Catch Deon Stokes on the #PirateBroadcast
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Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
Russ Johns 0:18
It's a beautiful day for the #piratebroadcast. We are here again, with #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. I just want to share a few housekeeping efforts here, if you can't watch the show live, you can always listen to the podcast, you can always go to russjohns.com/piratebroadcast and listen to all of the episodes There are over 250 episodes, that available for your consumption. Also, like, comment and share on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Just share the love of the pirate community, get connected, get engaged, and start a conversation. Today our conversation is with Deon, who is an awesome, amazing individual that I wanted to talk to for a long time. We just connected earlier this year on her show and doing some things together. Then, I wanted to have her return the favor and join us on the #piratesyndicate and #piratebroadcast and pirate community. So you're now a pirate, Deon. Thanks, everyone for being here.
Deon Stokes 1:31
Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure. It's great to connect, reconnect with you. I said we were always going to be connected and I said that back in April, maybe late March. And here we are again coming full circle in the same year. So I'm honored. Thank you so much for having me.
Russ Johns 1:46
You have a podcast as well, it's called The Failure Report. If anyone out there is interested in some amazing content and you want to consume another podcast, go check out Deon's Failure Report, where I think you're pretty transparent about it. Maybe you could share a little insight or information on that.
Deon Stokes 2:08
Oh, absolutely. So the failure report is where we interview entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and celebrities about their professional failures. To say that I'm obsessed with failures is an understatement. I am really invested in my future and in the past. I really love history and all of those things. But when I was becoming an entrepreneur and graduating college, and matriculating through life, I never learned the hard lessons. No one ever told me I was going to fail. No one ever told me that that first business that I thought was absolute genius was not actually really a good idea at all. No one told me. I had to learn everything that I know today. The hardest way possible. Did someone else have it harder? Absolutely. So we interview them. Did someone fail and then later, find success? Absolutely. That's why we interview them. This summer, we've reached 10,000 downloads, and I could not be more proud of our little baby. She's approaching a year old. You can stream the Failure Report on anywhere you consume content, especially Spotify and iTunes music or iTunes podcasts. They changed the name on me and I can't seem to get that name.
Russ Johns 3:20
Deon, I use the line where all fine podcasts are sold. I love
Deon Stokes 3:27
I love that because you got podcasts, being a live streaming of Google music and we're all those places. So please, we're about to start season three, which is exciting. We took a little break, big mistake, learning from the failures. Then, I'm also doing some mini-sodes just talking about why I started the Failure Report about my personal failures because I get to interview great individuals, but I never really get to tell my story. So the mini-sodes have just started last week, so you can catch up really easily. It's also on YouTube. So you like to hear all the sensories you know, hear me see me talk chat back. All the things.
Russ Johns 4:10
So I would, I would love to promote that and share that with the Pirate community. Also I want to give a shout out to a couple of people in the room. I know that Don is here, saying, morning all. Hey, Don, how are you doing? Jill Sullivan. Jill, I hope you're having a fantastic day. She's a chef. She probably has to go off and cook for people right now. Thank you for being here, Jill. Love you. Christopher Gray, says so true. So true. You know, failure is part of, I think, the lesson that may not be comfortable. Sometimes it's necessary to really learn what works and what doesn't work. I know that we've had this question/conversation before and we were talking before the show is that, I've had more failures than most people start businesses and creating products that went nowhere. The best idea since sliced bread and you have to go through the process of understanding that not everything is meant to be. I think it's really about the resiliency that we have. Going back to your story, you're resilient, you've been through the wringer a couple of times. So, walk us through that story and some of the adventures that you've experienced that have allowed you to become who you are as an individual, and maybe drop a little inspirational message on on the community here to know that it's okay.
