Ali Jafarian

Recovering From CEO with Josh Walsh

Episode Number 011
Duration 48 min

I’m pumped to share this new episode with Josh Walsh!  Josh is an awesome human with a powerful story.  He recently transitioned out of being CEO of a successful agency he built from the ground up.

We focus this discussion on Josh’s recovery from being CEO, the realizations he had around success and happiness, and what fulfillment really means.  Josh also shares some inspiring thoughts on his new journey into Jazz music and helping others reach their full potential.

This episode hit very close to home for me, personally.  Josh and I have a lot in common as professionals and “ole G” programmers.  I’ve felt some of the same emotions he went through and am currently exercising the same creative side that he’s intentionally prioritized.  I appreciate Josh for being vulnerable and speaking for some of us with a similar story 🙂

I’m going through a really significant life change. Reprioritizing things in my life, focusing on things that matter, and being very intentional about those things.

Guest details
Josh Walsh - Entrepreneur & Musician
Josh Walsh


[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back folks. Ali, here, we have another episode. Today I'm excited for you to meet Josh Walsh, who is a friend and an acquaintance from a client of mine, Piano with Jonny. I know very little about Josh, which is unusual given my previous episodes. It's also extremely exciting. So not only are we going to learn a little bit about his story, but I'm going to get to learn more about you, Josh. So how would you like to introduce yourself?

[00:00:29] Josh: Yeah. Cool. Thanks. I like to introduce myself today as a recovering agency CEO. That's very different than how I would have introduced myself six months ago, which would have been agency CEO. I've gone through a recovery is not really a joke. Like that's really how I feel about myself right now.

I'm going through a really significant life change. Reprioritizing things in my life, focusing on things that matter, being very intentional about those things. And actually Ali, you inspired me a little bit in this, so a flashback to when you and I first met. You work in a specific technology with Piano with Jonny and I needed help with that on the agency side. I was like, hey, I need a good vendor we could throw some work to. I thought I was doing you a favor. And you're like, yeah, no, please don't like, I have enough, I don't want to do that stuff. I'm really focused in this area. And I'll tell you the mindset that I was in as the CEO running that company was more, more, more, more, more. Like, how do I get more?

How do I get more clients? How do I get more business? It was about the pursuit of saying yes to as much as possible, instead of being intention about what life you want to have and trying to arrange all those things to enable that to happen. And so now being where I am, like you planted a little bit of a seed that's come forward in that. And I really appreciate that.

[00:01:41] Ali: That's cool, man. Thank you. Yes. I recall you saying that once and I'm humbled, so thank you for restating it. It gives me warm feelings to know that something I said impacted you. And tell me a little bit more then about this recovery. There's some vulnerability there, which I think is beautiful.

You just understanding that this is a period where it sounds to me and feel free to elaborate on this, as you see fit where you had a very established identity being CEO of a company, and now you are undoing some of those things. Is that true?

[00:02:16] Josh: Yeah. So you and I both have software people, the company that I ran for the last 20 years was a software development. We were a service company doing development for other companies. And I started that out because I thought this company will be, it'll kind of give me control over my own destiny. It will let me live the life that I want to live. It'll let me kind of focus on areas that I want to do and have control over my life, where maybe going out in the position that my dad wanted me to do, which was go climb the corporate ladder and, you know, have job security and stuff that way, this felt more in control to me. And for a lot of that time, I would say close to probably the first 15 years, that was true. At some point though it became less about the company enabling me to have the life I wanted to and the company became the sole focus. It had become so big and so much focus that I was a slave to it.

And so now, instead of having freedom that the company would enable me to do, I was shackled by it. Right? So I was working six days a week, 8, 10, 12 hour days, some days. Holidays, when you should be spending time with your family, were the most stressful times, because that's when the renewals for their customers were happening. You never really got to pursue quality or depth in any of the work you did.

Everything was go fast, get it done quickly, spend as little money as possible, but get the result, which was not in my DNA. I'm a creative guy. I like getting in deep and focusing on things. And at some point, and I wish I could pinpoint exactly when this happened. It had just, it had flipped from being this great part of my life that enabled me to pursue what I wanted to, to now like the weight holding me down and preventing me from having the life that I want.

And I wish I would say I had all this great foresight and went through this journey intentionally. But the reality was, it was a lot messier than that. I got very sick, so I was unfortunately one of the first cases of COVID in the US and I got very sick with it to the point where I was questioning things like, am I fulfilling what I wanted to do on the planet. These things sound so cliche, right? Like when you have these near death experiences that you reflect back and have all these regrets about your life, but it kind of was true to me. And what I realized when I was laying in bed for 18 days, was that, how do I say this? What I realized when I was in bed for 18 days, was that I had equated my success with happiness. If that makes sense. Sure. I had a company that was doing very well. I had clients that I loved that loved us. I had a great set of employees and team, and by all measurable accounts, the company was doing really well. And so I had thought, oh, I'm happy because I run this company that's successful, but I really realized I wasn't happy. And in fact, the success of that company was what was preventing me from being happy. I started saying things to myself, like one day, I'm going to sell this company so that I can go live a life and play music and do all this stuff that it really care about. Well, what does it mean for me to sell the company?

