What I Learned Interviewing 10 Extremely Successful People


“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I can learn from him.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Me: “Hi sir. Can I interest you in”….

Prospect: “Go fuck yourself and never call me again!” (Hangs up).

This was how my last scripted cold call went working at a business firm.

Scripted call are the equivalent of having a shotgun pointed at your head.

You “persuade” your prospect to buy something in thirty seconds or your brains are blown away. Splattered on the concrete pavement.

Fast forward a year later. There was nothing scripted about calling 10 of my heroes to interview.

I couldn’t even tell you how the hell I was going to prepare myself to call and interview lustrous masters in their respected fields (no cold calling involved).

I can barely hold a conversation with any of my family or friends on a phone. Thomas, what the hell did you get yourself into now? Let’s just say I ran my own social experiment.

It was a necessity to interview different people from artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, writers, and more.

Worse case scenario if any of these interviews bombed. The person on the other end can tell me to have a nice day. And we could go our separate ways.

Please don’t cuss at me. My ears have already done plenty of bleeding.

Interviewing your heroes can have your adrenaline running out of control.

You have to remember these are people like you and I.

Calming the nerves is essential in any conversation. Desperation can be sensed like a drop of blood in a pool of sharks, people can immediately sense it.

You get this one moment to facilitate a conversation the way you want and literally ask anything.

The research that goes into this is far more important than any exam you take in school. This time the test talks back!

You are a detective. It’s a quest to find topics your subjects are immersed in and you have to place all the pieces together.

Most importantly, I was interested in those moments of truths and failures where they picked themselves up. The part no ones like to talk about and sweep under a rug.

You can’t let the gatekeepers dictate your future.

Gillian Zoe Segal grew up never having a mentor. She connected with Warren Buffett, Kathy Ireland, Anderson Cooper, Hans Zimmer, Laird Hamilton, and much more. She now has 30 mentors and decided to make a book out of it, “GETTING THERE: A BOOK OF MENTORS”.

A lot of times she got rejected by a gatekeeper and her target never even knew she had asked.

Gillian never took any of the rejection personally. It is all part of the process. The people she was contacting are all extremely busy and none of them owed her anything. It took her five years to complete her book. Including setting up her own interviews with these luminaries which she had no connections with and even taking their picture which was published in her book. No matter what stage of life you are in, it is never too late to learn something new, improve, and be inspired.

Reinvention is a life long process.

Dorie Clark had spent a lot of my time in her 20’s trying to find a good career and largely failing. She got a masters degree in theology, and was wanting to get a doctorate in English Literature, that was the plan at the time.

And unfortunately, after being turned down by all the doctorate programs she applied for. With her experience in covering politics she ended up working in politics as a spokesperson.

Eventually, she ended up finding her footing and started a successful consulting business. One of the first blogs she wrote for The Harvard Business Review was about this experience of reinvention and that post became popular and ultimately that turned into her first book, Reinventing You. This was the first of her many books. It just goes to show you such as Dorie’s first book, we reinvent ourselves further down our own carved path in life.

Gangsters paradise is real… it’s at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Chris Blatchford an award winning journalist and author told the never before true story of the most powerful gang in America and one of the most brutal and ruthless criminal organizations in the world who control the California underworld:The Black Hand: The Story of Rene “Boxer” Enriquez and His Life in the Mexican Mafia.

Chris was not intimidated of sitting across from a convicted killer and hearing how a ruthless criminal enterprise came to be. Almost everyday somebody comes up to him on the streets whether it’s a police officer, a gangster, a lawyer, or someone who just lives in a neighborhood in Los Angeles. People are always asking questions about his book.

Literally most people in the inner city have a relative or a brother, somebody who at least has been touched in some way by an organized crime group or a gang. And they can relate to it on that level. There aren’t many neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area that aren’t impacted in some way by a gang.

Choose obstacles to be opportunities.

