Skip to main content
Coming soon: Crucible Leadership is becoming Beyond the Crucible. Stay tuned for updates!

Warrior Entrepreneur: Zachary Green #103

Warwick Fairfax

February 8, 2022

Zachary Green’s life story is the stuff of movies – a stint in the Marines that taught him survival skills he used beyond the battlefield, creating a successful business where the crucibles came early and often, then being laid so low by COVID-19 that he thought his life would end. But it did not. And neither did his dreams. He compiled the truths and tactics he learned from his military and business experiences – successes and failures alike – into WARRIOR ENTREPRENEUR, his best-selling book that offers readers insight and inspiration to defeat the devastation of crucible experiences and turn them into the fuel for a life of significance.

To learn more about Zachary Green and his book, WARRIOR ENTREPRENEUR, visit www.warriorentrepreneurbook.com

Highlights

  • His challenging childhood … and how it motivated him (4:27)
  • Why he joined the Marines (5:57)
  • What he learned about himself in the service (9:38)
  • Success in corporate America (10:59)
  • Building his own business (13:23)
  • His warrior’s journey crucible that helped him in business (18:07)
  • How his COVID crucible inspired even greater success (25:56)
  • Writing the book WARRIOR ENTREPRENEUR (30:47)
  • Walt Disney on why “a kick in the teeth” can be the best thing for us (32:51)
  • The neuroscience behind moving beyond crucibles (40:49)
  • Adversity isn’t the end point (42:59)
  • Zachary’s word of hope for listeners (49:53)

Transcript

Warwick F:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Zachary G:

So I go on vacation. I tell my CFO, “Whatever you do, do not call me.” I want to really check out and just be present for my family that I’ve neglected these last couple of years as I grew this company, and guess what happens? He calls me, and I remember his words, and more importantly, I remember his tone of voice, very somber, saying, “Zach, I’m sorry to inform you, but there is no way out of this. We are going to have to liquidate, and when you come back, we need to talk about bankruptcy options.”

Zachary G:

Now, for me, it wasn’t just that I was losing my dream. It was that I was letting my firefighter brothers and sisters down because I couldn’t produce this lifesaving product. The bank was going to foreclose on my house, because at that point in time, I had spent all my money and I had to use my house as collateral.

Zachary G:

I would have to go through the humility of going bankrupt and being known in our area as somewhat a celebrity entrepreneur and look at how far I fell. And at that time, that’s when the abyss started to really come into focus for me. I thought I was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a panic attack. I dropped down to my knees. I can’t breathe. I could feel tightness in my chest. I could feel electrical currents shooting down my arm. Everything they taught me in the fire service that if someone presents with that, you take them immediately to the hospital.

Gary S:

How do you move beyond a crucible like that, one that not only threatens your livelihood, but your life? This week’s guest, Zachary Green, tells Warwick he did it by activating his inner warrior. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show. Green’s life story is the stuff of movies. A stint in the Marines that taught him survival skills he used beyond the battlefield. Creating a successful business where the crucibles came early and often. Then being laid so low by COVID-19 that he thought his life would end, but it did not, and neither did his dreams.

Gary S:

He compiled the truths and tactics he learned from his military and business experiences, successes and failures alike, into Warrior Entrepreneur, his bestselling book that offers readers insight and inspiration to defeat the devastation of crucible experiences and turn them into the fuel for a life of significance.

Warwick F:

Well, Zach, thank you so much for being here. I love just looking through your book, Warrior Entrepreneur and love all the military metaphors, Spartans, and what have you. I’ve never been in the military, but love military history and some of the great heroes of antiquity and history. I love just understanding just what a successful entrepreneur, and the courage you have of just producing products that serve real needs and help people.

Warwick F:

But I’d like to go back, as we do here at Beyond the Crucible, a bit of the origin story. I think you grew up in the Cincinnati area, and had some challenges. I think you were in five different schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, and ADHD. So talk a bit about the backstory of Zach Green and growing up and, yeah, some of the traits probably that ended up serving you well later on in life, although it probably didn’t seem so at the time.

Zachary G:

Well, Warwick and Gary, thank you so much for the opportunity to be speaking with you much for the opportunity to be speaking with you as your guest today. I chose the location of where we’re going to have the discussion today at a very sacred place for both me and quite a few people in our country, and that is Parris Island Marine Corp base.

Zachary G:

Behind me, you’re actually seeing a lot of activity. We are on a live, active Marine Corps base, and we just recently had a graduation of our newest Marines. So if you see some young men with a big smile on their face, it’s because they just finished a very, very grueling, both crucible, which we’ll talk about, before, and their experience here in the Marine Corps. So pardon in the background music, it’s just simply the noise of freedom in the background there.

Zachary G:

But to answer your question, Warwick, I did struggle a lot growing up. I had very severe ADHD. Now, it’s funny because when you’re in school, it’s called ADHD. It’s considered a disability. When you get out of school, you’re called a multitasker and you’re very energetic and it’s a great trait.

Zachary G:

And it’s funny how keeping you at your desk, listening to reading, writing, and arithmetic is such a challenge, but when you get out and you do four or five things at a time and you have a lot of energy and you’re able to help inspire others, like you have, Warwick, to grow and build a business, that disability becomes actually an ability.

Zachary G:

For me, what that did, though, was it gave me a foundation in my youth where I had a lot of people tell me I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t strong enough, I wasn’t good enough. Now, for most young kids, that’s something that’s probably going to carry that emotional baggage with them throughout their entire life and really cause issues. For me, it did the opposite. It motivated me.

Zachary G:

The more people told me that I wasn’t smart enough, or I wasn’t good enough, the more that drove me to be able to prove them wrong, and always, in everything I do, I’m never, ever content with my success. I’m never, ever happy with where we’ve gotten, because I still feel that voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re not good enough.” And what I’ve done is I’ve turned that into an ability to drive me to success and greatness, and now at this point in my life, to help inspire others to do the same.

