Matt grew up in the suburbs of Boston, in a poor neighborhood, with his mother and siblings. He faced adversity from a young age; his parents were divorced, his father wasn't a good role model, and there was tension between his siblings. Matt would wash cars, mow lawns, and even lie about his age to wash dishes for restaurants so he could make some money. The real turning point for Matt however, was when he was in a meeting with his high school guidance counselor and his mother. His counselor advised that Matt wouldn't ever amount to anything and that he should simply enlist in the army.
Matt would go on to start a career in sales and work for several companies throughout his career, committing himself to becoming the best sales person he could be. He worked as an executive at T-Mobile, Gateway, Outreach, and even worked directly with Tony Robbins, as his VP of Sales.
Matt's story will inspire you and serve as an example that no matter what your current situation is, it is completely independent of where you could be.
00:00:04 Ash Faraj: Hey guys, welcome back to Season 2 of ExecuTalks. It’s the show where you train your brain to think like today’s top executives. I’m your host Ash, and in this episode, you’ll get to hear from someone who grew up on welfare and is now regarded as one of the world’s top sales gurus. His name is Matt Millen.
00:00:31 Ash Faraj: Before we get into the show, just a quick reminder. Our community is growing really fast and eager to help in any way possible. Wherever you’re at in your career, maybe you’re having trouble getting your foot in the door at a company you want to work for, or maybe you have a job but you like to switch jobs or change companies, even industries. Wherever you’re at in your career it always helps to have a community behind you. So please, join our community for free by visiting our website and subscribing to our newsletter at www.ExecuTalks.com. And if there’s anything I can personally do to help, even if it’s just some career advice or consultation or if you just like someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me via email at Ash@ExecuTalks.com. Again, that is A-S-H-, Ash@ExecuTalks.com. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy this inspiring conversation with Matt Millen.
00:01:24 Ash Faraj: Matt’s story begins in the suburbs of Boston, where he grew up in a very poor neighborhood. From a young age, Matt faced adversity. His parents were divorced. His father wasn’t a good role model. There was constant tension between him and his siblings in the house. Even his high school guidance counselor told him and his mother in a meeting one time that Matt would never amount to anything, and he should just enlist in the Army. That he wasn’t good enough for higher education. Now that would be the turning point, the pivot, the spark for Matt to seek out the best possible outcome for himself and his family. He would go on to become an executive at some of the world’s top companies, including T-Mobile, Outreach, Gateway, and even working directly with the famous Tony Robbins.
00:02:15 Ash Faraj: How have you been? I think the last time we talked it was before the--
00:02:18 Matt Millen: before COVID.
00:02:20 Ash Faraj: Yeah, wish we could meet again at that Kirkland waterfront.
00:02:22 Matt Millen: It was good!
00:02:26 Ash Faraj: It was nice. How are you?
00:02:27 Matt Millen: Good, yourself?
00:02:29 Ash Faraj: Good, good. I figured we’d just start off with a quick icebreaker. What is your favorite book?
00:02:35 Matt Millen: What a great question. I think my favorite book of all time was Shogun.
00:02:42 Ash Faraj: Favorite movie?
00:02:47 Matt Millen: One of my favorite movies is Rush about the two formula one drivers.
00:02:52 Ash Faraj: Public figure you look up to?
00:02:54 Matt Millen: Right now, I’m actually going to give you the name Mitt Romney.
00:02:59 Ash Faraj: Favorite thing to do by yourself?
00:03:02 Matt Millen: Tinker in the garage.
00:03:03 Ash Faraj: Favorite vacation spot?
00:03:05 Matt Millen: Maui.
00:03:06 Ash Faraj: Favorite dessert?
00:03:07 Matt Millen: Chocolate mousse.
00:03:08 Ash Faraj: And then your favorite childhood memory? When you look back on your childhood, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
00:03:12 Matt Millen: My favorite, the one that comes to mind, is we used to skateboard at a cemetery as kids because of the hills. And there was this one great hill called “Dead Man Hill,” [laughter] and I used to love skateboarding as a kid.
00:03:28 Ash Faraj: On the topic of your childhood, I know that a lot of people know you now as a huge success, but can you take us back a little bit? I know you had humble beginnings and you grew up in… Where did you grow up again?
00:03:43 Matt Millen: Just outside of Boston.
