“Legacy and legendary are tied to people, are connected to people. It’s not connected to brands.” – Nick Powills
Each person has his or her own battles to win and journey to fulfill. But in order to reach our destination, we must start by setting expectations. With proper management of our expectations, we become prepared and equipped to face any adversities that may stop us from reaching our goal. In today’s episode, Nick Powills narrates his weight loss journey which turned into something noble as he learned to set his expectations not only for himself but for others who wish to empower themselves. He also discusses the most common and hardest to fight hurdles each one faces: lack of confidence. You can be a legend. That is the power of knowing how to set and manage your expectations.
Listen to the podcast here:
11:22 Lack Of Confidence
12:08 Weight Loss Journey
17:31 Wanting To Be More
19:46 Managing Expectations
27:51 How To Set Expectations
32:42 How No Limit Agency Begun
Sticks and Stones by Nick Powills
05:41 “Without perspective, or if you take perspective for granted, it’s probably hard to find that internal happiness.” – Nick Powills
17:59 “I’m going to do as much in my power to live the best life that I can…the ingredient that I’m fighting for is happiness.” – Nick Powills
21:34 “When people don’t learn how to expect correctly and learn how to manage their expectations, life becomes more difficult.” – Art Costello
23:24 “It’s not the expectations of others that matter. It’s what your core expectations are…because when you live to the expectations of others, you’ll never live authentically, you’ll never find happiness.” – Art Costello
37:08 “Legacy and legendary are tied to people, are connected to people. It’s not connected to brands.” – Nick Powills
Nick Powills is the CEO of Mainland, a content marketing technology company that includes No Limit Agency, 1851 Franchise, and ESTATENVY. Prior to starting No Limit at the age of 27, Nick Powills spent four years working at a franchise PR agency where he mastered the art of building rapport with media outlets and creating newsworthy pitches for earned media placements. Prior to jumping into PR, Nick worked as a writer at the Northwest Herald, a daily newspaper in Chicago; started Lumino, an online music magazine; and had internships at Rolling Stone and Details Magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Drake University in Iowa.
Nick is also the author of Sticks and Stones. He strives to share how his personal struggle with weight and being teased as a kid fuels his drive toward being a successful entrepreneur. Powills’ book, published by Inc. Magazine, and seminars help audiences learn how to turn their own struggles into strengths, helping them achieve more on their own terms.
Art Costello: Welcome to the shower of Shower Epiphanies Podcast. Today, Nick Powills is our guests from Chicago, Illinois is joining us. Nick is the author of Sticks and Stones. He’s also the owner of the No Limit Agency, but Nick tried to share how his personal struggle with weight and being teased as a kid fueled his drive to become a successful entrepreneur. Nick’s book published by Inc. Magazine, and seminars helps audiences learn how to turn their own struggles into strengths, helping them achieve more on their own terms.
Welcome to the show. Nick, you’re right up my alley because I’m all about empowering people to live the life that they’re meant to live. Can you tell us how the journey started for you?
Nick Powills: And I would say that over time my answer probably shifted. If someone said, tell me your story, I may start with where my career begins, but for me, my story begins the first day that I was called fat, which was when I was five years old. My mom walked me to kindergarten, hand in hand, dropped me off, release me to the world, and a kid named Mike called me fat for the first time. And in that moment it was awful, and probably for the next 12 years, the stickiness of that statement ended up defining a lot of my story, but underneath it was still someone that was hungry to do something big in life. Prior to that moment, I was already playing with being an entrepreneur. Really the first business I had, I took my parents change jar, toss it off the second floor bedroom, and then charge neighborhood kids a dollar to come collect as much money as they could, I got to keep the dollars. So I mean, it was in me, and then it almost got disrupted. Like there was a stall moment being called fat, it just shook things up. And as I go through high school, told I wasn’t good enough to write book, was told I wasn’t good enough at baseball, got caught there, and there was this constant battle just being told NO. Now later on in life, I look back at those moments and it’s tremendous fuel, it still drives me today, so my story isn’t defined by those moments, but it’s helped for what it is now helped me achieve. Sure. Yeah, absolutely.