What does it enable? I can pay off my house and have no bills and have no mortgages and live cheaply, and I can then afford to spend the time doing things I want. I already paid off my house. I don't have a mortgage. I have no debt. I have no student loans, nothing. The reality is I have that life now today, and I don't even appreciate it because of where I am. And when I'm 75, 80 years old, I might not be physically in a place where I can enjoy it. And so this is all just kind of weighing on me and I realized my priorities and stuff were way out of whack and out of focus and wanted to do something about it.

[00:05:26] Ali: Totally man. You're also a family man, right?

[00:05:29] Josh: I am. Yeah. I have a wife. I don't have any children. I have five nieces that I love, like my children. They're what make me wake up and go to work and glow every day, I would love to put all five of them through college. Hopefully they're not listening to this because if I fail, they're going to hold me accountable to it. But you know, I love, I love that.

[00:05:47] Ali: Beautiful. Okay. Wow, there's a lot there. I'm tempted to ask a little bit more about the origin. Did you start the company?

[00:05:57] Josh: I did. So I started the company as a developer. I had brought in a partner at the time who was kind of a business guy, doing all the sales and stuff. We had a deal go bad, and that partner just vanished on me one day. Literally just never saw him again. And so I became the business guy and I started outsourcing the software development side of it. And that was kind of what my life was for the next 15 years. I brought in another partner who was very technical. The two of us ran the company together. I was CEO, he was kind of CTO. We grew a team with a couple dozen employees that were billable at any given time, but my job was really like go out and make the relationships with the clients and do all the sales work and close the deals and build the sales team and all of that stuff. And I realized like I'm very introverted.

And so I was coming home just completely exhausted and drained from those types of things. So in January, this year, I don't know what it was consciously, but I decided I didn't want to be CEO anymore. I wanted to be creative. So I kind of demoted myself to be the head of marketing, if you will. And my partner, Dave became the CEO. And so he has his own vision and ideas for where he wants to take the company and what they want to do. And they're great ideas, but they weren't really the ride that I wanted to be on anymore. And so we found a way just to kind of make that transition the same as me leaving the company.

[00:07:15] Ali: And so are you completely unplugged now?

[00:07:18] Josh: From that company. That's all finished. I don't go in, I don't consult, I don't talk with clients, I'm not on their board, nothing like I'm completely clean, walk away from them.

[00:07:27] Ali: Right. You've unplugged from that. Was there some sadness from that?

[00:07:32] Josh: You know, there's some, it's my baby, you know, but at the same time, like it's not anymore. The company that it is today still has the name that I gave it. And it still has a lot of the core DNA that I have, but no, I don't miss it. Like I went back, I've been an intentional goal setting kind of person, my whole life. And I keep these moleskine' journals. Right here. I write down my goals and my intentions and where I want to be. And then I retrospect at the end of each year and kind of took it where it was. I went back to when I started the company as to what my goal was to create it. And I wanted to have, you know, maybe a company size of about 10 people working with middle companies. I didn't want to be working with nearly as larger companies as we were with as many staff members as we did under as much pressure as I was.

Because again, my goal was to create a company that afforded me this lifestyle. And so I kind of realized like, oh, the reason I'm not enjoying this anymore is just because it outgrew what I ever wanted it to become. It had become its own monster and kept growing. So I was kind of sad to let it go, but also chose to make it a celebratory moment that I had like graduated. I had set out to do this thing and had done it and marked it as victory. And I'm now going to do the next thing.

[00:08:39] Ali: Good for you man. It's nice to hear that because I've had some similar experiences where unplugging from something was quite sad. As you said, there's this metaphor and it being like your baby. In many ways it is because you started it, you grew it, you fed it and it flourished into this, well, in your case, an adult, right? Some businesses just get to toddler, teenage stage, but you had a full-blown adult on your hands, and then you were able to say, great, my time here has passed.

I mean, 15 to 20 years, that's a significant amount of time. So it's also possible that you were at peace with that decision is what I hear.

[00:09:18] Josh: It could be. I'm 38 years old. Maybe it's like my midlife crisis moment just hit a little early because I started my life so early. I never had a job. This is the only employer I've ever had was this company. So as the company got bigger, I didn't know how to hire people or be a good HR or be a coach or mentor to anybody. Cause I'd never had that in my life. Right. I was like an operations guy and it was just outgrowing me and the parts that I enjoy doing.

So I'm kinda relieved. I asked myself, I wonder if for some terrible reason I woke up tomorrow and the company had closed, you know, how would I feel about it? And I'd like to say fine because I'm not there to influence it or control it in any way. I think part of me would be sad too right, like I just a huge part of my life that went into that thing.

[00:10:02] Ali: Sure. No, I get it. And in fact, Josh, I can empathize a lot more than you may know. I have some very similar roots in starting software businesses and being a developer with soft skills, which is exactly what I just heard from you. We both have engineering minds and it's potentially our core competency yet we learned to do the things to grow the businesses. This last year I've had a lot of intense feelings and what I would describe as identity shift, start to take place, and that's exactly what this show is about. I'm going to be sharing even more of that in different episodes, as it continues to reveal itself, I'm on this purpose journey, et cetera.

