July 7, 2021

Brant Menswar | Living a Life That Honors Your Non-Negotiable Values

Brant Menswar | Living a Life That Honors Your Non-Negotiable Values

When Brant Menswar learned why farmers don't value black sheep as much as the rest of the flock, he was both shaken and inspired. Brant uses this story to explain how we too can live an entirely authentic life, driven by our non-negotiable black s...

When Brant Menswar learned why farmers don't value black sheep as much as the rest of the flock, he was both shaken and inspired. Brant uses this story to explain how we too can live an entirely authentic life, driven by our non-negotiable black sheep values.


Brant Menswar is the author of Black Sheep, a keynote speaker and former rock-star | https://www.brantmenswar.com



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Brant Menswar

Brant Menswar: The real reason that farmers don't value black sheep is because a black sheep's wool cannot be died. So in effect, every black sheep is 100% authentically original. And when I heard that and knowing the generations of people who have grown up feeling like a black sheep, for whatever particular reason that they're an outcast, the truth is.

Brant Menswar: That they should be aspiring to be that 100% authentic, original they were created to be. And that sort of was the beginning for me of doing a deep dive, into defining what I call your flock of five non-negotiable black sheep values. Those are the values that no matter how much someone wants to influence you or try to change you, they simply won't be moved like a black sheep.

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Srini Rao: Brent, welcome to the unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us. Ah,

Brant Menswar: thanks for having. Yeah,

Srini Rao: it is my pleasure to have you here. I was introduced to you by way of our former guest Jeffrey Shaw. And when he told me that you had a book called black sheep, that made it seem like it was a very good thing to be a black sheep.

Srini Rao: I thought, yep. This guy is speaking my language. I definitely want to have him as a guest in the show, but before we get into all of that I want to start by asking you, what is one of the most important things that you learned from one or both of your parents that have influenced or shaped who you've become and what you've ended up doing with you?

Brant Menswar: I grew up as an athlete highly competitive, and one of the things I think I really learned that from my father that has served me very well. So this whole notion of it's not whether you win or lose. I can see that a little bit, but for me and for my father, it wasn't whether we win or lose, it was, do you want to.

Brant Menswar: And as long as you want to win it doesn't matter if you win or not, but when you approach it, you have to approach it in that way. And that's how I have approached everything in my career, both athletically with music and now here with books and speaking is, I want to win no matter what it is that I'm doing, whether or not I do, that's something different, but I always approach it with the mindset of.

Brant Menswar: Not only do I want to win. I want to crush in that sort of how it's been. So I

Srini Rao: have to ask you, where has that been a detriment and where has that been a success? Because I think often when we want to win, when we want to get ahead one of the things that happens is a detach or an attachment to an outcome.

Srini Rao: And I think, pretty much as we know from damn near every spiritual text in every book we've ever read attachment to outcomes often can be detrimental to our ability to actually achieve an outcome.

Brant Menswar: Yeah that was part of the big learn and writing this book, is that the hardest piece for me to swallow being a control freak was that we don't control outcomes, period.

Brant Menswar: The best you can hope for is the deliberate intention that goes into making a decision. But unless you're a wizard or presents some sort of a power that I am unaware of you cannot control outcomes. And so for me, it really helped in understanding. Best case scenario for me was honoring the things that mattered most to me and detaching completely from an outcome that was out of my head.

Brant Menswar: Yeah.

Srini Rao: Before we go deep into that, I want to go back to you being an athlete. One, what sport did you play and what are the lessons from being and athlete that you have applied to your life going forward? Because I think that when I look back at sort of high school and junior high being the shittiest player on my seventh grade basketball team, being an athlete was not for me, I thought.

Srini Rao: But I also feel like I missed out on some invaluable lessons that come from playing team sports.

Brant Menswar: I grew up playing in an era where we played the sport of the season. And so it wasn't like it is today, they forced you into one particular sport and they want you to just focus all your energy on that.

Brant Menswar: I, I played soccer and football in the in the fall. I played baseball in the spring and the winter I played either basketball, ran track. So I was constantly. Sort of playing whatever the sport of the season was. And I feel like that's a much better approach. It not only allows you to be a more well-rounded athlete and expose you to different aspects of team sports, but it also physical.

Brant Menswar: Allows your body to mature in a more well-rounded holistic way as opposed to doing, if I only focused on baseball, it's why we see kids coming out of high school, having Tommy John surgery, because they've only done one thing for the last four or five years of their life. And they've actually hurt themselves in the process by too much repetitive motion.

Brant Menswar: And so this idea that you're able to use different muscles using different sports is something that I think is lost on this generation.

Srini Rao: What about in terms of sort of social skills, communication, relationship building I'd imagine complaining on a team is an incredible bonding experience.

Srini Rao: And also, were you one of these people that was destined to go pro or be a college athlete? Or were you somebody who was just good? No,

Brant Menswar: I, so I was all state in almost every state. I played. And so for me it was not just about being good. It was about being the best. And if I didn't think I could be the best that I didn't want to play that sport.