Art Costello: It shaped who you are. Our stories are very similar, but different circumstances. I wasn’t called fat, we were shunned because we moved into a community that didn’t accept us, and that really kind of threw us off, and my parents were separated after we moved to this farm. But when people don’t realize when they do that to you, what it really is, and you made a choice, even though you may have not known at that time, you made the choice to either believe it or not believe it. And I believe that you chose the positive —
Nick Powills: Yes, absolutely. At some point I made the choice. I mean, truth be told, I hit 305 pounds when I was a sophomore in high school. I crossed over 200 when I was in the sixth grade. But it’s interesting to reflect back on some of those moments. Still super competitive, which helped me in athletics, even though I was obese. Even fighting my brothers to see who gets the first, second cheeseburger at the dinner table, I was the one that was winning in all these food battles, but it’s interesting because I look back at it and it’s certainly fueled today. I’m sure Tom Brady, who was overlooked by all teams six times over to get drafted and last round, that put a chip on his shoulder. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team, and in the moment Michael Jordan probably walking away saying, well, that sucks. But later on he was like, wow, look what you just did. You gave me something of significant fuel that is going to allow me to keep going. In the book I talk about this equation that is “Foundation + Momentum = Velocity.” Eventually, when you’re able to make the conscious decision that, whatever crack you dealt with in your life, and it can be something small, it could be your parents going through a divorce, it could be an abusive parent, it could be a bad situation, it could be being caught from your baseball team, whatever it is, when you flip that and say, Hey, [inaudible], now it mess your foundation. And then when you get into momentum, you start finding these little victories, and then you build the confidence where eventually the brick walls come and you’re like, screw it, bring them on, keep coming brick walls. So yeah, it is a conscious decision.
Art Costello: Adversity, yeah, it is tough. But adversity is what you’re talking about. And I have recognized in my research that people that face adversity and choose to take a positive outlook on it really become successful. In their own right, we could argue success and all that stuff, but they overcome it, and they start achieving, and they become high achievers. I have noticed that over and over again, and I mean, you named some of the great sports figures that have done that, but in business I’ve seen it —
Nick Powills: I don’t know when — truth be told, I’m still chasing what equals happiness. But part of me feels like adversity is a part of that, that understanding, maybe not what the bottom feels like, but what low feels like ends up being an important part of the happiness equation. Because it gives you perspective, and without perspective, or if you take advantage or take perspective for granted, it’s probably hard to find that internal happiness.“Without perspective, or if you take perspective for granted, it's probably hard to find that internal happiness.” - Nick Powills Click To Tweet
Art Costello: I mean, I agree. It just seems to be an element that is necessary for you to GAIN that perspective. So I agree with that 100%. After you went through your childhood, how did the motivation come?
