Business Lessons Learned from Life’s Struggles

Travis Johnson, CEO, Podcast Titan

listen to apple podcastslisten to spotify podcastslisten on amazon podcastslisten on google podcastsWatch on YouTube

Travis is a retired Naval Officer, married with two children, and on move #50. His humble beginnings include 36 moves before graduating high school at 17, 12 schools, 6 states, 5 foster homes, surviving 2 murder attempts, and a mother with type 1 bipolar disorder. Although this was very rough, there was always an organization willing to keep him sheltered, clothed, and fed. Now that he’s in a position to give back, he’s made it his mission to help the helpers.

Travis hosts the top-rated Nonprofit Architect Podcast, hosted the 2021 Veteran Podcast Awards, and is the only professional podcaster with an accredited course available at the university level. Travis holds a bachelor’s in science and received a 4.0 for his Masters in Human Relations.

Travis Johnson from Titan Podcast joins us to share his story of overcoming a traumatic childhood, life in the navy, and the lessons for the business world. Travis talks about the importance of being accountable, educating yourself, and lifting up the people around you.

{03:30} How do you overcome childhood adversity?

{08:40} Running the mission as controller of E6B Mercury, a nuclear command and control platform

{09:36} Lessons from the Navy for the business world

{16:42} Choosing to end a successful podcast

{27:16} Supporting the empowerment of your community

{30:00} Helping people off the “hamster wheel” without being condescending

{34:37} Life today for Travis

Welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast. We retell the stories of great humans so you can lift your organizations, your teams, and your community. I am your host, Tom Finn, and on the show today we have a former Navy flight officer. He's built a podcast empire. His name is Travis Johnson Travis. Welcome to the show.  

Hey, Tom, thanks for having me.

Well, we are thrilled to have you on the show, and I can't wait to share this story. If you don't know Travis, allow me to take just a second to introduce you to this great man. Throughout his life, has incurred 36 moves, ended 12 schools, lived in 6 states, lived in 5 foster homes, and survived 2 murder attempts as an adolescent. Now, if that didn't punch you in the mouth, he's turned his life around and is the founder of the nonprofit architect podcast with no architected audience, no structure, and no vision he established this podcast as the No. 4 in the US while he was deployed in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which is a small island in the Middle East. If you didn't know, he moved it to #4 in the US now. His show is in the top ten in seven countries in his niche and the top 5% of podcasts globally. He's hosted the inaugural annual Veteran Podcast Awards and the Miss Crossroads Oklahoma Scholarship Competition.

My goodness gracious, my friend. You have had a life or two along your journey. Where did it all begin?  

I tell you, Tom, it's a story that starts in northern Minnesota. We ran through the stats again. I'm going to hit those again. Pretty quick: 36 moves, 12 schools, and 6 states. In five different foster homes and 8 people given total survived 2 murder attempts; was homeless a couple of times, and all of that happened before graduating high school at 17 years old.

When you talk about something like trauma, that's a capital-T trauma. That's just like the labels on the stories. That represents none of the actual losses. And usually, the question I get is, “How on Earth did you move so much? were you a military brat?” Do you think taxpayers would be okay with someone moving twice a year every year? No, not a chance.

My mother had several mental health issues and when she went to a hospital for treatment, we would live with a family member or into foster care or whatever the situation provided, and in the 80s and 90s, there weren't a lot of programs that did what they needed to do.

She went to get mental health care somewhere, she wasn't paying rent, right? So, we'd be living somewhere. She would go to the hospital. We would go live somewhere else, and then when we got back, she hadn't been paying rent the whole time, so we would have to get a different place. It is just absolutely bananas to think about some of the moves, like the schools. There was kindergarten, 2nd grade, 4th grade, and 7th grade. During that time, I attended three different schools during each of those school years and its not like you make friends and then you just go get on Instagram later and say, "Hey man, I guess I'm just in a new place." Like right now, if you hadn't built your address book and didn't have phone numbers. If you couldn't afford long distances, you didn't just move. You lost every friend you had.

Wow, that's a very challenging way to grow up with all of that adversity. So, what kept you? What kept you focused as a youngster, so you could keep going?  

