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[David] Josh is a youth multinational speaker for teens. He is the author of “The Teen's Guide to World Domination”, and he has been named by CNN as a young person who rocks, and was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the coolest young entrepreneurs. My first question I would like to know, how did you become a youth speaker? –
[Josh] I had sort of a tumultuous childhood growing up, a challenging childhood. My biological mother had me at 17, and I entered into, in the U. S. what's known as the foster care system, so I didn't have parents growing up. I've only met one relative related to me in my entire life. I experienced a lot of abuse in many forms. So I had sort of this really challenging, troubling childhood, and now I understand all of us have our own challenges growing up. It's not easy finding your way. And at first, I was very rebellious, I was very angry, I was a very angry kid, very bitter. I didn't trust adults that I should trust, adults that genuinely did care, and that genuinely did want to help me. I was just sort of angry at everybody. And as a kid this presented itself in me becoming a class clown. And so I would constantly interrupt our class, and just talking, and making jokes, and goofing off. And I remember most teachers were understandably annoyed by this, but one teacher said to me, “Josh, you know when you make your friends laugh, they're listening to you, and when someone's listening to you, you have an obligation to do something with their attention.” And it was at that moment that I began to think about…maybe all of the challenging things I'd gone through, all this crap and things I'd gone through, maybe this could be something that I could save other people pain, and other people regrets that I personally have. And maybe I could use my story not to be a whiner, or to be a…sort of say “woe is me”. But rather to illustrate that all of us have challenges, and all of us have problems, and all of us have insecurities and things to overcome. And I think whether you're a speaker, or an author, or an educator, or a parent, or a student, I actually believe in life our imperfections make us human, and our humanity is what makes us influential. I think that we relate to people that are real, that have gone through difficult things, and have somehow, even though they're not perfect, figured out a way to overcome it. And they have lessons to share. That's all I do is take those things that have hurt me, and the stupid mistakes that I made, and try to save other people that same pain. – You decided to grow in this domain, to inspire teens, but how old were you when you decided to start? – Yes, I was 17 years old. I started because I joined a leadership program as a joke, because I heard it was an easy class, it was a blow-off, and you got out of school early for it. So I joined as a complete joke, they said it was going to be easy. And I ended up becoming president of the organization. And part of my obligations were to go around and give speeches about the organization. And so I would go around and do that, and then the teachers would say, “Man, the students really connected with you. Would you come back and just talk about life, or talk about whatever you want to talk about?” So I said “Yeah, fine.” The thing that I think particularly young people need to understand is you don't have to have a qualification to want to make a difference. You don't have to have a degree to want to change something, or to better something. Yeah, no one needs to give you permission. You need to give yourself permission. Stop waiting around for someone to tell you to go, and just go. If you don't change it, who's going to? If you don't write it, no one's going to read it. If you don't speak out on it, things will always be the same. It doesn't matter how young you are, it doesn't matter how old you are. All of us have an opportunity at any moment in our life to decide that we want things to be different. Now, that moment can take three seconds to decide. To actually get a different reality takes some time. I believe in three seconds you can decide you want to change your life, but to truly change your life takes a lot of hard work and many ups and downs. And so you must be committed to the process of change, not just the end result. Don't be seduced by just the end result and assume it's going to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would love their job, and everyone would have great relationships, and everyone would be mentally healthy. All of these things are challenging, but that doesn't mean that you should shy away from it. And you should know that perfection is not realistic. Everyone struggles. I don't care who your role model is, how good they are at what they do, how famous they are, everyone struggles. Everyone doubts themselves, everyone questions their ability. What separates them from people who just sit around and think about it is that they take action even though they're scared. David, you've started this podcast, this video series, and there are many people that have thought about doing something like this, but they're still thinking about it, that's it. And you're out there doing it. You have to earn being good at something. Your first interviews were probably horrible. My first speeches were horrible. But you don't get better sitting around thinking about it. You only get better by going out there and doing a decent version of what you want to be amazing at later on. – Like you say, my first interview in English was a challenge for me because a lot of people said to me, “you can't do that because you don't speak English.” And it was a challenge two years ago to learn English, improve my English and I dreamed to be able to do that in a few years in a few months. And today is an awesome day for me. – Absolutely, and that's the big thing, is that, the truth is if you decided to…for example, me, I don't