Today my guest is Lea Endres. Lea is an entrepreneur and educator and a human rights advocate, a renowned facilitator. She spent most of her life working to make the tools of leadership available to everyone. She’s an accomplished screenwriter and the coauthor of Jim Gilliam’s memoir, The Internet is My Religion. In this conversation, we explore what it was like for Lea to help Jim get his memoir written and we also talk about her unlikely journey to become CEO of a large tech company – and a pretty incredible story. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Lea Endres.
00:01:17 – What’s life about?
00:02:06 – The creation of Nation Builder.
00:07:08 – Giving the Internet is My Religion, away for free.
00:13:32 – Lea’s trip to Malaysia changes her.
00:23:20 – What it took to financially write the book.
00:25:06 – Nation Builder Books.
00:32:26 – The ideal author for Nation Builder Books to publish.
00:34:13 – Lighting round.
00:39:15 – Writing specific questions.
The Internet is My Religion – by Jim Gilliam and Lea Endres
Green for All
Nation Builder Books
The Talent of the Room by Michael Ventura
BRYAN: 00:41 Today my guest is Lea Endres. Lea is an entrepreneur and educator and a human rights advocate, a renowned facilitator. She spent most of her life working to make the tools of leadership available to everyone. She’s an accomplished screen writer and the coauthor of Jim Gilliam’s memoir. The Internet is my religion. In this conversation we explore what it was like for Lea to help Jim get his memoir written and we also talk about her unlikely journey to become CEO of a large tech company – and a pretty incredible story. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Lea Endres.
BRYAN: 01:17 So I want to open with a question. What’s life about ?
LEA: 01:25 Just jumping right in …
BRYAN: 01:28 We’ve known each other for three minutes now.
LEA: 01:31 No, that’s one of my favorite questions. I think life is about creating. I think it’s about creating. I think it’s about community. Um, I think about a lot about experiencing purpose. Um, but I think in a nutshell it’s about creating community and love.
BRYAN: 01:48 Beautiful. When somebody asks you who you are and what you do, what do you tell them?
LEA: 01:53 Well, I didn’t think that I would end up being somebody who would someday say I run a tech company. That was a bit of a shocker. Um, so most of my life I said I’m an educator and a human rights advocate and a writer.
BRYAN: 02:06 So tell me a little bit about this tech company that you find yourself at the helm of. Tell me a little bit about Nation Builder, what it is, who it’s for and, and how you came to be the CEO.
LEA: 02:21 It’s kind of a long story actually. I think the haiku version of what Nation Builder is about is this fierce belief that everyone has something unique, they’re meant to contribute to the world and we’re essentially trying to get rid of barriers that inhibit people from creating and for leading. So we make leadership software and that’s what we’re most known for. So anyone who’s trying to basically build a community and lead that community to action uses us. So that can be political campaigns or nonprofits or companies or small businesses. Um, but for me it really is about this essential belief that, you know, everyone can lead. It’s just a choice, and we want to get as many obstacles out of the way for them as possible.
BRYAN: 02:59 What a wonderful perspective. Your, as I understand your cofounder, Jim Gilliam, in his video that he delivered at the, um, is it…
LEA: 03:12 Personal Democracy Forum.
BRYAN: 03:13 I think in 2011?
LEA: 03:14 Yep. June 2011,
BRYAN: 03:16 June of 2011. And in one of the things he says in his, in his message is the pillars to a successful movement are stories, tools and faith. Tell me about how Nation Builder really helps people with all of those.
LEA: 03:29 That’s an amazing question. Well, first I think in terms of faith, it’s really about the fundamental faith in the power of a connected humanity. That’s what underpins Nation Builder. Um, and then I think the entire premise of the software is about creating the infrastructure, the tools to allow people to tell their stories, mobilize others, inspire others, and help them essentially come together and build a community that is about doing something. So Nation Builder really is a synthesis of those three things that Jim mentioned in his speech, um, it is no mistake that it’s sort of a direct outcropping of his, his own fervent belief system and his personal story. So I know you asked earlier how I got to be in, at the helm at this moment in time and it is really unexpected thing and it absolutely starts with story. Jim and I met in 2010, in February and in sort of six seconds, I think, realizes he has a really incredible story and in particular that he has three DNA’s, three different DNA since he had cancer twice when he was a teenager, um, got a bone marrow transplant and then later needed a double lung transplant.
LEA: 04:46 And so I met him and was like, oh my God, you physically represent what’s possible when humanity has connected literally because humanity is connected in your body. That is a crazy story. You have to tell it. And he said, well, I promised one really important to me that I write a book about my life someday. Will you help me? And I actually think, I said, um sure how hard can it be? And so that was sort of the beginning of this journey, which became Nation Builder.
BRYAN: 05:14 And that was the first time you met Jim. February 2010. Where were you?
LEA: 05:22 We were in la at a friend’s birthday party. Actually a friend who is truly extraordinary. Also a CEO. Um, and she and Jim had known each other many years when she was also at Brave New Films for a time. And then she and I had helped build an organization together in Oakland. And so we just both happened to be at her birthday party. She sat next to each other and she’s like, Oh yeah, I’ve been wanting you guys to talk forever. And then cut to the six seconds later.