I tell you what, it was pretty much just straight survival mode for the vast majority of it. The two murder attempts were by people within my immediate family within the house that I was living in that tried to kill me, but it wasn't until the second murder attempt… like anyone out there listening that’s a fan of red flags, you were involved in two murder attempts, that's what it took? I'm like, yeah, yeah.

You don't understand like a child. You don't know what you can or can't do. You don't know what's available? What can you feasibly do as a kid now? It's a lot of people's understanding that you can call so many services and all these things; we didn't know that in the 80s and 90s.

We didn't know what the resources were. Nobody was talking about it, so I'm grateful for podcasts and platforms where I can share my story and the stories of others. And you can learn about it here, but not until you're 16 years old. I had just survived my second murder attempt, and I was standing behind the house with this overwhelming feeling. Like that, no one is coming to save me. No one is going to come to save me, scoop me up, and take me to a better place; it has to be me.

If you want to relate that to today's world and what's going on. The president, whether on either side of the aisle, runs as if they have no effect on your life; the stock market goes up, down, left, or right as if it has little impact on your life. Do you have to perhaps you should try something new? But it's not like you have a gut feeling about it, or that they're against you, or that no one is coming to save you. It doesn't matter if it's raining or sunny; it doesn't matter if the stock markets have done well or not.

All that stuff doesn't matter. What matters is what you do about it. What choices do you make in your own life to take care of that? So, I made the choice. I was like, "No, it's coming to save me." I've got to take responsibility for the things I can be responsible for in terms of what's going to happen in my life, and I walked up to my house. I told my mom, "Look, I'm going to move in with Grandma, and if you love me there's nothing, you're going to say about it." You're just going to let me go. And you will let it happen. That, fortunately, is what happened. I moved in with Grandma. I started creating the stability I needed in my life to be successful, and then a year later I graduated high school at 17.

Yeah, well, I think what I heard is in business, this means "take responsibility for your actions. “Be accountable for your behavior. And while that was a very challenging time in your life, it did also lay the foundation. The bricks of your foundation helped shape you into the person you are today, and there are more. There's a lot of good that's come out of this story, so I don't want listeners to think that you know this. This is all bad news. Travis is in a great place. He's doing a lot of wonderful things in the world now, and he's taking this story and building up others in the true spirit of talent empowerment.

As a result, you leave high school and go where?

I left high school. I took a year to find myself, and I realized that when you're 18 and your family stinks and you have no money, you will earn from entry-level jobs, by the way, they all stink too.

I've got I had the opportunity to join the Navy, and I took it. I went off into the great blue Yonder. I decided that I had this framework. They didn't care what happened growing up, they didn't know that my family was the way they were, right? And they didn't know me. As long as I did what I needed to do and followed the rules. that I could create my future. My vision.

Was there a lot of trauma to get over? There was a right that requires time, healing, forgiveness, and counseling, all that stuff, right? I'm not going to say, "like." Oh, I joined the Navy, and it was all better. It was a lot better, but it wasn't all better because we all know the military has its particular kind of trauma.

The vast majority of it was for me like this is how you're going to traumatize me as if I'm way past that trauma as if I could do this trauma any day? But it allowed me to build who I was. If you look at the military or any system like a game, once you understand the rules, you can figure out how to succeed. In this. The system, and it's very clearly laid out for the qualifications that you need. The things you need to do, they tell you exactly what they want you to do, and if you do it, they're like, "That's great." Here's our promotion.

For people in the business world, if you don't tell your people how they can succeed, they can't possibly do it. They're working. Because they do not mind readers, you must tell them exactly what you want.

Yeah, that's a great point. Most people in business do not mind readers, and if you want people to excel, let's make sure that we tell them how they can win in business, and win in life: advance their careers, advance within the company, move divisions, and so on. We must share those stories. Very well said, so you're in. You're in the military or climbing. You were now in the ranks. My understanding is that you were a pilot of a big plane called an E6B Mercury. Tell us about this big naval aircraft

Oh, there are a couple of points to make. I did my first 11 years as a mechanic before I got accepted into an officer program, then they sent me to flight school and I got my wings and a little misconception. Most people are unaware that there are professions other than pilots, so a pilot at the controls, such as me, drives the bus as a naval flight officer. I was “too old to be a pilot,” I was in charge of running the mission, and the E6B Mercury is a nuclear command and control platform. They take the presidential nuclear orders and transmit them to the shooters. And it's a huge responsibility, and it was my honor to serve our great country for 22 years before retiring earlier in 2022.

