Josh Levs Shares His Path to Becoming an Award-Winning CNN and NPR Journalist and More.

Show Notes

CNN and NPR Award-Winning Journalist Josh Levs on preparing to interview guests, why he doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions and much more.

Book: All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together

  1. Thrive Nation on today’s show we have the opportunity to interview a man who spent 20 years working as an award-winning journalist for NPR and CNN. And he is the author of the award-winning book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together. Josh Levs, welcome onto the Thrivetime Show. How are you sir?!
  2. Today you’ve become known as an award-winning author and before that, you earned your reputation as an award-winning journalist. But, I would like to start at the very beginning. I’d love for you to share your college experience and when you first decided that you wanted to become a journalist?
    1. I’m am from upstate New York
    2. I did a lot in communications and focused on becoming a better communicator.
    3. I decided to move to Atlanta after school and showed up to the public radio station doing anything.
  3. Yale:
    1. I grew up in a family where it was expected to go to an Ivy League college
    2. I decided in high school that I would do my best and enjoy my high school life.
    3. I had all the grades I needed and made it into Yale while also enjoying my high school career
    4. One decision I made in 8th grade is to give myself many options
      1. It was a weekend
      2. I had 3 bigs tests that week and I decided that there were 2 routes I could go.
        1. Mail it in or give my absolute best
      3. I decided to give my absolute best
      4. That decision paved the way for my entire career
  4. Atlanta:
  5. Interning:
    1. I didn’t have an official internship at first
    2. I just showed up and offered to volunteer
    3. I also started selling tickets at a comedy club at night to buy food
    4. Atlanta had a club called “The Punchline”
    5. I just showed up from riding the bus and they let me do the job
    6. I pushed really hard and I finally find a shot on the air and squeezed my way in
    7. I started doing 8 reports per day because when you are given an opportunity, take it and run with it.
    8. The first time I tried recording, it was awful.
    9. I learned that I always would have to push myself and that way, when I got on the air, I became a national reporter right away.
    10. When I went national, I made sure I had the toughest editors so I could learn
  6. Josh, what was your first reporting job out of college?
  7. Josh Levs, when do you feel that your reporting began to gain traction?
  8. Josh, what was your process for researching, reporting and writing your stories?
    1. It is a lot of work for what is a few minutes on air
    2. I try to cast a wide net
    3. If there is a story that interests me, I look at what has been done on it and I do it differently
    4. I always go into a story without assuming that I know anything that way I don’t miss out on any facts
    5. I would love to interview any president
    6. I am really for facts above opinions
    7. I fact check republicans regularly and Trump has a different kind of false information that he puts out in the world
    8. I would also dive into his personal life experiences because there is a lot of different things that presidents do that we don’t see
    9. I never get nervous asking tough questions because it is what I do
    10. If you’re going to get the facts, you can’t worry about what people think about it
  9. You covered so many interesting topics over the years, what was the most memorable story that you ever covered and why?
    1. In some ways it is stories that no one is talking about
    2. NPR
      1. A gathering of black churches in America that had a big gathering.
      2. I was the only national reporter there
      3. I knew that there would be moments like this that people would never know about if I wasn’t there
    3. I once interviewed a man named Marcel Marceau who is the world’s greatest mime.
  10. How big of an impact would a real time fact checker at all presidential debates?
    1. It would make a huge deal
    2. If we could see that both sides are typically lying it would be a game changer
  11. As you look back on your 20 years of reporting for NPR and CNN, what are you most proud of?
  12. Josh Levs, Gillette recently released a commercial “We believe” that is stirring quite a bit of controversy on masculinity. What are your thoughts on this ad?
    2. I covered and wrote a book on modern fatherhood
    3. I wrote something on Linkedin and this is it:
      1. The problem I had with the ad is that it portrays all men as wrong.
      2. Stylistically, it doesn’t work that way.
      3. Most dads and men are in the right place and not these backwards cavemen who support bad action.
  13. Josh, for anybody out there listening today that is considering wanting to become a journalist and reporter, what career advice would you give them?
  14. Josh, what first inspired you to write the book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together?
    1. I was covering fatherhood on the air and we would get incredible responses.
    2. Then I had a legal battle with Time Warner because of their parental policies
    3. I wrote the book about the modern workplace
    4. The modern workplace was developed in the mad-man era that assumes that the mother always stays home
    5. Giving families choices for who can work, the mother or the father, allows the economy to grow.
    6. My wife was a writer and editor until we had our first child and stayed home
    7. She was ready to go back to work and take on a part time job
    8. That is when I decided to be the primary caregiver for our children and stay home.
  15. How much hate did you receive from the controversy that you caused?
    1. Anyone who is giving hate needs to get out of their bubble
    2. There was actually not much hate
    3. A lot of the feedback was very positive
    4. Some people think I am just lazy for wanting to go home and take care of my kids
  16. Josh, why do you believe that your books resonate with so many people?
    1. Book: All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together
    2. The facts are there and it brings people together
    3. Men are a lot better than society shows them to be
  17. Josh, you come across as a very intentional and proactive guy. How do you typically spend the first four hours of your days?
    1. I wake up at 5:00am
    2. I check my email
    3. I take my kids to school
    4. I design my day for the next few hours and give myself deadlines
    5. I give myself things that I have to get done
    6. After I get those things done I start preparing for my next day
  18. Josh Levs, where are you physically located when you are planning out your day?
    1. At home
  19. Josh, you come across as a very well-read person, what are 1 or 2 books that you would recommend that all of our listeners should read?
    1. Hillbilly Elegy
    2. When They Call You a Terrorist