00:03:45 Ash Faraj: Just outside of Boston and can you just kind of paint the audience a picture of your childhood? If I was in the classroom with Matt from sixth to eighth grade, who was Matt?
00:03:57 Matt Millen: I grew up on welfare, single mother, brother, sister younger, and we lived in a kind of neighborhood -- we talked about this -- we lived in a kind of neighborhood where everybody was poor. So, you didn’t feel poor because everybody was just like you.
00:04:15 Ash Faraj: Right.
00:04:16 Matt Millen: Back then there were no electronics of anything, so you played outside. We didn’t play organized sports because that cost money, but everybody played outside every day. Because we were poor, you know, we were labeled as not smart in school. We were just automatically pigeonholed into the lower level classes.
00:04:39 Ash Faraj: I remember you saying that you didn’t really have -- you had a really tight relationship with your mother, but not really with your father. Why was that?
00:04:51 Matt Millen: I mean when your dad, my dad -- my mother threw my dad out of the house. I was the oldest of the children. I was the one that could remember that. Yes, it’s tough. It’s like a tough thing to go through. And then, you know, he didn’t model great fatherhood and parenthood for us. My mother was a rock holding what we had together. She made sure that her three kids got off to college. That’s all that mattered. That the three of us would get off to college and go do something in the world.
00:05:27 Ash Faraj: What was your relationship like with your siblings?
00:05:30 Matt Millen: It was rough. We fought a lot. There was a lot of tension in the house. We didn’t have really great channels of getting the negative energy out of the house. So, we did fight a lot. It wasn’t until we all got out of high school that we really formed a more productive relationship, a more harmonious relationship.
00:05:55 Ash Faraj: When you look back now, what do you feel like your -- either you took from either your siblings, or I’m assuming your mother was the most influential role model for you, or your high school guidance counselor, I guess?
00:06:10 Matt Millen: Well, he wasn’t a role model. I got to high school, my guidance counselor and myself and my mother were in a meeting. And the high school guidance counselor told my mother I would never amount to anything, and that I should just enlist. That was a real turning point. My mother almost hit him. But for me, it was like, you can’t judge me, and my socioeconomic standing doesn’t determine who I am going to be. And I graduated top 10% of my class, National Honor Society, I went to Boys State. That was a pivot for me. I was just like, this guy is not going to -- this individual in this case -- this guy he’s not going to determine, and he’s certainly not going to tell me what I’m going to amount to or not. I determine that. I would just say all the way growing up, my brother, my sister, and I, none of us, even though we were poor that didn’t define who we were going to be. None of us ever thought that’s how life would be, ever.
00:07:23 Ash Faraj: So even as a kid, you were always optimistic about the future, you feel?
00:07:28 Matt Millen: Yeah, I don’t know if optimistic is the right word back then, but I just didn’t see myself confined by present conditions. That’s just where we were at the time. It didn’t mean like I’d be there in the future.
00:07:45 Ash Faraj: If there was a couple of life principles that you hold with you today, that you feel were ingrained in you from your mother or your siblings, what would those life principles be?
00:07:56 Matt Millen: I think the big one is work. Work was my way out. When I was old enough to walk around the neighborhood, I was washing cars on Saturday for a buck a car. When I was able to get a bicycle, I had a paper route in the morning and a paper route after school. I lied about my age so I could go wash dishes at an Italian restaurant until I could get a job at McDonalds. I always had a job, always. For me learning the value of work. Being around adults, managers, and leaders and just seeing how things work and don’t work. The opportunity to earn; I’ve always had the opportunity to earn, my entire life. I was never afraid to do the hard work. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter, even to this day. Don’t be afraid to do the hard work.
00:08:51 Ash Faraj: I love that. As you grew into your teenage years, into high school, maybe even a little later, what -- were there certain topics that you were curious about? Or certain things that you remember just being interested in?