That is fantastic. It sounds like a lot of good adventure.

What did you take away from the Navy that you have put into business practice now that you're sort of in civilian life?  

So many things and I know we do like 30 to 35 minutes, so we'll try to make sure it's, you know, palatable. And in Short fuse.

One is the discipline of doing what needs to be done regardless of how you feel on any given day out there, there's nothing you can't accomplish. The leadership was phenomenal. The change in military leadership over the last 22 years has been phenomenal. When I joined people just communicated by yelling at each other, and you go do the thing you like. Good Lord, can you help me? The comment that you'll just tell me, "Hey, go do this, and I'll go do it." They're like, "Wait, we don't have to yell anymore," so that was huge.

But understanding what people are trying to accomplish and then providing a way for them to reach those goals in their personal and professional lives The thing is, have you talked to Craig Hanley yet? Have you interviewed Craig?

I have not.  

Craig Hanley, whom I interviewed on my old show, the nonprofit architect podcast, wrote this great book called Hired to Quit but Inspired to Stay, and he runs a high turnover company in a call center, and he treats his employees like they are the most important thing, which they are some of his tenants or something similar let me help them reach their goals; whether or not they stay with the company is really up to them, right?

But some of these things are easy. They wanted to do a mission trip. They wanted to lose some weight. They want to do something, and he puts them in groups and allows them to reach their goals, which he ultimately helped him reach his goal.

This was my goal when I did the same thing in the Navy. We have a set structure where you get paid on the 1st and the 15th. All the people that worked for me, all the guys and gals in my army, all had their own goals. Some of them want to start a family. Someone wants to buy a house of education. Some of them wanted to create a lifestyle in that they could move on from the military and live in a very specific way. And some people are doing it. The entrepreneurial lifestyle I'm living now, where I set my schedule, and don't report to some building. I don't have some master lording over me, and when you help people achieve what it is that they want to do, they go to bat for you. They show up for you because they enjoy what they do and know you care about them. You're going to accomplish anything you need to accomplish in life, business, or any aspect of what you're doing when you connect with the people in and around you and help them reach their goals.

Yeah, I love the way you said that helping other people reach their goals is always a good move. It always comes back to you in two ways. If you can help somebody else in their career, help them get promoted. Help support their development. They're paying attention to what you're saying. It always seems to come back. It happens for most good people when it comes back in spades from what happened before.

I'm interested in this time in Bahrain. So, for those of you who don't know, Bahrain is in the Middle East. It's an island. The Kingdom of Bahrain I have been there, Travis.  

No kidding.  

My father lived in London when I was a child, and he worked for Bahrain Airlines in Bahrain. As an executive of Bahrain Airlines, I've been to Bahrain a handful of times, so we share that one similarity.

But I think your experience was slightly different from mine. So, tell us about Bahrain and start this podcast.  

Yeah, absolutely. I got stationed for a year in the Kingdom of Bahrain. This was an unaccompanied tour meeting. My family stayed here in the US, and I went over there, so I know what kind of person I am. I know that if I don't have something distracting me or something to focus on, I'm going to create problems for myself, right?

As healed as I am from my trauma, if I get off the rails, I can cause some serious problems, so it's still a constant reminder and a constant thing to do. I began. I was just finishing up my master's. I was getting into business books. And I got convinced to start a podcast. I had been doing some nonprofit work here in the US. So, on a couple of boards, we raised a bunch of money and had a lot of fun doing it. I got over there, and I was like, "How am I supposed to keep doing all this fun non-profit stuff?" And I had a guy who was like, "Well, you should start a podcast," and I was like, "Why would I start a podcast?" And like I said, I don't know anything about podcasting. These are like dudes; you've got the experience and the voice. He's like you in that he has a podcasting face and a newspaper voice. It's perfect. You should go ahead and give that a shot.

Yeah, also formally known as a face for radio.  

Yeah, radio face. Yeah, absolutely.

And I did some research, I started this thing, and I wasn't sure what to do, so I looked at the top 50 shows for nonprofits, and I discovered two kinds of shows. One was like an industry show where people in the industry would kind of come on camera. They'd BS with each other, but there wasn't much value to be had like a little bit of news for your industry and maybe one little nugget of information. But largely, it was just them You know, joking around.

