Show Notes from Mike Choi’s Interview

Mike Choi Show Notes

Key Points

  • Success in business has “nothing to do with work ethic, it has everything to do with what your employees believe about themselves.”
  • Great leaders always believe it can be done. They always believe that they are right on the cusp of doing something great, and they truly believe it. There may be times that great leaders are surprised, but they believe the entire time that they absolutely can.
  • Great leaders are those that make everyone else feel like they’re the most important person in the room.
  • As a leader, you should never be asking yourself, “why would someone want to work with me?” You need to ask yourself, “why would someone want to work with me?”
  • The best salespeople and leaders have a high degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Because when you’re not self-aware, you’re not typically very good at deciphering what value you bring to the table.
  • Happiness is not so much about what happens to you, but how you look at the situation.
  • You can’t propel yourself forward as an organization without someone who’s leading that always truly believes in the positivity of tomorrow.
  • The greatest single gift that you could give your children is self-awareness and emotional intelligence because then they don’t have delusions about themselves or their capabilities.
  • The greatest notion to impart to your kids is to go for it in life, enjoy the ride, but remember who you are and remember what’s important, be humble so that you don’t pursue those things that are based on your insecurities, that you’re trying to plug these holes and lead you down the wrong path.

Mike Choi’s Three Movie Recommendation:

  1. Dances With Wolves (1990) directed by Kevin Costner
  2. The Godfather (1972) directed by Francis Ford Coppola
  3. Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg

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Full Episode Transcription (Automated using

Full-Episode Transcription

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Mike Choi: 00:01

Sure, Chris, and thanks for having me on this, um, program. Um, it’s been a lot of fun getting to know you over the past couple, two, three years. Um, when, as you mentioned, we first met on a business slash a faith retreat and that was a really interesting time that we spent together driving over there in the car, getting to know each other. And, and the funny part about that is that, uh, we didn’t know that, uh, we were connected through your sister who had babysat our kids and such and we’ve discovered that in the infant car. So, uh, you know, of course, that led to a much more fruitful relationship. A little bit of background on myself, you know, I’m a small town boy growing up in Canby or Oregon, uh, here, uh, professionally speaking, no, I cut my teeth in enterprise software. I’d worked for a bunch of companies in that space and a lot of small companies as well as some very large companies.

Mike Choi: 01:04

The most notable one is probably the business objects which has since been acquired by sap, but they did business intelligence software and it looked, worked in their planning division in a variety of roles that included both marketing, sales, uh, international expansion and product management as well. Um, you know, as many great businesses, uh, uh, get their start, we saw a big gap during all the acquisitions where there were customer needs that were not being met and we’re being, we’re not being met and being overlooked by, uh, the larger companies and the customers were screaming for a solution that they had been sort of accustomed to but was sort of dwindling away, uh, in, in the new corporate environment. And so my co-founders and I came up with some ideas of how we can service that customer base and whether it’s through some kind of either a luck or intelligence or stupidity or what.

Mike Choi: 02:10

But we decided that we needed to start a software company to meet that need. And so that was the genesis of a company we started called Axiom Epm, which essentially was financial planning and analysis and reporting software for large enterprises. And what we essentially enabled very large organizations to do was to do their planning and replanning. I’m at a very sophisticated level very quickly. And that was something that was a huge challenge for corporations and the success of the businesses as long story. No shoulder get into the best essentially the, uh, the business that was most recently, um, which I left that business about three years ago. So that’s a little bit of background on myself since then, I’ve been working to help other companies. I’ve been working in the startup scene here in Portland, Oregon, part of several, uh, Angel investment groups, including one called Thai, Oregon, a part of a venture capital company called elevate capital here. And, uh, I have my fingers in a variety of different, um, organizations. So

Chris Kiefer: 03:27

one of the things that you mentioned that I’d like to dive into a little bit more as the, um, being an entrepreneur myself, I think a lot of the people that I talk with, um, I’m fascinated by is kind of a, there’s a point in business where things start clicking and there’s always obstacles and challenges that you have to overcome, but early days in the business, um, and even I feel like maybe before the business exists, there’s the time in which you’re trying to analyze, you know, do I have a viable business, what is the specific value proposition to our customers and, and knowing or feeling at least fairly confident in your guests that this is going to be something that can take off and you really don’t know the scale that it can become a debt in those early stages. But what were you thinking back on that? Um, talk a little bit about the, um, the actual conversations, if you can remember any that you had with co-founders or other critical people in axiom prior to axiom existing. OK.

