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As the #2 overall draft pick in 2002, Jay had his future all planned out. Until one day when he hit a utility pole at 65 MPH on his motorcycle – his life was forever changed. Rather than let his situation get the best of him, he turned it around, writing about what he went through and helping others in their tough situations. Today he’ll discuss how to come back from tough times, as well as giving us business and investing tips. Jay isn’t where he is today because of his athleticism, he truly made himself into a phenomenal business man, someone we can all learn from. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Jay Williams Background:
-Multi-talented ESPN college basketball analyst, motivational speaker, and Former NBA star
-Considered one of most prolific college basketball players in history, and the second pick in the 2002 NBA draft
-While a motorcycle accident pivoted his promising NBA career, he saw the adversity as a blessing that taught him how to thrive/inspire others
-Now applies his positivity and signature personality to broadcasting, business, and beyond.
-Best selling Author of “Life Is Not An Accident”, a Memoir of Reinvention
-Say hi to him at http://www.jaywilliams.com/
-Based in New York City, New York
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.
With us today, Jay Williams. How are you doing, Jay?
Jay Williams: I’m doing good, my man. Thank you for having me.
Joe Fairless: My pleasure, and I am grateful that we’re gonna spend some time with you. Best Ever listeners, you know Jay, and if you need a refresher, let me just give you a quick one. He is a former NBA player. He was drafted number two overall by the Chicago Bulls, got into a motorcycle accident and he pivoted his career from NBA to now an entrepreneur and multi-talented businessman, one of which occupations is being an ESPN College Basketball analyst, he’s also a motivational speaker, and many other things. He’s also the best-selling author of the book “Life Is Not An Accident: A Memoir Of Reinvention.”
Jay, let’s start off with that. What does that title mean to you?
Jay Williams: First off, who would have thought it took me three years to write close to 290 pages…
Joe Fairless: Books aren’t easy.
Jay Williams: Yeah, they’re definitely not. They’re more stressful than anything. The most humbling part about it is writing draft after draft and then being vulnerable enough to share that insight about what you’re going through in the darkest moments of your life with your inner circle, and having guys like Coach K., after you put a year-and-a-half into it, read it and then call you and with that Coach K.-like voice say “Yeah, I think this is pretty shitty. You could do a better job”, and you being honest with yourself and saying “Wow. Okay, back to the drawing board.”
But I guess the overall premise of it is that I found myself in a very bad place for a very long time because of decisions that I’ve made in my past… And it’s all about owning your experiences and using that as something empowering, where I think a lot of people run away from bad things that have happened in their life instead of documenting it, recognizing it, thinking through it and then using whatever experience they’ve been through as something as a positive driver in their life to push them to be more, in whatever capacity they decide to pursue.
So recognizing that all these incidents have led up to this point, that have allowed me to be the person I am currently today, and that person is exponentially different and stronger than the person that it happened to when he was 21 years old.
Joe Fairless: And you’re 36 now. I’m curious on the feedback that Coach K. gave – and we’re talking about head coach for Duke, your former coach – you on the book… What was the difference from that version that he read to the end version?
Jay Williams: You know, sometimes when you’re writing, there’s a tendency for you to be so worrisome about the way you’re perceived by everyone, not just yourself; if you have the moxie or the confidence to be vulnerable about your experiences, how vulnerable are you going to be about the experiences you’ve had with the people that you are closest to? And then are you doing a disservice to truly telling your story if you’re not going to be candid and honest about your relationship, about where that was in comparison to where it is now.
I think there was a big push from him for me to find out more about myself. He’s always a person that drives people for self-exploratory journeys, so for me the more honest I was with myself and the less I was the BS Jay and what I want the perception of people to think of who Jay was, he once again pushed me in the direction of being truthful. And when you tell the truth, it helps other people confront their truth with your truth, and then it’s your job to find common ground.
Joe Fairless: Can you think of a specific story or example that wasn’t in there pre-review, but it was in there post-review?