The other type of show was a nonprofit highlight show somewhere that would come on and say, "Hey, I love what you're doing." Here's your chance to use it. Their way is to spread what you do and proselytize what you do, and that was pretty much it. No one in the space was teaching anyone how to do stuff, and so I set out to create the show. That would be the premier how-to podcast for nonprofits, and we were able to accomplish that because I don't know everything, I learned from the guests I brought on to come and teach their secret sauce.

I brought in nonprofit leaders, business experts, consultants, and people with special skills. to help nonprofits do it better. And we ended up having a fantastic litany of people come on. We recently completed over 150 episodes and ran for three years just shut down at the end of this past summer here.

Once I found that niche, I found what the market was missing. I jumped to #4 in the US within three months of launching because I showed up and was dedicated, I provided something that was missing. and delivered it when I said it would be delivered to my audience.

It also relates to your earlier remarks about giving other people what they need and want, when what you did was give yourself. You took this framework of people needing information in the nonprofit arena and said, "Let me help you; let me guide you." Let me take these experts to give you some tips, some tools, and some ways that you can grow your own nonprofit and be successful, and you sort of do that, let others stand on your shoulders to be successful, which ultimately made you successful along the way.

That's an excellent way of putting it.

Now you're yours. This podcast is now available. You're going through the process. What did you take away from that? Because you've at this point, you've shut it down; you've done. You've done your three years; people can go back and listen. It's always going to be there, but what was there?

What is your purpose for ending that series?  

There were a couple of things.

One is that the direction of my life changed.

Two, I was having a really hard time finding new conversations in the space.

And three, there was some chatter that I received that I wasn't interested in having certain types of conversations that are no longer taking place with people who want to start one. Nonprofit, I'd like to say that I helped a lot of people start new nonprofits, but I wanted people to understand that starting a nonprofit is a huge deal and that you must be financially secure in your life. You have a monetization plan. And they're like, well, you know. Why is your consulting so expensive? It was around $250. It was not expensive, and I'm like, "If you think that's expensive," Wait till you start getting bills for setting up your nonprofit, like talking to most attorneys, run 20 G's to get a nonprofit started, and you're balking at $250. I can't help you at this point, right?

We had some fantastic conversations throughout the show, right? It's not all negative. The people that got their act together and trained and developed their teams were either collecting a paycheck as an executive director or getting there. That was one of their goals—to get that person paid. And they were spending time learning about nonprofits. Those nonprofits are doing fantastic. They're doing wonderful. They're amazing. They're off and running.

But some of the things I learned are that people are willing to share what their special sauce is and what it is that they're doing. I learned a lot. I felt this way in every class I took. Every interview I did was like a private master class where I got to ask the expert anything I wanted to know. I got to leverage their expertise. They got to leverage my audience, but probably the biggest thing I learned was to ask my audience what it is that they want.

And I originally thought that being a nonprofit consultant would kind of make sense. I was doing the show. I was gaining all this knowledge. It seemed like a no-brainer, and I pushed and pushed and pushed, and only one person out of like 2000 people I talked to was interested in non-profit coaching or consulting. At any reasonable price, there were a lot of people interested in unreasonable prices on my end. They're like, "Yeah, please do everything for free, and we would love to then not implement your suggestions," but I was frustrated, but almost done here, almost done.

And I was like, "What am I supposed to do?" And my friend was Like, well, what do they want? "Oh, like, uh, he's like, "Well, have you asked them and me?" I spoke. I said no, I hadn't asked my audience what they wanted and liked. Sorry, click on it. I keyboard. What do you guys want to know from me? And the response? Was overwhelming. They were like, "We want to know how you're doing all this amazing stuff with podcasting." Like me, you have a great show put together. The numbers support you. You've been featured in a podcast, magazine, and feed. Spot in all these places, showing you're one of the top nonprofit podcasters. One of the top veteran podcast hosts, how are you doing this? That was the ticket; that was the spark I needed to know about.

