Ep 406: Turning Your Story Into A Message with Damon West

AJV (00:02):
Hey, y’all, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand podcast. This is AJ Vaden to hear AJ Vaden here. And I am joined today with a newer friend, ab, but a friend who has lots of mutual friends with myself and Rory. So, so glad to be adding Damon West to our list of amazing guests on this podcast, but also a new friend in our, you know, circle. So before I start this interview, I want to remind everyone, as I always do, why you should stick around and who this podcast was uniquely designed for. So, number one, if you have a desire to write and publish books, speak on stages, and get your message out into the world, which should be most of you, which is why you listen to this podcast. This is an episode that you wanna listen to because we’re gonna talk about how Damon went from, you know football player, college football to prison, to author, speaker on stages, and a lot of things in between there.
AJV (01:05):
But ultimately, it’s like, it does not matter where you are today. If you have that desire on your heart, there is a way to make all of the things of your past a part of this story that leads you to where you wanna be. And so we’re gonna delve into that. We’re also gonna talk about just how do you do that? Like, how do you get outta prison and go, I’m gonna change my life. I’m gonna do something different. I’m gonna make different choices. And they’re big and they’re bold, and they’re not what I expected. And I know a lot of people in our community are entering into new phases of their life, and perhaps it’s not that dramatic, right? That transformative, but to some degree, we’re starting over. It’s a new time on our life, whether it’s we’ve sold a business, starting a new business, we’re leaving a company trying to go out on our own.
AJV (01:50):
We’re trying to take this side hustle. We’ve been doing it and making it our full-time thing. Or maybe you’re just stepping out on a limb for the first time going, man, I want to do this, but I am scared now. This is hard and new, and what am I doing? Like, what am I crazy? So it doesn’t matter where you fall within that spectrum, this is a podcast that is gonna be uniquely inspiring and informative to you. So I encourage you to stick around. So now I could give you a whole bunch of background bio. I mentioned a little bit of it, but as I formally introduced Damon here are just f to me. Here’s a couple of things that I think would be really powerful for you to know. Is one yes, he did go to prison. I think you should know, like, this is someone who, when they talk about setbacks, when they talk about, oh yeah, I made some bad choices. Like this led to some pretty severe consequences. And it was in prison for a few years, so it’s not like, you know, three days in a white collar, you know, prison upstate, right? It’s a different type. And I think that’s really important for us to get. It’s like, regardless of how bad you think your situation is, or, oh, I can’t change from now. Like, well, no, that’s not true. He is the author of now three books or four,
DW (03:06):
Well, four in a children’s book. So yeah, four four in a children’s book. Yeah. So
AJV (03:11):
The list is growing even as we speak. Yeah. But also he’s been on stages all across the country. He is a, well, you know, well sought after speaker. He is a multi-time author and also an entrepreneur. So everyone who is listens to this, you’ve got some degree of some of those things within you. And so I know, I know that you’re gonna love this interview. So Damon, welcome, welcome to the show,
DW (03:35):
Aj. Thanks a lot, so much. I mean, you covered so much in that introduction too, but look, it’s, it’s so exciting to be here. Like you said, we do have a lot of mutual friends, Amber Lee, ed Mullet, you know, ed Ed’s a very big mutual friend of mine, John Gordon, Catherine Gordon. So it’s great to finally meet you and, and be a part of your show because I’ve got a lot to say about what we’re gonna talk about today, about building your brand and, and how do you make it, how do you break away from the pack and chase your dreams in life? Because like you said, I had to do it. I mean, and like, and you hit the nail in the head. It’s not like I went to prison for a couple years. I got sentenced to life in prison in Dallas, Texas, and I spent seven years and three months of that life sentence in a maximum security level five prison in the state of Texas. The highest security level there is, or the worst of the worst go. And then I made parole, I made parole, and I’m on parole AJ until the year 2073. Hmm. So when you talk about making plans and having to follow the rules of your plan every single day, I got, I got a lot to say about that.
AJV (04:36):
Yeah. Well, I mean, and that’s a part of what I kind of wanna just start, start with. And I know people are gonna be like are you gonna give us more of that story? Because Yeah. In the world. And so here’s my first question for you. It’s like you have this amazing journey from successful college athlete to prison inmate to motivational speaker and ler. And that’s quite the remarkable journey in your short 47 years. So can you just share with the listeners who maybe are getting introduced to you for the first time, what are some of those pivotal moments or mindset shifts that allowed you to transform? Right. And I, and I would say too, it’s like maybe in some of the not so awesome ways, right? Because I know that there was an accident during your football days and yeah. That led to choices that were transformative to the more positive transformative. So what were these moments that happened in your life that led to such an influential personal brand today?
DW (05:36):
Yeah. I think that the way to start this off is by, you know, I tell people all the time that at no point in my life did, did God just reached out with his hand hand one day and put his hand on my head and said, Damon, you’re healed . But what God has done in my life has put people in my life Mm, always has. And when I was younger, these people were like my parents or my mother, my father, they were teachers, coaches, people in the community of Port Arthur, Texas that helped raise me. And, and I grew up in Texas and we know that Texas high school football is a big deal. And I was a star quarterback in Texas, played division one college football. And of course I got hurt in 1996 against Texas a and m. My career was prematurely ended, and I made a lot of wrong turns at this fork in the road in life, and it had to do with around substance abuse.
