How Freaks and Misfits Can Succeed in Business: A Conversation with Chris Brogan

Do you refuse to settle?

Do you want to do things your way?

Do you have a different way of looking at the world?

And, most importantly, are you looking for a way to make your weirdness an asset?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the four questions above, then I’ve got a great book recommendation for you.

And the author of said book (you know him well) is this week’s guest on The Lede:

Chris Brogan — New York Times best-seller and the founder of Owner Magazine.

In this episode, Chris and I discuss the following, all of which are central themes in his new book The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth:

  • Who is a “freak”?
  • Why are some freaks successful while others struggle?
  • What are some practical ways we can add more discipline to our daily lives?
  • What must a freak absolutely, positively master to succeed?
  • What is on Chris’ list of things to not do?
  • What is the difference between fitting in and belonging?
  • Why do so many of us not do the things we already know we should be doing?
  • How do you take the first step (and keep going)?
  • What action does Chris want users to take after they finish the book?

And that one time Chris and Brian Clark went rogue during a panel presentation — and the important lesson Chris learned from Brian (even if it took Chris many years to actually act on the advice).

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

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Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: How Freaks and Misfits Can Succeed in Business

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

Are you a freak? By that I mean, do you have a different way of looking at the world? Do you want to do things your way? Are you not a fan of settling or compromise? Yeah? And are you looking for a way to make your weirdness an asset? Then I’ve got a great book recommendation for you.

It’s the new one by Chris Brogan, entitled “The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdoes, Misfits, and World Dominators.” I ordered this book the day that it came out, I read it, and I got a lot out of it. So I asked Chris to come be a guest on The Lede, and he graciously agreed.

In this episode of The Lede, I will play for you my interview with Chris, in which we talk about a number of subjects including why some freaks are successful and others struggle, the difference between fitting in and belonging, and much, much more. It’s really an action-packed 15 minutes.

Oh, and that one time he and Brian Clark went rogue during panel discussions.

Interview with Chris Brogan

Jerod Morris: Are you someone who really wants to blend in and be part of the background, or do you secretly have a wild side and are awaiting the battle cry? This is the question posed in the intro of the new book “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth” written by a long-time friend of Copyblogger, Chris Brogan, who joins me on this episode of The Lede.

Chris, welcome to the show. How’s the book release going?

Chris Brogan: It’s fun. I’m enjoying it. I just found out the day that we were recording this that we signed global rights for China, so that’s kind of fun.

Jerod: Wow! Congratulations.

Chris: Thanks.

Jerod: Now, have you had books translated in China before?

Chris: I have. I’m very lucky that people were kind enough to buy Trust Agents in China and Korea, and a few other countries that were kind of fun and interesting. And then strangely, Social Media 101 and Google Plus for Business, my very-specifically-about-social-media books, were translated everywhere. My books that are about business usually don’t get as much of an opportunity.

Jerod: Well, very cool. Congratulations on that, and before we jump into some of the themes of the book, where’s the best place for people to get their hands on a copy?

Chris: Just go to callingallfreaks.com. That’s probably the easiest way to do it.

Who is a “freak”?

Jerod: All right. So let’s talk about a few themes, and it seems like the first thing we should do is define this book’s audience. So who are the freaks that you’re speaking to in this book?

Chris: These are people who want to take some kind of ownership of their life. They’re the people who have almost a tattoo-level passion about something in their business or whatever, that they’re just into this thing.

Sometimes they’re the employee-preneur, they’re the CEO of their own cubicle. Other times they run their own company. And it’s just the kind of people that really want to do the kind of work they want to do with the people that they want to do it, and in the way that they want to do it. That’s who I think a freak is.

What are some freaks successful and others not?

Jerod: I really enjoyed the book, so I definitely urge people to go read it. I really liked it. My favorite chapter was number 2, which is “The Wild Colors and the Solid Spine,” which is a great chapter title, by the way. And this is the chapter where you explain why some freaks are successful, and why some others are not. What keeps a lot of freaks from achieving their goals?

