23 Oct Cultivating the Mindset of an Influencer, with Willie Morris
Today’s guest is THE Willie Morris.
You may remember Willie from Episode 84. He’s got an awesome story.
Last time he was on the show, he was running Faithbox, which was a monthly subscription service that he co-founded with Gary Vaynerchuk. Since he was on… they’ve been able to grow it and successfully sell it.
Before that, Willie worked with a number of startups and a few smaller companies, companies like Amazon and Boeing. Maybe you’ve heard of those, right? Doing some amazing things.
Currently, he’s a partner at a company called Luduss, where they invest resources, time, and capital into companies and people they believe will have a large impact on the world. He’s developed a solid following on the interwebs. He’s on Instagram. He’s got about 40,000 followers there. He’s a true creator on the YouTubes. He kicked that off by posting one video a day for 365 days straight! But now has an incredible community happening. He has really developed a DREAM THINK DO life.
- Website: morewillie.com
- Social Media: @morewillie
Willie, welcome back to DREAM THINK DO, buddy.
Yeah, buddy. I love it. It’s a small group of people who get to do it twice, and you are truly one of them. It’s just been too long. You’ve been traveling the globe since the last time we talked.
Yes, a lot has happened over the last year.
No joke. I know last time you were on, I said give us an average day which has gotta be almost laughable, but let’s try to do that again. What’s an average day for Willie today?
Yeah, for sure. One thing too, I actually didn’t co-found Luduss. Curtis Martin started it, but I just came on as a partner, COO role.
An average day for me, I wake up at 5 AM every day. I started this whole 5 AM challenge a couple months ago and so 5 AM the alarm goes off, I’m up, I have about 45 minutes where I just have a nice, quiet time. Generally, I just sit and look out the window at New York and the sunrise when it was happening at five, now it’s still dark, so now it’s just some quiet time for myself to gather my thoughts for the day and all that kind of good stuff.
I’m going to interrupt you just for a second because I’m curious, with that, is that also time, where you’re reading, is that time where you’re just intentionally … you’re just quiet.
Just quiet thinking. It’s literally just thinking time.
It’s also hydrating time, so I’ll try to drink some water when I wake up, especially because I go to the gym right after. Sometimes I’ll jump online and check out social media, anything I missed out on, but I try to really skew away from that in the morning before the gym just because it’s nice. I feel like in most of our lives we don’t have time just to think. If you have quiet time, people think you’re meditating, or praying, or doing something that’s very focused. I just want time to think, and let my mind wander, and just stare out the window, and zone out for a little bit.
I love it. I think that’s huge. It’s funny, somebody challenged me the other day and they said, “When’s the last time you were bored?” I’m like, “I can’t think of the last time I allowed myself to get bored.” He’s like, “You should try to do that.” He wasn’t just saying sit around and be lazy, but he was saying just that, give yourself time to just sit and not fill it with something. So I love how that’s becoming a natural or a consistent part of your day, that’s cool.
100%. I think I put some thought into what’s going on the rest of the day and try to get excited about it. I’ve been trying to really cultivate this future mindset and living in the future mindset, rather than past mindset because I think we spend so much time thinking about what happened and how we’re going to move forward from that, rather than just being excited about what the future has. I think that shift happens as we get older because there’s more and more stuff in the past.
It’s easier to think about that. But when you’re a kid you’re just always excited about what’s coming up in the next day or two even if you have no idea. I’m trying to get back to my inner child on that.
I love that. We’re doing video so I’m going to show you here
The Circle Maker
. Have you ever read “The Circle Maker?”
I have not.
By Mark Batterson. It’s kind of about prayer but it’s also about dreaming big. I was just reading, he said, “Neuroimaging is shown that as we age, the center of cognitive gravity tends to shift from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain. This neurological tendency presents a grave spiritual danger. He said at some point most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory.
“Instead of creating the future we start repeating the past. Instead of living by faith we live by logic. Instead of going after our dreams we stop circling Jericho.”
100%, I love that.
Right? Isn’t that amazing? Mark Batterson’s
The Circle Maker
. I was just reading that so what you said really stood out for me, and it’s actually happening in our brain.
