Intro: Duration: (01:43)
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This is Human Capital a GoalSpan podcast and I'm Jeff Hunt. On Human Capital, I get to interview top business thought leaders to uncover the deeply h an aspect of work. In this episode, we will talk about overcoming adversity, entrepreneurship, and how deep relationships, trust, and core values can lead to a more successful and fulfilling work experience.
My guest today is Nathan Bourne, who is the founder and CEO at My Core. Nathan lives by the belief that service to many leads to greatness. He has found a way to serve many people in his life through leadership. And at the age of 20, as a division one wrestler and Ivy league student at UPN, Nathan says he discovered entrepreneurship.
Today he leads an innovative company in the payroll, benefits, accounting and HR space that serves clients all over the U.S. Nathan's favorite quote is if you have six hours to cut down a tree, spend four hours sharpening your ax and two hours cutting down the tree. Nathan has shared that he wants to inspire people to constantly sharpen their axes as they pursue life's purpose. Welcome, Nathan.
Hey, what's happening Jeff? Happy to be here!
How was that hearing my intro of you? I always liked to ask you know?
So I'm glad you asked that. I hope it's as awkward for everyone else as it is for me. It's a good awkward though.
Topic 1. What inspired you to go into business? (01:44)
Well, I'm super excited to have you on the show today.
In part, because I loved sort of meeting you and learning about your experiences in business and you come at it from a very unique perspective. And so, I would love for you to share maybe as we get started, who or what inspired you to go into business originally?
Totally. Yeah. I would be remiss if I didn't share kinda my upbringing. My childhood, if you will, it's kind of unique and it was uniquely challenging. I always think maybe at some age, I'll stop talking about it because when I first started as an entrepreneurial, so young, it was, it was fresh. It was just a few years ago now I’m a wise old man at 32 and know everything you need to know about life, right.
It really has informed a lot of my path for better or for worse. Some great, some not so great. I am from a really big family. I'm the fourth of nine children Jeff. Big family. Yeah. My parents got married at 18 and 19. There are now 19 grandkids. My oldest sibling is 39.
My youngest sibling turned 18 recently and my mom turned 58, 31st a couple of days ago. So young parents, 19 grandkids. Total chaos. And we grew up very, very poor. I mean, even if you made six figures and you had nine kids, you'd be poor, but they were like poor, poor. So that kind of equipped me in unique ways that entrepreneurship requires because of the ability to survive through it.
For most people, that's most people's narrative, you know, some others that build something first and then kind of embark without maybe the financial strain of it. But, yeah, so that, that put me on a path early on that I was really by the book, which was academics and athletics. And you kind of mentioned that there in the intro.
I realized, okay, here's my path to kind of living the good life. And I just was really dedicated to my academics and to athletics and specifically wrestling. And that landed me at the University of Pennsylvania. And that was a great honor to be able to go to a school like that and to wrestle at that level.
But it was actually the summer of my freshmen year. So I just had graduated high school. I'm going into my freshman year. And I just got infected by entrepreneurship and as you know, it's, it's a bit of a disease. It's a virus. Yeah. Entrepreneurship 19 or whatever you want to call it.
It's something that, that will systemically take over your being. So, I think it's important for people to evaluate whether they are really made for it. Because they can really damage their lives if they're not. So I think this is something that is sort of the ugly, dark side of entrepreneurship that we should consider.
I've thought of this analogy before I'll share it and I don't know if it'll totally make sense at this moment. Have you ever shot a bow and arrow? Ever done archery or hunted. So I grew up in a big family of hunters. But when we bow hunt, we did it with a recurve bow. So not the compound, it's like the old school kind of the way the native Americans.
When you put an arrow on about which there's a word for that too, it's knock, I think. That arrow sitting by itself or even knocked onto the bow is of no threat. Right. It's just sitting there much like a knife or a gun if it doesn't have anything behind it.
So, what actually makes that arrow lethal is pulling back the bow. So, if you think of this, we're all sort of this arrow in our life. And unless we're willing to pull back on all of our past experiences, all of our past challenges, some of the good, and the bad, and the ugly of the things that came before this moment, then we won't gain enough power.