Warwick F:

So you’re 18 years old and you decide to join the Marines. Why the Marines? I mean, clearly you’ve had this warrior… I don’t know if it came from parents or other influences, but you just always had this desire to be in the military and specifically the Marines, so how did that all come about?

Zachary G:

The short answer is because they’re the best, and now, I know there are other units, other branches that have their units, the Navy SEALS, the Army Rangers, but as a force in itself, nothing comes close to the Marine Corps.

Zachary G:

But let’s back it up a little bit before that. I always knew I was going to be a Marine. I had posters of the Marines in their fancy uniform on my walls. I constantly was collecting videos and things around Marine movies, but I wanted to double-check.

Zachary G:

So when I was doing my round of the recruiters, I remember going to the Navy recruiter and saying, “Hey, what does the Navy have to offer me?” And he pulls out this booklet, starts showing me all these incredible pictures of all these places that I can travel to, the adventures of the high seas.

Zachary G:

So then I go to the Air Force recruiter and he starts talking about how easy it is, it’s very civilian-oriented, it’s a very easy transition from civilian to the air force, back to civilian. Then I go to the Army, and the Army starts throwing out all the money and bonuses I can get, and all the great jobs that I can do.

Zachary G:

So I finally get to the Marine Corps recruiter, and I’ll never forget, it was Sergeant Beatrie Houston, this big, huge Marine. Big chest, tiny waist. I walk in, he greets me with this big smile and a firm handshake, and he’s like, “What can I do for you?” And as a typical 18-year-old cocky kid, I said, “Well, Army offered me, Navy offered me that, Air Force offered me this. What can the Marine Corps do for me?”

Zachary G:

And that smile turned upside down into a grimace. He sat in his chair, he put his feet up on the desk and he looked at me. He goes, “Son, we’ve been the finest fighting force for 250 years. We’re going to continue to be that way with or without you. The question is, what can you do for the Marine Corps?”

Zachary G:

So I’m like, “Wait a second,” and then he goes, “I’ve seen your type. You’re not strong enough. You’re not tough enough. There’s no way you could handle Parris Island and go through recruit training.” And I showed him, because I yanked the contract out of his hand, signed it right there on the spot and said, “You know what? I’m going to prove to you that that’s not the case.”

Zachary G:

So it was a great tool to use against arrogant teenagers like myself, but before you knew it, I was down in this godforsaken place here of Parris island, the land that God forgot, with sand fleas and drill instructors, and really started that journey to ultimately become a Marine.

Warwick F:

That’s an amazing story, and you were in the Marines, it sounds like, for about nine years. You went through that, I don’t know how many weeks it is, but that basic training where you are right now, in Parris Island, which is probably some of the toughest training on the planet. And you got through, you did show them that you were tough enough, that you could take it, which is impressive.

Warwick F:

You clearly love the Marines, but you have… There was this, I guess, transition, this pivot point in your story, in which, from your book, you make it clear your wife is a medical doctor, and you met her, and she had this phrase, “It’s the Marine Corps or me.” I mean, that is laying down the gauntlet. That is laying down the challenge.

Zachary G:

Yes, that’s not unique to her. A lot of women have that same phrase.

Warwick F:

So tell us about that choice. You could have said, “Well, it’s the Marine Corps, sorry.”

Zachary G:

To back up, at the Marine Corps… I had a wonderful family, even though I did have a lot of challenges growing up, they afforded me every opportunity to get me tested, to have me go to different schools, to give me extra tutoring, lived in a very nice upper class neighborhood. Great friends and support structure.

Zachary G:

What was interesting was, when I get down here to Parris Island, the first thing they show you is that you’re not unique. Everyone’s the same, and you all suck, for the lack of better words. It was interesting, I really struggled those first couple weeks, and the kids that didn’t struggle were the kids that grew up in the coal mines of West Virginia, that didn’t get three meals a day. The kids that were in the projects of New Orleans that didn’t sometimes have a place to sleep. They excelled so quickly in this environment, where I really struggled because I didn’t have that warrior skin that they had growing up.

Zachary G:

So my time in the Marine Corps was brief. It was very uneventful, which is the reason I didn’t re-enlist for a second tour. I actually went through both Parris Island, then I went to Quantico and went through the officer program, and there was no deployments. I was in the infantry. I wanted to go out and kill our enemy and be a infantryman, and there was no opportunity, so I got out, and then two years later, September 11th happened, a day we all remember very well.

Zachary G:

That was right about the time that I met my wife, and decided at that point, I’m going to really pursue my career in corporate America and try to focus on some of those things that I couldn’t get in the Marine Corps. And joining the fire department was a real experience because I was riddled with a ton of survivor’s guilt, in that I was in the Corps, I got out. Two years later, we have this horrible event that happens. My brothers and sisters are going off to far-off distant lands, taking vengeance to our enemy and justice to them, getting killed. I went to a lot of funerals and looked at those flag-draped coffins and realized that could have been me. I left, and left a hole in my unit, and someone filled that hole, and now they’re dead and I’m not.

Zachary G:

So I had this fever, and again, as I looked at the Spartans, the Marines, it’s never really about them. It’s just about the sense of service. It’s about putting something above you, and serving to get your growth rather than just taking. And when I joined the fire department, it’s funny, because in the Marine Corps, we take stuff that’s really miserable… Or really fun, and we make it as miserable as possible. In the fire service, we take stuff that’s really miserable and we make it as fun as possible. So it was an interesting transition as I moved from the Marines to becoming a firefighter.

Warwick F:

I mean, that’s… Obviously you had no way of knowing when you got out what was going to happen. Your wife could have, as I said, threw down the gauntlet, and obviously as you said in the book, that was a fantastic decision, and you’ve been married many years, and obviously what a blessing that’s been. But you still had this desire to serve, and, “Okay, maybe my time in the Marine Corps is up, but I could serve in the fire department.” You were working at Eli Lilly at the time, so you could still serve, so it seemed like… And that was to lead to future businesses, which obviously you weren’t to know at the time.