DW (06:18):
But I was a very functional addict. And I graduated college, went to work in the United States Congress, worked on Wall Street. I was a broker for UBS when I was introduced to meth for the first time. And I say that there’s been people put in my life because the choices that we make in life are gonna take us down different roads. And as you alluded to, some roads are good, some roads are bad, but there’s always gonna be messengers along the way on those roads to help guide you where you need to be. But the trick is, you have to be receptive to all those messengers. And sometimes when we’re not in the right space, we don’t, we’re not receptive. We can’t hear or see the messenger in front of us. And I made a lot of wrong turns, again, with that fork in the road.
DW (06:57):
When I tried meth for the first time in 2004, 18 months after their first hit of meth, I was living on the streets of Dallas and I became a criminal. I started breaking into people’s houses to fund my addiction. And and the Dallas SWAT team got me in 2008 and they, they arrested me in this traumatic SWAT team raid. And they took me to Dallas County Jail. And then a year later I was sentenced to life in prison. My mother and my father had this conversation with me. They, they right after I’m sentenced to life, they, they let my parents talk to me for five minutes, just kind of on the side of the courtroom. And my mom was reminded me about how they raised me, how, you know, the stuff they heard in the courtroom isn’t the man they raised. In fact, she tells me, when you go to prison, you, you won’t get in one of these gangs.
DW (07:39):
She said, you come back as the man we raised or don’t come back to us at all. So now I’ve got this giant ultimatum and I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, AJ cuz I’ve never been to prison before. I don’t know anything about prison. And I’m in this Dallas County jail complex for the next two months before the prison bus comes to get me. And I have this encounter with one of those people that I would call the messengers in life that’s an old black man named Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson shares with me what prison’s gonna be like. And he’s telling me about the violence I’m gonna endure the first couple months. But he tells me things like, you don’t have to win all your fights, you just have to fight all your fights. You know, and that’s true in life. No one counts your wins and losses, but everybody kind of watches the seat as he or she get back up.
DW (08:19):
And that’s what he’s telling me, get back up. But he, but he tells me this, he says, let me break it down from your different way. And that’s when he tells me, he said, I want you to imagine prison as a pot of wine, water. And he said, you have three choices of how you’re gonna respond to this pot of wine water. You can be like the carrot that turns soft, the egg that becomes hard in the boil water, or a coffee bean, which changes the pot of wine water into a pot of coffee. Hmm. And that a agent, when he told me the story about the coffee bean, I remember, I was like, I can understand that. And that’s the way people’s reactions are five to 95 years old when they hear about the coffee bean for the first time. Because you can wrap your brain around those three choices.
DW (08:55):
Mm-Hmm. So Mr. Jackson is one of those people that I met in life that guided me. He was a mentor. Cuz we all need mentors, aj, everybody needs coaches. We all have to have coaches in life. But as I went through prison, I ran into other people in there. There was my, my first cellmate Carlos, you know, Carlos was explaining to me about thinking how your thinking is everything. Your thoughts control your actions, and if you have the wrong thoughts, you can’t have the right actions. And, and so he helped me with the way I think. And a, as I got through the prison process and I started transforming myself in that prison to a pot of a pot of coffee. The parole board came and took notice and they allowed me to leave prison early on parole. Now, as I said, I’m on parole for the rest of my life, but since I got outta prison in 2015, I’ve ran into these other messengers in life because now I’m hyper aware of the roads that I’m on.
DW (09:41):
And I’m looking for those messenger every day. But I’m gonna tell you something, aj, the main thing I’m looking for every day is how do I serve other people? Because that’s like what I pray for every day, aj. I just, man, I just wanna know two things every day from God put in front of me what you need me to do today for you, and let me recognize it when I see it cuz I don’t wanna miss whatever that is. And that’s like the first key to everything else you’re gonna open in life is that the secret to life is serving other people. How do I serve others? Mm.
AJV (10:11):
That’s so good. And you know, it’s so interesting. I have a friend right now who’s really suffering from addiction. And we just had a conversation this past weekend about choices, right? There are defining choices. And then there’s daily choices, right? We have these daily decisions we have to make and we have these defining choices that we have to make. And those daily decisions turn into habits, right? Which could be good or bad. And these defining ones are the ones that can send us down one of these roads and that every, and I love what you said, like every road has, you know, messengers alongside the road. And it sounds like to me it’s like prison saved you.
DW (10:51):
It did. Yeah. It was, was getting a life sentence on top, not just prison, but being sentenced to life in prison. Aj my, my angels in life, my angels didn’t have wings. My angels had a assault rifle. They had shields, they had helmets. They, they came through the window, they busted outta my door. They were a SWAT team. Mm-Hmm. and the SWAT teams of life, they’re coming for us in different ways all the time. The SWAT teams are different forms. They, a SWAT team is a divorce, it’s a bankruptcy, it’s a lost job. It’s, it’s, it’s somebody dying. It’s a child that gets hurt. Mm-Hmm. , the SWAT teams of life are coming for us, but what do we do? And it, it’s that mindset shift of saying, I’m gonna find the opportunity in this adversity because I know this for a fact, aj, no matter what the situation of adversity that you’re in.
