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We see this happen all the time… An entrepreneur gets a brilliant idea then self-sabotages it with their own close-minded thinking. Sometimes without even realizing it. But there has to be a balance between acting with caution and trying new things, right? 

Greg Kraios’s take on being open-minded unlocks a world of possibilities in profiting from your mistakes and create the success you really want.

If you lay awake at night worried about your business, this is the episode you need now.

Show highlights include:

  • Why your greatest success comes from your worst employees. (10:19)
  • How the ‘Conditional Thinking’ theory kidnaps your business from succeeding how it should – and the steps to avoiding this. (15:20)
  • Why thinking less brings your business the most activity. (16:37)
  • Why running a business and experiencing life share the same core value. (22:12)

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Ready to take your business to the next level? Let’s see if we’re a good fit for each other. https://theceonation.com

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to the CEO Nation podcast, where we believe that true freedom is being able to do what you want, whenever you want, with whoever you want, by building a business that works for you rather than you working for it—and, now, to start uncovering how to get out of your own way and start building that business of your dreams, here's your host, Steve Richards.

Steve: Hey, guys. Welcome back. You’re listening to the second part of last week’s episode. Let’s jump back in.

All right. Cool. I'm glad I asked that because I knew we were going to cover that and then we didn't, and I wanted to ask you in a certain way, because I think I'm glad and I hope you guys hear that, maybe rewind and listen to it again, but the thing that you're working so hard towards…

I did this really cool post. We don't have time to get into it today, but it's about how dopamine works and the way that the Apple phone [works], why phones [have] the little dings and alerts, and dopamine is stimulating your brain. That was a good thing. You want more of that. In cavemen, it was like go find food or go find a chick, and you would get a dopamine jag. Those are good things for you, to eat and procreate. [01:14.7]

What's funny is there's no dopamine shot at the actual back end of a goal because the brain is -

Greg: Exactly right.

Steve: - trying to create pathways in your head and make you want to do more of the thing that you need to do. When you get done with that thing, that's when it stops, right? It's just an interesting concept that fits into what we're talking about. You're physically biologically designed to get excited for the journey and the process, you know what I mean?

Greg: Yeah.

Steve: And make sure we're let down at the end and I’ve never had an exit like you, but I’ve had other successes that other people haven't had that people come to me and they think it's unbelievable and it's a weird thing, sitting there, not having to go to work and making more money than most other people. [02:07.5]

Then I would be driving somewhere and I'd be looking in cars and seeing guys, ties on and they're driving around, and I'm like, That dude is driving to work. Someone else is telling him what he…

Greg: Yeah, and it's not the worst thing in your late-teens or twenties and you're coming home from a party and the sun is coming up, and you're watching those people back out of their driveway and you're like, Oh, you put your kids to bed and had good night's sleep. You’ve got up and had your coffee and take a shower, and you're off to your job, and I feel terrible because I was out having beers until the bar closed and then went and hung out at my buddy's house and did it again until the sun came up, you know?

Steve: Hilarious.

Greg: Yeah, you look at them and, look, not to get off topic, but we have a system that is designed for people to follow, and en masse, it probably works really well like that, but for people that know that's not for them, life is so short. [03:08.6]

I mean, COVID is reminding people not to take tomorrow for granted and take a little bit of risk, go, go chase it. Yeah, I mean, we all are afraid to fail I think and nothing is guaranteed, but I'd rather shoot a shot and miss than never take it.

Steve: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. All right, here are a couple of lighting questions here. What are you afraid of? What do you lie awake at night worrying about? Probably not [sound dropped] anymore.

Greg: No, I mean, foolishly, I don’t. Things that are not in my power to control, honestly, and I say foolishly because to waste energy and time on things like that is a bit silly. [04:04.7]

But I’m worried for a ton of friends I know that are struggling and in the service businesses. It's nothing about me. It's just the state of the world and uncertainty, and all the things that are going on that are so much more important that have really happened this year. I thought and I was hoping that, not to get into the politics or anything personal, but when COVID first happened, I was talking like, Man, I think a silver lining is that we needed something to show us we're all humans. It doesn't matter what race, religion, how much money you have. It doesn't care. It's going to attack all of us the same way. It's a human thing. [04:51.0]

