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Tim Brown, Founder of Three Creative and author of “Jumping into the Parade,” interviewed by Brian Watson, Founder and CEO of the Opportunity Coalition

Brian Watson: Welcome to the Opportunity Coalition podcast. Today, we have Tim Brown with us, the Founder of Three Creative, a business consulting and coaching firm, and Tim is also a newly published author.

Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim Brown: Thank you, Brian, great to be here.

Brian Watson: Tim, for our listeners who may not be familiar with Three Creative office a little bit about your company, and why you founded it, and what is its purpose?

Tim Brown: The purpose of Three Creative is, everything centers around living from the inside out and servant-based leadership. And where my three core areas of focus are specifically, I'm a newly published author, which we can talk about in a moment, and also keynote speaking. I help companies, number two, with coming in, and improving their sales, branding, marketing, or leadership within the company, and where they want to go as an organization. And third is coaching, which leads back into some of the organizations that consult with, or coaching on an individual basis.

Brian Watson: Well, let's talk about this concept of servant-based leadership. I think in society, that people don't often necessarily think about that, that being a leader has to mean that you are tough, and that you're out in front, and sometimes leadership has a lot of ego that comes with it. But those two words in front of servant-based leadership puts a completely different tint on it. Talk to us a little bit about what that means.

Tim Brown: I believe that when you are serving others, you are at your highest and best self. Leadership happens anytime you can influence the thinking, the behavior, or the development of another person. And many times you learn the most about yourself through others, and how you help them. And so, when I think of servant-based leadership, there's really two different models out there in terms of how you can run a company.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown

And the first model is very top-down driven, it tends to be more controlling, and there are attributes where this model works better. In a servant-based leadership model, it's a -- where you are leading from the bottom up. It's very -- tends to be more of a flat organization, of how it's run, and what you're trying to create is essentially the ability to leverage a lot of different areas within the company, because they've been empowered.

I think of the highlight of that being able to look at your pool of employees, and seeing things inside of them that they can't see yet for themselves, and developing the areas of their head, their heart, their habits, and their hands, to perform better. Not just what they do professionally, but across all aspects of their life.

Brian Watson: So the concept of servant-based leadership, is this a new concept, or are a lot of companies already employing this? Talk to us a little bit about its history, and where it started from, and what kind of impact it may be having in society today?

Tim Brown: I think servant-based leadership has been around, literally since Jesus Christ was who was on the earth, and that model of teaching people through your words, teaching people through experiences, teaching people through creating an environment that allows them to make mistakes. We started to see probably more of a resurgence of that mindset here over the last twenty years as the United States has moved more from being more manufacturing-centric to being more services based.

Brian Watson: So in terms of employing a servant-based leadership mindset in an organization, does somebody have to have an understanding, or a grasp of faith, or are these principles that can be learned by almost anyone, if they're willing to have an open mind, and wanting to make a positive impact the organization?

Tim Brown: It can really be learned by anyone. One of the core tenets to a servant-based leadership model is you move away from a fear-based mindset in terms of how you lead, and things become much more courage-based, more love-based, more open to sharing. And when you think about how that transcends in the organization, a lot of times, the work that I do when I go into an organization culturally is finding out how comfortable people feel, in terms of sharing their ideas.

I look at what the path perception is, of the people within the organization. I will look at, in terms of whether people feel they're being built up or torn down culturally. A lot of those things. So you're putting the development of your people first, and you're looking at, if I make these long-term investments in people, the company then will do better, our customer experience will be better, and we'll be able to innovate new products differently and better, because a lot of times your teams have the best ideas. It's just a matter of drawing them out, and those people feeling that they're in a safe and trusted environment to be able to give their thoughts around improving things.

Brian Watson: It's interesting, when I was young, I had the opportunity to have different leadership roles. And in high school, whether it be head of my student body, or President of Future Farmers of America, and back then, I thought leadership was about to me having to go out and do it, because if I didn't do it, nobody else would.

I had the opportunity to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder and be a part of the President's Leadership Class, and we studied many different ideas of leadership and concepts, and really walked away with this idea that my role as a leader is helping to understand, to love, and to empower our people. And when you do that, great things happen, and you see them blossom.

My question is that, like anything in life, some people believe that leadership, you are born a leader, or that leadership just happens to you, if you happen to be at the right time and right place. But what I'm hearing you say is, is leadership is something that should be studied, should be understood, and then properly implemented. Is that a fair assumption?