DW (11:36):
And, and there’s many different levels of adversity and there’s a lot of different ways to be in prison. Aj mm-hmm. , I mean physical prison, the what kinda I went into, that’s not the worst form prison. The worst form of prison is a prison in your mind. I mean, I meet more people out here in the free world that are locked up than I ever did when I served time in a real prison. Because I think more people are imprisoned by their thoughts and by their things than by steel bars and barbed wire and concrete. And the prison that I got sent to, it was like going in as a caterpillar and coming out as a butterfly. It was a cocoon. Hmm. There was a spiritual awakening that I had for seven years than three months. I grew more in seven years than three months AJ than I did the first 33 years that I was on earth.
DW (12:15):
But it took some serious adversity in my life to make me get off this comfort zone that I’ve been in in life, even when I was in, on drugs and, and, and in my addiction. There’s a comfort zone that people get into. Misery is a very comfortable place too. And your friend that’s going through that right now, you’re right. It’s the daily choice every day that you have to make to change these, to make these good habits. And whenever I was in prison and my back was against the wall and I just surrendered because that’s one of the keys to all this. You gotta surrender this idea of control over things you do not control. Once I surrendered that, I started, I was able to work on myself and, and look, yeah, you’re right. Prison did save my life. And one of the things I talk about with people all the time is that, especially people that wanna get up there and speak or write books, is that, and, and Ed, my ed, ed and I talked about this when I was on his podcast, the things that you think might be the, that the disqualifiers in your life, because the things that have gone wrong, the, the places you messed up, those actually may be the great qualifiers for you to help someone else.
DW (13:16):
You know, these are the things, yeah. These, the things you think disqualify you might be the great qualifiers. Your liabilities may be your biggest asset. But how do you turn that around? How do you make that into a message that people can digest and understand?
AJV (13:30):
I mean, I would say, I think for the most part, and you know, I’ll speak for just myself, but it’s like when I listen to speakers and read books, it’s like, I think most would agree that I don’t really wanna hear about all the successful things that you’ve done . Right? It’s like, at the end of the day, it’s like, I wanna know, it’s like that. I need to know these human elements of you that you’re, you’re broken like me and I can still do things just like you did versus, you know, I’ve have this private jet and fly over the world and made this amount of money and built this many businesses and I just, I’ve seen so many speakers speak over the years cuz part of it’s my job, but part of it is I love seeing speaker speak. It’s like, it’s, I love that. And I’ve always found myself drawn to the person where I’m like,
AJV (14:14):
What if that happened to me? Like what would I do? Like, would I let it grow me or would I let it destroy me? And it’s like, those are the stories that are, in my opinion, more transformative, more life giving than hearing from the person who got it right all the time. Did all the right things. Not that those are bad. It’s good to hear those stories too. But I think there’s something about that comeback story that for most people they’re like, okay, well if you did it, there’s hope for me. So here’s my question in that, because you are speaking on stages and you, you are so vulnerable with your stories and you don’t hold back, which I love and I appreciate. So here, here’s, here’s something for the audience, I think it’s like how do you incorporate those sorts of elements of your story into speaking engagements and books and even interviews like this where one, what did you have to overcome to be like, yeah, I’m, I’m just gonna be honest, right?
AJV (15:12):
I’m just going to tell you what happened. I’m gonna tell you the truth. So how do you do that one and how do you do it in a way that’s beneficial for me? Not just hearing your story, but also, you know, we always say it’s like you tell an eye focus story with a you focus message because I think you do that really well. But then also for those people who are going, yeah, that, that’s cool for you to do, but my story’s so dark, it’s never gonna see the light of day. Like what advice would you give to that person who has that story? And it really does need to be heard, but they’re afraid to share it.
DW (15:45):
Great question. And you tapped on a little bit of it just now and, and you, you talked about vulnerability. Vulnerability is a strength. Vulnerability gets a bad rap. I mean, people think of the word a lot of times people think vulnerable vulnerability means you’re weak. It’s some, it’s some form of weakness. Vulnerability’s a strength because when you’re vulnerable, you let those walls down, those guards down, you show how human you are. And like you said, that draws people in. Now someone says, Hey look, you know, that person’s been through something, I’ve been through something. Maybe there’s something they’re gonna say that’s gonna help me get through what I’m about to go through next. And here’s the deal. Everybody’s got a story out there. I i I believe that everybody’s got their personal stories of overcoming. And you said it earlier in the show, everybody, people need to hear those stories cuz we, you know, we’re all gonna relate to people in different ways.