Mike Choi: 04:40

Yeah. So I think this brings up a great question about what makes you decide that a business is worth pursuing. And for me, this is one of the mantras that I take with me as I look at new startups, um, in my capacity and angel investing and venture capital firms as well. And that is that, uh, you know, good ideas are a dime a dozen. I’m much more challenging is, um, to, to five businesses that already know that they’re going to be successful because they already know the buying model. And I think that’s, that’s one of the things that in the early stages of axiom, we already knew. We knew who the buyers were. We knew that the customer base is extremely well. We were very familiar with the sales cycle and the ecosystem of, of, of that particular marketplace. We knew of the problem that they faced.

Mike Choi: 05:38

If we had developed that solution, we knew who would buy. And so for us it was a no brainer. There was very little risk in the big scheme of things. There was execution risk to a certain degree, but we knew that people would buy if we came up with the solution that we understood. So we had sort of an unfair advantage, if you will, uh, and I look for that in every business or every startup is that it’s not just a, a great idea where it’s a better mouse trap that you have to sell, but because you know the buyer environment so exceedingly well, but it’s a no brainer. You, if you build it, you know exactly who’s going to buy it. Um, it’s not that much of a leap of faith. And that’s what I felt like we had when we created axiom was w we essentially knew that it was going to be successful if we could create the solution that we knew so well.

Mike Choi: 06:37

Um, so then as you think of. Oh, go ahead, finish that. I was going to say, um, and so that was before axiom was created, but there are other inflection points that happen as well when you talk about know, attraction and that type of thing. And that’s the point at which for us anyway, you know, the, you know, how do you get to critical mass when you know that you’re, you know, that you can really start escalating the growth curve and that type of thing. And for us it was when we had those number of customers and those marquee customers and the business model was a fleshed out better so that we could streamline and scale our sales efforts. We knew what we, what to put into the engine and we knew what we get out. Therefore you could put money into the equation or know fuel on that fire and you knew what you would get as an outcome when you got to that confidence level.

Mike Choi: 07:38

It was very easy to accelerate and scale at that point. And that’s when you got that comfort level and that you knew that the business was going to take off and you just simply needed, uh, to execute. Another piece that that was important for us that that was sort of an indicator of success is we began to be in a position where we didn’t have to apologize for the size of our company anymore because we had enough customers to make this legitimate because we did a great job of looking big and providing a service that was beyond what the big companies could provide. The kind of attention that they were looking for and because we had an offering that was so tuned in to that specific vertical market. So for example at axiom are first a target market for healthcare. Even though our, our, our solution was ideal for virtually any industry healthcare with the one that we target.

Mike Choi: 08:33

And so when we would go into customers and talk with them, the entire team, we would have a team of three or four people that would go in on sale cycle and every single person there had a healthcare background talk to healthcare, uh, et cetera. Whereas our competitors were coming in who were sap, Oracle and IBM. And they would tout how they did these amazing projects for Boeing and Coca-cola. And other huge companies and they would have people that weren’t specific to healthcare and even though they were much larger, we would come in as a team and we would practically, you know, we understood their business and we would practically a verbally in those meetings explain how we would solve their problems and say they knew that we would completely first and we basically prescribed a solution for them already. And so when we got to that point where we weren’t apologizing anymore, we can charge a premium for our solutions in an above and beyond the, uh, the big players in the field, you know, we could go with that level of confidence. We had really figured out that we could really scale this business. And so once again, it became an issue of how do you fuel that growth? How do you scale it without breaking it the scenes

Chris Kiefer: 09:52

In what you were saying that I think is a challenge for a lot of businesses is deciding. Um, obviously you have to pick some vertical, uh, you have to pick what is it that you’re going to specialize in. And a lot of times deciding the more important thing is deciding what companies are you not going to work with, but how like how do you, and again, maybe this was obvious, but you mentioned healthcare is one of your targets. And maybe this would be a question for just a, when you’re advising a startup, how do you strategically decide how big of a vertical you should go after?

Mike Choi: 10:33

That’s a great question, Chris. And it’s so critical to the success of so many early stage companies. A lot of people mistakenly think that, you know, we want the greatest number of people to look at our software as possible or our product, whatever that product may be a. and that’s our greatest chance of success. You’re trying to create the biggest pool of people possible. And that’s usually the wrong answer. Uh, the more narrow you can make, the possible number of people that would buy your software. I think the better off you typically are. And what I mean by that is that if there’s, you know, if you’re trying to sell, in my case it was software, but it could be some kind of widget and this widget could apply to, you know, 30 different industries if you identified one or two industries where you had some level of experience from your past that, you know, um, you know, that business a little bit better than others do and can tailor that product. And sometimes it doesn’t even have to be the product. It can be tailoring the marketing specifically to that industry. You stand a far better chance of gaining market share there. You’d rather, you know, when a lot of customers in a small, uh, you know, a market and use that as a basis to grow into other markets than trying to tackle all markets with a giant pool of potential clients and not win very many of them. And that has proven it’s so, you know, to be true, you know, time and time again,