Jay Williams: Yeah, various sensitive subjects, in particular with Coach K., and then I’ll give you one from my father, because [unintelligible [00:05:09].23] I obviously have a dad, and my dad has raised me since I’ve been a little boy and has done a hell of a job, all the sacrifices he’s given me, but then Coach K. in my [unintelligible [00:05:19].08] years as well kind of stepped in as a coach, in that capacity.
The one with him was recognizing that at the time he was very traditional, and he liked for guys to stay in school for three to four years, and he wanted people to graduate, and it was difficult for him to adjust to the new culture, where kids wanted to be one and done, kids wanted to get in and out. And having to address the fact that after my sophomore year we won, and he allowed me to make the decision myself, but in retrospect if you think about it, he should have told me to go, and how to confront that with him… Even though I did graduate in three years, once again, owning my journey – it happened for a reason; look where I am now. But the advice I would have given some other kid is that you only get a certain amount on time to capitalize on that skillset that you have. In particular, we’ve seen all these injuries with Gordon Hayward, and you saw one last night in the football game.
That was something I had to address, and how you’re gonna handle that with your coach [unintelligible [00:06:17].06] all means John wouldn’t like. So one of those moments when you’re honest with yourself.
And then with my dad, about going through what he went through back when he was younger; there was history of domestic violence in my house, and how that ultimately affected me and affected my relationship with him, and how I’ve had to work through that, in particular with forgiving myself with my own accident; I had to learn how to forgive others and not hold slight or animosity if I was going to learn how to forgive myself.
So I think there were some really cool life lessons that he forced me to address. And it’s one thing when these things happen to you, it’s another one when you’re writing it down and you’re forced to thoroughly think through it and you can’t dismiss it, and you wanna suppress it and act like it didn’t happen.
Joe Fairless: And when you say your own accident, you’re referring to the motorcycle accident where you hurt yourself, and basically the NBA career was no more after that, right?
Jay Williams: Yeah. When you hit a utility pole going around 65-70 mph, it inevitably changes the path of what you thought your original path was.
So taking all that and then once again owning it and then helping other people empower themselves with owning their journey is something that I’m very passionate about.
Joe Fairless: With that circumstance and other circumstances, you’ve come up with this approach of “you document it, you recognize it, you think through it and you use it as a positive driver.” What are some positive things that have come out of that experience? Because I imagine – but correct me if I’m wrong – that has been one of the most life-altering experiences that you’ve come across, but I don’t know, so I’m just guessing.
Jay Williams: I’m knocking on wood that it is. There have been a lot of positives. One is that it really pushed me as far as how I look at life. There’s a tendency from the people that I know that the smaller things, the minutiae really affects them, and I think I’m able to sift through the minutiae and recognize the bigger picture, and also recognize that when certain things don’t happen the way that I really work hard for them to happen, to understand that “Okay, this is all part of the plan.” Now, it may not be the plan that I’ve been trying to orchestrate, but ultimately that’s my own plan… And not to get into the whole spiritual stuff, but you have to believe that there’s a purpose behind everything, and that ultimately my purpose is one that’s going to continue as long as I push and drive myself to be fulfilled. So that’s one positive.
Another positive is recognizing the importance of my relationships. I just lost one of my best friends, and I haven’t really been punched in the stomach like this for a very long time, since I was 21. There was also a tendency for me to get lost in my work. When you go through something like that at the age of 21, the same kind of passion I had towards basketball I had to translate into work, and that has ultimately lead me to be in a really good place work-wise; I don’t know if it allowed me to spend as much time on my own personal growth and the growth of my friendships, and the candidness and the honesty with some of my friends and with some people I care about in particular. Writing my book was the first step towards that, but I lost one of my really good friends, Peter Stein, a couple of days ago — two days ago, actually… And going to the viewing, you just — those are the things that just remind you how important each and every moment is that you spend with the people that you love.
Once again, I was able to sift through the minutiae work-wise, but then I was able to sift through a lot of minutiae personally as well, friendship-wise and family-wise.