There won't be enough velocity to traject and push that arrow or yourself, or your goal, or your dream, or your vision forward. That's one part of it, but there's also this other part which is the discipline to keep the bow pulled back. And then if you let go, you're going to move forward.
You're going to have some type of trajectory. But the more discipline you have in patience, you have to raise the bow and raise the bow and raise it and raise it. Now you start to see stuff like, you know, in an old medieval movie or in Robin hood where they're on the archers, or on the castle. And they're kind of shooting it way out into the field.
Topic 2. The difference between "-ed" and "-ing" (07:27)
I love that picture that you've painted. And I actually want to stay on this line for just a minute, because it's applicable in so many respects, not only to entrepreneurs but to employees, to managers, to leaders, to business owners, alike.
And I'd love you to share for a minute, how fear comes into this equation. So, you think of the archer Pulling back the bow and holding it up and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, or to your quotes, the person who's sharpening their ax for six hours and then cutting down the tree for two.
Where, where can people find the intersection between wisdom and execution versus fear and parallel being paralyzed. In terms of moving forward, like over-preparing if you will. So talk a little bit about that.
We have to start to really seek wisdom and I think that's the space that we're in right now. And I think the leaders that ask for wisdom. And seek it, we'll find it. And that's how they're going to attract people to them. And it has to be rooted in humility because the guru model, I know it all, I have it all, look at me, this is where I was, this is where I am. I think people have looked under the hood of that and said, no, no, no, you're just human.
You're like the rest of us. So, I think it's important in this process and in this journey. To show that you're just that. You're in a process and you're in a journey and the language matters. So it's things like I'm learning that or I've, I'm discovering it. It's the difference between ING and ED.
So it's not I discovered, or I learned it's, I'm learning, I'm discovering and it puts it in this present moment that people can connect to and identify with and say, Hey, me too. And that's where the iron starts to sharpen iron. So I think to bring it back to human capital, that's the space that people want to operate in. Does that make sense?
Topic 3. Trust, consistency, and vulnerability-based leadership (09:53)
It does. And I really love your description of the ING versus the ED, because so often people go through their careers on this pathway, thinking that if they just X then Y will happen. So, if they get the promotion, they're going to be completely fulfilled in their life. And they're going to reach the sort of Nirvana that they've been looking for, trying to fill that empty void and deep inside them and it never ever happened.
So it also seems totally applicable. And I'm curious as to your opinion about this. The most effective leaders are those that actually embody vulnerability and vulnerability-based trust. And so those ones that are willing to say that I am learning, we are growing. Instead of we've arrived or, you know, look at us how great we are.
Those are the ones that sort of outperform and out achieve. Other leaders that are much less humility-based kind of leadership. Would you agree with that?
The earlier you can show your team and the people around you, how flawed you are the better, like, let that be known right out of the gate. It does a couple of things. One, it, humanizes you and it also attracts really great people.
Yeah. It's, about being your true, authentic self and understanding that is good and the bad and that's the light and the dark and really what it is, you know, what's crazy too I've thought about this recently is trust.
So, trust is the foundation of all relationships and you would think that trust means things like. Well, you'll never stab me in the back, or you'll never take advantage of me or you'll never do me wrong. Sure you know that goes without saying, you know, some of those integrity character issues that are universal yet.
There's going to be times where if we're business partners, I'm going to screw you over a little bit over a little bit. That's just the human experience. That's the human condition. So, you know, hopefully, it's not huge blows, like you ruined the person's life or something, but there's going to be these little deviations.
There are going to be these little moments. So, how do you overcome that? How do you process through that? I've learned that it's in consistency. So what's interesting is if you think of cinema like movies or television shows, and I like to think of this as an example, cause I'm a big fan of this show.
Have you ever watched the blacklist? Oh! it’s really cool. So it's about this guy. Who is like the world's most wanted criminal and he turns himself in to the FBI and then he essentially promises that he's going to deliver them a blacklist. Which has criminals that they don't even know about that's doing biological warfare or something.
So he ends up kind of controlling and manipulating the FBI. But he's a good guy at the end. Anyway, here's the thing. That guy kills a lot of people throughout the show, like just shooting people right in the head. Right. And as a viewer in general, people don't want other people to get shot in the head general consensus.
