Many of us take the path of entrepreneurship with the goal of becoming rich and successful. However, this episode’s guest is not like many of us. Jeff Hoffman did not set out to be an entrepreneur. He simply set out to live a life that, for him, would be worth living. Years later, he finds himself as an award-winning global entrepreneur, proven CEO, worldwide motivational speaker, best-selling author, and Hollywood film producer. What is the secret to a life worth living? How did it lead him to success? In this episode, Jeff joins Julie Christopher to take us across his journey—from working hard for his education to realizing his dreams. He taps the time of awakening we have today, where we’re given a huge opportunity to create massive abundance, and offers some advice to entrepreneurs out there facing the massive wall of adversity. Don’t miss out on more wisdom by tuning in!
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Entrepreneurship: Discovering A Life Worth Living With Jeff Hoffman
With this episode, we have an amazing featured guest. Our guest is none other than Jeff Hoffman. Who’s Jeff? Jeff is an award-winning global entrepreneur, proven CEO worldwide, motivational speaker, best-selling author and Hollywood film producer. Jeff has been part of several well-known successful startups, including Priceline.com. His a speaker having been invited to speak in over 60 countries. He speaks on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship and business leadership.
He’s the author of the book Scale, how to guide for growing your business. Jeff also teaches innovation workshops to major corporations regularly. Outside of the world of technology, Jeff has produced TV Shows, a movie in Hollywood, musical events, including concerts, tours, charity events with such artists as Elton John, Britney Spears and others. He serves in numerous charities in nonprofit boards. We are so blessed to have Jeff Hoffman on the show.
Bonjour, Jeff. Welcome to the show. I am so grateful that you’re here to share your magic and wisdom to all of us entrepreneurs on the path to success. When I think of Jeff Hoffman something comes up and it’s this guru or Yogi master in disguise. In your field, you hone this aspect of not only charisma but humility and compassion. It’s such a gift to be in your presence in your gift. My first question to you is this. Did you always know that you wanted to be a successful entrepreneur? Was there a defining moment, a dream or a wake-up call that led you down the path to becoming a self-made man billionaire?
The answers are yes and no. Let’s take the first part of that. I did not set out to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t ever focus on money or success. What I did, though, was have some particularly big dreams and I’ll explain them because I grew up in the Arizona desert with a single mom who had four kids. In a lot of the areas that I grew up in, there were a lot of people that everything was fine how it was. They were going to spend the whole rest of their lives right there doing the same things. There’s no right or wrong. Never would I judge any of those people but that wasn’t working for me.
I had this travel bug when I was a young kid in the middle of nowhere with no money and no way ever to believe I was going to travel but it came from a Mark Twain book we had read in school where Mark Twain had a quote where he said, “Travel is the fatal enemy of prejudice.” I was up all night the day I read that quote. I was thinking, “Somehow, Mark Twain is talking to me.” Who knew I would read this quote and got to figure out what that means?
I sat there all night and realized that you couldn’t become even close to being a fulfilled human being, whatever that means or for me to evolve to be the person I want to be one day until I can develop empathy and understanding, which you can’t develop until you spend time getting to know people who are not like you. You don’t become a complete person spending all your time around people like you. That struck me.
I got this crazy idea as a kid. Here was my thought on how I could get to that next level, which was, “I shouldn’t judge anybody in the world on until I have had a chance to break bread with them in their home.” I thought, “If I went and visited a Muslim family in a Muslim country and had dinner in their house with their family and kids, only then could I begin to have an opinion about them.” How are you judging people you don’t even know? I thought, “Here’s my life goal. I want to have dinner with families in their homes in 50 different countries.”