At some point, we all have an inflection point where we're like, you know what, I don't really want that label anymore. And it's not in a way where there's anger or frustration. At least from my side, it was just more being like, okay, this has run its course I'm done with this.

Which segues into what I'm even more interested about. And that's, what's in focus now. So tell us a little bit about what Josh Walsh is doing today.

[00:11:12] Josh: Well, I'm in recovery, so I think we should talk about that. I'm not one that really gives advice to other people, cause I'm not always worthy of it, but if I could share something, I don't think I'm the only one to equate success and happiness.

And because when I left, a lot of people were surprised, right. I had a great close relationship with teams and the people that I worked with that are clients and family members and people I go to church with. And when they found out I left, they're like, oh, are you okay, is the company okay? Did you close? I was like, no, no, no, company's fine. Everything's good. But there was this sense of like, well, why in the world would you leave? Are you a moron? You've built this whole thing. You're successful. You're making money. Like you were on the trajectory. Why the heck could you leave now?

And I think that a lot of people are stuck in that same idea of like, just because you're successful doesn't mean you're fulfilled. And so that started asking me some hard questions, like, well, what does fulfill me? And there were some aspects of what I was doing. Like one of my core values as a human being is to help other people reach their potential.

And so I had brought that out in like how I coached and worked with people on my team and how we did public speaking in events and give back to the community. And those things were all in that kind of value. But I don't think helping sell more credit cards was, the thing that really made me feel fulfilled. I wanted something deeper than that.

So now what I'm kind of doing is trying to figure out how do I take the thing I'm most passionate about, which is jazz music. That's what brings Piano with Jonny into this whole thing. And trying to figure out how to use that, to create mentorship moments with like community college or young college kids that are going to use music as a way to distract themselves from the professional development they're doing in school, but also give me a chance to kind of give some life skills and work with them on those types of things. So the project I'm doing Jazz Library is how to play jazz piano, education thing, like what Piano Jonny is doing.

But with kind of the intent of how do I get out in the community and to help kids that are maybe likely to drop out from school or young women who may get pregnant or whatever, how do I help make the community itself better through music?

[00:13:11] Ali: I see. That's awesome. And is there an aspect of building something here or is it more consulting? Like what does this look like?

[00:13:20] Josh: So the way the money is going to work is I have a blog that's really quite popular, a YouTube channel I started before Christmas, which is growing quickly. Those will probably turn into selling some kind of online materials, courses, workshops or whatever.

I'm not doing much in terms of consulting or one-on-one piano teaching, for example. I have a couple consulting clients, but they almost have to audition with me to make it onto my radar because I'm so cautious about ending up back where I just left by taking on too much work or taking a clients that I don't want because the money is there.

So I made Piano with Jonny audition with me and be worthy of being a client. Right. And so I have very few of those and I actively turn away almost all of them that come by because I really want to have focus on the music thing.

[00:14:03] Ali: Now to be clear, is that because they're, well, one it's you have these boundaries, these constraints, which are awesome, but is this selectivity because there are going to be clients who are like, oh, I want old Josh. I want to see old Josh?

[00:14:19] Josh: Oh, yeah, a hundred percent. It's both. Right. So again, I'm in recovery. So the life that I had just six months ago was my life was scheduled in 15 minute intervals because he couldn't get me for longer than that. I literally had too much stuff on my plate. I celebrated being busy and working long.

I thought again, that was, it was the things that were important. I was excited when I had long uninterrupted stretches of time to do something creative, like write a proposal. And by long uninterrupted stretches of time, I mean, like 45 minutes. Right. And so now I go like two meetings a week and all of the rest of it is uninterrupted, creative time to write content, produce videos, be in the community, be with myself.

Honestly, I'm taking some time away from not working 40 hours a week because I have some battery recharging to do just from 20 years in the grind. Sure. And it's off-putting for me a little bit. It's been a very disorienting transition because I have so many habits built in like get up at 6:00 AM and just be on the phone nonstop all day. Right. And check your email 15 times. And it's just really freeing to not have to do that, but also disoriented.

[00:15:24] Ali: Yeah, I get it. I can relate. Years ago I had three companies and I was very split. I had two children. I found myself experiencing burnout for the first time, twice in a year. And I was like, oh, that's what this is. Cause like, I didn't even really experience anxiety until I became a parent. You know, leading three businesses, all smaller businesses than what you've described. I think most humans would be destroyed if they were leading three medium sized businesses, but small businesses, you know, can be managed with different talents.

And regardless there was this tipping point, even trying to stay within 50ish, maybe sometimes 60 hours a week where I was just like, able to do it, able to sustain all the things, right? And then you hit that climax where you're like, whoa, this isn't what I want. And coming down is hard. It's not just like you stop that and you have a quick grieving period and you're like, boom, I've got this new life with all this new space.

Even right now, I'm still navigating that cause I'm down to like a 30ish hour work week with lots of time and to relate to exactly what you said in some ways, I'm like, well, I'm wired to go do the next thing and the next thing and figure out the next problem and solve the next task. But I don't have as much of that. And so you have to sort of throttle and transition. And so what you're what like six months into that now, or a bit longer?