These are things, like Icarus, as you fly higher, sometimes you get up and you see the sun, you get knocked down, and it makes you appreciate the entirety of the journey.
Joe Fairless: From a business standpoint – and we’ve talked about this prior, and my thoughts first and foremost are with your friend’s family and you and everyone that was affected, and whatever we can do as a community, please let us know… From a business standpoint, what are your focuses? You’ve got ESPN, and then what other areas of focus take up your time during the day?
Jay Williams: One of the things that happened for me — it’s funny seeing how other people have been able to really build upon it, in particular Gary B., who’s a good friend of mine, and also another guy named Scooter Brown, who I’ve known since I’ve been 13 years old, who represents for Justin Bieber and Kanye and has done tremendous within the entertainment realm… Is that you start seeing the play of content, content, content. And one of the things that I’ve been able to do, and I got lucky enough to do that, is that I invested in the company in New York City called The Leverage Agency back around 2006-2007, with a guy that I’ve known for a very long time, Ben Sterner.
Joe Fairless: I know Ben, I used to work with Ben.
Jay Williams: Small world, right?
Joe Fairless: Yeah.
Jay Williams: Ben’s incredible. I kind of call him — he’s like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, for his ability to put together things, and he’s constantly coming up with ideas. It was a way for me to be connected to more brands. I had this network of people that I had met throughout my tenure at Duke, and having other assistant coaches become head coaches, and Tom [unintelligible [00:11:34].00] goes to Harvard, Chris [unintelligible [00:11:36].14] goes to Northwestern, Mike [unintelligible [00:11:37].07] was originally at Stanford before he went to UCF… You’re tapping into this network along with other friends and you start to recognize, “Okay, I have this great network, how can I leverage it, but how can I be truly authentic to who I am?” So working with Ben, being a partner with Leverage, procuring sponsorships for major events, and now I’m on the verge — I consult with players [unintelligible [00:11:59].06] and helping them build out content because I recognize – and I started to a while ago – okay, the traditional model in which brands have worked with agencies is becoming more antiquated by the second.
You’re seeing a lot of brands that are internally trying to create their own content, their own collateral, and how are they building out their brand voice, and who are some of their distribution partners in which they are trying to go to market with? So recognizing that and helping other athletes come up with original content on their own, me coming up with original content, bringing the branding advertiser in as a partner, working with a multitude of different distribution companies… That’s The Players’ Tribune, that’s working with Twitter and Facebook and coming up with original series is something that I’m really passionate about now, in conjunction with still working with Leverage and still investing in smaller things on the side.
Joe Fairless: When you decide to invest your time – because I imagine that’s the most precious resource that you consider you have, versus money… But the time – what do you look for before you dedicate your time towards something?
Jay Williams: I look for thoroughness, and I’m a little bit old-school as well – I also really pay attention to the due diligence of the party that I’m potentially going to work with. Detail is everything for me, so if you’re paying attention to what my story is and who I am, are you trying to make a ball fit into a round square, or are you trying to make it fit into a square peg?
And then also the candidness; I like authenticity, I like things that really blossom naturally. That’s my MO. I’m more of an emotional guy. I’m not saying I’m not gonna do my own research and do my own due diligence and be thorough, because I am… But I like seeing that creative passion from the person that I’m working with. Are they truly invested? Because one of the things I recognize, being from New Jersey, New York, is that I meet con artists all the time. I meet people who are really good at talking and people that can put themselves in scenarios that you would never expect, and I think now recognizing that I’ve been faced with a lot of these people… Okay, how thorough are you? Are you going to follow up? Are you going to be on the conference call when you say you’re gonna be on the conference call?
Everybody has a quick-fix ideology these days, and that stuff is becoming easier for me to sift through. The more I can do that and the more I can see the authenticity of the person I’m working with, that’s the first step to allow me to say “Okay, this person has my attention, they have my time.
Joe Fairless: Is there any questions that you ask, or is it more you thin-slice based on your interactions with the people and then you go from there?