BRYAN: 05:50 Totally amazing. And one of the things that I really want to talk with you about and I’m so excited to have you on the show today, is that is not only because you’re a ceo of a business that’s making a difference in the world today and also a woman leader, which I think the world could use more, but also because you helped Jim as you just described to get his story told. And I have so many questions about this book, the Internet Is My Religion, but one of the things that he said in that speech at the personal democracy forum, God is just what happens when humanity has connected. Like what an amazing perspective and as you were saying that Jim, like in some ways is the physical embodiment of, of humanity working together and coming together to, to heal and to perpetuate life itself. Tell me now a little bit about this book, you give this book away. Anyone can go online and download it as a pdf. It’s, it’s a high quality… This isn’t like somebody just whipped this up, but it’s a professionally published book. It’s funny, it’s smart. It’s moving. Uh, tell me about your decision to give this book away.
LEA: 07:08 Yeah. It wasn’t even a decision. It was just what was going to be from day one. We knew that we wanted everyone to have access to it. That the point was for whoever was compelled by the story to be able to read it and share it. So it really wasn’t a decision. We just knew that, that that had to be, that this is something that everyone had to have access to and frankly that you know the power in it is sharing it. So this vision was like if somebody was really moved by the story, they could gift it to somebody effortlessly, you know that you can do that either online or we at one point we were sending out like boxes of them. If people were like, Hey, can I have 30 for my, you know, whatever their class or their family, the whole… The whole idea was to spread the message of the book and so that was really about it being readily available and free to everybody.
BRYAN: 07:59 Incredible what kind of reception it had? I mean, I know that when you publish something and you send it out into the world, you never know where it will go. You don’t know who’s going to read it. You don’t know the impact that it’s going to have. And I suspect that you’ve had some really incredible stories as people have shared back with you, probably people that you didn’t know before. But will you tell me about some of the ways that this book has then come back and made an impact on you
LEA: 08:24 Yeah, it’s been wild. You know, what’s true is that we had finished the first draft of the book before Jim did the speech. So most people didn’t know that the book came before the speech and the speech was sort of like the haiku version in some ways of the book. And then we published the book later and you know, obviously there was a pretty dramatic reaction to the speech itself. But then the book I, there’s been so many people who’ve contacted, you know, either me or jim or Nation Builder to say I thought I was just going to pick this up for a second and I couldn’t put it down and I stayed up all night reading it or I finished it on the plane or, or, you know, whatever. That was just so exciting because our premise, the whole time we were writing was this has to sort of be a page turner.
LEA: 09:12 Like you have to want to know what happens next, what happens next. And so that in and of itself was really, you know, just really beautiful and then of course the sort of after effects of people reading the book, um talking about their lives and wanting to talk about their lives with us and talking about their struggles and hardships and this real inspiration that I think is the core message of the book, which is to not waste your life and the conversations that, that has led us into just mind blowing and extraordinary. And of course a lot of those folks end up coming to work at Nation Builder, which is really fun. We just, someone just joined our customer support team recently and she’s from Venezuela but lives in the UK and had read Jim’s book and it was sort of her dream to work at Nation Builder. And so that’s just, I mean it’s just incredible and we get that all the time because you can email us at Internetismyreligion.com. And people send messages, you know, about giving the book. Someone, a friend who was, you know, right in the midst of battling cancer or other struggles. And it’s just. I mean, it’s just been phenomenal.
BRYAN: 10:18 What kind of response have you had, if any, from people who’ve maybe been offended by the book, who’ve taken it as some kind of a sacrilege or you know, something is blasphemous. I imagine you could send out any message today and it’s going to be. It seems like just about anything can be polarizing, but what have you experienced that way?
LEA: 10:36 Yeah. So this is the thing about it being, you know, Jim’s book as I personally haven’t had to experience that… people are really focused on him and his story. So he, you know, has definitely been the lightning rod and I think it’s, it, it, it hasn’t been as much as you would think, but the times where it is happening really, he’s basically being held up as an exemplar of what went wrong in the Christian community and that, how could he, you know, this sort of. It’s a, it’s a cautionary tale, if you will, for some folks I think in that faith tradition. So, um, you know, that’s really all we’ve heard. And in some cases actually people have wanted to use the book in their religious studies classes, um, which has been really incredible. But, you know, I think the biggest backlash, if there is one has just been, you know, the like when it goes wrong, look at this guy.
BRYAN: 11:32 Yeah. I imagine if there is any of that, that you could almost wear it as a badge of honor. You know..
LEA: 11:39 Jim does for sure.
BRYAN: 11:41 And I think about what the marketing genius, you know, Russell Brunson says, if you haven’t, if you haven’t pissed somebody off by lunchtime, you’re not marketing hard enough.
LEA: 11:50 Absolutely. Absolutely. So we did his launch party for the book. Actually um in a church in, in New York. That was really an extraordinary event. And so that in and of itself was a very this very Jim thing to do, for the record.
BRYAN: 12:07 That’s awesome. I want to go now to this exploration of what it was like to, to help Jim get his book written because I know you, you’re multi talented person in your own right. And as I watched a video of you that I found in Nation Builder, I saw you talking about, you know, the, the years, the many, many, many years you’ve spent in your own community building, and facilitating groups and bringing people together and you know, a starting conversation, starting and leading conversations and so you, you seem to have your own sense not only of leadership and community and connection, but I’m wondering how you put that together to help Jim get his book done where especially I know you know, every one of us has our own inner critic and it can be a challenge to get our message out. And even when we enlist other people, even when other people are willing and they’re capable, sometimes our own inner critic I think can be so loud that it can drown out even those who are offering their assistance. And tell me what was that like for you? I mean, because you’re credited right on the book. You are a co-author so it’s not like this was, you know, you were an editor or something behind a ghost writer or anything like that behind the scenes. But it seems you were really a collaborator. Tell me about how your collaboration actually unfolded.