speak French. Now, if i wanted to speak French, could I do it? Yes. Could I do it tomorrow? No. No. So sometime people get frustrated by things they can't have tomorrow. I think our worldwide society is still caught up in instant gratification, wanting things now. And the truth is anything that's going to be meaningful and matter, be it relationships, learning a new language, a business you start, some endeavor that you go after, it's going to be a process. It's going to be a journey, it's going to require insane commitment, and you're going to have to delay gratification, and know that…eventually I could learn French, eventually I could master French. What I have to do tomorrow is struggle through it, and that's going to be embarrassing and I'm going to feel awkward, and those are the things that shut people down. Be willing to go through the awkwardness, be willing to go through the failures. If you're not willing to fail you're not willing to succeed. – You are saying about… I can't say saying…telling? I don't know…about failures, and did you struggle to grow your business in public speaking, to make your own company? – Yeah, absolutely, and the truth is that at every level of growth, there are challenges, and there are barriers. So maybe you're someone right now who just has a dream, an idea. There's an enormous challenge, and sort of enemy, that you have to fight within your own mind just to get something started. Just to say “screw it I'm going to try it” and “why not.” That's an enormous obstacle to overcome. And then to grow it from something that's small to something that's a little bit bigger, there's a challenge at every step of the way. And you are not hindered by your IQ. You're really hindered by your “I will.” You don't have to have the answers to everything. You can find people who can give you the answers, you can find people who can partner with you and help you. But what you have to bring as the leader of your organization is that commitment and that tenacity because how committed you are is the level of growth in which you're going to get. If you're committed at a level three, your organization, your venture is only going to grow to a level three. So you really…it's not about the IQ, it's about the “I will.” – Okay, I would like to know the last thing about your journey. What did you do to become so successful? – The truth is, it's this, it takes ten years to become an overnight success. Right now, in America, I have a best selling book, I have a television series on a major cable network. A lot of big things are happening. However…and so because of that, some people are going to think that I'm an overnight success, that I've come out of nowhere, that yesterday I was dreaming about doing this now all of a sudden I'm doing it. The truth is I've been doing this for a dozen years now. Before anyone knew about me, before you wanted to interview me, before a publisher wanted to publish my book, I was doing a crappy version of eventually what I wanted to be doing a really good version of. So, I mean, the truth is is that success is part strategy and part mindset. It's having a mindset to know that you're going to fail and that's okay, and that failure doesn't mean game over. Failure means you have new information, don't do that again. When we're little kids, at some point we touch something that burns us. And that doesn't mean we should, you know, never wander into a kitchen again. It means we shouldn't touch the damn stove. And we won't, we won't make that mistake again, because we have new information. And so it's part that, and then it's part…each year you're doing something, you get a little bit better at some aspect of it, be a strategic aspect of it, a business aspect of it, a customer service aspect of it, a marketing aspect. Each year, if you have the right mindset, you're saying “not only what am I doing well, but what do I struck at? What's not going well? Where do we need to improve, where do I need to improve?” – So you have to wonder every day “What can I improve today?” to be better, to become better in the future? – Yeah. I would discourage people from thinking about that daily, because you might depress yourself. But rather, maybe look over the course of a year and say “What are two or three areas this year that I want to get significantly better at?” I think it's better to be amazing at a handful of things than decent at a long list of things. Because you can find people that are amazing at what you're not great at. I think the big lesson here, whether you're an adult or a student is this, when you have people you admire, and David, I know you said you admire my work and I appreciate that, it's important not to look the end result. Meaning where I am today, where your mentor or role model is today, whoever that is. You need to instead look at where they started, because when you look at where someone started, it's more of a realistic on ramp for you. Because they were scared, they weren't that talented yet, they almost went bankrupt, they almost failed, they almost walked away. But through perseverance and tenacity, they slowly, slowly got better, and now a lot of people admire them. Don't just admire the end result, don't just admire the success story, admire the origin of the success story. – How to be successful as a teen? How to reach their dreams, their goals for teens? – Well, two things. Number one, don't have dreams, have goals. Dreams are for people who are sleeping. Goals is something specific. Wishful thinking is not a strategy, and so you don't want to sit around and daydream about being a great musician, or a great businessman, or a great parent, or whatever you want to do when you're a kid when you grow up. A dentist…who knows what you want to do? You need to make it a goal, which means, you need to write it down, you need to break it into baby steps. Here's where I am today, now what are those 15 little baby steps I need to take. You don't have to go