Jay Williams: I do the latter, but I have a team that literally puts you through a pitbull session. What I mean by that is the team I have and the team I put on board are people that I’ve trusted for a very long time and that are also very thorough and detailed. So when I start putting you through the blitz territory, all the different questionings, and that’s from my financial advisor, that’s from my calendar, that’s from my business manager, and that’s from one of my other partners in my other business… I really put your through it, and if you don’t answer the questions within the timeframe they ask you, I start wondering “Okay, what are your true intentions? Are you just looking for a quick answer, a quick hit, or are you actually really involved in this for the long run?”
Joe Fairless: With your business now and your focus, how do you see it evolving in the next couple years, if at all?
Jay Williams: Well, on a multitude of levels… So the TV side first off, it’s going to be fascinating to watch as subscriptions continue to go down. With the likes of Apple and live streaming, it’s inevitable before you feel like an Amazon, a Netflix or an Apple will own live sports content. Or if you’ll have leagues — the money is great right now, but if you have leagues that eventually go to a subscription model where they make you pay… They’re already essentially doing that, but just owning all the rights outright. And also for, in particular teams, instead of allowing these third-tier production companies to come in and film all this great content, own it yourself. If you’re the 76ers and you hear [unintelligible [00:16:06].24] talk about the process, why not figure out some kind of [unintelligible [00:16:11].00] since he’s already an employee, and keep that all in-house?
So inevitably seeing it go into that direction, and working with different brands to — obviously, I think those rates are going to increase drastically. On the production side, seeing more now about real original content, recognizing a year and a half ago – and I was on [unintelligible [00:16:32].03] talking about this – for all the craziness that comes along with LaVar Ball, it’s brilliant to have a deal with Facebook and to create your own brand.
I posted something today on my Instagram about – I do these talks to these kids all the time, and I say “Are you preparing your plan?” A lot of people talk about wanting to be a millionaire, wanting to be a billionaire… But are you really starting to thoroughly think through the process of how you’re going to get there, and do you recognize that right now you are your own brand?
LaVar Ball was able to recognize that for Lonzo, and he’s done the same with LaMelo, and he’s the same one with everybody that’s in his camp. There’s strength that comes along and leverage that comes along with that. So for athletes, I really like what TPT is doing, I like what Bleacher Report is doing – obviously, they’re killing the game digitally… And even kind of the cross-pollination of their content, like them owning House of Highlights — and people are not even recognizing that Bleacher Report owns House of Highlights, but how you end up going to House of Highlights for all your highlights, and what are some of the advertisers they’re working with…
So the linear equation is losing a ton of support, and it’s all becoming how you’re really amplifying your voice digitally, and how do you have access. I think people, and especially athletes in particular, are finding out the power of their own voice. So helping other athletes, in conjunction with myself, and doing co-production deals to bring that to light.
Joe Fairless: When you’re involved with the industry that you’re in, and you are an expert, you’re consulting, you’re helping come up with different deals and brokering the deals with talent and brands, you have reinvented yourself, and that’s part of your title in your book… What are the keys to effectively reinventing yourself when you’re either forced to change your career or choose to change your career?
Jay Williams: You know, I spoke a year ago at Delta, and I spoke in front of about 250 of their employees on one of their retreats, and it’s really something that I think is applicable to everybody, because I’ve seen it. One of the reasons I wrote Life Is Not An Accident is because I recognize that yes, I had a motorcycle accident, but the word accident can equate to everybody pretty much in their life. Now, hopefully your accident may not be as extreme as my motorcycle accident, but at the same time for you, if you dislocate your knee or you tear your ACL, that could be the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life. [unintelligible [00:18:53].10] but for you, you might look at that as something that’s traumatic overall, and overall changes the path of your life.
So the first thing I say to people is that it’s the same kind of business analogy that I gave before, that is applicable to everyone. You are your own business, and even for me, when I talk to my employees, I say that “I want you to think about yourself as your own business, because the more you think about yourself as your own business, the better overall that my business will do, because you’ll take more ownership on what you have.”
