One on One

Before The Interview

To say that the weekend I arrived in Salt Lake City to interview J.J. was nerve racking would be an understatement.  Business has always been somewhat of a magic trick to me, a mystery despite my audio books on “learning how to charge what you’re worth.” The savvy business builders that manifest currency out of organic ideas are a thrilling counterbalance to the rest of us who get freaked out when it’s time to ask for a raise, or worse, to get paid. Sure, I knew a little bit of J.J.’s personal life, and had heard about his devotion to his wife and girls, but still I was anxious about sitting down with a suit and tie that had carved a legacy for himself by his early 30’s.

Sitting down and chatting with him is like hanging out with an old friend and a wise sage at the same time. Truthfully, it’s a little surreal. He can joke around about video games and zombies, laugh about the memorable pranks he’s pulled on friends and then out of nowhere he drops a phrase or a quote that you immediately want to stuff in your pocket. A statement that somehow (and I don’t know how) answers some pivotal life question you’ve been burning over. Then the conversation shifts, because he instinctively knows how to put people at ease, while extracting the very best from them. Next thing you know, it’s back to chatter about kids and zombies, but your life is now different.

J.J. has never been a stranger to challenges. As you’ll hear, he welcomes them. It is another part of his philosophy that seems to work: that we are put on this earth to develop ourselves through these hardships. It’s what refines us into who we are, and better than what we thought we could be.

In the interview, his candid honesty about the struggles he faced growing up with a severely abusive father almost took me by surprise, to the point of tears. His openness and willingness to communicate about his past hardships from his homelessness to abuse is a testament to his character. He doesn’t hide an experience when it was put on this earth to make him stronger, better and braver. He extracts the lesson, learns from it and passes it along as a gift (without the sting) to others.

These individual moments, the good, the bad, the progressive are what he holds most sacred. The times when the moment moves us, changes us, challenges us to love harder, be kinder, fight braver and be better are what he collects mental snapshots of. Those are the details of his legacy that he would, when asked, most desire to leave his future generations. While it seems impossible that someone of his stature, of his mind would bother to get hung up on these seemingly small details while he was building an empire, he’s the one that reminds us, that even heaven has a foundation (and probably a flour fight or two).