Warwick F:

So talk about, there’s sort of another pivot, when you’re working in Eli Lilly and you had to make a decision about being an entrepreneur, and it sounds like you had a boss that was particularly helpful in helping you think things through. So talk about that, one of the certainly key career pivot points, from Eli Lilly into being an entrepreneur.

Zachary G:

That’s a great question, and it’s funny because as I look back, it’s interesting how I’ve come full circle with this, both decision process and what got me to that decision point and ultimately brought me back to it. And I’ll explain that in a second. What I learned at Eli Lilly, it’s all about solutions to problems. So all the problems we had were depression, diabetes, it could be sepsis. Our solutions were not a drug, not a pill, but a brand.

Zachary G:

And what we did with the brand as we first looked at, “Okay, what is the disease? What is the problem? Who are the people that suffer from that disease? How can we help them solve the problem?” We never would show on a commercial that if you take our diabetes, your hemoglobin H1c’s would go down. We would show a grandfather now playing with his grandchildren, because that’s ultimately what the solution was.

Zachary G:

So in that light, I was just such a fan of marketing and how we provide solutions to problems. However, it’s a very large company, tremendous bureaucracy, tremendous procedures. You not only had the typical bureaucracy and process that you have in corporate America, but we had the FDA also, and all the legal and medical and compliance issues.

Zachary G:

Every time I’d come up with a great idea, it would take six to nine months to just get vetted, and by the time it was vetted, it was so different than what I wanted to do, and it was so neutered, to the point that it wasn’t even a great idea anymore. And I was just like, “One day, I’m going to do my own thing.”

Zachary G:

So my journey to entrepreneurship, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know when and how and what it would look like. But during my early times in the fire service, I got lost in a fire. It was a horrifying experience. Couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. And as soon as I got out, I wanted to find a way to solve that problem.

Zachary G:

And what I came up with was this glow-in-the-dark material that glowed so bright and for so long, and I worked with a couple people to put it into different materials, like helmets and tools, and I started selling it out of the trunk of my car the more it started to take off. And that really was the basis of the company.

Zachary G:

Now, what I would do is I wouldn’t talk about glow-in-the-dark material and how long it glowed for. What I would do is I’d go to a fire station, I’d have all my samples with me, knock on the front door, I’d say, “Hey, I’m Zach, I’m a firefighter from the Cincinnati area. Can we go in the bathroom and turn the lights off together?” And if they didn’t beat me up, they’d usually say, “Oh, well that’s actually cool.”

Zachary G:

And the reason I did that was that dark room, I could show them the problem of disorientation. The fact they didn’t know where they were because there was no windows. And then when I pulled the glow-in-the-dark material out, I could show them the solution to that problem, which is having a visual reference point to orient yourself and to find your way out.

Zachary G:

My story comes full circle in the fact that as the company started to grow, and it grew rapidly, grew very quickly outside of my capability, I missed the fact that I didn’t have a team of people that I could bounce ideas off of. I missed the fact that I didn’t have an HR department that could vet the ideas. A legal department to talk with if there was a liability.

Zachary G:

And it turns out all that stuff that I hated at Eli Lilly, bureaucracy and procedure, was what I missed in my entrepreneurial journey, because I didn’t have that support structure, those things that were put together. So there is a reason for that. When I was at that low level, as a sales manager and as a trainer, I couldn’t see it. But when I was the CEO and the founder, and ultimately I was the one that was going to get sued, I really realized what a credible process that was, that they built over that last century, of bureaucracy, procedures and the process.

Gary S:

So the lesson there is, bureaucracy is not in and of itself a crucible, right? I mean, bureaucracy can be quite a help. It’s not a bad thing necessarily if you apply it in the right way, for sure.

Zachary G:

It just depends on where you look at the problem. If you’re looking at a very selfish point, and that you want your idea, then yes, it’s a problem. But if you’re looking for the greater good, which is how can we help our company accomplish their mission, how can we ultimately help our patients have better outcomes, it’s not about you. You’re part of that program, and that team, and that bureaucracy and that procedure is actually a good thing.

Zachary G:

And then the same thing in our government. People say, “Oh, well, DC’s so messed up.” No, it’s not. It is a amazing process that they put in place to make things go through procedures and committees, and get voted and filibustered. That’s all there for a reason, so that when we finally have a law or we finally have a product, it’s been vetted, it’s been looked at from all those different areas. It’s frustrating to go through the process sometimes, because we’re a generation of immediacy, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of value in that.

Warwick F:

Yeah. It sounds like that was maybe a first crucible, or certainly a crucible in which at one point I think you were vacationing in Hawaii with the family and got a call that, “Hey, we can’t meet payroll,” and you had some financial challenges. I think you write in the book that the vast majority of startups fail. I don’t know if it’s 90%, but it’s a massive number.

Warwick F:

But it sounds like you did what most entrepreneurs don’t, that you realized you’re a good founder and entrepreneur, but maybe not the day-to-day executive, because those skills are just radically different. Typically a founder or entrepreneur clings on too tightly, says, “This is my baby. I started it in my garage. I’m not giving up the keys of the kingdom,” and ultimately they fail.

Warwick F:

But you were wise enough to say, “I’m going to do what I can do. I’m going to be the cheerleader. I’m going to lead the charge, be the visionary, but I’m going to have others manage it day-to-day.” So how did you make that change? Because you went where most entrepreneurs don’t. It takes a level of humility, courage and common sense. How did you make that pivot?