Chris Kiefer: 12:13

Some things that I have always found fascinating is, um, the people surrounding the entrepreneur, him or herself that have great influence on the business succeeding or, uh, or I guess not even that, just getting off the ground. Do you have, tell me about, um, your, were you, were you married at this time when you started? Axiom was newly married and I guess this would be just kind of, um, I don’t even know what the angle on this would be, but how difficult was this or were there any serious discussions that you had to have, um, with your wife to say, you know, um, this is kind of a opportunity. We’re pretty confident in it, but there’s obviously risk involved. But essentially you were where you were quitting your job, right? To start this other job. So tell me about that a little bit.

Mike Choi: 13:17

Yeah, I think circumstances are different for each person. But um, you know, you think of the adage that you’ve heard before, you know, beside, behind every successful man is a successful. I’m a wife, and of course today we need to say that behind every successful person has a successful spouse, but you know, that adage is very true. Um, if you have a relationship that is not as supportive or is a bit more a fear base, then you might have some troubles. I was very fortunate in that, um, you know, my wife was very supportive. The things that I was trying to do, it doesn’t mean that she wasn’t concerned. She was concerned about this new venture and what it would mean for her family and such. Um, but she was very supportive and that allowed me the freedom to really explore. We could do for what we could do from a business perspective, um, without worrying about that side of the equation too much.

Chris Kiefer: 14:22

I guess the last question as far as Axiom goes, when do you feel like, was there a time or the period, maybe it was like a specific day or month or a client that you closed? When, when did you stop being a startup? Or when was it? When. Maybe it was early on. Maybe it was several years in, but at what point was everything clicking and now it’s just kind of like, you know, pedal to the metal, pouring more gas on the fire and just growing or is it, you know, when did that happen for you?

Mike Choi: 14:56

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. And I can think of a couple of marquee clients. It really changed the mentality of everyone in the company. The first one was our sort of first real big client, you know, we probably had 10 customers and again, this is the enterprise software space. And so up to that point, you know, we sold maybe $50,000 deals or what have you. Uh, you know, that was probably our biggest customer up to that point. Um, you know, we’re struggling to get people to adopt. And then finally there was a, a, a company, a healthcare, a large healthcare system in New Jersey called Meridian health. Um, that, you know, through a variety of different circumstances, including a prior relationship that we had with them and those types of things. We were able to convince them to, you know, take a chance with us.

Mike Choi: 15:51

And that was a $200,000 account. It was the biggest one up to that point. Um, at that time, $200,000 was a lot for us. And uh, but more than anything, it was a large health system that was willing to take a chance that we knew could be a great reference for us. And it was the start of us being able to say, hey, you know, real companies are willing to take a chance with us. And so that was sort of the beginning. And then everybody’s mindset started to change within the company. Uh, because they’re thinking, wow, this we can be real. Up until that point, there was a lot of, you know, sort of obscure deals here and there that weren’t huge in size and that type of thing. So it left a question mark in everybody’s mind, will someone of substantial size actually by this.

Mike Choi: 16:47

And so that was the first watershed moment, if you will. Cause a lot of it isn’t just about number of clients, it’s about what your team and what people in the company believe about themselves because then they start behaving differently. They start answering questions differently, they start, we start working differently when they believe that, wow, this is real and this can, can work for some reason. It has nothing to do with work effort. It has to do with what they actually believe we can accomplish. And then the other moment was our first million-dollar customers was a company called Catholic healthcare west at the time, I think they had 43 hospitals. Um, I think there were something like a, uh, a $10,000,000,000 organization and it gave a tremendous amount of pride to everyone in the organization. Once again, it was a moment where they believed, um, what could happen and what we could do. And it just created a different perspective. You know, it’s Kinda like in, in sports, the analogy of, you know, playing not to lose versus playing to win even you’re the same team and you’re always giving a hundred percent when you, when you’re playing to when something different happens, you play differently, you act differently and it makes all the difference in the world. And that’s similar in these watershed moments in organizations when people begin to believe in what they can really accomplish.

Chris Kiefer:

18:08 I’ve loved the what the thing you just said, it has nothing to do with work ethic, work ethic. It has to do with the employees in the company believe about themselves. And so my question is, is it necessary for the founder or you or the other executive members to basically like did you believe the whole time or was there also like he would put on a front of we can do this and then you go home at night and you’re like pulling your hair out and stressing about whether or not this is actually going to work. Or is there kind of A. is there an underlying confidence that you had the entire time?