Brant Menswar: And Team sports for me was fine. But my role on that team was what was most important to me and leading that team was most important to me. While I didn't play an individual sport like tennis or golf or something like that, where it's you against either the course or one particular opponent for me, there was always a team to back you up.

Brant Menswar: I took my role on that team as serious as possible. And I was a college athlete. I was planning on playing professional baseball. I was bred to play baseball. My dad is a very well known pitching coach in new England who has coached two cyan award winners and multiple hall of Famers.

Brant Menswar: And just that, that was my plan. And then I got hurt. And when I got hurt I had to pivot and everything changed. And so my sophomore year of college, I had gone to Florida Southern to play baseball after high school. I just had to make that pivot to not being able to play any longer or I would risk losing mobility of my arm.

Brant Menswar: And so that, that was a tough time to, I never had another plan. I didn't want to be an architect or, a doctor or a you name, whatever it is that people are going to school for. I wanted to play ball. And it was it was a really difficult time of trying to discover what I thought, the reason for me being on the planet actually.

Srini Rao: Yeah. I wonder if that sort of drive to win. That seems almost inherent, do you think that's a by-product of the environment that you were raised in? Having a dad, that's a pitching coach, obviously genetics had to have played a role. But do you think that is something that.

Srini Rao: People can develop in themselves. And then, what role do you think background plays in all of that? Because I feel like too often, we dismiss, the role of genetics and background. We had a we'll store, we just aired this guy. Peter wrote a book called selfie, how we've become so self obsessed and what it's doing to us.

Srini Rao: And I was going back and listening to it. And he said, we don't like the idea of, the role that genetics and personality play, he said, but those things are incredibly important.

Brant Menswar: Yeah, I agree. And not only that, I think we have ruined a part of team culture where everybody gets a trophy.

Brant Menswar: I, it makes me want to just vomit every time I think about it, not everybody deserves a trophy for participating and it sets such a horrible example moving forward. That you start to see it play itself out when they get into the workforce, because they think you're showing up and doing their job every day deserves a raise.

Brant Menswar: That's the minimum that's just showing up and doing the work. That doesn't mean that, that it's worthy of more. And when you grow up in a culture of everybody gets a trophy. They have a very difficult time separating what they think they deserve. From what's truly earned. And my kids growing up they knew it, there was no trophies being handed out unless they won.

Brant Menswar: And it helps you want to win. If you just got a trophy because you participated, why would you ever want to win? It makes it really hard in those environments. And so I think that society we have. Fostered a culture of mediocrity that didn't exist in the eighties when I was going.

Srini Rao: Yeah.

Srini Rao: Yeah. I wonder, cause I know people often talk about millennials being entitled and I see two types of people, people who will, do whatever the hell they have to do to get ahead and like yourself work as hard as they can and have this sort of drive to win. But then, there's a sort of entitlement, like you said, oh get this thing that I want just because I'm showing up or just because I'm doing the work, I should be able to be recognized for number Todd Henry once told me, he said, attention for your work is not a birthright.

Srini Rao: It's something that you have

Brant Menswar: to earn. Exactly. Exactly.

Srini Rao: Yeah. So how do you get out of this semester? Like for parents listening to this, what would you say to them about, raising children and this whole idea of not just having, trophies for participation, but also at the same time, balancing that with not doing a great deal of damage to their self-esteem.

Srini Rao: Cause I went through my whole life believing that I had zero athletic ability and then I became a surfer and I realized, yeah, I actually did have plenty of athletic ability. It was just not on a basketball court or on a football field. Yeah.

Brant Menswar: So part of that is you were still part of a culture that encouraged multiple sports, right?

Brant Menswar: I, and that's it's been a bit not like that in this last generation gen Z's anyways, have grown up in this digital age where They're really from the college scholarships. And what do you want to do is it's focused on that one sport and get as good as you possibly can at it, rather than a more well-rounded approach and trying different things to see what you actually might be good at.

Brant Menswar: It's a difficult. It's a difficult thing to try to ask someone, especially a kid to focus on something when they haven't had enough life experience to know what they like. And don't like but we forced them into these roles that ended up backfiring as they get older and begin to.

Brant Menswar: Be afraid to try new things or they just are so insulated because of this fear of losing, parents don't want their kids to be a loser at losing builds character. If you don't know how to deal with losing, how do you going to deal when you fail that, that first time? At work when your boss asks you to do something and it's just blows up in your face, if you've never had to deal with losing it really puts you at a disadvantage and you're a much more fragile individual if you've never had to deal with those things that we have eliminated.

Brant Menswar: Over the last decade or so of, we don't want anybody to feel out of place. We don't want them to feel less than I think there are circumstances where it's important to experience those feelings because if you never learn how to deal with them, you are not equipped for the real world. Because not everybody wins.