People love the conversation, but only a small, select group of people. That conversation was important to those in the nonprofit sector. The larger audience wants to know how I did so well at podcasting that it led to the first book that led to the accredited college course. I'm proud to say I'm the only professional podcaster who has taken an accredited course on podcasting which is just bananas.

And like over the summer, we released five new books on podcast titan which is just nuts, but asking them what they wanted to be led to focusing on podcasting as a skill and podcasting as a business as opposed to just having a conversation about a topic.

I love this story because if you take the nuggets from this story, you can apply them to any business. What happened is that you took a chance to try something because you had enough confidence to try a podcast in the non-profit world.

OK, great, so are you start going through that process? You interview a ton of people. You learn a lot. And then you realize, OK, maybe this is coming to an end. What am I looking for, and what are these people looking for? And then you learn they want to buy podcasting services from you, and all of a sudden, you're not a nonprofit expert. You're a podcast expert.

This allows you to spread your wings into a whole variety of different areas to promote not only yourself but the tools, tips, and tricks of being a podcaster and accelerating a show, which I think is just brilliant.

And even if you're not interested in being in the podcast world and you're listening to this show, The takeaway here is very straightforward. Try something; it will lead you down a path. That path will have some forks. Pick one. Right?  

Yeah, pick one. It's a lot easier to turn the steering wheel when the car is moving. It's about impossible to turn that thing if you're sitting still.

Yeah, well said.

I want to transition to what you're doing now because you walked away from the nonprofit space to go into a new project, which is your passion. It's the place where you help others. It's your empowerment today, so tell us about what you're doing.

There are a couple of things I'm doing now, Tom. I appreciate the segue.

One is helping people grow their businesses through podcasting. Whether they're a host or a guest, there are too many people out there who need to leverage podcast guesting to help elevate their brand, their leverage, and their business. I mean, every new podcast that you do as a guest. You gain access to a completely new audience. As a guest, you could reach 105,000, 10,000, 100,000, or a million people. And if you can do those three or four times, there’s a week left. Can you imagine growing your audience by 250.000 people every single week? I mean it just makes sense.

That's what I'm doing for business, right? Bringing back people's production and a few things for the fun stuff for the conversation, I've launched the Titan Evolution Podcast within the last month. I'm not sure when this will be published, but we launched the Titan Evolution Podcast at the end of October, or in the middle of October 2022, which I co-host with Carol Carpenter, an amazing woman who runs a motorcycle race team. Moto vixens. And you get all these different perspectives from the guests we bring on. We say, "Hey, they do all these great things that are tight and whatever they're doing, but I want to hear the story of you." I'd like to hear about your journey, your backstage story, and your darkest moment. What is something people don't know about you? What topic interests you?

Do you have these fantastic conversations? You get this personal branding that you don't normally get right. Everyone likes, "Oh, tell us your secret sauce. Please explain how you do this. Please give us all this stuff for free” and all the interviews that you see on the late-night shows. How often do they ask about people? How much do they care about Ryan Reynolds, the person? Or do they only care about the next thing he does or the value he can provide?

It's all project-based, right? What's the latest project? You're on the show because your movies are being released, your books are coming out, or you've got a new show, whatever it is.

Absolutely, and we believe that the value is not in what you do, but in who you are, and the essence of what makes you a Titan are those qualities that you possess. And the fruit of those is the things you end up doing or accomplishing, or the money in the bank, or whatever the external indicator is, which is the reflection of you, your journey, your personal development, your mindset, the people you hang around with—all of that stuff is the stuff that we want to know because that's the interesting stuff.

I've found that I've hated surface conversations over the last couple of years. You know I can talk weather or sports for a couple of minutes, but if There's nothing else there, I'm left wondering why we're talking. Like, tell me what thing that you're trying to build in this world is going to change everything. What's the thing that lights you up and gets you going? You like this thing for me, right? You can tell that sharing my story and connecting with people high on my list are the things that I love doing. It's obvious; you can hear it in my voice. You can see it in the camera. You can tell what lights me up, and I love talking to people and finding out what lights them up. We were.

We interviewed Jessica. That interview is not a live one. The American Idol contestant hit #4 on the Vans World Warped Tour, all these things, and we're talking about music and her, and then Carol asked. It's like there's something about you that people just don't know. She's big into aliens, ghost hunting, and all this other crazy stuff, right?