Nick Powills: In high school, I started defining some of my own success. I’m told I’m not good enough writer. I seek out the support of a guy that writes for the Chicago Tribune, Fred Mitchell, who allowed me to go to some Bears games and I got to cover it with him. I write about this in the book. One of the first Bears games that I went to him sophomore, junior in high school I’m at at the game, and he goes, go down to the locker room, get some clothes, and Bill Parcells was coaching for the Jets. I have this big backpack, the truth is, it was full of memorabilia that I want to get signed by the players, even though that was against the rules, but it was all in this backpack. Parcells come, he knocked me down, he’s pissed off about something. He leans over, he whispers, he goes: “Hey, are you okay?” I go: “Yeah.” Keeps on swearing and runs up to the podium. But it was neat because I had someone say, all right, come learn it. And what was interesting that today I’m still probably not the best writer in the world. What I’m good at is extracting stories through the interview, and I’m good at speed. I’m not the best writer in the world, but I look back at a moment like that and it gave me the confidence to try to find other elements that I feel go into being a good storyteller, which led me to, probably some of the successes that I had, but then I started finding like these little wins. Great story, I was covering the Cubs and White Sox as a freshman in college for a local newspaper. They hired me to do a bowling –, which I didn’t know anything about bowling, and I said: “Look, don’t pay me for that. Give me press passes.” I still working on the story about remembering your childhood. Did these athletes really dream about being a baseball player? Was this dream come true? This guy Will Clark, he gets called up to play for the Cardinals because Mark McGwire gets injured. I love this guy growing up, when I was playing baseball in my front yard, I would say, I’m Will Clark, and I would hit home runs. And I go up to him, I go: “Mr. Clark, can I ask you some questions about remembering Charlie –.” “Who the F are you?” And I go: “I’m Nick Powills.” He goes: “Are you with the F in Chicago Tribune?” And I’m like: “No, no, no. I’m with a local newspaper.” So I get beat up, I’m 19 years old, and I walk away, and all the beat reporters were complete jerks to me all summer because I was probably interfering.
And I’m walking away and this guy just starts laughing. I was like, great, I’m not another A hole. He goes: “Come on, let’s go up to the press box.” And we talked the whole game, the end of it he goes: “I’m an editor at Rolling Stone magazine, I’m going to skip you ahead of everybody else that’s inquired to work at Rolling Stone. I want you as my intern next summer.” And it’s crazy because I think back at some of those moments, and that is what anybody that’s battled adversity is actually looking for. And yes, that moment ended up being a very significant one for me. But if you’re looking for someone to put their arm around you and say, Hey dude, it’s okay, you’re going to make it. I think that’s an incredible insight that us as business leaders need to think about, that when someone’s being a jerk to us, maybe it’s not us, maybe it’s circumstantial. Things that are happening in their life, and they’re just looking for a hug. Whatever that means in business, they’re looking for that business hug to say, Hey, it’s okay, I’m with you. And that compassion ends up driving people. So my career success as I reflect back, it was built on finding some of these nuggets where people said, I believe in you. And then eventually, I didn’t need that as much. I still enjoy people saying, Hey, that meant a lot to me. But it was important, if you can’t find those people, it’s tough. And any human beings that could be listening to this, don’t overlook that other people are going through the same garbage that you are looking for you to reach out and give some personal touch.
Art Costello: Yeah. It happened to me as a ninth grade Social Studies student. My teacher really, I just talked about this the other day, made the biggest impact on my life when he leaned over me and said: “Everything’s going to be okay. You’re going to be great.” Those few words made all the difference in my life, believe it or not. And when we get them, you suck them in, and you hang on to them, and you can use it as motivation. What has always intrigued me is why people like you and I take it and move forward. And why other people overlook it, don’t digest it, don’t see its meaning, and turn the other way —
Nick Powills: I’m definitely not a psychologist, it’s lack of confidence. There are so many people that are faking it till they make it. Think about that statement, Hey thank you, or your grades, and in a marriage or relationship that happens around like Valentine’s day and maybe birthdays. Marriages, I mean that’s probably part of the reason it fails, like the other person is craving more, and the other person has insecurities that doesn’t allow them to do it. And there’s this tipping point probably with everyone good and bad that at some point they needed it at that moment and they can’t find it, and it derails them. Or they need it at that moment and they got it, and it accelerates them.
Art Costello: I agree. I mean, it’s just interesting how it processes in people’s brains because that’s the psychologist part of me that comes out. You’ve had great success with your agency and all that, but one of the things that really intrigued me is how you manage to get your weight in control, and the psychological aspects of having all that damage, psychologically early on and then overcoming it.
