the pulse.
Yeah. That’s it. And so I was like, wow, this is really where people are at. And so, you know, I wanted to be able to leave something that my hope was there’s, you know, there’s challenges in the book. So each chapter ends with, hey, do this. Hey, there’s action steps, there’s action items. And so I wanted to leave school specifically with something they could give youth that called them to action and was a lot to think about, but also kind of made them put a little bit of skin in the game. And so you actually have the first edition of it. So it’s been around for so long that we’re on our third cover of it. And I went through and so I’m old school. Yeah. I’m like, oh yeah, you are OG.
Matt: Fan over here.
Mike Smith: Yeah. And so the the cool part with the third one is I went and did every challenge in the book and made this like virtual book club during the pandemic. And so during the pandemic, I acted out all of the challenges in the book. And then schools would have their kids do the the book club, and then the kids would go do the challenges. And so I wanted it to be something that if you picked it up, there was a call to action to it, and it kind of made you think, not just think about it, but then go do something. And so it’s been cool to see the stories and the the comments or emails I get from parents, teachers, kids all the time.
Matt: This feels like it was kind of a precursor to there’s a great, uh, Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, which came out, and I forget the guy’s name, uh, who’s in it, but he was like one of the Facebook, uh, one of the one of the first whistleblowers, if you will. And, uh, he’s he’s been a big advocate for the issues that come along with social media, especially with.
Teens like teen girls cutting and attempted suicide, and suicide rates spike right at the moment that these apps hit mobile phones. And so it’s a real issue. I think parents were.
Ben: More about the like the self facing camera, the selfie, whatever that was like 2010 or 2011 that you saw a huge spike in self-harm. Yeah. Um, and things like depression and anxiety rising and it’s connected to to the selfie to social media.
Matt: Right. And there was never this conversation. We never like parents didn’t have it. We just thought, oh, this is a cool new toy. It’s technology. We can’t criticize technology out of Silicon Valley.
Therefore it’s all good. It’s all good, it’s all good. And then over that, like, you know, in your case here over the probably a 5 to 7 year stretch, rapid increase in all these harmful, destructive things, social media can do some very cool, positive things. But we didn’t have a conversation about the impact of on kids especially.
And then now you look at like generations and even people. I’m 42, even people my age. It’s like we’re defining our our worth by how many likes we get. And, uh, you know, we’ve talked on the podcast for a business how that’s a big mistake because business needs to make sales like conversions. And if you’re only focused on how many likes you get in a video, that’s not going to translate.
You know, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to sell more things, just like in real life with kids who look at this and they say, okay, I got 200 views I got, but the classmate got a thousand views.
That means I’m worthless. And like, the worth isn’t tied up. Like, when do. What conversation do you think parents are having now looking at this? You know, 11, 12 years after the advent of the Facebook and Instagram on the mobile devices?
Mike Smith: I think to be honest, that’s why it got out of control, is now you have more mommy Fluencers dad influencers. Family influencers, like it started through kids. It was like kids trying to get famous on the internet. But then you have a generation of parents now I see moms dancing on TikTok and you see hunters doing.
I mean, it’s like every genre knows I’ve got to do this thing on this thing so I can get views and likes and engagement. So it’s it’s not like it stopped at a younger generation. It kept.
Yeah, it kept going. It kept going. So there’s this conversation around where with parents, it’s like the competitive momming like the Christmas time, like the posting of that showing of that. Like it didn’t it didn’t just stay with youth, which is largely who I wrote this for. Yeah. But six years later, it’s now, especially with TikTok and the way Instagram is, you’ve got more adults marketing to adults through.
That means then you had kids just looking at it, because kids use it as a form of communication. Kids use it as a form of like, okay, you know, I’m in my bubble in my school and my thing, but parents have taken it to a whole nother level. And that didn’t that didn’t start there.
And so this conversation’s actually evolved into the parents as those kids grew into adults. And so that’s interesting. It’s been very interesting for me to see how many mom influencers you see on the internet when ten years ago, that wasn’t it wasn’t as prevalent. Yeah.