00:09:04 Matt Millen: I’ve always been mechanically curious, like building or tinkering and just learning; so, I would naturally be gravitated to the guy in the neighborhood working on cars as an example. I’ve always been like a builder in my mind, whether it’s building something at work or building something at home. I like to build and create. I’m attracted to people that are similar, like that’s how they want to spend their time. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so like your earnings, your shape, your spirituality, the quality of your relationships. Who you are and what you experience, is the average of the five people that you spend the most time with, and you can start to sense as you get better peer groups your life changes. Not because of who you are, but because of who you’re hanging around, and the impact that they’re having on you and different standards. As you interact with people of higher standards, they have higher rewards, and higher value sets, better rituals, better habits. I’ve found that I’ve been attracted to people that are where I want to be. That’s how I have moved through my life by finding people that are doing what I want to do, experiencing what I want to experience, and acting the way I want to act. I want to be around them.
00:10:39 Ash Faraj: In college you studied business administration, right? And you mentioned that you graduated top ten in your class. Why did you decide to study business administration? Was that influenced by somebody you knew, or was it like, “I want to go into business”, or was it just kind of random?
00:10:56 Matt Millen: Yeah, for me -- It’s so hard to know what you’re going to go do. You can change my mind back then so many times what I would do, and you don’t know what any of those jobs are. So, I said the business degree is versatile and pragmatic. You can’t go wrong with a business degree. I tried to get something that gave me as many options as I could have knowing I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet.
00:11:27 Ash Faraj: After you graduated college, what did you do?
00:11:33 Matt Millen: I ended up working as a credit manager for Norwest Financial. I was on a management fast track; in 18 months I’d have my own branch. I’m making nine bucks an hour, eighteen grand a year. That’s my salary, eighteen grand a year, coming out of college. I’ve got student loans. I got a car payment. I want to go live with my buddies. And you know, my best buddy just gets a job selling computers back then. Computers, like pc’s, were just coming out, and businesses were just buying them. So, he starts selling computers. He has a base salary of eighteen grand, and then at the end of every month he gets commission. This guy doesn’t work any harder than I do, he’s not smarter than I am, but he’s getting paid twice for each time I’m getting paid once. I’m like I wanted to get paid twice. That’s how I got into sales. I just wanted to get paid twice. I shifted my career into selling like on the spot. It changed my life; just absolutely changed my life from the earliest perspective. In my first year of selling, I was able to pay off all my student debt. I haven’t had a credit card bill since. It just changed your life. Growing up poor, I used to pay for my college tuition every Monday morning at the registrar’s office in dollar bills from bartending and waiting tables over the weekend. Like, so for me, to have a job, then I was taking eighteen grand a year in a bank, and then like sales just opens up. I won a trip to the Super Bowl; I went to the Super Bowl at 25, my first year of selling. Made some money. Won some really cool contests. Like, you know, the world changes.
00:13:23 Ash Faraj: A question that just came to mind. When you first got into sales, I assume you had some initial setbacks and temporary failures. Can you share some of those rough patches and learning lessons?
00:13:36 Matt Millen: I didn’t know how to sell. I was doing okay. I’ll never forget, like the worst feeling; I was selling a pretty big deal to a company. I did a really bad job of really understanding how they were going to use the technology, what [indiscernible] we were solving. I just didn’t know. We did a big presentation. I brought my boss. We went into a big presentation to their decision-makers. I just completely fell on myself. It was horrible. Didn’t win the deal. But worse than that, was just how I left there. It was just a huge wake up call. If I’m really going to be in sales, then I got to figure out how this game is being played. It really set me on a journey for personal professional development around -- I’ve got a tremendous earnings opportunity and I’m not maximizing it. I was happy that I was doing two to three times better than I’d been doing, but I was just scratching the surface in what’s available to me. That call was a huge wake up call.
00:14:45 Ash Faraj: I’m trying to imagine myself in your shoes during that time. Did you feel like maybe this is not for me? Can you take us through some of the insecurities or feelings?
00:14:58 Matt Millen: Never, never this is isn’t for me. My dad -- Again, my dad doesn’t define who I am and my credential, it just means I wasn’t prepared. Don’t make it bigger than it is, right? But it made me realize how I needed to show up to win these kinds of opportunities, doing these bigger deals. While this was going on, I knew how bad it was in the moment. I didn’t need to be told. Like you know, when you get in the car with your boss and drive back to the office, he did not have to tell me how bad that was. I knew as it was happening. But what was interesting, my boss really wasn’t able to bail me out either. A great boss jumps in. It made me realize, I needed help beyond what was available where I was working. If I was falling -- if one of my reps is falling on their face, I’m jumping right in. I got you. I got your back. My boss didn’t make sure I was prepared for the call. We didn’t roleplay the call. He didn’t say it, like -- so it just made me realize, I was getting as much as I got based on where I was working, and I needed more professional help. That’s when I became aware of what I didn’t know. “Holy crap” there’s a ton I don’t know, and I’m not getting this training where I’m currently working.
