Boz Saint John

Episode Transcript

Julia Landauer 0:00 Oh my god, that was so amazing. I knew it would be like throughout that episode I was like oh my god I'm so inspired oh my god I'm like about to cry. Oh my god Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of if I'm honest with Julia Landauer I am so jazzed for this episode because we have Bozoma Saint John on with us. For those of you who don't know, Boz is a Hall of Fame inducted marketing executive author and entrepreneur who has a Harvard Business School case study written about her career titled leading with authenticity and urgency. In February of 2023, she published her memoir The Urgent Life, her career has spanned various industries, including roles as the global CMO of Netflix, the CMO of endeavor, the Chief Brand Officer of Uber, head of marketing of Apple Music and iTunes and head of music and entertainment marketing at PepsiCo. Boz's work has been lauded and awarded with notable recognition, including induction into the American advertising Federation Hall of achievement and billboards, Women in Music Hall of Fame, and she was crowned as the world's most influential cmo by Forbes. In addition to her memoir, she has successful online tutorials called the badass workshop. And they teach others to be their greatest selves. But by far, her greatest achievement is in raising her 14 year old daughter Lael. And this episode was so great because Boz brought her authenticity, her honesty, her vulnerability, we talked about everything from the business, to the personal things that she's worked on. We've talked about the victories and the celebrations as well as the tragedies and the hardships. And she challenged me on some ideas that I have. And I had to work really hard not to cry at some of the times that she was talking. It was just really incredible. I walked away with so much, I'm excited for you to listen, and I hope that you will follow her and pick up more of her wisdom, because she's really been through a lot and done a lot and was very generous in how vulnerable she was in sharing with us. Boz. Thank you so much for joining me on if I'm honest. Bozoma Saint John 2:05 Well, thank you, Julia. First of all, I really love the title of this podcast. Julia Landauer 2:10 Thank you. Bozoma Saint John 2:12 I try my best to always be honest, in you know, every conversation, right? It's tough in every situation, every room, you know, just bringing my full self. And so in, you know, I've been on a lot of podcasts. But I saw the title of this one. And I was just like, Yeah, Julia, Julia's always had it like you always had it. So even in this space, you have it. So thank you so much. Oh, my gosh, yeah, it was interesting, like working through that. Because how do you kind of come up in a few words with something that encapsulates the theme. And what I really like is, I've always been a little self conscious about being fully transparent or authentic. In my opinion, I think I've never loved like, feedback on social media and like, knowing that I can push buttons. And you know, I'm sensitive to that. And so I like a side effect of this title is that it reminds me that I'm here for a reason to be real, to be honest and to go for it. I love it, all of that. So we're about to be real honest, Julia Landauer 3:15 we're about to be real honest. And I want to share a little bit for our listeners about how we met. So we met through Arianna Huffington back in I want to say late 2017, or 2018. It was when you were at Uber, as the Chief Brand Officer. And I went in with my former manager, and we met with you and we chatted about a whole lot of things. But something that struck me was your authenticity. And you know, for those of you who have not seen Boz, you know, she radiates brightness and color and warmth. And what I really loved was that you showed a lot of humanity and decency towards every person that I saw you interact with, regardless of who they were in the company. And it seemed like a, I was trying to think about how to describe it. It seemed like a natural intentionality with how you are interfacing with people. And so has that always been something that you feel has come naturally to you? Or is something that you actually worked on as you climbed the corporate ladder or something else? Bozoma Saint John 4:14 Yeah, well, first of all, thank you for that observation. You've described that way before so that that's really touching to me makes me like teary. But I guess you know, to answer the question, it probably just comes from a place of always feeling othered, right, and wanting to be seen, and I feel like if you want to be seen you have to see other people you know, I'm often in rooms where people don't acknowledge me the right way. And before I had the big titles, Hell Girl, with the big title sometimes they still don't acknowledge me the right way. I respect but having felt so small, a lot of times in my life, for for a majority of my life that, I never want anybody to feel that way in my presence. You know, it's like, if it doesn't matter what you're doing, you know, like, people breeze by receptionist all the time, you know, or feel like, Oh, they're not important well, but why they're, they're here at work to try and do a good job, you know what their morning was like, before you happen upon them, right? Or the most junior person on the team who nobody gives time to, because they don't think they're mature enough to have good ideas. Right? too. Sometimes, it's like, your boss's spouse, you know, so, people often ignore that person, you know, it's like, there's just a whole slew of people that get ignored. And so I think, to me, it's a combination of one having always felt other felt small, and not wanting anybody to feel that way in my presence. And then also a natural curiosity about people. I just, I'm really interested by people, I'm not going to say that, like, you know, I just blanket like people. Because people drain me sometimes, you know, but I'm curious about them. I love understanding people's stories, why they do what they do, where are they are in their life, what they're doing that day, you know, I love all of that. And so I think some of what you probably saw, and what people feel for me is just a natural curiosity about them. And then also intentionally making sure that people are seeing, Julia Landauer 6:27 I love that. And, you know, Curiosity is so important for, you know, interpersonal relationships, professional, I think we'll get into that a little bit later. But when you are interacting with these people in a professional setting, do you feel that you at all change for the most part in terms of like how you talk with your friends versus at work, and I asked that from the sense of like, with my keynote speaking, for instance, one of the things that I'm sure to tell clients ahead of time is that the way that we're engaging on the pre event call, or the way that I'm going to talk with them before I go on stage, is going to be the same on stage, maybe a little slower, maybe a little clearer. But for the most part, I want to have that continuity. Is that something that you felt that you could bring class throughout your career? Did you develop it later? Bozoma Saint John 7:12 Oh, well, I mean, early in my career, no, I didn't feel like I could be myself, for sure. I couldn't, you know, there just wasn't the allowance for it. And I was looking for somebody to give me permission, looking for somebody to acknowledge that, who I am, where I come from, what I say, in the way I say it, is as important as the next person. And I didn't have the validation. And I also want to be successful. Right? I want to be successful. So I wanted to mimic what other people did in order to become