LEA: 13:32 At the time that I met Jim, I was really obsessed with the power of story. Like, I said this was in 2010 and I was coming off of having built and run a nonprofit organization up in Oakland. And my frustration was that in my experience in the nonprofit sector, incredible programs, incredible teams, incredible results, and often it didn’t scale…
BRYAN: 13:58 What was the non-profit in Oakland?
LEA: 13:58 Green For All. And so it was about essentially building an inclusive green economy. Um, and really incredible work. I think it’s fair to say that we helped launch, birth and launch the green jobs movement in the US and you know, it was just extraordinary and incredible work. And at the end of that, for me, I really wanted to figure out a way in my goal as a human had always been about systemic change. And so I wanted to figure out a way to truly scale the work that mattered to me.
LEA: 14:31 And I was actually on a trip in Malaysian Borneo with an organization that I was on the board of doing, doing some work on the ground there with women and they took me after this crazy trip where leeches were involved in, you know, how much other things going on. Uh, they were like, we got to take you to a bar. And I was like okay… sort of our last day there. And so we walk into this, this bar in Kay Kay and they were eating immediately, met with us, a normal bar, like everyday bar. But there was a cover band from the Philippines that had flown in and they were doing all covers of like nineties American pop music and interacting with the crowd and sort of like MTV saying English. And I was like, what is happening? And I was so disoriented, went to the bathroom and there was a poster of Angelina Jolie, right as they started singing Mariah Carey.
LEA: 15:25 And then my mind just sort of exploded because I was in Malaysian Borneo and had been working in the fields with these women and talking about the devastation that palm oil plantations had wrought on their land and their communities. And I am listening to Mariah Carey. And I’m like, oh, the thing that truly shifts cultures around the world, is story, it’s just the stories that we’re telling and Hollywood in particular are pumping out so many stories and in my opinion, humbly, do not matter at all. And so I basically decided, and you know, I’m a writer and had been involved in the entertainment industry prior and I was like, we have to change the stories that we’re telling in Hollywood. And so I actually left my nonprofit organization to start writing films, which is what I was doing when I met Jim. And so immediately saw this story as a story that really mattered.
LEA: 16:16 I thought it was incredibly important that it got told, you know, just thought it could have a really dramatic influence on people, which it has. And so, you know, when, when Jim and I first really started exploring this, I said, you know, we have this initial meeting at the birthday party that I mentioned and then basically got together again, bizarrely, by the way, our first meeting was at the Mustard Seed Cafe for former Christians such as Jim, that was kind of a big deal. It was accidental obviously. And then, you know, I basically was like, tell me what you’re thinking, tell me what you really want to say. And he said, look, I think there’s kind of an internet way of living and I want to explore that. And I wanna I wanna like dig in and unpack that for people. And I looked at him like, oh my God, the title of the book has to be the Internet is My Religion.
LEA: 17:04 And he clapped his hands together above his head if people know Jim like is just a very usual move. And he was like, oh my God, that’s it. Like when can we start working? And I had never written a book for someone before. I, I, you know, I’ve certainly written my own pieces prior, but I had no idea how to go about it. And so I was like, look, why don’t we just sit and do story sessions for a couple of hours a day? Which we did. We would do like three or four hour story sessions at his apartment for like, you know, five days a week. Um, and I did that for, I think it was probably five weeks. And then I basically started giving him a chapter every Sunday morning. I would like work for a whole week on a chapter that I was sort of constructing and then turning it in.
LEA: 17:49 We would start rewriting and uh, you know, so by the end of that year we had the quote first draft and that was the end of 2010. And then in the beginning of 2011 he felt really strongly that he had to sort of give his testimony to his community. And so that became a speech that, that most people know. And then we continued working and tweaking the book and the, I think the most incredible part of it was, you know, really trying to make it accurate to Jim’s voice and that was both tedious and fun and crazy because he’s a very, very unique voice and tone and so, you know, finding that was really fun. But that was the process. And obviously in that process we also realized we wanted to build a company together. So that happened. And that was really about recognizing… I mean, I didn’t want to just tell anybody’s story in the end, it was because we have a shared belief systems about, you know, what’s possible when humanity is connected. So it was that, those, the book and the DNA of the book is essentially the values at the core of Nation Builder and what this place is about.
BRYAN: 18:56 That’s incredible. I hadn’t realized that Nation Builder grew out of that project.
LEA: 19:00 We didn’t really either to be honest. So Jim was coding the source code first commit was October 30, first 2009. Um, so we’re actually about to celebrate Nation Builder’s ninth birthday is that right? And um, so, so he had, he was, I was basically very disparaging of it frankly, so when we met and started working on the book, he would be coding when we weren’t doing the story sessions and I was like, oh, okay, like you’re going to build an APP, whatever. Um, I was just very sort of dismissive about it and then at some point in the process I was like, by the way, what are you actually trying to do? And essentially what he wanted to do was to bring the tools of organizing to everybody and make them accessible and affordable. And to me that was essentially about the tools of leadership and then it was sort of on from there.
BRYAN: 19:50 When you say that Jim has a unique voice, what do you mean? Will you describe it?
