page title icon 060: John Tarnoff: We didn’t see this coming

John Tarnoff Show Notes

John Tarnoff was the co-founder of a tech start-up in the late 1990’s. In the middle of 2001 the tech sector collapsed and John and his partner lost several deals due to the downturn. After a meeting with their lead investor, they decided to bring in someone to help them raise capital. This guy tried to help raise capital and then used it to steal the business. Listen to John tell his story of how he got over the hump and move onward and upward.

John was born and raised in New York, NY but has lived in Los Angeles since graduating college in 1973.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, he developed and produced movies for Warner Bros, Columbia, MGM and others, founded a technology start-up during the 1990s Tech bubble, and then shifted back into entertainment as Head of Show Development for DreamWorks Animation, where he led the artistic leadership training and university outreach programs.

Inquisitive, creative, unconventional, and an early adopter, John has held eighteen positions over his career, as talent agent, studio executive, film and game producer, talent manager, BizDev consultant, project manager, and program developer. He has the distinction of having been fired 39% of the time in his career, a statistic that has, ironically, enabled him (or forced him, depending on your point of view) to figure out the reinvention process.

John Tarnoff is a career reinvention coach, speaker and author who helps his fellow Baby Boomers transition to meaningful and sustainable careers beyond traditional retirement. He currently co-runs a graduate management program for Carnegie Mellon University.

In 2012, he developed the Boomer Reinvention® coaching curriculum to help his generation stay active, engaged, relevant – and solvent. He is the author of the forthcoming book: Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career After 50.

John holds a MA in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica, and a BA magna-cum-laude from Amherst College.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @johntarnoff and get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“The myth of retirement is staring us square in the face.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet

“We’re going to have to keep working beyond the age of 65 if we are going to survive.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“We need to be much more entrepreneurial in the way we look at our roles.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“You never want to think of yourself as an employee…think of yourself as a consultant.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“Realize and define your value to yourself and to others.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“Reinvention on a career has to happen from the inside out.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“We tend to get complacent and it becomes more difficult to dare.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“We create all sorts of ideal circumstance before we dare.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“You have to dare first and then things will actually fall in place.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“You never really know what you are capable of until you are confronted with the challenge.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“At the end of the day you just have to believe in your ability to weather the storm.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“The value of tough times for all of us…these are the experiences we are thankful for.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“I could not have done anything I have done without going through adversity.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“I wake up often in the morning and ask; is that still working.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“Our value as we get older is to help others come up the ranks.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“How is this experience today going to play out down the road?” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“How can I use this experience to help people in the future?” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“There is nothing holding me back, except myself.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

“Find a mentor…ask questions and ask for guidance.” -John Tarnoff Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

John Tarnoff was the co-founder of a tech start-up in the late 1990’s. In the middle of 2001 the tech sector collapsed and John and his partner lost several deals due to the downturn. After a meeting with their lead investor, they decided to bring in someone to help them raise capital. This guy tried to help raise capital and then used it to steal the business. Listen to John tell his story of how he got over the hump and move onward and upward.

Advice for others

You your experiences and humps to help others come up the ranks.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

There is nothing holding me back, except myself.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Don’t take things personally.

Secret to Success

Always listen for the subtext.

Best tools that helps in business or Life

I’m a good listener.

Recommended Reading

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Contacting John

Website: http://johntarnoff.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johntarnoff

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johntarnoff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boomerreinvention/

Resources

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

 

Show Transcript: 

Click to access edited transcript

060: John Tarnoff: We didn’t see this coming

Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

 

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Jim Rembach:    Okay Fast Leader Legion today I’m excited to share with you the guest that’s on the show today because he actually came to me from one of my, “How in the heck did I get here” moments. It was a situation where I’ve started doing some research and reading and I found his Ted talk. I found it so fascinating and intriguing in regards to what he was sharing as well as his back story, that I invited him to be on the show and he accepted. John Tarnoff was born and raised in New York, New York but has lived in Los Angeles since graduating college in 1973. In the 70’s and 80’s he developed and produced movies for Warner Bros., Columbia, MGM and others and founded a technology startup during the 1990’s, Tech Bubble and then shifted back into entertainment as the head of show development for DreamWorks animation, where he led the artistic leadership training and university outreach programs. 

