The Courage to Learn Differently with Matthew Cox

Matthew Cox is the CEO and Founder of the Never Give Up Foundation, he’s a coach,  speaker and Co-author of the book, The Courage to Learn Differently. In this remarkable conversation learn about:

  • How Matt became a successful entrepreneur despite his learning disability
  • How your emotions can be a gift?
  • What is emotional growth and how to unlock it?
  • How as leaders, we can tune in to the emotional needs of our teams

Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services.

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: For any organization to be successful. It must find a way to develop talent. It isn’t always possible to hire great talent in leadership, particularly from outside the organization. So being able to develop leaders within the organization is a key success factor and will help the company grow and meet future needs. I’m going to share with you four principles that really help drive leadership development and leadership potential for 2022. The first principle is taking ownership. This is about being fully responsible for your leadership team and their personal development in that journey. And it’s different from being in charge. Taking ownership is simply about empowering people around you, but being fully responsible, knowing that it’s actually a shared responsibility, great leaders make it their job to keep pushing things forward. They didn’t sit back and wait for tasks to be given to them. They search for new ways to improve.

That includes developing them and their teams. Learning through mistakes and continually being brave enough to make them. When everyone takes ownership, people are willing to do what’s needed without finding ways to skirt responsibility. By taking ownership, this is also creates consistency and consistency creates routines, habits and patterns that others can also learn from rather than just one off activities. Principle two, use next level thinking. How do you know if you did something right? Most people look at the task. Did you accomplish it or not? Did you do what you said you were going to do or not? Well for leadership, we need to shift our thinking. Each task is important, and we consistently need to measure our productivity versus key performance. But next level leadership requires a shift in a perspective, helping people move away from linear thinking is really important. Linear thinking follows quick snap decisions without much analysis and a usually short term.

Instead, we need to think systems thinking, see the bigger picture. Interconnection between the various parts of a system. In doing so, it gives us the ability to have much broader perspectives and allow better decision making. And if we think of systems thinking as the full business system, not individual parts, it gives us the ability, much deeper, more meaningful decision-making. Principle three, respect time, your time and others. There is an old adage of time management. And if anybody’s ever worked with me, you’ll know that it’s a myth and I encourage you to think of it that way. You can’t manage time. You can only manage you. The hack here is I want you to think about reframing time management to prioritization. And if you’re able to look at tasks and compare them in terms of their urgent and important status, what you need to tackle first, that creates space providing you, create the space for recovery and wellbeing in your plan, create a model of the week that you want to see happen and feature into that model time for you and for others, but also encourage others to do the same, because by respecting others’ time, you’ll be able to be more efficient.

You also need to micromanage and principle for focus on progress. Not perfection. Nobody is perfect and chasing for perfection means we forgo, experimenting or testing things because we don’t want to screw up. You may be familiar with the terminology trial and error. By definition, there mean there will be error and that’s okay. Doing so means continuous improvement. Create the space for people to feel psychologically safe so they can experiment. That means that they’ve learned it removes the need for criticism. The key learning here is that every time you win a step forward, it’s a step of progress towards a goal, but not perfection. Of course, there are more than four principles that are going to keep us well for 2022. When we start thinking about our leadership development and I’d encourage you just to focus on what’s working for you but take a step forward. Not a step back. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. Let’s dive into the show.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Our special guest on today’s show is Matthew Cox. He’s a CEO and founder of Never Give Up Foundation. He’s a coach, speaker and the co-author of the book. The Courage to Learn Differently. Matt’s story is even more remarkable as whilst he’s an entrepreneur having sold multimillion dollar businesses in the past. He’s also learning disabled. Matthew, welcome to the show.

Matthew Cox: Thank you. Well, thank you, Steve. Appreciate it.

Steve Rush: So right off the bat Matt, when you hear the word learning disabled, what does that really mean?

Matthew Cox: Well, it can go two different ways. Learning disabled is a learning disability or intellectual disability versus the physical. So, when somebody’s learning disabled, they struggle either with some sort of element like dyslexia, illiteracy or something that impairs them to not learn the way what’s called normal society [Laugh]

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: So, it’s been based on if you can’t read or write, if you can’t do something a certain way, you’re a learning disabled. If that makes sense.