DW (16:32):
And your story may be the one thing that helps somebody get through their worst day. So if you’re trying to figure out how to tell your story, I’ll just give you what happened to me when I got outta prison in 2015. I’m on parole for the rest of my life and, but I know I’m sitting on this really powerful story wrapped around this great message. And there’s the first part, the story that I can tell and the message within. I think if you’re gonna be out there speaking, have a message, have this, and this is your brand, this is what you build your brand around. What’s the message like? My call to action at the end of every presentation is be a coffee beat. Mm-Hmm. , you know, the same four words that Mr. Jackson told me when the prison bus was coming to pick me up in Dallas County jail to go serve a life sentence.
DW (17:13):
The last four words he ever said were be a coffee beat. But it was a statement, it was an order. Like, go do this. And that’s what you want to build a message inside your story. But I think that you have to work your way up to that. And, and if you’re trying to tell a story in front of an audience, it’s like reading a book. If a book doesn’t grab me in the first seven pages, I’m shocking it aj I’m not, I’m not re it’s, you got seven pages to get my attention. And I may go longer than a lot of other people. But it’s same thing with the presentation. I’m sure that you’re a lot of the same way, if you’re not gonna grab my attention early on, then it’s just, you know, it’s not something I’m, I’m gonna be really drawn to.
DW (17:48):
Mm-Hmm. in the beginning of my story, for example, I used something that, that in, in my background, a SWAT team rate, because not everybody has a SWAT team rate story. What’s your version of a SWAT team rate in your life? What was that SWAT team that came for you? What happened in your life that was the catalyst that sent you in a different direction, a, a a difficult path and gimme the adversity? Early on when I got outta prison, a little adversity story, I had this story I wanted to share. But, you know, I, I grew, I grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, and I, I parole out to my parents’ house. I lived with my parents for the first two years outta I’m out of prison, aj. I lived in my parents’ spare bedroom. I mean, literally, if I would’ve had like a Tinder profile, it would’ve sucked, right?
DW (18:30):
, I mean, I’m, I’m on parole for the rest of my life. I live in my parents’ spare bedroom. I make minimum wage. This guy, you know, which way are you swiping on him? . But, but I’m focused, I’m driven and, and I just walked out of a maximum security prison. Yeah. I’ve got a lot of perspective of what a bad day looks like. And you don’t have to go to PR prison to know that perspective. Everybody knows what a bad day looks like and it’s how do you apply? Like, hey, this isn’t one of those days. This may be a difficult day, but it’s not that day, you know? Yeah. So I got up every day and I had this dream of sharing the story in front of audiences, but man, no one will take me in at first. And I, and, and like I wanna start out with schools and church groups and rotary groups and stuff like that.
DW (19:10):
No one’s gonna let me in. I found a cop and a judge that would take me around and sponsor me to, to take me into schools. But I knew that if I wanted to have a presentation and I wanted to be able to tell a story, the message within it, that would be impactful. Because that’s what you have to do. You have to figure out how am I gonna serve this audience? How am I gonna serve the reader? It’s all about serving people. We talked about this earlier, servant leadership. How am I gonna serve this audience? I knew I had to practice and get good at my message. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, aj. You know that. I know that. But people are drawn to that when they see those, those Instagram account accounts with the private jets, the Lamborghini and all that.
DW (19:48):
I want that. I want that. Well, you know, it takes a long time to get to something, you know, a lot of hard work. Most of the days that I spent the first two years outta prison were not in front of audiences. They were in my parents’ spare bedroom cuz there was a mirror in that spare bedroom. It just happened to be there. When I moved in every single day I’d come home from work, I worked at a law firm, which is a really good job for a guy outta prison, . But I’d come home from work after I, I’d work out after I worked, I went to work, I’d work out. I had a schedule I routine, I was consistent with it. And then I would do a presentation every single night in front of that mirror for two years. I practiced my presentation, the same presentation I’m using today in front of a mirror.
DW (20:27):
The mirror was my audience, but I sharpened it up. I was poised, I was ready to go. And then in 2017 dabble Sweeney, the head coach at Clemson, brings me in to talk to his team. The first big college football coach in America that gives me my shot and my presentation was so on point, so direct on message and it, and it served Dabo s team so well that Dabo got on the phone. He started calling every coach in America for me. I mean, Nick Saban, Kirby smart Lincoln Riley, he’s calling ’em all up and he’s telling about this guy he gotta bring in. But Dabo introduced me to a guy named John Gordon. And then John Gordon calls me up out of the blue and he’s telling me, he is like, Hey man, I was just, I just got done talking to Clemson’s football team and Dabo was telling me about your story and, and, and the coffee bean message.
DW (21:15):
And, and that’s when John says, Hey Damon, write this book with me. We’ll call it the coffee bean. He said, the world needs your message. This is where I think that you, a lot of people give up before they get to this point, but growth follows belief. And you have to believe in yourself before other people will believe in you. And the belief in yourself is gonna become from the consistency, getting in your reps, putting in the work. And that’s the thing about life. You know, no one could put in your work for, you have to put in your own work in life. But when you get that belief in yourself and, and the reps behind it, then I think other people will believe in you because your message has to be developed. And when it gets in front of other people, cuz like you said, you don’t, you know, you hear these stories about people wanna talk about the goods they had done pour out about the stuff you overcame. That’s the, that’s where the secret sauce is.