Deon Stokes 5:56
It's okay. It's okay. I actually feel I don't actually trust people that don't fail. You interview people and like, tell me your biggest failure and like, Oh, I haven't experienced failure, and I'm like, Oh, yeah, well, we're probably not gonna get along, even, it's just people. If you're not willing to just be honest and say, there is something that I felt really strongly about, and it didn't pan out. I will never forget, my first professional office to manage was for a politician who was running for mayor at the time. I put so much of my time, effort and energy into it. I mean, I had just graduated college, there was no such thing as social media at the time, despite how young I look. This was almost in the 90s. It was really early 2000s and I was really excited about winning, and we lost...bad. It was gut wrenching. It was the first time that I decided to, what I call take the fetal position, you know? I wanted to just stay in bed and lament on the fact that I tried so hard, I knocked on every door, what could I have done differently, and I went down the list of all the things that I should have done. I should have done this, I should have, could have done that, should have gone here. I had to pick myself up. It took a long time for me to really be able to do that. I've experienced that first bout of professional shame. I hadn't met a lot of individuals. I was starting to make a name for myself in that ecosystem and I had to go out and face those same people. And they're like, Oh, you know, I got the face. Everywhere I went. It was a thing that I said, I want to learn something from this situation. I remember, my mom was a psychologist and when...I mean, if she wasn't my mom, she'd be my dearest friend. That was just like, so what are we going to learn from this? I'm like, I don't want to learn, I just want to cry. What I learned is that I had something to offer, because what most politicians were looking for were individuals that learned from their failures, because now you know firsthand what not to do. If you want to be successful, and shortly there after that, after that loss, I got another opportunity to manage another gentleman that was running for city council. That same gentleman that ran for mayor, that year, he went on to be a US Congressman and I managed his senate and congressional race and worked for him. Dr. Parker Griffith. I work from the state of Alabama. I worked for him for many, many, many years. It catapulted my career into the stratospheric state that if I had not have decided to just try again, to just go and have the tough conversation.
Russ Johns 9:00
If you'd stayed in bed in the fetal position, you would have not had that opportunity.
Deon Stokes 9:04
Exactly. My muscles would have created atrophy, my mind would have never been able to be used. I'd have never grown and that was my first really big trial with thatand so I started doing lots of government contracts. I lived in Huntsville, Alabama. I don't know if I have any Alabamians here. Actually, I'm not from Alabama, I represent Alabama like I'm from there, because I can put on the accent and everything. But I'm not sure. I am from Tampa, Florida, but I lived in in Huntsville for 20 years. I started doing so many government contracts and working for NASA and missile defense and all of those things. Then, 2008 happened and I will never forget my face. It was a bad face when someone said, we're going to end up being furloughed. This is one of my my colleagues that also worked in marketing, and we were doing a lot of marketing and branding at the time, and I was like, we're not gonna be furloughed. I have a contract with the government. I remember my head was like, oh, no, we're never...I will sue them before they take my contract. Mind you, I had to back up in my mind and even understand at that time, I didn't even know what furloughed meant. I knew it was negative and I knew it was something about not having what I currently had.
Russ Johns 10:27
Yeah, taking away something I had.
Deon Stokes 10:30
That was it. That's all the reference that I had on that. I wasn't smart enough to even go to Webster. It was 2008, we did have cell phones with Google. So I didn't even say, hey, Google, what is a furlough? Naivety led me to losing all of our contracts. I had 23 staff at the time. I had to terminate all of them at what I thought would have been a gathering of...I took them all out to dinner to have this conversation. They felt extremely betrayed by that gesture, which was hard in and of itself. Again, I had a choice. Here we go 7, 6, 6 years after my first fetal position episode. Here I go, wanting to crawl back and say like, what am I going to do? Unlike what we're going through right now, our international waters we're still open to us and borders were open to us. I lived in France in college. So I spoke the language and I traveled extensively, so I had some friends and some connections there. I literally had just gotten married. I just got married in 2008. We just bought a house, like all the things that you're supposed to do when you're in your late 20s, I guess I was at the time. There's no metrics on when you're supposed to do this. I had my own notebook by this time. You have this? Yeah, that was what you had. Checklist. Oh, everything went out the window. Mind you, I don't even have any kids. I do have the marriage still, but I went to France. I met a gentleman, he was a restauranteur that was expanding his hotel Empire into Bermuda. The time pretty bizarre to me and he was like, we need somebody to do our marketing and help us with some logistics issues that we're having, doing some import exports. I had no idea how to do imports.
Russ Johns 12:45
So you decided to pick it up?