 

Inquisitive, creative, unconventional, and an early adapter, John has held 18 positions over his career as talent agent, studio executive, film and game producer, talent manager, biz development manager and consultant, and program developer. He has the distinction of having been fired 39% of the time in his career, a statistic that has ironically enabled him or forced him depending on your point of view to figure out the reinvention process. John Tarnoff is a career reinvention coach, speaker and author who helps his fellow baby boomers transition to meaningful and sustainable careers beyond traditional retirement. He currently co-runs a graduate management program for Carnegie Mellon University.

 

In 2012 he developed the Boomer Reinvention coach curriculum to help his generation stay active, engaged, relevant, and insolvent. He is the author of the forthcoming book Boomer Reinvention—How to Create Your Dream Career after 50. John holds a Masters in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and a BA magna cum laude from Amherst College. John Tarnoff, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

 

John Tarnoff:    I am ready, Jim. Thank you so much for that great intro. 

 

Jim Rembach:    John thanks for being here and I really appreciate it. I’ve given our legion a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

 

John Tarnoff:    I think you kind of nailed what my current passion is it’s helping the boomer generation, my fellow boomers, transition through this very uncomfortable period that we are having, post 50, what’s now become the myths of retirement seems to be staring us square in the face and the idea that we grew up with which was get a good education, we get a good job work, you work for  40 years and you get handed your retirement and sail of into the sunset, well that just didn’t turn out the way we thought it was going to turn out.

 

Jim Rembach:    We got a few curve balls throwing out way in the interim and a lot of us particularly after the recession where people lost about a third of the value of their retirement accounts, they lost third of the value of their homes, many  people still underwater with their homes and facing increasing downsizing the loss of defined-benefit pensions in corporate America which is dropped double-digits percentage wise from what it used to be all of the statistics which are pointing us in one direction which is that we’re going to have to keep working beyond age 65 if we’re going to be able to survive. And I could go into scarier statistics about that. It’s a reinforced fact that we’re in a bit of a crunch. 

 

It’s really interesting John all the messages that you’re bringing in regards to this particular issue we could easily spend a lot of time talking about why, we can talk about this that and the other but the fact is that—and you and I had the opportunity to chat about this moment ago, it’s affecting all different age groups. I have several of my friends who are now finding themselves to where they had some senior leadership roles those are no longer roles that are available, they were let go, whatever, the case may be downsize, you had a situation where companies merge and now all those extra people have to go somewhere, all these different factors that start coming into play…

 

John Tarnoff:    It’s happening all over.

 

Jim Rembach:    Exactly.  And so, I think too that that it’s really important for us when you start talking about the planning piece is to put our proper planning in perspective. So when you start talking about fast leader and really what we’re trying to bring out is that in order for us to be able to move onward and upward faster we’ve got to do some things correctly and part of that is our planning process and investing in ourselves.  And so, when you start thinking about all the elements that you’re referring to and so for me—like for example I am not even considering or planning US Social Security to be part of any of my income after I retire. At some point it has to cease to exist when you start looking at the number of payees versus the people who are trying to draw, it’s going to flip-flop in a few years and it’s already supposedly under water, so I’m not implanted for that. So, what are some of the things that people should be thinking about so that essentially they get ahead of that reinvention curve, if you know what I mean?

 

John Tarnoff:    Right. I think the fundamental thing which I talk about to the folks in my generation and I think this really is no surprise to anyone who has been building their career over the last 10 20 years, is that we need to be much more entrepreneurial in the way we look at our roles. This is actually something that I say to my grad students in terms of them getting out into the marketplace and getting their first job and that is that you never think of yourself, you never want to think of yourself as an employee under the direction of the supervisor, you always want to think of yourself as a consultant providing value to a client and that kind of distinction for someone who has been an employee in a, dare I say, at wage slave for the last 20 years may be in one company for 20 years, that can be a very disturbing and intimidating prospect. 

 

So, the reinvention methodology that I’ve been developing and using is an attempt to cut through that and to help people realize and define their value both to themselves and to others and to reach out to make the connections necessary to create that next career whatever that may be. And ‘m not a traditional career coach who uses assessments and traditional bucket and boxes to lodge people into jobs and job descriptions, I just don’t think that it works anymore and I’m seeing that in the HR world that is being thrown out a lot. So, my perspective is that reinvention on a career has to happen from the inside out. You’ve got to figure out what it is that you like to do, what is that you’re good at, what it is that you feel good about getting up in the morning and doing no matter what every day and building from there.