When I started telling people that was my dream, all everybody ever did is laugh. “You’re broken with a single mom in the middle of nowhere. You are not going anywhere. Get a job.” I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to live my life, not somebody else’s. I wanted to do the things I wanted to do, which is what I explained to you. Entrepreneurship was never about business or money. I didn’t even know the word until much later in my life. What it was self-determination. I said, “I will find some way to go do this thing that everybody is telling me will never happen.” Everybody tells you that you can’t and no and all the negatives.You don't become a more complete person spending all your time around people exactly like you. Click To Tweet
I was like, “There’s got to be some way I could design my future so that before I die, I can have dinner with 50 different families in 50 different countries.” That was a big focus. That’s the first part of your question. I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I set out to live a life that, for me, would be worth living. The second part of your question is very important because it’s where the dots connect and where I understood that entrepreneurship was the answer to my question. “How can I ever live the life I want to live from where I am in the middle of nowhere with no money and means?”
You asked me about a defining moment. The defining moment was that I thought the start of my journey, the first step was a good education. There was a specific program at a specific university that I wanted. It was a program at Yale University. In my big public school, where most people didn’t even go to college, I said to a guidance counselor, “I want to try to go to Yale.” That was even a lot harder laughter.
I was told this, “People like us don’t go to places like that.” I was like, “Not with that attitude.” She said, “Be realistic. There are great community colleges nearer.” I said, “Why is this unrealistic?” She said, “It’s not going to happen.” I worked hard to achieve this dream of going to Yale. I got in and went to Yale. On the first day of classes, they called my name out, sent me down to the finance department and told me, “You can’t go to school here because you didn’t pay. You got in but you didn’t pay.” I said, “We don’t have any money. We sent what we could.” They said, “It doesn’t work that way.” To be fair, that’s right. You can’t go to a restaurant and eat then when they bring you the bill, say, “I don’t have any money.”
They said, “You can’t go here.” I was not letting that dream go because that education I thought was the starting point for my 50-country journey. I’ll be honest with you since we’re friends. I spent most of the afternoon sitting on the stairs outside crying. I got that out of my system and said, “That’s done.” It sucks when something you worked so hard for your dream is shattered and taken away for you, especially for a horrible reason like money. I said, “I’m not going home. I’m not going to let the world win. What can I do? I got to find a way to pay for this education.”
Money is not the point. I didn’t sit there dreaming about money. I sat there dreaming about commencement and I was in the line getting a diploma like all these rich kids, even though I had no idea how to get there. I started my first company on the second day of class. I started a software company and ran it the whole time I was in college. I funded my entire education and graduated in four years. What was the turning point? It was graduating and standing there with the diploma.
I said, “I had a big dream and a big problem. I figured out that if you have big dreams and you’re willing to work as hard as your dream is big, nobody can stop you. It’s on you.” When I graduated, I even had the treasurer of the university laugh. I said, “Why is this funny?” He said, “We had a betting pool. Your freshman year, four years ago, on what month you would finally go home and give up. For the record, nobody bet on graduation.” I said, “Maybe all you did was throw gasoline on a fire. The fact that every one of you thought I would quit and go home, fired me up more.”
When I left, I felt like this, “Come on, world. Bring it on.” Big problems, big dreams, hard work. There is a way that you can design your future. That was the turning point. I said, “Next time I have a big goal, I believe that I might have a shot at achieving it because nobody thought this one was possible. It was possible at all and I was able to get here.”
Jeff, I’m speechless. I apologize but I got emotional because I can relate so much to people and my blood family telling me growing up, “Who do you think you are? You are too stupid to go to school.” I was dyslexic because I was seeing things as mystical. I couldn’t go to school, Jeff. My school began on the street. I got so emotional because you hit a nerve not only for me but for the millions of entrepreneurs who are going through this.
The lesson, which is exactly what you and I both did is to stop listening to all those people. For the most part, not everybody but most people in the world would rather see you fail because then they don’t have to try. They’re not mad at you or hate you. What they don’t like is that they gave up on all their dreams. When they’re telling you, “You’re too stupid to succeed,” it’s because they don’t want to see you succeed. If so, they’ll feel bad. “If she did that, battled dyslexia, all these other things and succeeded anyway then what excuse do I have?” People are more comfortable when you fail because then they can say, “See? It makes no sense to even try.” It isn’t about you. It’s about them. What you need to do is stop listening to the people that are telling you no.
