Andrew Warner Interview Part Two
Andrew Warner – Your Invisible Mentor & Workshop Leader
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Andrew Warner: I founded a company called Mixergy.com and that’s where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses, and I do it for an audience of rabid entrepreneurs who are eager to soak up as much information as they can from other entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses.
These are people who know about Hulu.com and know that they could be watching The Simpsons, Family Guy and whatever nonsense they could be watching on TV, but they choose to watch a program where entrepreneurs are talking about business instead.
Avil Beckford: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?
Andrew Warner: I went to high school without getting dates. I went to college without getting dates. I shouldn’t say none at all, but practically none. I didn’t know how to talk to people, I especially I didn’t know how to talk to girls. It was de-motivating for me because I just kept saying to myself, “You know one day I’ll be able to do anything. I don’t know how to even apply myself to this. I don’t know what book I could read to learn how to talk to people and girls, and have interesting relationships. I don’t know what class I could take.” When it comes to dating, these people are charlatans selling junk.
But I said, “If I apply myself to business, I’ll have enough money and success in my life that I can do anything with my life and that’s when I’ll get there.” And that was a big disappointment. I had free time in my mid twenties when I could start dating, and it was tough to do it. It was tough when you don’t know what you are doing, and it’s tough when you have the expectations that I do. I didn’t want to just date whoever came up. If I’m walking down the streets and there is a girl who I’m interested in, or if I’m at a party and there is a girl who I’m interested in, I wanted to be comfortable enough to walk up to this girl and at least say, “Hello,” and figure out if there is some chance to date. Or if I’m at a party, I want to know that it doesn’t matter if all my friends see me fail if we have mutual friends who are going to know that I asked her out and nothing happened.
I want to be able to go over and say “Hello” and see if there is any connection there and if there isn’t any connection romantically, but we are meant to be friends, or some friendship clicked and I want to be friends, I just want to be able to do it that way, and it took a lot of work, and it took a lot of effort to be able to have conversations with strangers where I put myself out there. But it’s a big help and it’s a big accomplishment for me on a personal level, and I also think that once you conquer something outside of your level of comfort you feel like you can conquer anything, you feel like you are much more open.
If I just went from one business to the next without exceeding at them, I would feel great in my own little world, but if I’m at a party and having a conversation with a stranger maybe in the back of my head I saying, “I’m not good at this, I’m good at business, put me in an office with them and I’ll know how to deal with them there.” But I don’t know how to talk to them at a party. But that opened me up and I’d say, “You know I don’t know what to do, I know what to do in an office.”
Once you get outside your comfort zone once, and you learn that you can do something tough that wasn’t who you thought you were, you start to feel like you can do anything and sure enough I started doing long bike rides after that. I started running more, I started swimming, and things just opened up. I started being able to just go anywhere and be able to do anything and say, “Hey tonight I feel like going to Vegas, who wants to go? Nobody?” I’ll go and I know I’ll find some people and I’ll be able to hang out. “Who wants to try this trip to Europe, nobody feels like it?” It’s good I’ll go there on my own and I’ll be able to connect with people. It’s very powerful.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Andrew Warner: To say I’m not going to create a web app. I’ve interviewed lots of entrepreneurs who have web apps or iPhone apps. There are all kinds of stuff and it’s very easy for me to start to think that’s the only success in life, that’s the only direction in life. It’s a lot harder to say I’m kind of curious about going in this other direction. I want to see if interviewing people can lead to something valuable for myself, something meaningful for myself. A life that I can care about, can it help with what my guests are teaching? Can it help others who are listening in on it? Let’s see if that can help them, and if that can help them, and I can be helped along the way, then let’s see what big impact we can have on the world.
And that’s not to build a web app and charge $10.95 a month, get a $1 million by the second year type of business. It’s not a build-a-business raise some funds, sell it for $1 billion five, 10 years from now type of goal, but it’s a goal that says people I admired left a legacy beyond building a business, they left a legacy of ideas, and I want to be in that world and I’m going to take a shot at being in that world and that’s a tough decision to make and it’s tough to stick to it.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
Andrew Warner: Starting a business with my brother was a huge one. Before he and I started, I was going to publish a magazine about business success. I wanted to just write about successful businesspeople. I wanted to cold call and sell it over the phone. I wanted to build it up like one of my favourite magazine, which was Forbes Magazine. When I was growing up, Forbes Magazine was very different from what it is today. It was more focused on successful people, how they got there, their challenges, and uncovering successes in areas you would have never expected. There was a guy who was in the chotsky business who was on the Forbes 400 list, and another guy who was recycling cans and was on the Forbes 400 List of Richest People in the World.
I love listening to that, I love reading those stories and I wanted to be a part of creating stories like that and passing them on to others and building a media empire from nothing. That was the vision, but it was going very slowly and then my brother comes in with his internet experience and starts cranking out these products, and he said, “You know I don’t have much time to sell, and I don’t know how to sell, so maybe we can team up.” So we partnered up and created a newsletter business, we created a greeting card business and then we got into all kinds of other businesses, but it all happened very quickly and it was a huge decision for me.
The second big decision was dropping out from that partnership and saying, “Hey, there is another part of my life that I want to go and explore, and I’m going to have the confidence to know that if I leave here I can always build another business so I’m just going to disappear from business completely.” I’m going to say goodbye to everyone, but I’m not going to stay in touch with people who I worked with, I’m not going to keep pinging them so that one day if I want to get started again I can have that network up and running.
