Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders

Stoicism and Private Equity - Leon Brujis

September 20, 2021 Connection Builders Episode 55
Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders
Stoicism and Private Equity - Leon Brujis
Show Notes Transcript

There is so much more to success than making money. In today’s episode, we are joined by Leon Brujis, partner at Palladium Equity Partners and an expert in the field of private equity and a striving stoic, who explains why a curiosity mindset, acceptance of failure, having a positive impact on others, and a commitment to continuous learning, are far more critical than the number of deals you do or the amount of money you have. Leon explains the core foundations of the stoic philosophy and shares some personal stories that highlight how he uses these principles in his own life. This episode is full of pearls of wisdom from start to finish, and you are likely to walk away with a whole new perspective on the true meaning of success.

 Key Points From This Episode:

  • Problems with the “me-first,” money-orientated mentality that is so pervasive in today’s world. 
  • Why Leon thinks forming strong business relationships is so important. 
  • Two examples highlight why he believes success is a state of mind.
  • Leon shares the best piece of advice he has ever received. 
  • Why Leon was drawn to stoicism, and what the four core principles of this philosophy are. 
  • How Leon thinks about failure.
  • One of the bad investment decisions that Leon made, and what he learned from it (and all the others).
  • A story about what mastery means. 
  • What the people who Leon looks up to most all have in common. 
  • Why knowledge should be a continuous, lifelong process. 
  • How to listen with a curious mind.
  • Ways that showing interest in others improves your relationships. 
  • True success is not about making money; it’s about how you touch the lives of other people. 

Leon Brujis on LinkedIn
Palladium Equity Partners
Palladium Equity Partners on LinkedIn
Alex Drost LinkedIn
Branch Out Podcast LinkedIn
Connection Builders LinkedIn

Have thoughts or comments? We want to hear from you. [email protected]

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow, and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections. 

[00:00:20] AD: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast. I'm your host, Alex Drost. Today's guest is Leon Brujis, Partner at Palladium Equity Partners, a New York based private equity firm. Leon and I discussed the benefits of reframing both failure and success, and how the teachings of stoicism can be applied to the private equity and professional services industry. I hope you all enjoy,

[00:00:44] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders. 

[INTERVIEW]

[00:00:52] AD: Leon, welcome to the Branch Out Podcast, excited to have you here today.

[00:00:55] LB: Alex, thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited for our discussion today.

[00:01:00] AD: I am as well, and in talking to our listeners for a minute, Leon and I were just chatting before we jumped on to record here about stoicism and some of the teachings of stoicism and where that is applicable to the private equity, the asset management and the finance industry, and really, the professional services industry as a whole in many ways. And so, Leon, the first question, what I'd love to just ask your thoughts is when I say, stoicism and private equity, and how can those be related? Where do they tied together? What are the teachings? What are some of your thoughts around that?

[00:01:34] LB: For context, I think that a lot of people that come into this industry are drawn by the allure of making a lot of money and the pedigree that comes with working in this profession. And to be honest with you, it was part of why I decided to get into the field close to 15 years ago. I think that the fact that you can make a lot of money, and you're given the responsibility to not only transform companies, but in certain cases, transform industries can make private equity investors feel a little bit like, as they say, masters of the universe. But over the years, it's become clear to me that my professional worth my legacy, if you will, is not determined by the deals I do or how much money I make. Many of us come to this industry as takers, we want to make a splash, we want to make our deal. So, we push and we take and I was like that earlier in my career too.

But I've learned that you have to be cognizant of the way you interact and collaborate with people, from colleagues to management teams. And at the end of the day, to me, what really counts is the people that you touch along the way and how you impact their lives and their communities where they operate. And by the way, this doesn't come at the expense of of returns. I actually think it's quite the opposite. It's not just the right thing to do, it can also lead to better returns, because by forging deeper, stronger partnerships, and relationships, you're able to, I think, get more things done and get better returns.

Now, you and I will agree that there is a lot of people in this industry that do not abide by that principle, and they are very successful anyway. But that comes at a cost. And I think that we have learned over the past year or so that a public perception and public scrutiny is important and it will eventually catch up to us. I think that there is something that we all can do to improve that perception and ultimately make things better for ourselves in this industry. And to me, it's not a PR issue, it starts within us and what we do each of us, day to day, to make a change. 