Don't shoot people in the head. So, what's interesting is there are these moments throughout the character development where he's in a scene and the person's like, you know, in a back alley or they're in a warehouse somewhere. And it's so in his character to end that person because they broke loyalty or they deviated from his sort of authority that you're sitting there as a good human being.
Waiting for the moment where he just puts a bullet in the guy's head and you're like, yeah! And then you're like, wait that’s sick? Why do I want that? It's because you trust his character to do that. There's a consistency. There's a continuity in the way that he behaves. So it's not even good or bad.
It's good not to shoot somebody in the head. It's bad to shoot somebody in the head. It's, you're trusting that he's going to do it. And you're okay with that. You're okay. You somehow reconcile it because it's true to who he is. So if you're in leadership and hopefully it's not as a murder, but there are things about you that are maybe not like the greatest fluffiest warmest things, but you're consistent in them.
People love that because they're going, I know that he's going to fire that person because they did something unethical, even though they're best friends, that person's getting canned today. And if you don't do that, You just sent a message to the core of people that goes, Whoa, I can't trust your next move.
And I need to have some level of predictability. Not that you're like some machine, but I need to know where I show up every day in the workplace, in this marriage, at this church, you know, in this branch of government. So, I've found that, and, and in my leadership, I've come across decisions where I'm like, What would Nathan do?
It goes back to that third person, third-party, what would I do in this situation? I'm like, yup. Dismiss them. They gotta go or forgive them. You know, we give them another chance. So, I think those core values, those principles, that foundation building that.
Is everything. The identity of the company, the identity of the leadership. It informs everything. And that's where you get the bond. That's where you get the glue. That's where you get the teamwork making the dream work. Does that make sense?
Topic 4. Core values/ Lead with who! (15:52)
Yes, it does. And I think core values are such a great reference point because too often they're misunderstood by organizations.
People say they have core values. They may have six, eight, 10, 15 that are on the wall. But they're not actually the behaviors that you were describing. That people are living out every day in the workplace are. And so, you end up with a disconnect and a lack of continuity and alignment because it says that our core value is maybe work ethic, but yet nobody's working more than four hours a day.
And then if I get chastised for not working hard enough, then we have. Even greater resentment, internally and disengagement, and problems that sort of come as a result. Would you agree with that?
Oh my gosh. Yeah. And choose wisely. And this is the challenge that we have too, I think we get these lofty principles.
How funny would it be? But also accurate if an organization had like some of their core values and it was like “mediocre work at best” “consistent output that has decent value to it”. That would actually probably. Hold more, an organism would be better.
It would be better, wouldn't it? Authentic.
It's authentic. Okay. You guys are just above average. Well, my lawn does need to be cut. Like just above average I'll hire you. But it's all these words like premier, first-class, the best ever. And I took all that out of my core. We have a principle we call to lead with who. And it's this sort of clever way of saying who we are is who we are for better or for worse. We're going to constantly advance it into improvement, into betterment, into enlightenment. We want to reach those higher-level operating systems. Yet the X factor is that we are who we are.
And you are who you are, and we're looking for alignment in those things, but it is on an infinite game. It is an infinite thing. It's not something that we just stamp and say, this is who we are, and we're so great because I think nobody ever lives up to it. And then when the, when hammer drops it's so much worse when we've created this perfection.
Yeah. And just to summarize a little bit before we get into a few lightning round questions. We've danced around a lot of issues, but it sounds like really to bring it all together, you have vulnerability-based leadership and trust. Infused from the top level of the organization, combined with very meaningful and authentic core values that describe who you are as an organization.
And we didn't talk too much about this, but a vision that you have as leaders that is compelling, that you can rally around. Then you create an environment where people can be inspired and as they work together, they leverage deep relationships with each other to achieve this common vision as a team. Is that a decent way to sort of encapsulate what you were just describing?
Totally. Yeah. So it goes like this leading with who. Is about understanding that at the core is the who. It's the who's and it's the who. So it's, it's the people and it's the identity, the melding of those identities, and understanding that people are individuals, but they're also a collective. As a wrestler, this was a good kind of prerequisite for the way I operate my business because I had to be an individual.