Steve Rush: It’s a label that most folk aren’t particularly comfortable with, but you seem to have grabbed hold of this and created it as part of your identity. I’m keen to just learn a little bit about how that came about?

Matthew Cox: Yeah, it wasn’t always tough or easy. Growing up, it was trying to get, as you hear that saying, getting comfortable in your own skin. And so, throughout my youth I struggled with it like anybody. I didn’t know why I wasn’t able to keep up with all the other kids in the classroom. Now, if I was on the soccer field, that was another thing. I was pretty good at that. But when it came to the classroom, I hated tests. English was like a foreign language to me. So, it was tough that way. Until I got into my thirties, I finally got comfortable with it. But growing up from an adolescent to about then, it was always trying to hide things, was not comfortable. And then it just clicked one day. I just finally realized through some personal work, having a coach and having mentors, having good people around me, I finally just realized, it doesn’t define who I am, and the definition of learning and art today is like reading and writings. It’s not something that’s been around forever. It’s something we created as a society and we make decisions on scoring our kids, scoring our people around us that if they do X, then they’re intelligent. So, it wasn’t telling my thirties, Steve, that I finally just kind of got comfortable with it with a mentor that kind of guided me through it. And then from there on it’s just been, it’s, you kind of miss out, if you don’t get to know me. So, when I do presentations, I don’t stress anymore if I spell wrong on the board.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: I’ve kind of embraced it, which is freedom in its own self.

Steve Rush: So, I’m not sure many listeners actually know this either. Actually, I’m dyslexic. And I’ve also written a book. Albeit it, was the best couple of thousand dollars I’d ever spent hiring an editor [laugh] to rewrite my book. I’m not sure that she was anticipating the amount of work and rework that was going to be required. But I too had found that actually, stood in front of a flip chart having to write up people’s notes. I was able to get away with it by just squiggling on the board and people just, not even. So, if I just got a little word blind, which often still happens by the way, I can get away with it. As long as you were confident enough, did you actually find any of that play out for you?

Matthew Cox: Oh, all the time. I have code, but before I was so forward about it, I used to try to just say, oh, I’m just going to abbreviate it or put a code up here for you.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And I kind of get around it that way until. Now when I do a presentation, I tell my story.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And I say, look, if you’re a spelling Nazi in the audience, you’re going to have fun. It’s going to drive you crazy today. I wish you well.

Steve Rush: Exactly, I like that.

Matthew Cox: And so, I just make humor of it.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And usually when you’re vulnerable and you make that humor, people embrace it and I’ve never had an issue with it since then.

Steve Rush: And often, it is about that disclosure that makes it safe, isn’t it?

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: Finding this out and this level of comfort in your late thirties is really quite interesting because up until this point, you’ve gone through quite a lot of different twists and turns in your career and.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: You’ve gone through some personal tragedies, and you’ve come out the other end and been a successful businessman. I’d love for you to just share a little bit of the backstory.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. So, you know, through all that fun time growing up, I learned early on, I was an entrepreneur, I’ll start there, and I think it was after we lost my father when I was younger. I think I was ten at that time. And I had seven other siblings at the house. So, my mom raised us all. So, I started finding ways to make money. Because after that loss, we were struggling financially, and my mom did her best. And I remember my first business was a yard care business. I was mowing lawns for neighbors. And then I just kept building it and took it to the extreme and by buying trailers and buying a truck and buying more equipment. And so, at seventeen, I realized the power of entrepreneur. I was making four thousand U.S. dollars a month as a seventeen-year-old, still in school.

