Dan is a Co-Founder & Judoka
Dan de Roulet, Co-Founder of Knowify, LLC., talks about how he discovered his passion for Judo, getting his kids involved with it, and how it has helped him develop resilience in being an entrepreneur running a business!
• Getting into Judo
• What Judo is
• Learning how to fall
• How Judo can be a metaphor for entrepreneurship
• Developing resilience
• Talking about Judo with co-workers
• How executives could play a large role in company culture
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Welcome to Episode 415 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.
If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book. It’s on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read the book to you, yeah, that’s right, this voice reading the book, look for What’s Your “And”? on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and, more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of the future episodes because I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Dan de Roulet. He’s the co-founder at Knowify, and he’s with me here today. Dan, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Dan: Thanks, John. Great to be here.
John: I appreciate it. This is going to be so much fun. Get to know Dan on a new level here with my 17 rapid-fire questions. We’ll start out with maybe an easy one, maybe not. Star Wars or Star Trek.
Dan: Oh, definitely Star Wars.
John: Oh, okay. That was an easy one. There you go. How about a favorite day of the week?
John: Yeah, solid, solid answer. How about a computer, PC or a Mac?
Dan: Either one. I like both.
John: Oh, you’re ambidextrous on that. Okay.
John: All right. Impressive. How about puzzles, Sudoku or crossword?
John: Sudoku. Yeah, there you go. How about a suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt?
Dan: Suit and tie.
Dan: I’m from New York. What can I say?
John: Right. No, I like a good suit too, man. Now it’s so much easier to get the made-to-measure, so you don’t have to look like you got it at Penney’s off the rack. It’s like, all right.
John: Yeah, right. Exactly. How about a favorite color?
Dan: Navy blue.
John: Oh, nice. Okay. How about a least favorite color.
Dan: What is that sort of ugly pinkish beige called? Mauve or.
John: Oh, right.
Dan: You know what I’m going for, right?
John: That’s nasty. You’re right. Yeah. Yeah. No, that totally is. It’s like, why is this a color? Is this an accident? What happened? No, I agree. It’s like the crayon in the box that never gets touched.
Dan: Yeah, right. You walk into your bathroom, and it’s that color. You think, you know what? Maybe I’ll just go outside.
John: There you go. That’s awesome. That’s exactly it. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?
Dan: Cookies and cream.
John: Okay. Yeah, there you go, solid. How about a favorite season, summer, winter, spring or fall?
Dan: In New York, it was always spring and fall, love spring and fall. It wasn’t too hot, love the colors, the burst of flowers and whatnot in the spring, and then the changing leaves in the fall. Now that I’m living in California, most of the seasons are pretty much the same. California season, whatever that one’s called.
John: Right. Right. That’s exactly it. Here’s a good one because California has both, oceans or mountains.
John: Oceans. There you go. How about a favorite actor or actress?
Dan: Meryl Streep.
John: Oh, yeah, very popular answer, and justifiably so. She’s amazing. Yeah, so good. Would you say you’re more of an early bird or a night owl?
Dan: Ever since having kids, it’s become an early bird thing, but that was never the case.
John: Right. It’s not by choice.
Dan: Right, exactly. Yeah, that’s right.
John: I hear you, man. I hear you. How about a favorite adult beverage?
Dan: That’s a good one. I’m really into riojas right now, the red wine?
John: Oh, yeah, riojas are great.
Dan: Yeah. I found really great ones that are actually very fairly priced for the quality, and I think great.
John: Totally. Totally. How about on an airplane, window or aisle seat?
Dan: Well, I’m 6’5”. I guess it really depends a lot on which airline I’m on. In JetBlue, with their extra legroom, window’s fine. It’s great. You lean up against the window. You can relax a bit more. In a lot of the other airlines, the aisle becomes a necessity because we’re cramming in there.
John: Yeah. I’m 6’2”, and anyone taller than me, like you, it’s like, ah. It’s uncomfortable.
Dan: Airline travel and the backseat of Prius is not okay.
John: Right. Right.
Dan: Not okay.
John: Not all. Even the front seat of a Prius, I can imagine. It’s like, man. That’s amazing. How about a favorite number?