I want to be fully focused on what I need to do and what I need to do is explore the fun part of my life, the non work part of my life. I want to ride my bike every day up the Pacific Coast Highway for 10 hours and not worry about having to pull over to make a few calls to people, but to get lost in the ride. I want to go for long runs. I want to go swimming in the mornings and spend four hours from 6 to 10 am focused on swimming. Or travel to Europe and not have a cell phone with me, and if I need to talk to anyone I’ll just go find a pay phone. I’ll go that basic and that helped me to discover a part of my life that added depth to who I am.
The third event was to put myself out there. I was the kind of person who liked a lot of privacy. When I decided to do Mixergy, I put myself out there and got on camera, I’m not a camera person. I was on Good Morning America once, if you could see the video, I looked stunned, I didn’t look comfortable on camera. But I decided to really reach out to people and have a connection with them. I needed to be on camera, I needed them to see me, I needed them to hear me, I needed them to hear me fail not because I want to fail, not because I want them to hear me fail, but because I had to open myself up to failing publicly on camera, on audio, on the internet with strangers who I don’t know who are watching me, and with old friends or frenemies who are wishing me ill.
People in high school or elementary school could be saying, “That guy thinks he is going to go start a business, I can’t wait for him to fail and fall on his face.” Those people are watching and saying, “Look at him, look at how goofy he looks. Look at how odd he looks on camera.” To put myself in front of all that was a big step, but it was worth it because yes all those people out there I’m sure are saying, “Look at this idiot on camera, just another guy on video on the internet thinking he’s going to be famous.”
But for every hundred of those there is one person who is saying that I connect with Andrew, when he talks about being a loser in high school, or being a loser as far back as elementary school, not knowing how to connect with people, not knowing how to have a conversation with them, that’s me.” Or maybe they say that’s me now, I’m in my twenties, thirties, forties, and that’s an important connection.
For everyone who says what kind of upstart are you? Someone in the audience is saying I’m watching this guy grow, I’m watching him learn and I’m learning and building along the way with him and I’m seeing him get better and better and we are on this path together and you know that Andrew who is there by himself on camera with the light in his face because someone in the audience said he needed a light in his face because he was looking too dark, he needs some help and I’m going to help him out.
I’ll tell him how to improve the website here, or how he can find a person who he never would be able to interview otherwise, or how he can connect to someone who he should get to know, and when you see the guests who I have on Mixergy, it’s not because I know them, It’s because someone in the audience today said, “Andrew needs to meet this person. I want to introduce Andrew, I want to help him out.”
I interviewed Scott McNealy the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, an incredible success story with some difficulty along the way. I never would have gotten to meet him. I never would have gotten to have an hour-long conversation without the help of the founder of a company called Ingboo who did an interview with me. He thought, “I have an advisor on my company Scott McNealy, I’m not even paying him, he is just an advisor, but I want to help Andrew out and I want to get more people to know what Scott is thinking of. I’ll introduce Scott to Andrew then he can do an interview with him.”
And so being public like that has led to connections that I never would have access to, led me to meet people and talk to them one-on-one in a way that I wouldn’t have had access to and if you watch for the next five, 10, 20 years I’ll be public in one way or the other. You’ll get to see more of the fruits from this hard work, more of the fruits from putting myself out there, risking the ridicule that I’ve gone through over the last couple of years doing these interviews.
Andrew Warner Interview – Additional Information
Note from Andrew Warner: It’s not about what I’m doing here at Mixergy. It’s about what others are doing and the person who is listening to us. If there is anything in here, anything that resonates with them, I hope they just go out and do one thing about it right away and do it really crappy and do it badly. If you always wanted to blog but you are embarrassed to put yourself out there, blog and do it badly, you’ll improve later, but you just need to get it out there. If it’s to start a little business, don’t go and incorporate, don’t go and set up the paper work perfectly, just go and build the site that’s going to promote it.
Just go and do one thing where you can see the result and then build on it, and build on it, and build on it, and if you’re not proud of the first thing it’s fine, it will just push you to create something that you’re a little less unproud of, and a little less unproud of and then before long you’ll be very proud of it and then you’ll be incredibly proud and you can’t wait to show the world what you did and bring the world into your passion.
And it doesn’t start with that greatness and your vision of who you are, or who you think you’ll be when you launch something that you’ve been carrying around. The first step is to launch an embarrassing version and it will be a start, and then you’ll build and you’ll build and man when you do that, come back and tell me. Come back and tell me what you’ve built because I love to hear people who hear me, who watch me, read some of what I’ve written because we’re together and there are few people who are willing to do it.
If you look into a bar and say, “Who wants to do shots with me?” there would be tons of people, if you want to hang back and watch football there will be tons of people who want to do it, and if you want to just hang out in life, there will be tons of people who want to do that with you, but there will be very few people who will say, “You know, I’m going forward with you. I’ll start off with the crappy version with you. I’ll take a risk on something that’s really meaningful to me with you. I’ll go not with you side by side holding hands, but along side you in a way where we both do it,” and when you do that, you just start to open up yourself to what you really want to do and you start to open up yourself to other people and that’s the life that I want to be living.