Be unreasonable. That’s you.
That’s where all the great things happen by people that are not being unreasonable. Like you, I was told that many times in my life.
We are living in the age of enlightenment because it is. Do you see this time of awakening and radical change as a huge opportunity to create massive abundance?
I do and it is the upside of the world we live in. The downside, we all know it, especially in a pandemic but it was bad before the pandemic. A lot of people are spending way more time online, less time interacting with actual human beings, breathing fresh, seeing nature, hugging somebody, sitting down where you can make eye contact and talk to all those things. The negative is we’re too device-driven. The other negative out there is in a world of social media where everybody is pretending their life is amazing.
People are posting these Facebook pictures about their incredible weekend and how great their life is. I remember one. Somebody photoshopped a picture of themselves standing in front of a private jet saying, “I’m getting on a private jet to jet away to my island vacation.” Thirty minutes later somebody posted a picture of that same person in the middle seat on a Southwest Airlines flight going to somewhere in the Midwest and said, “You’re lying.” He got caught. His apology was, “I wanted people to think I had a great life.”
Social media is trying to keep up with everybody else and feeling inadequate. Those are the negatives. Let’s talk about the positives. The positives about this moment in time are that we can be online like you and I are. We can connect and tap into the collective intelligence, creativity and wisdom of the human race in a way that we couldn’t before.If you have big dreams and you're willing to work hard, there should be nobody that can stop you. Click To Tweet
I was on a call where I was talking to young leaders all across Africa. They were in all different African nations and we were all in one call. I was mentoring them, giving them advice and helping them plan out their lives. I would not be able to do that without this level of technology. Instead of us discussing the future of Africa with leaders in all different African Nations that are designing the future, we would have never met each other. This technology enables us to communicate, share and tap into each other in ways that we could never do before. This is a moment in time. The other thing that it does is it highlights for people what could be.
I’m going to back up a little in time, which our younger viewers won’t know. There was a moment in time where we had the Berlin Wall separating communists or the need from West Germany. People said, “What brought down the Berlin Wall?” The answer was not Western East Germans. It was CNN. Trust me, I was out on the wall those nights. I was in Germany. It was because people on the communist side saw television for the first time. They saw people in Western Europe having a good life. They said, “Everybody doesn’t live like this. We’ve been lied to. This isn’t the way the world is and we won’t accept it anymore.”
Social media and the online connected world provide us the same thing. People in different parts of the world get a chance to talk to people and the other part of the world may say, “How is it where you live?” It’s causing people to say, “The whole Arab Spring,” when all the Arab countries are over through their governments. It’s because young people in those countries were talking to their equivalents in other countries who were saying, “We don’t have to put up with that. Why are you putting up with that? Don’t stand for it.” This globally connected world is enabling people to see a better way to live, share ideas, combine their creativity and create a collective wisdom that’s a 1 plus 1 equals 5 things. It’s a great moment to be alive for all those reasons.
You speak the truth, which is the impact that you’re making. You also touch a nerve when you start talking about we don’t hug anymore. There’s social media and technology. We’re coming to our third question. You’re such an intuitive that you knew what was going on. A new-ish silent business disease is an overload of information. I call it infobesity, the data, the inflammation of the mind. What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who have to thrive with this massive wall of adversity, this inflammation of the mind, stress, this disease that’s silent and it’s affecting all of us entrepreneurs?
It’s so funny you asked that because I was mentoring entrepreneurs all day. In three of the sessions, my advice to these entrepreneurs was, “Get all that crap out of your head and off your desk and simplify. Pick one simple path through. Take one thing out of all that mess of data, ideas and information and go finish it.” People are getting so caught up and overwhelmed that they’re paralyzed.