Dan: Well, as long as it’s my checking account and they’re going up, I don’t care that much.
John: Right. Right. There you go, any positive number.
Dan: Right, exactly. What actually matters more than, well, I guess that’s not entirely true.
John: Right. Positive.
Dan: growing, right?
John: There you go. All right. How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?
Dan: Still real book.
John: Real book. Yeah, I’m the same. The last one, last one, the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.
Dan: My wife and I got this really cool painting from her parents as a wedding present that was actually done by a well-known artist who attended our wedding who was a friend of the family. It’s really cool when I see it, and every time I see it, it reminds me of the place we got married. It’s very special in that way.
John: That is very cool. That’s really neat. Let’s talk Judo with the kids. Is this just a secret way to be able to chuck them around?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, abuse them but in.
John: No, of course not. Were you into Judo first and then?
Dan: It’s funny, in college, I studied a lot of Aikido. I did Aikido for five years. Moved out here, and by out here I mean to California, I was looking for something to do with my middle son, John. He’s very physical kid, and I was looking for a martial art. Because I knew I Aikido, I didn’t think it was quite right for him. He was a little too young. I knew about Judo and wanted to give it a shot because I wanted him to do a grappling art. We found this great local school. We went, and he had such a great time. It was really funny because he’d come home, and he’d teach his older brother some of the moves. It was really supposed to be just John’s thing. Right?
Dan: Because, again, as middle child, classic middle child stuff, he needed his own thing. He’s teaching his brother all these moves. His brother thinks it’s really cool because his little brother is throwing him around. He was like, Dad, can I go too? There’s a parenting dilemma. It’s like, oh, I don’t know. I’m going to chat with John, and John said, okay, fine, Henry can come. It’s turned into this family thing, and because I had done enough Aikido that I was able to pick up Judo pretty quickly that we all started doing it together. It was really fun.
John: That’s awesome. What is Judo exactly, for people like me that don’t totally know. Is it kind of wrestling?
Dan: Judo is an Olympic sport, so with the Olympics in Japan, you can certainly watch. I guess you can say it’s somewhat akin to wrestling, in that there’s no punching or kicking, no striking. It’s strictly grappling. The object is just throw your opponent. If you throw them onto their back, you automatically win the match. If you throw them onto their side or your part back, part side, you get half a point. You still have to do the same thing again in order to win. You can also win on the ground by choking them out or having them submit or pitting them. Yeah, there are aspects of wrestling like that. It’s really just about getting into a good position, using strong technique and body mechanics to throw your opponent.
John: Wow. Okay. Which, man, if I was your son, I’d be in heaven. I’m like, wait, I get to just chuck my brother around?
Dan: One of the most important lessons of Judo, and this is also something I got in Aikido because it’s similar in that way, is you learn how to fall, and that aspect of it, so, the throwing, yeah, sure, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll do sport Judo. You’ll compete, and that’s fun. They’re life lessons and great value, too, but I would say that the thing that you’ll actually use in your life is the falling. I can tell you, there was a time when I was skiing, and this guy was coming across a catwalk. He just did the most boneheaded thing. He looked up, saw me and then stopped suddenly.
Dan: Right? It was a total panic. I’m like, oh, crap, I’m going to hit this guy. I went sideways. I let my legs come out from under me, because I knew how to fall, and I just rolled over him. We were both ok because I’m a big guy, and you don’t have to be going that fast for that to end very badly.
John: Exactly. Especially skiing, yeah.
Dan: So, there have been a couple of times in my life. One time also, going over the handlebars of a bike, just, it wasn’t comfortable to land, but I knew how to protect myself. I was able to fall, and it was fine. That’s a skill you use.
John: Yeah. Then you get up and you go, half a point.
Dan: Exactly. Right. Exactly.
John: Right? That’s such a great lesson that you wouldn’t really think of because when you get into it, I’m sure it’s the throwing and the throwing. It’s like, no, no, no. You’re going to get thrown. It’s the landing and learning how to fall.
Dan: They don’t let you get into the throwing until you’ve practiced the falling a fair bit. It makes sense, right?