Matt: I mean, and it’s such a highly competitive space. We did an episode recently about like LinkedIn versus like Instagram. Linkedin is they have 830 million active monthly users, and it’s 1% of their users are posting weekly content. And then you look at Instagram and Facebook, it’s like 87. They got 1.2 billion users on Instagram. 87% of those users are posting weekly content. And so you look at this mad rush to just stay relevant, not even like to get an effective message across or to be heard, like, actually heard. It’s just to be in the conversation. You got to be posting stuff constantly. And I think that’s where we’re at, where it’s just for business owners. I know it feels overwhelming for kids. I know it feels overwhelming in a different way. Um, but, you know, we look at all these different platforms and options and how fine tuned they are on getting us addicted to them. Like, is there an actual. Like solution to this very real problem, because the conversation, like we’re talking about here is not one most people want to have, I would say.
Ben: I mean, the solution, one solution potentially is time. I mean, all of this is the news. Anytime something brand new is. And as revolutionary as this kind of technology is, you’re going to have cautionary tales.
So you’re going to have 2000. You had iPad kids, parents at the time giving iPads, giving this technology to kids because they didn’t understand the effect that that’s going to have on them.
Um, it’ll be interesting to see the time aspect of the kids who are in school now, seeing their parents consumed by social media, seeing their friends consume by social media, how they raise their kids, knowing the effects, knowing how, how addicting it can be because their parents didn’t know that.
They didn’t know that when they were kids with it. And so I think a matter of time and I think you could see a potential like blowback on that and that it’s not the cool thing to do when mom and grandma and everybody else is doing these TikTok dances. But are we too.
Matt: Addicted at this point? I mean, I’m in this current generation.
Ben: This current generation.
Mike Smith: But yeah, I mean, parents are on Facebook, so kids ditched Facebook and went to Snapchat and then parents are now on Snapchat. So kids went to TikTok. Parents are on TikTok like, yeah, kids are going to find their way to communicate in their internet space, which it’s honestly kind of what gaming is turning into it.
Kids are spending a lot of time doing that because they can connect and communicate and talk and meet someone around the world that way. So you see it.
Kids are always going to find their space. You know, their third space, they say, which is like, you know, they need that and so they’re going to find it. But for adults, like, I think you’re going to use what you’re comfortable with, you know, and like boomers use Facebook, you know, and kind of Instagram sometimes and like X uses what they use and millennials use what they use. And you know, you kind of can look at it generationally and it’s really easy to see who’s using what.
Matt: When you’re talking to kids because you travel all over the globe, talking to kids, talking to working with parents and schools like what today are like because I’m guessing, you know, I mentioned the movie Social Dilemma that came out a few couple, two, two years ago or so.
This is such a rapidly changing and evolving digital landscape, right? Right. And so what are the challenges now that like you’re seeing with kids that are facing with this technology,
I’m guessing what the parents are probably mirrors it in a lot of ways. We talk about businesses here, primaries in a lot of ways compared to some of those early warning signs like, you know, with the first edition came out, you know, like 2017 where we’re seeing this.
Mike Smith: Yeah, I think, you know, the the more you’re connected to the world, the more options you have. And so kids today, I think have this kind of paralysis by there’s so many choices in the world. And so they’re they’re online. And I think you constantly feel this sense of like, I could do this, I could do that.
There’s kids my age that have are famous already. There’s kids my age that are doing x, y, z. And I think some kids feel defeated and deflated by that.
And then I think some kids feel inspired and challenged and want to raise raise to it. But I think what I see is a generation of young people who recognize the path for millennials, and Gen X isn’t the path that they want to take. Like they don’t want to do the four years of college, the I’m going to follow this traditional sort of path. You know, they just don’t. And the reason that they don’t is largely because of social media.