So, she and Carol went on about how cursed objects and all this crazy stuff—but we wouldn't have found that out if we weren't diving through her as a person, and that's that cool stuff. Those were those nuggets that people don't get to hear too often, and that's how you connect with somebody.

Well, you don't have to start a podcast to try to understand people, right? You can translate this into the real world pretty quickly, where you know that in business if you focus on the person and not the job title or the job that you're asking them to do, you can get under the hood and build an emotional and personal relationship can be professional And you can also help and support that person in their growth because you better understand who they are in this particular case, right?

Whether you love ghost hunting or not may come into play in your daily accounting at the business, but it certainly is a part of the happy hour conversation or just getting to know each other.

So, this plays in and out of the podcast world, and kudos to you and Carol for putting in the work, finding the guests, and sharing these great stories on the Titan Evolution podcast. I think it's a fantastic project, and I know it's going to have a tremendous impact. Access it just like your prior projects.

Hey, thank you; I appreciate that.

So, Travis, outside of interviewing people, what are you doing out there? That is what it means to help others along the way. How are you supporting the empowerment of your community and those with whom you interact with  

I'm on a mission to kick people off hamster wheels and let them know that they're worth more than they think they are. I saw the little smirk when I said, "Kick them off their hamster wheels." So many people out there are on their hamster wheel, and that's me by similarly or an example of just people running on their background programs, they've got a program that gets him out of bed in the morning, in a program that walks them out as a zombie. They hit the coffee maker in the morning or get the kids ready or whatever it is, and then they get in the truck, or they get in the car and drive to work, where they do the same thing everyday programs that we have running stuff

And I like to use the example of kicking someone off their hamster wheel because when I interact with someone for the longest time, it's adjusted a little bit. My goal was to get someone to "Remember Me," and I used to not care if that was a good file or a bad file.

But now I want to kick them off their hamster wheel so they can be present at the moment. I can tell them something wonderful about themselves and interact with them. I can see them; they know I can see them, and I know they see me. And that spark can propel them forward. Maybe just for a day, a week, a month, or completely changing someone's life. I love doing that, and when I talk about letting people know that they're worth more than they think they are, I love getting out in public speaking. I spoke at a ton of conferences this year. I love doing MC work. You might tell that by the microphone. Loves me. You might be able to tell because you can hear the tonality of smoothness, the highs and lows, and all that different speaking in the voice. And I want people to understand that whatever they've been through or whatever situation they find themselves in, they have the power to choose to do something different, to design the life that they want to live, to pull down the mask, to live that authentic life and people say, "Oh, that seems like a lot of work." Fun fact: when you're operating, Is who you are truly who you are? It gives you energy, as opposed to taking energy away.

And when you do the thing and act as who you are as a person, you will have unlimited energy. It's not a political debate, but there are people in the presidential office who appear to have aged 70 years over a four- or eight-year term, and those who did not. You can see that people who enjoy living in chaos and operate in that manner must be told to go to bed because they are acting as themselves and it only gives them energy, and you cannot stop these people.

Yeah, Travis, how do you get someone off their hamster wheel without being condescending or disrespectful, or without sounding like a no at all? I mean, this is a fine line between, "Hey, I see that you're on a hamster wheel," and "Hold on a second. I'm pretty happy living the life that I'm living.” How do you go about doing that?

Do that. Well, that's a great question.

First, we should know that the art of condescension exists. Is it possible to talk down to people without making them feel like they're being talked down to? I don't use condescension; it's something little; it's just. It's just changing the interaction, right?

A waiter approaches your table; waiters are on a hamster wheel. They do the same stuff with every table. But say, "Hey, I'm Micah; I'm here to be your server." I'm like no kidding, Micah. That's my middle name. And it completely pulls them out of their program, whatever they're doing. Or, like Michael, Is Mike your middle name? It would be crazy if it was. Right? And then you ask them how they are, and they're completely messed up—they off their hamster wheel, or like, "Ah, I don't know, dude, you're cool." You know what I mean. Follow me on MySpace later, and they'll like MySpace. My space is There are, but it's essentially these little interactions. These are little ways to do something. Being different from whatever the standard is doesn't have to be condescending. It doesn't have to be mean; it just kind of has to snap them into the current reality and allow them to be themselves.