00:16:24 Ash Faraj: So, what did you do next?
00:16:26 Matt Millen: A couple of things happened. One, started getting some training. Changed my peer group. First time that I was selling computers, I had a buddy who was selling copiers, and a buddy who was selling phone systems. The three of us were all in the same boat. We started getting together because we were all complementary. We started like -- how do we elevate ourselves? We did some Cale Carnegie together; met the Bill Carnegie guy. Just started sharing what’s working, what’s not working. We just started building our own little peer group community and saying, “Hey, let’s all help each other win.”
00:17:10 Ash Faraj: And were these friends that you knew from your childhood days? Where did you meet these friends?
00:17:16 Matt Millen: One I met in the apartment complex where I lived. The other one I met through work. You know, you meet people along the way.
00:17:28 Ash Faraj: And so, you feel like -- just getting together once a week or how frequently you guys were getting together -- you feel like that really elevated your game?
00:17:39 Matt Millen: I mean when you start talking about the challenges with other people that are experiencing the challenges. First, it’s a relief because it’s not just you. What have you tried? What have I tried, like, what have we tried? What did we get? The ability to talk to somebody about where you’re at and trying different strategies, different tactics. And we’d come back together and talk about it. Yeah, you’re hanging around people that -- with like mindsets; relatively young in our career all looking to get to the next level. But what we realized was, we needed people that were doing better than us. [laughter] It’s great that we can help each other, but that gets you so far; you’re limited. That’s when we expanded our network to include much more successful people than ourselves.
00:18:34 Ash Faraj: So how did you that? Who was the first person that you -- who was that first mentor, that level above you, that you guys had connected with and who was that first mentor for you?
00:18:46 Matt Millen: So, I actually got recruited by Tech Data. The leader that was hiring, Terry Hagerty, she was that person in my life. She was the one that really -- so, I was at Tech data for seven years. I worked for Terry for four of those seven, and she just chiseled off my corners. She was so good, so demanding, such high standards. We were able to grow together in the organization. When she hired me, she was a Director, I was a manager. She went to VP, I went to Director. And we stayed together and rose through the organization. I’ve worked for some amazing leaders in my career: Tedd Waitt from Gateway and Toni Robbins. Of all the people that I’ve worked for she’s single-handedly had the biggest professional impact on my life, on my career.
00:19:38 Ash Faraj: Wow. So, if there was a couple, a few key takeaways that she ingrained in you, other than hard work, maybe even specifically to sales, what would they be?
00:19:51 Matt Millen: Yeah, I’ll never forget, we were doing a presentation one time. I’d really been working on my presentation skills. I thought I was so buttoned up on the content and the presentation. Everything was just great. I was so ready. And I was never going to make the mistake I had made --
00:20:11 Ash Faraj: Yeah, yeah. [laughter]
00:20:12 Matt Millen: -- I mean, I was really ready. I thought I just nailed the presentation. I thought I just nailed it. One of the people in the room asked a question and I answered it, like not in -- at the time I thought the answer was very factual. We were talking about selling to government markets. This lady brings up something about GSA. GSA was about ten percent of the market. I was speaking to the 90 percent. I answered it, like I thought a factual way. We came out of the meeting and my boss just shredded me on how I handled that question. It was such a great lesson in terms of like how I made the person feel, and how I handled it. Was there an opportunity that I just overlooked. For me it was the next level of learning. It’s not enough to be prepared and type, but it’s the interactions you’re having in the room. It’s how you’re handling what you’re doing. It was just next level for me, like that “holy crap.” This time I thought it went great, and most of it did. But the point was, it was a major opportunity to do better. It just opens your eyes in how much more is available for growth, for learning, for development, and what a gift it is to have someone that will point out where those areas are for getting better. I could have easily walked away from that feeling great. And I’m sure nine out of ten bosses would have allowed that to happen.
00:21:49 Ash Faraj: Other than obviously hard work and luck, what advice would you give to somebody maybe early in their career if they are looking for somebody like that, like a mentor, who will really take their game to the next level. What advice would you have for them in terms of how they can find that person and develop that relationship similar to what you had.