[00:04:04] AD: Let's unpack a few items in there. First off, I want to question you, you talk about success. And one of the comments you made is that there are people that don't necessarily embrace. They're very much takers that are very much embracing the me first mentality that are still successful by traditional measurements of success, which unfortunately, especially in the US, is largely economic success. The the monetary, the dollars that you've generated, maybe the size of the deals you've done, things like that. I would question, I would just throw out there to ponder on is what is success? What do you truly mean by success? What level of fulfillment? What level of relationships that also play into that success? Because if you're successful and make a ton of money, but destroy a bunch of relationships along the way, are you truly successful in the big picture?

[00:04:52] LB: Very glad you asked that, because I have, I think a good answer for it. The success is ultimately a state of mind. Some of the richest people are not – I don't think are very insecure and I don't know, they themselves feel successful and they need constant reinforcement about their success. And some people that I know that economically may not be as high, feel very successful. I want to give you two examples to illustrate what I mean.

The first example is, I was listening to this podcast, this very successful entrepreneur, and he was talking about how he built this huge house, but the house needed a lot of work. So, he was constantly frustrated that the needed a lot of work and he was stressed about work, and he was just not in a great state of mind. And he recounted his experience where he saw some of the contractors working at his house, and that they were, taking a rest, and they were chatting and having a great time, and they had the radio, and then they were dancing. And he was like, “Wow, look at those guys, who obviously haven't made as much money as I have, and how happy they are. They're earning a good day's pay and here I am frustrated about things that really, at the end of the day, don't matter.” And that was a teaching moment for him and that's really what the word success means to me that you feel fulfilled with what you're doing. We've heard it a million times, that an equal success is just a state of mind.

[00:06:23] AD: Success is a state of mind, I think, is a really – it’s a great way to look at and I think it's really important to remember. In talking to our general audience, being professional service providers, and in specifically in your industry of the deal world private equity, my background being investment banking, I understand that you're in an environment that is high paced, high pressure, always going, very competitive. Your to-do list never ends, your Outlook inbox probably never sees the bottom. There's always an unlimited amount of things to do that can stress you out and have you worried, and always more, always more to do more. More and more, go, go go.

But ultimately, just because you chase that, just because you're getting work done, just because you're doing those things, doesn't really necessarily lead you with a feeling of success. And rather, you have to yourself really step back and say what's important to me, what am I doing to live in a way that allows me to feel and believe and think that I'm successful, in that state of mind, that way of thinking is really what truly draws you there. It's not going to be getting that deal done, getting that work done, getting that next client, getting that big bonus, whatever it might be, all those things are just mile markers that you're going to hit along the way. And you're going to get there and all of a sudden be like, “Oh, well, I'm not actually – I don't feel successful, I don't feel happy.” If you don't start with embracing that, in your mind.

[00:07:49] LB: I couldn't agree with you more. And let me share the best advice I ever got, which I think is the key to this whole conversation. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. In this industry, as you were just talking about, this is an industry of so much ego, and when deals go well, we are trivial – there’s always over attribution. We attribute our success to the decisions we made. Our investment thesis was right, the management team was the right team. And then when that investment does not go well, we're all of us and victims. The market went south. There was nothing we could do about it. I think that part of this mentality shift that I was talking earlier in the conversation is that we need to take ownership and make ourselves accountable for our impact. This was a bad investment. We screwed up.

I think there is a nice time with our earlier topic around stoicism, if I can keep going. Last year, I had the fortune of meeting General Mattis and for those of you who don't know, General Mattis had a long over 40-year career at the Marine Corps. He worked under the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. He led troops into Afghanistan and Iraq. And he wrote a book called called Call Sign Chaos, where he recounts his military career and has really great lessons of leadership, too many to share now in this conversation. But one of the things that he says is that if you haven't read hundreds of books, you're going to lack competence, because your experience alone is not enough to get you all the way there. And also, in that book, he recommends – he has a bunch of book recommendations and one of them is Meditations by the old Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. That was, Alex, where it kind of drew me into the philosophy of the stoics.