As that happened, I was really hoping it could be something that pulled us all together. Then the things that happened did, and protests, riots, election and all these other things that are happening that are dividing us again. I worry about things like that and how that affects us as humans more than I do anything really related to myself, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, it's probably not uncommon for I think a lot of us to worry about the greater good when your perspective…

Greg: And, fortunately, to kind of go back to the exit question, I’ll tie it into that a bit as well that from the data we had, our Q1 would have been our best quarter ever. It looked like Q2 would have surpassed Q1. But I don't know if I would've had to furlough people or lay people off, and to know that I didn't have to make that decision, because we were 54 people I think, and so it's still a stage where everything is personal and you're personally invested in everyone. You care about their wellbeing and their families’ wellbeing. [06:07.3]

Even the people that didn't work out at our company that we had to part ways with, those were never easy and, yeah, and were very hard decisions and it hurt because you know that they have families. They have their own struggles going on, their own things going on. It's never easy to part ways with someone and send them on to another chapter in life, even if it's better for both of you.

Yeah, I mean, it was kind of a blessing that that didn't happen. Otherwise, that'd probably be stuff I'd be worried about and wondering how it's going to impact our business long-term and how we're going to have to [handle it]. Should we pivot? How would we pivot? What are the things? Do we really need this much office space? Will people ever come back? I mean, most or half of our company was remote anyway, so I don't think would have affected us too much, but you never know and I guess timing-wise was fortunate for us because we didn't have to make those decisions. [07:09.8]

Steve: Yeah, for sure. On the opposite side, what wakes you up in the morning excited? What are you excited about right now?

Greg: A lot of things. Moving into this new house, it's pretty cool. You guys did a great job, so that's exciting. Finding furniture is a nightmare.

Steve: Yeah, you're not excited about that from what you're telling me.

Greg: Everybody I’d meet was like, Oh, my God, it's so exciting. I was like, It's not exciting. It's not. Have you hired a designer? I tried that. That didn't really work, so now I'm just painfully working through it. I'm excited about that, but I'm also going to launch another company that I'm really excited about and I want to make sure… It's something I’ve been working on alongside 250ok for a while and I feel the time is now, right? I made sure I was doing it for all the right reasons. So, I’m working on that as well. [08:10.8]

It reminds me of the very early days of 250ok where it's office space, it's finding the launch team and getting all that whole together, and starting from the first brick all over again. Even though I’ve done it once, it's a little bit scary to do it again and you feel that pressure again, but in a way, I kind of like that pressure and I think I performed pretty well under it, so I'm excited about doing that, too.

Steve: That's cool. All right, so two more questions here. This one I always liked. I want to preface it by saying it doesn't have to be about business, by the way, but what are you most proud of?

Greg: I think, for me, I'm most proud of the experience that I gave the people who worked for me and how it has changed their lives. I can give a perfect example of that. [09:14.1]

One of the guys who worked for me, I picked him out of Oracle, convinced him to leave Oracle to come join us. I gave him a title that he hadn't had before and I just knew he was great and it was brilliant. He worked for our big competitor. That's where I first met him, at a conference, and just always thought he was super smart and just believed in him, and gave him a chance.

Yesterday, he took over as CEO of another company in our space, and had I maybe not given him that opportunity, who knows? I think he would have ended up there, but the messages I’ve got from him on how grateful he is that I believed in him and gave him his chance and without me he wouldn’t have ended up there, those are things that make you incredibly proud. [10:11.1]

I think a lot of people can be successful and may not be proud of how they achieve that success, but I was just really proud of how we achieved our success, the things we did, how we treated each other as colleagues and coworkers, how we treated our customers and the good I think we did with our industry.

Steve: That's really cool, man. It's always interesting because as you get out of a business, there's a little bit of juice for closing a deal or implementing an idea and you feel like you're going to lose that. But I get, man, when someone on our team, one of our teams, contacts me and does something after that, it’s just like you showed me or told me and I did it and it worked, and I have someone jazzed up on that. [10:53.0]

It's funny how people in the beginning think, If I'm going to hire, they can't do it as good as me. They're going to steal my clients. They're going to screw it up. They're going to cost me money. It's like a necessary evil. I hate people. Then, later it's the main thing you kind of care about. Obviously, what's money and all that stuff and the plan that comes into play, but it's really interesting to me that it's like a trajectory I think a lot of people go on.