LEA: 19:55 He is a classic engineer. Um, he’s also extraordinarily impatient and is a visionary. So he speaks in declaratives and as if it were so, which is very interesting, especially I think for me in general, but also I think as a woman just listening to him his style of like declare first, like ask later. He’s also just, you know, would say things that people wouldn’t normally say so bluntly…
BRYAN: 20:28 Like what?
LEA: 20:30 Um, oh my God, let’s see. He’d say things like this, this and this. Why don’t we just do. If we just got rid of schools, we would, you know, obviously people will be unlocked like, their potential wouldn’t crush kids’ spirits anymore. And things like that and really well thought out. I’m not doing him justice in that at all and it’s, you know, it can be sort of abrupt and like take you aback. And also, he, he wasn’t.
LEA: 20:57 I think the biggest challenge in the writing process, and I don’t know if this will be relevant to folks who are listening, but Jim is a futurist. He does not care about the past. So the idea of writing a book about his past was really daunting for him because he couldn’t, he just, he never been through an investigative process of really reflecting on his life. So we would be in these sessions and I would ask things and he would say something like, you know, yeah. And then my mom died and then I, you know, moved to… And I’m like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, backup, let’s talk about that. And he’d be like, what do you mean? I’m like, so let’s, can you give me the context? Like you both had cancer. You were, your dad was driving you to both of you to your treatments at the same time.
LEA: 21:41 Like can we talk about what that was like? And I mean that was sort of every step of the way in the process of him finally, for the first time really reflecting on what he’d experienced. And so in some of the first drafts that we wrote, people would read it and say, Oh, where’s the emotion? Like where’s the emotion? And I’d be like, you don’t understand, like he’s not, that’s not Jim. And so that was a really interesting thing when you asked about his voice, you know, he, he was talking about the facts and like this, then this, then this, then this. And I’d be like, okay, but how are you feeling like what was going on for you? And He’d be like, I dunno… it happened, people are gonna want to know like how you were feeling, what was going on? So that was a really unique part of the process.
BRYAN: 22:30 What an incredible gift that you brought to the equation. I mean if Jim had just written it the way he would have spoken it, it probably wouldn’t have resonated with people you know, like, like it did, and something that I think people listening might be interested to know a little more is about what the, I would say the economic and financial realities probably of both of your lives or at the time. Because when I hear you say you were doing three to four hour story sessions five days a week for months and months. And it’s like, okay, so I’m starting to hear. Like there’s a passion, a commitment, a vision, something here where most people they say I can’t do that. I’ve got a family, I’ve got bills, whatever. How did you, like, how did you navigate that and what and why?
BRYAN: 23:20 You know, it was hard. I needed to give it everything I had and so I wasn’t doing another job really on the side. He had a little bit of savings that he used to pay me sort of a like, uh, I would say a fairly modest amount of money and you know, that was like gone pretty quickly. And of course it, it, you know, obviously the overall process went a lot longer, but, you know, I had to, I had to do it. And so it was tough. It was tough. Um, and then was doing some other consulting work on the side and ultimately of course that we started building Nation Builder and so that was paying both of our salaries which was key and obviously then we had other jobs. So that’s why it took so long in the end to publish the book because we’d, we’d written the first draft, he then did the speech and then our series A was in February 2012.
LEA: 24:13 And so at that point we both just had completely different full time jobs building the company. And so it took us a couple more years to actually finish and publish the book because we were running Nation Builder, so during that initial seed time he had a little bit of money that he was essentially using to pay me, you know, more or less for my time. And um, that was actually part of why we wanted to start Nation Builder Books because we recognize there’s so many people who have incredible important stories to tell that people really need to hear where there’s some amount of guidance or education that’s involved about, you know, how you can, how to live in this crazy hyperconnected era or people that are phenomenal leaders that maybe don’t even think of themselves as leaders and they need to go through a similar process to what Jim went through to even recognize and honor how important their story is.
LEA: 25:06 And so we realized that if we could pay the authors. So in the traditional model, right, you’d have to, I mean, you’d have to be a name or you’d have to have for anyone to pay you to write a book. I mean, that’s really unusual. So we essentially with Nation Builder Books thought well, what if we could pay authors, you know, a very modest, like say $20,000 for them to, you know, take some time off or, or maybe subsidize their income so that they can actually write this book and then we’ll be able to give it away for free for folks and they can build up their brand and build up their name and we have this massive platform of course in Nation Builder to get hundreds of thousands of people to access their book and then help them build their brand and help them get their voice out there.
LEA: 25:48 So that really was the sort of seedling of the idea of Nation Builder books. And I think it’s hard. I mean, I was before that before working with Jim, as I said I was, you know, writing movies and that was. I mean that was crazy. I was writing a screenplay about kids in the foster system and the only way I was able to do that was because I was basically crowdfunding pre sort of you traditional crowdfunding. And I was like talking to friends and family and because I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for so long, I like knew how to fundraise and they were essentially believed in the script, believed in the importance of the story and they wanted to support it. And that’s how I was able to, to write that script, which, you know, did very well. And I was in pre production on before I met Jim.
LEA: 26:31 And when I said to him, yeah, sure, like how hard can it be to write, you know, write a book about your life. I thought it was going to take like three to six months. And so I called my writing partner and said, hey, we gotta pause we’re in pre production, you know, raising the money to get this film made. I gotta go right this guy’s story because it’s really time sensitive. Give me like three to six months, then I’ll be back. And that was eight and a half years ago. So, um, you know, at some point going to make that movie… Instead use that time to build Nation Builder.
