Everyone has a superpower. It rests on whether you have enough patience to realize and strengthen your superpower.
"At the end of the day, I’m a regular dude with little identifiable skills of any kind," he chuckled during a Benzinga chat. “In my case, I’m good at one thing and that’s talking to people.”
Before hosting his own show in Los Angeles, Ward was in sales. But his main goal is to continuously improve — the lifestyle strategy of Kaizen.
“It took me many years to get to where I am now. It did not happen overnight, and I’m getting a bit better with every interview, pitch, and production," he said. "It all adds up in time, and that’s my intent.”
Ward, a New Jersey native, was an average kid from a middle-class family. He found little passion in the mundane careers he pursued after attending Rutgers University–Camden.
“Some of the coolest people I knew at the time were sales guys and entrepreneurs who owned their own businesses,” he said. “They dressed cool and were friendly.”
Ward previously sold cars at Mercedes Benz Group (OTC: MBGYY), Porsche Automobile Holding (OTC: POAHY), and Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE: TM) dealerships near Philadelphia and Phoenix. He also worked for Illinois Tool Works Inc. (NYSE: ITW), where he sold equipment to grocery stores, including Amazon Inc.-owned (NASDAQ: AMZN) Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. (NASDAQ: SFM).
With “little oversight” and a corporate American Express Company (NYSE: AXP) card came a “sense of freedom” that made the equipment sales gig tolerable for about a decade before Ward burned out.
“If I have to go to another trade show, and stand in front of an oven for three days, I’m going to kill myself,” he recalled.
At the time, Ward was reading “Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future” by Dorie Clark, a famed consultant, speaker and teacher at Duke University and Columbia Business School.
“Dorie’s thing was to interview people,” he said.
Accordingly, Ward spoke with local entrepreneurs over coffee, inquired about their motivations and asked if they had any tips for success.
“The other thing Dorie taught me that changed my life was to write.”
Life Lessons From Rick Rubin
Ward often consumed and blogged content across various interests, including hip-hop. During one search, Ward came across Tim Ferriss' interview with music producer Rick Rubin, one of the most important music producers in history.
“The next week I was still thinking about the interview and I wrote about life lessons from Rick Rubin,” Ward said.
To his surprise, Jessica Alba found the blog and posted it via social media.
Graphic: LinkedIn post by actor and businesswoman Jessica Alba.
Clark eventually put Ward in touch with Forbes where he became a contributor. Despite feelings of being an “imposter and fraud," Ward “took the opportunity” and began writing with a focus on marketing and social media, all while maintaining a sales job.
Say 'Yes' To Open More Doors
Pitches from public relations houses were often declined. But one instance where Ward deviated paid off big time.
Jake Paul’s representatives pitched a conversation about the influencer’s interests beyond media.
“I was like: ‘Who the hell is this kid with 20 million followers that I’ve never heard of,’” he asked. His response was a definite “Yes.”
What followed was a two-hour conversation with Paul at his home.
“We talked business and I learned a ton," Ward said. "He wasn’t just some kid who does videos. He was a well-thought-out business guy who had goals and a plan.”
The two exchanged phone numbers and, after finishing the article, Ward sent Paul a link to the story and a message expressing his gratitude.
Paul, appreciative of Ward's piece, posted the article on social media.
Graphic: Twitter post by Jake Paul.
After what felt like 15 minutes, the article generated about 100,000 views, far beyond the 500 clicks Ward’s articles would typically get.
Writing, Ward realized, was a serious endeavor that he could leverage in order to impact others and develop a monetizable brand.
Ward's work permeated the influencer community. On paper, he “had nothing in common” with his interviewees. But that didn’t matter. He “was the only one taking them seriously,” and that spoke volumes.
Thanks to a newly-minted connection with Paul, public relations representatives, and word of mouth, Ward managed to chat with a variety of influencers and creatives, including Kate Hudson, Emma Chamberlain, Griffin Johnson, Josh Richards, David Dobrik and designer John Varvatos.
The Next Evolution: YouTube
But Ward wanted something more than 800-word articles and some publicity. So, he decided to start a YouTube channel.
“I’d pay a camera guy to shoot and an editor to edit," he said. "I was losing money for three years while my coworkers, at my real job, were laughing at me.”
Ridicule aside, Ward looked at the ambition as many do sports; the interviews were a hobby, and Ward’s family offered full support which “meant everything.”
Any YouTube monetizations or sponsorship proceeds were funneled into an account Ward drew on to help fund the cost of production.
“I was 44 and I knew I could not do my day job and this well, at the same time,” Ward said. “It really hit home when I left for Paris Hilton’s house after talking about bakery ovens for hours.”
Knowing he had reserves ready to deplete, Ward took a chance on himself, quit the sales gig and pivoted to interviewing.
“Though my views are down, I don’t care. That’s what I’m interested in, and it keeps me in touch with the Dobriks and Charli D’Amelios who want to talk business and things they’re launching.”
“Dobrik and D’Amelio may even offer me tips on how to grow,” he said. “That’s priceless advice.”
Graphic: Tom Ward interviews Charli D’Amelio.
Ward's show also aims to share uplifting stories of entrepreneurs across every age, race, gender, and identity.
“I’m just a guy seeking to learn,” he said. The videos and articles are “puzzles, and there’s no handbook,” he elaborated. He’s even ready to embrace new challenges, even if it means not making as much money over the next year.
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