AJV (22:06):
Yeah, I love that. And I love just that reinforcement of you have to be ready before the opportunity comes, right? Yeah. You’ve gotta be doing this way before you get your chance. But it also, it’s like I really like, I think one of the things that if, as you’re listening, you haven’t picked up on this before, it’s like there, you’ve gotta have a message deep within you that is bigger than any obstacle, bigger than any rejection. It’s like, I don’t care how many times I’m gonna get told no. Like I know I’m meant to do this. So if I have to practice it for myself in front of the mirror for the next two years, then so be it. But I know that this, this is the message that I have to go out and share. And I think that’s just a really good reminder for all of us is like, it takes time, it takes practice, it does not happen overnight.
AJV (22:54):
And not only does it not hope that it happen overnight, it’s like no, you’re doing tons of work behind the scenes no matter what you’re doing. And anyone who has started a business, started a family in a marriage, raising kids, you know, doesn’t matter what it is, how much work it takes that no one sees before anything actually works. And so one of the questions that, as you were talking about, cuz you mentioned talking to football teams, but you also talk to lots of corporate audiences. You talk to all types of audiences. And I was just like looking at your client list on your speaker press kit as I was prepping for this interview. And it’s like, man, you’ve got audiences that range from students to corporations to associations. And clearly your books have mass audience appeal. And one of the questions that I have for you with such like a powerful, unique story, right?
AJV (23:45):
Is what, what are the common themes or messages that you’re able to kind of universally share with audiences that regardless of their background, like these apply? And then how do you find those, right? Because I know, and I’m just thinking at, we just came off the hills of a two day event that we hosted for our community and brand builders group. And I think one of the things that people have a hard time doing is translating these like deeply personal messages that it’s like, I know if I’m in, if I’m in a room full of, you know, student athletes, I’m gonna crush it, but how do I make that work with a group of, you know, direct saleswomen from Arban or whatever, and it’s like, yeah. So how do you take these like big powerful stories and find these common themes as you mentioned, these messages of your stories that resonate across any audience?
DW (24:39):
Great question, John. So when John reaches out to me and he’s telling me, Hey, let’s write this book, we’ll call it the coffee meeting. We start becoming friends. John’s watching me grow as a speaker and he is about to really watch, watch Me grow as an author because John Gordon’s about to hitch me to his, to his rocket ship and put me out there in a different level, right? And he knows what’s coming. And he told me this, Roy, I mean he told me this aj he said, listen, he said, Damon, he said, you have been going out sharing your message and you have been sharing this. Be a coffee beam, man. That’s your brand. That’s your message. Be a coffee beam, you see it behind me, see it on my shirts, you see it everywhere. He said, stick with this. He said, and I’m gonna tell you this, a lot of speakers, a lot of authors, they’ll go and they don’t see a result fast enough.
DW (25:26):
And three years, four years down the line, they don’t see the results coming in yet. And then they changed their message, they changed their brand and they go a different direction because they weren’t seeing the results fast enough. He said, results take time to measure. I’ll never forget that. He said, stick with be a coffee bean. He said one day, if you do this, you’ll be known as the coffee bean guy. And that’s gonna be a pretty big thing to be known as. He said, I’m known as the energy bus guy. And that’s a very big thing to be known as. Stick with the coffee bean. Don’t ever change your brand or your message no matter what audience you get in front of. It’s always gotta be about being a coffee bean. When John told me that, that’s like one of these huge nuggets, and I know you and Rory talk about this a lot.
DW (26:09):
You gotta to build your brand, you gotta stay consistently on message. Now how does that translate? Because if I’m going to talk to a bunch of 18 to 22 year old college athletes, you know, there’s one message for them, right? And then there, if I’m going to talk to corporate America, if, if Walmart or AIG brings me into a corporate boardroom, what am I gonna say to them? Here’s what I would tell you. Do your research, tailor your message to fit your audience. Know what stories go with what groups, but never leave behind that core message. Every group I’ve spoken, and at this point aj, I’ve spoken to thousands, not a thousand, two, 3000 different audiences in that time. And I’ve never not told the story of the coffee bean, and I’ve never not told my backstory. Now, is my backstory the same in a corporate audience as it is in front of a college athletic?
DW (26:59):
No. Mm-hmm. , it’s, it’s, it’s gonna be different. I’m gonna have different stories. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna have interviews with that corporation. I always, every corporation I speak to, I, I, I wanna have a call with, usually with the, the, the keeper, the culture or the c e o or somebody. Because culture is a top-down thing. The higher level I can get to the better because I wanna learn about their culture. I wanna learn about your core values, and if you can give me your core values, I can weave them into my presentation. So when I’m speaking to a corporate audience, at one point, when I’m talking about turning it around, I talk about the, the different ways it became a golf meet. Things like servant leadership, things like about controlling what you can control in life. Usually your core values will line up with my core values and I can weave them in right there and say, Hey, you know, like we talk about at this company, this is one of our values.