“Facts Before Opinions”

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Audio Transcription

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On today’s show, the award-winning CNN and NPR journalist Josh Lips explains his path to becoming an award-winning journalist. He explains his process for preparing for interviewing guests. Why he never shies away from asking him to tough questions. He also explains why he agrees with me. Now, real time fact checking of all candidates during televised debates would be a good thing and it explains why he believes our work. First culture often fails dads.

Thrive based on today’s show, we are interviewing a man who has spent 20 years working as an award-winning journalist for NPR and CNN. He’s also the award-winning. He’s the author of the award-winning book. All in how our work first culture fails, dads, families and businesses and how we can fix it together. Mr Josh Levs, welcome onto the show. Sir. How are you?

I’m doing great. I’m happy to be here. How are you?

Well, I tell you what typically, uh, we don’t interview a lot of award-winning journalists. We’ve had a lot of award-winning authors, which you are one, but an award-winning journalist. I’d like, I’d like to start off at the bottom before you earned the reputation as the award-winning journalists that you are, where did it all start? My friend. I talked to us about your college experience and kind of when you got the passion to become a journalist.

Yeah, sure. Yeah. So I’m originally from upstate New York and then I went to Yale, so I was going to advocate. Uh, my wife teases me because there weren’t a lot of like professional majors there. So journalism, at least at the time, wasn’t an optional major. But I did a lot in communications. I studied communications than I did a lot outside of classes and we had some magazines and newspapers there that I just stuff for and, and I’m mostly, I was just getting to be a better and better communicator and I knew I wanted to go into broadcasting afterwards. I just didn’t really tell anybody. No, I got what experiences I could in college. Um, and I felt good. And then when I graduated I said, okay, I’m going to pick up, I’m going to move to Atlanta because this is a while ago. The Olympics were about to happen. I said, okay, I’m going to find my way onto the radio down there. So I moved to Atlanta, showed up at the public radio station and said, hey, I’ll do anything. I’ll take out the trash, I’ll volunteer. And after a handful of months, I found a shot. I’m the air and they liked me and I got to make a career out of it. It, it worked out.

I would to go back

to before the internship. You, you just kind of glanced over it, but you went to Yale. Rumor has it, they don’t let just anybody into Yale. Uh, maybe they used to, but right now, I mean, you gotta have pretty stringent academic certifications. Qualifications. Was that a goal of yours? To always do? It was to get into Yale. You know, I definitely grew up in a family in which it was expected that I would go to college and often they would push, you know, Ivy League and big name schools. But I also remember making a decision in high school that I wasn’t going to worry about it then. It wasn’t going to live out my high school years for college. I just decided in high school that I was going to do my best and try to enjoy the time. And part of what I enjoyed doing is doing pretty well in school, doing well, but also getting involved in a lot of activities and staying busy. And as a result, I kind of live in my high school career my way. And fortunately I had the sat scores and the grades and all that stuff and yes, it’s, it’s elite and it’s tough to get into. And I also had the benefits of being in a family that prize education and the had taught me really good study habits as well.

Josh Levs, I had never, I’ve never gone to Yale. And A, we’ve got a half million listeners out there listening right now who, you know, some of them wanted to go to Yale, they want to go to Ivy League school. Can you, can you help us with the study habits that your parents taught you? Maybe just to kind of a little bit of an overview because I know there’s somebody out there listening who’s under the age of 18. We have, it looks like about 10% of our listeners are under the age of 18. Right now from what we can tell. What study habits did you, did your, did your parents teach you that you think allowed you to get into Yale?