I know how much even in high school and stuff how much I used to dream and have my imagination running wild, but as I’ve gotten older I’m usually thinking about specific things.
So that first hour in the morning is dedicated to just having fun. Letting the mind go down whatever weird path it wants to go down.
Six o’clock I go to the gym and I do CrossFit. I’m part of that weird CrossFit cult and knock that off for an hour. That’s usually like five days a week at least because for me I love getting my blood flowing. Health and wellness are important to me. If I don’t get a workout in, in the morning I know that the day will cannibalize my time so I won’t be able to get it in later, so doing it in the morning has been great. Also, it gives me a huge appetite for breakfast, which they say is the most important meal of the day, so it sets me up for that pretty well.
I love it. Well, I want to ask one additional question on that. I’m just going to keep interrupting you because I’m fascinated. A lot of people talk about going and exercising, but you go and CrossFit.
Now, one of the things that I wonder about that is as you’re doing CrossFit is somebody else … So you show up and somebody else sets up the activities, or are you doing it? One of the things I’ve realized for myself is that I need to find an exercise where I’m not having to make a ton of decisions-
I want to work my body but I don’t want to exhaust my brain. I have so many decisions to make during a day I can get decision fatigue. If I’m sitting in a gym for 60 minutes and having to decide all that stuff myself I realize that’s depleting some of my decision making as, so is somebody else setting those activities up for the most part?
For the most part. I say with the exception of maybe one day a week it’s a structured class-which is good because all I have to do is focus on a singular thing. Then maybe one day a week I’ll do my own thing, go in a little bit later. I’m with you on that. I don’t want to go to the gym and think. There are people who are exercise science people, well I let them do that.
I come back home about 7-7:15, shower, play with the puppy, see the wife, get dressed, and then I’m back out the door by like 7:45-8ish, come to my office, which is a great spot in New York called the Assemblage. They actually have this, it’s like a mix between a member’s only thing like Soho House, which is kind of like a club, and then we work, but very Zen and peaceful.
They have this amazing breakfast spread that they put out with all very local, healthy food. So I come here and I put all my stuff down in my office, make sure there’s nothing urgent that needs to get addressed right away, then I go downstairs eat breakfast, as big as my appetite is. I’ll eat breakfast, have coffee, read the news, catch up on all the information for the day on that side of things because I try to stay very up to date with what’s going on in the tech world or in the political world. Do that for about 45 minutes or an hour probably. Then by nine, if not before, I’m up in my office and then just crushing through it.
Daily work for me can be anything from negotiating deals for Luduss and investment type stuff, working with companies we’ve already invested in to help them out with resources, or acting as a soundboard, or anything on that front, and talking to Curtis Martin, founder of Luduss, my partner, also Hall of Fame NFL player, catching him up with anything that’s going on. We communicate a lot. I think communication is super important in that stuff and I learn a ton from him so I’m constantly getting his feedback on things, even if I know or think I know how to handle something I always like being able to get feedback on that stuff and learn, and just see different perspectives. That takes up a lot of time.
The other thing that I’m doing full-time is I manage Dan Mace, who’s a director, he’s won like three Golden Lions at Cannes. He started really getting into YouTube I guess about a year or so ago. He’s blown up to like 700,000 subscribers, works alongside Casey Neistat. I now manage his whole business side, so any brand deals, trying to organize the communication and infrastructure around him, merchandise and all that kind of stuff. That happened about six weeks ago maybe, which is really, really fun because it’s taking that startup mentality and applying it to an individual as a brand, which there’s a lot of similar things actually. Dan’s a great guy, super creative, but Dan is also a brand. Creating that infrastructure around him to support him so he can worry about doing the creative stuff and making films is really fun. It’s one of those things where you see the change so quickly, so it’s very incentivizing to be able to make some changes or land a brand deal. Then it happens very quickly.
It also ties into a lot of the stuff we’re doing with Luduss where we’re trying to help bridge some new media digital stuff with the mainstream. It’s really cool to see that. Obviously being on YouTube for a long time and never really the push to grow my own thing into something huge, it was always a secondary channel for a creative outlet. It’s cool working with someone whose primary focus is that, and being able to help him in a bunch of different ways.