And I was going, wait, there’s something to this. And it wasn’t until I started listening to Stephen Covey, kind of switching that mindset. And then that’s when my business bug kind of just went from there. And then I started several other businesses after that and had a few failures in there, like any entrepreneur. And then when I was in my twenties, I was introduced to mental health. What I mean by that is, helping kids in foster care, helping kids at risk. Because I was one of those kids growing up where, when we lost a father, I struggled, I started hanging out with wrong crowds. And I talked about this in my book. Just the journey I went through because it was easier to get accepted to the wrong crowds when you’re struggling with self-esteem as a LD Kid and growing up. So, in those twenties, I learned that I could influence kids on the soccer field and then somebody introduced me to foster care. And that’s when I started my journey down that whole road. And I’ve been in that field since, and I’m 44 now. So, it’s been a long journey.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: But it’s been really, really rewarding because I’ve found that was my gift. And I think in any situation, Steve, a lot of entrepreneurs when they find their sweet spot, just like a basketball or a professional star or sports person, they always told me when I would work with them, coaching them and stuff they’d say. There’s a sweet spot when you’re playing your game. And I think as an entrepreneur, you have to find that. And in my life, I found it and it was helping people.

Steve Rush: That sweet spot often referred to as purpose.

Matthew Cox: There you go, purpose.

Steve Rush: It’s now played full round, isn’t it for you? And the Never Give Up Foundation that you now run is focused entirely on giving people the opportunity to grow. Tell us a little bit about the work you do?

Matthew Cox: Yeah. So now currently what happened is, from the foster care I moved in 2009, I moved to Vegas, and I started an outpatient company, which that means, outpatient in the mental health world is, people come in for therapy or medication management. And we serviced four to all the way up to ninety or a hundred or on, so there is no age gap from the limit. Me and my wife started that in 2012. Then in 2016, my brother approached me and says, hey, let’s start an inpatient and for adolescence. So, we started that in 2016, we were the first one in Nevada. So, we were the first ones to do this type of work or inpatient. It’s called a psychiatric adolescent facility. And it’s for residential where they stay nine months to a year within the facility where all services are under one roof.

And then they transition back into the community. Currently that facility has hundred and forty-four beds, and it serves adolescents from eight to seventeen. And then we have Sober Living Company that we started right after that. And the Sober Living serves adults, all ages and they stay there while they do treatment. When we did something unique with that sober living, we actually don’t charge rent for them. We pay the rent and then we provide services around that. So, it’s kind of a unique model that we run there. And so that’s kind of been the journey for the [laugh] since 2009 to now. When I came into the state of Nevada and then we’re now expanding into other states, we’re buying other facilities around the U.S., and it’s been a pretty crazy journey, but I’ve enjoyed every step. It’s a very needed, especially after the pandemic, it’s got very busy with mental health.

Steve Rush: Indeed. And I guess globally now. The whole issue is magnified because of the pandemic.

Matthew Cox: Globally, yes.

Steve Rush: And from your perspective, how have you seen the patients and associates you work with change because of that?

Matthew Cox: Oh, wow. We’ve seen, I’ll start with just the adolescence. I mean the acuity level from when it was prior to the pandemic is a lot worse. When I say acuity, kids are trying to harm themselves. Eight-year-olds are trying to drown themselves in pools. Just the cases I see or hear. It’s got a lot worse and then adults and colleagues, the anxiety and stress level has went off the charts, just the what ifs or the unknown. So, in the adult’s people, are just worried about the economy and what’s going on.

Steve Rush: And neurologically, of course, we’re built to look for certainty and pattern and comfort and routine, and the pandemic’s throwing that up in the air, for many people, right?

Matthew Cox: Yeah, and I think it’s that sense of reality or that purpose, right?

Steve Rush: Mm.

Steve Rush: So, like you said, that reality or that normal mundane everyday thing we do, just got disrupted. And so, in the world of psychology, it’s that, hey, my story or my baseline. And that’s where a lot of people, when I’ve coached a lot of my professionals or business owners, a lot of them are worried about what’s going to happen to the economy. Am I going to have a business? And I think half the time our session is, in my high performers, I say, hey, you can’t control that. What can you control? And you got to live today, not tomorrow, not five days. And so, a lot of people are doing too much, living way ahead. And that’s when it causes a lot of mental health issues when we’re thinking too much or too far ahead.

Steve Rush: It’s the traditional power of now, isn’t it?

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: You can only control the moment you’re in, rather than the one that’s gone and the one that’s ahead of you.

Matthew Cox: Correct.

Steve Rush: But that takes courage to think differently, which is exactly what the book talks to, of course.