Greg: Sure. I've seen it multiple times and I think you can only scale as far as you'll let things, right? I know what the scale of one is, so why not? What's the scale of 10? What’s the scale of 20? But I’ve seen people with brilliant ideas at the perfect time that just couldn't get out of their own way that should have been way more successful than I have been that weren't, and I watched it happen. Yeah, we're not going to do it that way. I was probably…and perspective is an interesting thing, but I tried to be very hands-off. [12:02.3]

I think even failure helps people grow, so even if I saw that I knew something was going to work out, it was always I think measured in my mind as an acceptable amount of failure that I thought was healthy, because sometimes people need to realize that on their own and not just because you told them, Hey, that's not going to work.

I don't have kids, but I imagine my parents would tell me the stove is hot all the time, but I didn't learn until I put my hand on the hot stove. Yep, okay, that's hot, you know what I mean? Maybe I would probably listen. But I think a bit of that is just human nature and we have to figure things out on our own.

Steve: A hundred percent. By the way, I know we weren't allowed to talk specifics in whatever, but what did you say? Because you're also not the kind of guy that would brag, but top 10 exit for a tech company in Indiana.

Greg: Yeah, I think we're…

Steve: Aroundish?

Greg: I've been told that we're in the top 10 software company exits in Indiana. It was an all-cash transaction. It wasn't a stock deal or anything else. It was all cash and, yeah, everybody walked away with something, so it was good. [13:13.8]

Steve: Yeah, it's interesting. The reason I said that was because I wanted everyone to hear that to understand, and you're sitting here talking about letting people fail and that the proudest moment of this is the people and whatever. It's funny, the money stuff doesn't even come up.

But, all right, last question and I’ll let you off the hook. This one is a tough one for people, but it's always a deep one I like. I don't always ask it, but I think a lot of us have blinders on sometimes and we don't realize it. It's called conditional thinking I think psychologically, but a lot of us just grew up the way we are or we become the way we are because of our environment. But I think sometimes as we get older and have different levels of success, and have kids and different things happen to us that change our view or have health scares or lose loved ones or whatever. [14:01.2]

But I know, personally, I’ve had things that I would have bet the farm that this was a truth, an absolute truth, and wouldn't listen to anything different and it skewed all my thinking that I now realize is just total B.S. I look back on it and I'm like, That's because I'm a pasty white dude that grew up in the Midwest in the 1980s, and in the cornfields I grew up in, that's what everybody believed. You think it's the truth, but it's a belief, not a truth.

But is there anything that you feel that you used to hang your hat on as a truth and now you realize kind of down the road with the success that, not only is it not a truth, but maybe you even believe it anymore? [14:52.2]

Greg: It’s hard for me to speak to something specific, but I think I try to operate in a world where we don't live in a world where there's a lot of black and white. Everything is some shade of gray. There's not a lot of absolute truths and what you may believe in a hundred percent may just be your perspective because you don't get to see all the things that go into that. I always try to think that nothing is technically absolute. It's always a certain degree of probability, maybe 99-point-whatever percent. I mean, there are some hard truths I guess, but just in general, I try not to do that because I’ve caught myself being closed-minded to other perspectives or opinions when I think something is absolute. [15:57.3]

I also am not big on, and I do it because I'm human and can't help it, but I always would tell people don't assume, just ask. Most of the time, when I assume, I'm wrong, and even though we're sure, like, Oh, I was sure if I walked into this meeting and said this, Steve was going to say that, and then you don't. Wait, why? I thought that was a truth. I thought that was absolute because I assumed that was going to happen and it's not. I’ve been caught out by that more times than I care to admit and still do to some degree, so that's a constant learning thing for me to remind myself to not assume, but to just ask.

Yeah, but I can't really think of being specific. I grew up in, I’ll say, maybe an upper lower-class apartment complex. My parents' families were from an area of town that wasn't the nicest or safest, and so I'd go down there on the weekends to hang out. I just grew up in a very diverse kind of environment. [17:10.5]

But then, at the same time, other kids I went to school with had seemingly the perfect life. Their parents were married. They were happy. They had German cars. They lived in a house. They had real Air Jordans. They had a basketball goal and all that stuff, right?