That’s just cool, to think about being able to understand that front, but also understand the startup front. I’m sure that you can really bring perspective that somebody like Dan needs, again, keeping him even more in the sweet spot of just creating, creating, creating.
Alright, back to your daily “routine.”
Right, so there’s Luduss stuff, there’s Dan stuff, and then there’s also random meetings where I try to at least give part of my time back to people I’ve met in the city or just have some sort of personal connections with friends. Throughout the day people drop by, do like an hour meeting here or there, try to give advice on startup, creator stuff, and entrepreneurship, sometimes just catch up with people, maintain and build those relationships. Generally, that stuff takes up my day from eight in the morning until about seven or eight at night. So I’m at the office for a solid 12 hours every day.
I try to sneak in an Instagram live session in there. I haven’t done it in the last week or two. Sometimes it’s me recording my own stuff or editing. There’s a big window though where it’s me grinding my butt off in the office across a multitude of products and stuff. It’s stuff I love, so days tend to go by really quickly. Then I go home at 7:30-8, eat dinner, spend some time with the wife and the dog, and then I try to crash usually around 11 is when I’m in bed, 10 on a good night, but usually 11.
To be realistic, yeah.
Yes. That’s a normal weeknight. Obviously, other things pop up. There’s always a ton of events in New York, so a couple nights a week I’m at that, so I’m at home later, try to get a date night in there when possible.
It’s interesting to hear on that average day what it does look like for you and how you cultivate that. They also work in some of your own, as you said, some of your own influencing activities and all of that. DREAM THINK DO-ers, I do recommend you go check out Willie on Instagram, on YouTube. What I love is that the stuff you’re capturing you’re not trying to have a fictional life, and then the real life. What you put out there is day in the life stuff for you, which does tend to look beautiful because you’re in great places, beautiful spaces, but at the same time, you’re not trying to put something out there that’s not you. It’s authentic and real and I think that’s what also makes it really compelling.
I think I fell in the trap for a while, at least on Instagram. Let me just post the adventure pictures and the travel pictures, which, there’s a lot of them so it’s easier to just do that. The other day I was looking at my feed and I was like, “This is indistinguishable from so many other ‘travel influencers.'” That obviously is the part I love. It’s super fun. I like that people see it and get inspired to travel and to work harder to travel, but that’s only half the story if that. The last two posts, what I’m trying to do now is show some of the daily grind I was just talking about. I’m trying to start showing some of the actual in the weeds stuff, and be a little bit more experimental and just have some more fun. Obviously still posting the travel, and adventure, and fun stuff because it is inspiring. It’s fun to post and edit that content, but it’s also just as much fun for me to be in the office and heads down on creating something that’s not an aspirational photograph or video.
Right, right. I actually saw that post on Instagram and thought, “That’s why I love Willie.” You actually called yourself out. I know you and I talked a little bit about your time with Gary V, and how a lot of times people can kind of glamorize that and think it’s all easy. It must all just be sexy all the time. It’s like, no. You need to show the less sexy side too and that’s what I loved about that post. It’s like most people they might see it, they might recognize it, but they’re not actually going to call themselves out on it. You’re like nope, I’m calling myself out on it, here’s what’s coming. Then to see the followup post was just great, so I love it.
I’m going to bridge now back to when we met. I’m wildly blessed to say we got to be in a mastermind together. I remember as we were meeting, some of this stuff with Faithbox was happening. You were definitely a growing brand, but I could look and as I started to learn about you I could see that you were doing some of this stuff of putting YouTube videos out there not just “look at how cool and sexy my life is,” but really trying to teach people and impact people. You didn’t have a huge following, you just were like, “I’m putting these out there.” I remember you actually interviewed Alex and me when my son and I came out.
That’s right, that’s right.
So Alex got to be in one of these videos, it was so cool. I remember looking at your YouTube channel. By that time you were starting to develop a following, but taking a look at your YouTube channel at that time. There were a lot of videos that only had 30 views.
Oh yeah, there still are. If you go back to my old ones there are so many videos with not much. Compared to the people who I now have good relationships with who are hardcore YouTube creators, I am minuscule.