When I have friends that do this and I watch it from afar – do you come in, do you punch your clock at eight o’clock, and then when it’s time to punch out at five, are you the first one to punch out and you get done your bare minimum? Or are you trying to push yourself to get more, to elevate yourself and elevate the business?” So the first question I say to people is “Who’s on your board?” I have a board with a multitude of things I’m involved in. Every board meeting I go to, I see different CEOs who are literally sweating their tails off. They’re nervous as hell each and every time, because it’s their job to answer to this board on a quarterly basis about where the company was, where the company currently is, and if we’re on schedule to get the company for what our Q1 or Q2 goal is.
So if you’re your own brand and you’re your own CEO, first off, who’s on your board? Even for these employees at Delta – okay, great, if you’re in the marketing department, who’s on your board? And are you really sitting down with your board each quarter, and are you candidly assessing where you are, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there with your own board? And then are you gonna be vulnerable enough to actually hear feedback from people that you really look up to or people that you hold high, and these people with high standards that that board is in the vertical of business, and really be open enough to hear and bring in what they tell you? And then can you reinvent yourself?
This reinvention thing isn’t something that happens one time in your life, it’s constant. It’s almost like an app. It’s one of the things I laugh at with my phone; my damn iPhone is constantly updating. I send Eddie Q. a note, I’m like “Eddie, seriously, is it the iOS 8, is it the 9? The new phone that’s coming up, you’re asking me to update my software, and all of a sudden my old phone isn’t working again… Oh, very smart, you get me to get the new phone…”, and that’s how we should be individually.
If you have your board and you put people that truly you look up to and you know that they’re gonna hold your feet to the fire with this, are you constantly updating yourself? Are you taking on information to make you better?
I think that’s the major part to reinventing, because it needs to happen because we’re constantly updating within society.
Joe Fairless: Who’s on your board?
Jay Williams: I’ve been lucky, I have a multitude of boards. I have a business board, I have a guy that I’ve known for a while (since I’ve been 13 years old) and it’s been great to watch his story. I call him Scooter now, but his name is Scott. What he has been able to do with some of the people that he’s been able to represent, and what he’s been able to build – I bounce ideas off him all the time. He’s one of these guys, he’s very upfront, he’s very honest and he holds my feet to the fire.
Another guy is a guy named John Wren, who was the CEO of Omnicom for a very long time. Obviously, when you work with over 5,000 brands, he recognizes where brands were, where they are currently and how the landscape ultimately is changing.
Another guy is Matt Blank, who is the CEO of Showtime. I’ve known Matt for a while, and watching what they’re trying to do at Showtime, and competes with HBO and Cinemax, and where they are right now and how their game is ultimately changing with live streaming…
And a guy named Mark Clouse who was the CMO over at Mondelēz for a while, but now is the CEO over at Pinnacle Foods is a very dear friend. And then a guy named Carl Liebert, who ran 24 Hour Fitness for a while, did that and then decided that was not for him, and took another route and now is the CEO of USA Bank.
The beautiful part about all these guys is that I wanted to be successful business-wise, but one of the things I was very scared at is the more success I found on the basketball court, the more I started to lose myself personally. For me, I was like “Yeah, I want to have [unintelligible [00:23:07].23]” if that makes sense. I don’t want these guys just to be successful in one vertical, I want these guys to be good individuals.
When I look at Carl Liebert, or when I look at Mark Clouse, or when I look at Scott, these are all guys who are great family men. And I know this sounds silly to say, but once again, being authentic to myself and my brand, they’re all loyal to their wives.
I watch Mark Clouse, and every Saturday he’s at his sons, Spencer and Logan – he’s at their football game. Spencer goes to TUFTS and Logan plays at a high school in New Jersey, and he splits his time with his wife.
Carl has three sons, and one of his sons went into the army. I watch that, and that’s inspiring to me, because I recognize “Oh, you can have both.” It doesn’t need to be “I can have this, and then this suffers.” There’s actually a way to delegate your time and to be successful and be a successful father and a successful husband, and run a successful business. Those are the stories that I find extremely inspiring to me now.
