The Tim Ferriss Show: The Badass Brand-Builder – Bozoma Saint John

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  • Checking Tim’s Podcast Page
  • Bozoma is the Chief Brand Officer at Uber
  • Until June 2017, she was a marketing executive at Apple Music
  • In 2016, Fortune included her in their 40 under 40 list
“You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame, how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes” – Friedrich Nietzche
  • This is Bozoma’s pinned tweet
  • She has had many life experiences “resembling a phoenix rising from the ashes”
  • “Starting over is always better than where I came from”
Growing Up
  • Bozoma was born in Conneticut. Her dad had come from Ghana as a Full Bright Scholar and was in the process of obtaining two PhDs. After he received them, they went back to Ghana.
  • At age 5, she moved to the U.S., then back to Africa a year later
  • They then moved to Colorado so her dad could help out international students studying in the U.S. by working for the International Students Association
  • Bozoma’s native language is “Fante”
  • Her mother taught her –“It really is okay to be different and to celebrate those things rather than hiding them”
    • “I am never afraid of being the odd man out, because I’m comfortable in that space”
Being Bold
  • Bozoma has a knack for pursuing leadership positions
    • She was captain of the cheer squad and track team in high school, and also ran for student council (which she lost)
    • She thinks it’s genetic
  • What did her parents say after she lost while running for student council?
    • The same thing they’d say after any failure – There’s no time for tears, build up your audience and do it next year
    • Her mom was very solution oriented and was eager to have Bozoma try again a new way
  • Bozoma got Jay-Z to perform at her college, Wesleyan University, where she studied pre-med
  • Bozoma became excited by music, dance, and the arts so she joined social clubs along these lines – like the Committee for African American Developments
  • Getting him there just involved a lot of phone calls, they held the concert in the cafeteria and charged $2 at the door
    • “When you do things for free, people don’t show up. When you charge a little bit of money, people are interested.”
  • What was her pitch?
    • “The art of the pitch is really about enthusiasm. It doesn’t really matter what you say, just that you’re enthusiastic about it”
Her Year Log Sabbatical
  • Bozoma graduated pre-med and got into med school, but she knew in her heart she didn’t want to be a doctor forever
  • She didn’t know how else to push off things until she could figure out what she wanted to do with her life
  • She told her parents that wanted to make sure she could go to med school, be committed to it, and graduate in a respectable amount of time, but she couldn’t do this until she’s taken the time to really reflect on her path in life
  • Upon beginning her sabatical, she had no idea what she was going to do and was scared, but she did know she was very smart and could hustle
  • Bozoma moved to NY, broke with no plan, to stay on her friend’s couch in exchange for cooking dinner every night
    • Her go to meal was some sort of starch (pasta or rice), meat (chiken/beef/fish in a stew or soup), then a green (collard greens)
    • There was a local restaurant that would give Bozoma one meal per day for free.
      • How? – The restaurant sold cheap rolls for breakfast, and Bozoma would buy one every day. The owner noticed, and got to talking with her, and found out more about her situation.
    • “It’s very much in my personality to talk to strangers. I’m very curious about people.” She asked questions, and her and the owner struck up a friendship.
      • She told Bozoma to always be friendly, and smile at people
    • The owner also told Bozoma about a temporary for hire agency, and Bozoma started working for the company. One day she got a call, and was told that Spike Lee had fired his assistant, and Bozoma was needed to go answer the phones at Spike Lee’s new advertising agency.
Her Job at The Ad Agency
  • She answered phones, got coffee, etc.