And then I was part of a team. And it's an individual sport, but it's a team sport at the same time. You can't go out there and wrestle yourself. Then when that core, that inner circle is built. Now you can start to look at a why you can start to look at a mission. You can start to look at a motive, a purpose. This is why I preach leading with whom versus starting with why. I'm a big Simon Sinek fan and I respect him greatly. And he's been a big inspiration to my thinking and to my leadership style and the way I've constructed my core. I think there's something deeper that is really what anchors it all.
And it's to lead with who? Because to me, starting with why, if there's a start to something there's probably a finish. Right. Which to me is more finite and Simon Sinek specifically came out with the next book, the infinite game. So, I think he on his journey and his discovery realized, okay, maybe there's something even greater here and he's connected the two philosophies.
So, what I have found in my leadership and just sort of operating with human beings is that. whys change. The missions change, but who you are doesn't. So, who the United States is our Constitution. That is the most core and it has amendments, and it gets outdated. And, you know, there are things that have to be updated for sure.
But it's the constitution, right? That's who we are as the United States of America. And then. Why we are our missions, they change, it could be a mission to Afghanistan. It could be a mission to eradicate hunger or, you know, universal healthcare, whatever it is. And there's all kinds of views on this but in business, it's no different when you have the who factor, right.
And then you rally around a Y and be very intentional about this why. Make sure that it's big enough. To like hurt a little bit. Like it should be like, Ooh that's bold. That's big, but it's not so universal that it's wishy-washy. Or as I like to say whoey, it’s not up in the ether.
So our mission at my core is to be the world's most employee-centric company. To be the world's most employee-centric company. So, we have a mission. We have a why that. Is our North star that we move toward and measure, you know, regularly, quarterly, monthly, all the time. Those two things who we are and why we exist, they don't change.
But what we do and how we do it changes all the time. It's constantly changing. And I think what happens is that leaders identify a need in the market. Entrepreneurs identify a need in the market. And then they get into problem-solving mode, but they don't work on the core. They don't go through the intellectual process of who they are and why they exist.
And God forbid that what change through legislation, technology, innovation, something outward that you can't control. Like COVID-19 now all of a sudden you're going, Oh, shoot. The real litmus test. And this would be a good question too, for anyone listening to ask themselves. If I went to my organization, I went to my team.
I went to my people today and said, here's the deal. We are no longer doing what we do. We've changed entire, we're going into a completely different industry. Would your people stick with you? Would they pivot through that? Would they move through that? And if you lead with what up to that point. Then probably not because they identify with you based on what the organization does, but if they're aligned with you connected to you, committed to you and you're committed to them.
Based on who you are and why you exist. The what doesn't matter. You met Cheryl and you saw that she has our shield tattooed on her arm. That's not something you see every day, right? That one of the employees of the company, it's the company logo on the arm, Tony, who you met as well. Our chief strategy officer.
I know my people. And if I said to them tomorrow, hey, we're going in a completely different state space, we're not in payroll benefits, HR, bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes. We're going into real estate. We're going into tech. They'd be like sweet because I'm not here for what we do. I'm here because of who we are and why we exist.
Topic 5. Lighting round questions (24:34)
That's awesome. And who feels like it's really much more about character and relationship versus why. So what you're describing makes perfect sense. So I love that. So let's jump into some lightning round questions. I haven't mentioned any of these to you at all. And so I'm looking for just whatever comes to mind, short answers, whatever you can think of. So the first one is what is the most difficult leadership lesson you've learned over your career?
The most, probably difficult is that people are not going to love your company as much as you are. And that's okay. And at first, I thought that everybody had to share my devotion and my dedication, but by definition I founded it. So why would they love my baby? As much as they would love their own.
So. You know, I love my nieces and nephews, but not the way I love my three children. They're family. They're important to me. I would do anything for them, but it's just different. And when I recognize that I was able to assess the relationship better and be more thankful for the love that they do have for the company and respect and love them for that.
Great perspective. What are you most profoundly grateful for?
My relationship with God. Yeah. Without that none of it matters. It's just that's the priority. It's faith, family finance and those things are not fixed. So, we say that, cause it sounds nice.