from one to ten, you need to go from one to two. It's not about what are the next 12 steps, it's what's the next step for you. Is it you need to get educated? Is it you need to learn more? Is it you need to job shadow someone? Is it you need to find out what that job would require? So don't make dreams, make goals. And you need to get people that will give you a hard time if you're not pursuing that next baby step. You will inevitably let yourself down. You will inevitably get lazy. So you need people that love you that are around you, that will smack you in the face and say “dude, get with it. You're better than this. Let me remind you of why you're doing this.” The second thing, the number piece of advice I'd give to any young person is get a mentor. Meaning someone who's older than you, who's smarter than you, that you admire, that you would like to be somewhat like when you grow up, and ask them if you can spend an hour a week with them, consistently, every single week. And when you spend that hour with them, just ask them this, how can I improve my life? What blind spots do I have? Where do I need to grow? And then just do what they say. And when you meet with them next week, tell them how it went. Tell them what you did well, what you didn't do well, talk through it, and then say again, “What do I need to do to improve my life?” Because we all need people we admire, but those people aren't necessarily going to help us in our daily life. So you need someone who you admire who's checking in on you weekly, who can call you on your crap, encourage you when you need to be encouraged, and really help you walk through those baby steps of life. I had a mentor in my life, and still do, and I can't tell you what a difference it makes. A mentor will accelerate anyone's success. Every young person is one caring adult away from being a success story. – Yes, I believe that. How can I do? – How can you get a mentor? Well, it – Yes. – It would depend on what your goals are. It would depend on what are the things that you're wanting to accomplish, where are you at in that process, what are the weaknesses that are preventing you from getting to that next step? Are those things that you need to grow in, or are those things you need to get help and support in? One of the biggest mistakes I've made is thinking I have to do it all myself. And that is rooted in ego and insecurity, and this lie of…this idea of one person conquering the world. You need support to conquer your world. You need help to conquer whatever you want to conquer. You need a team surrounding you. You need people surrounding you, friends and family and mentors. Some mentors you don't ever have to know or meet. You can read their books, you can watch their videos. You also need a mentor in your life who lives within 20 miles of you, 20 kilometers of you, that can meet with you, look you in the eyes, and knows what's going on. Both of those elements are really crucial, and if you approach someone in your community, and you're thoughtful and respectful about it, and say, “Look, I'm a young person committed to improving my life, could I meet with you once a week?”, they're likely going to say yes simply because they're so impressed with your initiative. And that you're being respectful and thoughtful, and that you're humbling yourself, and you're really saying, “I just want to learn from you. I just think you're awesome and I want to learn from you.” – There is a question, how meet mentors and celebrities when you are young, when you are a teen, and when you don't have a network? – Sure. Well a few things. Number one, meeting a celebrity might be cool, but they're probably not going to be a part of your everyday life. So it might be cool to get an autograph or photo or whatever, it's not realistic for that person to be a part of your everyday life. So read their books, buy their stuff, those sorts of things, but don't get caught up in that chase, because…you know, for me, I can't mentor every kid in the world one-on-one, because I have a nephew that I'm mentoring, and that's my commitment, is to him. However, we all need a mentor, someone locally. So how do you approach that person? Well you need to first define who that person could be, and it depends on what you want to learn. I'm married, as an example, and so I have a few mentors who are married, and I want to learn about being a good husband, from them, to my wife. And so I learn specifically about that from them. And they're not necessarily businessmen or speakers or anything like that. I'm learning a very specific thing from them. I also have a mentor who's very good with money, and I learn from him what to do and what not to do with money. But then I also have a mentor in business. And so you need to identify, number one, where is it you're wanting to improve and what is it you're wanting to learn. Secondly, identify someone who can teach you that. And then third, you need to thoughtfully and respectfully approach them. And so, you could ask if anyone you know knows them, and you could introduce me. You could send them an email, you could send them… Frankly, I wouldn't send them an email because people get so many emails these days. Send them a letter, a handwritten letter. People's email inboxes are overwhelmed, and people rarely get actual letters anymore. So just write them a thoughtful letter telling them, who you are, and what you want to do, and that you respect them, and you'd like to learn from them, and that you will not waste their time, you will implement what they say, and you will respect their time and their investment in you. Now here's the thing, some people may not respond at first. Keep sending them stuff until you get a “No.” Don't be rude and pester them, but keep sending them stuff until they say yes, or give them a good reason why they should say yes. And if they say no, don't get angry, don't take it personal. They may not have time, they may already be mentoring