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Founders Podcast with David Senra

Are discipline and passion something people are born with, or can it be taught? How do people learn to achieve? We’re not just talking run-of-the-mill achievements, but being the absolute best in your field or domain, regardless of what it is. For those of you who are driven to accomplish incomparable feats and live not just good, but phenomenal lives, we think the podcast Founders with David Senra is a great investment. In each episode – now totalling #349 – Senra dives into the biography of a different person who has been instrumental in creating, changing or dominating their fields, industries, art forms, or domains. We’re talking the best of the best! To do so, Senra does deep study and analysis of biographies and autobiographies of people who transformed the world with their ingenuity, determination, creativity, innovation, and single-mindedness. This entails his finely tuned explanations of the origin stories of the people and their products, companies, accomplishments, and creative outcomes as well as a dissection of how they dealt with obstacles, adversity, and flat out injustices, as well as how they managed and maintained their success once attained.

What is brilliant about Senra is his obvious passion for Founders. His voice veritably bubbles with excitement and joy as he unearths the nuggets of wisdom which weave together the tapestry of incomparable accomplishments across what could often have been common lives. Arguably one of the most powerful and potentially transformative aspects of Senra’s contributions is how his deep study allows his listeners to develop an understanding of what these over achievers have in common. Put plainly, all of them have profound passion verging on obsession, unwavering focus, discipline for their specific end or goal (even if this discipline results in a neglect of other aspects of their lives), and an ability to ascertain the direction or trend of an industry or topic through their own wisdom or by surrounding themselves with people who are equally talented and wise. Many of these superstars are also people who experienced adversity if not outright suffering in childhood which they used – consciously or not – to motivate themselves to experience a level of success which was astounding for their families and communities. The success for many of them was a ticket to another kind of life without uncertainty and instability.

Senra harnesses the life stories of the various founders to ascertain, illustrate, and emphasize the whys and hows behind their successes. For instance, what is today Estée Lauder’s (episode #217) multi-billion-dollar cosmetics and beauty product empire began in her youth when she fell in love with all things beauty and skincare. Two key inspirations were her mother who she watched adoringly as she did her daily beauty rituals and her uncle at whose side she worked mixing his beauty products on the kitchen stove. For Lauder, her skincare products were a passion for which she happily laboured without profit for years, literally giving away containers and samples before she achieved a key break selling them from a beauty salon. Her understanding that women would become paying customers after trying her wonderful face creams at home, prompted her to pioneer the gift-with-purchase marketing tactic.

Like Lauder, Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame (episode #293) and Walt Disney of, well, Disney fame (episodes #346 and #347) worked tirelessly at their professions; Kroc initially selling industrial blenders and Disney drawing and animating which led to his films and theme parks. Kroc hit the road relentlessly selling blenders to various restaurants until his fateful encounter with the McDonald brothers in San Bernadino, California who had created an ingenious time saving method of production for the kitchen of their burger restaurant. But although Kroc did not invent this process, it was he who identified its power and possibility and furthermore, that the franchising business that he convinced the brothers, reluctantly, to pursue was really a real estate business.

Kroc possessed a vision, tenacity, and tirelessness that those around him did not. Disney similarly was busy drawing his way through his early years at school and thrilled to get a paying job as an artist as a young man, one he would have done happily for free. Importantly too, Disney dared to think outside of the box where his competitors only sought to stick to the tried-and-true path. What do we mean? In the early days of animation, companies like Disney and others were making short films to be shown before and between feature films in theatres. It was Disney who surmised that the same fans who were crazy for his short films would also shell out money to see an animated feature length film. Before Disney, animated feature films like Cinderella, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland were unheard of. A tireless worker, once he launched his business, Disney set a standard of work and engagement that he expected his animators to embrace and embody. Indeed, he felt strongly that it was better for him to train his own employees rather than to hire others who, although talented and experienced, often arrived with bad habits and poor work ethic. Steve Jobs (episode #349) was similar, investing a lot of his personal time in interviewing employees, something which less successful people pawn off on others. Jobs understood that the success of Apple hinged upon having the right people in the right roles and empowering them to apply their abilities, training, and talents. Think of how many businesses never do this and what is lost in the process! Andrew Carnegie also understood this principle. For him it was unnecessary (and impossible) for the leader of a company to understand every role. Instead, for Carnegie, the founder’s task was to identify people who were more knowledgeable than he/she was and to understand how each person fit into the big picture of the company.

Senra also loves delving into the lives, philosophies, and accomplishments of athletes like Tiger Woods (episode #301), Michael Jordan (episodes #212, 213, and #340), and Kobe Bryant (episodes #272 and #340). The three champions shared an extraordinary discipline for practice and training and as Senra makes clear, talent, and genetics without discipline, practice, and training do not a champion make. There are countless stories of Bryant practicing and training on the heels of professional games, of Jordan’s relentless demands on teammates to elevate their work ethic and practice routines, and of Woods’ ceaseless quest to perfect his golf swing.

As for storied musicians and filmmakers, Senra has that covered too with episodes on people like Steven Spielberg (episode #209), Quentin Tarantino (episode #344), and Jay-Z (episode #238). All of these men share an early dedication, even obsession, with their art forms. In Tarantino’s case, his childhood love of cinema allowed him to cultivate a deep understanding of various genres and narratives and create a profound mental library. Growing up in an impoverished New York housing project, Jay-Z’s encounter with rap allowed him to envision another kind of future outside of the dead end of drugs and gangs. But his entrepreneurial mentality also allowed him to see and seize opportunities like when established clothing manufactures refused to partner with him on merchandise for his concerts. Looking out at his adoring fans at his concerts, Jay-Z understood that they were hungry to copy his style and that of other notable rappers. To fill that void, Jay-Z launched the clothing company Rocawear alongside business partner Damon Dash, and the rest (as they say) is history. Another powerful lesson from these extraordinary filmmakers and musicians in that they were practicing their acceptance speeches (for Oscars and Grammys) before anybody knew their names.

When Senra covers Oprah Winfrey (episode #334), it becomes clear that one of her superpowers (she has many) is the ability to listen to her intuition and acknowledge the intelligence and wisdom of others. A pivotal point in her career came when Oprah engaged a new business manager who convinced her that it was necessary for her to own her own show. Although she conceded that she did not fully grasp how the shift would benefit her at the time, she had the wisdom to listen to somebody who was able to fill in her own knowledge gaps. As a child born into abject poverty to a single teenage mother in rural Mississippi, Winfrey also astoundingly harnessed a faith in herself that overrode the pervasive sexist and racist negativity of others. Therefore, when the haters lined up to bombard her with the list of why she supposedly fell short of the ideal attributes (coded white, slim, and female) to be a TV star, she simply did not believe them!

Some of the most powerful take aways that connect the lives of the uber successful (across race, class, sex, and nationality) and that have resonated deeply with us include:

  • Things are spoken into existence.
  • Belief comes before ability.
  • Visualization is power.
  • Failures are a part of the journey to success.
  • The greats make their own paths.
  • Passion exposes mediocrity.
  • Intensity is the price of excellence.

At the base of his podcast is Senra’s clear passion for his work which is bringing his audience the histories and stories of some of the world’s most brilliant minds to inspire us in dreaming bigger, setting gutsy goals, and navigating our personal pathways to success.