successful. It took me a long time, actually, well, to me, at least in my you know, estimation took me a long time to realize that it didn't matter what I did, that people would always see me the way that I am, you know, that I couldn't pretend it was like, I wasn't tricking anybody, by speaking in a certain way, or dressing a certain way. Or eliminating, you know, the information about whatever I did that weekend. I wasn't really tricking anyone. And it also wasn't helping me to get ahead in my career, you know, I probably would still be on that same train. And I found that like, oh, you know, pretending to be like my other male white colleagues, was getting me ahead. But that joint was not working. And so actually, from the failure of that is what allowed me then to actually be myself, you know, because I just realized, I was like, gosh, let me just throw down the sword. Because why am I fighting this? Right? Don't see me different anyway. You know, they don't see me as one of them. They see me exactly as I am. So why am I pretending that I'm not, you know, and so for me, it's like this idea of authenticity, or showing up as my full self that was born out of failure, the failure of trying to be the caricature, and I do say, caricature on purpose, because I don't actually don't think anybody fits that. You know, it's like some exaggerated vision of a senior executive in a business capacity that everybody tries to attain. It's easier for some people because they may outwardly look like that character, but they can never achieve it really, you know, and that's why you see all these executives sometimes getting exposed for the things they do, you know, at home or behind the scenes and everybody's like, shocked, like, Oh, my God, they weren't perfect. What? It's like, yeah, because you're all worshipping the wrong caricature. You're worshiping an incomplete human. Right? It's not a full picture. And so yeah, my authenticity was born out of the failure of trying to become that perfect person that everybody wanted. And when realizing that they were never going to see me as perfect anyway, so I might as well just be my wonderful flawed self. Julia Landauer 10:05 I love that. And I think also some of that, you know, at least for me as now, in my early 30s, I feel like some of that has come with just getting older and having a little less tolerance for, you know, I said, not living, not bringing yourself to the table not living that that best version. And it's so liberating. Like, I wish that I was less self conscious about trying to fit the mold that people want, especially because like, it gets boring. And I know that might sound weird as a racecar driver that you know, has done a bunch of stuff, but it's true, it's like, especially in a more traditionally conservative sport, like in a southern sport, like somebody who's so different from my upbringing, I was so nervous about it for a long time. And all I can say is that it's very liberating when I don't want to say like you say, eff it, but really, like just, you live intentionally you bring yourself to the table, and people relate to those little things. And again, that's what I saw when I walked in the first time and saw you was, yeah, Bozoma Saint John 11:06 but I wouldn't, I wouldn't. Look, it's it's not, it certainly is not easy. It's still not easy for me now, for sure. Even though I've done it for a long time, and people celebrate my differences. And, you know, you've just made, you know, like the observation about what that feels like. But the thing is that you have to be okay with the rejection of you. You know, it's much easier if somebody rejects this representative that you give, right? Because then you can be like, Oh, but that's not really me. So I can just change that update it. And reduction never feels good. But it feels better if you weren't actually your full self. And you're like, Oh, I've showed up at this thing, this wonderful veneer. And now they have rejected that person. So I'm going to just augment them a little bit and see if they accept this one. It's very difficult true if you show up as your full self. And then people reject that. Because when the hell you're going to do what you're gonna do, that's what you are, you know, and so I it's not the journey of authenticity and being real and showing up with intentionality as just as you are, it's fraught with danger. And we as human beings, like our natural instinct is not to go towards danger. And so I don't blame anybody who's like, oh, well, you know, in these situations is tough, or how you do it, or, you know, maybe you you show up as yourself one day, the next day, like, no, don't ever mind going back. I don't even blame anybody for that. Because, yeah, you actually have to be a little bit off your rocker in order to show up as yourself every day, knowing that somebody's gonna judge you or somebody is gonna reject you, and still doing it anyway, that is not an easy thing to do. And so I never take it for granted or pretend that is just Julia Landauer 12:46 okay. Yeah. And that's courage and bravery, I think to do that. And, you know, I think one way that I have found is helpful to reframe reframe the situation, is that I know that I sure as hell don't like everybody, and there are people that just push my buttons, there are people that I don't care for, I don't like not that they've done anything wrong. I just don't like them. And therefore, it is natural, that people don't like me to. Bozoma Saint John 13:10 Yes, yes, yes. And look, when you're talking about your career, you know, or being in a workplace in an industry, and part of the success is being well liked, that becomes even more dangerous. You know, it's all of a sudden, you're just like, oh, shoot, like, I've got to be well liked. Because if I'm not well liked, I won't have this job. I need this job in order to finance my life, which means taking care of my family, or maybe just myself, or whatever other things I want to do. And if I can't do that, then I fail. You know, and so there is a lot of danger in showing up as yourself. It's not as easy as just like, oh, well, you know, what, eff it if they don't like me, you know, it's like, there's a lot of danger. And and so again, I don't fault anyone who has a hard time showing up as themselves because they are afraid of that rejection. You're absolutely 100% Right, that is the most liberating, liberating, beautiful experience, to, on the other hand, be accepted as yourself. Yeah. Until you know that euphoria of that feeling. I can see why you wouldn't want to even test it. But once you have a taste of that, once you know that there are people who accept you exactly as you are, and you can be free, who it is hard to go back. It is hard to go back because you're just like, every time you're just like I'm out here, and oh, you don't like what I'm saying? Or you don't like who I am. You're just like bump you Well, I'm fine. I'm gonna go over here and and do what I want to do. Yeah, but it is very difficult thing if you don't know the joy, the deep joy of being yourself and being accepted for yourself. And that's why I think it's worth the risk. And that's why I encourage people to do it. I'm not saying you won't get hurt in the process. You will. But at the end of the day, the freedom you get for being exactly who you are are far outweighs all the risks, so you just have to go in risky and try it. And look, don't work. Get at me, I'll help you. Julia Landauer 15:09 Right. Right. Right. And, and it's just and I think that falls into, you know, most things that are scary. And when you were saying that I was thinking about even how that mindset relates to literally any thing that is scary, the more that you try doing things, the more that