someone. They may be very busy and have a family, and need to make sure they're investing in their kids. So be respectful and “very well”, “no big deal”, “not a problem,” “I still respect you and I still appreciate you.” And then ask them, “do you have someone who maybe does have time to mentor me since you don't?” Don't be discouraged by a “No.” Sometimes it takes ten “No's” to find that right one “yes.” – Yes. Thank you that is great. And how to become, according to you, a youth speaker? – Yep. Well first of all, if you're interested in becoming a speaker, I would highly recommend you check out Youth Speaker University. We have some paid materials, some free materials, that goes into a lot more detail than what I'll have time to go into. But the basics of it are, you need to, number one, define what your message is. What would I want to talk about? What would I want to speak about? What experiences have I had, stories, funny, crazy, sad, silly, all of that? What experiences do I have that I could share that could add value to someone else? What wisdom and advice could I share with someone that would help them? So number one, what is your message? Number two, who is your audience? For me, I speak to high school students and college students. Now, that may be what you want to do, it may not. You may want to speak to corporations. You may want to speak to little kids. You may want to speak to educators, or teachers, or parents. You need to figure out who your audience is that you're going to share the message with. And then third, and this is most important, you need to figure out who the buyer is. Meaning, who's going to hire you, and put you on a stage, to share that message with your ideal audience? The number one mistake youth speakers make is that they think their audience and buyer is the same person. That's 100% false. My audience is made up of 17 year olds. Typically, my buyer is a 42-year-old woman, so in my marketing, I don't need to try to appeal to the 17-year-old student. I need to appeal to the needs of the 42-year-old educator. And so it's not about being cool, it's about what value will I add to their students. If they're going to pull 1,000 students out of class, I better have something good to say, and I better add value, and I better not waste their time. So the more you understand who your buyer is, you know who you're marketing to and who you're not marketing to, and what's important to them and what's not important to them. – If You know precisely, accurately, who can buy, you will be able to speak for the buyer. – Yeah. You want to speak their language, and I'm not talking about English, French, Spanish. I'm talking about you want to speak about what's important to them. For a kid sitting in my audience, they just don't want to be bored. They want something entertaining and they want something that will help them. But for the educator, they want something that will hold the audience's attention, something that will help increase motivation or leadership, or prevent them from making a stupid decision. So the wants and needs are very different although complementary. – And my last question is hard not to be taken for a lessons giver from youth, from teens? – Well, number one, you need to be yourself. So whether you're 17 or 23 or 43 or 63, you need to be yourself. You cannot control how the audience is going to perceive you. What you don't want to do is try to be something you're not. Because then you're going to come off phony, and if you come off phony people won't trust you. And if people don't trust you, you cannot influence them, you cannot help them. If you don't have someone's trust, you have no hope in helping them. So number one, you need to be yourself, and number two, you need to take advantage of the uniqueness you have. So for example, if you're 23, you have the advantage of being relatable to the audience. You have the advantage of knowing what kind of movies they watch, music they listen to, worries they have. You don't have to think about what your audience worries about, you know what your audience worries about, because you worry about the same thing. So you need to take advantage of that strength. But also, let's say if you were 63, well you shouldn't get up there and try to dress like you're 23, or try to talk like you're 23. You're not their older brother now, you're like the grandpa. We can learn so much from folks that are younger than us and older than us. If you're older you have more experience, you have more life lessons, you've had more failures and more successes. So you need to lean into that advantage you have over the 23-year-old. And if you're 23 you need to lean into the advantage that you're more relatable to the audience, perhaps, than someone who's older. And so it's never about your age, it's about the authenticity. It's about are you genuine, are you real, are you up there quoting poems and bumper stickers, or are you really speaking authentically and from your heart. People will relate to that regardless of how young or old you are, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of what kind of life you've had. People, again, people relate to human beings, and so the more authentic you can be, actually the more successful you will be in connecting with your audience. – Yes. I think so. Thank you very much, and I have no question. If you want to share a message, you can, it's free for you. – Yes, well, I will share the one thing I know in French, and I'm probably going to say it right, or wrong. [foreign language] Which I think means, may I please sharpen my pencil? That's the only thing I remember from French class. What I'd like to say is if you are a parent or educator, and you want to learn how to get through to students, go to heyjosh.com. And if you want to learn how to speak, just google “Youth Speaker University.” David I appreciate you and wish you the best, man. ♪ [music] ♪
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