Now, ironically, many people in my industry are considered lower case stoics, lack of emotion, whatnot. But what I say is that we – to strive to follow the principles of a capital S, Stoicism. And at its core, going back, tying it back to the beginning of this conversation, stoicism teaches the development of self-control, and the resilience to overcoming toxic emotions. Okay, and there's four core principles in stoicism, and they're rooted in the following. Every event is an opportunity to display temperance, justice, wisdom, and courage. Be more humble, be more accountable.

[00:10:47] AD: Let me ask this, then Leon, is your thinking about that. You have had a career, a little over 15 years of private equity and you talked about early on when you didn't necessarily approach your job, your role and what you do today, with that same stoic mindset, that same thought process, that same philosophy. Can you just take us through some of the transformation that helped you see some of that? And the reason I'm asking this, I think when we talk about it, and we say, “Well, you want to be a practicing stoic. You want to control your emotions. You want to recognize that your reaction is really what matters.” All of that stuff is very logical and I think in our rational, sane minds, we can all say, “Yes, of course, that's what I want to do.”

In the heat of the moment, it can be significantly harder. That's when the rubber meets the road, right? In in the deal world, the transaction world, the professional service world, back to the high pressure that the client demands, the constant need to do things can make that challenging. And I know you've shared that you've gone through your own journey of some of your own evolution and thought here. Can you just peel that back a little bit and then we can dig into a little bit more of how that shifted for you?

[00:11:53] LB: Absolutely. Before I get started, if carve this one, I strive to be a stoic, I couldn't consider myself a stoic. This is one of those things that – and we'll talk about this later that you're always learning, I think, in your life, but particularly in this business. But perhaps one of my favorite principles around stoicism is the following, which is going to be leaning to answering your question. The obstacle is the way. I think in our industry, in finance, private equity, we need to think or revisit how we think about failure. This has been a big journey for me. Failure is information, an opportunity to learn and move forward.

At Palladium, we have this old adage that I'm going to share with you which is good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Now, of course, there are small failures and big failures, and there needs to be a balance. And I suppose over my long career, the winds have exceeded the failures. But to answer your question, and just even example, I was on a roll a few years ago, I've done several successful transactions and I felt overconfident. A new opportunity emerged, and I developed an investment piece of how we could create value in this industry that we had prior experience. This was a very competitive process, so here was a lot of hype about this opportunity.

In hindsight, there were warning signs, there were supply chain disadvantages, there were cyclical markets, but I rationalized these risks as manageable. It didn't help as I said that there was a lot of hype around this investment. And I felt that because we had experienced in this space, we could apply the same playbook that we had in the past. The result was not good. I made a bad investment decision. I've had the privilege of being a student of investing for the past 15 years. As I look back, in my experience, I have learned far more from the things that didn't go well, the obstacles in the way, so to speak.

Case in point, when it came time to prepare for this conversation, what I want to talk to you about is the things that didn't go well and what I learned from them. I'm not telling you about all the great investments that I did before and that, because frankly, well – don’t get me wrong, I love to do well and I love when things go well. I think the lessons that you learn come from you know the bad decisions.

[00:14:43] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a connection builders podcast.

[00:14:54] AD: I love the idea of rethinking failure. This is something I have definitely tried to embrace in my life especially in the last 10 years or so, and in recognizing that, first off, what what is failure? What do you really mean by failure? So, I've been asked before from people, what's the way you failed? Sometimes I struggled to really describe a place I have failed, because to me in the way I try to frame things in my mind, I don't necessarily look at anything I've done as a failure. There are things that I certainly set out and thought would go one way and went totally a different way. There are certainly goals I have set for myself or objectives I've set or responsibilities I've had that I have fallen short of, expectations that weren't met.

I don't necessarily know that's a failure in the sense of the word, right? I mean, this comes down to, when we say fail, what do we really mean? I love the way you summarize that and saying, good decisions, the saying that you all have in your firm, good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decisions. I had to learn from something and the failure is nothing more than this opportunity to step back and say, “Oh, well, I thought he'd go one way. I was wrong. What went wrong? How do I learn from that? How do I make sure in the future, that I don't handle it that way?”