you recognize, yes, I am scared shitless. But you know what, I know that I want to get to the other side. So you figure out how to get through it and push it. And then once you do it, you realize that okay, that's the new threshold for what you can do. And then you keep leveling up. And I love this idea of kind of part of getting to your dreams or your goals. Is this constant leveling up with how you work with managed fear, and then be proud of yourself that you've done it. Bozoma Saint John 15:50 Yes, yes. I love that phrase, by the way managed fear. That's Yeah, way to think about it, you know, because it's not the absence of fear. That's not what makes you great. But managing it, that's, that's a beautiful way to think about it. Yeah, we gonna write that down. Julia Landauer 16:07 Go for it. Yeah, managing fear. And the other thing that I felt this year, like, over the past year, I feel like there were a handful of things that put me much more outside my comfort zone. And like, I get, I get so nervous, like whether it was in the car when I was racing more or with other stuff, like I get knots in my stomach, like I feel sick, like when I know that I'm doing something, it's gonna be scary and more stressful. But you also know with enough experience that that negative uncomfortable feeling is finite. And you will get over it. And it's, it's almost like, if you go through a breakup, you know, once you've done it once you know that it sucks for a little bit. But essentially, you see the light and then you move on and then you're back to your old self. I feel like that's the same thing with fear and working through all that stuff. Bozoma Saint John 16:48 Yeah, yeah, no, you're, girl, You are 100%, right. And as long as you actually know what the steps are, you know, in that rejection, then that failure, or the grief of the broken relationship, or the failed job, or the rejection from peers or whatnot, I think it actually becomes more comfortable. You know, it's like, if I think about romantic relationships, and you're right, if you've been through a breakup, you know how much they suck. But you know, that like, Okay, you're gonna be sad for a while. And then you're going to be in some sort of disbelief, and then you're probably gonna get pissed off. And then you might go back to the sadness or whatever. But at some point, you're going to wake up one day and be like, good riddance, anyway, I'm better. I'm okay. You know what I mean? And who knows what gets you there, but you know, that eventually you will, you will get there. And so it makes the process of going through it less terrifying, because you understand what's about to happen to you? You know, that's a good metaphor for anything in life. Yes, you know, the steps of what's going to happen, then you have a much better and much greater chance of managing yourself, not necessarily managing the situation. So to that wonderful phrase to just use about managed fear, I love that so much, because I think about the fact that like, Okay, what happens, what do you feel when you're rejected? You know, if he showed up as yourself and somebody was, like, proud, like, or anyway, like, what have you done in that situation? You know, what happens? Do you leave? You know, do you get your friends and tell them to go fight that person? Do you like, you know, change yourself? Like, what is it that you do in those situations normally, and if you feel like those solutions that you have have been successful for you, then you're probably gonna apply those things. But if you find that those things have not been successful for you, then you're going to find new ways to manage that rejection. And I think the whole, like success of it all is how well you can plan for it. So if you know what's going to happen, how well can you plan for the rejection? Should it come? As life insurance, you know, or how well can you plan for that failure? So that should it come? You'll be able to manage it. You know, we're not saying that we're calling for failure, we're calling for rejection, or that's what we hope we get. Of course, now, I'm an optimist, eternal optimist, that wouldn't get up every day and go do the things I do if I wasn't saying but at the same time, I have an idea of what happens if somebody is like, oh, no, she sucks. She's the worst. Get her out of here. You know, or somebody's like, you know what? Yeah, that idea that you had didn't work. You know, I know what to do. So that should that happen to me I'm able to manage it much better, Julia Landauer 19:29 totally and experimenting to figure out what those steps are for rebounding after that I think is super important that everyone should work on. Well, we are going to take a quick break and then when we come back we will continue our discussion are very man we hit the ground running but we're gonna continue our discussion with Boz Saint John. We are back on If I'm Honest with Julia Landauer and we have Boz Saint John. so we were Just talking about authenticity, working through fear of bringing yourself to the table when you're working with your friends who I think this applies for personal relationships as well. But I do want to throw it back a little bit to kind of how you got your start professionally. So you went to Wesleyan University, which I have quite a few friends from high school who went there. So I got to visit it was beautiful. How did you get on the path of advertising? Because your your career has been a majority of advertising, marketing? And then now you've been doing a little bit more that we'll talk about in a bit. But how did was that the direction that you wanted to go? Bozoma Saint John 20:34 Yeah, I didn't know that Advertising and Marketing was a career I really didn't know. I mean, I came from a immigrant family grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, people didn't go into advertising as a job, you know, or maybe they did. I just wasn't aware, you know, it was much more like tactical work. You were an accountant, a doctor, you worked in retail, you know, it's a construction, like, there were very tactical careers. And so when I went to college, I was one of those, you know, kids, I guess at the time, probably a unicorn who was a black girl who was good at science and math. And the colleges were like, yes, come here, you know, we like we like that number, you know. And so I naturally fell into it, because there was nothing wrong with it. You know, my dad also wanted me to be a doctor. So I was like, okay, you know, I've had four years of Latin during high school. I mean, I was that kid, you know, it's like, I was doing all the things I ran track. I was a cheerleader. I took Latin, I got great grades in science and math. So I was just that kid. No, and there was nothing that I saw wrong with it, except for the fact that I was totally completely obsessively interested in pop culture as a survival tool, because when we came to us, as I said, we were originally from Ghana, and going to Colorado Springs, Colorado, I just had to study what everybody was talking about, you know, it meant that I had to know as much as everybody else do about sports, or music, or fashion or name, anything food, I mean, everything, everything along pop culture, you know. I remember even once somebody was like, I came right around that time when there was a Taco Bell line, that was Yo Queiro Taco Bell. And I had no idea what people were talking about, you know what I mean? Like, I was just like, okay, like, okay, so we got to go with to get the Taco Bell. And what time does that happen? You know, I just didn't know what was going on. And so when I got to college, I was carrying my full course load of pre med. But I was absolutely obsessed with my African American Studies