Nick Powills: I was keynote at a conference two weeks ago, and I’ve given this keynote several times and I was like, you know what? I’m missing something. And this shows shows just my willingness to make a change because I could have done the keynote that I’ve done a million times, and I realize I give this giant equation on how I found success or whatever success means to me. And at the end of it, this time I changed it. There wasn’t that “Foundation + Momentum = Velocity.” Here’s this giant equation and the answer, I left it after an hour, was going to be on this next page, and the answer to any of this is “YOU, it’s ME,” that’s the truth. That in things that are controllable, in weight gain, in weight loss is controllable. Being dealt a hand of cards that are more challenging than other human beings with metabolism or whatever, but you make the decision what goes in your mouth, nobody forced feeds. So if I look at my weight loss journey from 305 to 270 when I graduated college, so about 250 when I was in my last job before I started the agency to 235 when I got married in 2011. My son was born in 2012, that was a big milestone. I cut out a cream for my coffee, which I didn’t need. So my coffee went black, I cut out bagels in the morning, I didn’t eat bread, It was not something that I needed to enjoy life. And I decided I’m done with soda, I haven’t had a diet soda since 2012. And those three things took my weight from 235 to 215, and I maintained it somewhere between 215 and 220 since 2012. And last November, I get on the scale and it says 222, and I said, first of all, I was sad. I was like, well, that sucks, that’s the highest that I’ve been in years. But then I took responsibility for it and I said, you know what? It’s time. If I’m going to preach, making decisions, and I’m going to own that as a theme in the way that I handle my leadership, it’s time. So I made sure I did 100,000 steps on the Fitbit a week, which got me the heart health. It’s primarily cardio, and most physical therapists are personal trainers who can use weights, but that got me moving. And I went with a diet of grilled fish or grilled chicken, non-fat dairy or low fat dairy, vegetables, and then whatever booze I wanted to drink was my diet. And I go down from 222, and it was late January, early February this year, I saw a number that I hadn’t seen since sixth grade, which was 199, I was like, Whoa, that’s an amazing feeling. I’ve come back, I’ve recovered, and now I’m somewhere between 190 and 193, and I’m maintaining, and I’m conscious about it. I’ve added in other element because I know my metabolism as I get older, it’s not going to be great, like intermediate fasting, I don’t think there’s science, but I don’t know that there’s any proven blueprint that says, this is what you do to maintain your weight other than keep trying new things and challenge yourself. But it’s me, it’s up here that makes the decision, you know?
Art Costello: Yeah, I agree. I agree, 100%. Weight is a major issue in this country, and it’s amazing. And how we can cut out just a few items that makes such a big difference. I’ve tried to eliminate sugar out of my diet. I’m quite a bit older than you are, and the older you get, our bodies change, and our metabolism change, everything changes. And I can’t ever eat like I did when I was young, and playing baseball, and I played in the minor leagues, I’ve always been physically active on a ranch, and all that here in Texas. And all of a sudden, in 2006 I lost my wife to ovarian cancer, and I started drinking beer, and my weight shot up to 305lbs, and went into the doctor’s office for a physical and he said: “Have you realized this?” And I said: “Not even a chance.” But just cutting out beer for me was huge. I mean, that’s a lot of carbohydrates, and it really changed my life. But the thing that interests me about you is that you have this history. You have a history of overcoming and achieving, and a lot of people don’t have that, and I’m trying to key in for people, what the key issues were for you that triggers that? There’s something in your background somewhere, and it may have been, five years old being told you are fat, that it just triggered you to want to be more instead of being —
Nick Powills: I think a lot about the shortness of life. I was listening to an interview between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howard Stern, this has really resonated with me. Howard asked Arnold if he was afraid of dying. He said: “No, I’m pissed off.” He’s like: “I love this life. I’m furious that it’s going to end.” That really stuck with me that that’s probably how I feel, it’s up to me to, I’m going to do as much in my power to live the best life that I can, so the ingredient that I’m fighting for is happiness. I have tremendous happiness in my personal life. I struggle in business because of what you just explained. I’m constantly chasing something that I know that we are capable of doing, I just haven’t found the right pieces to do it. So I think understanding the shortness of life creates that mentality in me. And I didn’t deal with death at a young age, so I’m not sure where that necessarily comes from. I think the entrepreneurial gene helps me have that. I’m very, very conscious, so I don’t know, maybe it’s just part of, it’s gotta be DNA, and part of it needs, it has to be a willingness to try to figure this out because life is hard for everybody.