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Srini Rao: They're looking for change makers, opportunity creators, status quo, shakers ThoughtWorkers. And if you're listening to the unmistakable creative, that's probably you learn more and apply at thoughtworks.com/careers. Again, that's thoughtworks.com/careers. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So one of the other question about this period in which you get injured, and this is something I've asked a lot of pro athletes or SU people who are destined to be pro athletes, how do you recover a sense of identity when you have been on a path to go and do something for so long?

Srini Rao: Because I remember seeing this documentary about the NFL draft. And I think people go to some sort of training camp in Florida. And did they go to the combine? And one of the guys on it was, I think, the best quarterback in the state, like he'd taken his team in college to a national championship and then he doesn't make it to the NFL.

Srini Rao: And so suddenly it's like the sort of rug has been pulled out from under you because your whole life vanishes.

Brant Menswar: Yeah. But listen, it took me. 2020, almost 20 years to figure it out, right? Because when your identity is wrapped up in what you do and not who you are all the problems really start to happen.

Brant Menswar: And so I never had those difficult conversations with myself to define who I truly was. What are the things that were my non-negotiables until I was 47 years old. And for me, it makes it real. Looking back now, I had a good decade or two of just trying to figure out who I was and what I truly cared about that if I would have done the work earlier there's no doubt in my mind that I would be in a different place than I am today.

Brant Menswar: I'd be even more successful on one side more self-aware on the other and who knows what that would have spun into. If I would have figured this out 20 years.

Srini Rao: Yeah. So one of the things that you talk about in the book, which I knew I wanted to ask you about was the possibility of losing a child which I can't, not a parent, but I can't imagine anything as, as painful as that talk to me about that experience and what you've learned from it and how you navigate it.

Srini Rao: And what the benefits were when you came out of the other side,

Brant Menswar: Here it is. The unfortunate truth is when my, my oldest son Theo was diagnosed with cancer when he was 14 years old he needed a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. And we went through this heroin.

Brant Menswar: Experience, living in a hospital for 263 days while he was battling for his life in an, a situation that we were told was impaired. We turned impossible into possible by opening it up to 500,000 people that saw a video on YouTube that were determined. There was an answer that, that just hadn't been discovered yet.

Brant Menswar: And we turned a death sentence for him into life and, He survived. He continued to work through what that looks like. And in February of this year we lost him and sorry about that. Yeah. And the reality is when you have a child who is chronically ill and seriously ill, it's a different type of thing.

Brant Menswar: That you live through, right? Because you're always wondering if today's the day is it going to take a turn? And we lived that way for almost nine years and, February comes around or January comes around and he contracts COVID and because of the damage to his lungs and everything else he took a took a turn and in a matter of a couple of weeks, he was gone.

Brant Menswar: And dealing with the reality of the loss now it, is it again, a different kind of hell one that is difficult as it was, and as much as you weren't able to live your life in the way that you wanted to, when you were always worried that things were going to get worse when they do get worse You only want it to go back to the difficulty of dealing with it every day when they're not here.

Brant Menswar: It's been a crazy journey one that we're still trying to break the spiral of just spiraling down and when your life is consumed with treatment and doctors appointments and your, it is your life. And then all of a sudden it's gone. Thank God. I know what my non-negotiables are now because I can promise you, I would be in a much worse shape than I am.

Brant Menswar: And even with that I'm not in particularly good shape right now, mentally, I'm just dealing with the loss, but I don't know how anyone would be able to come out the other side if they didn't do the work to discover it. What their non-negotiables were and live their life by them because there's too many other things swirling around my head right now that are easily distractions to something much, much worse, yeah.

Srini Rao: Somebody once told me that, when you lose somebody, you love, they say you don't ever actually get over it. I think it was either my roommate's mom or somebody who said, even though she had lost a parent. 10 15 years ago. She said, there's not a day that goes by that you don't think about that person,

Brant Menswar: right?

Brant Menswar: Correct. Getting over is not the right phrase. You learn to move forward but you will never get over it. It is not. But that's not possible nor should it be the goal to be quite honest. Yeah, you want to honor and cherish those memories. And for me now, the work that I do and the talks that I go out are all a part of Theo's legacy.

Brant Menswar: He designed the cover of that book for me. And the lessons learned and the whole concept of black sheep stemmed out of. The difficulties of dealing with this over the last nine years. And it's my job now to honor that legacy. So I don't ever want to get over it. I just want to be able to cope with it.

Brant Menswar: That's I think the best case scenario that anybody could really ask.

Srini Rao: So this is something I've asked people in one form or another. And I know this is super fresh, so feel free to, to not answer the question, but I wonder, with something as tragic as losing a child what decisions.

Srini Rao: Come out in terms of, how you're going to live your life, going forward as a by-product, because I think, we've had people who've faced near death experiences and I can't help, but think of this essay that was in there's an author Tim Kreider, who wrote this collection of essays and he talks about how he gets stabbed in the neck.