Chris: I have to tell you. So first off, it’s funny because I had to change the subtitle of that chapter because I had said something about what makes some freaks successful, and other freaks live in their mom’s basement, or beggars …

Jerod: (Laughs)

Chris: … or something like that. And my girlfriend Jacqueline said, “You know, that’s not really polite.”

Jerod: So you changed it to “strugglers.”

Chris: Strugglers, because maybe you’re a late bloomer or something. And it’s funny. First off is that a lot of times people are kind of cuckoo but don’t realize that it has to have some kind of end value, and that’s one of the first mistakes that some freaks are having trouble with.

There’s a difference between someone who’s a freak about, I don’t know, collecting pens. There could possibly be a business somewhere in there if you’re the kind of person who really loves pens and wants to help other people find the right pen for the job, or something. It’s a little less likely if you collect toenails. So you know, you’ve kind of got to find that. So there’s sort of a — do you know something, or are you into something that someone else might possibly be into, and if so, is it the kind of thing where they might somewhere along the way pay you for it.

And then along the way, there are all these missing ingredients that cause us not to do what we’re doing. Discipline. We worry about fear. There are all kinds of challenges with people saying that they don’t know what to do, so that they don’t know where to go next. There are a lot of things that get in the way, and so I just tried to knock as many of those down as I could.

What are some practical ways we can add more discipline to our daily lives?

Jerod: And you mention discipline, and I’m glad you mentioned that, because that was the section of this chapter that I liked the most, probably just because it’s been something I’ve been working on myself. So I wanted to tell you, one of your tips — you have that six-step framework for building discipline — it’s start and keep a streak going. I’m proud to say I’ve mostly succeeded doing that. I’ve been posting something I’m grateful for every day since I read that section with the hashtag “freak streak” on Google Plus, and I’m up to 25 now.

Chris: Wow!

Jerod: So thank you for inspiring that. I think it really does help. Can you explain that really quickly — why that’s important? Just to kind of start a streak and commit to it, and how that can help you kind of get that framework for discipline?

Chris: Well, discipline, if there was sort of a small, little piece of a formula for it, it would sort of be “experience + training + time” or something like that. It’s one of these deals where as you learn some stuff and you train yourself to learn how to do it a little bit better over time.

The plus time part of it, keeping a streak going, a lot of times somebody will say to me, “I’m really crappy at public speaking,” and I’ll be like, “Well, how often have you been on a stage?” And they’ll be like, “Twice, and both times were horrible.” And I was like, “Well, how many other things in your life have you done only twice that you were really damn good at?” You know?

Everything that we do in life that we’re pretty good at, we’ve done a bunch of times, whether or not there’s practice of some kind in between. I mean, Yo-Yo Ma, quite famously — somebody said, “You still practice four hours a day? Why do you practice four hours a day? You’re Yo-Yo Ma.” And he said, “I’m Yo-Yo Ma because I practice four hours a day.” And so to me, that’s the deal. Keep something going. And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing daily.

What must a freak absolutely, positively master to succeed?

Jerod: And part of the problem, I think, people have with that is finding the time to do it. And so another quote you have from the book that I loved is:

Let me be clear. You will not inherit the earth, nor will you be successful at most anything, if you can’t figure out and master time.

And you go on to provide some really great, essential time-mastery hacks. Which ones help you the most in your daily life?

Chris: Oh yeah. First off, there are a couple of things.

I’ll tell you one of the first things I always tell people that always blows their mind, is I only schedule my days 40 percent full. And people are always mind-blown by this. “What? I mean, we’re all so busy!” And I always say, “You don’t run your car at 100 percent all the time. You don’t run your computer at 100 percent. There’s no other system that you run in your life at 100 percent. So why would you run your day at 100 percent? That means one sick kid ruins everything. It crashes down. You forget your passport, so you’ve got to go back to your house before you go to the airport. I mean, if you don’t have the time to do these kinds of things, this is why you make many more mistakes.

So another thing that people do is they waste their time. It’s really funny. We treat money as if it’s super-precious and we hoard it when we shouldn’t, and we treat time as if it’s absolutely something we’ve got an endless supply of and we waste it, when we don’t have that kind of time.