Yeah, I’ll tell you one lesson and that’s a decision that I made in eighth grade and I was, I was raised to understand that doing well, it’s important because the better you do, the better you would, um, the more options you would have in the future. So that was something that I knew. And so, you know, grades and doing well in school and being empowered in school. My parents were good about that. If there was a problem with a teacher, they took it seriously. They believed me, you know, and we’ve worked at things out together, but I made a decision in eighth grade and ultimately it was my decision, the way that it’s ultimately this decision of all your young listeners, how well they’re going to do, and this is what happened. I’ve never forgotten it. It was a weekend. I was looking ahead at the coming week and I had three big things that week.

It was like two tests and a paper or two papers on a test. It was three big things and I decided, okay, there are two different routes I can go. One is that I can kind of do the work and do okay and at the end of the week I’ll feel sorry for myself, but also feel exhausted and crash in front of the TV on that Friday night. The other option is that I can do my absolute best and then I can know that I did everything that I could and either way I will be in that same spot on Friday night. I’ll be crashing in front of the TV relaxing on Friday night. So which is it going to be? Am I going to give myself the feeling of knowing I did everything I could or am I going to kind of let it go and feel sorry for myself and I chose to do the tougher one. I chose to do the work so that I knew I did all that I could and that decision has paved the way from my entire career.

You then move to Atlanta. You said you were willing to work for free. I did. You apply for internships. Did you show up? What did the process look like? The process as our Canadian listeners would say, what did the process look like for landing that internship?

Hi Canada. Yeah, so, okay, here’s somebody. So I actually didn’t have an official internship at first. I moved to Atlanta. I knew I wanted to do this. I showed up at the public radio station and just offered to volunteer and I didn’t have money. So at the time I was also, I started selling tickets at a comedy club at night. Dude just to get by. And uh, I’ve got black. You stay on like two burritos.

Hey, real quick. How many tickets on the street and like downtown Atlanta selling tickets or, cause that, that is a tough gig. How did you do that?

Oh, so Atlanta has a, one of a handful of clubs in America called the punch line and all this big letters would come there and try out the new material. And I just showed up there and I said, hey, I want to do something here. I didn’t have a car, Atlanta department by city, but I was taking a bus. It was like an hour long ride, but I was like, I want to do this too. They let me do it. I filled out the forms and I got hired to be a ticket seller. So I was selling tickets on the premises. And so I was doing that to get by and I showed up to volunteer at the public radio station. And so I was basically like staying very busy doing can those two things. Um, and then, you know, I mean I work pushed really hard and then when I found a shot on the air, they heard we do something.

They were like, oh, you’re not bad at, feel free to do some more of this. They thought that I would like maybe do a report once in a while when they said I could do more things on there. I felt like I had been standing on a track my whole life and someone had just handed me the baton and that was going to run with it and take it off the track and go through town. So I started, I dropped the other job and I started getting paid as a local station and I started doing like five, six, seven, eight reports a day and just working like crazy because when you are given an opportunity, this is one of the things I teach people. When you have an opportunity that you often don’t realize how huge it is, take that opportunity and make it huge. That’s what my, uh, my tedx talk is all about.

Did you practice like off air? You would be ready when you were on air, did you rehearse a lot or what kind of preparation did you do to be ready to really not jack up those online, those, those radio on error reports? You know what I mean? What did you do to make sure that those weren’t epic bombs?

Yeah, no, great question. Because at first, like when I first showed up to volunteer, I was like, oh, I want to try this. And then I tried according to the interview and it was awful. And you know, I understood that I had to learn it. This is what I always tell everyone. There’s something you want to do. Don’t operate on the assumption that you already know how a vertical learning curve always been learning to the the steepest extent you can, pushing yourself. And so, uh, in those first months when I was volunteering, I started learning and asking if when they are to teach me things and listening to tapes and listening to the radio and studying cadences. And then once I got on the air, um, instead of really spending much time doing local, I went straight to the network and immediately offered myself to NPR nationally. So I became a national reporter right away. But the biggest reason I wanted to do it wasn’t just for the national audience and the prestige it was that I was getting the best, toughest editors and I was having them work with me so that they would push me to rewrite my stories and make them better. So this is what I always tell everyone, learn, learn, learn.

For the listeners out there that don’t understand how this works, reporters don’t just show up and report the store. They don’t just write the story. It’s a, it’s a process of researching. Um, it’s a process of vetting. It’s a process of sighting. There’s so many things you’re doing behind the scenes for that. You know, you may be read or read a one page article that maybe have taken, it’s taken you, you know, 40 hours. Can you explain your process for researching, reporting and writing stories?