I told three different entrepreneurs, “Forget all that. Pick up one thing. Push all the rest of the stuff off of your desk and don’t look at it anymore until that one thing is done. Pick something to focus on and to finish. You will feel much better about yourself as a human and you’ll do much better as a business that you got something done instead of having twenty unfinished projects. How about having one finished project or product?” Stop worrying about it all. You’ll never keep up and get it all done. Pick the one thing you feel passionate about and go do that.
Stay present. Stay in the moment to accomplish that goal and don’t worry about what’s going on out there.
You can’t worry about everything. You schedule time. I take a few minutes every single morning before I do what I’ve got that’s on my list to go look at the commotion. I do that every day. When I start the day, I will take some time to say, “What’s the rest of the world up to? What do I need to know?” Once I was done with that on my schedule and done with that time of sticking my head in the noise, I pulled my head back out into a quiet room and finished what I needed to get done.
You have to be able to stay focused on what you have to do. You can’t do that all the time because you got to look up sometimes. My advice is to schedule time. I do that for fifteen minutes before I start every day. The first thing I do is say, “For fifteen minutes, I’m going to go see what’s going on in the rest of the world.” When the alarm goes off, I’m done. I have things I have to get done and I have to tune the rest of that out until tomorrow. It’s too easy to get distracted but you’re right. People are most addicted. It’s a real thing.
I love the fifteen minutes because that’s what we can do. We all have the choice to take action and do that. This is great and simple.
It’s what parents are dealing with their kids in screen time. Limit it. If you tell your kids, “You got X screen minutes, hours, whatever of screen time of day,” they’ll use it for what they want to use it for. They’ll get to be able to focus on everything else but leaving those devices on around the clock is a huge distraction for young people.
When it comes to making decisions, Jeff, in your business and life, do you listen to your bus-tuition AKA business intuition? How effective is it for you?
I always tell people that your intuition and gut instinct needs to fire their marketing manager and get a new one. The reason is when you tell somebody that you decided on your gut instinct and intuition, it sounds like you made a quick decision without a lot of data and it might be irrational. The truth is the opposite. Your intuition should rebrand itself and it should call itself your fast intelligence. Your intuition is the total of every mistake you’ve ever made and everything you’ve ever done right. When my intuition says, “Turn left here,” I should turn left here because it reflects on everything I’ve ever done before this moment. I trust my intuition in business.
Is it right 100% of the time? No, nothing’s right 100% of the time but it’s right way more often than the times where I stopped, get unsure, doubt myself, think too much, overthink the situation, overanalyze it, collect too much data and then wind up realizing I should have turned left anyway. Intuition is important because your intuition is the total of everything you’ve ever done, every good decision and bad decision. When something in your gut is saying, “Turn left,” then turn left. My intuition has served me very well because I decided to trust it.
You have the billions, mega successes and relationships in heart with Hollywood stars. What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know?
Let me tell you the way that I wrote this realization on my whiteboard. What I wrote was we get our advice from proximity and not from relevance. What that means is the people you listen to that are telling you, “Your idea is stupid. Your idea’s good. You’re not good enough,” or maybe falsely telling you you’re way smarter than you are, those people are proximity. They’re telling you and you’re listening to that because they’re next to you. It’s your mom, dad, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister or best friend.
Relevance is the people that are living the life you want to live. In my case, that was no one in my entire family or friends. My parents’ friends were corporate people. I didn’t want to work in a big corporate. It’s not right or wrong. I didn’t want to do that. They only knew about corporate careers. The point is, everybody that was telling me what was right or wrong and whose advice I was listening to are the people around me and none of them were relevant.Big problems, big dreams, hard work. There is a way that you can design your future. Click To Tweet
I’ll tell you a story. One day, my mom was telling me how stupid one of my internet ideas was. I was thinking, “I must be wrong. This is mom.” All of a sudden, I turned to her and said, “Mom, are you telling me this because of all the internet companies you’ve built and your experience?” She said, “What are you talking about? I’ve never built an internet company.” I said, “Exactly so why are you telling me if my idea is good or bad?”