classes in which I was taking for fun. And the books that we were required to read while I was an English major, and crossing those two things. So learning about Baldwin, James Baldwin, or Toni Morrison, or Zora Neale Hurston, you know, Nikki Giovanni, like Nikki Giovanni came to my college and read her poetry. And she had a poem that she'd written for two parks the core, like what, you know, there was just, I was so obsessed with all of that, but I didn't, I didn't think there was a career there. I just thought it was for fun, you know. And so by the time I was graduating, and I taken the MCAT, and I was, you know, trying to figure out what college or what medical school I want to go to, what I knew was that I needed a year between undergrad and med school. Right? Which, Julia, if I'm being honest, if I didn't know what that was, you know what I mean? Cuz that just was I didn't have a precedent for that. But I knew I had to take it. And my parents were certainly not supportive of it. You know, so I moved to New York City, by myself with really nobody, no plan. I think if I had to do it now, I probably wouldn't have done it. Because you'd have all the logic that told you not to do it, right. But girl you know, you got to have a place to live. New York is expensive, New York is dangerous. You know, like, what are you gonna eat, you know, all of the things but at a time, I was just like, oh, man, I just want to go to the city and just see what's that's about. Never been there before. But sounds like a good place to be. And I scraped and struggled. And I was a temp at, you know, this agency that would send me out on random jobs every day. And one day, the lucky call came, you know, it's like, I feel like this is like the Lifetime movie interpretation. You know, of like a career. Because sometimes I do feel like, you know, your destiny just shows up. And maybe you're prepared for it, and maybe you're not. And for me, I was prepared for it that day, that specific thing, which was that Spike Lee had fired his assistant, the receptionist that his advertising agency, and my temp agency had called for me to fill in to that job. And so when I got there, all of the things about my life, like just meld it together, right and that One magical beautiful moment, which was here I am a young, hungry, driven black woman who was obsessed with everything African American pop culture, sitting at the reception desk of one of the greatest African American storytellers of all time. And when he passed by that reception desk with bamboozled under his arm, the script he was writing for a very controversial film. And I said, Can I read that? I said it with the knowledge of Nikki Giovanni with the knowledge of Zora Neale Hurston with the knowledge of James Baldwin, look, I knew these authors, I knew the whole Cabal, of great American, African American writing black experience. And so when I had notes for him, that's when my world just came together. Everything was like snap, snap, snap, snap, snap, you know what I mean. And that is not the same story for everybody. You know, and this is why it's so important to first of all, understand your own intuition, understand your own destiny, understand the things that make you so unique and wonderful that your own experience will come and get you because of those things. You know, I'm not advising people in college, to like, go become an African American Studies major, an English major, and carry a full course load of pre med, and then move to New York City and see what happens. I'm not I'm not encouraging that. I'm like, no, what is it that you are doing? What is it that you are interested in, do that go hard in that, and then allow your destiny to come and meet you exactly where you need to be? By the way, Julia, that destiny meeting has happened a few times in my life, there is no way like fast forward to getting the job at Netflix. Right at the start of the pandemic, that job does not exist for me, without my deep understanding of pop culture, of the entertainment business, given some of the jobs I've already had of tech, and entertainment, tech and crisis, like that job does not exist unless I had had all these other experiences. And so for me at that moment in time, I didn't know that I was going to have a career in marketing and advertising. What I knew was that I loved pop culture, what I knew was that I was a great storyteller, and that I could write. And so deciding to skip medical school, much to the chagrin of my parents, boom, boom, yeah. That was a decision. I think that, you know, was yes, meeting my destiny, but then having the courage to go for it. And some of the naivete. Julia Landauer 27:41 Yeah, well, that's that I could listen to you talk about this all day. I mean, that was just so powerful, and also goes back and drives home the point that you made earlier that you need to have these curiosities, and that your unique your your curiosity stem from a unique collection of your own experiences, you know, your own abilities, and all that stuff. And then that's that, you know, sets you apart from other people, even if you have the same trajectory that you're working on. And so kind of being ready, and being prepared. That is so serendipitous, and so exciting. So did you did you you know, kind of once you got going and you read that script, I love that you had you mentioned like you had all these, these, almost like the research and the homework from everyone you studied in school? Did you immediately think yes, this is this is the industry, this is what I'm gonna go full steam. Bozoma Saint John 28:32 I didn't know that it was the industry, but I had that fire in my belly. Yeah. That like the butterflies that you can't suppress. I had that. And I was like, oh, man, I can never go back to life without this. So I was like, Okay, well, how do I stay in this thing? You know, and I loved the idea that spike was doing these long form films, which by the way, I knew very clearly that I didn't know that. And I probably didn't want to do that. Right? He's as equally important to know, right? When you are sort of meeting your destiny, knowing what is for you and what is not right. And that is somewhat of the curation of your intuition, and being able to follow that, so it's not math. This is not for girl who excels in math and science. It was not math, this would follow no logic. But what I didn't know is that I loved the idea of the short storytelling, you know, the things that you could do in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. And again, some of its spent it stemmed from my childhood of, you know, being a Gen X kid who watched a lot of TV, you know, who like after school, plopped down in front of the television and watch some after school specials and the most interesting things to me, were the breaks, you know, all the commercials and You know, turning on BET or MTV and the DJ would come on and tell you a little snippet of a story about the artists before they came on, was fascinating to me. And so I felt that at the time spike was doing that sort of on the side of his big movie work. And so that's what the agency was doing. So instead of working for 40 acres and a mule Filmworks, which was his big bread and butter, I was working for spike DDB, which was the advertising agency arm for what he was doing work for Nike, you know, he created the character, Mars. Blackmen he was doing work for the New York Knicks, of course, his favorite team, he did work on the Janet Jackson velvet rope tour, hello, dating myself, I loved all of that. I was just like, oh, yeah, put me on the on the set. Like, let me just I grab coffee, I will sweep, I will iron wardrobe, whatever it is, it takes in order to do it, I wanted to do that. And