Yes. I’m glad you asked that because you know, good journalism is so important and it really is an extensive process. It’s also a service profession. There are people who make choices to go into money jobs, which is fine. And there are people who make choices to go into service jobs like doctors and lawyers and teachers and firefighters and military and government and journalists. So, you know, it’s a lot of work for what you’re right. It might end up being a few minutes on air or one sheet of paper and newspaper magazine. Um, the process is this. What I do is I tried to cast a wide net. If there’s a story that interests me, I look at what’s been done before and I tried to make sure that what I’m going to do with something new and I think, well, what hasn’t been told about this? What’s the new or what’s the big question that hasn’t been answered yet? And then when I start interviewing people, um, I do a lot of open ended questions. I don’t go in assuming that I already know what the story is.

I want to ask you this because I think this would be a fascinating thing for our listeners. Obviously you worked for NPR and CNN, which are left of center worldviews or at least more, and let’s say Fox would be like the far right, you know, somewhere in the middle, maybe, maybe see it in the middle. I don’t know how you’d describe it. Let’s just say people out there listening, they go, this guy worked for CNN. He has a certain bias. Let’s say right now you landed a one hour interview with president Trump. Okay, and you were going to prepare for that interview. How would you do that? Because I think it’s so fascinating that the process of how you would do that, what would be like kind of research would you do? How would you prep those questions that that to me is just, I have a huge respect for what you do and I just want to get into your mindset. If you said, hey, you are awarded the exclusive 60 minute interview with, with, with Trump or, or Obama, you know what, maybe you agree or disagree with somebody. How do you prepare for that? What would you, what would you do?

And you know, I had a lot of questions that I was wanting to ask President Obama that viewers would consider tough, but I actually generally don’t use the word tough question because that’s really up to the person answering it. You know, as a rule, like my biases toward the truth, I became a fact checker on c and then I’m really about facts before opinions. Um, that right there is what would make it so difficult to have an hour long conversation with president Trump. You know, I, I fact check Republicans and Democrats equally and evenly and I always have, but the kind of untruth that president Trump engages in are a different kind. You know, usually politicians try to get away with it by kind of muddying the waters and mixing their words. And this president sometimes just says things that, I mean just factually go directly against the evidence that his own government is announcing and providing some.

That’s what makes it tough. Um, as an experience, what I would try to do is study him more psychologically in advance. And see what has been the handful of questions over time that have elicited the most truthful responses we can get from him. I would also try to dig into some of his personal life experiences that shaped him because we are at a point in which, um, there’s a lot that we see in the way that he asks that is so different from what we’re used to seeing with presidents. And so whereas with a lot of people, you know, first and Obama, I would really want to challenge him on why the middleclass did not see more benefits of the economic recovery after 2008. Why wages sit fades so stagnant. Um, why so much of the, uh, uh, alleged Arab spring turned into an Arab frozen winter. And

you want to sit there and ask the,

so I’m saying I don’t care if he’s Republican or a democrat. Absolutely

it would be. This is why I respect, this is what, this is the goal. And to listeners out there who want to be reporters who want to be writers, I naturally would kind of flow around it with my inner, I wouldn’t want to ask softballs like Mr Oh Obama, what makes you so attractive? Because I think you’re attractive. You know what I mean? It would be like that. Or you’re wanting to ask these tough questions. Talk to me about does it, do you ever get nervous asking these kinds of questions

the way that you’re not nervous to do what you’re doing right now is just what I do. Like surgeons probably don’t get nervous to like do what they do. Awesome. It’s, you know, like when it’s what you do, you get so used to, and also like there’s this thinking that I’m sure you have that journalists have to have, which is like, if you’re going to get the facts, you just can’t worry about what anybody thinks about it.

Well, Billy Madison of podcasting, 13 multimillion dollar companies, we can get away with things like, you know, I like to have fun on our, on our shows. But you guys, I mean there’s a lot of times it’s uncomfortable for me watching when Fox was interviewing Obama or when you have CNN interviewing Trump and you just see like, it’s like, oh boy, oh it’s uncomfortable. But you guys that you had, you have to who you are reporter for 20 years in an award winning reporter. If you look back on your career, and I know you’re a humble guy, you don’t sit there and look at your own press clippings every day and frame every article you’ve ever been in. But could you talk, what are you, what are you most proud of over your 20 years? Is there a certain story where you say that right there and NPR or that right there at CNN or maybe there’s multiple stories where you say that right there is something that I am most

proud of.