DW (27:46):
This is the same thing was what I’m saying right here. Now you’ve individualized it, you’ve personalized it for your group in front of ’em. They know that you put in the work to come and sit in front of them that day. You didn’t just come there to get a check, you came there to serve mm-hmm. because that’s what you’re ultimately there to do. You’re there to serve. And if you can figure out how to serve, that’s where the secret sauce is. Not just for them, but for you too. Because when we’re serving other people, that’s what we’re at the best version of ourselves too, because that’s what we’re all called to do is serve other people.
AJV (28:14):
I love that. What I wrote down, and I think this is such a good reminder for me to remind our whole community about this. So for everyone listening, it’s just the power of, you know what Damon just said, it’s like you have to know how to tailor your presentation, not change your message. Yeah. Right? It’s like, no, your message is your message and that’s what you wanna be known for. And I tell you what, Damon, you should have some like pretty big endorsements coming and you need to be hitting up like Starbucks and all the coffee shop .
DW (28:43):
I’m tried.
AJV (28:44):
If you’re the coffee bean man, you need to be like Starbucks. Where at all,
DW (28:48):
I’ve tried Starbucks. It’s hard to get through to it. If you know somebody from Starbucks and we get off air, tell me, because I, my gosh,
AJV (28:54):
God, gosh. Well, I’m a bulletproof coffee girl, so i’s been a mile, it’s been a minute since I’ve been to Starbucks, but I will tell you, it’s like, but it’s like, again, it’s like once you become known for that thing, it’s like in brand builders group language, it’s called what we call breaking through she hands wall. It’s like you wanna be a power washer, not a water hose, right? Yeah. It’s like you, you’ve gotta just know exactly what your message is. And when people think of you, they need to think of coffee bean story, right? It’s like, when I think of a coffee bean story, I think of Damon. When I think of Damon, I think about these coffee beans and it’s like, once that happens, then you have broken through Sheehan’s wall, right? And then that’s a great reminder for all of us is tailor the presentation.
AJV (29:32):
But don’t change your message. Don’t change your message. I love that. That’s such a good reminder. And I’m also, I’m watching the clock and we have like five or six minutes left, and I actually wanna ask you two more personal development questions kind of about these books that you’ve written. And you’ve invested a lot of time into this message in writing these books. And so there’s two last questions I have for you. So, all right. I know that a huge part of what you talk about, what you write about is resilience, perseverance, and mindset, right? There’s lots more. But those are three things that stood out to me. And so some tactical advice for anyone who is listening or just for me what are some key strategies or practices that individuals like me and everyone listening that, that can adopt to help increase these qualities of perseverance? Resilience mindset shifts to navigate setbacks in our personal or professional lives. So it’s like a, when you know, the, you know, s h i t hits the fan. I’m on a, I’m on a non cussing roll right now so I can spell it, can’t say it . But when it hits the fan, like how do we go, whoa, whoa, whoa, there’s good in this versus great question. Oh my gosh, the sky is falling.
DW (30:43):
No, great question because we all go through this and, and, and is look, John, our friend John Gordon. John says that fear and faith have more in common than the letter F to begin with. John says, fear and faith, both believe in futures that haven’t happened yet. Fear is this negative future. You can choose to believe in that you get the choice, that’s good. But faith is a positive future. You get the choice to believe in that too. And you can choose your path every day. And it’s always better to choose faith over fear. If you’re gonna pick a future that hadn’t happened, pick the positive one. And this is where I, I try to like land every day, is like, I’ve gotta focus on the positive every single day because there’s gonna be negativity around me. There’s gonna be things that happen in life that can pull you out of this, this good time that you’re in.
DW (31:29):
But you gotta focus on the positive. I learned two things about diversity in life inside that maximum security prison, aj, this is what I learned. I’ve learned that adversity’s never as bad as you think it’s gonna be. Hmm. And you are always capable of way more than you think you are. Mm-Hmm. . Because as human beings, we will allow overthinking to get in the way of overcoming. So don’t overthink just step back. Like we were talking about a separate subject a while ago before we hit record. And it was a very simple answer that you gave me to the very complex question that I had. Usually it’s something very simple to pull you out of where you are that day. Focus on the positive. You know, it’s all about your mindset. It’s like when you’re sitting in traffic, some days the traffic bothers you and other days the traffic doesn’t bother you.
DW (32:16):
Is it the traffic or is it you? It’s always gonna be you. And it’s always how you see three words that I love putting together. Position determines perspective. Mm-Hmm. position determines perspective. Where you are and where you’ve been determines the world that you see. Try to always have a positive perspective and use your perspective of what a bad day looks like. Because all of us know what a bad day looks like. You know, like I told you my bad day every day that my, when I wake up, my feet don’t hit the coal concrete floor, the prison cell. I’m having a pretty good day. and everybody’s got, yeah, everybody, but everybody’s got this to something measure. But you have to apply it. The night that I met Dabo Sweeney, it was at a coach’s award show in Houston, Texas, January of 2017. A buddy of mine in Houston, he called me up.