00:22:15 Matt Millen: I think the first thing is look around you, whether it’s inside your own organization or not. Find somebody who is where you aspire to be, committed to be. And then approach them. Number one, I think everyone is going to find -- people want to help, give back, and share. If they’re doing it the right way for the right reason. Find somebody and then make sure it’s someone that makes you very uncomfortable. If they’re not making you uncomfortable, they’re either not coaching you hard enough or they’re not really where you want to be.
00:22:54 Ash Faraj: Oh, that’s key. They have to make you uncomfortable.
00:22:58 Matt Millen: Yeah, a great coach pushes you so you’re always uncomfortable. They know how hard to pull, and to keep you on that edge where you’re growing, but you’re not like blinded by -- it’s just the right amount of coaching and it never stops. If you outgrow that coach, great, go find the next one. You got to stay uncomfortable. It comes down to staying in touch with great people. As you progress through your career, again this notion of peer group, like people that you invest in and invested from, they go off and do great things. You go off and do great things. You keep developing these peer groups, and next thing you know, you’ve got this amazing network that’s infiltrated across corporate America. I can’t tell you how many calls -- I’ve led very large organizations. I’ve led thousand people teams, five hundred people teams. I got to invest in my team and family. They go off and I get calls all the time and LinkedIn messages, “Hey we’re looking. Come talk to us.” You give and the universe provides back. Like everywhere I go this theme of networking and mentorship, whether you’re being mentored or mentoring. It’s like the currency of business for me, like it’s relationship currency. I just can’t tell you, even just the warmth; like I’ll get a note out of the blue on LinkedIn of a rep I coached five years ago. He goes, “You had me do a five-minute presentation and you gave me twenty-seven minutes of coaching.” Like he sent me this note, I’ll never forget. It just -- that’s what warms your heart. You touched lives and you get touched, and because of that I’ve been very blessed of opportunities. Because people that have worked with me, next to me, I’ve worked for, thought of me at times when they’re looking for a certain level of leadership within their organization.
00:25:09 Ash Faraj: I love that. It seems like you’ve been successful from a very early age, building relationships, and keeping those relationships, and networking. What advice would you give to somebody who’s maybe a little introverted or maybe even having trouble doing that? What would you -- maybe just a couple of words of advice for those folks?
00:25:30 Matt Millen: I think that’s a great question, actually. I’ll tell you this, I’m introverted. Not many people would know that. I’m looking at your expression. I’m introverted. If I got spare time, what would I go do? I go to the boat. I go in the garage. I don’t typically hang out with large groups of people, because I do so much of that professionally. I don’t want to do that when I have some time. And what I would tell people that are introverted that’s not an obstacle at all. What I do is I put a uniform on in the morning. I put on a uniform of a person that does the role. I can be on stage, I can be orating, I can be doing “this” like you’re having a great time in social circles or wherever it may be, but you do what’s required in the role. And you do it as part of the job if you’re introverted. You can still have fun doing it, it’s just not what you would naturally do if you have the time. But if you’re leading people, or you’re responsible for interaction with a customer, supplier, you can have a certain degree of effectiveness by certain interpersonal skills. So, I don’t think that label is a hindrance. It’s just something that you work with. Like, how do you show up. I use the metaphor “I put on a uniform.”
00:27:08 Ash Faraj: I love that. Now on to Gateway, so when you -- was it over like 300 sales and marketing professionals you had managed and coached there at Gateway? What advice would you give to a first-time manager, or somebody early in their career that eventually wants to become a manager and is currently working their way up. When they get to that role, just so we can kind of foresee some of those rough patches as a first-time manager. What were some of those rough patches you experienced?