As I look back now, just the things that I’ve got exposed to and the people that I was around, I learned probably more from them than I did from the stuff I learned in school, just life lessons and watching them hustle and grind, and how to do things. They also kind of showed me that they didn't care about material things. They would have awesome Sunday dinners and get-togethers and other things, and I didn't realize I was getting taught all of these lessons about what's really important. [18:04.5]

But looking back and having that perspective, it's like, man, I didn't realize that people grew up in the cornfields and not around diversity and other things. It's just what I was used to where I'm home, and even still to this day, when I go down to the old neighborhood, I feel more at home there than, I’ll say, certain places in Indianapolis that are a lot more affluent. It's hard for me to feel comfortable there. It's just a different environment. People communicate differently.

I'm not used to being around people that have all these other things and sometimes I struggle with that, but then I naturally just want to assume they're a certain type of person because they have things or they dress a certain way or drive a certain car, or whatever. Yeah, getting past that assumption and trying to stay open to things, and not think in terms of too many absolutes is a challenge for me that I will probably be working on until I’m not here. [19:09.7]

Steve: Yeah, no doubt. Yeah, being conscious of it is the first step, right? I think I'm pretty good at it because I’ve been conscious of it for a while, but, yeah, there are levels to the game because later you're like, No, I'm all open-minded, and then as I was telling you, my teenagers will call me out on something and I'm like, Oh, yeah, you can't see what you can't see. I didn’t even…

Greg: That’s right.

Steve: I’m still doing it, man.

Greg: Yeah, and their perspective is different. That's one of my favorite words. Real quick, you said something earlier that resonated with me. I had the idea to start 250ok a few years before I actually did, but it took me watching my dad pass away of lung cancer to get the courage to do it, and the word, I was afraid to fail and my word just became “perspective” when I realized that my dad's feet were never going to touch the ground again. [20:11.6]

I thought about what it was to be him because I knew that his mind was still active, but his body was failing. I'm thinking, Wow, if that's me and I'm lying in that bed, and I'm kind of replaying my life, what would my regrets be? And having the perspective of I'm still here. I still have an opportunity. I'd rather take that shot miss than to be laying in that bed one day and regret that I never had the courage to take the shot, that's what really set me off on my journey of not being afraid to fail.

Steve: Yeah, man, that's really cool. I think that kind of thing, people talk about COVID as such a big market disruptor. The reality is it happened to all of us. I mean, it's an even playing field.

Greg: That’s right. [20:58.2]

Steve: People listening to this probably mostly know my story, but I went smack through the dotcom bust. I was dotcom consulting kind of stuff and the Y2K project in the 2000, and then I switched gears in ’04 and then I got full-time into real estate. I sat through the housing bubble in ’08, so I started thinking it was me. But this is my third biggest market disruption in 20-whatever years I’ve witnessed and these things pale in comparison to divorce, bankruptcy, cancer.

Greg: Yeah, absolutely.

Steve: I mean, untimely deaths, things like that. That stuff is what wrecks, what changes lives. It’s what wrecks businesses. Sometimes it helps you, galvanizes you. It defines you one way or another in a good way or bad way. Yeah, that was really powerful. I appreciate you sharing that.

Greg: Yeah, no worries, and good things will come out of those bad things, including COVID. I don't know what it is, but whether it's the new normal in terms of sanitation, whether it's the new normal in terms of remote working, remote learning, it’s going to change our lives for the better in some respects, too. Maybe not immediately, but good always comes out of bad. [22:14.3]

Steve: Yeah, no doubt, man. Let's end on that. I know we went a little long. I appreciate you taking time to talk through. It's been really cool. It's been an interesting [conversation]. We're barely getting to know each other, but I feel like we've known each other for 20 years already, so that's kind of cool.

Greg: Now let me ask you one.

Steve: All right, go ahead, yeah.

Greg: This is an interview question that I always like to ask people. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Steve: Oh, man. Man, I feel like I should have a good answer for that. Do I give you a practical answer or a cool answer? Which one do you want?

Greg: I'll tell you. Mine was x-ray vision and it was x-ray vision because, I don't know, as a kid, I always wondered, Am I walking on top of buried treasure? Is there a safe? I mean, even in today's world where we still are uncovering ancient ruins and other things and all these things, I’m like, Man, it'd be really cool if I could see that. [23:13.0]

Or if I'm watching, I don't know, Gold Rush on Discovery and I'm like, okay, maybe literally just right next to this awesome pile of gold or whatever it is that they're doing, we don't know. Mine was always x-ray vision just because I'm weird and curious like that.

Steve: That's really cool, man. That's cooler than what my initial gut [thought] when you asked me that was, and I don't know if this is a super power, but I kind of feel like time travel. Is that a superpower?