So to me, I have a huge list of things I don’t do. I have a huge list of things–I mean, even this podcast. You said, “Hey, I want to interview you for the thing,” and I said, “Great, if you do it briefly.” That was the first thing I said. I’m protecting my time here. So I think those things are important.

I think always having some kind of a plan. Any time you go into anything without a plan it stinks, and it’s not to say that you need to be sort of anal-retentive the whole of your life. But even going to the beach. If you have a small, little checklist it’s going to save you from the “Oh yeah, I forgot sunscreen,” moment. So I think that there are just a lot of opportunities to do a lot more with time.

Jerod: It’s a good thing you said that, too, because I had about two hours’ worth of questions I could have asked.

Chris: Well, sure! That’s the thing. I listen to a lot of podcasts which feel like they seem to have all the time in the world, and I feel like we don’t even have all the time to listen in the world. How do we have all the time to do these interviews?

Jerod: No, it’s a great point.

What is the difference between fitting in and belonging?

Jerod: So shifting gears really quickly. Early in the book you talk about the difference between fitting in and belonging, which I thought was really interesting. And it’s an important distinction within this context of “freak.” So what’s the difference between fitting in and belonging?

Chris: To me, the whole thing about fitting in versus belonging is all about this whole sense of shaving off your unique edges and hiding what makes you who you are. That’s what fitting in means.

  • Fitting in means “stop doing those things that make you kind of a weirdo.”
  • Belonging is when you find the weirdoes who totally get what you’re into.

If I head out to a group of people and I say something about Burpees: “Everyone loves them!” … Cross-fitters and Spartan race people all totally get that joke, because Burpees are evil. And if I make a joke about “roll your wendy-20 save against stupidity,” the Dungeons and Dragons kids know what I’m talking about. And we love that moment. We love that moment when we’re kind of amongst people who know what we’re doing.

Somebody recently was having trouble with their iPhone, and they just pulled the iPhone out of their pocket, turned it to one edge, and blew on it like they were trying to blow the dust out of the video game cartridge from the old 1980s video games, and I was like, “Wow.” He was like, “My people here.” And so it’s in those moments when we find people that we belong. That’s who we really want to do business with.

So what I really have deeply in my heart is that there’s just a whole other way to look at everything that we’re not doing right now, which is very much that we’re worrying too much about fitting in, and we’re not worrying enough about belonging with the people we want.

Why do so many of us not do the things we already know we should be doing?

Jerod: Another great quote of yours that I like because I think it’s so practical is, “You’ll find that a lot of what I preach comes off as common sense, yet what’s most magical about it is that so few people practice these skills.” Which really echoes some advice that Darren Rowse gave at Authority Intensive recently, when he essentially said that he doesn’t have any secrets to share, but it’s that success was more about doing the things we already knew we should be doing. Which sounds so simple, but why do so many folks seem to struggle with that?

Chris: First off, we’re addicted to distraction. We love thinking “Maybe someone else knows a better way to do this, and I should learn that, because I’m probably not smart enough to do it.” That’s a huge one.

Another is that we quite often have this feeling that we’re not good enough. That’s one for sure.

And another is just that we get lazy, and we’re complacent. We think, “Oh yeah, this is good enough for right now,” and we love “good enough.”

“The enemy of the great is the good,” is one of those old quotes that’s totally and utterly true. But what I find is that the things that I do daily, and the things that I do work on that are the least sexy things that I do, are what are yielding the most results. And that the more I do those things, the more I’m seeing a great result from them. And I’m getting into it.

The things that turn me on the most, kind of my new personal porn, are things that everyone else has done and dismissed years ago. I love e-mail marketing more than any other tool. I love Evernote and adding tags to things in Evernote that I’m actually going to refer to, as opposed to these people who just store stuff like chipmunks with big mouths.

How do you take the first step (and keep going)?

Jerod: Now, you mentioned something interesting. You said one reason why people don’t do what they already know they should be doing is they don’t feel like they’re good enough. And maybe that kind of goes along with this idea of “freaks” and feeling like maybe you don’t fit in. Having to find that belonging. How does someone who feels like that who isn’t quite sure, but thinks differently, how do they take that first step to start doing those things? How do they start to believe that they are good enough?