Tim Brown: That is a fair assumption. At the heart of that is whether you have what I call a servant's heart or not, and a servant's heart is something that is not necessarily taught. I believe that it exists in all of us. It's just whether people know it exists, and so it's discovery, and then realizing that you're a lot more powerful, not be confused with forceful, you're a lot more powerful in an organization as you continue to empower other people to make decisions, and to feel better about themselves.

Those are all things that we have the ability as leaders to unlock within each of our people that are on the team. I'm a big believer that if you look, time and time again, at the companies that have been super successful, those leaders have always surrounded themselves with people who, many times, may be smarter than them, and they've allowed them to do those specific jobs that they were brought into the organization. And as part of that, like I mentioned earlier in the interview, make mistakes, and have the ability to learn from those mistakes within the organization.

Brian Watson: I think a part of the servant's heart, as well, is to make sure that you have empathy, and empathy and understanding only come from having experience, and a history of wins and losses, and sort of that blood, and that sweat, and those tears that you shed, and in building that team, some great things happen. Understanding of people, and understanding of putting your people first.

I know at Northstar Commercial Partners, and my other companies, we try to do that, and we're not always perfect, but I can tell you, I am grateful for those valleys, just as much as those mountaintops, because I think they help to give you perspective in terms of priority, and in terms of putting your people first, and creating a very effective team.

Tim Brown: I completely agree with you. Just in looking at my own history, I have probably learned ten times more from quote-unquote failures, than I have from success. By nature, anything that we're passionate about in life, we're always going to have setbacks as part of that, and those setbacks are nothing more than opportunities for us to get better, to learn. And life is just a collection of experiences. It's up to us to choose how we want to use those experiences.

Brian Watson: That's so true, and I would submit that the only true failure is to never try, at the end of the day, and each one of those challenges, you look at the 2008 economic crash, and what each of us went through, and I know I went through it as a real estate owner, and it was a very painful time, but what I tell people a lot in our talks and conversations today is that to really embrace those moments, that a lot of people would love just to put in a closet or sweep under a carpet. But to embrace them, and to learn from them, because at the end of the day, we all go through those experiences. The only question becomes, is what did you learn, and how are you going to build it better, smarter, and faster, or more impactful for society. Tim, I want to transition a little bit to your new book. Tell our listeners a little bit about and the title, and why you wrote it?

Tim Brown: The book is titled Jumping into the Parade, and it is really my story about, as a child abdicating self in lieu of a model of, make it out there and I'll be fine in here. Me growing up through my 20s, becoming a self-made millionaire, made some companies and growing those very aggressively in my 30s. Having the economic meltdown that we had in late '08, early '09, me losing several millions of dollars. My entire life was about connecting my worth as a man to my works as a man, and all of a sudden, everything sort of comes crashing down.

And so my book is about redemption, it's about hope, it's about letting people know that they're not helpless out there. That we all go through a number of changes in our life, and we get to choose how we want to use those. We can use them for our upliftment, betterment, or learning, or we can choose to be victims of it. Much of my life was very victim-oriented, in my thinking. I just didn't know it at the time. I have let failure get wrapped around my talent in so many respects. In terms of losing the several millions of dollars when the markets collapsed in late '08, early '09.

And so my book specifically is about how do you live your life from the inside out, and how do you use the tools of reframing to where you can position all of your experiences to your betterment, and to -- frankly, how do you hold your story? What kind of perspective do you use, and how does that serve others as part of it? And I used to think that our weaknesses were something to be ashamed of, but the reality is, our weaknesses are really our strengths in life.

Brian Watson: It's interesting that you wrote that book, I think that there's a lot of people in the world who have a struggle with sharing the raw underbelly of their experiences, and who try to put on their game face that everything is fine, and that they're positive about the future. So it must've taken a lot to write a book like this. And through that process, have you started to see other people be encouraged by your writing in terms of sharing more of their raw feelings and experiences, to help make them better on a long-term basis?

Tim Brown: I have. The book came out a little over a month ago, and I have had readers who I don't know send me e-mails. I've had other people who I do know read the book and say how impactful it was. Forbes Magazine included a couple paragraphs in this month's edition, where the author of that article said, it's about time that somebody came out and was this vulnerable, talking about these types of topics. So it really made me feel good. The whole reason I wrote the book was really never about my story. It was really about my readers' stories, and how to get perspective in our own lives, that we're not as hopeless, we're not as helpless, we're not as alone as we may think.