We had a waiter. As I was messed up, we went to a small restaurant across the street. Look at an injury—obviously an injury and I was like bro…like, what are you doing here? How come you're not at the hospital? You ride like you. Need assistance, and he says, "You know, at the end of the whole thing and the whole meal, he says, "You know what? “Like, I've been walking around here for 10 days with this thing, and not a single person has mentioned it in the slightest. Thank you for seeing me and letting me know that you care about me”. 10 days,

That's a long time since nobody mentioned anything.

20 to 50. people in the restaurant, right? And no one notices it, or they are not willing to interact about it. It's not that he's on his hamster wheel; it's that all the guests are also on their hamster wheel.

That's right.  

They show up. They sit down; they don't even see the waiter.

Someone will not want to hurl stones at him. They claim that the items they desire do not exist in their world and that the waiter also does not exist. So how do you bring people in? Your world. What can you do to make them feel seen, heard, understood, and cared for?

Yeah, I love the way you're putting others first and using humor as well as just general human behavior at a high level to support the interactions with others along your journey. It's just a beautiful thing to do.

And I believe it has a lot to do with your upbringing as well. Perhaps you want to be seen because you've noticed along the way that other people are struggling, perhaps at different points in their lives as well.

Would you agree with that?  

Oh, absolutely, positively. These things happen to us when we are children things happen to you. As an adult, you're largely responsible for all the crap in your life, like, "Oh, why does this relationship work out?" Oh, it's because you were a jerk every day for the past nine months. That's why it didn't work out. The vast majority—not all vast majorities—of people go to therapy The answer is: what's wrong? It's because you did it.

Like you did—maybe you didn't know you did it, but you did it. Figure out why you did it, and then you have the chance to change it. But chances are it's your fault, right? Like all parents, I screwed up my children, though not necessarily with capital T trauma like mine. Maybe a little T trauma, but all kids and all parents unintentionally harm their children.

They're focused on one thing. The kid needs something else. You're going through stuff you're not even aware of. that you're doing it; you don't even know that you're creating a problem, like you don't even know. However, all of the things that happen to people, such as moving right, are now 50 times. And you're like, "Man, that's crazy." Like, how do you deal with that? It's one of the most traumatic things that could happen to a person. I've done it 50 times, and it's one of the five most traumatic things I've ever done. But wouldn't that create within me a capability that allows me to walk into any room, anywhere, at any time, and be comfortable with whom I am comfortable, not knowing anybody comfortable enough to walk up to someone a little lost and be like, "Hey, I'm Travis? Can I show you around?" Oh, do you know this, then the other person says, "Oh, it's my first time too, but we'll go find it together, right? “I don't need to have the answer, I just have to be present.

Yeah, well, well said and how are things going for you now, Travis? 50 moves. You live in the center of the country. Tell us a little bit about how things are going. We understand the beginning of life. But how are you doing?  

I'm doing great.

I just retired after 22 years as a naval officer, and if you hire by the military for active duty, you get paid right away. So, I'm getting retired. I'm getting VA benefits. Titan Podcast, my new company, is now up and running. That's right when clients pay me, it's like money is coming in, and it's fantastic. It's fantastic, right? I'm able to go out and proselytize and spread the message that people are worth more than they think they are. I've had a wonderful wife of 21 years, Megan. I've got a 19-year-old girl who's married. Alyssa, I've got a 14-year-old boy, Cole is on the debate team in high school for pre-engineering. He's doing great stuff, and because I took the time in my transition to take care of my bills, build up a little nest egg, and get the skills, education, and network that I wanted and needed to create the life I wanted to live, I'm now able to do that.

This is a Thursday morning that we're recording. I took a midweek trip. I drove to Little Rock from Oklahoma City to meet a friend that I met at a conference in Vegas a couple of weeks ago she's opening a new hotel in Little Rock on the Air Force Base because I created the life that I want to live. I'm able to do things like that.

To drive or fly across the country or around the world, essentially on a whim. Because someone said, "Hey, I'm going here." I really could need support. Can you be there? Absolutely. I've created a life that allows me to do things like that. It allows me to hop on podcasts. It enables me to learn interesting things; just ask people like Tom here, right?