And they’ve seen it on YouTube. They’ve seen it on the internet, like they have access to all these awesome other pathways. And they realize I don’t just have to go to college for four years to get the perfect job, perfect grade, perfect house, perfect life. They don’t think that’s real anymore.
And so what you’re running into is a generation who’s kind of figuring it out very differently for themselves. You know, like they’re taking weirder paths to get where they want to go. And they’re jumping from this to that, where Gen X didn’t. Millennials really didn’t, you know, and like it’s just different now. They’re just approaching it so differently. We didn’t even.
Matt: Have sex ed in school, let alone YouTube when I was like going through puberty. Oh yeah. I mean, I just imagine the difference.
And that could be for good or bad. I don’t know, it could be a double edged sword because I mean, obviously rates of like porn and and how that has influenced sex.
You look at like body image types and Instagram and how that has influenced like just the way most human beings look and physically.
Oh yeah, I mean, it’s it’s substantial and it makes you wonder, like, where is this going? Like where are we going to go? Like, yeah.
Mike Smith: I think you got to watch like an episode of Black Mirror to figure out, I think so, yeah.
Matt: Exactly. There we go. Yeah. Um, so let’s talk about this because you work a lot with, like, content creation and all in the same kind of sphere we do. We were nerding out about storybrand, you know, before we started recording this episode. So let’s talk about some of, like, the practical things, like a business. I say business owner.
That sounds so like cold and disingenuous. It’s a person. Yeah, who has a business. They have a company. And if they have, if they have a real solution to a real problem and they really want to serve their customers. Um, you know, in this competitive, we talk about like having a legacy versus likes in the book.
You talk about you’re looking at like the tweets of like world leaders, people who are actually doing right. And it’s like a fraction of what the Kardashians are tweeting, like the Kardashians are tweeting like, I just got off a plane, you know, and then and then you have, you know, a Barack Obama.
Hey, I just, you know, we just negotiated this, you know, $200 million and aid donated to this country or whatever it might be. So if you want to have a legacy, you want to have an impact, big or small, like what is the direction that you recommend people go?
As far as I’m a small business owner, yeah, I want to actually have results and actually help people, you know, how do you get them away from focusing on the likes or the wrong analytics and focus on what actually matters?
Mike Smith: I think it kind of boils down. Onto a couple things.
The best brands, just like, uh, if you know, even the best humans, you really know yourself. You you know what? You you know what you value. You know what you care about. You know what’s important. You know what matters to you. And I think for a lot of people, they get caught up thinking that getting likes matters.
And so you get into the analytics game and how do I play it and how does this happen? And at the end of the day, if getting more likes really does matter to you, then go play that game.
But I think for most business owners it’s like, I want to make more money, I want to sell more of my stuff. I want to help more people. Yeah, I want to help more people. I were a nonprofit, but we’re we’re selling something. We’re selling impact. You know, we’re constantly selling like.
And what matters to us is changing kids lives. Yeah, that’s what we’re selling. That’s our product, you know? And so we’re constantly talking about that. But I think as I see it, I, you know, I’m not this isn’t just a shout out to liquid death because shout out liquid death, but.
Matt: Shout out liquid death. We’ll give him a shout out.
Mike Smith: Yeah, yeah. But that’s a brand that they’re not every single day beating you over the head with it. They’re this one hilarious video that takes a long time to put together. That was really thoughtful. And boom, they drop something great and it goes nuts. And the reason why is they understand themselves and they’re not trying to beat you at the we put out more. They’re putting out just incredible content.
I think a friend of mine told me this who’s the a guy at Ithaca? Ithaca is a action sports underwear brand. Awesome. Work with him for years. They’re great people. But a friend of mine over there,
Danny Evans, said it’s easier to be relevant for 30 minutes than it is for 30 days. And so sometimes you just have to come up with your thing that’s like loud and big, and then you ride that for a while and you do something else.