by the time I was a couple of years into that assistant work, I knew that like I wanted to be an executive in that world. I didn't necessarily want to be a writer, I didn't necessarily want to be an art director. But I knew that I had some talent, for being able to translate what the brand wanted, and what the consumer wanted. And that translation belong to me. And that's what I understood. And so then that's what I want to go for. Julia Landauer 31:24 That makes so much sense and so cool that they said, like your intuition that you knew that that was what you were good at what you didn't want to do, like that's gotta follow your gut in that capacity. Bozoma Saint John 31:34 By the way, can I just press on that for a little bit, because I know, when I talk about success of my career, there is some misunderstanding that, like, you have to be good at all things. You know, and it's not true. at all, I know exactly what I'm not good at. And that is okay. Goes back to some of the acceptance of self right, and being able to understand what you know, showing up as your full self, because there are many, many, many things that I am not good at. But I sure as hell know what I am good at. And so following that being driven around, that has been a game changer for me. Julia Landauer 32:14 Yeah. And to elaborate on that, I think, I think you'll agree with this that not only do you need to be good at everything, but you can also recognize that you're not going to be perfect at something when you start it. But know that you have the capacity to either grow into it, learn figure it out, and you know, Bozoma Saint John 32:29 totally, as long as you have a passion for it, if you have a passion, if you have the passion for it, and go do it, you know, what I don't like though, is like the you don't have passion for it, you think it's the right thing to do, because you've done some, you know, logic, math, something in your head that tells you that like, oh, this path will get you success success. And the problem is that success does not follow people who are not driven with passion, it really does. You know, every successful person that you meet, you know, and varying levels of success, right will tell you some passion filled story, which got them there, and which keeps them there, when things aren't illogical, when things don't make sense, when they really should not be in the car, or in the office, or in the you know, on the stage, they will tell you that was their passion that kept them in the seat. And it is very, very, very difficult to be successful at anything if you don't have that passion. And that's why I'm like, Look, you're not just going to write down this thing and say, You know what, in order to be a success, I need to be a banker. But I have no joy about money management or finance. Don't you think that's gonna sustain you for the next 30 years, it's not, that's not going to sustain you. So finding the passion and driving towards that is actually what is most important. Julia Landauer 33:45 And you're probably not going to inspire the people that you need to work around. You're like no one find success or you know, climbs a ladder, however, you want to word it by themselves, like a lot of it's internally driven, for sure. But we all need other people or teams to help us. And so I think the more enthusiastic you are, or if you're not enthusiastic, it's going to be hard for your team that supporting you to be enthusiastic. So when I was in college, I was talking to someone, I think it was a woman in finance. And she had, I was just starting to kind of take my racing stuff more seriously and recognize, okay, I need an LLC, let me have this entity like starting the business development process. And she had made the point that it I should consider putting together it could be as informal as I wanted, but like an internal advisory board people that I could always trust people, whether it was for personal decisions, professional decisions, and for me, you know, my parents were always those people, especially once I recognize where their strengths and weaknesses were. And so I could kind of pick and choose, you know, now my husband is I have this specific friends that I go to for the specific types of things I want to discuss. Did you feel like you also had that kind of support system around you? I know you're close with your family, but could you elaborate on that Bozoma Saint John 34:58 Um, yeah. So when I say probably no Gonna make you happy. Okay, I don't believe in the advisory board. Okay. You know, I actually think there's pretty harmful and detrimental. Because what happens is that people advise you based on their own experiences. And the challenge of that is that they have never been where you are. And so it's very, very difficult not saying it never happens, it's very difficult for most people to advise you objectively, you know, it's almost impossible. And so what I have done instead is you're right, I have a great support system. But those people are cheerleaders. And they are comforters of mine. They are the ones who I go to when something has failed. And I need a reminder that I'm the baddest. Yeah, they're the people who, when I'm on the stage are cheering the loudest. They're the ones who when somebody's talking shit about me, they're like, I will fight you, you know, though, that's what I use them for. But as far as like advice on what I should do, or how I should move myself, like, I'm my own counsel, you know, and I think it's really important because we get so used to other people's opinions that it becomes very difficult to distinguish. When you are actually listening to your intuition and your destiny, versus listening to somebody else's. You know, it is very, very, very dangerous. And I'm not saying it's never possible, or it is impossible for people to advise you objectively, or for you to make the right call for yourself after taking like a galley of decisions from other people. But I will say that for most people, it's pretty difficult to do and almost impossible. And so I have more relied on my own counsel, and really getting very still and very quiet to understand what it is that I want to do. Meditating on allowing whatever thing I'm supposed to be doing to actually come to me. And then informing people, once that decision has been made. I think most of my friends, close friends, my parents, my sisters, they will tell you that like when I'm looking to take another job, or I'm considering I never ask them Julia Landauer 37:11 interesting, okay, no, I mean, that was essentially like, like, ya know, Bozoma Saint John 37:15 it's like, should I take this job? Or shouldm't I or, hel, even a pros and cons list? I don't do that. I don't write those things down. Because the thing is that you already know what it is. And I look this might sound super Frou Frou but thing is that, like, the the reason why there is magic in your life is that there is no logic to it. And so somebody's gonna say, Okay, let's write the pro and con list. Here are the things that are good about this thing here. Things are bad about this thing, why are you doing that? Good, still get still and let your destiny talk to you. There's no way that it's going to get stronger, or be able to tell you exactly what's going on. Unless you've given it the permission. You know, it's like I illustrator us, you know, like a friend in place of your intuition, right? You can call your intuition, whatever you want, your spirit, your gut, whatever, use whatever you want. Every time you go to your friend, and you're like, Hey, should I do this thing? I'm thinking about what I should do. And they're like, yeah, go left. And you're like, you know what, I'm gonna go right? You don't. And then you go back