Again, rather than getting hooked up on the failure, right? Because when you get hooked up on failure, it's very unproductive. It's a very unhealthy mindset in place to be from a headspace standpoint. But more importantly, if you look at things as a true failure, then instead of saying, “Oh, well, no, it didn't go as planned. But I learned this, I gained this knowledge, I gain this experience. And next time, I'm going to do this better.” It's a way of framing it, a way of thinking about it. Is that a fair way of looking at it?

[00:16:35] LB: A hundred percent. So, a few things came to my mind when you were talking about that. One, just to emphasize what you said is this shift, I tried to make and let me emphasize this, that it's been a journey and continues to be a journey, is to think about failure, not as something that weighs on your shoulders, but as a ladder for progress. Going back to an earlier point, failure is information. And learning from failure is important.

And then I want to share an experience that I've had a colleague of mine, things were not working out, and he left the firm. So, we had a conversation talking about exactly this, what can we learn from this? I said, “This is the best thing that has happened to you.” And the person will say, “Well, at the time, it was a recent event.” So, he was like, “I don't know, when you leave your job, you can sometimes feel like you have failed.” And I said, “In 10 years, we're going to catch up, and you're going to tell me, this was the best thing that happened to you.” And he was skeptical about it and I said, “Well consider the alternative. What if in 10 years, you tell me, yes, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me, how sad would that be? That means that there will be time wasted. You have not used that as an opportunity to grow.”

The interesting thing is that that person went on to do really well and we had that conversation recently. And he told me, “You were right, Leon. This was the best thing that happened to me.” So, I was mainly emphasizing what you said, which I completely agree with.

[00:18:20] AD: Well, it's interesting, I think back in my life, and I can very clearly identify a handful of events in my life, that in the heat of the moment, felt like material failures, whether that be not getting a job that you want, and not getting into a college that you wanted, or having a relationship go sideways, all these things, that we all as humans we all struggle with, from time to time. I can absolutely look back at all of those and I know in the heat of the moment, I felt like they were major failures. I know they were challenging to overcome.

But I also can look back and say, “Wow, that door that closed”, and I'll share an example. There was a job opportunity that I thought I had coming out of college, and then all of a sudden ended up not getting the job that I had felt very strongly about. Well, because I didn't get that, I ended up going down a totally different career path than I landed in investment banking. And I kind of look back and say, “If I would have taken that other corporate job, my life would have looked a heck of a lot different than it does today.” How it looks today, I'm very happy about it. I'm very proud of where I'm at and what I have accomplished. And it's been because other doors were closed along the way. This again, this all goes back to when you're in the heat of the moment, it can very much seem like all this is overwhelming. This is such a wait. I’m a failure. What am I ever going to do? Everything I planned is not going to work. Out all these things. But in the 10 years of retrospect, it becomes much easier to look back and say, “Wow, that failure actually wasn't a failure. It was a closed door that opened up a new door that made new opportunities that took me to a place that I could have never imagined getting to without them.” It's all the way thinking about it.

[00:20:04] LB: It's 100%, going back to, it's not what happens to you, it's how you react. It is 100%. I mean, I often think about the twists and turns that my life and my career have taken. And I always think like, “Wow, what happened, the way it happened, led me to the best possible scenario, which is where I am today.” Now, is that true? No. Is there any way I can prove that? Of course not. But it doesn't matter. It's really how I feel about it. I think that's your point, right? That you can control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. There's something that and maybe this could be a nice segue into the next topic, which is, if you change your mind set about failure, and you're right, we can debate a lot of what failure means and there's failures and there's failures. Failures are reps, and you want to get in as many reps as you can.

So, I always say to folks that work with me, you are not going to learn to swim by reading about swimming. You just have to get in the pool and swim. There is this great example that I think, that one-hour mental exercise I want to share with you, Alex, which is let's say you have a guy that you give him a bunch of clay and say, “I want you to spend the next two days making the perfect pot.” And then you give another bunch of clay to this other guy, and you say, “I want you to make as many parts as you can.” Okay. Focus on volume. Who do you think is going to have the best pot?

[00:21:43] AD: It's the guy who made a bunch of them because the first 10 didn't turn out well. Yeah.