“I'm going to do as much in my power to live the best life that I can...the ingredient that I'm fighting for is happiness.” - Nick Powills Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Yup, it is. My area of expertise is in expectations because when I was young, no one set expectations for me. I was pretty much left alone and abandoned, and had to figure out life on my own. And I went to a hilltop, laid on my back, and had a conversation with God asking what was going to become a me, and I heard this inner voice after many trips up that hill that said: “Your job is just to do and be as good as you can be.” It’s another thing that stuck with me all my life. When I lost my wife in 2006, I started reflecting on my life, and I realized that I’ve always in business, in personal, I have always had this expectation that everything was always going to be alright, I just had to keep trying. So I think that one of the elements that us as entrepreneurs, I’ve owned my own business, was very successful for years, starting a new career at 63, I’m 72 now. So I’ve been it for a few years with this Expectation Therapy that I’m doing, helping people master their expectations. But what I’ve really learned from this whole processes, and looking back on my whole life is that every critical phase of my life, I’ve always gone back to that simple thing of knowing that I expect the best, and I expect more, and I’m always striving and searching for it. And I always joke with people, I will never retire. I just can’t do it. It’s not in my DNA to retire. I’m not going to pull up a rocking chair and just say, Hey, this is it. I am going to continue till good Lord takes me home, and push me where he’s going to put me. But when people don’t learn how to expect correctly and learn how to manage their expectations, life becomes more difficult. And I would suspect, and speaking with you, that you have learned how to manage your expectations, not only in your personal life, in your business, all of it, because —“When people don't learn how to expect correctly and learn how to manage their expectations, life becomes more difficult.” - Art Costello Click To Tweet
Nick Powills: I think that’s where people get lost is they expect someone else expectation, and they don’t own their own expectations, and they don’t live authentically. It’s interesting, the retirement statement, I’ve thought a lot about this recently, and having the words awful because what it ended up doing is it created a milestone when you were done with your career, there wasn’t done with a career, it was done with a job. Like, I can’t wait to retire me, done with this crap. Well that’s different, it should be a celebration of accomplishment and onto the next thing. What else do you want to accomplish? And the term bucket list comes up because it’s like, now I’m going to go accomplish things that I want to accomplish in my life. I worked hard to go accomplish things. So we should never even retire, we should just adjust what we do on a daily basis to help us find this happiness. But it’s your, it’s you, it’s me, it’s I, you should be selfish about your expectations. You should have high expectations. You should want to live tomorrow better than you did today because we were lent this life. And it saddens me that a lot of people, the majority of humans don’t see that.
Art Costello: You just solidified what I have written tons about expectations, because it’s not the expectations of others that matter. It’s what your core expectations are, which tells me that you have learned some valuable lessons. Because when you live to the expectations of others, you’ll never live authentically. You’ll never find happiness. You’ll be chasing somebody else’s ideas, dreams, wants, needs, and desires. And when you do that, you lose who you are. You lose your authentic self, and you don’t live the life that you were meant to be. You’re not as creative. You’re not as productive. You get grouchy, ugly and mean. I mean, all kinds of things come from an unsuccessful pursuit of expectations. So I think you’re one of the few that I have talked to that has a very good view on how expectations work.“It's not the expectations of others that matter. It's what your core expectations are...because when you live to the expectations of others, you'll never live authentically, you'll never find happiness.” - Art Costello Click To Tweet
Nick Powills: I think when you doubt it creates regret. I definitely made mistakes, weight loss is one category. I make mistakes every day as a leader, but I don’t regret them. I think if you have the expectation that you learn from your mistakes, and there are certainly, there are mistakes where you’ve lost the right to learn. Those are the big mistakes that people make. An error of judgment that involve a court system that puts you in jail. There are things that are very hard to come back from. But the regret that you create off the expectations that you own, that’s on you too. I dunno know, I love this conversation, I feel like not enough people are having it. Especially younger folks coming out of the school system that we have right now. They had expectations.