  • Spike had just finished writing Bamboozled, and told Bozoma to read the script one day, just dropping it on her desk
    • Bozoma took the liberty of marking it up with changes, using a red pen
    • Spike seemed annoyed when Bozoma showed him her corrections, but a little while later, he commented on how she made some great notes/edits and he would always have a place for her within his company
  • Naval Ravikant– “If I always did what I was qualified to do, I’d be pushing a broom somewhere”
  • Do the one extra thing you’re not qualified to do, and see what happens
  • She later took a job with Pepsi as a brand manager
  • There wasn’t much opportunity for growth. “If I stayed here, I’d just be some middle management person with no excitement.” – so she quit 
  • At this point, Bozoma started experimenting with fashion/her look
Ashley Stewart
  • Bozoma took a job here as head of marketing, the goal being to change the way plus size women were portrayed, although she didn’t really have the experience
  • She wanted the opportunity to run her own team, and thought “Why can’t I do this? I’m fashionable”
  • By the one year mark, she failed, and realized the position wasn’t for her – she wasn’t yet developed as a leader, and found it difficult to lead such a large team
Head of Music and Entrtainment Marketing at Pepsi
  • In 2011, Bozoma went back to Pepsi and created a new music and entertainment group
  • In 2013, her husband, Peter, was diagnosed with cancer
    • Both her and her husband’s mother were breast cancer survivors
    • 6 months after being diagnosed, he passed away. They had a four year old daughter at the time.
    • He made Bozoma promise that she wouldn’t stop living life with as much fire as possible, and that she couldn’t take any day for granted
Grieving and Anger
  • Before Peter was diagnosed, he and Bozoma were briefly separated
  • When he got sick, this made Bozoma realize “This type of love doesn’t come around often. The very lucky only really get it once. It’s important to appreciate it.”
  • “The grief was not just about losing him, but also about forgiving herself” – Bozoma had a lot of regret about taking love for granted, and losing precious time together due to their divorce
  • “If I’m blessed enough to ever find this kind of love again, I’ll never take it for granted”
  • “Things can change, but always appreciate the greatest gifts you are given”
  • How has her perception of anger changed due to her husband’s passing?
    • Before he died, Bozoma was very unpatient, arrogant, unforgiving, and very demanding of herself and others
    • The death taught her that anger is useless – “You can still get a lot of things done without so much chaos in your wake”
    • With anger, you can damage others, and then you have to go back and correct the damage
    • Walking away, counting to 5, and just pausing help her diffuse the anger
    • Tim has found the question “What else might this mean?” – helps him diffuse emails that at first glance, seem angry, but are actually not
  • Shortly after her husband’s death, she met Jimmy Iovine, and he was looking for a someone to fill the head of marketing position for Beats Music
  • Bozoma knew she needed another risk to make her feel alive and quit her job with Pepsi,  moved across the country (3 months after her husband passed away) to take the job with Beats
  • Tim recommends The Defiant Ones documentrary
  • Bozoma says Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison has had a profound impact on her life
pro and con lists
  • Bozoma doesn’t make them because she finds when she does, it’s usually to talk herself out of a good idea, or talk herself into a bad one
  • Just trust your gut instead
  • When facing a decision, Bozoma asks herself – What do I want to do? What does this feel like? Am I happy? Does it bring me joy?
  • For Tim, caffeine has served as something that effectively serves as a “mute button” for listening to his gut
Who are people Bozoma thinks of as important mentors?
  • Her parents
  • Spike Lee for his boldness and lack of care about criticism – “Critics are sometimes just people who can’t see the world the way you see it”
  • She looks up to others like Oprah and Ariana Huffington
    • Ariana for her presence, and ability to be in the moment
  • Ariana Huffingtn arranged for her andformer Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, to meet and talk, they spoke for 8 hours – Uber had a position for head of branding open at the time
  • In the days following the conversation, Bozoma just had a feeling in her gut that she should work for Uber
“We spend far too much time complaining about the way things are, and forget that we have the power to change everything and anything”
  • Encourage rather than tear down, when we see great things, applaud them
    • Shape the behavior you want with positive encouragement
  • Call things out when you don’t like them
  • “We really can change anything at all”
  • Just sitting back and complaining about things doesn’t help anything
  • Tim and Ariana recommend Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Final Thoughts
  • Bozoma likes to be encouraged, so on the socials, go encourage her
  • I+T: @badassboz 
  • “Today’s the day”
Tim Ferriss Show : , ,
Notes By MMiller

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