[00:16:53] Josh: I left in July. So yeah, seven months.

[00:16:57] Ali: Okay. And so is it starting to feel a little bit easier? Is it still intense where you're like, this is still new and there's these intense emotions. Cause I can tell you by going first, I've experienced some intense feelings of emptiness at times, and that's where you start to grab for the fulfillment, like, well, what do I really want to do? What's meaningful to me.

[00:17:17] Josh: My wife has been really supremely helpful with me in this because I took a week, like the first month that I took off, I took no clients on whatsoever. I basically was just me trying to figure out what I wanted to do and just kind of fiddling around with some stuff. And I took like two days and I went to the library and I just read a book. One of these books that I wanted to read for a long time, that I knew was going to be helpful in my professional development, especially given the career change and going through.

And I felt so guilty. Like, why am I not doing something more tangible right now that's delivering value for somebody else? Why am I not out trying to bill these hours to somebody? Right. I felt really just kind of broken about it. And so I don't know that I got emotional. Like, I didn't like sit in the shower in the fetal position and cry over it.

Not that I think, like that's not a man, like too manly to do that kind of thing. It just didn't hit me that way. But I did, I think what emptiness feels right. Like, I would normally fill all that sense of emptiness with just frankly busy work that wasn't adding that much value sitting in on meetings and stuff like that.

And yeah, now I can spend the time intentionally doing things that are meaningful and sometimes that's meditating or listening or working a different shift of hours for a day or working four hours one day and just taking the afternoon off because you know, it's important. I'd go up to the lake with my laptop and work from there. And there was this dude walking around. He was obviously retired, had a metal detector, was running around and he'd come over to me everyday. He's like, I found a quarter. Right. And I was like, man, I wish I could hit something that was that happy. So I started leaving him quarters, right. Like where I was sitting, he came back the next day he's like, dude, you wouldn't believe it like right where you were sitting I found like four quarters. Yeah. And it's like those things, which add no value, like from a business perspective to the world at all. Just can you see the smile on my face? Like, they're just silly nothings, but I had no space for nothing before and now it matters.

Of course, I can't do that sustainably forever. You have to get back into the grind of things. But, yeah, I, like, I learned a lot by going through that experience and filling the empty spaces with things that were joyful or fun or giving to somebody else instead of just pursuing more profits all the time.

[00:19:31] Ali: For sure, man. So apropos, I was just on a group coaching call this morning where we were talking about joy and one of the questions was how much joy do you give yourself on a regular basis? Many people in this group are high achievers seeking some form of fulfillment or purpose, and it was almost unanimous that most of us just shrugged. Including myself. We spend a lot of time serving others, especially as leaders in businesses. We spend a lot of time working on growth and establishing these patterns, these behaviors, these leadership qualities, where it results in having very little time for ourselves. And that's what I was just laughing in pure joy of what you shared. The fact that you could just sit in a park and bring another complete stranger joy, which also brought you joy. That's a pretty human experience.

[00:20:28] Josh: And it's, it's silly to say it because again, it's throwing quarters on the ground and watching this old guy run around and pick them up. But it was just like this weird connection with this strange guy that like, I don't know, it was just freeing.

[00:20:39] Ali: Hell yeah, man. The other thing that sticks out there is the ability to be bored, right? Actually being intentional, creating space to just be bored. If you were busy or even too preoccupied, you may not have even noticed that man searching for quarters. And I think this is a recurring theme in our lives is many of us is that we can stay so busy. We can pack our calendar. It's not just about business either. I have a lot of parent friends and we're starting to feel this having two young children now who have activities. It's like, there's all these things on the calendar and there's all these priorities. Everything's competing for our time and our attention.

And there is very little time to rest and be bored and just be still. I just started reading Stillness is the Key, which is one of several books that I've read that just start to talk about creating space, to let your mind drift and get back to a place of creativity. I also wanted to mention, since you brought up books that I feel like a while ago, Josh, when we first met, which was, you know, years ago, via Piano with Jonny.

At that point, I feel like I took a look at your website and you had a lot of books on that. So there's some truth to this cause you're laughing and I want to honor you because I was like, whoa, this dude reads as much as me, if not more, because there were some good books on that list. I was just looking up the other day to verify and it looks like you've changed. So that, that no longer is in reference. Is that true?

[00:22:16] Josh: No, I still read, I read voraciously.

[00:22:18] Ali: The books are gone though. Off the website.

[00:22:20] Josh: Yeah. I took that website down.

[00:22:22] Ali: Oh, okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Talk to me about reading.

[00:22:25] Josh: I was listening to your first episode you were talking about like, hey, I judge people who don't have coaches. And I have a tremendous mentor. And, uh, my mentor, I've learned so much from him. I can go to him and ask questions to get answers. But I feel like a good coach sometimes gives you what you're not looking for, but what you need to hear in the moment, and books are like that .