But the whole it doesn’t matter which way you go, it matters if it’s true to your brand and know yourself and your audience really identifies with the content you’re posting. And I think for most brands, they’re mimicking someone else, just like most kids are mimicking someone else. And it doesn’t change. And I see it all the time.
You see entrepreneurs that are they want to be where the Uber of this, we’re the something of that. And it’s like, okay, you don’t necessarily fully get yourself you know, and I think that when you can truly say, no, this is who I am, this is what I really give a shit about.
Mike Smith: And we’re just and you run after that sort of a thing. It makes your content so much easier to post. You don’t have to copy other people because it’s flowing out of who you are. And I think why social media is so interesting to me. I get the opportunity. I was just in Paris talking to kids and I humblebrag. Jeez, it was awesome, right? But you’re in the you’re in the fashion capital of the world.
This place that’s like it’s Paris, you know what I’m saying? And it’s where it’s the epicenter. And they look exactly, exactly like the kids at Bay High in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m talking identical, and I honestly think our kids were a little bit swagger because just the skate part. But, like, truly. And that’s something that’s different.
But because of the internet today, every kid can look like every kid everywhere immediately. And it can happen overnight like you can find it overnight. Didn’t used to live like and Imperial Nebraska and growing up in Hastings, you had to wait for it to get mailed to you in a magazine and hope you found it. By that time, the coasts had already been doing it for months. You know, it.
Matt: Was like, if Sears didn’t have it.
Mike Smith: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And we weren’t there was no Sears where I, you know, we were an hour from a Walmart. You know, we tried.
Matt: We travel with the Conestoga mall in Grand Island. That was like the road trip.
Mike Smith: Totally. Yeah. Grand Island was was like.
Matt: Big city.
Mike Smith: Huge for us, you know, way too far to drive to. So I just think for, for a lot of brands and for anybody that’s listening, you know, if you actually know yourself, know what you value and know what what you’re trying to kind of accomplish it, you know, company Cam’s a good it’s an app for contractors in Lincoln and their marketing is great. It’s hilarious. It’s on brand but they know who they’re talking to.
Their guys. It’s people driving around with ladder racks on their vehicles and logos on the side, like they know exactly who they’re going after. So they make content exactly for them. But they’re not counting the algorithms and the likes. They’re trying to tell a great story about their product that’s solving problems.
And I think people just get get caught up in trying to chase what other brands are doing. And I see youth speakers do it, but I also see kids do it every day. It’s like, oh, this is the famous way to talk on the internet today. We’ll do this.
Matt: And there’s so many, there’s so much of this with entrepreneurs where they want to be, they want they’re in love with the idea of being a successful entrepreneur.
But then when you start talking about, okay, well, here’s how you get there. And it starts here with what are your core values? Yeah. What are your core values?
Define them. And then let’s put them into something you can memorize. You can say you can rattle this off and it feels right. It clicks right. And I thought core values was a cheesy exercise when I started. But it’s not. It becomes the filter and the foundation for everything you do moving forward.
And then like you said, what is the problem you’re actually solving? You know, who is your ideal customer? Create a full, detailed persona. Give them a name, an age you know, are they married?
Do they have kids like all those things? Oh, yeah. But that’s it’s that’s a hard work. Yes. That’s not the sexy part, right? No, the sexy part is like pulling up and a brand new Tesla and you’re like, yeah, take that Todd. Like you know. Right. We all hate Todd around here.
Mike Smith: Nobody likes Todd. The coolest breakdown. The coolest breakdown I’ve ever heard for the persona was, uh, a guy who did marketing for the Timberwolves. And I got to have a conversation, and he said they used The Simpsons, so they had every.
They did all the characters of The Simpsons, and they made it. So it was like, Who’s Homer, dad? What platforms does he pay attention to? This one, this one and this one? What kind of content does he consume? This. What about Marge, Lisa? Bart, Homer?
And it’s like, if you’re if you’re marketing to Maggie, you got to get Marge to drive her there. You know, it was, like, so cool to see how they broke it down. So we really took that same model and built some of our email campaigns and marketing campaigns around The Simpsons. And so it was really a fun way for us to be like, is this a Homer conversation?