[00:21:48] LB: It’s the guy who made a bunch of them, because every point that you make is a learning opportunity to make the pod better. And the guy who's making the one pod does not have the benefit of doing all the other parts wrong, and doesn't have the opportunity to let failure develop the skill. It's been said that a master is someone who has made all the possible mistakes in a narrow field, I can share an experience with you, we work on analysis for a deal with some of my colleagues the other day, and they presented this analysis and, I was in a matter of seconds able to pinpoint a mistake. He was surprised that I was able to do that. And I told him, “Look, I've been around long enough to have made many of the mistakes that you can make in this field.” The way to think about it, and as I look at the mentors in my life, and the people that I look up to, the most successful among us, are the ones who know that you never stop learning. 

To make an analogy with investing, nowadays, if you live out your savings in a bank account, and without earning a meaningful return, you're losing money, because obviously inflation is eating away. So, you have to invest your money so it can grow and among other things, combat inflation. I think knowledge is the same way. If you don't grow your knowledge, you're actually shrinking it. Continuing in this, bringing it back to stoicism, I think that a lot about stoicism is about learning from reading works of folks that you think are important, but also by having good mentors. That, I think, is another important topic because private equity in general, it's an apprenticeship business, right?

[00:23:43] AD: There's no book you can read that's just going to teach you at all.

[00:23:46] LB: Exactly. There's no secret sauce. But Alex, any fool can learn from experience. I tried to learn through the experience of others, right? In the long journey of apprenticeship, the reason to seek a mentor and to try to learn is because you get there through the painful trial and error. But it's much easier to learn from the mistakes of others that will make the journey quicker.

[00:24:10] AD: Let me ask you a question about the lifelong learning, because this is something, I'm very passionate about. I think being a lifelong learner is critical. One of my own experience around it has been, and I stole this from – I can't remember some book I had read. But the statement essentially was, visualize this as your area of knowledge expands, the circumference of what you don't know, also expands. The more you know, the less you know, right? The smarter you get, the more you realize you don't know, right? That comes with a perpetual mindset of I want to learn, I need to know more, and very, very difficult to learn if you think you already know the answer. If I tell myself, well, of course I know this already. I have nothing to learn. There's nothing I'm going to learn from that versus saying, “Hey, this what I know. This is what my experience has taught me.” But what do you think? Or what can I learn from there? What book can I pick up that I can learn this topic or wherever it might be to be a lifelong learner? What are your thoughts around the idea of just continuously seeking knowledge?

[00:25:14] LB: So first, I love that you said that. And one of the things I realized as I went into this journey of stoicism that a lot of the principles about it are things that I had learned elsewhere or somewhere else. And you just mentioned one, which is, it is impossible to learn what you think you already know, which is another stoic principle. I bet you didn't know that. I think that the way to accomplish what you're saying is, Simon Sinek, he has a bunch of great books, and he has this concept about be the idiot in the room. Don't be afraid to look foolish. I think having that mindset sets you up to remain curious, or like I've said in the past, surrender to your curiosity, and that's the path, I think, to continuous learning.

I think that this is particularly relevant for my industry, because there is a stigma in private equity about not knowing and how that makes you look. I think that that can severely impact your ability to grow. And frankly, your perception of others, the perception of you of others. I don't know if I said that right. By the way, this happened to me earlier in my career. I was afraid of looking stupid and I did not voice my opinions and I did not ask enough questions. It actually came back to haunt me. It was a hinderance earlier in my career. I remember having a tough time at work, I've talked about this before, I'm going on a walk with my dad at the beach and talking about what can I do different. And the way you make that change, Alex, when you boil everything out, everyone can give you techniques about how to change and how to be better, whatever.

But at the end of the day, it's really a leap of faith. And I realize this, when I was teaching my daughter how to ride a bike. I was saying, “You need to pedal. You need to pedal. I'm going to catch you, don't be afraid.” And I realized that I I couldn't – I don't think anyone can teach any anything to anyone. That ultimately, the learning process comes from within. She needed to take that leap of faith, keeping it with the pedal would make the bike balance, and she could do it. That was an amazing learning experience for me to see her learn how to ride a bike.

I think for young investors, listening to this, I think that, as I said, don't be afraid to look foolish, don't be afraid to be the idiot of the room, I find that oftentimes the questions that you have are the questions that everyone else has. Of course, you have to bring something to the table, and you have to contribute. And what I mean by that is that you need to listen with the intent to listen, not listen with the intent to respond. That's that curiosity mindset that leads to lifelong learning.