Srini Rao: And, he says, you think that. Start making all these decisions and change the way that you live your life. When you have this sort of tragic experience. And then, a year or two later, you go back to normal. But I wonder for you, what decisions you've made about your life going forward as a by-product of losing your hair?

Brant Menswar: So there's a, I think I have a couple of thoughts on that. One is that in my experience of coaching people, Dealing with thousands of different people, helping them discover their values. I would venture to guess without exaggerating that 99% of everyone on the planet is winging it.

Brant Menswar: They don't take the time. To discover truly what their non-negotiable values are, prove that they're real and program them into their day to honor them with deliberate intention on a daily basis. The difference of what happens when you go through something like this, as you have a choice to make, are you going to allow the emotions to drive the bus?

Brant Menswar: Allow the hurt and all of the things that you're feeling to take you off course and continue to wing it in your life. And hopefully you get through this in a way that is manageable. Or do you begin to act with deliberate intention? Do you begin to speak these things into existence on a daily basis controlling when and where these values appear so that you feel like you're living a life of fulfillment in the face of the greatest loss you'll ever experience.

Brant Menswar: And I think that's the biggest change is that you've got to make a decision to live with deliberate intention. And if you don't the chances of you falling off into the abyss of depression and being filled with PTSD and anxiety and all the other sorts of things that come along with a loss of this magnitude are almost insurmountable.

Brant Menswar: If you do not live your life with deliberate intention.

Srini Rao: I think that makes a perfect segue to talking about the ideas and the book. And I wonder how you actually came up with the term black sheep to, to discuss this. What prompted that

Brant Menswar: I was 47 years old before somebody sat me down and explained to me why farmers don't actually value black sheep, like the rest of the flock.

Brant Menswar: And when I heard the truth, it just rattled me to my core in such a way that I felt like I had to tell everybody about it. And so the real reason that farmers don't value black sheep is because a black sheep's wool cannot be dyed. So in effect, every black sheep is 100% authentically original.

Brant Menswar: And when I heard that and knowing the. Generations of people who have grown up feeling like a black sheep for whatever particular reason that they're an outcast. The truth is. That they should be aspiring to be that 100% authentic, original they were created to be. And that sort of was the beginning for me of doing a deep dive, into defining what I call your flock of five non-negotiable black sheep values.

Brant Menswar: Those are the values that no matter how much someone wants to influence you or try to change you, they simply won't be moved like a black sheep.

Srini Rao: How do you go about it? Finding those non-negotiables because one of the things you say in the book is what are your non-negotiables? What are the core values at the very foundation of who you are?

Srini Rao: Those traits that no matter what someone says or how someone influences you cannot be altered, died or changed, those core values are black sheep of finding your black fi values. The one of a kind combination that makes you distinct from everyone else on the place. Enables you to live your truth, to be your a hundred percent authentic, extraordinary self.

Srini Rao: And, I think we spend so much time, in adolescents trying to fit in and yet we get to adult life, which rewards us for standing out. So how do you actually discover those values and discover non-negotiables? Because I, I think that in my mind, people often have very loose boundaries and they don't even know what these are.

Srini Rao: Oh,

Brant Menswar: great. Yeah. It's what keeps me in business. So thank God for that. But th the truth is that there's a couple of different ways that you can go about it. You can take the long road which would be going back and through some therapy and looking over your life and going through what Maslow would call.

Brant Menswar: Peak experiences and looking how these peak experiences shaped your value set that you possess today. That's that is the difficult road because it requires a bunch of vulnerability. A bunch of self-awareness a bunch of courage, all those sorts of things all wrapped up into one because oftentimes our values are not formed by particularly good experiences.

Brant Menswar: Formed by really difficult, hard experiences that we say we never want to be in that position again. And so drudging up, some of those feelings can be uncomfortable at the least. So what I would say is, what we did when we released the book was we came out with an online assessment that really helped people dip their toe into the value's pool.

Brant Menswar: It's not going to be the absolute truth, but it's going to start a very important conversation. That needs to happen if you want to truly find out what your non-negotiables are. So our assessment presents you with 125 commonly held personal core values, and it says, go ahead and in a knee jerk reaction, look over these words.

Brant Menswar: If the word resonates with you, go ahead and select it. And so what we know after 5,000 plus people taking this assessment is that the average person selects at least 30 different values that they deem really important to them in their lives. And this is the beginning of the problem. Is because when there are 30 things that you're telling yourself are incredibly important, you will try to fulfill all of them and inevitably fail, which invites feelings of shame and guilt and everything else to the party.

Brant Menswar: And so what we try to do is say, oh, You've got 30, 40, 50 things you selected that were really important. We're going to go ahead and group those together by likeness. And so words like sympathy, empathy, caring for others that goes in one bucket words like achievement, success, accountability that goes in another bucket before, it, all the words that you said were really important are grouped neatly into five different buckets based on likeness.

Brant Menswar: And then you get to look at those buckets and select the one word from each. That is your non negotiable, and that gets you to your initial flock of five black sheep values. Now, what I will tell you is what we have discovered over doing this thousands of times is that even when you get to what you think is the truth, two or three of those flock are going to be.