So we’re talking to Bart right now, and it was just great for us to break it down. So what you’re saying.
Matt: The Simpsons have done everything they have.
Mike Smith: Yeah. They can. They can be used for the foundation of anything.
Matt: Um, the other thing I wanted to hit on, too, because I think the overwhelming nature of just one individual platform on social media for a kid or a small business owner is it’s too much as it is to try and understand it, the nuances, how it works, each platform. It’s like its own own planet, almost like they don’t mix well like they used to.
Like YouTube wants you only on YouTube, and Facebook doesn’t want you to leave Facebook watch. And so then you layer on top of okay, most business owners, they start with like 6 or 7 different platforms all at once.
And I’ve joked, it’s kind of like the movie. I’ve joked that you shouldn’t be everywhere. Was it everywhere? Everything. Everything everywhere, all at once? Like the movie? Like that’s a recipe for disaster for most people, because it’s just too much and you’re going to end up putting out mediocre at best content on all these things.
Or more likely, you have a bunch of dead channels that just sit there and not active for years.
And so when it comes to like, you know, we always talk about start with one platform that’s the right fit for, you know, is it a platform that you spend time on and that your ideal customer spends time on, like increase the likelihood?
But what what advice or tips do you have for people when they’re trying to like, just manage the sheer quantity of social media platforms and picking which one is right for them.
Like because that that’s a that’s like a probably 30% of how or more of how overwhelming social media is. It’s not just posting content, it’s you’re on all you have to post it seven different places.
Mike Smith: Totally. I would go to who’s your audience? You know. And if you know, you’re selling to a certain demographic, hyper focus on that demographic.
And if if they’re on all of them and you can be on all of them, that’s great. I don’t look at social media. I’ve never looked at social media like that. You know, I’ve always looked at it like it didn’t matter where it was. It’s all just my website. Yeah. Like I didn’t care, like I didn’t. I know you got to engage. I know you got to do all the thing I know. Like, it really matters and everybody really cares about that.
But like, truly when you go, it’s like, how do you look at someone’s Instagram? If that’s where you go, you click and then you scroll and you immediately start to kind of get a feel for it.
Then you pick one of those random boxes that stuck out to you, and you click on that thing, and then you go and then you do it again and it’s like, that’s how you do that. How do you do Twitter? Will you go on there thing and then it’s immediately like, which tweet slot machine.
Yeah, you can do you know what I’m saying. That’s how the user consumes you. So like okay, don’t think that they’re following you like episode one.
Mike Smith: Episode two. This is they’re not. No one does. You don’t consume like that. So don’t assume that they would. So I always just assume this is my website. Somebody’s going to find this someday.
And I want I want them to find the right things about what I care about now, what it’s important now, what problems I’m solving now. And sometimes that means clean up the back end, go back and delete old stuff. But it to me, it’s all your website, so it doesn’t matter. And if you really have to engage people all day long on your Instagram or Twitter or TikTok to sell your product more, then do that.
But I bet most of us don’t. I bet it’s just your website and you’re hoping to drive traffic to some site something so I didn’t really care about the I tell people all the time, I lose more followers a year than most people will ever have in a lifetime. Yeah, I do like I’ll lose 5000 followers a year, but I might gain 15 sometimes. Do you know what I’m saying? And it’s like, I don’t care. Like the who’s my customer is different than who’s my audience when I’m talking, you know what I’m saying?
Matt: And that’s like, we’re big proponents of, you know, organic traffic anywhere because organic traffic, it’s like real estate to your investment portfolio. It’ll just pay off as long as you have it up, you know? And there isn’t a lot, most, most I won’t say most, but I don’t know the exact statistic.
But I would say most businesses don’t even think about that. They just think about, okay, how many people can I pay to click today?