Joe Fairless: How do you know that the value exchange is good enough for them when they’re on your board? Here’s the background for why I ask the question… As real estate investors and entrepreneurs — we’re all entrepreneurs at heart, right? So real estate investors – we’re entrepreneurs, and that’s why I wanna talk to you about this; we want to surround ourselves with people who have been there, done that. So John, Matt, Mark, Carl – those are all examples of guys who have been there, done that, or are currently doing it. And the challenge that we come across as real estate investors in particular is that when we find people who have been there, done that and perhaps are currently doing it, it’s a disproportionate value exchange, because we need information, but they don’t need a whole lot from us, so how do you balance the value exchange there, if you do at all?
Jay Williams: Well, I would ask that individual “How do you measure your hustle?” I think I’ve been really blessed, because one of the things that I can’t stop doing — when I was playing basketball I was always on the court, working out. And when I started to get involved in business, I found that same burning desire. My thing was that yes, the value prop to me was nowhere close to the value prop that it was for the names that I’ve just mentioned, but my thing is I think I was vulnerable enough with them to recognize that I didn’t know that.
Once again, I think the more transparent you can be with people… When I’m vulnerable — and obviously, I’ve had a different background. Being on TV gives me leverage due to my platform, so it opens the door for me to have these types of conversations with these individuals in conjunction with the people that I already know. But one of the things I would tell somebody who maybe didn’t have that platform is that “Are you doing the small things to make sure that you’re noticeable?”
One of things that happened to me – I did an internship, and it was a really cool experience for me because I wanted to recognize how hard somebody would work. Now, without saying — I had multiple people come up with this internship, and I put it out there, and a lot of people that came to me and wrote long-winded paragraphs via e-mail… About 98%-99%, that was to the extent they went.
Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s how it is.
Jay Williams: Okay, so you know… A lot of people who they say they wanna achieve success, they say they wanna do all these great things, but they once again do the bare minimum and then they get angry if you don’t respond. So me, I don’t respond to anybody, because I wanna see “Okay, who’s gonna constantly sent me a note? Who’s constantly gonna find different ways to make themselves stand out?” So when you’re trying to form that relationship and you’re trying to form that connectivity, what things are you doing that are different to really attract that person’s attention? Are you waiting for them one day after school, or you know their location where they’re gonna come out of?
I know some of these things may sound crazy, but at the same time, I want somebody who’s a little bit crazy; I want somebody who’s willing to push themselves to go to a different level, that all of a sudden person a regular person wouldn’t do that, because I know that at the end of the day that person is going to do whatever the hell they need to do in order to get it done. Now, as long as it’s an incredible way, I’m never going to turn down the spirit of the hustle, and I don’t think a lot of people have that.
With this internship, this one person won in particular, and then all of a sudden it’s like, they’ve got the internship and they’re waiting for me to give them instructions, and I didn’t give them instructions. I wanna see what you bring to the table, what’s your value prop to me? I know what I can do to help you. An internship doesn’t mean that now all of a sudden I’m gonna just give it to you. I wanna see how long this goes, I wanna see what kind of things you’re gonna do for my business, and the more you do for me, if you get me, and if you hustle with me, I’m going to go over and beyond to make sure that you are successful at the end of the day.
But if you come into this opportunity and you worked your tail off to get my attention, and then just because you got it you think I’m going to give it to you, that’s not the real world. I’ve got doors open, and that’s not how the people — I worked hard to get their attention [unintelligible [00:28:22].12] their door open. So once again, it comes down to the measure of the hustle for me.
Joe Fairless: That’s beautiful. I love that. Based on your experience, what is your best advice ever for entrepreneurs and real estate investors?