Brant Menswar: 100% accurate and provable, and you can give me 20 different reasons as to why over the course of your life, two or three of them are complete fabricated, bullshit. And it is for a variety of reasons. You may have grown up being forced to care for other people's sheep. So you either. Took care of siblings or an elderly grandparent or a parent or whatever that looks like.

Brant Menswar: So you've been conditioned to actually care for other people's sheep and it makes it really difficult for you to separate. There's from yours. And in other cases you are projecting who you want to be or who somebody told you, you should be, but they are indeed not your sheep. And so that's part of the proving stage that I have people go through, which takes several weeks to show that these things actually show up organically in your life on a daily basis.

Srini Rao: Yeah. I think that, raises a question of sort of social programming, right? Because we're all socialized by the environments that we're brought up in. I was brought up in an environment in which we were taught that you go to school, you get good grades, you become a doctor, thriller engineer because we're Indian.

Srini Rao: That's what people do, even if it's not what they want to do in some sure. The cases how do you actually get past such deeply embedded social pressures?

Brant Menswar: It requires an incredible amount of vulnerability. And what I talk about in the book is a bone crushingly, honest conversation with yourself.

Brant Menswar: We love to lie to ourselves because it's easier. And so that's why we choose to wing it because when we wing it, we can come up with excuses all day. But the minute that we define these things that we say are non-negotiables now all of a sudden we've traced the sandbox of which we are going to play.

Brant Menswar: And when we go outside of those walls that we have put around ourselves, it makes us feel bad. And so we either have to come to the realization that indeed one of the things you said was a non-negotiable in fact is not, or you are a purposefully violating it for whatever particular reason. And we have to take a look at why you would choose to do that.

Brant Menswar: And it requires. A deep investigation over the course of several weeks to see what's real. And what's not oftentimes people like to get too specific with their values. So they will tell me, look, community, family and faith are three of my black sheet values. And I have to have a conversation with them.

Brant Menswar: And what we find most of the time is that actually none of them are black sheet values. The black sheet value is connection, and they just gave me three incredibly powerful ways that they experience connection. But when you drill down too far you actually hurt the ability to prove what you say.

Srini Rao: So one thing I wonder, you mentioned this idea of having a, brutally honest conversation with yourself, which was probably my favorite chapter. And I've been working on this new book idea about the questionable ideas that often come from our world of self-help and positive thinking and all of that.

Srini Rao: And next week we're airing a series of. The cult of personal development, people who have often been in cult and based on this, do you ever think that self-improvement becomes a form of escapism from dealing with these brutally honest conversations?

Brant Menswar: Sure. Yeah. It becomes W like alcohol to an alcoholic, right?

Brant Menswar: It's just, it's what you do to avoid doing the actual work. You just read about it, but you don't actually do it. And that's the, the, I have to laugh when you come out with a book that talks about discovering the things that matter most to you, and you have conversations with people that have done the work and their lives are changed.

Brant Menswar: They thank you at a level that is uncomfortable because you literally changed what was possible for them in their life. And then you see the reviews where someone says there was no applicable information in this book at all. And, I look at those people and part of me laughs part of me, wants to punch them in the face.

Brant Menswar: Part of me, wants to tell them to fuck off. And the other part of me is just feel sad that they don't actually. Understand what's necessary to actually live a life of fulfillment. And if you're chasing the wrong things fulfillment only happens by accident or luck, and that is never going to be enough for anybody over the course of their.

Srini Rao: Yeah. I think that this is something that I often, a metaphor that I often refer to is this idea of between the difference between a compass and a map. And I think so often people look to other people to give them a map to where they want to go. And I realized, that if you follow somebody else's map, the only place you're going to get to is where they've gone.

Srini Rao: Not where you want

Brant Menswar: to go. Sure. Not only that, think of, and I talk about this. In the audio book version that we did these little side conversations. Think about a GPS. You tell your car GPS or your phone GPS while you're in the car where you want to go, you set that destination and what do we do?

Brant Menswar: We sit there and allow somebody to tell us exactly where we need to go. And when we veer off path, because we want to grab a bite to eat or have to go to the bathroom what does it do? It starts screaming at you, right? What are you doing? That's not the path that you're not headed, that you're not headed that direction.

Brant Menswar: Do you need us to change the, you need just to reroute, is this, did you, what's happening? And the reason that you want to discover these non-negotiable values is they they act like this GPS, this voice that tells you wait a minute, time out, you're not headed in the direction that you said you wanted to go.

Brant Menswar: Do you want us to reroute? Do you want to go back to the path or are you lying to us that this is in fact the destination that you said that you wanted to get to? And in that way, we're used to being told. How to go, where to go every point from here. And that's the difference between deliberate intention and simply being intentional is setting the destination in your GPS.

Brant Menswar: Deliberate intention is knowing every single turn you're going to make. Wow.