Zachary G:

So, before we can get into that, we really have to look at what the warrior’s journey and how critical the crucible is during that journey. My first crucible, actually, and it’s kind of amazing that I’m sitting here, happened a couple hundred feet behind me on the parade deck. And that was about week three or four into training, when I kept messing up, and again, these other kids that had all those challenges, they weren’t getting the fact that I literally missed my mom. I was crying at night. It was difficult, because they break you down, you’re so emotional.

Zachary G:

And I remember me messing up on something, the drill instructor leaning over me and saying, “I knew you were a failure. I knew you weren’t going to make it.” And then he said those words that cut so deeply. He said, “Your mommy’s not here to help you.” And that was the time I realized I didn’t have all those benefits that my parents gave me, and I got crushed. I fell into my crucible.

Zachary G:

Now, in the crucible, there’s two parts to the crucible. At the bottom of the crucible is the abyss. And as the great philosopher Nietzsche once said, if you stare long enough into the abyss, eventually the abyss will stare back. And what that means is, the abyss will consume you.

Zachary G:

If you spend long enough in a drug or alcohol problem, a bad relationship, a bad company, a bad job, or whatever, the longer you’re there, the harder it is for you to transform and get out of it. But you have to respect the crucible and honor it, and recognize that it’s dangerous and it’s bad. Just don’t go too far into it. Just like if you’re walking along the sidewalk and this big truck comes by, that truck will kill you if you step out there, but just don’t spend too much time spinning out in the middle of the street. Recognize it.

Zachary G:

So then the other side of the crucible becomes the process you have to do, and there’s two things to get outside of your crucible. Number one, you have to conquer it. You don’t survive it. You don’t ride it through. You conquer it. You have to destroy what got you to that point. And a lot of times that destruction is the self-talk, the people that told you weren’t good enough, the environments that you put you in that just wasn’t healthy.

Zachary G:

And then the last part of the crucible is, you have to transform. So let’s go back to your original question, Warwick, and that is, what happened when I got that phone call? So I knew up to that point, my company was making a lot of revenue, but we weren’t making a lot of profit. I was the bottleneck. Every decision had to come through me.

Zachary G:

I had a great team of 10, 15 people, and it wasn’t the big decisions that were difficult. It was a bunch of small decisions every day, and some of those were financial in basis. Do we pay this bill or do we go ahead and sit on that one and pay this bill? Do we call this person up and ask them for our money because they’re a couple days late, or do we wait on it? And none of that was happening.

Zachary G:

So I go on vacation. I tell my CFO, “Whatever you do, do not call me.” I want to really check out and just be present for my family that I’ve neglected these last couple of years as I grew this company, and guess what happens? He calls me, and I remember his words, and more importantly, I remember his tone of voice, very somber, saying, “Zach, I’m sorry to inform you, but there is no way out of this. We are going to have to liquidate, and when you come back, we need to talk about bankruptcy options.”

Zachary G:

Now, for me, it wasn’t just that I was losing my dream. It was that I was letting my firefighter brothers and sisters down because I couldn’t produce this lifesaving product. The bank was going to foreclose on my house, because at that point in time, I had spent all my money and I had to use my house as collateral.

Zachary G:

I would have to go through the humility of going bankrupt and being known in our area as somewhat a celebrity entrepreneur and look at how far I fell. And at that time, that’s when the abyss started to really come into focus for me. I thought I was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a panic attack. I dropped down to my knees. I can’t breathe. I could feel tightness in my chest. I could feel electrical currents shooting down my arm. Everything they taught me in the fire service that if someone presents with that, you take them immediately to the hospital.

Zachary G:

And what my wife said as she was leaning over me was, “Look, you’re having a panic attack. You’re not having a heart attack. You need to go out and relax.” So in this crucible, so real, one is, I could quit. I could kill myself, because I thought… I wasn’t suicidal at the time, but I thought, if I killed myself, I know the company’s got a $3 million life insurance policy, and that could be a way out. When you’re in a crisis, all options become visible. You will never, ever think of an option like that until you’re in that crucible, in that crisis.

Zachary G:

The other option was, “I got to transform and change.” So, thank goodness my CFO was able to dance to the raindrops. We were able to make payroll. We were able to avoid that situation. We got a short-term bridge loan. And the first thing I did is I said, “Look, I got to make the change, and the change is, I’m going to step down as CEO and I’m going to hire a CEO.”

Zachary G:

And what happened is instead of having a bottleneck like that, the bottleneck went like this, and I was able to, just like you said, Warwick, be the cheerleader, be the founder, be the visionary. This is so important because a year later, COVID happens. And at that point in time, within 48 hours, I was able to convert our whole entire manufacturing process to, instead of making exit signs, we were going to make Lucite barriers for people that needed them in their offices.

Zachary G:

In addition to that, I launched a multimillion-dollar brand within 48 hours and became Home Depot’s number one distributor of COVID protective products in a very short period of time because my bandwidth allowed me to focus on what entrepreneurs like you and I do best, which is innovation, creativity, excite everybody else up around that. Had I been the CEO, I would’ve been so focused on money and HR and what we were going to do about renting our new …, I would’ve never been able to have that opportunity.

Warwick F:

I want listeners to hear what Zach has just said because for a lot of entrepreneurs or even people in larger companies, it’s knowing what your strengths are, and knowing the value of a team. And obviously, as you know better than I, the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

Warwick F:

You probably had really talented folks in personnel and development and marketing and sales and management, and you leveraged all of them in doing what you do best. There’s a phrase that somebody told me once, don’t do what you’re merely good at, do what you’re great at. But what you’re great at is being the visionary, the cheerleader, the entrepreneur. You might have been good at some of the other things, but why not let people who are great at it, rather than merely good at it?

Warwick F:

So you had that, I would say also part of the warrior kind of mentality. Each person probably in a team, even in the military, has different strengths, different skills, different backgrounds. Maybe munitions, sharpshooter, I don’t know, you know far more than I do, but you combine the different skills in a cohesive unit.