 

Jim Rembach:     I think you bring up some really good points and they’re extremely important for all of us to kind of I don’t want to say heed, but really kind of pulled in and use it as part of our overall planning process is to think of ourselves as our own entity regardless of whether or not we’re employed and definitely many of us if we do find ourselves unemployed that it can potentially easy become employable even if it’s ourselves, we employ ourselves. That’s a great mindset. I know seeing you speak talking about and you sharing some of the stories within your TED talk and all the work that you’ve been doing and all the incredible stories about people finding and having to reinvent themselves under pressure that you’ve had to seek and find inspiration as well as 39% of the time you find yourself to reinvent, move and we like to use leadership quotes in the show to talk about inspiration. Is there one or two quotes you can share with us that does that for you?

 

John Tarnoff:    Yup. I knew you’re going to ask me this question so I did a little digging. I do like to collect quotes. I’m in the process of collecting a set of applicable quotes to the boomer reinvention process which one it says, when I hit 365 I’m going to publish a calendar but in the interim I found a really applicable quotes from the Roman philosopher Seneca and here it is: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.” So, I think the value for that, for me for someone particularly someone who has been sitting at a desk and I don’t mean to be demeaning of the value that you can provide as a manager in a corporation and a tribe of people that you’re working with successfully, but I think we do tend to get complacent and it becomes more difficult to dare and we create all sorts of conditions and ideal circumstances that we would like to have set out before we dare. Actually the way the world works you got to just forget about that you have to dare first and then things will start falling in place.

 

Jim Rembach:    That’s a very good point that you bring up. I was having a conversation with somebody the other day talking about we all get sucked in by marketing, me too we all do. And one of the huge areas of hype associated with something that you’re referring to is this whole entire concept of taking control. Take control of your weight, to control of your personal finance, take control of your…take, take, take control and when you start thinking about just that concept of take control if I’m taking control of safety, if I’m taking control of not stepping outside, in fact what I’m doing is creating a worse scenario for me and I control nothing.

 

John Tarnoff:    Right. I think that’s very true. 

 

Jim Rembach:    It’s the releasing that’s going to make the difference, so I appreciate you sharing that. Now also one of the things that we do on the show is we talk about getting over humps because the beauty about story is that we get the chance to hopefully educate ourselves and move onward and upward faster by learning about situations where people had to get over their own humps. If something weird that happens in our bodies so we definitely want your help to get over some of these humps that some of us now are facing, maybe some of our friends are facing, maybe even you have faced in regards to the things that you’ve gone through. Is there a story that you can share with us that will help us get over faster?

 

John Tarnoff:    I’ll tell you a story of a particular challenge that I had to get through when I had my start up and I hope maybe it will inspire some people, it will certainly reassure people that it is possible to get over incidents that where you really feel that the deck is stacked against you. I had a tech startup in the 90’s that I had founded with a partner and we were developing a really interesting product around artificial intelligence using animated character. If you think about what you get with Siri on the phone this was a character, this is an animated character on the screen that had that kind of artificial intelligence engine behind it. It was very innovative and we had a big deal with Sprint that we rolled out in the beginning of 2001 where we create a customer service character for their website and around the middle of 2001 the entire tech sector just fell apart, the entire thing collapsed. And so, everything within a period of two or three months just fell apart.

 

The Sprint deal of fell apart, they pulled back all of our secondary financing at our startup pulled backed, we started laying off staff and by the time August, September rolled around my lead investor came to me and he said, “Look, we need to bring someone to help you guys raise the money and turn this thing around and re-state the value propositions. So, we found a guy, came out Wall Street really smart young of a guy had been in the start-up field, and  he started working trying to restructure this and bring new funding into the company and we were running out of cash but he was working very hard. One Wednesday afternoon, I’ll never forget this, he calls my partner and me together we sit in my office and he says to us, “You guys are not to be able to meet payroll on Friday, we’re probably about 25 people on the payroll” he said, “I’ve got the money lined up but there’s one condition, you guys have got to go.” And you can imagine we didn’t see this coming. 

 

Here’s a guy who comes in who’s supposedly working for us to try to help us save the company and he’s decided he’s going to steal the company. So, we were really shocked. He got up walked out of the office, left the office, and basically I think he thought that when he came back on Friday morning we were going to hand over the keys to the company. Instead, my partner and I got on the phone and we started dialing for dollars, as they say, that Wednesday night all day Thursday, Thursday night, by Friday morning we had raised enough money to meet our payroll, there is money in the account and this walked back in the office and we told them to churn right around and get the hell out and we used some more indelicate language than, but it was it was a real shock. And it was a real trial for us to dig deep and to figure out how we were going up to save this thing that we had worked at for I guess at the point, five or six years, this was our baby. Now, in retrospect the company still went belly up about a year and a half later, we just couldn’t keep it sustained but we were able to hold our own. I think the lesson for me is that you never really know what you’re capable of until you’re confronted with a challenge. And you got to believe in yourself right through all of the upturns and downturns, at the end of the day you just have to believe in your ability to weather the storm to reach out to the people that you need who are willing to help you to trust yourself to get through them. 