To go do these things that I've always wanted to do, there's the big secret of everything that I've told you: it's up to you to realize that I was scared of everything that I did, but I did it anyway. The amount of comfort you have just lets you know. that you're pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it or try it; it means you should give it a shot.

As a scientist, I have this idea. I'm going to try this experiment. I'm going to see what the results are. They have no personal meaning to me, right? We feel like, "Oh, I'm going to start a show." Are people going to like me? Perhaps you stink. I don't know, but try it, get the feedback, get the results, and then adjust as you go. There's a reason a ship has sails that you can set in trim and a rudder because you can't go in a straight line to get anywhere that you're going.

Bob and weave, move through your path, and don't worry that you're a little intimidated, afraid, or scared of taking that next step. We all are… When we do it, we just do it anyway and push forward, and things do get more comfortable as you do them over and over and over again. They get a little easier, right? Podcasting gets a little easier with discussions on stage. You're an MC. You've participated in events. It gets easier.

Oh, absolutely, like my first. For like, Let's just take podcasting as an example, since we're both podcasters. Your first five shows stink. You don't know what to say. You're not sure what the show is like. It's just like everyone does it the same way, right?

You know you get in around 10—15. You start feeling a little better, but you're still making mistakes. You do not have a checklist. You're not sure you look at the camera; you don't. You don't have the right microphone set It's not till, like, 25 episodes. that you finally start to feel comfortable and not so bad.

And then when you end up doing hundreds as I have, you’re aware that the camera turns on like within the camera. When I first started, I didn't look at myself. I didn't like the way I looked. I was like, "I can't look at you like that; it's so uncomfortable for me." And now here we are, just a couple of years later, and I'm staring at her. My face and my eyeballs I look her in the eyes myself through this. Why the whole thing? Because I'm now OK with it and at ease with it.

I jumped out of an airplane a couple of years ago, I went skydiving. terrified the entire time. Getting up in the airplane, I was like, "Why on earth am I up here?" Why would I do this correctly? Of course, I'm strapped to somebody; I've got someone strapped to my back, and we're getting there slowly forward, and I'm thinking, "Well, I guess there's nothing else to do but jump and We follow this plane, and I am whatever makes those terrified people look like they want it on my face, right? He's got a little camera, and he's taking pictures of us as we're going.

If he didn't tell me to smile, all of my pictures would have I've been a bit terrifying. I'm doing this thing right; like, here's the deal. It's going to be weird. It's supposed to be weird. It's supposed to be awkward. It's supposed to be scary, then adrenaline hits, and it is the story you decide to tell yourself, whether you're scared or excited.

It's the same feeling. It's the same feeling.  

I love the way you look at the world, Travis. In terms of educating yourself, being accountable, and understanding human interaction in a way that forces a different conversation, by doing that you are certainly lifting others around you and supporting the growth and development of our global community, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.

And it's a pleasure to have you on the show, great conversation, and thank you for sharing. You know your upbringing from your story and all of the things that you've been through, and to see where you are today is remarkable.

I am so proud of you and proud to call you a friend, and I am thrilled about all the great work that you're doing.  

Thank you so much, Tom. I appreciate it.

So, if someone contacts you, Travis, it's because they want to start a podcast or talk about starting a podcast. Do you want to get to know me a little bit better? How would they go about doing that?  

Well, I tell you what, I've got all my links in one place, Tom. It's called Linktree, and its creator is Travis D. Johnson. One word: go to the link tree. Travis D. Johnson, I'll take you to my show, my social media, my website, and all that fun stuff you can hack with me.

And we'll get that in the show notes for everybody. So, if you're driving, as a public figure service announcement: please don't write that down. Keep your eyes on the road, and we'll get that in the show notes, and you can find Travis here. Connect with him. Find and create his social media accounts. Build a relationship with a great human. Thank you, Travis, for being on. The show is very grateful to have you.  

Thanks again, Tom; I appreciate it.

And thank you for joining the Talent Empowerment podcast. I hope this conversation lifted you so you can lift your teams, your organizations, and your community. Let's get back to people and culture together, see you next time.

Featured Episodes


How to be a "Great Place To Work"

Michael Bush, CEO, Great Place To Work

Listen Now
Talent Development and HR

Using Mission, Vision & Values for Everything

with Bamboo's Director of HR, Cassie Whitlock

Listen Now