BRYAN: 26:56 So for anyone who maybe before they listened to this, hadn’t it hadn’t really occurred to them to be on the lookout, so to speak, for people whose stories might be worth telling, and them having an active role in helping another get their story told. What advice would you give someone? I mean, now that you’ve done it, you have the benefit of hindsight to see the investment that it really was, you know, how difficult it was or whatever required. What advice would you give to someone who thinks, well maybe I would do that, but I don’t know if I want to commit that much of my own life, you know, to this.
LEA: 27:32 Well, I think there’s two different paths. There’s the path of helping to sort of midwife or facilitate someone else sharing their story, which is a really powerful and beautiful thing. And then there’s the path of writing your own story. And I think one thing I didn’t share earlier was that in addition of course to the movie that I was writing, I was also writing my own book, which is not something that I’ve done yet. And so, you know, Jim and I’ve talked a lot about that and that experience I think especially for a lot of women who I’ve spoken to many over the years since Jim and I worked on this project who are in roles where they are supporting other people’s voices being heard, but not actually sharing their own story. And I think that’s been a challenge for me. I think it’s been a challenge for many of the women I’ve spoken to.
Speaker 2: 28:15 And so I do think it, you know, if someone is going to choose to help create the conditions where someone else can share their story, it’s really important to ask yourself why you’re doing that and what’s sustaining you and what’s, what’s most important to you about that. Because my experience is that, you know, in this I’m thinking it was one person in particular who I met a couple of years ago. She had helped many, many people not just write books but also deliver a Ted Talks and sort of build their own notoriety and fame. And meanwhile she’s a writer who hasn’t shared her own story. And that was that disconnect and sort of the dissonance was continuing to grow for her and I was like, you gotta do that first, like you’re not allowed to work with anybody else. And so you do you tell your own story.
LEA: 28:57 So I would just say what’s most important to you? Um, what are you being called to do? And in my case, I didn’t set out to write someone else’s book. I just had to, um, I had to because his story just, I knew that it had to be told. And since then I’ve had a deep, you know, honor of, of helping some of our authors find their voices and write their books. We have a slate of authors that I’m really excited about who are coming out in 2019. That’s an incredible… And now all of them are like, okay, you have to write your book now because like enough of this, you actually have to do your thing. Which I agree with it.
BRYAN: 29:31 Practice what you preach Lea.
LEA: 29:31 I will. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that’s, that’s definitely next for me. But it certainly no small feat when someone entrusts you with their. And that power of, of helping them shape how they’re going to tell their life journey. I mean that’s a massive, massive honor and I would just say for anyone who’s considering doing it, make sure that that’s what you want and if you want to tell your own story, do that instead.
BRYAN: 29:59 And I just want to go back to something to see if I, if I heard it correctly, about Nation Builder books, paying some amount of money, maybe $20,000 as an example to an author to help support them while they get their book written. And then the book gets given away free. Like what’s the business model here? How does this, how does this work? I mean, it sounds like a pretty good deal for the author.
LEA: 30:22 I know, right? What’s the catch for us? Yeah. I mean frankly at the beginning, Jim and I were like, yeah, this just has to happen so we’ll figure it out. But in the end, you know, we’re a software company and so in terms of like how our financials work, people are signing up to use Nation Builder monthly, some of the larger customers sign up for a longer contracts that frankly you could consider that for us, if we’re about leadership and we just, we sell leadership software, we can essentially bucket Nation Builder Books as content marketing. I don’t really think of it that way to be quite honest, but in the end, in terms of the unit economics, that’s, that’s marketing for us and ultimately it’s about fulfilling this mission of not just being the technological infrastructure for people, but also the educational infrastructure. So to me there’s no separating like if we’re facilitating conversations about leadership in an era of hyper connected humanity, you have to have guides who can help you do that and help open paths that you may not have seen before.
LEA: 31:24 And so we’re helping to facilitate and steward and shepherd a conversation about leadership. That’s the company. That’s what we’re up to. So in this particular case, you know, we get the opportunity to support incredible leaders who might not otherwise tell their story or have the opportunity to tell their story and then of course we’re able to equip the thousands and thousands of people who use Nation Builder with that resource and then certainly beyond. I mean no one would ever have to use Nation Builder to have access to that book. So to your point it’s Kinda like, well, you know, we’re, we’re working it out. But. But yeah, from a baseline perspective, that’s part of our marketing budget.
BRYAN: 32:02 Oh, that’s awesome. So for people who are interested in that, I imagine there’s a lot of people hearing this who are interested in writing working on their, their first book or maybe their next book that haven’t heard of Nation Builder Books are not aware of this opportunity. What should they know? Like who are you looking for? If they want to go to NationBuilderBooks.com. They’re hoping just from a little bit they’ve heard that maybe this can be something for them. Lea, who is it that you want? Like who is your ideal author?
LEA: 32:26 I think my ideal author is someone who is not afraid to share the real gritty truth about their life that essentially they’re willing to be a leader in process and not have it all figured out and perfect but feel so compelled. They just have to tell this story because they believe it will in some way illuminate a path that maybe someone else wouldn’t know exists if they didn’t share their story. And so, um, yeah, I think it’s, it’s folks who know they have something to say and they believe it can be helpful to others.
BRYAN: 33:02 Sounds to me like this would be great software for coaches also who are helping others along the journey they’ve been along and now they want to build their own community and stay in contact.