00:27:42 Matt Millen: I would just say to everybody and anybody, everybody is a first-time at everything. The first time you get a job as an individual contributor, it’s your first time somebody took a chance on you versus hiring somebody that has done it before. Your first time managing people, you’ve never done it before. Somebody’s going to take a chance on you versus hiring an experienced people leader. Your first time becoming a director managing managers. Someone’s done it before, and they took a chance on you. Like at any time, when you’re looking to do something you haven’t done before, somebody has to take a chance on you. And taking a chance on you is a risk versus somebody who’s done it before. There’s just -- mistakes that you’ll make because it’s the first time that somebody who’s done it multiple times may not make. What I would say is how can you display readiness and how can you represent less risk. So, find whatever that next thing is that you want to do, and figure out, whatever it is, how can be you ready for it. What are things you can start doing right now to be as ready as you possibly can without actually doing what you want to go do. And how can you mitigate risk in that process? What competencies do you need to pick up? Talk to people in that role, get on cross-functional groups, get close to the people doing it, like get in that circle. So, as an example, work at the level above your level. If you’re a director and you want to become a VP, figure out how to get invited to meetings that the VPs go to, or when your boss is on vacation or your boss is out let me get in and let me cover for you. Let me see how that table works. What goes on at that table is very different than the table that the directors sit at in terms of the decisions, the pressures, the risks, the conversations. So how do I start to learn what happens at that table? When you start thinking that way, and even decision-making -- some advice I got early on, don’t make the decision from your desk. Make the decision from your boss’ desk. If I have to make a decision but how does that impact my peers? But if I have to make it for my boss then it’s a very different vantage point. How do you start up leveling the thought process, your decision-making? And by the way, your peer group, all of sudden you’re hanging out with the next level up; it’s a different world. And then you start sitting with them at lunch a little bit. It feels like things start to change, and then when you go for that role, they already know you. They’ve already seen your interactions. “Yeah, we’ll take a chance on Ash. He’s shown up strong in some of these meetings.” Again, how do you mitigate that risk and how do you get yourself in a position where someone will take a risk on you, versus taking a safer choice which is always available.
00:30:52 Ash Faraj: That makes a lot of sense. That’s very powerful stuff. After Gateway, you went over to Government --
00:31:02 Matt Millen: -- Acquisitions.
00:31:05 Ash Faraj: Was there anything you learned new there or was there any experiences that you feel would be powerful to share?
00:31:14 Matt Millen: Government Acquisitions was actually one of my customers at Gateway, so I did a lot of business with that organization. The owner and I were talking on a Saturday, and I don’t know whose crazy idea it was, but the next thing I know we’re putting a deal together. But what I learned there, more than anywhere else, was the importance of culture. I’d always taken a good culture for granted. Then you go somewhere that has a different culture. If you’ve got to create a sales culture and there wasn’t one that existed, it really made me appreciate how important culture is. How important it is to provide. And I wasn’t using this language back then, but how important it is to provide psychologically safe places for your people to do the best work of their lives. To feel supported. To know that they can count on you to do the right thing, and quite frankly to have some fun. Just to have a little bit of fun. I’ve put together a few leadership principles that I bring with me. One is empathy as defined by an understanding and appreciation for what the people on your team actually do. So many leaders have amnesia, meaning they forget what it was like to do the work, or work on the front line, or they never even did it. So how you can really understand and appreciate what your team is going through? Having empathy as defined by that is super important. Stay connected to what’s really going on and what they really need. Second is fun. We spend way too much time at work. If you’re not having fun, it’s a drag. I give everybody permission to have fun. Not my fun, your fun, whatever fun is. Have fun! Shooting nerf guns. Throwing a frisbee. I don’t care what it is. Make that part of our day. And then lastly, do the right thing. You got to do the right thing by your employee. You got to do the right thing by your customer. You got to be counted on to do the right thing. It’s not enough to throw a bean bag chair or a ping pong table [indiscernible] and think everything is good. We spend a lot of time and we want to live, learn, and grow.
00:33:40 Ash Faraj: Wow, that’s very powerful. How important do you think it is to do those fun things together. Or do you think it’s -- when you say fun, just do your fun alone or how important is it that you do fun together as a team?
00:33:56 Matt Millen: I think it’s whatever fun is. You know, I got a boss who thinks he’s having fun that he’s expecting everyone to have his fun with him.
00:34:01 Ash Faraj: Okay. [laugher]
00:34:03 Matt Millen: That’s not fun for me. But yeah, there was a guy at work who had a gas grill out back. And his idea of fun was that he brought a bunch of meat in and he barbequed meat for everybody. He was out there doing his own thing; he was having a blast. Everybody wasn’t out there with him. We just enjoyed the meat when it was done. But that was his fun. Other people, they go for a walk and they’re one-on-one. I bring a frisbee to work. If it’s nice out, go down to a park and throw a frisbee for a while. It doesn’t matter. Whatever fun is. Sometimes you do it as a group, a team, individual. Sometimes you just got to blow off some steam. People should feel like it’s okay to do that.