And one of the things I think I've learned, is that, identifying what book you need to read and what moment of time. I read one book at one point and I went back and read it like later in my life again. And I was like, why didn't just click for me before, like the, so speaks to me now, but it wasn't like in the right space in my life to read it yet.

[00:23:03] Ali: Yeah, you have a great memory. So that was the very first podcast I did with John Dougherty. One of my business partners, who was the one who stated, cause he has very strong opinions on coaching and he's the one that feels that sometimes he'll judge people who don't value coaching, let's just say.

Which is an argument for it. You and I both know having coaches that there's a lot of value from being coached in all facets of life. And I couldn't agree with you more, man. That's why I love reading books. I read so many books that like my wife gets a bit concerned with how many books come to the house from Amazon every month, especially because I would say going back to last year, Josh, I started to change it up.

I used to be read a book, open a new one, read a book, open a new one. Whereas now I typically have three, sometimes four books going and mostly physical. I listen exclusively to podcasts. I don't really do audio books. So I like reading a lot of books and building my library and this new model entertains that I'm generally reading three or four.

I'm seeing if the book can sustain my attention through the second or third chapter. If it can, I will keep reading it, if it doesn't, I just put it back on the shelf. And I haven't been doing this long enough to know when I'm going to go back and grab the ones that just got put on the shelf. But I think you make a really strong argument that there's something about timing to when we read, because I have re-read books that I read when I was much younger and I'm like, wow, I'm interpreting this so much differently now. It's almost like a whole different side of me is learning this material in a way I've never heard it before.

And that's one of the things that is so cool about books as being mentors is that they are quite timeless. Like some of the books that I've gotten the most value out of in recent years are not New York Times bestsellers from last month. They're actually books that were written a while ago. And I think you can always extract some value from just basically timeless literature. So is that similar to what you found?

[00:25:15] Josh: Yeah. I'm curious if this resonates with you or not, because it's a little controversial with my friends. Sure. I am a huge believer in focusing on the foundation of anything that you're learning.

A lot of people, I feel like build a foundation, get it over with as fast as you can, so you can get to building the fancy stuff on top of it. And I like tend to go keep going back to the fundamentals. And like grilling and drilling the fundamentals to make sure, like, I really have a deep, full understanding part of me.

And this applies to everything like playing the piano for example. As much as I love Piano with Jonny, there are tons of these like quick tip YouTube videos that are full of every week is a new thing and a new thing you can go explore. There's some fun in that, but for me, I always go back to well, do I know, like the fundamental scales and rudiments and arpeggios and stuff like that get into everything. Instead of like building on top of it, I get so much value out of deconstructing things. And I think that's why my wife is like, you read four books on the same topic this month. Like, like, why don't you read four books in four different topics and expand more? And I'm like, I don't think I learned the lesson yet.

Like I want different perspectives and different ideas. And I want to challenge each of them in my own way and figure out what that means. Again, controversial because my friends are all like read as many books as possible to get as much knowledge as possible. Where I want the Kung Fu matrix moment, right. Where like, I've really made it part of me and I understand how to do it.

[00:26:33] Ali: Yeah. Foundations, first principles. These are strong mental models that I personally agree with as well. Where if you read something once or a book about a specific topic once. And depending on your reading proficiency, you might retain some of it to where you could kind of describe it to someone, but the kicker is can you teach it? Cause when you can teach something in a way where you feel confident and you're teaching, especially like a science or a philosophy in the way that it is truly represented well, now you understand it. And most of the time you can't get that from a quick read, a quick scan or a quick audio listen.

To your point, what I've found from my experience as well, is that when you read different books on similar topics, let's say business, personal growth, philosophy. After you've read various authors from different backgrounds, you can't read, just a bunch of books by white guys, or just a bunch of books by yogis. You know what I'm saying? Because you're going to get very skewed perspectives. But when you start reading, let's say leadership books by different ages, genres, backgrounds, ethnicities, what I've found is that you start to hear similar models, and now you've just strengthened your foundation of the topic.

Because a lot of people are saying similar things, they're just saying it a different way. In books related to science, business, personal growth, every now and then you stumble upon a new model or a new concept. You're like, oh wow, that's really cool. And people jump to it, but then you have a plethora of authors that have all found value in this like genre or topic and they're just giving you their slice of it.

So I completely agree with that. And that's why at a certain point, I get a little bit tired of the same topic. Cause I'm like, great. I've got the foundation here. I can talk this. I can teach it. I can even mentor it for people who've never heard it or want to learn the foundations and then I'd start to move on. Like right now I'm getting a little bit more interested in adventure style books or reading people who've done really extreme feats in terms of races or climbs or, whatever you, you would have. Yeah, I agree with that. I think it's a cool, it's cool that we're getting out our reading because we have a lot of similar parallels just from the programming world and the business world and now reading world.

You also mentioned guilt, which is an interesting thing.

[00:29:05] Josh: Self guilt.

[00:29:06] Ali: Self guilt, man. So you talked a little bit about guilt and not being busy. How else does it show up in your life?