Faith, family, finance, God, you know, my family, my money, my business, but the truth is it's like this running. Race and scale. And there are times where I'm putting my finances ahead of my family or my family ahead of God. And there are times where God gets even lower on the totem pole. And then I get smacked in the face by it.
And I'm like, all right, what am I doing? I got to get my priorities, right? So I think, this is a larger issue. I won't go into it deeply, but, core values are fixed, but they're fluid at the same time. So, if we don't give them the respect that they deserve as living, breathing organisms, we won't steward them well enough.
We'll think that just because it's on a plaque because you read it in the Bible because it was taught to you as a child, it's there and we'll deviate from our values and find ourselves doing things that we never thought we would. So I think there's this prioritization and constant building of that muscle that, that has to occur.
But to answer the question. If it wasn't for my relationship with God, I just think I would be an absolute wreck, you know, I'm like already kind of, but I'd be like an absolute wreck.
Who is one person you would interview dead or alive?
I love Jim Rohn. Are you familiar with Jim Roan? He's sorta the OG of personal development. So, Anthony Robbins was mentored by him, Darren Hardy, and he revolutionized my life at 20 years old, maybe I was 21 at the time. But I listened to an audio. He's passed away now probably about five, eight years ago he passed away. But he lays out this formula for life, which speaks to how your philosophies drive your attitude, your attitude determines your actions, your actions give you your results and your results give you your life or your lifestyle.
And when I learned that at 21. It just changed the way that I thought about everything because I was always like most people understanding cause and effect. These are my actions. These are my results. I study for the test. I get a good grade, you know, I show up for practice. I win the match and then things started to go awry in my life.
As I was getting older and I'm like, what's going on? Because I had this formula in middle school and high school that led me to success. And now. It's not working the way I thought it would. And I realized it was under the surface. It was in the root system, it was in the foundation, and that some of my philosophies, my belief systems.
We're driving an attitude that unconsciously to me, I was incompetent. I didn't know what I didn't know. And when I became aware of that, I started to really assess them. And just because you assess them, it still took me about a decade. I feel like just recently in the last year I've got like a handle on it, you know, where I'm like.
I've been on this 10-year journey and there's a lot of life in there between having children being divorced, like all kinds of hardship. And, and some triumph, but mainly hardship. But I would love to talk to him because he just was a single, like, I can point to that individual and say his wisdom changed the trajectory of my life.
And I'd love to have a conversation with him, unfortunately. Passed away.
And you were just describing, again, the ING versus the ED, by the way. That's a lifelong journey, right? You're right. Let's remember that. It's good. What's your favorite non-work activity?
I don't know that I have any, I'm playing with my kids. Yeah. It's so much fun. Yeah. I fight for it because I'm divorced. So, my time with them is rooted in quality versus quantity. The workplace is so integrated now, it's all on my phone, it's on my laptop.
When I have them things pop up, things have to happen. So, I feel a lot of guilt sometimes when I'm not as present. I'll put a movie on and I'll be doing something. And I'm like, I guess I could be like playing with them. But like this past weekend, I had them for a three-day weekend and we played trouble, a bunch.
We play games. It snowed and that was fun. And they pretty much, if I can just work and hang out with my kids, I like to work out in that too, but that's good for me eat sleep, work, and kids. And it's amazing.
That's very fulfilling. So that's awesome. So, Nathan, what is the single most important thing you want our human capitalist listeners to take away from our talk today.
I have to give you my universal answer, which is to lead with who and everything you do. Our vision at my core is all people and everything we do lead with who. That's what we want for the world. And the way we distinguish between vision and mission.
I learned this a couple of years ago and it helped me, I'll share it quickly was that your vision is what you want for the world without you even knowing. So, it's not 2021. It's 30, 21. It's a thousand years hence, what does the world look like? That should be your vision. And then your mission is what you're doing about it right now real-time while you are on planet earth. So lead with who.
That's a great way to summarize our time together. So, Nathan thank you so much for joining me. I really was inspired by our conversation. I hope our listeners were too, and I hope you enjoyed our time together.
Oh, I did. It was awesome. Thank you, Jeff.
Thanks. Take care.
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