Matthew Cox: So, we create it in our outlines. The courage to learn differently was designed for kiddos or parents that have kids with learning disabilities. And so, when we went to start writing in it and Steve, like you said earlier, my coauthor bless her hearts, Erica Walkingstick. She’s, the coauthor of True Colors. She’s she wrote a book on the basis of temperament; her husband was the founder of True Colors. And it was founded in 1937. And it’s a temperament theory using four colors to define your personality.

Steve Rush: Mm-Hmm.

Matthew Cox: It’s based on Myers Briggs, all those different ones. They’re all kind of, every one of them, yeah.

Steve Rush: Similar to any of the jungian personality types you might see, right?

Matthew Cox: Pretty much. And it’s pretty accurate. I’ve been using it for a long time. So, what we did is, we took it, and we developed this book around that concept of temperament theory and developed it to where the temperament theory helps us understand how these kiddos or parents needing to understand how the kids learn. So, for me, I’m a high blue orange. So, a blue is very emotional. Orange is a risk taker. And so, knowing that as a learning disability, if you have a kid with an LD and you know, their personality types, you know one, how to one teach them or approach them, and it works in as adults. And so, we use this within our business and it’s really good just around the book. So that’s why I’ve I started, I wrote this book because I wanted a tool and it’s actually a workbook for teachers, special ed teachers within any school district. It doesn’t matter if you’re whatever, wherever you’re at, it doesn’t matter what part of the country or world you’re in. This will apply to whatever it is with a kid with an LD, or if you’re a parent or a special ed teacher or a teacher. Because a lot of times Steve, in the mainstream classroom, most special or most mainstream class teachers, don’t get a lot of training to deal with us, ADD kids or us dyslexic kids.

Steve Rush: That’s very true. Very true.

Matthew Cox: Because when we’re younger, we’re a little more frustrated because we’re not seeing things. Now, the books, all designed around my story of my life, growing up with it. So, you get a little bit of different struggles. Then me and Erica do what’s called a brainstorming session and we kind of do a dialogue back and forth and she didn’t know how much work it was going to be either Steve, when she was helping me write. Luckily, she’s a great writer. So, she did a lot of the ghost writing and so it’s been a great journey and we’re excited. It’s going to hit the stores here soon, in all online stores as well.

Steve Rush: What I particularly love about it, having had a sneak preview is, it is really super practical.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Matthew Cox: And whether you are a kid or whether you are a parent or teacher, like you said, it just gives you a bit more visibility of the treatment strategies, the approaches you might want to take in order to get the best out of people. And that what I particularly love about it.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. And that’s what I was shooting for. I wanted to make it simple but have some really strong principles in there. So, it’s an easy read, but you can follow the storyline really easy.

Steve Rush: So, what’s the reason it does take courage to think differently?

Matthew Cox: I think the courage to think differently or learn differently is, it took me courage to rethink or learn different because I don’t learn the same way as mainstream education teaches and something you got to think is, kids like us or adults like us. We don’t learn that way. School’s designed for a certain type of personality. It’s designed for the gold green kid. And so, for us, orange, blue kids or kids that struggle, we have a tendency not to really form in school. And so, school’s tough for us. And so that’s why we either really do well in sports or we do well in something that’s more hands on. I think that’s why it takes courage because when I was in school, I just, wasn’t never comfortable unless I was on the soccer field. If that makes sense.

Matthew Cox: Yeah, it does. So, I’m blessed with having four children all come with a completely different set of skills, behaviors, and attitudes and where I see the courage is the courage and the conviction that if you’re not as academic, then it’s almost the courage to hold on, have that conviction that you will find your sweet spot. It will be there for you, but it’s holding onto it without getting stressed and caught up in the moment of not having the best grades and not having, you know, some of the other things that other kids may have.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. And I learned that throughout my high school, but also my college career. Because I flunked out college about seven times. When I first went to my basics here in the states, you know, that bachelor’s degree or the associates.

Steve Rush: Yep.