[00:29:12] Josh: I felt guilty prioritizing myself over what was good for the business? Again, the company had started to help give me the resources to live the life I wanted. At some point had flipped, so where I was there to serve it and its existence and survival was paramount and was worthy of sacrificing myself to keep that thing going. And you talked about hitting a burning out point for you a couple of times in one year. I absolutely did that. And I kept going anyway because I had the pressure of people that worked for me. And I had to keep the billings going, had to keep the clients happy.

But there, there was just always stress. I had an amazing team. Everybody got along, we did good work. I didn't have people who like showed up and phoned it in. Like we had a really good quality team. Likewise. I had great customers that really respected us in the work we did and paid us well, and those kinds of things. But at the size and scale where we were, even with like 98% going, well, let's 2% going wrong is more than a full-time job. And so you find yourself surrounded by so much, so many things going right yet focusing all your energy on things that are broken. And I think there is a certain personality type that handles that better than I do. I just realized how drained and tired of it I was.

[00:30:22] Ali: Yeah, I get it, man. I'm glad that you've got over that guilt. Because it's one of the strongest emotions I've learned in studying conscious leadership here for a few years now. Guilt is one of those things that will keep us pinned. It'll keep us down. It shows up all over the place. I've had different guilt in various similar scenarios as you with business and team member and responsibility. I've had guilt with my family in terms of how much time and energy I give them. And it's, it's so easy to be like, well, put your face mask on first, like the airplane analogy, which like everyone knows. But yet we still feel the guilt. Right. We still feel the guilt of putting ourselves first. So I think there's definitely a balance.

I can't say with confidence that like I've, I'm living guilt free or even close to it because I think it's one of those emotions that's like always going to kind of dance around and play with you until, I don't know. Maybe you get to a place where you just can confidently live by putting yourself first and then like, as we know, having the resources to fill everybody else up.

[00:31:35] Josh: Yeah. The other thing that comes to mind, the business that I was in was, which is dealing with, you know, fortune 100 type companies doing marketing work for them. Is everybody has a face that they've put on. It's so rare to find someone that you really genuinely look in their eyes and see who they are as a person.

And you start to do the same thing yourself. It becomes contagious. There's like this chest puffing, right? That happens where you gotta one up each other. You gotta be busier than the next guy. You gotta make more money than the last guy constantly, always chasing things. And the agency space can be, especially like manipulative and slimy at times, I'm really proud that we never became that company, but it took a lot of discipline and fighting and focus on our core values to not become that. So I'm proud of those moments, but it's draining to kind of be around people that are you, you have, you always feel like you can't know someone's true intentions behind things.

You're always kind of studying and looking around the corner and ruffling the feathers and trying to figure out what's really true here. Why do they really feel, how do I really serve this person the best I can? But, you know, they're just a job with a job title and somebody else's boss and like it all just kind of, it's just messy.

And so to walk away from the mess and be able to do silly things like decide, you know what I'm going to spend another two hours on the CSS of this navigation, because I really want it to be spot on, perfect. Where I could've never billed two more hours to a client for that. That would be like a weekend project I did for my own pride, not for the good of the business and to be able to like, be your own boss and focus on those things and set your own priorities and have like almost endless creative freedom to work on those things. It's just, it's just amazing.

[00:33:18] Ali: You, go back to being an artist, right? In some ways we're all an artist in what we're creating. And now that you're back into this creative journey, I'm doing the exact same thing with this podcast. It's those small things, like you said that, bring out the art in us, that bring out the true artistry of like, this is what I want to create. This is what I want to spend my time on. I'm not doing this for money. I'm not doing this because so-and-so said it needed to be done by tomorrow. I'm doing this because that's what I want to do. Even if it's this little thing that might seem silly to someone else.

You know, something else I wanted to highlight, Josh, that you mentioned, which ties a little bit back to reading as it relates to programming, is that it's interesting what I've surveyed in being more of a 'old G' programmer, which I think you fall into the same demographic. You know, we started building websites and web applications in the days where it was way different than where we are today.

It's amazing to me when we start talking about foundations and first principles through hiring and also just networking. How many so-called web developers or engineers are really just people who are good at like Googling and, and putting things together and perhaps strapping a little code here and there.

And like, honestly, whereas that's a test to tie back, like with foundations and going back to this sort of artist metaphor, like if you really learned to program or develop for the web, you would have an understanding of these things. Where I don't know about you, but I feel like that's lost today. And it's pretty rare to find people who have that.

Just the other day, when you sent me an email, like I went and clicked the link and I took a look at the database documentation you sent me and I scan it over and I was like, oh, that is interesting. But I feel like if you would have sent that to most web developers today, they'd be like, what the fuck is he talking about? Like, what is this, right? How does this even relate to, you know what I'm saying? So have you sensed some of that as things have changed, because again, you go back 15, 20 years when we started building web products, it is a completely different landscape.

[00:35:26] Josh: So I think tech in general, is full of people who are really bleeding edge on everything. They want the newest type, the newest software. They want to be beta testers. They want it right. There, there's like some pride in that. And I think that leads to tech itself being too bleeding edge, like pushing the boundaries too far. One of my best friends, who's a very competent developer. He and I go back and forth on text almost every day. Like, why are we doing all of this JavaScript crap? And that's not to knock on React or Vue, or even on the server side note and all these things. Like they all have their place. And they're all interesting technology, but it's like, why are we using these things in this particular application?