[00:28:29] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:28:39] AD: The curiosity minds, I want to hit on that, because I think this is very important. You'd said, “Listen to understand, not listen to respond. Ask a question. Don't be afraid to ask questions as long as you're there with the curious mindset.” And what that all really comes down to, is again, the way of thinking. If in my head, if I'm saying, “Leon, I'm going to ask you about this investment decision.” Even though in my mind, I already know what I think the right answer is and I'm just asking to see if I can catch you saying something different. So, I can challenge you. Well, that's not asking a good question. That is a dumb question, because I'm asking it for a dumb purpose to not productive manner. Versus saying, “Hey, in my head, I think it's this way.” Leon, why do you think it's different? Help me understand what's different behind this.

As soon as that mindset shifts where I'm truly curious, and I truly, I may believe one way, but I'm willing to allow that cognitive dissonance to happen in my head where I can sit back and say, “This thought may be true, but what else might I not understand?” And once I truly embrace that, that curiosity and that desire to learn, that desire to gain new knowledge, my questions, then very quickly become a helpful tool in discussing and bringing topics further along where we all walk away learning more. But it comes down to that way of thinking about that and being genuinely curious and not believing that I know the right answer and I'm just trying to prove that I know the right answer.

[00:30:09] LB: Yeah. I mean, so if you go with the one that you said, which is the gotcha question, which, by the way, I can now tell you that that's how I first approach to the industry, wanted to be the smartest guy in the room. That was not the path to success. I remember, even though my heart was in the right place, and my questions, the content of my questions were probably the right ones, the folks at the other side of the table didn't receive that well, because, as you said, I was trying to do the gotcha. And I was trying to show them how smart I was, versus displaying curiosity. As I said, listening to listen.

I think over time, that was a liability for me earlier in my career has now become an asset. Okay. And it's actually my favorite part of the job is one of the things I feel privileged and lucky is that I get to learn about all this different industries and companies and sectors that I never knew about, and to me, that's fascinating. I think I am able to have much better, much genuine conversations with business owners and management teams. Now, that I focus on the principles that you just described than I did before, where you actually lead to thinking like, “Do I really want to work with this guy?”

[00:31:33] AD: That ties everything back to the very beginning of our conversation. The key fundamental to truly being a successful investor is building relationships with the people that you're working with, before, during, and after the transaction, right? And what you just hit on is that when your mindset shifted from, I have to prove myself, I have to demonstrate how smart I am or how I know everything, to, I'm here to ask questions and learn and be curious and gain knowledge as you go. Your ability to build relationships with people truly build mutual trust and respect with other people, goes significantly higher when you're there with that curious mindset, not that I'm proving myself mindset, right?

[00:32:18] LB: A hundred percent. I completely agree with that. Also tying it all the way back to the beginning and talking about success. I think, at the end of the day, when anyone looks back at their life, they're not going to think how much money they made, or what a great deal they made. They're going to think, have I made a difference in the lives of the people that I touched. 

And let me tell you what true success is, through a personal story. My dad, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, had a successful career at the IFC, which is part of the World Bank. And before he took his final job, he was the CEO of the IFC, his private equity fund, he was leaving a big department at the IFC, and my dad was always very big into doing videos. And his team did a video on, just a goodbye video, and in that video, everyone wrote in a piece of paper that they passed along, things that they liked about or thanked my dad for things that they have learned. It was a very emotional video. And as I saw it, I was like, “Wow, this is what success means. Having all these people lined up to leave a message to my dad who was leaving to another job within the IFC, there he was having made a difference and having touched the lives of this team in a positive way.” And as I thought about when I get to be at that stage, I wish someone who may have video like that, showing that, that to me, is true success.

[00:34:03] AD: It all comes back to thinking about the impact or as you said, the difference you're making in people's lives. If you truly look at that outside of yourself, it's thinking about others and those that you're interacting with and truly saying how can I continuously learn and continuously be the best version of myself and react to my situation in the most positive way possible, and have a continual focus on serving those around me and making an impact. You do that again and again, day in day out, in the long term that is success. That is driving towards a truly successful life.