Matthew Cox: The associates was a nightmare. I mean I couldn’t get past math and [laugh] I remember going to the math department and crying to the head of the department after I fell so many times, I’m like, please don’t fail me [Laugh] and what I did do is I learned how to shop teachers. So, I think what my disabilities taught me as, is to be creative and to be a problem solver. So, in my business, all my executives call me when they need something solved in a matter of minutes. That’s my sweet spot. I’ve learned that from this, it created a superpower. So, I’m embraced and I’m grateful. I think it was God’s gift of keeping me humble.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And also giving me the directions because I don’t use logic. I go, okay, that’s a bummer. We’re there. What do we do next? So, I immediately always go into it. So, I remember when I was trying to solve the math one, I immediately went in and started interviewing every teacher. And I finally found Mr. Bowler. He was a lawyer. He only taught on summers and the summers in the states are very short.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: That’s only a few months versus a whole semester. And I said, I’m going to take your class and the only class I’m going to do. And I sat down with him and told him, and he helped me through, and I got a C minus, and I said, piece out, thank you so much.

Steve Rush: That’ll do, yeah, it’s a pass, right.

Matthew Cox: But I learned you had to shop. We can either be victims our circumstance or we can solve it and move on. So that’s one of the lessons I learned in that.

Steve Rush: Emotional intelligence is a core foundation that you see in many entrepreneurs. And actually, I did the research for my book and looked at what the key themes were between entrepreneurs versus, you know, some very good successful businesspeople who were less entrepreneurial. And ironically, there are more entrepreneurs who have learning disabilities than don’t. And I found that really quiet a remarkable, statistic actually.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. Sir Branson. I always forget his first name.

Steve Rush: Richard Branson?

Matthew Cox: Richard.

Steve Rush: Yep.

Matthew Cox: He’s highly ADHD. Steve Jobs,

Steve Rush: Job source. He was, yeah.

Matthew Cox: He was kind of more autistic or somewhere up there. He was off the chart somewhere. And then you have Microsoft guy, Bill Gates. He has something going on there and I think it engages certain types of the brain. I remember going into my master’s degree. I had to do some testing and to get accommodations for the school because you know, having a learning disability, you can get accommodations throughout your schooling. And the guy that was doing it, he was a good friend, but he was also a psychiatrist or psychologist. His previous career. He worked for the CIA. And so, he used to go in and try to get people to go to our side. That’s the kind of psychology he did. He would profile the individuals. And so, when he was doing my testing, he did the normal IQ test. He says, Matt, you’re 109 as an IQ. You’re normal. He said, but he went on and did some other testing. I don’t know what it was called. He said, but your IQs around 160, 165.

Steve Rush: Blind me, that’s pretty high.

Matthew Cox: And it’s because of the effort you put in. And he said, most people that have high IQ don’t go past because there because they don’t put in any more effort. It comes easy for them.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: He said, you have to work at it. And it was an interesting insight. I remember that conversation with him. He’s a great man. He’s passed on since then, but it was just really interesting because his career and where he’d been, and all the trials and we talked for a while. I think that’s why you see all these entrepreneurs, like we’re talking about Steve, that’s why they’re so off the charts because they put more effort. Like Elon Musk. A lot of people think he’s an odd duck, but he just has a lot going on. He’s firing off. If you hear his memoirs, he talks about when he is a little kid, he just was having ideas from a little kid.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And that’s just, I think they’re gifts. And these individuals just finally kind of click in and use them.

Steve Rush: And thanks to the work that you and others like you, Matt are doing by the way that are bringing this to the front of our consciousness, because there is no direct path to success.

Matthew Cox: No, there isn’t.

Steve Rush: It’s about getting the right people to do the right things at the right time. And recognizing that some people are just really good at school.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: And others are really good at life. And actually, you know, never the twin you’ll meet sometimes.

Matthew Cox: No, and I have a lot of doctor friends. I have a lot of lawyer friends, and they’re good at it. And like even my wife is very good at school. She was a nurse but there’s a balance there because she’s good at what she’s good at. And I’m good at what, and it’s a good partnership just like in partnerships like my brother, and I are business partners as well. And I think I shared with you that when we were talking prior is that we have a joke. I’m Walt Disney, he’s Roy.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And he tells you, and I liked what you said, you know, business, a lot of entrepreneurs, if they’re honest, you fall into success. One day you wake up and you’re like, wow, we made it [laugh].