Mike Choi:

18:52 You know what’s interesting about that is I think great leaders, maybe it’s out of foolishness or ignorance, but they always believe it can be done. They always believe that we are right on the cusp of doing something great and they truly believe it. Now, when we sold that first million dollar deals, an example was that a surprise to me, sure, but did I believe the entire time that we absolutely can. When this account, absolutely, and that energy and that belief was infectious and it goes to the people that are around you and they believe that we have a real shot, but my goodness, we we, we can get this deal and then when it happens, you might be a little bit surprised, but you believe that the entire time that you had a real and genuine shot at getting that deal in that kind of energy and that kind of belief is what makes all the difference. Because when you believe that you don’t really have a good shot, even though you give it your all, everybody on that team will behave slightly differently. They talk a little bit differently. The energy is a little bit different when you go in with that true belief that, you know, you can win this business. It makes all the difference in the world.

Chris Kiefer: 20:07

So you’re saying you always believed that it was possible, you know. Yeah. You can still be surprised. Maybe you didn’t know it was going to happen so quickly or with the client it was in the way that it went about it or whatever. But do you enjoy or is it necessary to enjoy kind of the struggle of the doubts of the people that are looking up to you?

Mike Choi: 20:31

Um, you know, you hear a lot of stories like that. And for me that wasn’t a big motivation to prove people wrong, so to speak, uh, because they doubted me or what have you, um, uh, that may or may not be an important motivation or driver for, for others. But for me it really wasn’t. For me, it was really the excitement that we could actually achieve something maybe that, that people would be surprised about or what have you. Um, and that was perhaps a motivating, but it was this desire to do something great, the desire to do something real that all these other people could get excited about and jump on board with as well. And I think that’s a, a great, in hindsight, I think that’s a great motivator because what’s the perspective that perspective, um, puts you in a position where you’re trying to bring everyone up.

Mike Choi: 21:28

You’re trying to get everyone excited about that vision or that goal or what have you. The other to me is a little bit more personal and egocentric. The other is a bit more, you know, I want to do this because I want to prove these other people along. It doesn’t imply that you’re, you have all these other people that are working alongside you and with you maybe they don’t have that same, that same motivation. So I’m, you know, I’m not sure if that nails it on the head or, or hits it on the head, but it’s um, yeah. I’m not sure that that’s a huge motivating factor for a lot of people and is related to success or not.

Chris Kiefer: 22:13

One of the things that you want to go back to the comment you made about either out of foolishness or ignorance. A leaders always believe great leaders always believe. Do you think that, um, was there anything else in addition to that that you think makes a good leader?

Mike Choi: 22:32

Um, yeah. I think one of the key things that I learned about good leaders is that bosses, they’re not people that tell people what to do. They’re not necessarily the people that, uh, you know, with their authority that everyone respects. Um, occasionally you’ll see a strong leader that has those qualities, but usually, the great leaders are those that make everyone else feel like they’re the most important person in the room. And, someone who’s facilitating that, you’re, you’re the one that has the excitement and the energy that people are attracted to. I think you’ve heard, um, I think people have said before, like, you know, why would someone want to work for me? And they were proposing that as part of the solution or what you should ask in order to figure out how to motivate people. Right? Why would someone want to work for me?

Mike Choi: 23:43

And to me, that’s absolutely the wrong question. You should be asking why would someone want to work with me? Because if you ask why would someone want to work for me is because I have the answers. I’m more knowledgeable than them. Um, you know, I’m smarter. I, you know, whatever the thing is, but it requires you to be better than them and requires them to acknowledge that or to believe in that in order for that to work. But if you ask the question, why would someone want to work with me, then it creates a totally different set of answers. Why would someone who’s my peer I want to work with me rather than for me, it would want to work with me because they think I’m smart and have some capabilities. I may not have all the answers, but he believes in what he’s doing.

Mike Choi: 24:32

He’s passionate about it. He has high energy, he’s positive. He’s a great guy. You know, and I believe in a lot of the things that he’s saying. I believe that I’m a strong part of that solution. And I can see in his eyes that he believes that I am really smart, really valuable, and that I can bring a lot of value to the table and we’re going to solve this problem together. That’s the change in perspective when you ask not why would someone want to work for me, but you ask why would someone want to work with me? I think that’s the key piece that is different about good leaders. Now, of course there’s plenty of exceptions, you know, the lat muscles of the world, the Steve Jobs of the world, uh, you know, that got people to follow for very different reasons. But those are rare exceptions. And for the vast majority of startups, um, you know, their conditions are not the same.