to me like showy or red or blue. They're like, we're blue. And you're like, oh, wherever, the next time you go to them, they're probably not going to tell you anything, you know, their voices, smaller and smaller. My thing that just be like, You know what, you Julia, just do whatever the hell you want to do. Stop, asking me questions. That's what your intuition is, like, every time your intuition is like, Hey, do this thing, man. You're like, you know what, I'm a rather you know what I'm gonna go ask this person instead. And that person tells you something different than what your intuition and then you went with that person. Every time you do that your intuitions get softer and softer. And it's like any muscle or any friend, it's just gonna get weaker, and weaker, and smaller and smaller. At this point, my intuition is so strong. To the fight, there's some stuff I could tell you and your mind will be blown. You'd be like, how the hell do you know that? And I'm like, it's right here. Like right here. And I don't have to ask anybody. I just get real, still real quiet. And listen. And then sometimes it's like, it's so strong that like, so even it relates to like meeting people. Or like, you know, I'm sure you've been in the situation where somebody's like, oh, you really need to meet XYZ person. And like you said earlier, it's like, sometimes you meet somebody, like, I don't like that person. But oftentimes, what happens is that especially that's a business situation, or it could be just be friends to somebody be like, Oh, you really need to know this person because they have X, Y, and Z access or whatever else. Or maybe it's a business situation or a boss or something like that. And you go for it because somebody else told you that that person was important. And then you go down that path and you realize that that person is really bad for you. You know, either they made you feel small, or maybe they weren't as supportive as you thought they were going to be, or whatever, take pick anything, but most of the time, whatever you were feeling, if you were listening to it, it would have told you that that person wasn't right for you. So that happens all the time. So I don't believe in the Advisory Board, I'd rather use them as cheerleaders and comforters. I, Julia Landauer 40:20 I love that perspective. And I appreciate that differentiation in, you know, kind of the supporters versus the advisors. But I also really love your reframe of the analogy of when you dismiss your intuition, your gut, whatever it is, and take, you know, goes down someone else's path, your internal voice gets softer. And it also a couple of things you've said have made me think about, you know, at the end of the day, I really believe that when we're nearing the end of our lives, we need to look back and only we are going to be feeling a certain way about how we lived our life. Like we are the only ones who are going to either be proud of ourselves, be disappointed wish we could have done something different. Be really proud of how we did stuff. I'm a big advocate for helping people try to be proud of themselves as much as they can. Because I think that's just such a satisfying, inspiring, empowering emotion to feel. And so yeah, I think I really liked what you said about that to keep your intuitions voice loud. So that's great. Very cool. Well, we are going to take another quick break. And we will be back to talk about The Urgent Life which I'm really excited for with Boz Saint John. We're back with Boz Saint John on if I'm honest with Julia Landauer. So you came out with a book in February of 2023, called The Urgent Life and you know, so I think some of our listeners might not know your background. But clearly in listening to this episode, you have had an urgency to how you go about your life for a while. But what really inspired you to put those thoughts on paper to share it with others and to work through that? Bozoma Saint John 42:08 Well, I have had a lot of success in the in the business world. Yes, exactly. I am not surprised or offended by the fact that publishers who wanted me to write a book wanted me to write that like how to be a badass corporate executive, how to get into the C suite for dummies. That's the book they want me to write, or the tell all you know about your Time, My Time Uber or my time building Apple Music, you know, it's like, I have plenty of stories. But I felt very strongly that it was important to tell my personal life story because that is not separate from my work life. And either point, because of the things that I've gone through in my personal life that make me who I am. So I chose the moniker BadassBoz, right? Because I've been through some shit. And I've risen through that, and also been able to achieve in my life as a mother and as a business executive, as a friend and all the other things. And so while you see success of a corporate executive, there are many things about me, that could have failed me. But yet, I was able to come through them. Now I really hate the idea of like that line that says, you know, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Because no, I don't want to go through hard things. I don't want to go through things that could kill me. And also you are not the same person. Once you have gone through tragedies, or a tragedy, you are a different person. And so this idea that it makes me stronger is not true. It just makes me different. And so I wanted to write my book, so that anyone who feels that they have been through some things that keep them from achieving, which keeps them from seeing the light, which keep them from wanting the greatest in their life to happen. Because the worst things have happened. I want them to see me in my story, and maybe they see themselves in it. Or maybe they see just some hope in it. But a book about tragedy is not one that people think of when they're like oh Boz write a book. And so I decided to write and be very vulnerable about the sadness in my life and the things that have happened, which have made it difficult, you know, everything from, as I said, being an immigrant kid and having to leave home in a war torn country, you know, and how scary and terrible that was to the death of my college boyfriend by suicide or the difficulties in my pregnancies. You know, one which resulted in a stillborn child, and one which resulted in a very dangerous premature delivery, of course, which I now have my loving daughter Lael, who is beautiful and wonderful, and I love her so much to a difficulty in being in an interracial relationship, you know, in marriage, which was fraught with all kinds of cultural difficulties, but also just a man and a woman trying to figure out love, you know, when coming to the brink of divorce, and then my husband, dying of cancer, like all of these things, that I'm sure to somebody who was just reading a list of the horrors would be like, there's no way this person survives this, and is joyful. No, but for me, I have found a way that through all of that, to choose, love, for myself, for the people around me, for my life, for my being. For other people, it's like all of those things, even though I have lost, even though there has been so much sadness. And I'm optimistic still. And so that's what I wanted to write, the urgent life about is about the intentionality of choosing yourself and choosing love, even in the face of so much adversity. Yeah. Julia Landauer 46:31 And I, I really, it surprises me that that is not something that more people would want, because something that I noticed, especially like through the pandemic, or through, you know, all this stuff, where so many people were losing people and loved ones and lifestyles and you know, just things that they were