Art Costello: I’m actually advocating for expectations to be taught to children as young as three, four, five, start there. Working on developing a comic book or a coloring book. They take children on the basics of expectations, and how they can use them. Because I’ve worked with athletes, I’ve worked with students, I’ve worked with business leaders, and actually the people that have the greatest understanding of expectations, believe it or not, are athletes because they learn that you change athletic expectations incrementally. You do it a little bit at a time. In other words, if you’re a sprinter, you change one little thing in the blocks, how your stances, how your body is aligned in the blocks, and they build on that. Then they go to the next step, the next step, and the next step, and it’s always the next step when you expect there’s a next step. And life is just like, there is always a next step. We’re always capable of learning something new, of having some new energy, some new knowledge, some new experience, a new perspective. I mean, you could go on and on about the things that expectations really how they affect our psyche. And the athletes, they are the easiest to work with because they have a great understanding of it. And now I’m thinking about your baseball, as an athlete, as a baseball player, you have these expectations to change your batting stance, to change how you handle the ball, how you it up, it’s constant. But these kids today, you’re right, they’re not learning a lot of this. They don’t learn them sitting in front of a TV.
Nick Powills: Yeah, I love that — as a whole, yes. I think it’s also the athlete that doesn’t go too far. I mean, I’ll tell you in business, there are athletes that, I agree in sport, they know how to adjust and they can set their expectations, in business are like, I open the doors, I’m an athlete, where’s the business? And they sit back and they think, what’s the name? And I’m like, well, first of all, my advice to professional athletes that didn’t have a huge major league career, let’s go back to your college and open the business there, because you’re still a hero in that college market. That’s where you need to be, not where you couldn’t take off as a professional athlete. But their expectations, it’s the ones that don’t make it that’s still had the hunger, man, those are amazing. And that can be someone that didn’t make it through, like finish high school and was an athlete. Because that also puts a chip on their shoulder because at some point, they dreamt about being a professional and couldn’t make it.
Art Costello: And what’s really amazing about it is I see that, and then I see the complete opposite where they didn’t make it and they let it defeat them. They go back into drugs, and alcohol, and abusive relationships, and all that kind of stuff. So I see it both ways, and I work with both. But teaching how to expect at any level–
Nick Powills: Yeah, I think a lot of that probably comes from the foundation of parenting. I agree with you. I think it should be a part of the rule system because it completely misses, I mean, I’ll tell you, and I don’t want to generalize all of the folks that I’ve worked with, say under the age of 25, but pay me more, work me less, I want a promotion. These are terms that are coming up in a society where everybody gets a trophy, which probably felt right in the moment like let’s celebrate effort, but then the effort kind of disappears too. It’s a very complex thing. I was talking to a psychologist once, this has really stuck with me. We were talking about some of the challenges that we’ve faced as a business with those under the age of 25, she said: “The brain doesn’t fully develop until it’s 25 years old.” So that’s an interesting insight where the brain can listen to the heart and the gut. At 25 it’s understood that this is how you behave, it’s you process things that come up, and then you think about what happens with a person under the age of 25 that they think primarily with the gut. So when they feel like the business is attacking them, they attack back. They can’t say, wait a second, don’t burn the bridge, it’s all gut. So it’s our job as business leaders to put scaffolding around these folks and help them understand how to expectations set because they didn’t get it when they were younger, and the brain hasn’t developed on its own to do its own expectations.