Deon Stokes 12:46
It sounded like I could Google it. It sounded like someone was gonna tell me how to do this. I said, yes first, learn later. Do I think it's a great idea? Not necessarily. Did it work out for me? Yeah, it really did. It's amazing how, now that I talk about failures, and I talk about the failure report, and I have a great time now being able to chuckle at being furloughed. I realize how much failures happen for us, to us. It's so hard in the moment to not think that failures are happening to break you down, or it's just that the universe hates you, or it's bad decisions that you made, but failures happen for our good. The moment I realized that every time I failed, I'm using air quotes for our audio broadcast. Every time I failed, it was a stepping stone, it was a boulder to the next opportunity. And in the moment, I didn't see it in the moment where I was doing my head movement, saying, I was gonna see the government, I didn't understand how that failure was going to propel me to so many amazing things, how I was going to be able to rehire about 60% of my staff. how I was going to be able to travel back and forth to Bermuda and live on pink sandy beaches. Small thing. This hotel did start to grow.
Russ Johns 14:15
It's amazing how we do this. I want to give a shout out to someone that's helped me through many failures. Frank Podany and I have worked together, in and out of organizations, and Frank has helped me survive a couple of dark moments in my life and around here. Just the fact that he showed up today in the #piratebroadcast is a testament too...we have an opportunity to fail, we have almost an obligation to feel throughout life and learn from those lessons. The fact that we have friends and we have family and we have support. We have some people around us. Everybody has somebody, I believe, even though you may not know, or you may not realize that people care about what you're doing out there, that do care about what you're doing, it's important for us to recognize that. In fact, part of the process in the healing process, and the ability to move forward at some point in time. It's just amazing to me that Frank is an individual that I really care about, and I've known for years. Thank you for showing up, Frank. I really appreciate it. Gabriel is here. Gabriel started broadcasting, much like I am, he's doing his in the afternoon and we've gone through many experiments. Gabriel and I going back and forth and finding out what works in this broadcast community and finding a place and everything else that can go wrong will go wrong, and just accept it and be resilient around it. Howard Kaufman, a startup entrepreneur, and somebody that's been there, says, great energy, if you can help market for the government, you can market anything.
Deon Stokes 16:11
You know what? Amen, Brother. If you can wrangle those kittens, you can do anything.
Russ Johns 16:20
So Howard actually has a product, it's ORL mouthwash and gel and toothbrush. It's not a gel. It's an amazing product and I love it. So SlapTagz, Sheri Lally, says, you said, stepping stones just as I was typing it.
Deon Stokes 16:40
Ah, yeah, yeah, we're doing the same thing.
Russ Johns 16:45
Gabriel says, what a great conversation. Love Deon's #inspiration and insights.
Deon Stokes 16:53
Thank you so much, Gabriel.
Russ Johns 16:54
Don says, the beaches are awesome. I think he's talking about Bermuda.
Deon Stokes 16:58
Yeah, can't get any better or worse than that.
Russ Johns 17:03
Rex Powers is out there. Good morning, Russ. Great to see you here again! Well, Rex, I haven't left, actually. So I've been here for over a year now, just cranking out these episodes, week after week, day after day. So I want to shift a little bit, Deon, and talk about, you know, we're talking about resiliency, we're talking about the idea that we have an opportunity to take what we've been beat up over. We've got to come out of the fetal position and say, okay, that's done. That's over, moving forward. How do you? Or how have you reflected on those experiences? Also, what have you done to move forward now?
Deon Stokes 17:56
Yeah, I look for the failure, I look for the opportunity to try something new and understand that it may or may not work and do it anyway. My fear factor is zero. You know what I mean? I'm already extremely adventurous and a Sagittarius anyway, so I've already got that kind of flowing through my veins. But I'm ready for anything. My fear is at zero. I know how many opportunities that are out there. I know that individuals want the content that we create, the products that we've been able to create or even partner with. I use it as a learning experience. If they love it, they love it. If they don't, I use the data, and I'm a data hoarder...
Russ Johns 18:44
Oh, you are a data nerd, huh?
Deon Stokes 18:49
Yes, I'm a data nerd. Like I said, I worked in politics for so many years, I can't help but to graph everything. I love finding the data and that point helps you to understand this is where it happened. This is the demographic. These are the individual psychographics. This is how I use media or various mediums to be able to convey messages. I've learned from it and I have continued to fail. That last failure, starting to work in Bermuda was about 2009. If we pull up to present day, I've owned a marketing firm. Our business license will say, consistently for over 15 years, but there have been some no contract days and there's been plenty of contract days. in between there. But the successes, I truly outweigh the bad and just really focusing on the good that we've been able to do for the companies that we work for, brings us the greatest joy. It truly truly does. We vet them heavily and we love them all.