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: Because you fumble and you make mistakes and there’s a lot of messiness to get to where the end result is, right?

Steve Rush: Absolutely. And the opposite is also true.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: Academics tend to stay in academia.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: Because that’s what makes them good. And that’s what makes them successful. They’ve got the ability to learn, research, regurgitate, apply, learn, and so on.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: And you just don’t see that in entrepreneurs because they’re in the moment. They’re attaching their energy to the emotions that are presented for them and the opportunities that come along for them.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: And that’s the dichotomy perhaps those two genres, right?

Matthew Cox: Oh, it is. My brother’s very academic. He has the gift of entrepreneur, but I mean, he can sit down and read anything and understand it after he reads it. I’m the visionary that has twenty ideas and only three are good, right?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: But I’m constantly looking at the trends of the market. I’m constantly looking at things that most people don’t see, it’s like the matrix, right.

Steve Rush: [Laugh] exactly.

Matthew Cox: I see it and I’m like, hey, this is what’s going to happen. And then he’s like, okay, because he is very laser focused. And he has to move from one thing to another. I can kind of juggle five things at once. So, it’s good to have that visionary and integrator. Because if you have that, if you have a visionary in what you’re doing and then an integrator to help bring it down to the ground, I think that’s where our success took off. Because when we put that combination in, it was game over.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: But before then when you have too many visionaries, if the visionary is doing everything, it’s a nightmare for the company. Because the visionary is all over the place, right?

Steve Rush: Yeah, exactly right.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. Because we started, but we need the help and that’s what I found as an entrepreneur, you got to put good people around you.

Steve Rush: Yeah. And it’s having the emotional awareness to recognize that too, from my experience having worked, coached and spent time with some superb entrepreneurs, is that emotional trigger if you like is very acute.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: They know their strengths, but they also very much know their weaknesses.

Matthew Cox: Yeah, and it takes them a little bit to figure that out after so many failures.

Steve Rush: Yes, indeed.

Matthew Cox: I’m not a CEO, I’ll never be a CEO. I’m just not a CEO type. So, I create positions within my organizations like visionary or strategic officer because the CEO needs to be a very gold or (A) personality type, where they get things organized and they love to attend meetings. I hate meetings because I’m more high vision, bigger things, bigger ideas, bigger relationships. So, I think when entrepreneurs really figure that, especially if you’re the founder or visionary entrepreneur. The founder of your company, when you finally figure out where you’re good at and like we’re talking about you get into that sweet spot, it helps everybody around you.

Steve Rush: Yeah. You’ve also now taken your learnings of work and business and how you’ve learned, and you coach others.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: And one of the key things you focus on is the application of helping people with their emotional growth. Now for those folk that maybe aren’t aware of what emotional growth is, be great if you could just explain it and maybe give us some insight as to how you coach that.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. So, a lot of times, I find in high performers or individuals that are performing at that high level or executives, there’s a lot of emotional. I mean, so many coaches out there and a lot of the coaches forget about that emotional growth. And I think having the mental health background and dealing with my own emotional health as that visionary entrepreneur. I really focus on that with them, the founders of the companies, the ones that get off the ground, because I can teach you all the systems in the world, but if you can’t manage your emotion and your emotional stability, you’re going to drive everybody crazy around you. Because we’re odd ducks. I mean, if you think about all those guys that we talked about, like Steve Jobs, they struggled in their personal lives because we think so high level that a lot of times, I drive my wife crazy.

So, I have to find my own person to go to that kind of can grasp my overload and that’s my business partner and brother and he knows, he knows how to address it. So, what I usually do is, I start with your emotional stability as the higher performer. Once we figure out where you’re at, then we go down and start working on traction and getting the system in place and envision because that emotional health, we have to have a people plan.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And the most important person is you because everything ripples down. If that makes sense.

Steve Rush: Yeah. It makes bucket loads of sense. Yeah, for sure.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: And actually, it’s one of those things that doesn’t crop up in the classroom.

Matthew Cox: No.

Steve Rush: You know, nobody teaches you this stuff, right. It’s one of these things you either bump into, you learn or you find out as you are learning from mistakes and challenges, there is definitely this bit that comes along with it, which is, innate radar to maybe spend more time focusing and being aware of people’s emotions because you have to, but this is also something that you sometimes need another person to help you with, right?