Chris Kiefer: 25:27

Do you think that, and maybe just so you can answer this for yourself first and then in general, are these like the way that you’re asking those questions, were you born with this mentality or, or is this a combination of nature versus nurture? Um, but how do you like, can someone listened to this and say, Ooh, that’s a good question. And then like, you know, start trying to become a leader or do you think that there’s some, um, innate like leadership quality that is born in some and not others,

Mike Choi: 26:06

That combination I think you maybe not born with, but at a very early age, you know, you acquire these skills that lend themselves to being, you know, good leaders, good people, a person, people are people. But I think ultimately you can learn a lot of things are a lot of skills. I mean, certainly, you know, I, I had, I think a certain amount of emotional intelligence, you know, coming out of college, let’s say, um, so maybe I had a little bit of a leg up, but there are so many things that I learned along the way that we’re exceedingly value and made all the difference. And so I think it is absolutely learn-able, but you have a head start if you have some of these intrinsic qualities already learned, you know, through your childhood and formative years. So in a lot of this is tied to, um, know this notion of emotional intelligence, which is sort of a buzzword these days. But it’s so very true that the best leaders, salespeople, you know, what have you, uh, have a high degree of emotional intelligence and self-awareness

Chris Kiefer: 27:31

Going to ask, do you think of yourself as a self-aware?

Mike Choi: 27:37

Um, I think that’s one of them most valuable qualities that I have now. I’d like to think that I’m, you know, I’m very self-aware, but you know, the way that I, I know that though is by seeing so many people that aren’t very self-aware and the problems that they get into, um, you know, you have so many people, uh, or let’s, let’s talk about entrepreneurs, very successful entrepreneurs, um, that because of their success, they feel like, you know, they know all the answers moving forward in another business. And so many second-time entrepreneurs fail. I believe it’s because of his huber set develops. If they’re not very self-aware that they think a lot of the reasons for the success were, ah, do mostly to themselves. Were they more self-aware. And if they were more emotionally intelligent and could really understand their role, their unique role in what made that organization successful, they would be much more likely to be successful in their second endeavors because they would have that self-awareness that, that lets them know what value they brought to the table. When you’re not self-aware, you’re not typically not very good at deciphering what value you bring to the table,

Chris Kiefer: 29:06

your strengths and weaknesses.

Mike Choi: 29:10

Yes. And yes.

Chris Kiefer: 29:16

This is a while ago in a conversation that we had, you mentioned that you thought most entrepreneurs or just people in general, I think you’ve actually alluded to this earlier and you, you kind of go down two different paths, but how, like describe what this is and kind of how there’s this decision that is made and sometimes I would say unconsciously or subconsciously made, um, for entrepreneurs,

Mike Choi: 29:43

What I was referring to in that conversation was this notion that so many successful entrepreneurs come out and they tend to take two different paths. Those that are, um, socially, um, or not very self-aware. Um, and perhaps as a result, uh, you know, have some, he goes that sort of block the clarity on what value they bring to the table. Um, they tend to pursue routes that are more ego driven and so they end up being these guys that are pretty typical. They buy the fancy cars and the fancy houses and it, uh, and uh, you know, they, they get a little full of themselves and they surround themselves with people that feed their ego a, they start dressing differently. Uh, you know, uh, they behave differently in meetings when they talk with people. Again, they’re very ego driven and I would say this is totally an anecdote.

Mike Choi: 30:57

You know, I see about half, maybe even a little bit more than half of the people go down that route. And then there’s this other route that people go, people that you really respect, that has, that not only are they grounded, but they’re really aware of what they’re really good at and what they’re not good at. And they’re more aware of the value that they bring to the table and what their strengths and weaknesses are. And that can be a humbling effect. It’s empowering and humbling off the same time. It’s humbling because it lets you know that you weren’t the reason, the full reason for your company’s prior success. It’s empowering in the sense that now you know what your real value is and you can put that value to play in your next business endeavor. Or actually it applies to life as well. And so you tend to see them make better life decisions that are less ego-driven and more real values-driven.

Chris Kiefer: 31:55

One of the things that I definitely is one of the more self-aware analysis that I’ve heard you described about yourself is understanding how the person that you are is because of your parents and you know, they were influenced in their parenting styles by their parents. And you know, this never-ending chain, but what were some of the key life situations that you were in or that they were in that affected your work ethic or entrepreneurial tendencies?