Chris: One of them is to start thinking about where you feel most comfortable with people, and where can you see yourself letting go of some of your fear. That’s a huge thing to think about. Where do you feel that when you talk to the people, you can actually exhale as well as talk? That’s maybe a good starting point.

And from there, what can you do to be part of that community in a way that you can actually serve them? I actually got that advice from Brian Clark.

He and I were on the stage. We were in this horrible panel. I shouldn’t be mean to people. But the person interviewing us was not especially good. She didn’t know us very well. She didn’t have any real questions of any great value. So we just decided to turn the answers. Everything she said, we just turned the answers into what we felt like talking to each other about.

And one of the things Brian said was, “I see, ” pointing to me, “I see you kind of running all over the place, chasing every fly ball that’s out in front of you,” and at that time in my life the opportunities were coming at me faster than I could handle. And he said, “You know how I parse these? I just think, “Which one of these is the best for my community? Which one of these will give me the best opportunity to help the people that have given me their attention?” And I thought, “Wow! That’s a great sorting hat.”

And then I proceeded to not do that for five years, because every bit of advice Brian gives me, it takes five years to actually execute. But I always do it.

The other thing too is if you’re starving, it’s not the right time to start thinking about what kind of garden to plant. You have to eat first. And so I always say to people, “Seeds are for planting, and sometimes for eating.” And if you’re in the “starving” mode, that’s not when to make these decisions. At that point, just eat. Go get a job. Go do something. Go get some cash. Then figure out where you want to be when you grow up.

And that’s kind of where it gets trickier. I tell people all the time, Take small bites. Try not to let your failures mess other people, but just get into failure. And the more you can get into failure, the more you can learn from it, and start to reset and build better stuff.”

What action does Chris want users to take after they finish the book?

Jerod: Wow. That’s great advice, Chris. My final question for you. This time has gone so fast.

Chris: Wow, Jerod!

Jerod: So the final section of the book is called “Take Action! Fight Crime! Save the World!” Complete with exclamation points, which I love. And that first phrase is really the crux of the section. Take action. What action do you want people to take after they finish your book?

Chris: I laid it right out. This is a frustration Julian Smith and I have had since the first book. We wrote “Trust Agents” together, and we wrote also “Impact Equation” together, and we’ve both written books since. And here’s what happens. You can see because of Twitter.

I’ll see somebody and they’ll say, “I just finished Trust Agents,” now reading “Crush It.” “Just finished “Crush It,” now on to this.” They read books as if it’s bingo. And they’re not saying, “Now taking an action based on the book.”

So for years all the books that Julian and I have ever written, in any form or fashion except for my book of poetry, all have instruction in them. And so in this case, I went even crazier and said, “I’m going to make a chapter like, ‘do this damn stuff!’” and it kind of recounts what’s in the rest of the book.

But I want people to declare that they’re a freak. I want people to define what makes them successful. I want people to figure out some skills that are going to help them get there, and figure out the framework that goes in it. And then there are just all the other steps of what it takes to do the book.

And I think that really, the next to last thing in there is, I tell people, “be ready for the bad times,” because that’s the other thing that screws up everybody’s attempt to be a freak. They somehow forget that maybe there’s going to be a bad moment, and they somehow cash it all in when that bad moment hits.

Jerod: Excellent advice, Chris. I really, really did enjoy the book. Thank you for writing it, and I encourage everybody to get it. Thanks for your time, and sharing some of your thoughts with us on The Lede.

Chris: My utter pleasure, Jerod. Thank you.

Jerod: All right. I will talk to you soon, Chris.

Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede, and my thanks again to Chris Brogan for taking the time to join me. Once again, if you are enjoying these episodes, if you’re getting a lot out of them, we sure would appreciate a rating or a review on ITunes. Tweet about us, e-mail the show to a friend. We would appreciate any way that you can help us spread the word. And don’t forget, if you like Stitcher, you can now subscribe to The Lede on Stitcher. Just go to copyblogger.com/stitcher, and you can add us to your playlist.

All right. We’ll be back next week with another episode. Until then. Talk to you soon, everybody.

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*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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