Warwick F:

And maybe that sense of teamwork and that management structure you built probably served you well for probably a very recent crucible in December 2020, when you got COVID. As all listeners would know, because we’re all very familiar with this, this was before vaccines. From what I understand, you were careful. It wasn’t like you were doing crazy things, but stuff happens, and some of your family got it and they bounced back, but you didn’t bounce back so easily, so talk about that crucible, because that was a massive one.

Zachary G:

We talk a lot about the crucible. You talk about it, I talk about it, but it’s a metaphor. I actually had the physical crucible. Let me explain what happened. I got COVID, everyone in my family got it. Now, I never get sick. I never missed school for being sick. Never got the cold, nothing. I figure I’m invincible.

Zachary G:

Within 24 hours of getting COVID, I started to feel a level of nausea that I cannot explain, 10 times worse than anything I’ve ever experienced, and it lasted for about 10 days. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was delirious. I was hallucinating. And the only issue my son and my wife had is they lost their taste buds, and so they went through a whole bottle of Tabasco sauce in one week, which, for your listeners, it usually takes about 10 years to go through a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

Zachary G:

All of a sudden I got a tickle on my chest. That tickle changed from a tickle to an uncomfortable cough, and before you know it, I was having a hard time breathing. My wife called the doctor. The doctor said, “Take him to the hospital.” She starts backing the car out. I said, “Honey, it’s not going to be the car. Call 911.” And thank God they did that, because by the time I got in the ambulance, my pulse ox was about to 80. Just for the listeners that are non-medical, anything below 98 on your pulse oxygen is serious. When you get into the low 90s, you’re really having a hard time breathing. I was in the 80s.

Zachary G:

By the time I got into the emergency room, which, by the way, there was like 20 other beds that were lined up in the hallways, they had people lined up in the waiting rooms, I was in the high 60s, and my heart rate was starting to fall. Thank God they found out that that was the case. They immediately triaged me and sent me up to the ICU, put me on a external ventilator, and I stopped breathing. And ultimately, my heart rate… I don’t think I flatlined, but I think I got down to like the teens, and I had a very intimate, visceral experience with death.

Zachary G:

I’ve been around death a lot in my life, between the Marine Corps and the fire service. I’ve seen it, I’ve almost dodged it a couple times, but nothing like this. The intimacy of falling down this black hole, and at the bottom of it was the abyss, that was that crucible, and the abyss wasn’t black. It was a color darker than black, a color I can’t even comprehend and explain.

Zachary G:

And I remember thinking, if I could get to the bottom of the abyss, I could stop breathing, they could put the tube down my throat and breathe for me, and I could get this needed… This break. I needed a break. I just couldn’t breathe anymore. And obviously I was getting down there, I started hearing everyone yelling, “Zach, you got to breathe, you got to come back to us.” I thought about all those crucibles that happened to me in my life before, and the warrior, and that I had so much more to give, and just did every effort in my fiber to just breathe. You don’t realize how difficult it is to breathe until you lose that gift.

Zachary G:

And when I came back and was able to ultimately… I unfortunately went through that three different times until I finally was able to make the turn, but that gave me a power and a fire that is in me now to really give back and honor God for giving me this other opportunity to be alive and survive that crucible that made all those other crucibles literally nothing.

Warwick F:

And it seemed like, out of that crucible, and you write about this, and I totally agree, when you go through that almost life-ending crucible, it makes you think, “Okay, I’ve got these successful businesses. They’re serving firefighters and protecting people from COVID.” I mean, the exit signs if the lights go out. I mean, you’re doing well, but you’re doing well by doing good. You are serving people.

Warwick F:

That’s obviously always been what Zach Green is about, but yet you had this notion coming out of COVID that you wanted to write this book, Warrior Entrepreneur. And I’d love to get into that now, but how did that happen? Just, you’re trying to get out of COVID, you’re finally starting to get better, you just had this notion, “I want to write this book.” What led you to want to write that book?

Zachary G:

So as I went through this journey, everyone said, “Well, you got to write a book. This is a great story,” before COVID. And I remember talking to an editor, and he said, “Zach, I’m sorry, but other than your mom and your wife, no-one’s going to buy your book, unless your name is something crazy, like Barack Obama or Beyoncé or something.”

Zachary G:

So I started to put together just some collections of essays and blog posts and just very loosely had it. When I was in the darkness of the abyss in the hospital, I was making very long, lengthy Facebook posts, because I really thought I was going to die. There was no question in my mind.

Zachary G:

And one of my favorite quotes was the wonderful poem, Invictus, from one of your countrymen in Australia, that talks about being the master of your own domain, and being able to conquer all the challenges that happen to you, and not what happens to you, but how you conquer it.

Zachary G:

So all these essays that I started to write on Facebook, that started to get shared virally, I mean, some of them had thousands upon thousands of shares. And when I got home, I just started writing, and the words just flowed from there, and I was able to complete the whole entire book in probably a couple weeks.

Zachary G:

Now, when the book was done and I started go back and rereading it, it was not good. It was one of the books that, if I read it, I would throw it away after 10 pages. But that’s where the editorial process comes in, with a team of incredible editors, about five different editors. Some are in content, some are in syntax, some are in typesetting, some are just in punctuation. They were able to massage the words. They didn’t really add much on. They took a lot out, rearranged things, and ultimately got us to the book that you have in front of you now.

Warwick F:

I mean, that’s incredible. I know there’s editing, but two weeks, my gosh, I mean, I started my book in like 2008, and took years to write in part because I was writing about some of the dumbest mistakes I made growing up as, obviously, listeners know, in a 150-year-old very large family media business in Australia. But wow, that’s impressive.

Warwick F:

I want to get into some of the specifics in the book because there’s so much here that is really good. One of the first quotes I see is from Walt Disney, and you’ve got, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” I mean, that’s an amazing statement from Walt Disney, that I’d not heard before, so talk about why that inspired you.