Art Costello: Very interesting. I’m trying to process it as we’re talking, I think that when in dealing with some of the young people that I’ve dealt with, they just have not set up a whole system of discipline and they have this entitlement that overcomes them, and really stifles them. It’s almost like a welfare system, you know? Because if you don’t give people drive to do something you just give them and they have no effort to earn it, they get used to it, and they get sucked into that, and they don’t come out of it. It’s extremely hard to come out of that environment, and we see it every day. I mean, and how our system has with all the good intentions —
Nick Powills: I think it’s a fantastic thing to look at because if everything’s the same, then you get to decide how you look at things. And entitlement is something, in my opinion, there’s external entitlement like give me the raise, give me a promotion, and then there’s internal entitlement that says I’m going to work my butt off. And when you can flip that around and own entitlement for yourself, and be a little bit selfish and say, I understand how the world works, now I’m going to go get it. That’s a powerful use of the term. I think about that today, I mean, I feel entitlement to, I have a vision that I want our team to win on, and I’m not going to give up until we go do it. And even when we go do it, I probably won’t be satisfied or fulfilled. I’m going to go do it again, and again, and again, but it’s internal entitlement that I’m giving myself permission to go try to be the best of me.
Art Costello: Yeah, it’s a different way of looking at entitlement. It’s a very unique way of looking at it because I’m so focused on expectation driven things, but I think we’re talking about the same thing. We just identify it differently. I want to get people to hear about your No Limit Agency because I’m really intrigued with your storytelling ideas and how you’ve developed that.
Nick Powills: The short version is I had a boss at a company that I worked at who didn’t see the opportunity with me. Eventually, it didn’t work out for him. I had pitched two business ideas to him. One was going to be an online magazine, which is now 1851 which is under our business. And the other one was this thing called social media, and this is in 2007. I said, social media is going to revolutionize the agency, and here’s how, at a a hundred page business plan, I had studied it against the client, and at that point, I’m using my space to try to drive awareness for a client that we had at this agency, is that social media is a fad. And it wasn’t that he was rejecting social media, it was that, I felt like he was rejecting me, and I wanted desperately to be partners with him in something. I love the company that I worked at. But it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was going to be the last person to tell me, I can’t do something. And unfortunate for him that equaled the coaches, the teachers, everybody that said NO to me., it was like, boom, I’m ready to go. So I broke up with a girlfriend, quit my job, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia because of how many franchise brands were based there, and I said: “I’m doing this.” And it’s interesting looking back on the moment, I’m 27 years old, it’s 2008, it was in the midst of an awful economy, but that ends up turning into the silver lining because everybody else was scaling back, which allowed me to kind of sneak in there. I had a good first run, we were owning social media, nobody was doing it, we were arguably the first agency to do it. We’re in the middle of legal discussion with Chick-fil-A to be there, a social media agency of record. I still remember the call, they’re like: “Hey, our ad agency can put 75 people on our account. How many can you put on there?” I was like, I got me and three people. But I said, I still felt like I knew the right pathway to get there.
And here’s the cool thing, I haven’t looked at their social in a while, but 99.9% of brands don’t know social media. And what I mean by that is that, there are two words in social media. It’s social and media, and brands. 99.9% understand media, it’s eat my burger, eat my burger, eat my burger, even my burger, and that’s all the language and voice that goes outbound. Yet when you had social in there and you’re like, Hey fans, what’d you like most about our burger? What would you change about our burger? What should our next burger be? And you engage with your audience in questions that involve them in the decision. You are now crowd sourcing the solutions which are already there. You don’t have to pay millions of dollars for research to get there. So it’s interesting now, now today, flash forward 12 years, that is still a principle that exists. We did not take off as a social media agency because it was like a light switch. Every ad agency, a marketing agency was a social agency. But the components of it are so essential because nobody’s being social with their content. Yet the interactions, engagement that works on social media is happy birthday. Here’s something that I want to celebrate. Go Cubs, go. Whatever it turns into like, it’s engagement between people, yet brands can’t see this interaction. So part of the way that our story is found success is that we don’t feel brands so brands, brands on so brands, people do.