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: I encourage all leaders. And this is why I tell them, you know, hire somebody like me to walk you through it or hire a therapist if there’s more emotional growth that you have to do, therapy’s not a bad thing. And when I tell high performers this, they’re like, what, everybody could use the therapist or somebody they can go to work on certain things in their life. Everybody has something to work on. And when you discover that, you know, I had to discover when I worked with my individual person that I worked with, either it was a counselor or coach. Each of them would always teach me, you just got to slow down a little bit. Because being ADD, I kind of would go too fast for people.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: Or I would capitalize the conversation when I’d call an employee because I see a division, I see something coming and then by the time they’re overwhelmed after a 30-minute conversation on the phone.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: Because it’s kind of like an emotional dump, if that makes sense. Does that make sense, Steve?

Steve Rush: Absolutely, yeah.

Matthew Cox: I see this coming and as a high visionary, it was too much. Even my brother would say, hey, you got to break it down. So that’s where that emotional growth as a leader’s going to come.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And so, when I teach leaders, I say, hey, you got so much going in your head when you call your manager or whoever’s under you, you kind of throw up on them.

Steve Rush: [Laugh].

Matthew Cox: And so [laugh] pick one thing. And so, we calm issues. I say, pick one issue. So, if you can get three issues in that week, you’ve accomplished more. So, we, you know, one of the things I do as coach, I teach them how to run a more effective meeting. So, when they come in they don’t do the whole soup. They don’t throw everything into the kitchen, in that soup and start stirring. I say, only bring three or four issues and let’s talk about them and round table and they find that it’s a lot more effective and then they just have this ongoing issue list that they just kind of work at. If that makes sense.

Steve Rush: I like it. Yeah, really practical, yeah.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: So, here’s the thing. Do you think that we’re all broadly on the spectrum of some sort?

Matthew Cox: Oh, I think everybody has something. Yeah, I think everybody struggles with something. I call it that everybody does have a learning disability, some sort. We just don’t embrace it. It might be an emotional, like you might be quick to get anger. You might be highly intelligent. So, everybody to you is dumb.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: That is a disability. It’s an impairment because it’s not true. Not everybody around you is dumb. It’s just, they don’t think the way you think. So, I think it is, I think everybody needs to step back and kind of see what they struggle with and be aware of it. Because we’re all human beings. We put our pants one leg at a time, and I think the best thing I ever heard from a personal friend is said, you know, a good friend or somebody that’s going to lead you as a coach. I’m going to tell you, you have a booger in your nose and your zippered down, you know, and that’s, what’s hard for a lot of high performers. I’m going to be honest with them.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And sometimes, I’ve scared some away, but if you’re wanting to grow, don’t hire somebody that’s not going to be truthful to you.

Steve Rush: And there is still stigma with accepting that you have an issue.

Matthew Cox: Oh yeah.

Steve Rush: Or you have some needs that are different.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: That need a different treatment strategy, right?

Matthew Cox: Yeah. Even some of my high performers, I said, you need to go get, you need to go get therapy. I’ve had to tell them that. I said, there’s some traumas there that are causing you to be a bad leader. And they’re like, well, what do you mean? And we had to walk through it. And I had some that said sure. And they did it. And they’ve had very successful careers and some chose not to, and they’ve struggled.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: Yeah, so a lot of them don’t want to accept it. And I here’s what, I just encourage any leader, listening, not everybody’s broken. Brene Brown’s one of my favorite authors. It’s just that daring to lean into it. If you ever want to read some good books, go read her stuff. Because she kind of addresses that society norm that everybody numbs out. Like most of my high performers that are numbing out, they’re either using some sort of substance. They’re staying up late, their workaholics and that’s a form of numbing out. And so, you have to understand why that is. You have to have a good balance if that makes sense.

Steve Rush: It does, yeah. So, we’re going to give our listeners an opportunity to find out how I can get a copy of the book and a bit more of your insights in a little while. But before we do that, we’re going to just flip the lens a little bit.