Zachary G:

Well, here you’ve got Walt Disney, who is literally the king of happiness. Everything he does, his why, is about providing happiness. So you assume that he’s had a really happy life, but he didn’t. Before he created Mickey Mouse, he had issues with being a cartoonist where he either… I don’t know what the story was, he either lost a cartoon or something happened. A lot of hardship.

Zachary G:

What he did was so incredible in Orlando, he bought swampland, and he recognized that in order for him to do what he needed to do, he had to not only buy the land, he had to create his own pseudo-government, his own electric, his own plumbing, his own water and everything. And it was setback after setback after setback.

Zachary G:

So when a man that is the embodiment of happiness and smiles and fantasy had gotten his you-know-what handed to him and needing that kick in the face, it shows you that on the outside, what you see is just the pretty. You don’t see all the stuff that goes into it and what it takes to build that up.

Zachary G:

And those stories continue on for people like Elon Musk, and we all think he’s this multi-billionaire and great guy, but the reality is, Elon Musk had a lot of challenges along the way. Richard Branson. We can just go on and on and on. And what happens with warriors, and the 10% that do succeed, because again, 90% of businesses fail within the first 10 years, are the ones that use that adversity to learn from it and to grow from it rather than make themselves feel sorry that it happened to them.

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean, that’s such a great point. It’s funny, Walt Disney also was one of my heroes and I think what you’re referring to, certainly one key crisis is, he had this cartoon about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and some unscrupulous New York distributor, I think it was like in the ’20s, the guy was an… Walt Disney was an animator. He’s not like a legal guy.

Warwick F:

And he had this fine print in the contract that basically said, “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is mine,” and behind his back, he pretty much stole a lot of his key animators, this guy. So you would think Walt Disney is devastated. He gets on the train, it’s the ’20s, you don’t fly back then. Well, not easily. And he’s on the train from New York to California.

Warwick F:

And rather than getting morose, here he is with his wife, Lilly, I think her name was, and he starts doodling on a napkin three circles that turns into a mouse. And he says to his wife, “What do you think about Mortimer the mouse?” And she says, “How about Mickey, Mickey Mouse?” So really, it illustrates your point is, most people would say, “Look, I put my heart and soul into Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. My team has literally become traitors, they’ve betrayed me and gone to the enemy. I’m done.”

Warwick F:

But no, I mean, nobody’s ever heard of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Everybody’s heard of Mickey Mouse, so he really exemplifies what you’re saying, that grit, that, “Okay, I’ve got a kick in the teeth. I was betrayed by my team and my business partner. I’m not giving up.” So, I mean, there’s story after story of these successful folks, it’s not the absence of pain, it’s knowing how to deal with it, which is such a great example.

Gary S:

And I’m going to jump in as an advocate for the reader to say, do you hear things, listener, that you’ve heard before from Warwick? I mean, Warwick’s book, as he just mentioned, talks about Mickey Mouse, and there are things… We’re going to go on and talk more here about Zach’s book, but just in the contents of Zach’s book, as he’s talking about what makes a warrior entrepreneur, here are some of the concepts, think of what you’ve heard on this podcast, what you’ve read in Warwick’s book as well, to see if there’s some commonality here.

Gary S:

Teamwork. Purpose. Adaptability. Don’t give up. Sacrifice. Morality and serenity. These are… One person can luck out and create it, and it may be true, it may not be true. If you’ve got a couple of people with varied backgrounds who focus in on these things, who focus in on the fact that adversity, that crucibles, that they don’t define you, they don’t stop you. You can move beyond them. You can move, not just past them, you can obliterate them and create a new life of significance for yourself. That begins to add gravitas and truth. And it’s not just one person.

Gary S:

My mom used to tell me all the time, “If one person says you’re, [fill in the bad word that I won’t say on the air here,] it’s a difference of opinion. If two or three people say it, it’s probably true.” Well, what you’re hearing, listener, is two or three people, two people right here. Warwick and Zach are saying some of the same things, and it’s that your crucible doesn’t define you and it doesn’t stop you.

Warwick F:

Amen.

Zachary G:

Gary, thank you for sharing that, and Warwick, if I could just piggyback off of that story around Walt Disney, there’s only one way that an entrepreneur and a founder can fail. There’s just one way, and it’s to give up. As long as you’re willing to have the courage to go into the danger and to keep trying and keep focusing on reinventing yourself, this concept of failing forward, where it’s better to fail multiple times and keep moving in that same direction than it is to do nothing.

Zachary G:

But eventually there does come a time when it’s just not worth it anymore. The personal sacrifices, the emotional sacrifices, the financial sacrifices are not enough, and that’s when you say, “I’m done.” And that’s okay, because that probably means that’s going to lead you to something else, or it’s going to make you a better person in that other area.

Zachary G:

But knowing that Disney could have quit, but instead of quitting, he used that as a way… And it’s funny you say this, Warwick, because I’ve done business with Disney. They are the most hardcore brutal, almost to the point of evil, when it comes to enforcing their copyright and their IP. And I imagine a lot of that goes back to the days where you can’t even mention that you met with Disney, it’s so strict on how they protect their IP nowadays.

Warwick F:

Oh, that’s so good. So I want to get into, there’s a few pages where… Well, a lot of pages, actually, where you talk about the whole warrior metaphor and crucible. And I don’t use that image in my book, because my background is different than yours, but I absolutely can identify with the metaphor.

Warwick F:

So, just going to read just a few little bits that talk about, to me, the heart of some of what’s in your book. You say that “A warrior’s journey typically has a point in which you are tested unlike anything you have ever experienced in your life. A crucible, an event that tests the soul. It is at crucible that the warrior chooses to fail and quit or to dig deep and realize that a transformation has to happen to continue their mission. The crucible can occur in the early phases of training and it can happen again in the execution of your mission. It’s at this terrifying point that a warrior is made.”