You can look at Sony versus Apple as two brands that basically were creating similar things. Sony has this guy, Nobu Tashi who creates the Walkman, the digital camera, and the camcorder. So three of the most important inventions that are now in our pockets and the iPhone, that Steve Jobs [inaudible] cross applied his own technologies. But this guy Nobu Tashi creates it, Sony never puts in front and center, they did media, Sony, Sony, Sony, Sony. Apple says social, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs. So it’s not that it makes anybody bad, but I think the difference between good and great is the humanization of brands. What’s fascinating about those two guys is they both die in 2011, they both leave the world, and nobody knows who Nobu Tashi is. Everybody knows who Steve jobs. And so legacy and legendary is tied to people or connected to people, it’s not connected to brands. So that’s given us at least a viewpoint in a very crowded marketplace to say, all right, well let’s humanize your story. Let’s try to break apart the points of everything that you have, and find the things that will resonate most with the personas that you’re targeting, and that’s made us successful. They have that viewpoint in there, there’s other pieces that go into it, and I’m not going to claim that we’re the best agency in entire world, but I know that we have a different viewpoint, and I know that when we’re able to implement our strategy against brands, it ends up working quite well. So the run that we’ve had, I’ve had some awesome people that I’ve got to work with. I’ve had some awesome people that have bought into the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. And yeah, I mean, it’s been crazy. We talked about this at the beginning, equals happiness. I’m still not happy with the business, but I do need to take breathes and look around and say, all right, well, we’ve accomplished a lot, this is cool. And I absolutely do not do that enough, but I’m conscious of it, I know I need to, that’s kind of our story. Yeah. Right.“Legacy and legendary are tied to people, are connected to people. It's not connected to brands.” - Nick Powills Click To Tweet
Art Costello: Men do it. I mean, yeah, you are. I always heard that the adage a story sell, and I actually believe that because I think that when you do humanize brands and people, it just builds a connection. There’s a bond that happens, and you become very loyal to that.
Nick Powills: And there was some data pieces that came up on, we do a weekly news podcast for 1851, and it came up like, those listening to podcasts are more willing to engage with the brand. Yeah, of course they are. Because it’s two people talking to each other. Yeah, yes.
Art Costello: Okay. Podcast work and we don’t know, they are telling stories worked so we’ve solved the business world. Well, it’s been great having you on and I want people to know where they can get ahold of you, where they can get ahold of your agency. Then I want some parting —
Nick Powills: Some generation long before me thought [inaudible] was not a good last name so they changed it to Powills, so they happened to pick a name that nobody else has, the way that we spell it. So if you search for Nick Powills, you’ll find everything on me, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have a website called stickstonesoar.com which is housing place for the book, but you can find it on Amazon. But I’m an open book, everything about my life is out there, happy to connect with anybody. But yeah, I’ve loved this too. Great conversation.
Art Costello: Well, it’s been an honor having you on here, and I’m grateful, and everything that Nick has given us today will be in the show notes and you’ll be able to find them there. And of course you can find me at expectationtherapy.com, and nother great interview this week, and really enjoyed it, Nick. I’m thankful that we’ve had this conversation, you’ve opened my eyes.
Nick Powills: I love it. I love — conversation, not ones that are staged. And as an interviewer, I’ve always felt like conversations are the way that people relate. And look, if only one human being listens to what we talked about and they’re like, yeah, you’re right. I’m in charge of my own expectations. I’m gonna change them right now. Then mission accomplished, we did something.
Art Costello: That’s right. And that’s the important part of it. With that being said, I’m going to say goodbye to everybody, goodbye to Nick, and thank you to everybody. Tune in next week, and Heather White, can you take us out of here?
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