It’s that like hunter versus farmer mindset where, you know, yeah, sure, that’ll get the job done today. But five years from now, where do you want to be? Do you want to be like maybe not working at all and have it just paying off and reaping the rewards? And you know, your website should be your home base driving that organic traffic. But social platforms all work the same. It’s all based off of engagement. Stay. Yes, there are changes and nuances, but if the if the quality of your content isn’t there, if you’re not speaking to the right audience, who’s your customer and you’re not doing it for the right reasons? I think that authenticity factor, you know, it really doesn’t matter if you’re on six platforms or ten platforms or one platform, you’re just going to be a swing and a miss.
Mike Smith: Yeah, it’s go ahead.
Ben: Or how long did it take you then to find your brand, and did that require like a lot of just test, trial and error? You’re throwing up a bunch of different kinds of content early on, because I think that’s a concern a lot of businesses have is they don’t want to throw up all these different identities. But how else do you find out what your brand is without testing things out?
Mike Smith: Totally. I, I wanted to and really tried to push the edge for my industry. So like you think youth speaker to kid like you don’t think me. You know what I mean? Like I’m not what pops up.
Matt: I know you kind of would be, to be honest.
Mike Smith: Like maybe now, today, but like, if you think about who spoke at yours, right, right. Like, who did you have? So I was like, for a long time I was like the, the UN speaker,
like the guy that was very different from the other people who did it. And so for me, it was really easy to just my brand was like always what I was doing, like the nonprofit stuff that I was doing, the impact I was trying to make, like the things that I cared about. That’s what I would talk to kids about.
So I would just talk about giving, you know, giving socks to the homeless was this thing called skate for change. And it was skating around, and I told the story of how that started, and it went all the way back to college, and I tied it into my coach and all these lessons, and I just talked about what I was doing, and it clicked with kids because I’m not. Really special.
Like I always make the joke. I’m like the most average dude of all time. My name is Mike Smith, for God’s sake. Like, it’s the third most common name. It’s in the book. Like, I’m not this exceptional human. I just tried to do these things that were really meaningful to me, and being able to communicate that to kids.
Related. Because you can’t all be the the best in your school that went to Harvard, that was the one that everybody expected to be the best.
I was never that. And so I think for me, my brand was always this idea of you can kind of just like double down on yourself and really go for it. But like, it takes one of the coolest things we ever created was this thing called an adventure log.
Mike Smith: And it was like I challenged kids to come up with a list of 100 things they want to do before they graduate high school. And it’s this like real adventures, real things. Like the things you said you always wanted to do in your small town, but you never did them.
The things that you say, oh, we should do this sometime, but you never did it. Make that list. Go out with your friends and go and do the thing. Yeah, I did the same thing. I put an adventure log in the book and I was like, I want to do this dirt bike adventure, flip an old truck, like all this stuff.
And I went and did all the things from the time I wrote the book till now. But it was a if you don’t challenge yourself to go out and kind of live, you’re not going to go out and live. And so for me, it was really this brand of being about it and doing it. But I’ve had the same logo. I don’t even really have a logo. I’ve had the same kind of website and vibe, but like, I’ve just all the good. Mike Smith domain names were taken.
So Mike Smith live was all I could come up with.
You know what I mean? Like the Michael W Smith took all the good names, you know, and so like they’re all gone. So I just, I kind of, I don’t know that I even really thought about my brand. I thought about I’m going to show people what I’m doing and I want to solve real problems.
And that was all it was. And I think that people maybe were drawn to the the relatability of it.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. And like we went through that process and I so I can attest to this how a lot of people feel where it’s very scary to commit to the process. And by the process, I mean, like figuring out what your identity is and what you actually want to do, like what’s the legacy that you want, right? And even for us, like, you know, initially I thought because everybody has these crucibles,
I believe in their life where these, these, these, uh, events, these things that define you for good or bad moving forward, you know, for me, I thought it was my addiction. And so I’m, like, doubling down on that. Um, and while that was a crucible, it wasn’t really the defined what we’re doing here today and like, what our purpose and mission was. And so as we were going through this process with this podcast,
the Midwest mindset came and the Midwest mindset we define as helping other people without expecting anything in return, which in business in life ends up having the highest return of all. Like if you do it genuinely. And that is like the core theme for our lives, from growing up in small towns, just how we were raised to like all the favors and ways we help people.