Warwick F:

And then you go on and say, “Here’s when you look into the abyss and realize that to make it to the next stage of your mission, you have to disconnect from your past, shed your former self and transform. The warrior sees clarity in the chaos. The warrior stands tall in the face of that chaos and inspires others to be their best self.”

Warwick F:

And later on you talk about when you’re in that crucible and the abyss, that’s when they find their why. I mean, they’re some absolutely key… So talk about that whole notion of the warrior and the crucible and abyss, and how that changes you, because I think it’s really profound stuff.

Zachary G:

What I talked about before, when you’re in that crisis, you’re in that crucible, all options become available. The clarity becomes available. And in first section of my book, I talk a lot about human anatomy and neuroscience, and the way that we’ve been created with sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which is kind of the fight or flight.

Zachary G:

If you or any of your listeners have ever been involved in a car accident, the one thing that happens is, right before the moment of impact, everything slows down. You literally get this like superhuman understanding of, that you can see things, smell things, hear things, similar to the basketball player that’s shooting that free throw and he’s able to tune all that noise out and get into that zone.

Zachary G:

That’s the crucible, that’s the chaos, and a lot of times we want to organize chaos. We want to stop the car right before that impact and tell someone, “Hey, slow down, don’t do that.” But the reality is you can’t, because it’s chaos, and you can’t control that, and it’s happening so fast.

Zachary G:

So what you need to do is embrace the chaos. The example I use is, if you’re a surfer and the wave comes in, you can’t get control a wave. That’s Mother Nature. What you can do is sit there and try to stop the wave, in which case you’re going to get crushed, or you get on your surfboard and you ride the wave, you embrace that chaos, like what I did when we had the pandemic. Instead of saying, “Hey, oh, my God, we’re going to go out of business,” because we would’ve gone out business within a matter of a couple weeks, we said, “Let’s go ahead and do that.” So that’s the first thing, is, don’t put chaos into order, embrace it.

Zachary G:

The second thing is having clarity amongst everybody else in their confusion. And the way you do that is again by absorbing and using the superpowers that your body creates, cortisol, adrenaline, that flood into your system when you’re faced with that emergency situation. Your pupils dilate, your breathing increases, more blood flows to your brain, and being able to utilize those situations.

Zachary G:

So it could be something as simple as getting ready to go into a sales meeting and your computer crashes with your only copy of your presentation. It could be a car accident. It could be a situation like I witnessed firsthand where my friend got attacked by a shark right in front of my house, and seeing the process of what he did to fight the shark off, and what happened after the case.

Zachary G:

So the warrior, because of their experience, are going to be able to handle that emergency situation a lot better than the non-warrior, and anybody can be a warrior. I think some of the greatest warriors are the mom that’s working two jobs just to hold things together, because they’ve handled so much adversity and so many things that when the guy knocks on the door and says, “Hey, rent’s due,” where that would crush most people, they’d be like, “Okay, we’ll figure it out. We’ll work through that.” And not everyone’s cut out to be a warrior, and that’s okay. We, the warriors need that support structure and that inspiration and everything else around that.

Warwick F:

Absolutely. I love all your quotes and stories. You’ve got another great one, many ones, but by Thomas Edison. A reporter asked Edison, how did it feel to fail a thousand times? Edison stated, “I didn’t fail a thousand times.” He’s talking about different filaments for inventing the light bulb. “The light bulb was an invention with a thousand steps.” Edison went on to say, “Great success is built on failure, frustration, and even catastrophe,” and you write, “Thomas Edison recognized the same thing that warriors recognize: adversity, failure and resistance are all keys to growth needed for success.”

Warwick F:

So one of the things we talk about in Crucible Leadership is when you go through a crucible, you have a choice. You’ll either hide under the covers, complain, whine and say, “This is unfair,” and eventually, after 30, 40, 50 years or more, life will end for all of us. Or you can say, “This was unfair. I was an idiot,” which is more in my case, I was an idiot, “but okay, how do I bounce back? How do I use what I’ve been through to serve others?” And that’s really what you are talking about is, adversity isn’t the end point. It certainly wasn’t for Thomas Edison, all these stories paint a similar picture, right?

Zachary G:

You go to the gym and you say, “Well, I don’t want to have any adversity, so I’m just going to sit here for an hour in the gym and do nothing,” you haven’t helped your body. But you get on the treadmill and you push yourself, and you lift heavy weights, which is hard, you’re creating adversity, that’s going to grow your muscles. And that’s the exact same thing that happens along that warrior’s journey, is that concept of using adversity to help you grow and to do that.

Zachary G:

The other thing is, it feels so much better when you get to that win and that point, when you struggle to get there, than it does if it just comes easy. If you’re playing a video game and you use all the cheat codes and you just blow right through the video game, that’s one thing. But if you’re playing a video game and you’re able to really work and build yourself up, that creates a whole nother process.

Warwick F:

Yeah, that’s so well said. I mean, I love everything you have about abyss and crucible stuff. You’ve got, “When you’re at the darkest moments, you find yourself in your crucible and realize that to make it to the next step in your life’s mission, you have to disconnect from your past, shed your former self and transform.”

Warwick F:

I mean, you’ve lived that. You had a crisis of your company all going bankrupt. “I’ve got to transform. I’ve got to let go, not micromanage, bring in a professional team.” When you went through COVID, okay, you still kept all your businesses, but you’re going to transform and pivot, and write a book. So you’ve lived that, when you’ve gone through the abyss, each time it’s had a profound effect on your life and career, right?

Zachary G:

Well, and if I could leave one last thing with your listeners, and that is, don’t feel sorry if bad things happen. Don’t pity yourself if you didn’t have enough money growing up, or your mom and dad didn’t give you enough love, or somebody got promoted above you. That’s what happens to you, and you can’t control what happens to you. You can control how you react to it, and I know that statement is almost to the point of overused and cliché, but it is so, so true.