00:34:49 Ash Faraj: I know we talked about it, but can you share the story how that Tony Robbins opportunity came about, and then after that, maybe share a little bit of wisdom from working directly with Tony Robbins.
00:35:04 Matt Millen: I never in my life expected I’d be working for Tony Robbins. I actually went to one of his events. The day after his event, I got called out to San Diego for a different job interview, and while I was out there I got connected to his organization and ended up also interviewing for that, and ended up taking the job with Tony.
00:35:36 Ash Faraj: Yes, so let’s just take a step back. Did you go to his event because you wanted to hone your sales skills or why did you go to his event initially?
00:35:46 Matt Millen: A guy that used to work for me at Gateway was working with Tony and he invited me to the event as his guest. So next thing you know, I was spending a week with Tony’s organization; three days with his sales team, four days at the event and I left on fire. We really walked on hot coals one of the nights as part of the event.
00:36:12 Ash Faraj: How did you interview for his company? I’m trying to connect the dots.
00:36:16 Matt Millen: I was out in San Diego interviewing for another company. I ended up connecting with some folks in Tony’s organization through a mutual contact.
00:36:30 Ash Faraj: Like you decided out having drinks one day?
00:36:32 Matt Millen: I was literally flying out the next morning after two days of interviews. I get called to talk to Tony’s organization. I’m like, “Hey, let’s go out tonight for drinks.” They’re like, “Well, we can’t, but let’s do breakfast tomorrow morning.” So, I did a breakfast meeting with Tony’s president, another executive, and had a great conversation. Ended up going back to their office and ended up spending the full day with them, and the rest is history. I’ll tell you when someone asks me, what did you learn, what’s the big thing. First, Tony, is the real deal. He’s the most congruent individual I’ve ever met. What you see is what you get. He cares deeply. He wants the best for everybody. He’s got a special gift in who and how he is. He’s bigger than life. He’s the most unreasonable, most demanding individual I have ever worked for. The reason he gets such amazing results is because he demands it. He has the highest standards. But I would tell everyone, just in that mission statement, that the world is more fun when you’re doing something that matters to you, like it’s not work anymore. Like when there’s something -- you know, like people volunteer in their church, or certain organizations. You know, I volunteer for the PTSA and TEDx here in Seattle as an example. It’s not working there; it’s a love. If you can love what you do. You wake up earlier. You get more energy when you go in and do what you do. Like the little things that piss you off, that don’t matter. Nothing gets to you anymore. I would just suggest, if you figure out what you want to do then do something that excites you. For me it was selling. That’s exciting. I can help people get what they want and need, earn a good living doing it that’s super exciting. I can’t wake up early enough.
00:38:44 Ash Faraj: If you were to meet the 25-year old Matt, what advice would you give him?
00:38:50 Matt Millen: Oh, that’s hard and I’ll tell you why it’s hard. Because if I gave myself advice not to make all the mistakes I made, I wouldn’t be where I am. I think we learn so much from our mistakes. But what I would do, I would say is to find a better peer group and find mentors earlier. Like I discovered that a good seven years after my 25-year mark. I feel exhilarated when I see some of the folks today that work on my team, and they’re so much further ahead than where I was. And I keep encouraging them, you know, keep doing the hard work. They’re in a great place, so. I could have done that earlier.
00:39:36 Ash Faraj: What in your live so far has given you the most fulfillment?
00:39:42 Matt Millen: The most fulfillment to me is the echoes that come back from the deeds that we do, whether it’s personal or professional. If someone reaches out to you ten years later. If they were triggered by a memory of something you had done for them or an impact you had made. For me that reinforces who you are. Keep doing it. Whether it’s your family, a co-worker, whoever it is. When we experience these echoes of our being; to me that’s the highest fulfillment. What better reward is there? I think wealth is somebody who receives a lot of that in your life. Wealth isn’t money. A wealthy person is fulfilled. If you’ve done enough good in the right way these echoes and reverberations are coming at you.
00:40:44 Ash Faraj: On a personal level, what has been the happiest day so far in your life?
