Jesse Henry, the CEO of Catalyst Media, discusses The Theory of Success at TEDxFSU (Transcript)
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: The Theory of Success by Jesse Henry at TEDxFSU
When I was in elementary school, I had this problem. My friends made fun of me, and said I was stupid. And for the longest time my stutter defined who I was.
Now if you think that was uncomfortable for you, how do you think I felt? Just out of curiosity, how many of you thought I was completely screwing this up? Say I!
Thanks for the support guys. But in all honesty, this was a problem I thought was unsolvable. I had a speech therapist for 11 years, and encountered many people who felt bad for me. Speech therapy just simply wasn’t working. Now I’m not telling you this to start a pity party, but honestly: how many of you would have skipped school if you had a stutter like this?
How about reading out loud in class? I had this one problem in particular with guard gates. I grew up in a middle class paycheck to paycheck family, but my friends all lived in these nice gated communities. When I’d pull up to the guard gate, I’d try to skate by and just say my last name “Henry for Fertel,” or just show them my ID and pretend I didn’t hear them. And when they asked my first name, my response, “Jesse.” Introducing myself to people was a nightmare, and as I’m sure you can imagine, I received a few funny looks.
We all know first impressions last a lifetime. I was fighting an uphill battle from day one. These were the simplicities of life that most people took for granted. Unfortunately, I was a tall, skinny, awkward child with a stutter. But in reality, we have all been through this. For me it was a speech impediment, for you it may be obesity, or for you in the back it may be shyness. We all have our problems. No one is perfect. So as much as this is personalized for me, it’s truly generic for all of us.
When I was 5 years old, I was sitting at home on a rainy day in South Florida watching James Earl Jones on TV. Now most of us don’t actually know who James Earl Jones is, we know him as Darth Vader from Star Wars and Mufasa from the Lion King. So my dad is sitting at home, eating his bowl of cereal in the corner and says: “You know, Darth Vader is just like you.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said: “Darth Vader, he has a stutter, just like you do.” And to me, this was mind blowing. A world famous actor? With a stutter? And at that very moment, I realized that I didn’t have to talk like Porky Pig forever. So when I went back to preschool, I decided to sign up as the lead role of Prince Charming in the school play. Now, was I perfect? No. Did I stutter? Yes. Did I get to kiss the princess? You better believe it.
But from that moment forward, I realized that stage acting was the best way to solve my problem. My stutter forever changed my perspective on life. My strategy was to participate in acting camps and other plays. And finally I was beginning to realize that if you want something to happen, you have to go get it; no one is going to change your life for you. Cheers, cheers, right?
I ended up doing stage acting for 9 years and stopped right before high school, just in time not to be considered a drama geek. But it was that whole experience that really brought me to realize the 3 keys to success in entrepreneurship: perspective, strategy, and execution. Quite honestly, these keys aren’t only for business but for life.
I solidified these 3 keys during my entrepreneurial studies at FSU. I went up to Dr. Blass, the gentleman who runs the entrepreneurship center, and I said: “This is it Dr. Blass. I’ve found the theory of success in entrepreneurship.” Now he has a huge smirk on his face — as most of my professors do when talking to me — but Dr. Blass spent 20 years in the Air Force rising up to Lieutenant Colonel so when he told me that his people come across upon something similar, I felt indifferent.
As much as I was pissed off that I wasn’t starting this revolution, I was comforted that my findings were backed by people who knew what they were talking about. This brought me to a gentleman by the name of John Boyd, who discovered a decision making model for air combat called the OODA loop. OODA simply stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. He discovered this loop while analyzing the American F-86 fighter plane with the Soviet MIG-15. The MIG could turn quicker and move faster than the American plane, but despite this, the American plane won more battles.
Now Boyd attributes this to the increased field of vision in the American plane. He said this increased field of vision allowed the Americans to make better decisions, which resulted in the Russians being out maneuvered.
So here’s a more simplified version of the OODA loop, and what we can find is that success is simply being one step ahead of the competition. So as I look deeper into this, I realize that this decision making process was cyclical and dynamic as opposed to linear. So I started looking at other types of decision making loops I could use and stumbled across something called ‘double loop learning.‘
Now the double loop learning is a theory of personal change that’s used in management and development. It was coined in 1976 by the late Chris Argyris, and I’ve decided to retrofit Chris’s model and put my own spin on it. So what we have here behind me, is more or less, an infinity loop with Perspective in the middle: Perspective, Strategy, Perspective, Execution; Perspective, Strategy, Perspective, Execution. Double loop learning requires multiple OODA loops. We must constantly send our brain feedback in order to create the best response. You’ll notice I have put perspective in the middle for a very specific reason.
Perspective is quite simply the lens we view life through. Our perspective is a combination of our nature and nurture up until this very point. We all view life through a certain lens. Your perspective is your lens, or your current. Now in this case, we are not attempting to go against the current, but empathizing with others in viewing the world through their lens. Our perspective changes every second of every day. I tend to think my perspective grows with every experience, even the negative ones.