That’s how you always look at yourself. You can see those folks and go, “All right, where am I at on the spectrum” or whatever but you’re on that trajectory as well. But I think a lot of people would love to have that kind of influence but they’re not willing to put in the work and only have 10 people watch a video. They’re like, “I want to do it so I can start with 100,000 views. How do I do that?” It doesn’t work that way.
No, it doesn’t work.
So I want to talk about some of the things that you’ve done to cultivate the community, the following that you have. Before we go there I wanted to ask you, I know this was an intentional thing for you, you did set out to create and put information out there before anybody knew who Willy was, right?
What was your mindset on that? I have some guesses because I know a lot about your heart, but what was your thought on getting content out there? Did you want to be famous? What was your thought there?
No. For me, the initial thing was the company I had started. When you start a company, the beginning of it is really fun and creative, and you’re building a product, and all the fun, creative, design type stuff. Then a year or so in you’re like, “Oh I don’t get to do any of the fun stuff anymore.” I have people that do the fun things and now I’m relegated to doing the finances, and operations. I needed a creative outlet. I saw that video was starting to really build. This was around 2016.
It’s very different than we are today even though it’s just two and a half years later. I started with Instagram videos. I started with short 1 minute videos, but didn’t feel like that was long enough. Then I started doing it on YouTube. I wasn’t very good at first, so I committed to posting every day for a year to learn and grow, figure out how to create videos, and understand the YouTube ecosystem. People discount tags, titles, and thumbnails and how they all work together. That’s super fascinating.
When I was in Florida we had an agenda and we had a photo studio in our office, so I’ve always had something creative to do and that was the first time I didn’t. It was a really fun challenge for me, even though being essentially a single founder. Gary co-founded with me but wasn’t actively involved in the business. Then also filming, editing, and teaching yourself that side was really, really tough.
I love that you just gave yourself that freedom to do that because I think a lot of people just put that off and say, “I’ll try to do that kind of stuff when I have a team of people.” I remember you setting that goal for yourself and thinking, “Willie, every day, are you kidding me?”
I remember us talking halfway through one of them and you said, “There’s something I hate about each one of the videos and usually there’s something, some little thing in each one of the videos that I love or that I’ve learned, so it’s worth at it.”
I think the even bigger lesson there is, like I said, I’ve been in the creative field before, but learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable and putting something out that wasn’t polished and finished, that was the biggest thing. I forced myself into that. I literally took myself prisoner and I was like, “You’re going to do this whether you like it or not. You have an hour to edit this video and you’re going to publish it after that regardless,” and I did. That led into doing videos for the startup as well. I think over the course of 365 days, I think I put out something like a total of 500 plus videos, which was insane. But, I learned an incredible amount through that time. I didn’t become a YouTube influencer, or make a ton of money off AdSense, or sponsored brand deals, but now looking back at the long-term value that stuff has had and the relationships I’ve built out of that: absolutely priceless.
Absolutely. I remember even on the day that we shot our video. We had breakfast. You said, “Hey, I have to shoot a video. Let’s walk over to this park.” I think you put something out maybe on Twitter saying, “Hey, if anybody wants to be a part of today’s video,” and a couple people actually showed up. We pulled some other people into it, and it was just a blast. It was very cool to see it happening organically, but also with a couple of years’ perspective to see that just stretching yourself is valuable. You look at all the businesses that need to understand influence, video, and online, and YouTube, and all that stuff, you were experimenting before you needed it, but now everybody wants what you got. I love that you started just as a creative outlet and to stretch yourself, but I love what it’s also become as well.
Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk from the standpoint of that person out there, that’s got the heart to create. I don’t know about you, but I kind of wince a little bit at the thought of growing my influence. It’s a weird phrase, but to reach more people, to help more people, I think if influence is the goal you’re probably screwed, right?
But if influence is the fruit of working hard to serve a group of people, I think that’s probably the better approach. I know you wanted to create, but you did want to help people. A lot of your videos are concepts around business, concepts about getting ideas out there, concepts about trying things. If somebody was wanting to get a message out there, what are some of the things that you guide people on? What are some of the pearls of wisdom you share with people who are wanting to create and start to reach more people?