I've been on Twitter and one of the core React guys is like this is the architecture I use whenever I create a React component and he had posted like a code snippet of this button, he created. It was six files to create a button. And I'm like, guys, what are we doing? How have we gotten to this point where this is the correct design pattern. And again, these are very smart people. But they they've lost, what's the old saying, like I realized I could do it, I never thought to take the time to realize if I should.

[00:36:27] Ali: Sure, sure, yeah.

[00:36:27] Josh: When 15 years ago I would have laughed at me and been like, okay, old man, like, try to keep up with tech. Like you're going to age out of this, out of your career. And now I'm like, maybe the experience that I've had since then has told me, we don't need six files to create something as silly as a button.

[00:36:43] Ali: Totally! It goes back to the puffing your chest analogy. That's how I feel about a lot of the latest JavaScript technology to get into, you know, tech lingo is that most of these tools, like you said, serve a purpose. There is an application, especially a niche application when you start talking about the more dynamic web. In reality a lot of them are just, it's a popularity contest. Like, Hey, here's the way mine works. And here's why all the people that are using it and they start stamping the logos. And next thing you know, like you said, you're like, guys, this was way easier when it was just one line of code to make a button.

[00:37:25] Josh: I have an old client who just came to me and auditioned with me to be a new client and they lost the audition, but I looked at their stuff and they had a very simple, static marketing website that was built on the JAMstack. And they spent three times more than they should have building it. They can't do basic stuff that they wanted to, and that's not a knock on like the technology. It's all capable of doing those types of things. It's just a matter of like, you've lost sense of the purpose of the project in the first place. Right. You've nerded out on the technology and being interested in that part of it. And you've lost sense of what value it creates in the world.

[00:37:55] Ali: A hundred percent. Do you know anything about a Web Three?

[00:38:00] Josh: Yeah, I do. Why are you going to sell me an NFT?

[00:38:02] Ali: I mean, no, but now that we're geeking out, I'm here to learn because there's, and we don't need to go into crypto convo per se, but, um, I'm more curious about what you think about Web Three as a programmer who's getting back to his roots of being creative again. There's a part of me that wants to play a little bit, like I used to. Like, remember the early days when you'd test things out and you didn't have the responsibilities of leading a growing company, like, oh, I could just spend half the day messing with this new thing that seems interesting. Now, there's a time and a place for that. And I'm kind of exercising some of that space right now to experiment and play and be like, oh, what is this? And so I'm genuinely curious what you think about Web Three and if it is going to be the next wave that engineers get behind and really start building applications for.

[00:38:56] Josh: I do. I believe it's going to be, but you can't tell that from looking at what's going on right now. Right? So if Web Two is about the interactive web and creating platforms like Spotify, right? These big behemoths that frankly have all of the leverage in the conversation and the creators don't have any say in their own output anymore.

Like you're a musician famously on Spotify. You get paid almost nothing to promote yourself. Well, that needs to flip. We need to give some power back to the people who own and create the music. And so Web Three, fundamentally enables that to happen. And I'm a big fan of blockchain as a technology because of these types of things that it enables to happen.

But it's also, we're also in like the Napster stage of Web Three right now where it's like Napster was never built to be a sustainable longterm thing. It was inevitably going to die and get sued out of existence, but it was going to change the way everybody looked at music on the web forever. And then someone will come through and find a more legitimate path to do that.

I think that's kind of where we are now with like NFTs and all these weird crypto coins and stuff like that is like the technology exists and people are playing with it and they're being a little scammy with it or things like that right now. But the technology underneath it is really interesting. At what I'll be curious to see is kind of how it plays out. Or is the scammy nature of all of these crypto things going to destroy anybody's open-mindedness to adopt the real fundamental technology of blockchain underneath it. I think we'll get there, but it's going to be a little rough.

[00:40:24] Ali: Well said. I have similar thoughts in terms of the application of not just crypto, but Web Three technology, blockchain technology. And I think that you make some really good points there around, not just where it came from, where we came from, but also now where we're going and how that's gonna shake out.

So what do you say we wrap with some rapid fun fire questions.

[00:40:53] Josh: All right.

[00:40:54] Ali: So first one, best book you've read lately?

[00:40:58] Josh: Definitely not the best book I've ever read, but the one we talked about books speaking to you in the moment, is Show Your Work. As I'm learning how to be a creator and put content out there, I've realized I don't need to be the big guy, wise guy at the top of the mountain that has all the answers that people come visit. But I can be the Sherpa that goes up the mountain and falls down with you. And we can go on that journey. And maybe I've got a little bit of experience ahead of you and I can show you what I've learned, even if it's not perfect.

And we can go about. All that like jazz library, stuff that I'm doing is very much that I'm not the best jazz piano player in the world, but I'm trying to be the best at kind of transparently showing the journey that I'm going on in a way that will help other people do that.

[00:41:35] Ali: That's awesome. I haven't heard of that one. So thank you. And you can read it in like, three hours. Yeah, pick it up. Awesome. That will be on my list. Sweet.

