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A Conversation with John Corcoran; former White House Writer

John Corcoran- former White House Writer and Gubernational Speechwriter, Co-Founder of Rise25, a Lead Generation and Podcast agency firm Thank you for joining us today. What brought you to this career path? Oh man, that’s such a big question. I was a practicing lawyer for many years. I’d always had an entrepreneurial itch, and I’ve […]

John Corcoran- former White House Writer and Gubernational Speechwriter, Co-Founder of Rise25, a Lead Generation and Podcast agency firm

Thank you for joining us today. What brought you to this career path?

Oh man, that’s such a big question. I was a practicing lawyer for many years. I’d always had an entrepreneurial itch, and I’ve always wanted to start my own company. I didn’t really enjoy working for another law  firm, so I eventually started my own firm. 

With my own firm, I gained greater freedom and flexibility. However, I realized that the challenge of a practicing lawyer is that if you’re not working, you’re not making money. If you’re sleeping, you’re not making money. If you’re on vacation, you’re not making money. It becomes a long grind. So, to get myself out of that model, I started a blog and a podcast.

Interestingly, I began to monetize and make more money through my blog and my podcast than I did as a lawyer. From there, I partnered with Dr. Jeremy Weisz from Chicago, and we decided to start a business called Rise25where we help people connect with the types of people they want to communicate with, such as ideal quality clients, referral partners, and strategic partners. 

What exciting projects are you working on?

The main thing we are working on is the agency side of our business. For years, I blogged, created podcasts, conducted webinars and online training around the concept of how to build better relationships with prospects, referral partners, and clients to fuel your business.

Now, we are helping larger companies do just that. It’s been really fun for us. 

When you first started your side hustle, did you start it knowing you wanted to build a brand around networking and connections?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I was a writer in the Clinton White House where I wrote the president’s letters and messages and became a speechwriter to the governor of California. I naturally started writing to get my name out there. 

I started my blog in 2008, and I wrote mostly about legal topics. Over time, I realized that people visit that blog only when they need specific legal advice, then they would leave and rarely return. No one really wants to read a legal blog consistently. I knew I liked working with entrepreneurs, and I liked writing about the cross intersection between business and entrepreneurship. So I pivoted away from writing about legal topics to entrepreneurship.

Although I pivoted towards business, it was still too broad. 

Then I received great feedback from a mastermind group that I was a part of. One of the members said “John, you’re really good at building relationships and connecting with people. You’re good at connecting clients and referral partners, and you should do something with that.” 

So I pivoted again and focused more on building relationships and using relationships to grow your business. And that’s when things start to gel and took off.

What is the most interesting story that happened to you?

I wrote about one of the most exciting stories in a blog post titled “How I Got Rob Lowe To Play Me On TV”  Before working at the White House during the Clinton years, I had just left DreamWorks in LA, and I still knew a lot of people in the entertainment industry. One day, a friend called me and said that one of her friends is working on a pilot about Washington DC, and asked if I could give him some advice on what it is like working at the White House.

This is not something you should normally do. It’s not like I had any state secrets, but the press office generally wants to control the flow of information. But I spoke to this person, and it turned out to be Aaron Sorkin, who had written The American President. The pilot that Aaron was working on is called the West Wing. It hasn’t been on the air yet at the time, but once it was, it was a huge hit!

So, I shared a little about what my life is like at the White House, and one of the stories I shared is that I wrote the Thanksgiving Proclamation in the fall of 1999. 

The Thanksgiving Proclamation is one of the reasons why we celebrate Thanksgiving today, and it’s a kind of historical anomaly. George Washington wrote it himself by hand, and Abraham Lincoln wrote one that was credited with unifying the Republic during the Civil War. Historically, it is very significant, and there was a lot of pressure when I wrote it. I was really proud of it. They print it on this large parchment paper.

When it was done, I sent a copy to Aaron Sorkin, and I didn’t think much of it afterward.

A year later, the Thanksgiving episode comes up for the West Wing, and the whole episode is about how speech writers are running around and writing the Thanksgiving Proclamation. At the very end of the episode, the President walked out into the Rose Garden to read a document. He looks down, and it’s very dramatic. He reads the first line of the proclamation, and it’s the exact first line of the Proclamation that I wrote.

Of course, the person who played the speechwriter was Rob Lowe. So that’s how I jokingly say that I got Rob Lowe to play me on TV.

One reason I like to tell this story is to show what happens when we give without any thought of rewards. The point is that I always try to help. I try to be useful, and I try to share information even if there might be some risks. When you do that, it’ll come back and really benefit you.

What a fun story! Along those lines, how does the idea of hyper-connectivity change the world?

Over the last 20 years or so, we as a society has really expanded the boundary of who we can be connected to. It used to be that no matter how powerful you are, you live mostly regionally, and your connections are mostly people in your town or close by. It was very challenging to keep in touch with people on the other side of the country.

The documentary Sugar Man really helps to capture this idea. Sugar Man follows a really talented folk artist and musician from the 70’s. He was very talented, but couldn’t find his style or his audience. Unbeknownst to him (in the pre-internet era), many people in another part of the globe have discovered his music, knew nothing about him, and he became a hero to them. They didn’t even know if he was alive.

Now, we have social media, and all these fantastic ways to connect, to meet and to keep in touch. Now, we can find our tribe, our community and our people in ways that we couldn’t before. We can be and are hyper-connected, and your best friend can be on the other side of the globe. And that’s just tremendous!

What are the four things you wish you knew?

1.    I wish someone had told me to stay in college longer. I was rushing off to go to the real world and graduated a little bit early. But college is just so enjoyable, and we should enjoy them to the full potential.

2.    I wish I had been more willing to pull the plug on some opportunities to pursue other opportunities earlier. For example, I’ve always wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t actually start a company until after I graduated from law school and after working for several years at a law firm.

3.    I wish someone had told me about the business model of law. It requires a lot of long hours, and I’m not fond of the business model behind it. It’s led me to explore other types of opportunities.

4.    I wish I had studied business more during college. I was an English major and enjoyed it, but an accounting course or business courses would have been beneficial.

What do you believe in?

I live the philosophy that we should go out there and try to help others, whether it is someone who is a few steps ahead of you or a few steps behind you. It’s a great way to build a trusted relationship. I highly recommend the book Give and Take by Adam Grant. It’s a tremendous book, and I recommend it to everyone. It really encapsulates and explains that philosophy.

How can our readers follow you?

You can follow my blog and podcast at Smartbusinessrevelution.com.

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