In some ways it’s the stories that no one else, no one else is talking about. Like at NPR did a story at this gathering where all these people from black churches would that had been um, of it comes from arson. There was this rash of very long rash of arsons of black churches in America, especially in the south, but in various parts of the country and they had a big gathering and no one really knew about it. I might have been the only, I think it was the only national reporter there and telling that story when we aired it. Um, I remember that was an example of something that like I came to understand there will be moments in which no one would know about something unless you’re there. So then there are those moments that really stick out in your mind. And you know, I’ve gotten to interview famous people and politicians and I’ve done all this live stuff and I’ve been very privileged and fortunate in what I’ve gotten to do because the things that stick out in my mind are also somewhat, they’re like more weird stuff. Like I once interviewed this guy named Marcel Marceau, who is the world’s number one mime. And like, how do you interview a mine? Right? Well, it turns out it has like a metal. They’re fascinating speaking voice, but the most fast needing to take on life that I’ve probably ever heard. And so that’s a benefit of what you get to do. What I get to do, we get to talk to people and try to plug in empathetically to how they see the world. And that’s an incredible experience.

Are you a married guy?

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I got a, I got a wife and then three wonderful kids.

No, I know that I’ve researched you, so I know that you have kids, but the listeners out there probably don’t know when you, when you were at the peak of your journalistic career, did you have kids at that point?


Um, well what happened was sort of, so when I switched, when I started on air at CNN, I propose a job for myself. I create a job for myself, which I know I’m weird. I do things no one else does, but I pitched a job. It took a while to make it happen, but they ended up letting me do it. And that has to be an on air fact checker. And the reason was that I wanted to be on the air but not travel because that’s right when I was having our first child, our son. So I did, I organized my career in a way that I could do something unusual. You know, if you’re on the, should we see it all the time. If you’re on TV, on radio, if you’re on there, you’re pretty much a pawn on the chessboard that the powers that be can move anywhere. You know, they, you’re in stances tomorrow, you’re in England. So I was able to make a different kind of career happen in which I’ve been on air with limited travel. So yes, my kids have grown up with that experience.

Now when you were fact checking out, I’d like to get your take on how we could do it. Maybe Josh Levs, if you could walk me through how we could do this. Wouldn’t it be fun next year or I guess the next time that did the next selection, what we have two years from now, so I guess it’s 20 is it 2021 or 2020 the next selection.

Right. So the election being 20, 20, and then the next president or the reintegration of this president will be beginning of 2021.

And who do you think will be the Democratic Front runner?

Oh, I have no clue.

No, I mean the top to top tweet, you have top seven. Anybody at all? It just gimme gimme somebody give me somebody who said this person is, you’re here.

No, I mean it’s, you know, it’s interesting to see these women, um, who are currently duking it out. You know, Camilla Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren. I should mention I’m on a working group through Senator Gillibrand parental stuff we can talk about, but um, no, I I have no

Elizabeth, she’s representing the Democratic Party. Okay. And Mr. Trump tasked the republicans. Republicans will be so fun if we could do this. I’m serious as a libertarian, I would love this. Wouldn’t it be awesome if while they were talking, anytime they said something that wasn’t true, you know, you’re watching NFL games and it shows you how many completions Tom Brady had last year or how many sacks this guy had. Wouldn’t it be cool if on the screen it showed if what they said was true?

Do you know what I mean? First of all, except one, one better than that, I want to run for president so that I can be in the debate doing what you just said.

Third person in the debate,

I think they’re both wrong. Here’s what the real deal is and it would, it would fundamentally transformed American politics. That’s like the ultimate dream.

I just think it would be, I love the New England patriots and it’s like New England patriots are going to be in the Superbowl here soon obviously, and you’re watching and it’s like, you know, did you know that Tom Brady throws 86% of his pastors over here during this situation and this guy does it? And I’m like unbelievable stats, like real time, real time stats, never politics. We have no idea whether you’re into Trump tastic or you’re into Romney or you’re into Obama or you’re into a Clinton. You have no idea if what they’re saying. Is that all true? Unless you’re very into politics, which most people aren’t, you know, they just want to vote for the person who represents their ideals. And I would just love, is there any technology that you’re on the verge of creating that would do that? Because that is, I’m telling you, if you said the debate today could be [email protected] and on the site real time, I will show you false or truth and I’m going to have a super sold out conservative on one side and I’m gonna have a super liberal and their side and they’re going to just be going, boop, boop, boop.

Or I mean, if every time someone said the truth, they said if they said something that was wrong, it would do something like maybe he’d say like, uh, you know, and on the screen, you know what I mean? Seriously. And it gave them points. So they lied at lost a point. If they were true, they got a point. And at the end of the debate it just showed you had the most points. I would love that. Is there anything, you’re in the world, you’re in a world of politics. Is there anything even close to that?