Never in a million years thinking, okay, you know, 20 years from now we’re going to own a company and they’re going to want to come to us for their services like it was just doing it for the right reasons.
The phenomenal thing about it is, even though it’s scary to go through that process, once it clicks, it’s like you’re unstoppable. It really is like, I think I feel like for us, not just with the podcast, but for our company, it’s like that defines us. And that’s how we approached everything.
And it feels right. It connects, it clicks, and we have we have our story to tell. Right? And so even though it’s scary, stick through the process. Right? I mean, would you say I agree with that. Oh yeah.
Mike Smith: I mean, I think and I, I think you got to really kind of embrace your failures. It hasn’t always worked, you know, and I tell I know, you know, I tell I tell kids all the time. I’m like, you know, make a failure resume. Talk about was it really a failure? Did you learn something?
Can you take something great from it? But like, if you’re not failing forward, you’re not really doing it. But that’s the process. And so I think I think if you can’t kind of fail and be like, okay, I’m taking 5% and going this way after that, you miss it. But the process for me has been a lot of like fumbling my way forward and figuring it out as I go, but not being scared of of that part.
Matt: Embracing failure because, I mean, like, I don’t I don’t know if it’s attributed to to Will Smith because it was in a meme, or if it’s one of those fake memes where they put his face on it and somebody else quote.
So I don’t know. But it’s like when you go to the gym, you’re literally pushing your muscles to failure. You’re tearing them apart because that’s the only way they can rebuild stronger. And so you do want to be failing forward.
Ben: It’s always bragging about you going to the gym every which is every even just in one on one conversations. He just brings it up every chance.
Matt: Hey, Ben, have you seen the, uh, you know, staplers over here?
Speaker4: I’m just gonna go rebuild my muscles.
Matt: Yeah, uh, but failing is something we are afraid of. You can’t succeed without failing. And those who who are the most successful have failed the most.
Mike Smith: You know well, and you got to swing big sometimes, and it doesn’t always work, you know, so I yeah, I’m, I’m a big fan of just giving things a go. And sometimes you got to run a lot of options to the end too. Yeah. And not everything’s going to work out well.
Matt: Last thing I want to ask you like with, you know, this book into context, what we’ve been talking about here today for for business owners, for kids, for parents.
Because this touches every corner. Um, what is what like what would you tell people to go through? I mean, because I know the book holds up, uh, I mean, I read the first edition, uh, you know, I think it was last year when I first read it and stumbled upon it.
So it’s not that the first edition doesn’t hold up, but, like, what would you tell people when they’re trying to define, like, their essence, their who they are, what they want, all these important big things like is there kind of a simple like one, two, three step process. You can say, listen, start. Here, then go here and then go here.
Mike Smith: I mean, I think, uh, I’m kind of. That’s what I. Are you familiar with the flywheel like that concept? No, the Jim Collins, I believe. Is it the guy that wrote good to great somebody? You have a fact checker somewhere up in this place? Fact check. It’s pretty sure it’s Jim Collins. Yeah. Good to great guy.
But there’s a book called Turning the Flywheel. And it’s really kind of like Amazon has a flywheel and companies have flywheels. And it’s like, if you do this, you can’t help but do this, can’t help but do that. And once it sort of starts turning, you build that momentum.
And so I’m trying to combine this idea of creating a like a flywheel for your life, you know, and like if you do these things in a certain order, it can kind of lead to building momentum to get where you want to go. And for the most part, I think it starts with most of us have a genuine curiosity or wonder or I’ve always kind of wanted to or I really if I could just. And it’s like this thing we wonder about and we’re kind of curious about.
