Believe that you have something powerful to offer. You are not perfect, and neither is anyone else. (Except The Rock…he is pretty close to perfect.) No matter what you commit yourself to, believe that you have the skills that will contribute to your (or your organization’s) success. Know that your skills are valuable and needed.
I had the pleasure to interview Matt Erickson. Matt is the Marketing Director for National Positions, a digital marketing agency in Westlake Village, CA. He completed his undergraduate studies in International Business and Marketing and holds an MBA from CSU Sacramento. His main areas of interest include social media, branding, and marketing psychology.
Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
I come from a family of creative types who opted to play it safe. Secretly my mom wanted to be a singer and my brother an artist; however, both found professions in government and state work. I couldn’t follow their path. My first career was as a dancer, performer, and teacher. As the years progressed, I became more interested in the creative side of the business world. Fast forward several years and I had become proficient in graphic design and video editing — even cofounded an experiential marketing company in northern California. After seven years with the company, I left to pursue my MBA and dive head first into marketing, where I could combine business and artistic creativity.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
My first several years in the marketing industry were rocky. I would find myself in roles where I felt stunted or would join a company under the pretense of one role but would quickly be pushed into another. For a short time, I even liquidated all my belongings and relocated to Austin, Texas to attempt to find my footing in a booming city. Eventually, I returned to northern California with no money and no prospects. I learned quickly that I had to continue my education. Marketing changes so quickly that if you don’t keep up, in six months you can become a relic. After another year of freelance work, reeducating myself, and networking, I found my footing in the industry, moved to Los Angeles, and have been growing ever since.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I had the realization that nothing was going to be handed to me, and that whatever struggles I was going through were only temporary. I was not going to let all of the effort that I had invested, the education that I had committed myself to, or the risks I had taken be for nothing. I knew that from a young age one of my life goals was to inspire others. I was never going to accomplish that goal by giving up. Someone somewhere would LOVE the life you have no matter how bad you think it is. Just having the opportunity to try is a gift — I had to keep that in mind.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Taking on risk. We all have times where we doubt our abilities, our capabilities, and whether or not we have earned the right to speak as an authority. At a certain point I had to ask myself, “When are you going to allow yourself to see what others see in you?” I decided I would rather start taking some risks that would force me to think on my feet and rise to the occasion than to relish in mediocrity. With risk we can win or learn, but we can’t fail. To me, the only failure is not trying and not progressing.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
Things today are great. I am in a role that is challenging and that is providing me with the opportunity to grow. I feel that not only am I contributing to the growth of a company, but that I am also helping fuel cultural change in my organization. I don’t know if I am inspiring anyone yet, but I am getting closer.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
1. Believe that you have something powerful to offer.
You are not perfect, and neither is anyone else. (Except The Rock…he is pretty close to perfect.) No matter what you commit yourself to, believe that you have the skills that will contribute to your (or your organization’s) success. Know that your skills are valuable and needed.
2. Never stop evolving.
I find it very difficult to connect with anyone who says things like “it’s not the way I am” or “I have always done it this way.” I feel that I am continuously evolving, growing, and learning to adapt to my surroundings. I appreciate being around others who are as open minded.
3. Have an opinion.
Have something to say. Early in most of our careers we are more concerned with giving the CORRECT answer than having an opinion. Be willing to have viewpoints, speak up and say “no” when something doesn’t make sense or is flat-out wrong. If you are not willing to speak up and express yourself — very few will take the time to listen to you.
4. Take on risk and try new things.
Everything you love now, you tried for the first time once in your life. Being comfortable scares me, boring routine scares me, and if I know exactly what is going to happen, I don’t feel like I am growing. New project, new product idea, new podcast — bring it on, new things are beautiful.
5. Learn to trust and lift others up.
Learning to trust others was a huge one for me. In the past, I was the business manager, idea guy, graphic designer, video editor, account manager, event manager — the list goes on. If I needed something done, I could only trust myself to get it done. As I grew and began managing larger projects, I had to learn to step back and trust each team to deliver. This, in turn, helped me appreciate the value and skills others bring to the table.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
My dad hands down was my emotional support. He didn’t always understand what I was doing or why I was doing it — after all, he was a director of a government agency and he could have easily given me a cushy desk job if I wanted it. The times I was just completely defeated, emotionally drained, and all-out broken, he would simply tell me, “Hey, it will be ok.” That was our go-to line for the hard times — “It will be ok.” I knew that the struggle and stress in his life had been far worse than mine, as he had given up and risked more than anyone to give me opportunity. Because of him I know that no matter what “everything will be ok.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I helped start my previous company, we didn’t approach it as “selling a product” — we approached it as solving a problem. That idea has carried me through and I’m constantly asking myself, “What problem am I solving?” This idea of “doing well by doing good” has remained a shining beacon for me — personally and professionally. I freely give knowledge and have conversations about what a brand can do to market themselves. I have taken weekends out to just help give ideas to those who could benefit from the knowledge. Could I charge for every hour? Sure. But I don’t always feel the need to. I am a big believer in karma. If I can help someone else build something great, I feel good, they feel good, and my network grows.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My company is working on a huge rebrand, including the introduction of several new products. I am actually very excited about this whole project because not only are we setting ourselves apart in a bold way, our new services are going to give our clients full transparency into their marketing campaigns. Giving clients this new level of access helps them understand the process and really understand where their investment is going. It lets them know that we truly have their best interests at heart.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Like in any relationship — nurture them. Give others the opportunity to step up, present questions, listen intently, show gratitude, and express respect. Building your culture and helping your employees thrive is a long-term project — that brings long-term results. All of the little interactions you give your team speak louder than the end-of-the-year bonus. Ask about their weekend, ask if they need help, ask what they want out of their career, and be a pillar of support. Leadership is not about retaining control and being the “big boss” — it’s about understanding how the most valuable players fit in your company and utilizing them in the best way possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Knowing that the only thing we can do with our lives is give it away. Every action, conversation, win, and failure is going to have an impact on others somewhere along the line. Many say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I prefer, “Do the best for yourself, so you can give the best of you — to the world.” Feed yourself inspiration and surround yourself with good, ethical, joyous people. Do the best for your soul, so you can give the best of yourself to the world. Ultimately, be the light that illuminates others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You’re only given a little spark of madness, and if you lose that, you’re nothing. So, don’t ever lose that because it keeps you alive. Poetic words from the late great Robin Williams. I remember hearing this quote from him when I was about 12 years old and it struck a major chord with me. It takes madness to be committed. But your madness is your uniqueness, your passion, your driving force — and while others may want you to stay in the lines, you need to have the guts to do you. You are stuck with you for the rest of your time on this earth, so do your best and shine as bright as you can. If it feeds your soul, do it. If it scares you, try it. If you know what makes you YOU, don’t ever give it up. Embrace your madness.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
National Positions LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/national-positions/
National Positions Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NationalPositions
National Positions Twitter https://twitter.com/Natl_Positions
National Positions Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/national_positions/