I tried to make something on a much smaller scale happened during the debates last 12 I would do Archie facts like as a Hashtag. No, look, I would like that. I think it would really help your listeners to understand this unfortunately. Um, while journalists are the moderators at the 10 bait, a lot of people don’t know this. They’re kind of not allowed to do real journalism that night, which is why had, the whole thing is just such a joke in America gets cheated. Those contracts that these journalists signed to be, the moderators are written basically by the two parties, by the two campaigns. And there are certain things you are allowed to do and not allowed to do. And sometimes the journalist moderators are specifically under contract, not allowed to correct the candidates. The whole thing is such a farce. So that’s why like to really break through, I would want to be a candidate because then you get to say whatever you want and then you can be fact checking as for this. Yeah. You know, a bunch of newspapers have said will be fact checking alive. But ultimately because people are in their bubbles, everything that happens online, people just choose where to go anyway and then they don’t end up listening to the facts. So I would like for the feed to have something like what you’re describing in which it really is just that simple for journalists to stop signing those forms and say, no, we actually,

well here’s the, I come in. If you ever are going to stream the election, we could probably do like a real time recording of the debates, you know? And if you would do that, I will promote the crap out of that because that to me would be the ultimate experience because I can’t stand when either party makes stuff up. I want to get your take on this because you’re a guy with some pretty strong opinions that are grounded in facts in my opinion. And I say fax is like you’re going to probably site what you’re saying is I ask you for your feedback. Um, July had a commercial recently called we believe, and it’s storing quite a bit of controversy, uh, you know, on masculinity. What are your thoughts on this advertisement? And I’d like if you can, to kind of give us some facts. Give us some tapestry. Walk us through. We’re not trying to paint you into a corner. I’m just going to ask you, I love how your mind works. Talk to me about this commercial and why you, why you, what are your thoughts about this commercial?

Yeah, well, I ended up covering modern fatherhood and writing a book about modern fatherhood and leaving CNN and I work full time on gender, all the issues. So it was right up my wheelhouse. And when that time, when every controversy comes up, you can see it. My website, Josh, on this one, when that ad popped up, I was asked and I have an ongoing partnership with a different company, which does great ads, but they don’t sell razors and they’re not direct competitor. So anyway, I ended up taking a look at the Gillette ad, wrote something on Linkedin, and here’s what it boils down to.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sexism. You oppose massage and then you oppose sexual harassment. All these things of course are good things. The problem that I have with the ad is that it portrays men in general as being almost all wrong row of men who are just not thinking. They’re just standing there saying to themselves, oh, boys will be boys, will be boys, will be boys and not caring that a kid is tempting another kid’s lights out until one lone man goes and stops the kid. Um, and statistically the fact is that it doesn’t work that way. That’s the impression a lot of people have. But what I wrote on Linkedin, which you can see the real statistics show that most dads, most men are in the right place on this stuff. And just like most women, they want what’s best. We are not these backwards, um, cave men who think that every horrible action should be supported. So I would love to see companies celebrate men doing the right thing without pretending that doing the right thing means being alone individual against a pack of men doing the wrong thing.

You your book you just referenced there called Sales Dads, families and businesses. How we can fix it together. I want to provide a little bit of background for you. I don’t expect you to do a bunch of research on me. I’m sure you did, but I just want to give you some background. I’m 38 I have five kids. My partners, 54 he has three kids. We both grew up in possibly poor. We’ve built 13 multimillion dollar companies. Not because I think we’re super intelligent. I think it’s because we have psychological problems and we love to work in glove to grind. And that’s probably why we did it. Um, so can you talk to me about the workplace in your perspective of this concept of how our work first culture is failing dads, families? I would lie. I would like to get your sincere, harsh, honest, candid. Take care.

Yeah. You know, it begins with my story. I was covering fatherhood, interviewing dad’s on the air and no one, every time I drew Desmond the air, we would get these incredible responses from people who had no idea that in real life men have real conversation that, you know, we talked about how we care for our kids and where that’s going to go to school and, and the, the top moments in the hopes and the dreams and all this. And then I had a legal battle against time Warner because of their parental leave policy and they have the parental leave policy that the way it was organized, their combination of leave method, anyone could get 10 paid weeks after having a child to care for the new kid except a biological father. So anybody, so if someone else adopted my kid, that guy could get 10 paid weeks like anyone except the biological [inaudible].