Mike Choi: 32:28

Yeah, I think, uh, you know, it’s interesting when I think about the answer to that question, I’m not drawn to one particular piece of advice or, or what have you, for me, the benefit or the impact that they had was more in who they are and it really, it was a combination of both my parents. Um, and I think it was that unique combination that really formed a lot of my thinking and my values and how I live today. And I’m extremely grateful for that. My Dad always saw the glasses, half full. Mom always saw the glass is half empty and so while she was the responsible one, good good. Um, you know, if there was some good things that happened, you know, she might have been happy for a day or so temporarily, but she would always find something to worry about and uh, you know, no matter what the situation was.

Mike Choi: 33:21

And with my dad it was the opposite. You know, something bad could happen and he might be sad or down momentarily. But the very next day, uh, you know, he was exceedingly happy, genuinely happy. He wasn’t fooling himself. He would, you know, he, he genuinely was so grateful for the life that he had no matter what the circumstances were. And so that was a great learning for me to say that, wow, you mean to tell me that you could have the same exact thing happen in two people perceive it totally differently and be authentically real, not deluding themselves and feel about it differently. And that’s when I realized that so much of my circumstance or I should say my happiness was, is not so much about what happens to me but how I look at the situation and um, and that is infectious. It impacts my relationships and business as well. In business. You can’t just have someone who’s always looking at things as the glass half full, you know, you do need the discipline and the responsibility and all those pieces in there. But I would argue that you can’t propel yourself forward as an organization without someone who’s leading that always truly believes in the positivity of tomorrow.

Chris Kiefer: 34:48

We’re Kinda gonna shift topics over to, um, parenting if that’s OK. Like I feel like this was probably a year ago. Um, but you’ve mentioned just the, you know, the statistic I’ve heard that, you know, basically whatever the amount of wealth is that I’m a person or a family acquires in a, in a lifetime to the next generations are affected or are they basically burned through it very, very quickly.

Mike Choi: 35:26

Um, what I had heard from an estate planner is that it seems like it’s well known within that community that you have the three generation. The first generation is the one that really worked super hard and blood, sweat and tears typically very poor and build wealth. And then that second generation sees, truly sees on their parent’s faces the toil that they went through, not just physically but emotionally. And I think that’s really the important part. They see how hard it was and their faces when things go bad and their mother is crying and you know, these kinds of things. Um, and so they get emotionally that impact. And so they tend to maintain the wealth because they appreciate it. You know, how hard their parents work for it. So they don’t squander it. Um, but they’re kids. So the third generation comes along and they’re second generation parents.

Mike Choi: 36:20

Tell them about the value of money and how important it is to be responsible and you know, all these kinds of things, um, but they never see the emotional toil on their faces. And so that third generation tends to squander all the wells. And so that leads me to say, well, I’m blessed to be part of that second generation where I have some appreciation of, you know, the value of what we have, but I know my kids are never ever going to be wanting for anything and they’re probably not going to see a lot of pain on, on and struggle on my face and my wife’s face. And so how are they not going to be the generation of excess and of, you know, taking things for granted and squandering everything that they have. And that’s a real challenge. Most people don’t pay much attention to that and think that, well, if I just teach them how important you know, money is or responsibility is or values, all those kinds of things. If I just teach them, there’ll be fine. And I would argue that that’s really challenging and that’s really difficult because it has to impact them emotionally for it to really resonate. Um, and so that’s the challenge that I see before me that I don’t have good answers to. And uh, you know, and I’m constantly thinking about this.

Chris Kiefer: 37:43

What do you think the most important thing is that you can give your kids?

Mike Choi: 37:49

No, I think it’s, you know, it’s, there’s a lot of answers there, right? Um, it has to do with faith. It has to do with some of the emotional lessons that I’ve learned kind of along the lines that we just talked about with my mom and dad and the different, um, you know, attitudes that they had, um, you know, I, I kind of feel like if they’re self-aware and have emotional intelligence, that’s probably the greatest single gift that you could give them because then they don’t have delusions about themselves or themselves. They don’t. Um, typically that means that whatever that they have there, they’re well aware of. And that’s where people, I think, get into the most trouble when you have certain insecurities and you’re not, you’re not very aware of them, it drives really bad behavior. Let’s take that example. Let’s say you feel insecure growing up that you weren’t better than someone, whether it’s because of wealth, athleticism, intellect, whatever it was, and if you don’t have the self-awareness to, to, to understand that as you get older and the things that you do in life often will pursue making yourself feeling better about those particular insecurities. And so when we talk about that entrepreneurship funnel was successful, exited entrepreneurs and where they tend to go, I think that’s very much tied to that. So that self-awareness and emotional intelligence is, is one of those key things. I think

Chris Kiefer: 39:31

last question I have on now. You have three kids now, right?