LEA: 33:15 I agree with that. Absolutely. I mean I always say to anybody who’s trying to build a community that is about doing something needs Nation Builder. So yeah, and I coaches are some of my favorite people, so I would love it if they use Nation Builder.
BRYAN: 33:28 That’s great. How many employees are you now?
LEA: 33:31 About 140.
BRYAN: 33:37 Wow, how do you manage all those egos?
LEA: 33:37 Well frankly on that note about egos, I am, you know, we have a really robust hiring process and part of it is, is making sure that the people that joined the team are all about learning and frankly about developing themselves as leaders and so you can’t really have that frame of mind if you’re not both humble and audacious. So we typically don’t hire jerks.
BRYAN: 34:03 Yeah, how do you know? They always look so good on paper.
LEA: 34:06 Well, we meet everyone personally. I interview everyone who comes into the company.
BRYAN: 34:13 Holy cow, amazing. So now I want to ask you a few lightening type questions. Short answers to short questions. You can answer as long as you want. So using an answer other than a box of chocolates, please complete the following sentence. Life is like a blank.
LEA: 34:33 Group of beautiful people.
BRYAN: 34:35 What do you wish you were better at?
LEA: 34:38 Telling my story?
BRYAN: 34:40 If you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a tee shirt with a slogan on it or phrase or saying or quote or a quip. What would the shirt say?
LEA: 34:48 Do whatever it takes. No excuses.
BRYAN: 34:51 What book other than your own, have you gifted or recommended? Most often?
LEA: 35:02 Probably something by Brene Brown.
BRYAN: 35:04 Okay. So I imagine for your work in your own personal professional, you probably travel quite a bit more than you care to. I guess. What’s one travel hack, something you do or maybe something you take with you when you travel that makes your travel less painful and or more enjoyable?
LEA: 35:25 I always take a bar of chocolate.
BRYAN: 35:27 What kind?
LEA: 35:27 There’s this really amazing brand that is I think like Jelin and it’s dark chocolate with sea salt. It’s Canadian. I love it. My husband’s Canadian and he always grabs him when he’s there and I take essential oil like lavender tea tree oil that you can like clean your hands with sort of no matter where you are.
BRYAN: 35:50 What’s one thing you started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
LEA: 35:54 Oh my God, I don’t do anything. That is such a good question. I, in the last couple of years, I suck at doing anything that is about helping me age well, so I think what I want to do is take daily walks with my husband. If I can get home before 10:00 PM, that would be more likely. But uh, that’s something really important to me is actually just like walking and getting out and, you know, breathing the fresh air or sort sort of fresh since I live in LA. Yeah. That’s, I want to do that. I really want to do that.
BRYAN: 36:29 Sounds like you have a great relationship with your husband. I read an interview with you where you were asked if you could have dinner with people from history and you picked your husband is one of them.
LEA: 36:38 He’s the best. He’s a, an extraordinary human being who I feel really lucky to be with.
BRYAN: 36:45 That’s great. What is one thing you wish every American knew?
LEA: 36:52 Oh my God. Since I’m married to a Canadian, the provinces would be cool. I think that I wish every American knew more about history. World History in general. Um, I feel like a, we’re sort of bound to make the same mistakes if we aren’t grounded in history.
BRYAN: 37:15 What advice have your parents given you that has made an impact on you or has stayed with you?
LEA: 37:22 My Dad always was really conscious about not wasting anything. His mother grew up in the depression and he just is so incredible at sufficiency, like having exactly what you need and being very precise about it. So I think he really instilled that in me. Just this idea of not wasting things and I think that includes not wasting your time, doing something that really matters.
BRYAN: 37:52 Powerful lesson. What should people do if they want to learn more from you or they want to connect with you?
LEA: 37:56 Text me, I would say just get in touch with Nation Builder because the crew here is really gracious and um, can, can definitely navigate getting to me. I’m not really on social media actually, so that’s less easy, but you know, emailing me and emailing the crew, uh, always gets to me.
BRYAN: 38:24 That’s great. I do want to ask you a few specific questions with the few minutes we have left. Before we do though, just to make sure that I get to this, I do want to let you know that as an expression of gratitude to you for making time to talk with me and share some of your experience and your lessons with our listeners. I have made a $100 micro loan to an entrepreneur in Cameroon, a woman named Patience who will use this money to help buy rice, sardines, pasta and soaps that she will sell to help support her family and improve the quality of life in Cameron.
LEA: 39:04 Wow, that’s incredible.
BRYAN: 39:08 So that’s, that’s a small way of saying thank you.
LEA: 39:11 That’s amazing. Thank you, what an incredible gift.
BRYAN: 39:15 It’s my pleasure. Thank you. Okay. So a few writing specific questions because one of the things that I have experienced is it’s, you know, talk to writers about how they got their books done. And very often it’s like, oh, I just did it and I find myself it’s not useful. You know, like that’s not, it’s almost not useful to people who are trying to do the same thing, but it’s like, yeah, you know, Michael Jordan just hit all the shots, you know, whatever. So let me start by asking you when you were writing, because you said you were writing your own book when you met Jim and then you worked with, with Jim when you were writing, whether it was solo or it was in partnership. What did you do, if anything that was a kind of a ritual or a habit or routine associated with your writing?