At age 20, Hal Elrod (business coach and best selling author of The Miracle Morning) was driving home when he was hit head on by a drunk driver at 70 mph. He literally died for 6 minutes, broke 11 bones, and was in a coma for 6 days. When Hal came out of the coma, he was told he would never walk again in his life and had permanent brain damage. 3 weeks later, he took his first step.

Hal mentioned, “Most people abide by this and ask God, “why did this happen to me?” We choose reasons that will empower or discourage us. If you choose the reason why sad things always happen, that’s going to set you up for a feeling of discouragement. If you choose to overcome adversity, it will be able to help other people achieve more in their lives. This happened to me because I’m suppose to overcome this in the most positive and proactive way. And then I’ll learn how and anyone else can overcome adversity in the same way.”

What Hal took away from this experience was, “At the very least, we all have a responsibility to overcome our adversities so we can set the example for people that look up to us. Whether it’s our friends, family, colleagues, or customers. We can teach other people through our example how to live life with purpose. How we live our lives gives other people permission to do the same. We have to look beyond our own life and understand we impact other people.”

You can make anything out of nothing.

Gaby Natale came from her native land Argentina in pursuit of a dream in Texas. Gaby began her professional career in broadcast journalism as an anchor at Univision. A job most people would kill for and never want to leave. But after securing her green card, she did the unthinkable.

With her heart and courage, Gaby left her job and pitched her own Spanish-language television show, SuperLatina, to a local network.

Gaby shot her first show out of a carpet storage closet in Odessa, Texas. Now SuperLatina is a six-time Emmy-nominated and nationally recognized show. Being the President and Co-founder of AGANARmedia, her company has an array of clients such as Ford, AT&T, McDonald’s, and MetroPCS. She created abundance where resources were scarce. Never waiting for when the tide was right. She sailed into the storm no matter what conditions were thrown her way….and she has now won an Emmy…still that’s not stopping her.

Invest and build a network like Warren Buffett.

Stig Brodersen holds a master’s degree in Finance, has studied Business Analysis at Harvard University, and he’s the co-founder of the educational stock investing site The Investors Podcast. He and his co founder Preston constantly dive deep into the niche of billionaires and luminaries to successfully critique how they invest and run successful businesses.

Stig mentions, “our goal is to educate, I think it’s completely okay if people look at me as an investor, but I see myself as an educator. My profession set aside from this podcast is a college professor. This is my medium to teach specifically of what I want to do without fitting into a curriculum and reaching a lot of people at the same time. And I think a lot of people like that, they can get this type of education completely free when they are in their car, doing exercise, or however they please.”

Runaway with the circus.

In his young career, Jefe Greenheart worked on mainstream television. Someone in his position was supposedly have “made it”. Yet he found his role unfulfilling, dull, and soul sucking working in the television industry.

Coincidentally he would later meet his future wife (Kelly Greenheart) when she and other talented performers strolled into his nearby location (Austin, TX). She mentioned about working on a project in South America and gave Jefe an ultimatum. He could join her on a filming project in South America or run the risk of never seeing her again.

Jefe willingly sold all his possessions, car, house, and quit his job. Both of their lives have never been the same. Jefe has gone on to work with the likes of Jim Carrey, Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, and more. This demonstrates more than idle living. Jefe has proven to pass the bar of what it truly is like to play for a living. He and his wife currently run Greenheart TV and are changing the world…one project and video at a time.

Serve causes greater than you.

Alexi Panos a musician, author, model, and videographer was signed to Murder Inc at a point in her life. She had the privilege to go on tour with some of the most renowned hip hop artists of our time. One one particular tour in South Africa, she stepped outside of a social event to witness people living in absolute poverty and realized she wasn’t living her true purpose and felt she needed to come from a place of service versus being a rockstar on the road.

What made her part of the change was drilling and allowing people in Africa to get access to clean water. This was just the beginning for her and the organization she founded…

Alexi wasn’t living her true self and decided to go against the grain. Through sheer hard work, determination, and grit. She got out of the music industry and started her nonprofit organization E.P.I.C (Everyday People Initiating Change). To inspire others to be Epic and live life authentically and not be hiding behind a watered down version of themselves. To not let excuses direct people and become a victim of living a false reality.