Brian Watson: Personally, I decided a long time ago not to put my stock in things, and it is interesting, when you come to that realization, and you come to right up front with your ideas of what some people would consider failures or your vulnerabilities, and you face them, and you embrace them, how much more free you can be, and how much more impactful you can be for other people. Because at the end of the day, it's not about stuff, and frankly, it's not even about you. It's really about serving others and understanding your place in the world. So really appreciate that you wrote that book. If our listeners wanted to get a copy of it, where would they go?

Tim Brown: Any of the local book retailers here, in the Denver area, or frankly, nationally. Barnes & Noble, as an example, has it in stock in most of the locations. Amazon.com. You can also purchase it directly through the website, which is JumpingIntoTheParade.com. But I would encourage everybody to use whatever channels that they're used to using.

Brian Watson: I want to transition now, Tim, to you on a personal level, though we've obviously talked about you on a personal level a little bit already. But I want to talk about some of the things that drive you, and some of the lessons that you've learned in life, because obviously, you've been very reflective and thoughtful about that. And so I'd like to start off with what is one of your favorite quotes or sayings, and why?

Tim Brown: That is a great, great question. William Toms has a great, great quote that I love. Be careful how you live, you may be the only Bible some person ever reads. The magnitude of that quote, about how we show up in the world and the influence that we can have on other's people lives cannot be overstated.

Brian Watson: It's very interesting, when you think about that, and the ramifications of that, because you are that that point of light out there in the world, and in being so, it doesn't mean that you're always perfect. It means that you're authentic and real, and understand that there is something larger than you out there at play, so that's a very interesting one to think about. Thank you for sharing that. What is some of the best advice you have ever received?

Tim Brown: It would be from my former father-in-law, when I had just lost several millions of dollars, and he still believed in me enough to give me the encouragement to start what would become the biggest company I've ever run as CEO. He specifically looked at me in the eye, and he said, Tim, you never let an event define who you are. It's nothing more than an event. He had said something to me a little bit before that about the power of second chances, and that in life, there are no mistakes, that we get a second, third, fourth, fifth time up at bat, to make the healthy choice.

And when I think about that, and why that was so powerful, is for me, standing underneath that banner that has been my title of what I did professionally was all I knew, in many respects, about my worth. And so you now remove me from underneath that banner, and who am I? That whole process of not letting an experience define me was also one of those that helped reignite, rekindle that creative side in me, that innovative side of me, to go out there and be an entrepreneur again, and to build something meaningful. I just can't thank him enough for, again, him seeing things in me at that time that I couldn't in myself, and encouraging me to take that experience, and learn from it.

Brian Watson: It's very wise advice. We just finished my eleven-year-old son's football season this past weekend, and the coach told all the boys they had fought hard all year to get to the Super Bowl, and they ended up losing, and the boys were very emotional. And the coach said to them, as he said throughout the whole year, 10% in life is what happens to you, and 90% is your response to it. And it's so true. Events will happen. Companies will come and go, sadly, some relationships will come and go. The question is, what is your response to it, and what is that impact that you plan to have, to benefit others? So appreciate that very wise advice. Tim, what is one is your favorite, or most highly recommended book?

Tim Brown: Well, the Bible would be number one, and number two would be Atlas Shrugged.

Brian Watson: Well, Atlas Shrugged is no easy read. I have gone through it. What are some of the tenets specifically that you like about that book, and why do you think it matters to anybody living today?

Tim Brown: It matters because when you look at capitalism as a way of life, and what that does to a society, what that does to the self-esteem of people, it's everything that I believe the core tenets of a successful society are, and I think that Ayn Rand did a brilliant of making it very easy to understand, despite her books being very lengthy. I still firmly believe in the American dream. I firmly believe that the backbone of America is, and will always be, entrepreneurs, and not the government creating jobs. It's people that take the risk, who are willing to personally guarantee things, and sign on the line, and get up every day and have to make it happen, and do that by empowering the team of people around them.