00:40:48 Matt Millen: You know, like, the wrong answer, I’m in trouble with my kids, I’m in trouble with my wife, I’m in trouble with my boss [laughter]. There’s been so many days that I would say that have been filled with magic. Not even happy days, but magic. I believe most of us have experienced like some moments in our life that are borderline magical. Like we’ve had these extraordinary experiences that could never be replicated. I’ve been very fortunate to have some of those days that I personally won’t forget. Just in terms that it’s beyond what you’d expect out of life. And again, that’s back to this wealth, like having experiences. I don’t know what the happiest day -- I like to think of the day I’m in is the happiest day because I’m actually in it. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow and I can’t relive it yesterday. I don’t think you’re making the most of where you are and what you’re doing if it isn’t that. I live in Seattle and always hear, “Where is your most favorite place to live?” Well, where I’m at! And they’re like, “What do you mean?” Well, if I told you like San Diego, or Boston, or Tampa, then I’d be longing for what I used to have. And what my wife and I do when we get to a new city, is we just figure out what people do around and just start participating in. Maybe it’s just a mindset shift. I’m focusing on today. I got today.
00:42:45 Ash Faraj: Speaking of magical moments, I feel like this conversation is a magical moment for me.
00:42:52 Matt Millen: I really enjoyed when we had a chance to meet a few months back.
00:42:57 I feel just subconsciously I learned a lot just from that day. The one thing I learned about you by the way, you have a longer silence than a lot of people, and it just gives like time to think. Whereas if you’re talking to the average person the silence won’t be that long. Because you know, our silences are awkward for humans. So, there won’t be a long -- Wait a minute isn’t he going to say something, it’s been like three seconds. Oh, okay he’s just doing that on purpose, so it’s time to think. So, I really appreciated that about you. If you could be a remembered for one thing, what would you want that to be?
00:43:38 Matt Millen: My energy. I bring energy into the environment that I’m in. Whether it’s an organization, the family, but I believe energy makes things happen. I like to be remembered -- people always remember me by my energy. My energy at work, or my energy at play, whatever it may be. But that’s how I want to be remembered.
00:44:13 Ash Faraj: In your opinion, what is the most important life skill?
00:44:15 Matt Millen: I think communication. The ability to effectively communicate ideas whatever that might be. I’m naturally drawn to amazing communicators.
00:44:38 Ash Faraj: What is something you tell someone who has no sales experience, but wants to master sales?
00:44:45 Matt Millen: That’s everybody who is selling for the first time. I would tell them find something that you’re passionate about and help people get it. Whether it’s surfboards or computers, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re passionate about you’ll be effective, because you have a real interest in what it is and helping people getting it the right way. Care about setting them up correctly. So, start off by, whatever it is, like whatever you’re most interested in, there’s a market for it.
00:45:19 Ash Faraj: Got it. You feel like if you don’t really love something it is hard to sell it?
00:45:23 Matt Millen: Yeah, I do think it’s hard. Like for me sales is a transferred energy. I’m helping you get what you want and need.
00:45:36 Ash Faraj: What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
00:45:40 Matt Millen: When I first got promoted to director at Tech Data, I went to see the president, Tim Godwin. I was the youngest director ever promoted in the company. And I said to Tim, “Hey, I need some advice” and Tim said to me, “Matt always walk soft, but when it comes time to kick ass have a big foot.”
00:46:05 Ash Faraj: Walk soft meaning just take things lightly?
00:46:10 Matt Millen: You don’t have to throw your weight around, you don’t have to throw your title around, but people should know you mean business.
00:46:15 Ash Faraj: I like that, interesting.
00:46:21 Matt Millen: It was really great advice.
00:46:24 Ash Faraj: And the last one: if you were stranded on an island and had access to one meal, what would that meal be for you?
00:46:30 Matt Millen: Pizzeria Regina from the Italian North End in Boston.
00:46:36 Ash Faraj: Thank you, thank you, thank you, so, so much for listening. If you found any value in this at all, please, please, please rate us on Apple podcasts, because we are really trying to help as many people as possible with the powerful community to help reach their full career potential. And the more ratings we have on Apple podcasts, the more people that we can truly, truly help. Now we’ll be releasing an episode every Sunday, so we hope you join us again next week. Take care, stay safe, and until then don’t hesitate to reach out.