Greg: Sure. It’s not natural, right?

Steve: I would love to be able to go back in time and talk to people and learn, and go in the future and see what's going on. I feel like it's cheating a little bit, but, to me, if you look at my Kolbe, I'm a high researcher. I just love to learn. I can't learn enough and relationships are all I kind of really care about. [24:12.8]

I feel like the whole world is just the relationships we have and the experiences we have with those people are all that really matter, and I'd love to be able to go back and meet other people who are going forward, and me and my grandkids, you know what I mean? I watched The Men Who Built America.

Greg: Kind of the Back to the Future guy in that, if you can meet them and influence it, it may change the outcome in any way.

Steve: I know, that’s what I…

Greg: I just kind of want to be more like A Christmas Carol or somebody takes me through to the past or the future, or I can just see it.

Steve: I agree.

Greg: But I can't influence it. Yeah, there's just so many things have happened in history, I'm like, I would love to see that, or everybody says, Oh, it seemed like this was such a better period of time and things were so much better and whatever, but if you saw those people and their perspectives at the time, they have their own struggles. They have their own challenges that they faced just like we do and it's just different. [25:15.4]

A hundred years from now, they'll look back at COVID or the way we treat cancer, and they'll be like, How barbaric. How dumb were those guys? Why didn't they just do this? Just like we do with other things. Hindsight always gives you that benefit. But, yeah, I think time travel is a superpower. Why not?

Steve: Yeah, that was a good question. Caught me off guard, but I'm with you. I wouldn't want to influence time, but, man, I watched The Men Who Built America that you've seen that show on History, that documentary, man, I want to hang out with Morgan and Carnegie. I want to be around Ford or whatever, or just Westinghouse and Tesla and all these things that were going on, that stuff. [26:00.0]

Even The Food That Built America and The Cars That Made America, there are all these different documentaries. I watch all that stuff in History, all these guys that were iconic and I'm like, Man, that would be so cool to kind of be there and talk to them, but I get what you're saying, too. I wouldn't want to change it, but to your point…

Greg: I mean, we have our modern versions of those guys today, right?

Steve: Yeah, for sure.

Greg: We have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, you know what I mean? Musk. I mean, it keeps going and going and going, right? And because our new world is mostly tech, that's probably what we think about, but just the advancements that we're making in so many things and people that are really pushing boundaries about space travel, all these other things that are happening today, I don't know if they're… I think it's arguable whether they're easier or harder.

But, yeah, those guys were [iconic]. I love that show for that reason. It's like, Man, how did they…? They were thinking so much bigger and with foresight and forethought that what they had was pretty cool. [27:01.2]

Steve: Yeah. Cool, man. It's been awesome. Normally at this time when I close, I’ve got people on that I’m interviewing and I'm like, How can people follow you? I don't know if you're a big social media guy. I mean, is your new company something people want to check out or is it more of a B2B deal?

Greg: Not yet.

Steve: [crosstalk]

Greg: I don't. I don't have one right now, so nothing I'm willing to share right now because I’m actually…

Steve: I was going to say [crosstalk] or maybe you can.

Greg: Yeah. I'm just terrible at… I'm not a fan of social media. I've never had a Facebook page, never done any of that really or felt like it was something I should be doing. I'm not even intrigued by it. Honestly, I’m kind of boring, but I'm on LinkedIn if people want to connect with me there, and if I can help somebody out or answer a question, I'm always happy to do it. [27:59.0]

Steve: Cool. I'll take you up on that. In the show notes, guys, I’ll put Greg’s LinkedIn connection there. [28:04.4]

Remember the episode here, you can find out more episodes at TheCEONation.com. That's our website. There's a cool KPI guide you can download that will help you. It's a free training we give out. Every Monday, 3:30 Eastern, I'm live on Zoom. We pump it into our “The CEO Nation” group on Facebook. You guys want to check out that free content, I would love to have you.

Greg, again, thanks for being on. I appreciate it.

Greg: Thanks for having me.

Steve: All right. Cool. We'll see you guys on the next one. See you guys.

We hope you enjoy this episode of the CEO Nation. Be sure to give us a rating, leave a review and subscribe on iTunes. And to connect with Steve and learn more about this movement, visit TheCEONation.com. That's TheCEONation.com. Until next time, take care, be safe and live free.

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