So I had towns, anyone and I had challenged this and then that put me on the front page of the New York Times and they talked about man, the today show, it became this whole big thing, this legal battle. And Tom Warner ended up revolutionizing their policy. And making it much better for men and women. So people came to me to write the book. I wrote the book. It is the current workplace structures were created in the 1950s the modern workplace, the concept behind it, the whole idea of what work looks like, um, was developed in the madmen era. And all of our structures are designed to assume that women will always stay home and men will always say in the office. So what? We still have our policies and stigmas and laws that make it incredibly hard for families to make their own choices. Now in some families, the mom will do all the thing home and the man will stay at work continuously. And that’s their choice. And in other families there’ll be 50, 50, and then some families, they’ll be, the mom’s making more and she wants to keep working and the man’s going to stay home. Giving families choices, it’s necessary and it builds a stronger economy and it builds stronger businesses. But almost all of our laws and policies and stigmas are designed to prevent men from having the option of being the care givers. And that hurts women in the workplace. So that’s why it’s, it’s hurting everyone, including debt.

What does your, your, your wife to work with you? Does she stay at home? What’s the background context with you guys?

So for some of my wife was a writer and editor and was wonderful at it. And then she, I stayed home beginning when we had our first child. So I’ve always decided, been the sole provider for all those years. And then she was ready to go back to work and she had a great part time opportunity and she pregnant with her third kid. And then that was when we looked at the situation and determine that too. We do some caregiving and that I would stay home and do caregiving. And that’s when my office ended up saying no, that I couldn’t stay home and care for it. And actually ended up being that my wife had major preeclampsia and our daughter was born very prematurely and they still wouldn’t let me have the leaf that other people get. So, um, my wife, uh, now our young, our youngest who was the subject of this legal battle, um, she’s now five and she is at school now and my wife, a year ago, I went back to work and she’s working full time again as a, as a writer and editor at a business journal and she’s doing wonderfully.

Now. Talk to me about this when you, I don’t think you tried to make this a controversy, but this became a controversy, this idea dad should be able to be taken care of equally. Okay. And I’m just being totally candid with you. I watch Fox News, I watch CNN, but I want to tee this up. How much crap did you get and what was the absolute worst email threat, hate negativity that you receive? Because what you’re saying here makes a lot of sense for a lot of people out there, but you know, there’s somebody out there who’s like this guy, he writes for CNN, he eats babies, he hates people. He doesn’t like people. This guy’s a negative guy in PR. He works for seat and there’s somebody who there’s somebody on the right or the left. There’s someone that let, you know, people have such polarizing worldviews, you know, so what was the worst kind of push back and hate you got?

Well, first of all, anyone who is taking that stuff needs to get out of their bubble. You know, like we’re all people. And um, I actually got incredibly little, I almost got virtually none. Like 99% of the feedback that I got was super supportive from men and women. Uh, mom, blogs, dad blogs, conservatives, prominent conservatives, liberals, people across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum. I was speaking at a rally in Washington once and I think most of the other speakers, they were liberal. And then these two guys came up to me afterwards from a conservative publication and they told me that one of them said that he left the Republican party because it had become too liberal. And the other one said that he was from the far right wing of the Republican Party and they said, we just want to shake your hand. We support what you’re doing.

Because literally I’m talking about a family value that’s good for business as conservative and issue as it is liberal. You know, it businesses your best when men and when, when businesses can hold onto the best minds regardless of gender. So if you’re going to put businesses in the bad situation, two laws, which you’re saying, no, no, no, you have to make the woman’s say home. You can not make, allow a man the option of staying home. Uh, it hurts and it’s just, they’re all facts. That’s the thing. I’m not saying anything that our opinion. So yes, I did get some hate mail and I’m so used to it as a journalist, don’t think about it. But yeah, like they were people who said, look, the nicest fifties where the best time in history, who said men are not capable of staying home. Um, uh, men are not capable of caring for their children. Women are, are, you know, you’re, you’re trying to go against biology, which is scientifically disproven, but whatever. So sure there are people like that or people telling me that I’m just being this lazy bum who just wants to go home and do nothing by saying paternity leave matters. So yes, there are people, but in the tiny handful of cases in which that happened, um, they demonstrated in what they were saying that they just don’t know fac.

Why do you think your book has resonated so much with people? So they know. Some of our listeners out there right now, they’re going to say, you know what? I’m going to pick up this dude’s book. I’m going to buy this book all in how to fix our, how our work first culture fails, dad’s families businesses and how we can fix it together. They’re going to go pick up the book on Amazon right now. What do you think your book has connected so much with people?

Oh yeah. And in the book you will see it was like people from the Cato Institute, one of the heads of the family, I mean prominent, deeply conservative people who agree with me on this stuff. Here’s why. Remember I mentioned earlier that sometimes as a journalist you bring along a story that no one’s ever heard before. What I discovered is that there’s never been a fact checker that in this space before, it’s never existed. So when I come along and I’m showing people what’s happening is not something you can really argue with because the facts are there and it brings people together. Because I, throughout this book, stop knocking men, stop saying bad things about men. We are doing so much better than the stereotypes suggest. Most of us are awesome. That makes people happy on all sides. And I say this is what matters for businesses, this is what matters would be and this is what matters for families.

