Jullien “The Innerviewer” Gordon is a high performance coach and consultant for organizations, individuals, and teams that want to increase employee performance, motivation, engagement, and retention. As a Founding Partner at New Higher, his consulting work has helped Fortune 100 companies align their human capital strategies to engage, motivate, and retain high performers and his speeches and trainings have helped over 10,000 professionals discover more ways to create value, be present, and find meaning at work. His inquiry-based “innerviewing” technique and tools help professionals fully align what they do with who they are so they can make their highest unique contribution at work and in the world.
My definition of success was based on my parents’ and society’s definitions of success which includes money, power, wealth, fame, and beauty…But once I got clear on my unique definition of success, that changed the way I navigated the rest of my college experience and my life.
ENM: Everybody has magic; what is yours?
My unique gift is asking the right questions. That’s why my community calls me The Innerviewer. At the end of the day, how far will the right answers to the wrong questions get you? Not too far. I’m a deep listener and that listening creates safe space for people to share their authentic selves when I ask the right questions. And by right questions, I mean introspective questions where there isn’t one right answer—the best answer is your authentic answers.
ENM: How are you currently using your magic to create impact?
Every year thousands of people download The New Year Guide that I publish. This year is The Year of Experiences. I just had a live event in New York where I guided about 100 people through my goal setting methodology and the underlying principles of The New Year Guide and I’ll be doing more live events like that in 2014. I blog and vlog weekly at JullienGordon.com on topics related to lifestyle design. My commitment is help people intentionally design their lives in such a way that they are able to maximize their time freedom and financial freedom. I also travel the country speaking at corporations, colleges, and conferences and I’ve written four books that go deeper into designing one’s life, career, and college experience.
ENM: When did you decide to exist no more and live life fully? Was there a specific event that happened?
At the age of 18 I bought a Mercedes Benz. On June 15, 2001, two weeks after buying it, I was held up at gunpoint for it. That event resulted in me going into a deep space of introspection, which has now become known as the “innerviewing” process. The first and most important questions I had to ask myself was “How do I define success?” Up until that moment, my definition of success was based on my parents’ and society’s definitions of success which includes money, power, wealth, fame, and beauty. That’s why I bought the Mercedes. I wanted to show my parents, who were both doctors, that I was on a path to success like them by doing “better” than my parents and getting the things they had like a car and a home faster than they got them. But once I got clear on my unique definition of success, that changed the way I navigated the rest of my college experience and my life.
In the same way that Jay-Z had Damon Dash, or Jobs had Wozniak, or Gates had Balmer, I want a teammate who is strong where I’m weak.
ENM: How did you get from the decision to exist no more to where you are today? What was your process/path?
After being held up at gunpoint, I made my first intentional choice. Up until that point, I was just following the prescribed path of be good, get good grades, go to a good school, and get a good job. My choice was to graduate from UCLA in 3 years. It was authentic and bold. I hadn’t seen anyone else do it before and at first I didn’t even know if UCLA would allow it. And I did it. That led me to becoming the commencement speaker at African Grad where I got a standing ovation in Royce Hall. From there I went on to work in non-profit for 2 years before going to get MBA and Masters in Education at Stanford. While at Stanford, I was working on a website to help people discover their passions. I raised money and built a team, but we weren’t able to execute because of my poor leadership. As a result, I took a job at another non-profit after graduation. This was my Bridge Job. The job required me to travel the country and speak at colleges about our program. That was like my speaker training. And on November 10, 2008, I sent out an email inviting 10 people to come to my living room for an experience called Driving School for Life on November 22, 2008. When I sent out the email, I didn’t have anything planned. But ultimately, I showed up and so did the participants and that led me to where I am today.
ENM: What has been the most amazing part of your journey?
The most amazing part of my journey has been to notice how God/The Universe/Life is working on my behalf to help me fulfill my purpose and fully self-express. This journey has shown me how little I control. The only things I really control are my presence and my effort. So many amazing things have happened to and for me since stepping on this path that I couldn’t have planned or imagined myself from The 2010 Route 66 Tour in partnership with The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, to The Innerview being used as the curriculum at The Kelley School of Business, to speaking at TED four times. What makes each of those experiences memorable are the people that I meet along the way. I’ve traveled to over 40 states and met people from all over and from different walks of life and it has deepened my understanding of the human condition, what’s really important, and how we find happiness and fulfillment.
ENM: What has been the most difficult part of your journey and how have you overcome it?
The most difficult part of the journey has been being alone. Right now I’m a one many operation with lots of contractors. I love the freedom that comes with that, but I also love working with great people daily. There is nothing more invigorating than sitting back-to-back or face-to-face with people you know are working towards the same vision as you on a daily basis. I miss that energy. I look forward to the day I’m able to hire my equal—not just an admin assistant. In the same way that Jay-Z had Damon Dash, or Jobs had Wozniak, or Gates had Balmer, I want a teammate who is strong where I’m weak.
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have put so many ideas out at once. I would have focused on one idea and continued to grow and expand it.
ENM: If you could only pass on one piece of advice to anyone reading this interview, what would it be?
My advice would be to incubate your idea. Just like a baby in a womb, your idea needs time to grow before it is fully in the world. Translation: I didn’t just quit my job and start from nothing. t had an 18 month transition plan. I called it a Bridge Job meaning that I knew my current job was simply a bridge to get me where I wanted to go. So I vowed to quit after 18 months or once I reached my 6-month savings goals—whichever one came first. And at the 17 month mark I reached my 6-months savings goal and left on January 9, 2009 despite the recession because that’s what I said I was going to do. I didn’t let external conditions effect my decision. Since I knew I only had 18 months, I spent my mornings, evenings, and weekends tirelessly working on my side hustle to build it up to a point where it could support me once I quit or at least have some momentum so that I wasn’t starting from zero. While I was working, I was building my “Other 4.0,” which includes my personal, intellectual, social, and financial capital. You want to give your idea the best chance of surviving, so take it seriously.
ENM: If you could rewind the hands of time, what one thing would you do differently?
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have put so many ideas out at once. I would have focused on one idea and continued to grow and expand it. When one idea didn’t take off, I assumed that the ideas just wasn’t great so I would go create something else. And when that didn’t take off, I would go create another thing. Now, looking back, every idea could stand alone and be someone’s life work. It wasn’t that the ideas weren’t great—it was that I didn’t dedicate the marketing and effort to spread them. Something going viral is great, but just because your idea doesn’t go viral doesn’t mean it’s not great.
ENM: What is your personal philosophy towards failure?
I believe in failing forward. Normally when you fall, you still fall forward. I’ve created program and products that I initially thought were failures perhaps because they didn’t get the sales that I anticipated or desired. But amazing opportunities have emerged out of almost every perceived failure. For instance, when I did The Career Change Challenge the first time, I didn’t get the numbers I wanted and I was ready to give up. But then I got a call from a professor at The Kelley School of Business who wanted to know if I could translate the curriculum for college students and out that emerged The Innerview which is my best selling book to date.
ENM: Name 1-3 tools, resources and/or people who have been the most helpful along your journey?