A lot of people want to be like an influencer. They want to create content that’s going to be seen by a lot of people around whatever the subject is. I think the biggest thing to realize is influence isn’t derived just from social networks. Influence is derived from being the best or one of the best at what you do and always striving to be better. It doesn’t start online. It starts in your heart and in your head. It’s pushing yourself to try to be better than the people around you at something, or being able to bring a different perspective to it. When you start doing that and you start focusing on that you naturally influence.
First, you influence the people around you and then when you’re at a point where you feel comfortable or you have the time to articulate it via photos, or videos, or something like that you can share it out to the world. Your audience will grow naturally because maybe you built up a real-world following offline and they’re going to come follow and share it as well, or people will slowly see what you’re creating and share that with their friends and you’ll grow. The biggest thing is realizing influence isn’t derived directly from social networks. It’s derived from being really, really good at something.
Yeah, true, that’s a great point. It’s got to start there.
Yeah, 100%. You don’t always have to be the best at something. A lot of people like following people’s journey. For the journey to be the best at something that’s something else. No one says, “I’m going to start this journey and I’m going to try to be the world’s most mediocre standup comedian.” That’s not inspiring to anyone. People aren’t learning anything from that, they’re not taking anything away.
I think you don’t have to start after you become the best. But sometimes people might not ever see that until you’ve already reached some sort of level, which is relative for your audience.
Right, exactly. Well yeah, because somebody like yourself you’ve got 40,000 plus followers on Instagram, right?
My guess is you also hang with people that have millions of followers on Instagram. So for you, you’re like, “I’m just getting started.” For other people, they look at you going, “Oh my gosh, if I could just have 4,000 let alone 40,000, oh my God.” There’s always this spectrum and if you are just focused on “Well, I’ll be really happy once I hit a million followers.”
100%. It’s so funny, people think oh they have a couple million followers, they’re done, they’re happy, they’re-
No, they’re still trying to grow and get bigger and that’s why they’re probably there is because ambition is so hardcore and the competitiveness is so hardcore that they worked their butts off to get to that and they’re still working their butts off. They’re still working harder than you to get from 10 million to 11 million. People don’t realize that. People are putting in serious effort. If you see someone and they make it look really easy it’s because they’re really, really good. It’s like if you watch a boxing match or any professional sport and you’re like, “Oh man, I could do that,” then you go out and you try to do it, you realize how hard it is and how bad you are at it.
So true. One thing I would love, especially for track and field as an example, is for every Olympic event they put one regular guy in there.
One normal guy huffing it around the track, that would give so much perspective to how fast these people are.
Right, you see Usain Bolt and you’re like, “Oh that doesn’t look that fast.”
That’s not that fast. He’s finishing just right before those other guys.
If you were giving advice to yourself back 2016, but let’s say it’s now because YouTube has changed, everything’s changed, all that stuff, what’s one or two pieces of advice you would give yourself if you had to do it all over again?
Let’s see, if I had to do it all over again I would probably worry even less about the quality of the videos and more about the content of the videos. But you know what, I’m pretty happy with how it went. I probably would worry less too about how many followers I had.
I think the biggest thing, now that I’m thinking about it, is I’d probably get more involved with other people who were in the YouTube community back then. But it was really hard for me because my time was mostly given towards my startup. I’d say make time to at least start building relationships more with people in that creative community. I know how hard it was because the time was limiting, but I think that would have been helpful as well just seeing other people doing it and being around that would have probably made my life easier learning some things. Working with Gary and the people around him was great, but I could have been more intentional about reaching out beyond that.
I do agree. To whenever you’re starting something new to be able to say, “Who could I be learning from?” You did get to learn from some of the best, which is awesome, but we can all look around and say, “All right, who’s somebody in my community,” whether we live in New York or whether we live in Madison, or wherever, to be able to say, “Who’s doing something close to what I want to do and how can I be learning from them? How could I be helping them?” I think that’s huge.
Anytime, I think just surrounding yourself with people who are great at what they do or who are further along than you are is always a good thing. Even if you’re not directly asking them questions about it, just being around that helps. I definitely was not around any of that for a long time, which is funny because I literally live less than a mile from Casey Neistat and all these people who I know and have at least some sort of relationship or acquaintance with. Back then everyone was much smaller, so it would have been even easier. I was just in a little bubble under a rock.