Next, what animal are you most scared of?

[00:41:47] Josh: I think I told you this before we got on and I'm a little cheater, but a tick. I suppose you could say like a snake or an alligator or a bear or something, but like those I can see and keep at a distance, but a tick could kill you without even knowing that it's on you. And that, that scares me.

[00:42:01] Ali: You're right. Ticks are just these tiny mischievous little creatures that like, what does it tick even want? It just wants to embed itself in your skin. And just sit there.

[00:42:13] Josh: I don't think he even wants to kill you. I think it's just a by-product of like its nature is that it kills you when it attacks. I'm not a tick expert, but it scares me.

[00:42:22] Ali: No, that's a good answer. I had not even considered that. So thank you for, for the tick.

Next, what's your favorite superhero?

[00:42:33] Josh: This is a really bad question to ask me because I don't watch superhero movies or read comic books. Ever? Not really. No. I mean, I guess like the old school Batman and, and that's fine and stuff. I guess I would say somebody like Iron Man who doesn't have a natural, super ability because it, to me, it's like, you can find it within yourself or you can build it around you to help other people. That kind of speaks to what I'm trying to do, but I don't know. It seems kind of like a silly question for me who doesn't know.

[00:43:01] Ali: I see some Iron Man and you man, after what you've shared. I also think Iron Man is a cool choice because we humans could totally be Iron Man. And that's one of the things I catch myself from watching my son loves the Avengers and so I've been rewatching them with him. And dude, I watched that and I'm like, man, becoming Tony Stark, it would probably take a bit of wealth to build similar technology to what he has, but like, we are going to be there pretty soon where we've got voice activated labs and we've got robots that are advanced enough to build suits. It's not too far off. So I think Iron Man is actually a really good answer there.

Next is where would you like to live if you could choose anywhere in the world?

[00:43:52] Josh: I would live in a mountain by myself with my wife, of course, but not surrounded by suburbs and full of other people. I would love to just be in the energy of nature and space and that kind of stuff. I don't want to do off grid living. Like that's not appealing to me like these Alaskan TV shows. No, thank you. I don't have any interest. I need to get my Amazon packages and I got to have my high-speed internet and all of that stuff, you know, I don't have to be right on top of a whole bunch of other people. I'd like to go outside, put my feet up, watch the sunset and just be part of it all and not distracted by humans, destroying everything else around it.

[00:44:25] Ali: I feel you, man. That's a beautiful vision. And last question. How would you spend $10 million if you couldn't use it on yourself or anyone you love?

[00:44:37] Josh: I'd put it, in a trust somewhere for private education. This is something my friend Derek Sivers actually did. He built a company called CD Baby. And when he sold it, he put all of the money into a trust that goes into private music education when he dies. I would put it all right on top of his.

[00:44:51] Ali: That is cool. We were also this morning talking about impact and what it means to us and the majority of the answers there related to just making a difference in other people's lives. Like there's your personal impact. And then there's an impact that your immediate family or your relatives, but then there's impacting others, which relates to significance and meaning. And, I think that's a beautiful answer.

You explain a little bit about how your current focus is an effort to serve others, but, is there a longer term vision for you to do more of this sort of like funding of education for people?

[00:45:32] Josh: Well, I mean, this is relevant to two conversations we had. I'm on the board of two non-profits. One is called Roots of American Music, which does exactly this. It goes out in the community and it works with school districts and lower income neighborhoods and brings music education and life skills into those areas. That's super important to me. And the other one is a program called Kids Read Now, which is an alternative summer school reading program for lower income neighborhoods, kids who, who have the major summer slide in their reading ability. When they go from like second grade to third grade, their reading abilities drop back in a huge way. And some of these families like their parents and grandparents are illiterate. They don't know how to read. So we give nine books to all of these students. Last, last year we gave 980,000 books away to kids.

[00:46:18] Ali: Dude, that is amazing!

[00:46:20] Josh: Yeah. I don't have $10 million to put into music education right now. And maybe I will, after I fund my five nieces college educations. But I'm trying, even without the $10 million, trying to make the biggest impact in those areas, I can anyway.

[00:46:34] Ali: Love it man. Absolutely love it. Anything left unsaid, Josh?

[00:46:40] Josh: I just mentioned Derek Sivers if you don't know his book, Anything You Want, you would love it.

[00:46:44] Ali: I have heard of that book. I don't know why I haven't read that. I have definitely heard of that book.

[00:46:48] Josh: Go watch his Ted Talk and that book is fantastic. And again, you can read it and like an hour.

[00:46:52] Ali: Okay. I guess we can't send people your way because you are, auditioning, so they don't, they have to even get an audition before they can even talk with Josh.

[00:47:01] Josh: You could send people to if you want. I would rather you go to, watch the YouTube videos and have some fun with your life. Pick up the piano if you've never tried it, you know, that's, that's the gold. Have some creative space with some music in your life, even if you're not a musician.

[00:47:15] Ali: Hell yes! All right. Well, thank you, Josh. This has been more than a pleasure and I appreciate you. Till next time.

[00:47:25] Josh: Thanks brother.

Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.

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