DW (33:03):
He said, man, these eight coaches are gonna be in this room. The best coach in America is gonna be named. I can sneak you in. I’m at the event right now. I drove an hour and a half because this event, he sneaks me in the back door and I’m there and I, I go open to meet all these coaches cuz I got this story I wanted to share with them. And every coach I met that night, AJ slammed the door in my face. They all told me no, there was one coach left one hour. It took me to get seven nos in one hour. I mean, I’ve been defeated that night and I’m in the corner of the Toyota Center. I’m getting ready to leave. I’m licking my wounds, feeling sorry for myself. The voice in my head is telling me, go home. You’re an imposter.
DW (33:36):
You don’t belong the imposter syndrome. And, and know we’re all gonna, you’re gonna go through this. When you’re out there speaking and writing a book, you’re gonna ask yourself sometimes, do I belong here? But let me tell you something, do not listen to yourself. Talk to yourself, because the voice in your head can be fear. Mm-Hmm. . And I told myself that night, there’s no way I’m leaving until that guy tells me, no, the last coach is gonna, this isn’t prison. I survived something way worse than this. I applied their perspective and I stalked Dabo Swinney around that room. And, and, and it was in, it ended up being the biggest yes I’ve ever gotten in life. But it’s because I believed in what I was doing. And if you have that belief, don’t let anybody tell you what you can or cannot do. And always, always ask your questions. Take your shots because the only question you know, the answer to AJ is the one you do not ask. Mm-Hmm. that answer is no. Every time. If you don’t ask your question, take your shots. Always take your shots in life.
AJV (34:28):
I love that. I love that so much. It’s sometimes we just need a little dose of inspiration to go, I got this, I can do this. I can do hard things. I took my kids on a hike yesterday to just commemorate Memorial Day and just like, just really just a, an hour and a half of just like, silence and helping my kids understand what Memorial Day is all about. And halfway through this hour and a half long ha now my kids are small, they’re almost four and just turned six. This is a long, this just feels like a marathon for them, right? It’s not that long. It’s two and a half miles, but it felt like a marathon for these small humans. And my husband ends up carrying my four year old, but my six-year-old, I’m like, Hey, if you can make it all the way back to the car, you get a sticker and a sticker is worth a quarter.
AJV (35:14):
And at the end of the week he gets to turn in his stickers for quarters for doing hard things. And he’s like, I get a sticker. And I’m like, yeah, I’m gonna give you a sticker buddy. It’s like 25 oh cents. It’s the whole quarter, right? And he gets motivated and he’s like, he’s hustling. And we get towards the end, he goes, mom, I just, I need to quit. I’m like, you need to quit. He goes, yeah, I need to quit, mama. My feet hurt. I need to quit. I’m like, nobody. And I pause like in the middle of all these people, they’re probably like, who is this crazy, like, you know, like cheerleader mom. And I’m like sitting there and I’m like, I need you to say this with me. I can do hard things. I’m like, yes, yes, I can do hard things. He’s like, no mom, I can’t say that. You’re so embarrassing. And I’m like screaming at the top of my lungs, I can do hard things. And and it was like, tell me,
DW (36:00):
Roy’s recording this while you’re doing it.
AJV (36:02):
Wish she was recording of it. I think she was quite a while back carrying my four-year-old. And here’s like the craziest part. It’s like, I don’t know if it helped him, but it helped me. It’s like, I hope it helped him, but it helped me. And it was like such a reminder that it’s like, no, I can do hard things. Like I hope Jasper, that you got something outta that. But at the end of the day, it’s like, after saying it like 10 times screaming in the middle of the state park, I’m like, no, I can do hard things. And I needed that reminder. And it’s like, sometimes it’s like, gosh, we just need to remind ourselves. Oh
DW (36:37):
My God, aj I love that. Cuz you’re hitting on something that, that, that is like the big force in my life that’s going on. Like every time I go out and I serve other people, this helps other people. I, I know it does and I hope it does, but I know one person it helps for sure. Mm-Hmm. , that’s how I stay sober. Mm-Hmm. , that’s, I work a program recovery, a 12 step program recovery. I’ll do it for the rest of my life because in my 12 step program recovery, I’ve gotta find ways to serve other people. Because if I don’t, I stay inside myself. And there’s nothing good that happens when you’re inside yourself. And, and, and it, like literally people ask me about, Hey, you’re on, I’m on the road 80% of the year, aj. I mean, I’m speaking all over the world now and 24 days of the month I’m gone. But it’s how I stay sober by serving other people by. And you don’t have to do it on that big scale like that. Yeah. But you could do it anywhere. You are, you could serve, you did that with your ch with your kid, but it helps you. Mm-Hmm. . And it helps me every time I go out and share my story, it helps me because it reminds me that, yeah, I can do hard things. I can overcome the, I can stay sober one more day. It’s so great. I love that.
AJV (37:46):
Yeah. That, like when you were saying that, it just reminded me of that yesterday. It’s like, I don’t actually know if it helped him and it was like I’m the one who needed it. Yeah. And it’s like, if we don’t remind ourselves, it’s like often we don’t, someone else isn’t supposed to be around, following us around, reminding us. That’s our job. And we gotta we gotta have these types of people like you, these messengers in our life to do that for us. Which is why I love what you said. Everyone needs a mentor. Everyone needs a coach. It’s true. We all do. Lots of us need lots of them. All right. Last quick question, and I know that we’re almost over time here, but so
DW (38:17):
Take your time. I don’t care. This is a fun conversation. Go on, go as long as you want. Let’s go.