This is how it plays out everywhere in the country, no matter who you are. And I think they will start to see the authenticity and the accuracy in it and they get really supportive and they decided that they want to support this cause. And we at the point now in which the things in which I pushed for that are proven to lift business profits and boost economies like, like a national paid family leave plan. The overwhelming majority of conservatives and liberals and the dependence want these things. So you know, in America there are issues that we are not 50, 50 split over. It’s just that the media big picture and our politicians keep acting like we are.

Many people should listen to this podcast twice. Do I want to ask you this? Because you come across as a very, a proactive guy and a well read guy, a guy who kinda has a vision for your career and what you’re doing. Um, how do you spend the first four hours of your day on a very typical day? Like what time do you wake up? What are the first four hours of your day look like?

Sure. So, um, well I travel up to one week a month. So let’s do the three weeks that I, that’s the maximum I go with my family. You can give speeches around the world and stuff. So let’s, let’s go with that. We sent him home. So when I’m home I get up and uh, we have three kids, they all need to get to school and we take them to school and different combinations. But we, but before that, I’m usually the first one up in the house. I like to get up real early. I’ll get up like in the five o’clock hour and uh, signing on my email and get a jump on my day and take care of everything that I can take care of. That’s quick. Um, and it feels really good. Just you can it, then I gets the kids feel like gets me off to school.

And then, um, during that next couple of hours, I um, design basically what I’m going to get done that day. I have a goal every day. I basically would give myself deadlines and a, and I’m try to beat them. So within those first couple of hours I tried to make sure that the things I absolutely have to get done that day or done right then. And then that frees up more of my day later on to call clients and to work out the next plans and to get a jump on the next day. But I consider that first four hour period to be incredibly impactful and very, very productive. What about you? Is there like that for you?

I wake up every day at three 30, three 30 and then I go to the office at four and I work out with my partner John. And then it’s five. I plan out my day and to our first meeting and what I do, and our listeners are probably bored with me sharing this, but I write down a goal for my faith, my family and my finances, my fitness, my friendship, my phone, my f six every single day. And uh, so like on today’s list I wrote down and the areas of friendships call my friend Eugene. Eugene doesn’t pay me. I don’t pay Eugene. He’s a guy I knew since I went to college 18 years ago. Um, and he calls me affectionately white lightning and I call him black thunder and a, we were workout partners back in the day and we just have a great relationship and he’s on my list to call today.

And that’s not any more or less important than the next thing on my list. But I make a list and I try to be very intentional because I agree with you once your day starts, I mean it’s almost like you’re in the war. Once today starts, Josh Levs, if you could educate our listeners or encourage our listeners to read a couple of books. Okay, so what’s throwing a token? They definitely should buy your book, right? So we, we recommend your book. Um, but is there another book they should read or maybe a, a couple of books that have really impacted your life the most and why?

I’ve gotten really into audio books. You probably get those recommendations all the time. So I’m going to give you something different about, you know, who we were talking about, understanding different sides and hearing, you know, in journalism you’d like to tell people’s stories. So there are these, there’s this pair of balls that I now recommend that people read or listen to cause the authors read them. Um, why is it became pretty famous after the last election, Hillbilly Elegy by this young guy who identifies as conservative and he calls himself a hillbilly, says he grew up that way. Some people were wary of it because they feel like he was talking to, the way that made it sound like you might represent other people that I’ve learned early in journalism is that the truth always lies in people’s individual stories, not collective one. So if you listen to it or read it as one example of a person describing how his experience shaped him and then go right that or before read or listen to a book called when they call you a terrorist, which is by one of the founders of black lives matter.

Um, I think she’s around the same age. Um, and what you learn in that book is that’s the term black lives matter was very controversial and again, like among black activists because some people thought that and like it sounded exclusionary. Um, but she gives you her life story and you learned from her how, um, and how it shaped her. And so she represents, you know, she is on the left of the political spectrum. But what you’ll find when you put these two books together is that they are too young American adults who have, are more in common than they do. That’s different. And their values are very, very similar. They are good people who want what’s right and it’s time for us to get out of our bubbles. And to me, that pair of books, if you listen to or read them with an open mind, is a very powerful way to get there.

Josh, we like to end every show with a boom, which around here stands for big, overwhelming, optimistic momentum. Are you prepared to bring a boom from Atlanta? Okay, here we go. Here we go.

Before opinions always. And when you do that, I promise you, you will find common ground, build stronger businesses, build stronger families, and it’s obvious society.


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