And so I think the first thing is follow that, like chase that a little bit and see where that gets you. And to chase that, you typically probably have to like, try it and like get immersed in it a little bit and like then you have to call somebody who’s doing it and then you have to like kind of ask them real questions about it.
Mike Smith: And I think for me, it’s like most of us are terrified to jump in and immerse ourselves in a new thing. Try it, look like a fool, get ousted by the locals, and then we’re gone.
Do you know what I’m saying? And it’s like, I think for most kids and for most parents and people today, they’re afraid to follow their curiosity and just sort of chase the next sort of thing. It even happens in marketing. You really want to try something outside of the box, but the rules say do this so we don’t.
Or my boss said, do this so we can’t. And so I think for a lot of us, there’s this like sense of wonder out in front of us. And if you can keep sort of chasing that, that is what I think the, the growth edge and the bleeding edge and the cutting edge is, is, is that ability to sort of chase these new curious spaces, if you see it all over the internet and if you see it all over the world, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but it just means it’s been done.
And so I think that in some ways you’ve got to sort of chase new things.
Mike Smith: So for kids, what does where does that translate to parents. And you see parents, it’s the ironic part is you see parents doing this all the time on the internet.
And so you can do this without posting it on the internet, but come up with this, this list of things to have your kids try and do that is outside of your comfort zone and their comfort zone and try it. I bet there’s amazing life lessons at the end of it. I’ll bet you there’s core legacy memories that your kids are going to remember forever. It’s not going to be the time that you came home and watched the screen again.
Whichever screen everybody’s watching, whether it’s the big one, the little one and the medium sized one, it’s the shut them all down.
Make a list of some things you can actually go out and do and experience together and like, see what happens. I just read a cool article about the Nebraska couple that like, sold all their possessions and traveled the world with their kids for a bit, and it’s like a guarantee you those parents lives changed forever. But those kids, yeah, there’s core memories in there. Those kids are going to see Nebraska differently forever. And I think that I’m not saying sell everything and go travel, but.
Matt: That’s what I’m doing.
Mike Smith: Yeah, do it if you can do it. But for some of us it’s as much of travel around Omaha. Take your kid all over Nebraska, take weekend trips to shatter and and go see what’s out at toadstool. Like give your give yourself a chance to sort of follow the things that you’re curious about.
And I think that being bold enough to immerse yourself in those things next is where the pay dirt is for most of us. But most people kids will tell me, I want to do this thing, and you’re like, sick.
Have you ever called anybody, talk to anybody, reached out to anybody doing it, and they’re like, no. Have you ever gone to an event where it happens? No. Have you read a book or studied it? No. And you’re like, get in there. Like go give yourself a shot. And so, yeah, don’t live vicariously.
Matt: Just live.
Mike Smith: I would say stop watching people do it and go, go for it. Yeah.
Matt: There’s a I always believe that like we worked in comedy doing the television show Omaha Live. And like every comedian, every I think every person has a great idea. But there is this thing that always gets in the way. And our our old sales director in radio or not sales director general manager in radio, used to have this slogan he put up until HR made him take it down. It was af die actually. Fucking do it and you have to actually fucking do it.
Yep. And you know what that means. You got to be a little bit delusional. You got to be like, ah, there’s no way to succeed. And I’m just I’m going to go ahead and just try it anyhow.
I’m going to jump in there like, yep, I’m probably going to I mean, I’ve humiliated myself and I just humiliated myself this past weekend. I mean, I do it on a regular basis, but the stories you take, the experiences you take, not only do you learn from them, but those become the stories that you tell your friends. And you’re like, hey, remember when I biffed at snowboarding down the mountain? I had to be towed down and a fricking medical sled.
And it was embarrassing. Oh yes. Like, those are the memories we take with us. And those are the things that define us, whether it’s a fun memory or how you’re building your business. I mean, I agree, like taking that risk, committing to it. And don’t be afraid to fail.