Brian Watson: I agree with you 100%. Hands down, she's one of the best writers that I've never had the opportunity to to enjoy their work, and the concepts that she has in there are very, very powerful. And you look at when she wrote that book, and how she came to this country from Russia, and what she experienced there. And sadly, I think as a country, we often take capitalism and the job creators and our freedom for granted. And I'm a big believer that when you take something for granted, it can very well be taken from you. And I think it's important that those principles outlined in that book, and several others, are communicated appropriately. So thank you for sharing that. Tim, what is your personal definition of success?

Tim Brown: When Plan B works?

Brian Watson: What do you mean by that?

Tim Brown: I think we all have an idea of where we want to go, with success, whether that be in business and personal relationships in life, but many times the path that we set is very different than ultimately the path that gets us there. And when I say when Plan B works, my point there is, you have to remain open and not rigid. It's important to be able to discern all the different information that's coming into you, and to remain somewhat on target, right? But to be open enough to where you realize that there are different methods, many times, of achieving the same goal.

Brian Watson: That's true. I think oftentimes, people are so focused on Plan A, and when Plan A doesn't come to fruition, which is oftentimes the case, then they think there's nothing else that they can do. But when Plan B works, it's a beautiful thing, as well. Make sure you have a Plan B. Tim, what you believe is one of the biggest challenges or threats facing our country or world today?

Tim Brown: Without question, it is entitlement. One of the concerns that I have right now with a number of things that you read or hear in media in general, is that it seems like it's created almost this class warfare kind of mindset, that working hard, being an entrepreneur, accumulating wealth is a bad thing. And when I think about how most charities are supported in terms of the top donors into those charities, they're from entrepreneurs who pay it forward, who care about how they show up in the world, and give back, and are not villains. And so I don't think entitlement ever serves anyone. I think it is a victim mindset in many respects, and not something that is ever going to have someone living the fullest potential of their life, their purpose.

Brian Watson: You combine entitlement with -- in the stew of apathy as well, and that can be very dangerous recipe for society. So I would absolutely agree with your thoughts and comments there. If you could make one change, in order to make the largest positive impact in our country, world, or your business or industry, what that be?

Tim Brown: I would remove the stigma around depression, and what we have called mental health. I think of it as more mental fitness, and in terms of how I live my own life, it's very holistic, where my physical fitness, my spiritual fitness, and my mental fitness all need to be working together, in order for me to really be playing an A game. I feel like, when you look at the 40 million Americans suffer from depression right now; it impacts every single family in the United States. Yet 80% of depression is curable without medication. What that tells me is that there's a real opportunity here for us to help people realize that they are way more in control of their lives, and they're able to shift to a higher level of outcomes by simply changing the perception, the perspective of how they hold their story.

Brian Watson: Depression is one of those silent killers at times. At the end of the day, they can grab ahold of somebody and just continue to pull them down. I think shining a light on that, and coming alongside people in love and understanding and empathy would be very, very powerful in a lot of lives that are out there. So thank you for sharing that often overlooked and un-talked-about topic. What is the best way for our listeners to learn more about you and your organization online and in other ways?

Tim Brown: You can find me on Three Creative at www.3Cr8.com, or you can always feel free to call me as well, and my phone number is on the website, or through LinkedIn.

Brian Watson: Tim, in closing today, what is some parting advice or golden nuggets of wisdom that you would like to share with our listeners?

Tim Brown: I believe that life comes down to the community of people around us, in order to really live a filled life. And so my parting comments would be, always embrace three Fs, your faith, your family, and your friends. And if you always keep those as your highest priorities, in that order, your life will be fantastic.

Brian Watson: Just focus on those three Fs, and that will definitely help out, without a doubt. Tim, I want to thank you for your time today, and for your positive contribution to the many lives that you've obviously impacted already through your business, and through your coaching. And also for all of those people yet to be touched by your book. And it takes a real and authentic individual to be able to write about things like that, and I know that it's going to have a positive impact in many, many ways. So I want to thank you for that.

Tim Brown: Brian, thank you again, and to your listeners, for having my today as a guest. I really appreciate that. Very grateful.

Brian Watson: Well, to our guests, thanks for listening to the Opportunity Coalition podcast. We would love to have you subscribe on iTunes or like us on Facebook. If you'd like more information about the Opportunity Coalition, or if you would like to see a schedule of upcoming events that you can attend in person, please visit OpportunityCoalition.com. See you next time.