LEA: 40:05 So I think this is one of the most important questions and wisdom to share because people often see the finished product and are like, Oh my God, this book was so amazing but have no insight into what it took to get there. And I honestly believe now having written for I would say solidly for like 20 years, that, all that matters is the experience of sitting down in the chair and not getting up. And a friend of mine once told me that he wrote his book with his cat sitting on his lap because he knew that if he had to get up he would disturb the cat and it is a way to keep him in the chair. Um, and I did the same thing when I was writing Jim’s book. I basically made a very specific writing date commitment with a friend of mine who’s an amazing British playwright and we would go to the same cafe at the same time every morning and sit at, not at the same table but like mirror each other and essentially just having the pressure of someone else who was jamming and like, looked as focused, even if he wasn’t focused, it kept me in the chair.
LEA: 41:09 And to me it functionally is just about how long can you sit in this chair period. And of course with no distractions, right? Like you’re not sitting in a chair and answering text messages or tweeting or whatever. You’re actually sitting and writing. It’s just the time in everyday. And it has to be every day.
BRYAN: 41:24 Literally every day, seven days a week? Did you give yourself any breaks?
LEA: 41:28 Um, I would say everyday for sure, Monday through Friday and then tried to do, I was also working Saturday and Sunday when I was working on Jim’s book, but um, that had more flexibility of the time of day. So like on the Monday through Friday it was a very specific, like 8:00 AM in the chair, you know, lunch break back in the that, that kind of structure. Um, and then Saturdays and Sundays were a little looser.
BRYAN: 41:53 That reminds me what you’re saying. This piece that somebody shared with me a while back, The Talent of the Room, have you read that by Michael Ventura? And he talks about this very thing, being able to stay in the room, is a talent in and of itself beyond whatever somebody might have in terms of literary flourish or you know,
LEA: 42:19 Yes, what is that quote? I’m forgetting who it’s by, but it was something like a famous author. Of course someone said, you know, do you write when you feel like it or you know, or do you have a rhythm or do you just write when you’re. When inspiration strikes? And they said, oh yeah, I write when inspiration strikes, but luckily it strikes every morning at 9:00 AM. It’s truly discipline. I mean it’s hard and it’s, you know, you’re alone. I mean that’s the other thing is your bandwidth to actually just be alone with your thoughts and you know, that’s its own struggle. It’s, it’s almost its own. I know a lot of people who, who have a relationship with meditation and certainly struggled to do it and in different times. And I feel like writing things is so similar because you’re just, it’s just you. And if you’re not putting the words on the page, no one’s putting the words on the page. Just so yeah. Stay in the room
BRYAN: 43:14 In terms of tools, how did you organize, I mean, did you use a bunch of, did you use Microsoft Word? Did you use something like Scrivener? Did you use notes or Evernote or something like that? How did you, especially when you captured stories and now you’ve got this whole massive stories and like how did you organize? What tools did you use? How did you stay sane while you were doing it?
LEA: 43:33 Yeah, so I actually drove Jim Insane with this because he was an engineer and so it was very used to an iterative process where you’re sort of shipping daily and you’re in, you put it out in the world and you improve it. And I was like, that is not how I can, I’m not going to get the best result for you if I am not just in the cocoon writing and then sharing it with you when it’s kind of complete, which is why I was delivering essentially a chapter every Sunday. And then we would, I would deliver it in the morning and then I would go over to his house and then we would get, I would get his notes live. So the tools I was using were I would record him, of course in any session. Um, and then I was actually transcribing that myself because again, this is like 2010.
LEA: 44:16 And then I, for myself, I was just in a Word doc. I mean it sounds ridiculous, but I was just in a giant or a document and had of course files for his transcripts and, and my outlines. And you know, draft chapters and you know, essentially every, there’d be a new chapter and then I’d have his notes and then I do a rewrite on the chapter delivered that like maybe Monday and then start on the new chapter. I mean it was hardcore because both of us are fairly impatient and I had also said to my writing partner who was working on the movie with me, I think it’s going to take like three to six months. So we were just on this, really tight timeline, which is kind of hilarious because then everything went off the rails obviously as we started building Nation Builder.
BRYAN: 44:56 If you had to do again, what would you do the same? What would you do differently?
LEA: 45:02 I would definitely keep that sense of urgency in that pace. I would absolutely do that again. I think that was spot on. What I would do differently is finish it sooner. I think we both… My instinct was that something hadn’t happened yet. That was the completion to the story, which actually ended up being true by the way. So I don’t know that it was the wrong choice to make because it was the creation of Nation Builder that needed to happen to then, you know, to end the story. But you know, I think, I think I probably would have just ended it sooner and gotten it out into the world. I think at that point we were so, we’re so attached to it and, and we, we probably could have put it out earlier.
BRYAN: 45:46 Who did you enlist in terms of other editors or did you ever contact an agent? Did you have a group of beta readers? Like did you have friends and family? Give you feedback on it? Like who else beyond the two of you before you release this into the world?
LEA: 46:00 Yeah, so definitely want to name Jim’s family and Jessie Haff. Jessie is our co founder and Nation Builder and also Jim’s like long time best friend, yeah, from back when they are kids. So he definitely was in the mix as were a couple other people from our team. Laura Harris, um Jesse Coleman is our publisher at Nation Builder Books. We got connected to him through Laura. He was, you know, in the book industry, the publishing industry rather in New York, he read the book was like, Huh. And then basically came on board at Nation Builder and booted up Nation Builder Books with us. So it was a very small but mighty crew of people who were, who were involved. Um, yeah, so definitely some, some. And then of course copy editing occurred at some point, which by the way was a whole thing because we were making up words and so the copy editor would like change the word and then we were like, no, no, no.