Well everybody is, but that’s the thing, we got to have you back again and you guys should go back and listen to Episode 84 because we talked about how you and Gary V got connected.
You were just so good at reaching out to people and cultivating relationships, where somebody might go, “Who am I to reach out to Gary V? Who am I to try to pitch Gary V on an idea?” You had those fears just like everybody else but, you went for it.
I’ve got to say, I’ve been incredibly lucky to just have been surrounded by people who are the best at what they do, whether in the public eye like Gary or on the more private side like Curtis, or people who are just insanely talented, successful, smart human beings, even with Dan, on the filmmaker side. I’ve been incredibly lucky to be very close to those people in my life which have been great. I think a lot of that is being out of your comfort zone, again, that’s full circle, right?
Well yeah, I will agree with you to a point, as long as we can say that “lucky” does mean when hard work and preparation meet with opportunity because I don’t know a lot of people that work harder than Willie Morris.
I think when I was a kid one of my friend’s dads got a trainer to help us because me and my friend were really spindly, lanky kids and we played basketball. He said, “You kids need to bulk up.” He got us this trainer and I think it was a guy who had played in the NFL briefly. I remember he said, “Fortune favors the prepared.”
Even a lottery winner had to buy a lottery ticket, right? Very, very rarely is something completely random because of zero action on your part.
I know you get to work with some of the biggest influencers on the planet. You’ve actually helped them reach even more people. But who would you say for you personally when you think of influencing others … and to say one person that inspires you? Who’s a hero on this front for you, somebody you look to for inspiration on this front?
I think on this front it’s easy, so Curtis Martin, who is now, fortunately, my business partner.
By and large, after Faithbox, when I thought if I don’t start another company, which I wasn’t ready to do, if I’m going to work with somebody who would I want to work with, and he was the first person. I literally reached out and just said, “Hey, can I shadow you?” I said, “Let me just start on the very bottom. I just want to watch and see.” That’s turned into so much good stuff, but just the way that he carries himself, and how he’s built his reputation from integrity and everything else. There are situations where I thought I was going to get fired, but he’s very calm and collected, thinks through things, takes his time, is very patient, which I think is one of those things that just takes so much practice to work on. I’m very, very honored that I get to work alongside him and work alongside someone who I hold in such a high regard.
That’s awesome. That’s amazing to think of that the person that first comes to mind on that front to be able to able to say that’s somebody that inspires you, somebody that you really respect on this front is also the person you get to work and spend a lot of time with.
That’s also a reflection of your heart and how you’ve lived your life to be able to say, “That person inspires me, so I’m going to try to help them. I’m going to try to come alongside them.” I think how those two things go hand in hand, especially in the way you live is so true.
I think you just kind of touched on it, but I always say, “Give more than you take.” That’s how I’ve tried to start every relationship in my life. I don’t ever think what can I get from them, it’s more how can I provide value. I think if you do that and the other person is aligned on that as well it’s great because then you end up with great relationships with great people around you. I think it just works out for the best.
You’ve made a pretty amazing life out of that approach, so I love it. I love it.
All right, as people hear Willie, I’m sure they’re going to want to know more, so what are the best ways to find you on the interwebs?
For sure, my username on Instagram, on pretty much everything is @morewillie. I’m very active on Instagram. I try to do Instagram Live at least a few times a week because I don’t get to answer all the DMs. Then I’m really active on Twitter as well. YouTube and LinkedIn I’ve been a little bit slower lately, but I post a lot of content on there. All these links are actually on morewillie.com too.
Morewillie.com, awesome, perfect. Well, thanks for being a DREAM THINK DO-er. Thanks for coming back man, I so appreciate you.
Dude, thanks for having me again. This is always a blast. I love it.
Okay… what stood out to YOU?
What’s something that Willie said that’s sticking with you?
I liked A LOT about this interview… but I have to say my favorite section was talking about how he kicks off the day. I really like the idea of intentionally just letting the mind wander. With having a full and fast-paced schedule… I think that could be a good habit to experiment with.
How about you? Comment below and let me know what you liked and/or what you’re going to try.
Can’t wait to hear from YOU!