Jay Williams: Well, on top of the hustle, I think that inevitably if you open the door of somebody, either you’re gonna be a person that does the work or you’re not. And I think that will be displayed within what you bring to the table once that door is open. I really think this is becoming a major issue within our world right now – people have lost the ability to do what you and I are doing right now. They’ve lost the ability to look somebody in the eye and not BS them, but actually be upfront and be honest with them.
For example, I get turned down all the time. Today [unintelligible [00:29:10].16] I took a stab at trying to reinvent the news; I really did, because I think the linear approach to how we see news is antiquated. I did not want to see news an hour after it breaks, and I’m tired of news being skewed. So I’m trying to pitch — I’m not gonna say who the company was, but pitch them on “Hey, this is a new format of how we see news. It’s gonna be 24/7, it’s gonna be functioning ADHD.”
Hearing the guy come to me, the head of biz dev for news, sitting down and talking to us about what their initial goals are, he pretty much said “Hey, what you guys are doing – that’s not in our wheelhouse.” But being able to listen to that and then say “Okay, great. Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? Frankly, I don’t want my brand to be where I think your brand is going. I want my brand to be here.”
So then again, being authentic and being honest… And then I think we both left the meeting saying “I have a lot of respect for them, because we disagreed on where I think their brand voice should be, but that’s the direction they’re moving and we’re upfront and we’re honest about it, and he knows where my line in the sand is drawn”, and that was good. Because I don’t wanna be BS-ed. I don’t want somebody to talk me into doing something that I know they can’t do.
I think the ability to convey a message and the ability to be very candid and upfront about what your value prop is, and the things that you can’t do… Once again, what makes a great CEO? There are a lot of things I can’t do, but I’m going to surround myself with the best people to do them at the best of their degree in order to achieve the business.
Joe Fairless: Some pretty powerful business lessons, and I’m very grateful for that. We’re gonna do a lightning round, so are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Jay Williams: Let’s do it, man. I like that name, Best Ever Lightning Round.
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Well, I guess I like to set the bar high, because it’s the best ever… We’ve got some questions from listeners who have asked these questions and we hand-picked a couple of the questions. So here we go, this is from Charles in your neck of the woods, New York City – “Did writing your book help you through your tough times?”
Jay Williams: I think about writing another book. I think everybody, honestly, has a book in them, and one of the things that I would tell or really kind of implore everybody to do is to write down your experiences that you had in life, and really take those things and read it and see the evolution of how you think, and are you challenging yourself to think differently?
I know for me, being 36 years old, writing my book and continuing to write op-ed pieces or different things on where we’re in sports allows you to formulate opinions. I start becoming more of a voracious reader, and I think hearing other people’s stories and really equating those stories to my life just allows me to pick up on more and more knowledge… So that’s where I will leave that.
Joe Fairless: Best ever investment you’ve made that you haven’t talked about already on our call?
Jay Williams: A little small investment in Uber.
Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made when investing?
Jay Williams: I think it’s the mistake I made – without going into the particular… I had one business I had a chance to invest in and I did, and let’s just say that I got really excited because I got excited about the person and the investment and the entity that the person was working with I thought was talented, but it didn’t really pan out, and I quickly recognized that “Oh, okay, there’s multiple levels to an investment.” Just because you have a great CEO, you have to really work with that CEO to make sure that they hire the right people underneath them.
I think that even though his ideas were tremendous, his execution and the people that he hired underneath them weren’t the right people to really lead the charge.
Joe Fairless: How would you qualify that if presented a similar opportunity in the future?
Jay Williams: I’d get myself a more firm stance on that board, and I’d start to really evaluating what that vetting process is, and I’m a lot more strict now at 36 than I was when I was 25, 26, looking to make one of my first seed investments.
Joe Fairless: This is from Aaron in St. Louis – he asks “For anyone who wants to play in the NBA, what is the single piece of advice you can offer him?”