LEA: 46:50 We know that graceful only has one L, but we’re using it as grace dash full with two l’s. Drove her insane. Um, and so yeah, copy editing of course occurred at some point, but, but it was, it was a pretty small group.
BRYAN: 47:02 What other words did you make up?
LEA: 47:04 I’d have to look. I think it may have actually been less made up words then taking them out of context, using them incorrectly. For example, there’s like an Alison Wonderland quote we had in there where we were, we used it later in the book and if you hadn’t realized it was an Alice in Wonderland quote we were re-referencing it would never make sense and so there were things like that that we were like messing with also because we were doing a lot with like song lyrics because music was so important to him and Jim and I are born two weeks apart basically, so we have almost like spot on musical references that are important to us. So there was a lot going on with that as well.
BRYAN: 47:42 What’s the worst advice you hear given to beginning writers?
LEA: 47:49 I would say I don’t know that there is one thing, but I think the type of advice that is pretty atrocious is anything that lets you off the hook, like anything that lessens the burden of what you’re doing doesn’t work. It’s just hard. And if anyone tells you it’s not hard, they are lying to you because it’s really, really hard and you have to want it. I mean at the end of the day like anything that is difficult or challenging, you’ve got to really want to get to the other side and then put in the time and the muscle and the love to get you there.
BRYAN: 48:21 I can see that. I, I have this conversation with friends of mine who write and I just kind of check in and I still haven’t got over this, but it seems to be the way it is for most for most everyone is I’ll say, is it your experience that writing never gets easier? Like the act of writing or the process of writing never gets easier. Your writing gets better, but the feeling is it’s like, oh you know, it never gets more pleasant or whatever.
LEA: 48:45 I mean, it’s grueling. You’re by yourself trying to conjure up the perfect words and sentences that will convey something that’s almost impossible to convey and you’re trying to translate that to have an impact on someone else’s experience in mind. I mean, it’s such a beautiful process and I think that’s the point around deep reverence for it. It’s really hard and some days you have those magical days where you just cannot believe how well it’s flowing or you come up with like the perfect line and it actually sticks and it’s something that ends up being in the book, but those are far and few between. I mean, the rest of the day is this just you’re working your butt off.
BRYAN: 49:25 Hemingway said, or purportedly said, something like, just write one sentence, like the truest thing you know. And so this is the question that I want to end with for you, which is recognizing that a book, even though it’s whatever, 200 pages, it’s 60,000 words, 30,000 for a shorter book, whatever. But ultimately it’s one word at a time, one sentence at a time. Right. So from your view, in your experience, what are the qualities of a great sentence and how does one write a great sentence?
LEA: 50:00 It’s so funny you asked that when we were writing this, there was this moment where Jim and I realized there was a lot more, a lot of sentences that were not starting with the actual thing that was happening. It was the word sentence with start with something like I was starting to realize or I was going to blah, blah, blah, instead of just saying the crisp clean thing and I think powerful sentence or sentences are ones that are really distilled to the essence of what you’re trying to communicate without a lot of fluff. And so, you know, that’s frankly, I don’t know that I wrote that way before working with Jim because he was so, so laser focused on saying the most pristine and crisp and short version of the sentence because he speaks in very short sentences. And that was definitely not my way of being prior.
LEA: 50:58 And so I think now I really look at when I’m reading of course, and, and looking at sentence structure, it’s like, could that have just been said in a much more elegant and piercing way? And so oftentimes you’ll find it in when even here at Nation Builder and I’m reading people’s writing and like stripping away the sort of extraneous fluff that sort of minimizes the impact of the sentence. And um, yeah, I think that’s what I would say. And we, we cover up a lot of stuff on the daily. You can’t cover up the thing in your sentences, you gotta just say what it is.
BRYAN: 51:35 And speaking of that, truly last question here. How do you know when you’re done with the sentence? How do you know when you’re done with the chapter? How do you know when you’re done with the book?
LEA: 51:42 I don’t know, I mean, that’s the thing, right? With this book, I wasn’t sure we were done and I actually think it’s just a choice. I don’t know that you ever know. I think you just have to choose that you’re going to be done and put it out and that’s hard. There are still things in the book where when I, when I look back on it I’m like, Oh, I wish I’d changed, you know, this one paragraph or whatever. And you know, you just, I think you got to choose when you’re done.
BRYAN: 52:07 Yeah. It’s a choice, it’s a way of living I think.
LEA: 52:11 And by the way, because you want to move onto the next story that you have to tell and maybe the story is going to live with you for, you know, decades maybe. I mean, my movie certainly has that movie hasn’t been made yet, so cool. I’m still going to tweak some of the words in the script, but at some point it’s going to be very clear that that movie has to be put out into the world and it’s just done. You got to be done writing the script.
BRYAN: 52:33 That’s great. I know that our time has come to an end here, so I know we’re done because I looked at the clock and we’re done. We’re done. I want to extend my gratitude to you for making time, for sharing with me your journey, your lessons, and I want to congratulate you on this book and also on a company you’ve built and the many lives that you’re, you’re impacting. I think it’s. I think it’s pretty awesome and I wish you a lot of success in all your endeavors.
LEA: 53:02 Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate that and this has been amazing and thank you again for the gift that’s just so incredible and thoughtful. Thank you.
BRYAN: 53:11 My pleasure and thanks to everybody listening again, Lea Andreas with Nation Builder Dot Com. I hope that you learned something that you will use to improve the quality of life on earth. Until we talk again next time. Take care everybody.
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