[00:34:44] LB: That is success. I think in every business and in every aspect of life, your relationships are the most important asset that you have. I think that's especially true in my industry, in the industry of private equity, that's frankly, the way we do it at our firm, at Palladium. We lean on relationships and that's how we like to win. We like to win with successful partnerships and successful relationships.

[00:35:06] AD: I love it. What a great way to wind our recording down here today. I'm going to go and do a quick review of everything we talked about today and pull this full circle. But what you just said, it really all comes down to relationships. And we started our conversation around stoicism and private equity. And really what is stoicism teach to private equity. You said you had realized that the legacy is not based on the deals you close, right? It really comes down to, as we said, the impact you make, the relationships you build, and what that long term looks like. And oftentimes, people will come into the private equity deal space, or even professional services world as a taker, and really, what's in it for me? How can I get the most? But that's really – you need to shift out of that mindset and really, look, how can I give, how can I help. 

Some of that is recognizing that success is a state of mind. Success is a way of thinking. It is not necessarily an economic value or a deal closed or something that you're getting accomplished. It's really your continual way of thinking the state of mind that you're in. Part of really driving towards that long-term success is recognizing that you can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it, right? And you have to make sure that you're constantly checking your reactions and saying, “What can I do to react in a better way?” And part of helping that is thinking about failure, and really rethinking failure and saying that failure is nothing more than an opportunity to learn. It's an opportunity to grow, to improve, and to do this in the future. Not, as you said, it's not a weight on your shoulders, but rather steps to the next level, a ladder to get to that next level, and that ties even one of the saying you'd said that you use within your firm where good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Those failures, those expectations that were missed, those goals that we're setting didn't achieve, the things that seem so negative at the time, really are what gave you that experience to allow you to have the intuition to make the right decisions, better decisions and smarter decisions in the long run.

So, you have to embrace those, and part of that is never stopped learning. Always look to be learning, be a lifelong learner, embrace the idea of learning in the way you do that best is really being curious and constantly having a mind of curiosity, embracing curiosity, following your curiosity, and going into conversations with people looking to learn from them. Everyone has something you can learn from them. Everyone has a unique story that you can learn from, and asking questions, not to prove yourself, but rather to truly be open and to learn. And all of that leads us to, and build is up to, if I do that, if I continuously do that, and have that lifelong learner, I am curious, and I'm out there serving, I'm going to make a difference in people's lives that way. I'm going to make a bigger impact. I'm going to build stronger relationships.

And as you said, for our listeners in being professional service focus in specifically in the private equity world, but as professional services as a whole, it's a relationship-based business. It comes down to the relationships you have in the foundation for all of that is this curiosity, this learning, the way you react, the way you think about failure, how you define success. All of that is what truly drives your ability to build those strong, meaningful relationships.

Leon, what do you think? Is that a good summary? Anything I missed from what we chatted on today?

[00:38:37] LB: I am extremely impressed how well you summarized it. That was pretty awesome. Nothing to add, other than thank you for having me today. I love this conversation and hopefully we can do something again soon.

[00:38:50] AD: I want to go through a quick call to action, then we can chat about how guests can get ahold of you. So, our call to action this week, for our listeners, in the next seven days, I'd like to ask everyone to find 30 minutes a time and sit down and reflect on a failure of yours, reflect on a moment in your life and experience, something that didn't go as planned, something that you thought was a failure and really think back about, the  job you didn't get. Again, a relationship that went sideways. Something that that you say, “Wow”, at the time that seemed like such a failure, but really reflect on where you're at today and think about what maybe happened because of that failure. What door open that you didn't see? What changed that puts you in a truly better place or a different place, a place that you can be happy about today because of that? I think it's so important to reframe failure like that.

So again, find 30 minutes and reflect on a past failure, and really look at how to reframe that into truly learning in a growth moment rather than a view of failure. So, for our listeners, how can they get in touch with you?

[00:39:54] LB: I'm a very active LinkedIn user and please reach out to me on LinkedIn and I will get back to you.

[00:39:59] AD: Awesome, and we'll make sure your LinkedIn profile is linked within the show notes here. So, I appreciate you being on here. This is awesome conversation, some very great insights there. And again, really appreciate your contribution to the show today.

[00:40:11] LB: Thank you, Alex. Thanks for having me.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

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