She said, “It’s because I care about you.” I said, “I get it but that doesn’t make your opinion valid.” That was the day I said, “I got to stop listening to proximity and find some relevance.” I went out in the community and I said, “Here’s the question I would ask all of your audience. Find somebody in the world that you want to be like when you grow up. I don’t care how old you are. You never finished growing up. Who is someone in the world do you want to be like?”
I found one. There was a guy in our community named Roger. I said, “Someday, I want to be like Roger. I love my parents. I don’t want to be them but I’d like to be like Roger.” I reached out. I called and emailed Roger. It took three months before I ever got a meeting with the guy. He became my mentor. The answer to your question that I wish I had known then was that you’ve got to find relevance. What that means is, find your tribe. When Eric and I met, it took us five minutes. People asked how many years we’d known each other the day we met. “Have you guys have known each other for a long time?” I was like, “No, Eric and I just met at this event.”
It was funny because that’s your tribe. You know them when you see them. It’s people that are the same as you, that have the same values and look at the world the same way. That cracked me up. The person said, “How long have you guys been friends?” I was like, “Seriously, I met him today.” Find your tribe. I wasted a lot of time being upset listening to a lot of people when I was younger that I should have never wasted my time listening to them. That’s what I would advise my younger self. Don’t worry about those people. You had it. You had all those people telling you, you were too stupid and giving you all this bad advice that upset you that if only you knew then what you know, you would have laughed instead of being upset about it but we didn’t know that.
I like to play a little game. It’s called truth or dare. Truth or dare, Jeff? Pick one.
I live for the dare. Life’s an adventure. Who wants to take the safe path?
What’s the most impactful, mystical experience in your journey? Dare to share.
There have been a few but one came to mind as soon as you said that. It was a moment that I was a sitting of all places in Cambodia. I was sitting on the banks of the Mekong River in the dirt and mud in my business clothes. Cambodia’s population is 75% of kids. They are 26 and younger. Cambodia has a civil war. All their parents killed each other so the whole country is youth. A bunch of the young kids came and got me after a business conference. We wandered away from the city and business. We went out in the mud and jungle. We sat on the banks of a river in Cambodia to talk.
I looked around and there was no furniture. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m in business clothes. They’re not. If I sit, I’m going to be as dirty as everybody else.” I sat and was like, “What the hell? It’s only dirt.” I sat on the side of this river and started talking with these kids. We wound up sitting there totally unplanned all night until the sun came up.
The mystical part was when the sun came up, instead of feeling, “I’m in the middle of nowhere right on the banks of this river, sitting in the mud with a bunch of kids talking about their lives and giving advice, instead of back in my fancy hotel in my nice clothes,” what I thought was, this moment, everything about it felt mystical. The moon was full and it was shining on the water, river and moderate temperature that day.
Everything about that moment, I stopped and said, “The entire path of my life, I was supposed to wind up right here, right now at this moment.” That’s why it was mystical. I was staring up at the sky and the kids were like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “I’ve never been better.” They’re like, “We dragged you out into the jungle to sit at the side of a river all night.” I said, “I can’t think of any place I would rather be than here with you.” It was one of those moments where it was like an out-of-body mystical experience but it helps cement for me that I know what I want to do with the rest of my life.Intuition is your fast intelligence because it is the sum total of every mistake you've ever made and everything you've ever done. Click To Tweet
I want to find more moments like this. I still keep in touch with a number of them regularly as they navigate through their lives without any parents anymore in modern-day Cambodia trying to make things work. A lot of them stayed in touch with me but that was it. It was a mystical moment for me where I said, “The world that I live in with fancy Blaine’s, meetings, cars, big buildings and nice sound, all that stuff that has no way less power for me than that moment does.” I realize one of these things is way more powerful for me than the other. One of them lights me up and gives me energy. It was that one, not the one I thought it would be. You would have loved that moment.