Srini Rao: Okay. So that actually makes a perfect segue to talking about this idea of why. And I love that you actually brought this up because it, for you to challenge popular notion of finding your why to me, I love people who will challenge any authority figure on this, but you said you have to discover your what, and then why those rarely change.

Srini Rao: They're like the roots of the tree. Your how is like the branches that grow in all directions or how always changes every new opportunity act every item on your daily life. It's a chance to fulfill your mission through the way that you act. And I think that, that goes so counter to what people think, because I think, when people hear this idea of Simon, Sinek's find your why.

Srini Rao: Again, it takes us back to that whole idea of some sort of pre-packaged, formula that will give you a roadmap to where you want to go. And I was very fortunate to have interviewed Simon Sinek and have him walk through my, with me. And he, came to the conclusion. You said you're obsessed with people who are good at insanely unusual things.

Srini Rao: And I remember thinking, thanks. I'm what the fuck am I supposed to do with that? And 10 years later, when I look back at the body of work, I've built at unmistakable creative, every single thing I have done since that conversation is a reflection of those things, exact words,

Brant Menswar: yes. The question is, are you doing it on purpose?

Brant Menswar: And that is, I've met Simon. I think he's a brilliant man. I think it's a great book, but I think there needs to be an asterisk on that cover. Start with why Asterik as long as your, why is correct. But most people's why is not correct because you can't get to Y without defining your what I break it into three areas.

Brant Menswar: You've got your, what your, why and your, how your, what are your values, your, why is your purpose and your, how is your. And people often confuse mission for values or mission for purpose, but. It doesn't work that way. And so you can't actually start with why you have to define your non-negotiables and when you know what those are.

Brant Menswar: So my flock, if you will, is creativity, hope, impact, empathy, family, authentic. I have six, I have an extra right. And it's not unusual. So many of us have an extra. And so those six things are my flock. Every decision I make gets filtered through those things, but those are my non-negotiable values. My purpose is born out of those values.

Brant Menswar: My purpose is to creatively impact others by authentically providing. And if it sounds familiar, it's because it's the activation of my black sheet values that become my purpose. They are in alignment with each other. If you start with Y without defining your what are the odds that the values actually show up in the purpose statement you've chosen for your life?

Brant Menswar: It's slim enough. And so you have to start with what to choose your why, so that they are in alignment with each other, and then your, how that mission changes every single day. People often say as I got older, my purpose changed. No, it did not. Your mission changed, how you choose to honor those values changed, but your purpose and your values are static.

Brant Menswar: If somebody says, oh, outside of a catastrophic event in your life, your values rarely change by the time you're in your early twenties, they are pretty much etched in stone. And if that's the case and you sit there and tell yourself that your values changed, what I would argue is that you never discovered the real value in the first place you assumed.

Brant Menswar: That you knew what was real, but doing the work that I've done for years and 5,000 people, I know how much they lie to themselves. And I know how much they what they think is real and what is actually real are never the same. And out of those 5,000 people, not once have I ever worked with anyone where the five they started with where the five they ended.

Brant Menswar: It doesn't work that way. We're not capable of having that sort of self-awareness without some work. And when life influences you, when family and friends influence you, when society influences you and tells you all these things that you should deem important to you in your life how do you not allow that to affect your choice in one way, shape or form?

Brant Menswar: It's incredibly difficult. And so that's why we have to prove what's real and not. Go upon what we think are the actual non-negotiables. Wow.

Srini Rao: Let's talk about this idea of accountability. You said most of us buck against the idea of being accountable for our own successes and failures, but the reality is that you're held accountable to things all the time at work, you have to meet deadlines, budgets, goals.

Srini Rao: Do you think these TPS reports are gonna print themselves? Love that. I love the office space reference, by the way. It's funny because I think people who are not old enough probably have no idea what the hell we're talking about.

Brant Menswar: The stapler they told me I could keep my.

Srini Rao: Yeah. It's amazing.

Srini Rao: I think that one thing that you learn particularly as an author who is writing a book with a publisher is that nobody else holds you accountable. You get a book deal and an editor says, okay, great. I'll see you in six months. And you're the one who shows up every single day to go and do this thing.

Srini Rao: Why do you think people have such a hard time holding themselves accountable? Their entire business is built around holding people accountable. One of our former guests, Peter Shallard literally built a company. That has thousands of customers to do one thing hold them accountable.

Brant Menswar: So let's lit.

Brant Menswar: Literally this thought just came into my mind and it's because I had a conversation with a friend recently over this what I want to say is this, we often are forced to have accountability without authority, and that presents a very. Difficult predicament. We are expected to be accountable.

Brant Menswar: We are not given authority to make decisions, and that happens a lot at work. You're held accountable, but you have no authority. And The higher you get the, even when you think you're your authority grows you find that in most cases it's still the same scenario. And so accountability without authority becomes your daily routine.