Russ Johns 19:54
Well, you know from experience long enough that if you continue to add value to the equation, it always seems to show up in return. Things happen. Right now, in this world with Google, and all the other opportunities out there to communicate just like this, you're one conversation away to having something that you're looking for.
Deon Stokes 20:21
Yeah, yeah, you're so right, you're so right. Having those conversations and being present is what I realized I wasn't going to ever be able to do if I stayed in the fetal position. No one was going to come to my bedroom and sit on the bed side and be like, so now what do you want to talk about? Well, you have a great idea of that, swell, we want to help you. I had to get up. I had to do the things and I know, it's easier said than done. I really want you to understand I'm not belittling the fact that sometimes it's harder to kind of bounce back, but the bounce back is so important. You realize that there's a group of individuals out there that want to support you in leveling up, and whatever that means for you. Right now, we're all going through COVID-19. I'm sitting in my dining room right now. In March, I, well, beginning of 2020, we all had amazing goals. I had probably more than anyone else in my world, I was like, we're gonna do this, we're gonna have this many a year, we're gonna have this many new clients, we're expanding, we were looking at new office locations, and my husband just bought me a new car. I was living on top of the world. I will not forget. I was speaking at the University of Louisville communication forum and everyone was talking a lot about COVID. We had a lot of major concerns as to what it's going to look like and how long are we going to be in and out of business. I spoke with them on March the 10th and March 13, was the day that I got my first call from a client that I had had for maybe five or six years at that time. They were like, Deon, we're really sorry, we don't know what's gonna happen with our economy. They were international clients, so they had been facing the pandemic longer than we had at that point. They're like, we're just gonna have to put our contract on pause. I don't, there's not a clause in here that says, can I press pause? We've read the contract, but we're asking for some grace, so, of course. We love all of our clients and love, enjoy working with them. So we're like, sure, the phone rang from the 13th to the 31st, with that same or very similar conversation. It was like, here we go again, Alrighty, guys, it's like riding on a canoe and you're approaching the the big waterfall and you're like, okay, all right, everybody's on the raft, that's where we're holding on to the size of our little yellow raft thing. We're about to do this, again, aren't we, and, um, this time has been a lot different than the others. I know that everybody understands that she's not out of the gate. This is not like any of the other failures that you've had. There is no business to have, there is no contact to make, or there is no networking event to go and talk to individuals. The way that we communicate has completely shifted and completely changed so much, that it's been a big adjustment and a big learning curve. We're still in the curve, we're still trying to figure it out, like, how do I network now? I have a new tech startup and we're looking for investors. It's the funniest thing ever, to me, because we do marketing for startup companies. So to own a tech startup myself, typically we go to events where they are, and we do the whole thing, we fly out, we pitch and that, and now everything's over Zoom and you can't connect and can't give the dramatic pause that doesn't have the same effect. Everything is changed and we're all figuring it out together. I had to just say, this is pretty darn cool, because nobody knows how to do it. For once Google can't help you. You can't YouTube out of this situation, there's no SMI yet to figure out how do we market? How do we reposition? How do we bounce back? There's nobody there to sell it. So we're all just figuring it out while writing our own textbook. And that's great.
Russ Johns 24:27
It's very cool because when you think of it from that lens, you're thinking about, it's a level playing field. I've been a remote worker for the last decade or so. It's really not a change in technology. I've been used to using this technology for years and so the opportunity opens up to help other people learn how to use technology or broadcasts like this? It's like, okay, you have an opportunity to get your word out, your message and make those connections in a different ways. It's definitely not like networking. It's definitely not something that you would normally do in an average year. However, we just did a recent LinkedIn local pop up with Kenyatta Turner and Art Jones and a couple of different people. We had over 40 people in the room, we had breakout rooms and we learned a lot about each other. I had met several people that I had not had previous connections with, through that adventure. It's really amazing to meet new people and make new connections like that. We just have to adapt and adopt what is around us and what's going on and just be as resilient as we possibly can.