accustomed to. I think there's no, I feel like we're only just starting to, as a society talk about these things like grief, like, like mental health and mental health awareness. And what I found when when I lost a loved one to suicide as well was that it's a unique club to be a part of, and so like, and it's not something that you can comprehend, unless someone else has gone through that. And so I feel like the ability to figure book and your experiences and your stories to let other people know that they are seeing even if it's from a distance, I think that's super powerful, because there are just certain things that no matter how empathetic someone might be, they're not quite going to know the depths of it. And I think there's real power and strength and sharing. So thank you on behalf of anyone else who's gone through anything, or who will go through something for sharing that, because it's terrifying to think you might be alone in these feelings. Bozoma Saint John 47:47 That's right. That's right. And, you know, I chose a quote from Diane Ackerman to open my book, which, when I first heard it and read it, I was like, Oh, my God, this exactly what I'm talking about it, I'm gonna paraphrase it, but she says, I want to get to the end of my life and not just have lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it. And I just so love that because I was like, Yes, I want to live why life? Why life? I guess of course, we all want to get to 100. Maybe you do? Maybe you don't I don't know. It was like we have a long life. You know, you don't want to die prematurely. When people die younger, like oh, man, they'd like missed out on so much life or, you know, they died 100 people at all, she lived a long, great life. How do you know that? Yeah, just because somebody is living the years doesn't mean they're living the fullness of those years. And I want every moment that I'm on this planet to be full. It doesn't necessarily mean that like I'm always running up getting up, did it, you know, urgency has taken on this definition, which feels like speed, which feels like I must have it all I must did it. You know, it's like it's almost oppressive. But I want to redefine what urgency means. Because for me, it's, again, the intentional choices I've make, that even when I am sitting on my couch, in my pajamas all day long. I am living a very full moment because I have decided I'm going to sleep. Or I'm just going to binge watch my favorite show. Or I'm just going to cuddle with my kid. Or I'm going to be on my phone, scrolling, whatever the thing is, like I am choosing to live the width of that moment. And so I never let things just go by, you know, that's probably where my urgency comes from that I'm just not letting things just like slipped by me. If I want to go do something. Oh, I'm gonna do it. Yeah, because I've seen enough in my life, which tells me that while you know we say carpe diem. And by the way, because I'm a student of Latin, I'll tell you that. The general belief of translation is wrong. People think it means seize the day, which I'm like, carpet Diem does not mean seize the day. It's more like a plucking of the day. If you think about like, you know, if you're intentionally plucking at something like a flower, or you know you're an intentional, it means that like you're going after the thing and you're taking it. Yeah, that's what carpe Diem means. And so when people say seize the day, like as if you must go forward and conquer, and it's like, no, no, no, just a plucking up. And so if you decide that, like, you know what, I'm going to enjoy making this lasagna. You're plucking at it, you know, you're taking the thing, and you're deciding this is what I want for myself today. And so I just expand that to not just the moments, but the experiences. And so when I decide that like, Okay, this job is not working out for me and no longer feels like I want to be here. I'm appreciated, hear or enjoy the experience, then I'm going to intentionally go after something else. Yeah. And that happens in not just the job, but in relationships, and friendships, in anything in my life. And so the plucking of my experiences is what I hope to deliver is like my full bouquet at the end of my life. So it doesn't matter how long I've been here. It only matters that I ended with the bouquet that feels like me that I chose and wasn't chosen for me. Julia Landauer 51:28 That is so beautiful. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, I'm like, I got chills with that. And I think kind of what that that idea of plucking in that being intentional in with whatever you're doing in any given moment. I feel like that also relates back to kind of the ethos of what you were saying, when you you know, you had been prepared to kind of seize the opportunity of working for Spike, and that it's this, you're constantly moving forward. And I had wanted to say something about that, like, especially if you're in a lull or not sure of direction, or trying to figure out where you're going in life, this idea of being intentional moving forward, because you need that movement to be able to be exposed to potential opportunities, and you know, following a curiosity in your gut. Yeah. Okay, well, last thing before we get into the rapid fire, if you're on as you mentioned Lael and for anyone who doesn't know she has a presence on your Instagram, they're really such a fantastic team. And I was curious if there's when you look at her and how she goes through life and how she lives their life, are there things that you have not explicitly taught her, but that she just does or how she operates that totally wowed YOU? Bozoma Saint John 52:44 HMM. Gosh, well, you know, what's interesting, Julia, is that, um, although we are like super tight, you know, and you're right, we're quite a dynamic duo, we really are not alike, in terms of personality, or the way we see the world, you know, and I really appreciate that about her. I remember when she was like a baby before she could talk, you know, it's like, she would just be sitting there. And if somebody was holding her, she'd be in like, gazing at people pouring into them is very, very powerful eyes. And sometimes we make people feel uncomfortable, you know. And now that, of course, she's older, she's 14 now. And you know, she talks, she does all the things. She is an observant person, very observant about life, and about people and about situations. And so her intuition is born out of study. Oh, and I just think it's very interesting, I have learned to be quieter with her Wow, that like paying attention to not just what people are saying, but what they're doing, how they're behaving, has taught me so much more in various situations than I ever would have known on my own. Because I am the person who engages people, right? You know, if I'm in a room with strangers, or I'm coming out with a couple of friends, because I'm going to be talking to them. Like I said, I have a natural curiosity for people. So I'm the one who's going to ask you, where are you from? What do you do? How do you like that? You know, it's like, I'm not asking because I want understand your social status. I want to ask you, because I'm interested in what made you do the things that you're doing? Why are you wearing that shirt, you know, wear that shirt come from, you know, why did you pick that color? You know, not because I'm insulting you, but because I'm genuinely interested in your choices. And so learning from her the power of observation has been really quite fascinating. And because of that, I also knew early on that in my motherhood that I didn't want to force her to interact with people. Right? And so it's like love she I asked her permission before you know we go places or I'm not