Mike Choi: 39:40

That’s right.

Chris Kiefer: 39:43

What’s been the most surprising thing about being a parent?

Mike Choi: 39:49

I think the most surprising thing is how little control you really have, you know? Yeah. I was a pretty heady person. I’m growing up, felt like I had a lot of the answers figured out in such a probably a lot of people do. And then of course before you have kids, you’re always looking at other people’s kids saying, oh, I would never allow my kid to do that. You know, those kinds of things. And um, I know it’s amazing when you have kids, how, OK, how little control you have. Yes, you do absolutely have some influence in control, no question about it. But they come out born differently and you have to react to those differently. And so if you grew up in a parenting style and um, that you’re accustomed to and it’s really the only thing that you know and um, you know, you have three different kids and they don’t all react the same way to the same stimulus. So it works with one totally doesn’t work with the other and if it’s not in a parenting style, trouble with, you won’t know how to optimally parent that one. That is very different.

Chris Kiefer: 41:08

I always like hearing your perspective on things. I think you do a good job of articulating some, you know, a lot of times very difficult topics. So I’ve enjoyed it so far. Um, what is the one, what is the one purchase is kind of just the fun, crazy question that I always think is interesting is this is actually a question that Tim Ferriss, I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to him, but he asked question often. What is the one purchase of less than a hundred dollars that you’ve made in the last six months or recent past that has significantly changed your life?

Mike Choi: 41:46

Interesting. Um, you know, I didn’t give a lot of thought to that and my joking response is, I bought this for $0.95 and I can’t remember why, I just remember, I think it just struck me as odd and it was this a head massager, um, or really it’s a scalp massager and it’s this little contraption. I think it’s origination is Chinese and it has all these wires that come out and it’s the most ridiculous looking thing. And you place it on your head and you kind of. Yeah, it’s like a baseball cap a little bit. Does it look like a baseball cap? The dome piece of it feels like it and it looks absolutely ridiculously silly, like a spider sitting on top of your head and it feels amazing little if you don’t have one. It’s, it’s a, you’ve got to get one. They’re totally inexpensive and uh, it just shouldn’t send shivers down your spine, you know, when you’re using it. So, uh, that’s, that’s a life changer for everyone.

Chris Kiefer: 42:54

No, actually I know exactly what you’re talking about, Natalie. I’m introduced that. To me that’s a, it is quite life changing. I would agree. Um, and so then the law or the next question, um, at this point in your life, what does success look like to you personally?

Mike Choi: 43:17

Yeah, that’s a fascinating one. When you’re in a position where, um, where you’re, you’re officially retired and all these choices are presented before you create a really different mindset as to how you look at the world. You know, most people would answer that question is, Oh yeah, people want a sense of purpose since you want to do all these important things. And help the world and, and, and this kind of stuff. And those are all definitely part of the answer, I believe, you know, um, but still most people, including myself, there’s still a little emptiness in a little hole there. It doesn’t, it doesn’t fill everything. It does fill it some. I’m not saying that that’s not part of the solution, but there’s still some emptiness in there. And so, you know, other people will say, you know, pursue the things that you love and are passionate about and that also is tremendously rewarding.

Mike Choi: 44:10

But there’s still a little empty hole there as well. And as best as I can understand it or grapple with it up to this point, you know, to me, wealth and success gives you really, it’s, it’s freedom. Freedom to either the thing you want to do. We’re not to be forced to do the things that you don’t want to do. Um, but that freedom leads you to do what? To buy nicer homes, expensive cars, fancy things. Um, or is it something else? And for me, what I’ve discovered, that little hole that exists, it’s about relationships. And for me, what I’m starting to discover is that I want my wealth to support my ability to, to pursue and enrich the relationships that I have, whether it’s with my kids in my family, um, whether it’s with friends, um, it’s really about the relationships because when those are rewarding and rich and strong, uh, and you creating valuable experiences with them, um, that’s, that’s when you, I feel the best about life, not just happy, um, you know, not just happy but feel, uh, fulfilled. And as I’m, again, I’m still working through this issue, but I feel like that’s where real happiness and fulfillment lies. Not In temporary happiness, not in things that are passionate and rewarding. Um, but we’re real fulfillment comes from is something related to that. And those other things are certainly part of the picture. Um, but I think the relationships is a piece of it that really define your fulfillment at the end of the day.

Chris Kiefer: 46:17

Is that something that, I’m sure your idea, and maybe I don’t know if you have, if you remember ever thinking about this question, but when you were, you know, based on your, your understanding of success today, is there anything you would tell your 20-year-old self just coming out of college, um, that would have, um, that you would have liked to have known on this end of the spectrum?