Brant Menswar: And so when it comes to your own life, you have to reprogram yourself to understand that you are, have accountability with total authority. It's your life. You are the one who makes the decisions, but we are so not used to that. Being the case that when you spend eight, 10 hours a day at work with accountability, with no authority, it just trickles into your personal life and causes all kinds of things.

Srini Rao: Yeah I'm so glad you brought up this idea of decisions because you talked extensively about making decisions, but I think the thing that struck me most that you said about decisions is allowing your emotions to lead the decision-making process is like asking your drunk uncle.

Srini Rao: To give the blessing at Thanksgiving dinner, dangerous feelings change constantly. That should not be the sole driver of decisions. When you let that happen, you're much more likely to make catastrophic bad decisions. And I think that this is something that's so many of us learn the hard way. Know, like I recently had a change in my business and it was a big change in my roommates.

Srini Rao: Are you upset? And I said, dude, I'm like, I have investors and other people that I'm held accountable. I don't held accountable to it. I don't have the luxury to wallow in my misery over this. I have to be objective about it. Yeah. But that's also something that I've learned with time. So talk to me about how we become less emotional and more objective in the process of making important decisions.

Brant Menswar: When you know what your actual non-negotiable values are they serve as a litmus test, right? So you can ask yourself objectively is what you're upset about right now. A direct violation of one of these five things. If the answer's yes. Then you know exactly what it's violating and how to proceed.

Brant Menswar: If it is not one of those things, then you can just let it go. I'm not saying it's easy, but you can make that decision and choice to let it go. I am a very visual. Person especially on the creative side for me, I have to visualize things in order to really get it into context then. So in my brain, when it comes to decisions, there is a tug of war going on.

Brant Menswar: On one side of the tug of war are my black sheep values. And on the other side of the tug of war are my feelings or emotions and they are in this battle. And do you know if you've ever had a taco, a true tug of war fight in the middle, they tie this ribbon, and you're, you have to pull the ribbon over the line in order to win.

Brant Menswar: And the thing that I really discovered through the research of the book is that. If you're thinking through living a life that honors your values, you would think that you want your values to win that tug of war all the time. And what I discovered was that's actually not the case. Our feelings and emotions are monsters.

Brant Menswar: If you allow them to. And they are incredibly powerful and can overwhelm your best intentions of honoring a value if you get yourself worked up enough. And in reality, you don't want either side to win the tug of war. You want a healthy tension between the two. So you want to make sure that you are making decisions that are born out of these non-negotiable values, but at the same time, you are again, knowledging how you feel about what's happening in that moment so that you're not ignoring it.

Brant Menswar: When we ignore feelings, we piss them off and they get incredibly hard to control. When we acknowledge that this is how we're feeling. It allows us to diffuse that situation a bit and allows us to keep the healthy tension. Between our values and our feelings or emotions. And when you do that, you find that you're able to stay in the present and make decisions where you need to make them, which is now not in the future in the past.

Srini Rao: So one of the things that I wonder about is what causes people to compromise on their supposedly non-negotiable values, because I think all of us have done that at one time or another. And of course we end up regretting it.

Brant Menswar: So there's a couple of reasons for compromise, right? So I have had to change how I feel I am, as we talked earlier, growing up in a culture of win-win Compromise is a loss in my column.

Brant Menswar: I am not, I can't look at it any other way. Until I started to understand that rather than view something as compromising. Can it, can I instead of giving something up to meet someone in the middle, can I take one of my non-negotiable values and lean into it and honor that to accomplish the same thing and what I have found indisputable.

Brant Menswar: That's possible every single time. And so when that is the case, rather than feeling like I have to give something up instead, I actually lean in and feed my sheep in a very specific way. That allows me to feel like in fact, I maintained control and I honored this thing that matters most to me, that I'm telling myself.

Brant Menswar: This is one of my non-negotiables and by actually honoring it, I was able to meet somebody halfway. That changed my perspective and made me a much better co-worker and in different areas a much better collaborator. No matter what I was doing was that instead of feeling like I had to give something up, I started leaning into feeding the sheep with deliberate intention and it made me a far easier person to work with.

Srini Rao: As somebody who has this, insatiable drive to win human could be the person who could give me an answer to this question, which I've asked and not quite gotten an answer that satisfied me. How is somebody who is so driven to achieve. Find a balance between fulfillment and ambition, because I feel like we can have ambition without fulfillment.

Srini Rao: We can have, and if you have no ambition, you get complacency because I was writing about this yesterday. So it's fresh on my mind. But if you have ambition without fulfillment, no matter what you accomplish, you'll never be satisfied.

Brant Menswar: Is that a bad thing?

Srini Rao: I think that it can be, if you.

Srini Rao: Constantly see your life is missing something that you don't have.

Brant Menswar: I, a couple of things, one, I would say, going through this loss of our son without my wife and I've had a few conversations about where we're at, how we're feeling and the truth is. I'm sad all the time.