 

Jim Rembach:    Thanks for sharing that, John I’m sure that had to be a tough times going through that. Not only those shipped to together thanks for Sharon and Josh Turner had to be a tough times going through that not only those few days where you’re trying to raise the funds but through the remaining year and a half until you had to move on. 

 

John Tarnoff:    It was a really tough time. But I tell you the value of that and the value of tough times for all of us, and I’m sure your listeners who have been through similar straits will agree with me, these are the strengths that you look back upon and are thankful for because of the strength and the resilience that they allow that they become the foundation for the way that you move forward. I could not have done anything that I’ve done since then without having gone through that adversity. 

 

Jim Rembach:    It definitely makes us stronger on the backend, right?

 

John Tarnoff:    Absolutely.

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, John. I know you got a lot of things going on when you started thinking about grad students, I think you have a daughter going to grad school, author a book, speaker, coach, all these things, if you will start thinking about just one thing that gives you a whole lot of excitement that you’ve set some goals around, what are some of those goals?

 

John Tarnoff:    This really gets back to my mission statement for what I’m doing with the boomer reinvention program. And I have it in front of me, it does tend to shift a little bit but basically the mission that is driving forward now is to help my fellow boomers find sustainable and meaningful careers as 50. And that is a… I kind of wake up in the morning often and say, “Is that still working?” and it is and it continues to sustain me. When I was, I guess maybe as far back as my 30’s or 40’s when I was thinking about the future, it was not particularly clear and I was working at a business which I love and still love it’s a great business the creative and the manager aspects of actually making movies and TV shows and contact is it a lot of fun, great business is great fun. But I always thought that education and sharing my experience and helping others was where I was going. And that ultimately that was—and I think for many, if not most of us ultimately our value as we get older is to be able to help others come up to the ranks, come up to the rungs of the ladder and share our experience and mentor other people, to the extent that we can visualize that as our future a think is very helpful and provide a real sense of purpose to us going forward. It’s a context in being able to see…how is this experience today or this success I’m experiencing or these challenges that I’m experiencing, how is all that going to play out down the road? What are those lessons? And how can I use this to help people in the future? I’m kind of giving you a long-winded answer to the question but it explore some of the dimensionality of what’s getting up in the morning and giving me a reason to keep going. 

 

Jim Rembach:    And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Before we move, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.

 

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Alright, he we go Fast Leader Legion it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, John, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. John Tarnoff are you ready to hoedown? 

 

John Tarnoff:    I am. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

 

John Tarnoff:    There is nothing holding me back except myself. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What is the best leadership advice you ever received?

 

John Tarnoff:    Don’t take things personally. 

 

Jim Rembach:    What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

 

John Tarnoff:    Always listen for the subtext.

 

Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best tools that help you lead in business or life?

 

John Tarnoff:    I’m a good listener.

 

Jim Rembach:    What would be one book, from any genre, that you’d recommend to our listeners?

 

John Tarnoff:    There’s a book called, Steal like an Artist by Austin Klingon.

 

Jim Rembach:    Okay, Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to the fastleader.net/John Tarnoff.  Okay, John this my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skill you have now back with you but you can’t take everything you could only choose one so what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

 

John Tarnoff:    I would tell myself to find a mentor and the reason for that and this certainly based on my personal experience looking back now, is that I did not seek out as much guidance as I should have, as I would’ve liked to have. I was afraid to reach out and ask questions and ask for guidance because I didn’t want to appear foolish. And that was a big mistake.

 

Jim Rembach:    John it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the fast leader listeners how they can connect with you. 

 

John Tarnoff:    Yes, absolutely. The easiest way to do this is through my website, which is johntarnoff.com and contacting me on the form on that site. You can also find me on Twitter@johntarnoff. And check out my Facebook page BoomerReinvention, one word. 

 

Jim Rembach:    John Tarnoff, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. 

 

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader Show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the www.fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.

 

END OF AUDIO