Mike Choi: 46:49

Um, that’s interesting. I, you know, I haven’t given that a lot of thought, but, you know, I think there’s this notion that I want to impart on my kids that, yeah, go for it in life, you know, strive, uh, whether it’s professionally, whether it’s in life experiences itself, go for it, was enjoy the ride, that type of thing, but then it’s also balanced by. But remember who you are and remember what’s important. Uh, you know, uh, uh, be humble so that you don’t pursue those things that are based on your insecurities, that you’re trying to plug these holes and lead you down the wrong path. And that’s so easy. It comes to wealth and success. Most people are driven off of some element of their ego and that’s something that I have to watch out for as well. I absolutely have an ego, but I’m constantly striving to understand the motivation of that ego.

Mike Choi: 47:46

So I’m really chasing the things that are truly meaningful as opposed to. Because once you get to the end of your ego, you realize that it’s just your ego. So if you want power and fame and you achieve those things and you’re well respected by everyone, you realize that you’re still empty and alone. And in fact, the more wealth you have, the more lonely it gets because people can’t identify with you. You know, they can’t do the same things that do. They’re not concerned with the same things that you’re now concerned with and it becomes a really lonely place.

Chris Kiefer: 48:25

Um, last question. This is the fun one. What are your top three? And you can only have three and you have to commit top three movie recommendations.

Mike Choi: 48:39

Oh boy. So, uh, I, I’m happy to pick the top three, but it comes with a clarification point in that is do I, is this sort of like the critical, top three movies of all time recommended for others or, or selfishly, my three favorite movies of all time, whether they’re smart or stupid or otherwise.

Chris Kiefer: 49:05

I liked the ladder personally likes

Mike Choi: 49:10

I’m OK if it’s, if it’s, uh, selfishly, I would say the three most enriching movies for me would probably be where you’re jumping out of their seats, wanting to share it with other people, like I talked about earlier, uh, would be dances with wolves, the godfather. And the last one would actually be jaws.

Chris Kiefer: 49:40

I have not seen jaws, I’ve never seen jaws. I’ve heard the song, the music is like notorious.

Mike Choi: 49:54

This will ruin you from going swimming again probably, but you have to watch it with this understanding that there are sort of the surface level a and all great movies have this, right? Does it surface level, interest element. You know, it’s this giant shark and it’s kind of cliché and corny. Now, of course. Um, and, and you can appreciate that, that simple minded, sort of primal level, but when you look at the movie making that’s done and the reason why they did certain things, um, you know, there’s some really interesting anecdotes from the making of jaws where they wanted to get this sharp that looked realistic, that they can show up and it couldn’t get it to look very realistic and they’d all kinds of mechanical problems. And so they ended up not showing the shark very often at all and they relied on the music to represent the shark and create that suspense.

Mike Choi: 50:50

And it in, in hindsight, it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to them because it created so much more suspense and terror really because they weren’t able to show the shark very often. And in fact, the civitas parts of the movie are the, are the times where you actually can see the shark. But really it’s moving the movie. Making elements of jaws are phenomenal. Um, and so what’s interesting about this list also is that at first blush, I, I’m sure for those movies knobs out there, they’re, they’re not giving me much credence at all because these are at some level are very simplistic, easy movies to like. But what I love about them is when you watch it, the third and fourth and fifth, and maybe even [inaudible], which I have, I think probably all of these movies, it’s fascinating, the symbolism, the subtle suggestions that are made, the reason why they said certain things, um, uh, the, the, the cinematography that was used that were very, very purposeful. Um, and then you see the many complex layers, um, in these movies and yet at surface level they’re just either fun or just have this sort of primal, uh, appeal that is not very sophisticated at all. So, um, anyway, Josh, you have to see that it is, uh, uh, again, you probably won’t appreciate its brilliance. You’ll be entertained the first time, but you won’t see any of it genius until probably the third or fourth time.

Chris Kiefer: 52:26

All right. I will add that to our wishlist. Natalie and I are going to watch that in the next couple of weeks. Anyways, Mike, I appreciate your time today. This was a very entertaining for me and I appreciate, or thank you for being the, um, one of the first guests on the show, but again, yeah, I really, really appreciate you and your time today and for sharing.

Mike Choi: 52:53

Not at all. Chris, and again, appreciate you having me on the show and uh, I will say that you’re one of the most interesting people that I know and so I’m looking forward to seeing where the show goes from here. So congratulations and good luck.

Chris Kiefer: 53:06

Thanks. And I’m going to just find a way to, uh, we’re gonna exit the show with the, uh, the jaws soundtrack of the shark coming.