Zachary G:

You have a decision every day to decide, “Is this going to make me stronger or is this going to make me weaker?” And even the people that you find that struggle with cancer or something like that, instead of saying, “Oh, woe is me, there’s a problem,” they tend to live a more fuller life when they’ve conquered it or as they’re going through that. And that’s just the one thing I would ask everyone to challenge themselves, is to look at all the things in your life that you think are difficult and bad, and use those as a force to help grow and to make you stronger and better, and accomplish whatever your life’s missions may be.

Gary S:

Now, here’s a situation that’s bad for me as the co-host of this show. This is the time where I usually say the captain’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign, but I’m aware that I’m not talking to someone who’s like at the Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, and I have no idea about how to… I wasn’t in the military, so I don’t know how to use a clever phrase. So I’m just going to say, yes, the captain’s turned on the fasten seatbelt sign, and it’s going to be time to land this civilian plane on the ground here in a bit. However, before we do that, I would be remiss, Zach, if I didn’t give you the chance to tell our listeners how they can learn more about you, and very importantly, buy your book. So, how can they find you online?

Zachary G:

Yeah, so if I can use a Marine term, we call it popping smoke.

Gary S:

Okay.

Zachary G:

So when we’re on a mission and we’re ready to get extricated out of the mission, we’ll pop a smoke grenade, and that means, “Hey, we’re getting out of the zone.” So instead of landing the craft, we’re at the point where we’re popping smoke. Yeah, so this is where you get a hold of me.

Gary S:

I’m so lame, I should have asked you that beforehand.

Zachary G:

No worries. LinkedIn, I’m very active on LinkedIn. I think that’s the way that I actually met you guys.

Gary S:

Right.

Zachary G:

My website is warriorentrepreneurbook.com, and if you go to warriorentrepreneurbook.com and type in the coupon code PODCAST2021, podcast 2-0-2-1, you can actually get a copy of the book for 50% off, and I’ll go ahead and personalize it for you also. The last thing I’d ask all of your listeners is at the end of that, there’s a Contact us information page there. Please, please, please put in your number, your name, your email, your address. I am launching a Warrior Framework program that is going to be very multifaceted. It’s going to include online training. There’ll be workbooks, there’ll be exercises, there’ll be one-on-one coaching opportunity with me.

Zachary G:

And ultimately, it’s really designed more for people that want to either start a business or grow a business, but it can be for anybody else, and I’m creating a unique way, in that it’s going to be a journey. So think of it as like a board game, and you’re going to start off in the board and going through certain modules, and every time you make it through a module, you’re going to get a pin, an award, kind of like in the Boy Scouts, a patch.

Zachary G:

And the goal with that is ultimately to create this warrior movement that I would love to investigate ways that maybe we could all work together in utilizing the crucible concept and the crucible training to create seminars, workshops, training material. Think of it as like the warrior university. That’s getting ready to launch here in the next month or so, and I’m looking for beta users, so people that want to buy into the course at a very discounted rate in exchange for helping me coach me and creating that best material for your fellow warriors.

Warwick F:

Wow. Well, thank you so much, Zach. I really appreciate you being there, and I love the whole concept of Warrior Entrepreneur, and as you… There might be listeners, maybe today is not a good day for them. What’s a word of hope you’d say if today’s the day when the abyss, the crucible at its worst, what’s a key message you want folks to hear as they try to move forward?

Zachary G:

So the first thing is just this mantra, it’s going to get better. It will get better. You’ve got to have faith and confidence of knowing that it will get better, even if you don’t know what that answer is. It’s okay not to see that finish line, to be able to know that it will get better, it’ll be stronger.

Zachary G:

And then the second thing I will tell people is, you got to help other people out on this journey. You can’t just do it yourself. You can’t just have a mentor. You need to be a mentor. And at all the times during my career path, I was both a mentor to other people and had a mentor myself, and I continue to do that. So I would just… Guess I would ask that you never know what other journeys and crucibles other people are going through, and be here to help them out in addition to getting people to help you out too.

Gary S:

I’ve been in the communications business long enough, not the warrior business, but the communications business, long enough to know when the last word’s been spoken on a subject, and Zach, you just spoke the last word on our podcast episode. I’m going to leave you, listener, with one of the quotes that Warwick didn’t read. And it’s fascinating if you, if you’ve listened to the show a few times, you know that I’m usually the guy that’s pulling out quotes and reading them to people, and it’s fascinating to me, and you should be very proud of this, Zach, that Warwick was reading your quotes, because he doesn’t do that often on the show. He was truly moved, I think, and again, I think it speaks to the fact that you guys speak the same language.

Gary S:

But here’s a quote which I really liked, because the subject of the quote is from a guy who knows a lot about the subject, and the quote’s from Arnold Schwarzenegger, and here’s what you quote him as saying in your book, Warrior Entrepreneur. “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength,” and that is truth, listener.

Gary S:

So thank you for spending in this time with us on Beyond the Crucible, and until the next time we are together, please remember what we’ve talked about on this episode with Zach Green, and that is, your crucible experiences are painful, for sure. They can change the trajectory of your life. They can put you in the midst of an abyss, and you can feel like you want to stare in that abyss, and that abyss can maybe pull you in. You can break through it. As Zach said, you really have to kind of go to war with your crucible. You have to take it on. You have to confront it. You have to move beyond it. You have to blow it up, and those things that are holding you back, you have to find a way to move beyond them.

Gary S:

And the reason why you do that is because when you do that, it’s not the end of your story. Your crucible’s not the end of your story. When you learn the lessons of them, when you escape the abyss that is at the bottom of them, that leads to the best story of your life. And the reason it’s the best story of your life is found in the life of what Zach’s described today, what Warwick has described in every episode, and that is a life of significance.