AJV (38:21):
So in the Coffee Bean, the book, which everyone should go and check out, which I think is so great, and I’ll use this as my, you know public service announcements. If you want to check out more about Damon West and his speaking, his books, all the things he has going on and also grab a copy of this book, the Coffee Bean. He’s got other books too. He is got one for kids. Go to damon west.org. So that’s damon west.org. And then again, the book is called The Coffee Bean. It’s co-written with John Gordon. He’s got a version for kids, which I love all kids books, so I’ll be picking that up myself. Or follow him on Instagram, which is at Damon West seven. So it’s at Damon West seven on Instagram. Or just go to damon west.org and you can get all of his social themes there.
AJV (39:09):
But I’ll also, we’ll put this on the show notes for you. Okay. So last question. In a coffee bean, you talk about the importance of mindset and in my interpretation, how that can shape our influence, how it can shape our personal brand. So here’s my last question for that person who really does need to cultivate this, I can do hard things mindset. For the person who does have a lot of limiting beliefs, what would you say is the number one thing for that individual to cultivate a growth mindset? A I can do hard things. This overcoming of self-limiting beliefs. Like what would you say is the one thing that they can do to really well both build their personal brand, which for us is just their reputation, but also to just live a better life. Like, what is the thing that we can do to change our mindset, to build a better mindset?
DW (40:01):
Yeah. This is, this is something that, that I had to remind myself of, and I think every one of us do. And aside from the things you just said, because that’s very important. You just said something very important because your brand is your reputation. This is you. This is like, you know, everything about what you’re putting out. That’s your reputation. So guard that, but it’s consistency. Be consistent. Take the same action every single day. And, and you know whenever, whenever you’re consistent, you start building this confidence in yourself because like, you know, ed talks about this a lot. You keep promises that you make to yourself. Mm-Hmm. But be consistent. Show up every day. One of the hardest things about working out is just getting to the gym. And if you can get yourself to the place where you need to be every day to be consistent, that’s when it’s gonna happen.
DW (40:48):
But it’s gonna take time. And just understand that, that you have to put in the work. But consistency trumps everything else. Consistency can beat talent. By the way, talent is great to have, but talent doesn’t beat someone who is consistent and won’t go away. Someone who’s persistent. Someone that gets in front of the, a mirror in a spare bedroom where they live on parole and practices a presentation that one day is gonna be their business that, that they use to create other businesses with. Because the speaking business, I mean, you know, aj it’s something I never, I, I tell my wife almost daily that I cannot believe this is my life and I get to go out and impact a world like this. But it provides for a, a life for my family that’s created generational wealth. I mean, every generation’s changed underneath me now, but it started out in my parents’ fair bedroom, speaking in front of a mirror for two years to get my presentation right, to go speak one time in front of Dabo Sweeney. You know, that’s what it’s about. Being consistent.
AJV (41:47):
I love that. You know, I’m, I’m actually, I’m reading through the Old Testament right now. I’m in this like Bible and a year program and I’m reading through the Old Testament. And one of the things that has stuck out to me most about the Old Testament is how often people get their answers or their desires given to them is persistence. Like, I can’t, I, I’m gonna start counting like how many times a king said, yes, I’ll resolve this, just leave me alone. Or how many times it was just like pure persistence, pure dis consistent. I’m gonna show up every day at this, at this king’s doorstep. I’m gonna show up every day at this, at my master’s door, and I’m gonna ask and I’m gonna ask. And they’re like, oh my gosh, just I’ll give you whatever you want. Stop asking me. Yeah. And it’s such a great reminder that it’s like so much power comes in persistence.
DW (42:36):
And you’re in the Old Testament right now, like the book of Job man. If you want to read a story about a guy that was consistent and just showed up every day while the S H I T was hitting the fan read job, man. This dude, this dude endured way more than any anybody you can imagine. For years this went on, lost his entire fam. I mean, everything was taken, but he had faith and he had consistently, consistently, he believed every day that I have faith in this and it’s gonna work out. And that’s, you gotta have what they call the patience’s a joke. You know, I tell people all the time that that since we’re talking about the Old Testament, that that God doesn’t set bushes on fire anymore. H ha that’s a very Old Testament thing that God did to get people’s attention. But you know what God does today? God sets people on fire. Mm-Hmm. . And that’s when people are just burning this glowing light that shows that God is real. That there’s no other way to explain what’s going on in this person’s life. That story I’m listening to, that’s what God does. He sets people on fire. That’s how we know that God is real. And, and I get to be one of those people. And you get to be one of those people. But it takes that belief and that consistency every day.
AJV (43:44):
Reach it. Love this. Y’all check out Damon. Go to damon west.org, check him out, follow him, buy his books. Spread the spread. This good news Damon so, so awesome to have you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your story and these words of wisdom. And for everyone else, stay tuned for the recap episode. That will be coming up later this week. We’ll see you next time. Thanks so much.
DW (44:10):
Thank you. Thank you.