Not the mom who says, Oh, give your auntie a hug. No, she don't want to do that she's not doing that if she wants to do it, she'll do it. And so she's just taught me so much and who she is naturally, which is different from me. And I don't try to force her to be like me in any way. Julia Landauer 55:15 Yeah, that seems like such a cool part of parenting. And I'm not a parent, I hope to one day be a parent, but like, it's like kind of the ability to have this different being serve as a kind of like an indirect mirror seems so cool. And I love that bit about not forcing her to, especially when it comes to like, physical touch with others. And I don't know if that there's a difference with raising girls versus boys. But I read about that as like a form of consent and like, especially for young girls. I'm sure we could have a whole nother conversation about that Bozoma Saint John 55:45 whole other conversation. Julia Landauer 55:46 Yeah. Yeah. And like this idea, like you shouldn't normalize doing physical things that make you uncomfortable. Yeah. So I appreciate that so much. Bozoma Saint John 55:55 Thank you , no, she's quite, she's quite a special human. And I think also in my journey of single motherhood, you know, she's taught me a lot, because in the beginning, of course, her dad and I were together, and we were raising her. And I looked at her more as like a think somebody to manage. I was like, I was felt into that role of motherhood, like, okay, got it, her schedule, and her play dates. And, you know, it's like managing her, making sure that her ABCs were learned. And, you know, it's like, it's more of a management system than when our world shattered, and I was literally looking at her like, Girl, I don't know what to do with you. Hmm. Like, how do you go back to quote, unquote, normalcy. When it's like, who wants to be doing ABCs? When your dad is dying of cancer, nobody does. Right. And especially after he died, it was for me, it felt like, I needed her to communicate with me on what it is that she needed from me. And I also got really great advice from a friend who's a psychologist who said, you know, to use the big words to like, tell her things, you know, I don't hide things from her. It's hard to do when a kid is four, right? Like, you just want to make the world happy and wonderful. But it was such a beautiful lesson for me because I was able to grieve in front of her. And the freedom of that, you know, not having to hide my tears, also gave her the ability to grieve in front of me. And that is still an active grieving. Yeah, because when she was four, I was also grieving for her future self, you know, the person who would be 16 and missing her dad's advice, or the person who would get married one day and maybe want to be walked down the aisle by her dad. Were just the person who wanted to like he was an outdoorsy type of guy want to go hunting and fishing and camping? And I'm not that I was gonna Julia Landauer 58:12 say you're not you're not a big outdoor Hunter. No, no, Bozoma Saint John 58:15 no, Julia no that's not me. But I was grieving that person. And so as we experienced new levels, you know, of her development, she grieves differently at different stages. And so having already established that foundation that she is safe to do that with me, because I have shown her that I do it has allowed her then to be free in her grief and share that with me, so I don't have to ask her. What's wrong? You know, she's gonna tell me. Yeah, I do have to ask her. But when I asked her, she tells me anyway, and she doesn't push me off and say nothing, nothing. Just leave me alone. Because she doesn't have to hide that. I'm okay with it. Because she sees my grief. Julia Landauer 58:58 That is so great. Yeah, I'm gonna come to you when it's my time to think about some of these parenting things a little more. Bozoma Saint John 59:07 Exactly. I'll be like, let me just tell you what I did. Julia Landauer 59:12 And that's such a, I feel like that's such a warm way to wrap up our time. So thank you so much. And we're not going to end on this rapid fire if you're honest. And All right, so for those of you who don't know, Boz is a badass worked out or, you know, I do my motorsports training or I did when I was racing more and I would see these videos most one very early in the morning, but to incredible strength. So what is your favorite and your least favorite workout? Bozoma Saint John 59:43 Well, I do I do a combination of strength training, so lifting and cardio. Right now my favorite is the Stairmaster probably crazy but I love it because it's just you know time and so I get to like either watch a show or like listen to a podcast or do something that will give me time to and I don't have to count reps in my head. So that's probably my most my my most favorite thing my least. Oh, is anything that has to do with burpees? I hate purpose so much. Burpees are the worst. Like they literally it just burns everything in your body and I don't understand your misery. Your ms step of the way is they're horrible. I just don't understand why I can't do something else. Julia Landauer 1:00:26 Yeah, yeah. Agreed. Agreed. Okay, second, if you're honest between Instagram content, podcasting, writing and being on stage, what's your favorite medium for storytelling? Bozoma Saint John 1:00:37 Oh, good one. Julia Landauer 1:00:38 Thank you. Bozoma Saint John 1:00:40 Gosh, that's really that's hard. Because each of them that have got something different to offer, but I am is my favorite medium. Because again, I can do short bursts of things. You know, just quickly, like, you know, just changing somebody's day in the very moment, because I posted something that they found funny or inspirational or my workout, you know, 30 seconds, long way. Julia Landauer 1:01:03 Yeah, um, what I like about your content also, for like, some of the videos and the reels will be like, you know, you have a nice mix of different media in there in terms of the music and videos and text and everything. And so it kind of makes it a slightly more expansive experience. Cool. What show are you into right now? Bozoma Saint John 1:01:23 Oh, gosh, well, I love love. I love content. So again, like I have no shame about that at all. I'm obsessed with Top Boy right now. I'm surprised I'm not even speaking to in an English accent if Julia Landauer 1:01:38 we can do that if you Bozoma Saint John 1:01:40 like, you know, because I feel like I'm a corner guy. You know what I'm saying? But Top Boy on Netflix is one of my favorites. Julia Landauer 1:01:47 Super cool. Okay. And the last, if you're honest, what is something that you're grateful for right now? Bozoma Saint John 1:01:52 Oh, I'm really grateful for my freedom. Right now. I'm completely unencumbered. I've never had this experience in my life. I've always been working or always been up to something that was somebody else's, you know, like I need. Right now I am working on exactly what I want to work on, which is such a freeing thing. And I'm so grateful. So grateful for the opportunity to do that. Julia Landauer 1:02:18 That is so cool. Well, Bose, thank you so much. Where can people find you if they want to see these videos on Instagram or Bozoma Saint John 1:02:25 exactly? Well, I'm @BadassBoz. So coming get me I'm over there having a good time in this life. Julia Landauer 1:02:32 I love it. And I will link that in the description. Guys. That's our show. Thank you for letting me be honest with you with you. Boz, thank you for joining us for being honest with us. And if you liked this episode, please share it with a friend subscribe and leave a note for Boz and how she inspired you with this episode. Thank you so much. Bozoma Saint John 1:02:51 Love you Julia you too.