From Wall Street trader to pop up Mogul.

Melissa Gonzalez the current founder of The Lionesque Group wasn’t always in the position she is in to be head of a successful company. When asked about the role she was transitioning into, in her words, “it happened by complete accident”. She left Wall Street in 2009 to pursue more creative endeavors. She experimented with pop up retail in renovating spaces. Eventually in this pursuit, she found her true calling. She was originally taking auditioning classes and going into the acting world.

Up into this point she had the experience of being on camera from hosting Latin BET and producing 8 independent films and launching them at unique film festivals.

Her true passion lies in creating experiences to be successful. Melissa mentioned, “when you’re having fun what you’re doing, success follows organically”.

This led to publishing her first book, “The Pop Up Paradigm: How Brands Build Human Connections in a Digital Age.” Her book led to opportunities including doubling her own business and clients reaching out in industries not even expected. Her life has never been the same since.

On top of carving her way to where she is now. Melissa offered this unique writing advice, “It’s better to be a mile deep rather than a mile wide, if it makes sense to take more time to write more pieces, do it the right way. Your work is your calling card. If not, it’ll be the same noise as everyone else around you.”

What it means to create happiness and in be flow.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a world renowned psychologist on positive psychology (name pronounced Me-Hi Check-sent-me-hi). As a child he was once placed in a prisoner war camp in Italy during WWII (not a concentration camp such as Viktor Frankl was placed in). While immersing himself into a game of chess, he and his opponent had not realized the bombs which were being dropped around them and the abundance of people screaming for cover.

He was entirely in flow, all he could do was pay attention to was the game of chess and the immersion in the activity. Nothing externally could break his concentration and large amounts of time passed by in what seemed seconds. During the duration of this camp, there were all classes of people from wealthy elite to the poor. On a day to day basis he foreseen large amounts of people who broke down because they were use to their comfortable way of living and safe surroundings.

As things went badly, these people were helpless, disoriented, and didn’t know what to do. On the other hand, other people in the camps made the best of their circumstance and made their experience tolerable and even interesting. Those who can change their situation internally have the advantage of comprehending with their external world.

During our conversation Mihaly mentioned what it takes to be in flow is essentially enjoying any activity you take pleasure in no matter the environment. You don’t necessarily have to be creative to be in flow, when you are in flow you become your own master of your choosing, to persevere, and do things that have a higher meaning to yourself. He also added personal happiness comes from finding what you’re great at, doing it, and doing it well as possible. It could be an array of things. Happiness has to be in ways that are constructive, pro social, and people are most happy when they are aligned with what they can do.

You could be in jail or a concentration camp and even internalize happiness. People who have endured the worse can often do it well. What they do is take themselves out of the equation to be unhappy and mentally go to a better place. They think of better places in their mind and freeing themselves from any circumstance in which they find themselves in. You can have a less dramatic experience by retreating into yourself. An internal world no one can break into.

The mind can overcome larger external problems, if you can’t change the outside world, your mind has to cope with it and create the right perspective to make it better. No matter your situation, anyone can create their flow and internalize happiness. It takes knowing who you really are.

Here’s what I learned about myself:

Stepping outside of the comfort zone is fun and thrilling. It’s a reminder that one has to shake up constant routine to remind themselves they are full of life and have a pulse.

Out of all the people I had the privilege of talking to…they shared a common theme. No matter the endeavor. You have to become the well equipped artist to paint the canvas of your life.

When you let someone else hold the pen or paint brush. It’s a recipe for disaster and a living without a true purpose or cause in life.

When you begin questioning why certain things are not going in your favor and still continue “as business as usual”. It’s best to revaluate your decisions and move against the grain. Not going completely all out on some crazy venture or leap of faith that will alter your life in a single day or occurrence. That’s for amateurs.

Progress starts with a series of small calculated steps in which strategy of the essence can work for anyone in their favor.

When you have momentum on your side and know what direction you’re going, it’s often an impossible thing to stop. The only thing standing in your way is yourself.