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: And I’m going to hack into your leadership brain. And I want you to share with our listeners, your top three leadership hacks, Matt?

Matthew Cox: I’d say my top three leadership hacks, or you know. Have purpose, lead with purpose and understanding, but help others understand that purpose. Number two is, just let go. Once you hire somebody, let go, let them fell, help them understand their seat. Be very clear, what the expectation is. And then number three is just have fun. Enjoy the people you work with and love but have passion in what you’re doing. If you don’t have passion, it’s going to be tough. Every day is going to be tough. Because being an entrepreneur is tough. And the last thing I’d just say is have a coach, because everybody needs a coach. Everybody needs somebody to guide them when they hit the ceiling.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: Because you will hit the ceiling.

Steve Rush: Awesome advice. Thank you, Matt.,

Matthew Cox: Yeah.

Steve Rush: Next part of the show we call it Hack to Attack. So, this is typically where something hasn’t worked out. It maybe been catastrophic even, but as a result of that experience, it’s now serving you well in your life and work. What would be your Hack to Attack?

Matthew Cox: I think as an entrepreneur or business owner, when you’re wearing all the hats and you need to start hiring and increasing your team or grow your team, I’ve hired some bad people, and these are people I’ve known. So, I’ve had one that I hired as a head nurse, and I’d known her for years and it was the worst hire that I ever did. Because you don’t know people until you start working with them, you might know them in a community base. You might know them somewhere else. So, from that experience I learned it’s okay to hire people but hire slow and fire fast.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Matthew Cox: And so from that experience, I learned that.

Steve Rush: It’s interesting dynamic, isn’t it? When you only have a social view of somebody who can talk a great game.

Matthew Cox: Yes.

Steve Rush: Seeing them apply it is often sometimes different.

Matthew Cox: Yeah. The way you live your life, it does ripple into how you work.

Steve Rush: Yeah, does. Last part of the show, we get to give you some time travel. You can bump into Matt at twenty-one and give him some advice and some words of wisdom. What would it be?

Matthew Cox: If I bumped into myself at twenty-one, oh geez, I’d say never give up. And that’s the theme of my life has been, I’d tell my twenty-one-year self, I say listen to people around you that are good mentors. But I would probably just tell, him, take a break and enjoy things on the way as well.

Steve Rush: Good advice. And taking a break is part of that recovery system that gives you the emotional capacity to go on and do great things, of course.

Matthew Cox: Yes. It rejuvenates your battery. You need it. No matter what phase you’re in. I think a lot of us entrepreneurs, we think we need to keep working all the time and I tell you don’t do it.

Steve Rush: So, I absolutely love the work you’re doing Matt. I think you are making a massive difference. I think the book is going to be a game changer for many people around the globe in helping them understand their approach to other people who are somewhat different to maybe what they think they are. And I’m really excited for you that you are on this journey. If our listeners wanted to get a copy of the book and find out a little bit more about the work that you do, where’s the best place for us to send them?

Matthew Cox: You can reach me on LinkedIn. I’m actively on there. You could also email me or it’s going to be available here soon in all the Amazon’s online book, Barnes & Noble, all the different online ways to buy it. So, it’ll be coming out soon or go to the website,

Steve Rush: We’ll put all of those links in the show note, Matt, and also as, when the book arrives in the various different jurisdictions, we’ll help you get it out to our audience and our listeners. And we wish you all the very, very best with it too. I just want to say thank you for being part of our community in coming on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Matthew Cox: No, thank you, Steve. Appreciate it.

Steve Rush: Thanks Matt.


Steve Rush: I want to sign off by saying thank you to you for joining us on the show too. We recognize without you, there is no show. So please continue to share, subscribe, and like, and continue to get in touch with us with the great new stories that we share every week. And so that we can continue to bring you great stories. Please make sure you give us a five-star review where you can and share this podcast with your friends, your teams, and communities. You want to find us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter @leadershiphacker, Leadership Hacker on YouTube and on Instagram, the_leadership_hacker and if that wasn’t enough, you can also find us on our website Tune into next episode to find out what great hacks and stories are coming your way. That’s me signing off. I’m Steve Rush, and I’ve been your Leadership Hacker.

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