Brant Menswar: I'm not sad in spurts. I am sad all the time and I just mask it or I learned to cope or I figure out another way to deal or distract myself. I've heard there were, there was a movie I watched once. I can't remember what it was, but the, about being angry and how to control anger is the key was to just accept that you're angry all the time.

Brant Menswar: And in that same light when it comes to winning, when it comes to that drive remember it's not about whether I win it's about my desire to win. And by feeding these values in a very specific, deliberate way. I'm constantly blown away by what I think is possible. And so rather than focus on a result, which I used to do for decades, I did right.

Brant Menswar: I just want to achieve this level. I want to make this much money. I want to have this title I wanted. There was always a tangible end to my game. I stopped doing it. In my only goal is to honor these things that matter most, to me, to the greatest extent that I can. And if it's true, what I have discovered is that what I thought was possible is often just scratching the surface and I actually was limiting myself without even knowing it.

Brant Menswar: And so when it comes to this idea of. Fulfillment, the fulfillment comes from honoring the value, not from achieving anything. Wow.

Srini Rao: I want to finish with two final questions. And I think you really brought it full circle. Peter beautifully here by talking about what you think is possible. I had this mentor, Greg, who has been a guest here multiple times and I've referenced this conversation before, but he said that so often people feel.

Srini Rao: Exclusively on the possibility of achieving something and completely ignore the probability of their success at something. And as a result, they chase, false horizons and unrealistic ambitions. And given your sort of background in sports given your back-end with this book what is your view on that?

Srini Rao: And then do you think that's the case?

Brant Menswar: Yeah, no, I can understand that. I, I, again, if we're looking too far. So one of the challenges I think, especially with creatives is we have a tendency to look too far in the future. I've had to continually train myself to recalibrate and remind myself, the only place I can make decisions is in the present.

Brant Menswar: And so w if I start thinking out too far I find myself projecting what could happen. Which hasn't actually happened. So I am allowing the decisions in my thought process to be dictated by a forecast. I'm not a soothsayer. I have no idea what is actually going to happen, but I find myself being distracted by trying to think out too far.

Brant Menswar: So this idea of potential versus probability I think the probability helps us remain in the. About what you're actually accomplishing right now, as opposed to being worried a little too much about what could be, or how successful something could be. It just, for me, if you focus on the present, not only does it allow you to make decisions that will have an immediate impact on what it is you're doing, but stops you from drifting to the past or the future.

Brant Menswar: In the book, I talk about this quote from loud to that, that I use as my emotional litmus test at any moment and allows, you had said if you are anxious, you're living in the future. If you're depressed, you're living in the past. If you're at peace, you're living in the future in the present.

Brant Menswar: And I use that. To help me define what I am feeling. If I am very anxious about something, chances are, I am forecasting out a predicted outcome that has not happened if I am really upset or depressed about something. It's because I'm. Being overwhelmed by feelings of a decision that was already made or something that already happened that I can't change.

Brant Menswar: And I have to pull myself from the past and keep myself from moving too far into the future if I want any hope of experiencing peace and fulfillment now. So that to me is a constant battle. That is a question that I ask myself several times every day.

Srini Rao: I have one final question for you, which is how we finished all of our interviews at the unmistakable creative. What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?

Brant Menswar: It's owning that original creation that you are. I am a huge proponent of unique contribution and unique contribution is impossible.

Brant Menswar: If you don't know who you are. I've had this conversation with many creatives, whether they're photographers or writers or musicians or artists. I said this to a group of a couple thousand photographers. I said, if you don't know what your flock of five black sheep values are, you have never taken an original photo your entire life.

Brant Menswar: You've only given me a reflection of what matters to someone else. And that is that lens that people need to understand. If you want to be unmistakable, you have to own these non-negotiables because it's through those non-negotiables that you provide that unique contribution that only you can bring and no one else.

Srini Rao: Wow. I can see now why Jeffrey referred to as a guest. I love that it's been absolutely phenomenal. You've just been inspiring. Thought-provoking just beautiful. And I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and sharing your insights with our listeners. Where can people find out more about you?

Srini Rao: And everything else that you're up to best

Brant Menswar: place is everywhere on social media. It's just Brandt menswear, R B R a N T M E N S w a r.com or at at any of the social handles as well.

Srini Rao: Amazing. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with that. Thank you for listening to this episode of the unmistakable creative podcast while you were listening.

Srini Rao: Were there any moments you found fascinating, inspiring, instructive, maybe even harder. Can you think of

Brant Menswar: anyone, a friend or a family member who would appreciate this moment? If so, take a second and share

Srini Rao: today's episode with that one person because good ideas and messages

Brant Menswar: are meant to be shared.

Brant MenswarProfile Photo

Brant Menswar

Brant Menswar is a core values activist, former rock star, named one of the country’s “Top 10" motivational speakers and a self-professed coffee snob. His books and Top 200 podcast (Thoughts That Rock) expand on his ground-breaking work around values-based leadership described as “disarmingly simple and incredibly powerful.”