When you speak about it, you see it. When you share this story with us, I see it as a movie. I see you and those kids. I feel your compassion and I mean it. The reason that millions of people love you so much is that you have the golden heart that you have, Jeff. It is a true honor to share your divine presence with us.
Thank you for having me as your guest.
Number seven and seven is magical. What’s the next big bang in Jeff Hoffman’s universe? How can other mystical mavericks connect with you?
The next one that I’m still working on is preparing this whole next generation of youth to be better world leaders than my generation was. My next big thing is figuring out how do we inspire, motivate, advise, mentor, anything we can do to help this next generation of youth globally. I have more of a children’s charity and it’s called World Youth Horizons. It’s my entity so that we can make sure that money goes directly to children around the world. The thing probably that I care most about next is trying to figure out new programs. We’ve already done things like building schools, funding orphanages, sending kids off to school and providing them all kinds of resources. We’ve been working with kids and teaching them.
We have a youth event that I’m part of coming up. We will have 20,000 kids online at one time and we’ll be talking to them about STEM, careers, arts and tech, especially for kids of all different colors that aren’t normally exposed to tech careers, as an example. That’s it. Trying to figure out how do we prepare this next generation of youth to lead in a way that no generation has ever led before? I believe they’re capable so that’s it. I don’t know what all the programs will be but we’re working on it. If people do want to help, we do have the site, WorldYouthHorizons.com but I’m easy to find on LinkedIn or I’m honestly Jeff at JeffHoffman.com.
You are so humble and amazing. I feel safer that I know what your next goal for the world is. I’m telling you because with you in the all-new world, our children, my children, who were teaching entrepreneurship and the ways of leaving self-realization are in good hands, Jeff Hoffman. The world is in a much better place with you for our future entrepreneurs.
We are trying to do our part. Thank you very much.
We are going to take a closure to this episode with our fabulous, extreme, humble and compassionate Jeff Hoffman. This is our episode. We welcome you to join our tribe, Mystical Mavericks, which is also a group on Facebook. We thank you for reading. We send you lots of love and light. May you turn your life into extraordinaire. Merci beaucoup. À bientôt.
You have read the episode with Jeff Hoffman. Here’s the lesson from Jeff. Three things, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, find a mentor and a tribe. Second, educate yourself. It’s very important. Number three, seek relevance and not proximity. Stop listening to the people in your life that are judgmental or criticize you for wanting to have success and a big dream. Dream bigger. Believe in yourself. That’s it. That’s our episode with Jeff. We thank you for being here. We hope that you return to more episodes. We are going to interview incredible guests in our next episode. You don’t want to miss this. Join our Facebook group. Thank you for reading and à bientôt.
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About Jeff Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman is a successful entrepreneur, proven CEO, worldwide motivational speaker, bestselling author, Hollywood film producer, a producer of a Grammy-winning jazz album, and executive producer of an Emmy Award-winning television show. In his career, he has been the founder of multiple startups, he has been the CEO of both public and private companies, and he has served as a senior executive in many capacities. Jeff has been part of a number of well-known successful startups, including Priceline.com/Booking.com, uBid.com and more.
Jeff serves on the boards of companies in the US, Europe, the Middle East, South America, Africa, and Asia. He supports entrepreneurs and small businesses on a worldwide basis. He is the Chairman of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, which works with entrepreneurs in 180 countries, as well as being a founding board member of The Unreasonable Group. He supports the White House, the State Department, the United Nations, and similar organizations internationally on economic growth initiatives and entrepreneurship programs.
Jeff is a frequent keynote speaker, having been invited to speak in over 60 countries. He speaks on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and business leadership, and is the author of the book SCALE, a how-to guide for growing your business. Jeff also teaches innovation workshops to major corporations on a regular basis.