Jay Williams: Make sure that your mom and dad are above six feet tall… [laughter] I’m kidding. Playing in the NBA represents less than 0.001% of the world, so a very arduous task. I will just say, as you continue to get better at whatever your skillset is, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a guy named Steve Nash – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Steve, but Steve used to always say “Get in where you fit in.” And I remember Ben Wallace, who was a guy that played for the Detroit Pistons – everybody now wants a shot that they can score, and Ben was like “I screen, I rebound.” I remember him in USA basketball, looking at him and he’d say, I’m like “Ben, when I give you the ball there, you’ve gotta shoot”, he’s like “I screen, and I rebound.” [laughter] I’m like, “Wow, this guy knows what he does, and he does it pretty damn well.” That screening and rebounding got Ben Wallace 65 million dollars.
Not everybody can be LeBron James or Paul George or Kyrie Irving, but if you have a special skillset that you can do extremely well, do it. Get in where you fit in.
Joe Fairless: Isn’t that analogous for business, too?
Jay Williams: Exactly. Get in where you fit in.
Joe Fairless: Yeah. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’ve got going on?
Jay Williams: They can’t.
Joe Fairless: Just play this interview on repeat, and that’s all we’ll give them, right?
Jay Williams: You know, one of things that I — I started a company a couple years ago called Clandestine Ventures… It was even funny when my PR person was like “Hey, do you wanna do this interview?” and I paid attention to some of the things he’d done before… I was like “Yeah, you know…” “But why do you seem hesitant?” I said “Because I don’t like talking about some of the stuff or some of the moves I make.” But as I get older, I do think I’m starting to be in a place where as long as I share the knowledge of people that I feel are truly passionate about it — for me, it has to start with the passion. And I think I see a lot of the people that get involved in the business for the lifestyle that it comes along… And don’t get me wrong, I’m very lucky, again, but I just love to work, man, and I have a hard time being around people that just get into — it’s like playing basketball… Like, “Oh, I wanna fly in jets”, and “I wanna go here” or “I wanna do that, and playing basketball helps me do that.” I’m like, “Hm, that’s unfortunate.”
If you’re passionate and you’re truly hungry to learn, and this is something that you wake up in the morning and you can’t wait to go do, then I’ll work with you.
Joe Fairless: And what’s the best way to either get in touch with you, your team… Or where should they go?
Jay Williams: Through you, listening to more of these podcasts. I’m very active on social, and… Look, I’m in this position now where I think in the next year or two I’ll be taking on a lot more employees for a new personal direction I plan on going, so for me, I like people that pepper me with questions; I like people, once again, that are consistent. It goes back to what I’ve said before, I think that’s my mantra for life… I work extremely hard, and it’s funny that a lot of people are like “Oh, you’re a college basketball analyst.” I’m like “That’s great that you see me that way, but I do a lot more than that.”
If somebody reaches out to me and they’re truly passionate about it and they continue to show that effort, then eventually I’ll open my door, but I like seeing that effort made before.
Joe Fairless: I love that approach. As I mentioned, I’m very grateful for our conversation. One of the things that rings true is what you’ve just said, that certainly surfaced often during our conversation, is the hustle, and how a lot of people don’t necessarily have it consistently. There’s a vast majority of people if given an opportunity at one moment in time, they will show hustle, but then it fades away, and that really separates the good from the great, and the great from the outstanding – it’s the consistent hustle.
You gave some great tips and insight on how to break free from the pack, whether it is working with you, but even more high-level just in business, how we separate ourselves from the competition, and that is having the consistent hustle and the follow-through.
I see it often at events where if I speak and I have a bunch of people line up afterwards, I’d say 9 out of 10 people want to speak to me and do some sort of business transaction afterwards, and 1 out of 10 people actually follow through with that. And it’s just simply because it’s convenient for them at the time to talk about it, and they have these ideas, but then they don’t have the follow through, and that is what separates the good from the great, and the great from the outstanding… So thank you for that.
Also, your approach to owning your journey and your experiences. When things happen that on the surface aren’t as positive, then first document it, second, recognize it, three, think through it, and four, use it as a positive driver to push and do more.
Again, I really appreciate our conversation. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Jay Williams: Thanks for your time, man. I really appreciate it.