Hi friends! I'm so excited to introduce y'all to the incredibly thoughtful and talented Barrett Brooks today. Barrett and his lovely fiance Nicole both attended the University of Georgia with us, and while we all knew of each other back in the good ol' days, we recently reconnected when they moved just down the street from us in Portland. Needless to say, we were thrilled to gain friends who could navigate the intricacies of Beau's southern accent and were willing to sit through painful UGA football games with us. But Barrett and Nicole have already given us so much more than that. In a few short months, these two have become dear friends that I know will be in our lives for years to come. I think that's largely due to their sincerity and unwillingness to keep things at a surface-level. Just the other day we were having dinner and they asked such an amazing question: "What kind of friends can we be for you this year?". Um. You're doing a great job, you guys. Pretty sure you're already nailing the whole friend thing.
When I was thinking about people to interview for the Celebration Series, asking Barrett was a no-brainer. He does great work for Fizzle, which as Barrett explains below is a company aimed at helping folks build independent businesses. You can imagine how this would peak my interest. :)
I started listening to their weekly podcast and I can honestly say that it is one of my favorites out there. Barrett, Chase, Corbett and Steph are funny and insightful and give spot-on advice for those of us who are trying to figure out this whole being-your-own-boss thing. Go listen! You won't be let down. But you should read Barrett's interview first...
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
Who am I? There are so many possible ways to answer this. At my core, I'd say I'm a learner and a relationship builder. I love finding an interesting book, a curious journal article or a fascinating new podcast. I love meeting interesting people and putting in the work to build meaningful friendships that go much deeper than the surface level conversations we're so often limited to.
I often say I'm "making a ruckus" in writing, which usually gets an eye roll or a perplexed response. That phrase is a nod to a mentor and friend who has had such an important impact on my life. And it's a reminder that I want to be the kind of person to consistently create positive change in the world. That sounds corny, but it represents my honest internal dialogue. I feel this weird and constant drive to always be serving people and trying to improve the lives of people around me.
For work, I'm part of the team building the best place on the web to learn to build an independent business from scratch. It's called Fizzle and it's an online education platform where we help people turn their expertise into a sustainable business. That might mean building an illustration business for someone like you, Lindsay, or for someone else it might be selling goods related to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What matters is that we're helping people build businesses that give them freedom and fulfillment.
Outside of work, I'm engaged to a beautiful woman who has undoubtedly made me a much better version of what I might otherwise be. We have a black lab together and recently moved to Portland, OR.
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
There are two sides to this. On the one hand, I love the excitement and collaboration that comes from working on a team of talented people. The work we produce together matters to me. Whether it's writing an article, producing a course, or hosting a coaching call with customers, the work we do is inherently interesting to me because there are no right answers. We're constantly searching for new ideas and new ways of communicating how to build a business.
And then there are the results we help our customers achieve. This is out of our control because at the end of the day, it is up to each individual entrepreneur to take action and turn learning into business results.
That said, there is nothing more fulfilling than hearing a success story from an entrepreneur. Hearing that a stay-at-home mom turned one of her interests into a product and then into a small income and then into enough monthly income to support her entire family... that's special. Or hearing that a long-time wine journalist has gone independent and brought in $100,000+ in revenue in his first year in business... wow.
We can't take credit for any of that, but we can certainly celebrate these amazing, generous people who are willing to put their work into the world.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
I'm always inspired by the people closest to me. Watching my partner in life grow in her career and become a more talented professional inspires me. Seeing some of my closest friends take risks and build companies and fail and learn and succeed inspires me.
I'm also always searching for new sources of information and learning. I find that I tend to get enthusiastic about a given subject or a given author or podcast host and dive all in for a time. Right now I'm enjoying listening to Brian Koppelman's The Moment and The Startup Podcast from Gimlet Media. I'm reading a lot about Elon Musk's three companies — Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity. And I'm reading a lot about social enterprises and B Corporations, which I think are a fascinating alternative to "shareholder value."
Oddly enough, my bike is inspiring me right now. We recently moved to Portland, OR and in the process, I sold my car, which makes us a single car household. I had some hesitations about how difficult it might be to get around, but instead it's been so freeing. Seeing the world from a bike is so different from driving everywhere. I get to take in the sights and smells and people with much more consideration. It's a slower form of transportation, which gives me time to think. It's also great exercise, which always sparks my best ideas.
What has been difficult lately?
Moving across the country is a double-edged sword. We've loved the adventure and exploration that comes with being in a new place. We've made so many new friends and found new restaurants and neighborhoods to love.
But we're also thousands of miles away from our family and long-time friends. Nothing is permanent of course, but it's definitely been an adjustment to find new ways to stay close to people we care about.
I'm also learning how not to be the person in charge at Fizzle. The founders have given me a wonderful seat at the table in our decision making and direction as a company. And yet still, there is something different about being hired to join a company that already exists in the world. I love it, but it also takes real work to build strong communication habits and leverage the talents of everyone on the team.
We're still finding our way through that process and I think as we do, we'll set ourselves up to have a successful culture for a long time to come.
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
Ah, it's so hard for me to see this in myself. For some reason, I like to deflect attention to other people, especially in public. Maybe I'm scared that I'll get too caught up in myself and lose my way.
I think so much of what I do is driven by the need, the desire, to serve other people. I'm eternally altruistic. I see how the world can and should change for the better, and I honestly try to do work that will help encourage people to create that change.
I get deeply offended when I see leaders compromising their values or chasing money, prestige, and power at the expense of all else. It's so short-sighted and, well, human. It neglects the fact that this rotating globe we live on has to sustain so many people for so long after we're all gone.
It frustrates me when I see entrepreneurs and people with high potential sabotage themselves as well. It's selfish... it steals their work away from the rest of the world. If you have a skill you've honed or you see a problem that needs solving in the world, I believe you have a responsibility to solve it. You can't just assume that someone else is going to do that.
So back to the question: what makes me different? I don't know that anything makes me different. But I know that I have high expectations of myself and the people I surround myself with. If you're in my inner circle, I expect that you're going to push yourself to make the world a better place and I expect that you're going to demand the same thing from me.
I don't know any other way to live. Maybe that will change as I get older and see more of the world. But I hope not.
What's your spirit animal?
I don't know why, but I have always adored bears. I have a beautiful painting of a bear in my house. I have a photo of a bear as the background on my computer. I'm always drawn to anything bear-related and I've never known why.
There's something strong about bears. They are, in some ways, the kings of our forests in North America. They are so capable of providing for themselves and for their cubs. They have the power to destroy, and yet they don't use it very often. They're majestic in my eyes.
I could say that I developed this perspective from some deep research on bears or interaction with bears... but in reality it probably all ties back to the fact that we tend to love words and people and animals and things that resemble our own names. Bear... Barrett... It might just be that simple.
Barrett, I can't thank you enough for your thoughtful answers. And your friendship! You are the best of the best.
Love & Respect,