Deon Stokes 25:58
Yeah, we're all learning, we're all figuring it out. This time, I hate what is happening with the deaths, especially the news that we got yesterday and about the sickness. I had COVID back in March, myself, it was, I mean, horrible time. But the tests that have come out, being able to say, yes, I have the antibody. I have the things that we've kind of worked through, it's really interesting. But this time has caused all of us to just take a collective standstill, like, let's reevaluate, let's pull out that old business plan. Let's do another SWOT analysis, let's figure out where we've gone right and where we've gone wrong, and figure out how we're going to be able to move forward. That's what we've done at Joint Effort. We've had an amazing time doing that because now we're able, despite the fact that we did have such a catastrophic loss, and losing our clients, we've been able to really focus on some of our own products that we were never able to focus on before. So since COVID, has happened or has started, I created an ambition planner, and it's called the ambition planner. I wanted a planner for my ambitious lifestyle, I needed something that helped me categorize my day and keep me spiritually centered. I could really focus on my smart goals, to be able to feel productive and fulfilled. At the end of the day, I couldn't find a planner that was culturally inclusive, and all of those things. So I created one, and that was last year, put it on shelf, probably looked at it for about one hour a month or three hours a week, sometimes if it was lucky, before COVID and now we have a full fledged product, we're launching our new Q4 planners in October. We have a big summit that we're hosting in January, called the Be Ambitious Summit. In the past, we have been able to accommodate 2 or 300 individuals for a summit. Now, we have space for up to 5000 people. Thanks to the internet, everyone is moving their conferences online. So no longer is space a deterrent from that. Then, pivot actually came from the failure report, because my mother, which I referenced a lot was like, you're gonna talk about all these failures, and you're going to interview these people and I'm like, yeah, it's gonna be great. So what is that gonna do with all those emotions that you unpack? You know, about those feelings about those things that I'm like, I don't know. I don't know the answer. Just kind of hearing or playing the back of my mind, causes to create a professional wellness platform or marketplace, where you're able to find a life coach, consultant, financial advisor, and an executive coach on one platform. I'm honored to be able to be a member of the black power, the black founders exchange powered by Google. They're helping us with mentorship and lots of other amazing resources, because they're Google, to be able to help navigate that, so that's what we're looking and seeking investors for right now, as we're sourcing individuals to help establish our MVP. It's been...I hate where we are in our country, but I'm thankful for this time to just be able to create and innovate and standstill and just kind of tap into the greatness that's always been inside of me and inside of all of us that I've never had time for because I'm always on the hamster wheel doing that all the other stuff. It's been a good time. I have to say that's almost how I believe it is. Gosh, I'm blessed and I'm grateful for this time.
Russ Johns 29:34
Yeah, it always changes your life when you have a little gratitude for what you're going through and appreciate what you do have and what you can accomplish with what your experiences are as you navigate the waters on the raft going over the falls.
Deon Stokes 29:52
Oh, gosh, you guys can't see my face but it's bad holding on to that little yellow raft. It's so horrible, but the waterfall doesn't last forever.
Russ Johns 30:00
So how do people get ahold of you, Deon?
Deon Stokes 30:03
Well, I am in all the spaces and all the places. So The Failure Report, as I stated, and you can find them on Spotify or wherever quality podcasts are being streamed, I love that. We're also a web series. So you can also view our podcasts on YouTube as The Failure Report. If you're interested in the planner, we are highly present on Instagram, where we do a lot of our communication. That is theambitionplanner.com or at the ambition planner on Instagram, as well as Facebook. I'm personally on LinkedIn a lo, so you can always reach out to me on LinkedIn at Deon Stokes, I'm extremely accessible, I return all my messages personally including dm, so you will speak to me. And then pivot is...stay tuned, you can find our landing page currently at I can pivot on that is spelled Pvt. Or you can spell it out, we bought all the domains. Icanpivot.com, where you can learn more about PVT and how we're all trying to navigate pivoting in life and finding professional wellness the best way we can. So that's where you can find me all the places.
Russ Johns 31:14
As you know, we love the pirate community. If you're not connected with Deon, get connected, tell her Russ sent you and drop a note and personal message and let her know that you're part of the pirate community. You'd love to engage with her as one of the pirates. So thank you so much for being here, Deon. I love the fact that we're always connected and make sure that we keep that intact. Also just know that there are people out there going through this. They're still trying to figure it out. So you can actually help them with I can pivot and know that you have resources and help available out there. So reach out to Dion and also #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and you #enjoytheday. Thank you so much. Deon, appreciate you.
Deon Stokes 32:08
Thank you so much, Russ. Y'all have a great rest of the day.
Russ Johns 32:11
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