John: Yeah. Which I would imagine is a skill set for life and work. There are going to be bad days. There are going to be falls.
Dan: Yeah, Judo is like a giant metaphor for entrepreneurship. This guy’s slammed on the ground, over and over and over again. Someone’s promising you you’ll get better.
John: Right. You’re like, I thought the match is supposed to end at some point.
Dan: Yeah, right, exactly. It’s still going. Is it possible to win, or do I just get bombed over and over?
John: First to 99, apparently.
Dan: Yeah, I’m starting minus 97.
John: Yeah, yeah, by halves. Do you feel like any of that translates over to your work or the way that you think about things now that’s maybe a little bit differently?
Dan: I’ve started three businesses. Two are still operating. Obviously, Knowify is doing really well, which is really exciting. As I was alluding to before, the entrepreneurship journey is never smooth. It’s always a struggle. It’s always a fight. I think there are a lot of smart people in the world. There are a lot of folks who have interesting ideas and who might even be able to start to execute on those ideas. I think one of the things that separates people who ultimately succeed as entrepreneurs is just resilience, is just being able to get smacked around, beat up, force yourself to get up and go back and keep going. I think that there are lessons in any sport, but in this specific case in Judo, for a career as an entrepreneur, absolutely. You got slammed on the mat, get back up.
John: Yeah. Right? It’s interesting because at no point in college did anyone tell you, hey, go study Judo because it’ll make you a better entrepreneur. It’s these little things that are accidental byproducts.
Dan: It’s funny you mentioned, I didn’t take any college entrepreneurship classes. I’m aware that there are now entrepreneurship classes in college, which always strikes me as sort of a funny thing, right? The first thing, as you, day one in entrepreneurship class, as you come in, look at the students and be like, you’re all terrible. You have no business being here. You should not. You’re awful. The ones who stick around are like, how dare you say that to me. Of course, I am. I’m better than you. You don’t even know me. I’m going to do it anyway. Those are the ones who should be there, right? Everybody else who marches out after that.
John: Dude, I saved you plenty heartache and anguish.
Dan: Right. Exactly. You need the people who are stubborn and arrogant, not those who are soft and will be washed out that easily.
John: Exactly. I get it a lot with people that come to me. They’re like, hey, should I follow my passion? Should I make it my career? I’m like, no. No. It’s a hobby. It’s an “and”. You can be both. It’s an “and”. Because if you do it and you’re not good at it, I’m the first person you’re going to find to punch in the face. You said I could do this. Then I need to practice falling.
Dan: Yeah. Exactly.
John: If a stranger can talk you out of it, in a conversation that’s like five minutes long.
Dan: You definitely aren’t going to survive the first year.
John: Nope, you’ll never make it. I’m doing you a solid. I’m totally helping you out.
John: That would be hilarious. We should teach a class. First day, you suck. Then why are you here?
John: Right. I think we’d get fired, but it would be awesome.
Dan: It would be the best class those kids have ever taken.
John: Totally, the most effective.
Dan: What was it I was saying about? Never mind.
John: Right. Exactly, exactly. So, the martial arts, is it something that comes up at work? Do you talk about it with colleagues? Or does it come up in conversation on occasion?
Dan: It does come up a little bit. I had a colleague who heard that I was doing it, and he wanted to bring his son to do it also because he thought it sounded fun. He was a little too young, so he’s not quite ready, but it’ll happen. Yeah, we talk about it, and of course like any proud parent, I go around showing the videos of my kids bombing other kids. Check it out.
John: Right. Right. I imagine that that just brings a new level of camaraderie or relationship in the workplace where we’re going to talk about work for sure, but these other things.
Dan: There are some people, it does rarely happen that you have somebody, an employee who really feel strongly that they want to have this wall of separation between their personal life and their work life. They’re there to do their work. Some of those employees are really great, by the way. I’ve had people like that who have been fantastic. You respect that boundary, and it works out okay. I would say, in general, opening up a little bit about your personal life, developing real relationships with the people you work with, that’s a good thing, especially in new businesses that are, we’ve been talking about the entrepreneurship journey. It’s a fight every day.
If you can build the sense that you’re all in this together, that you’re a team and more than just name, that you’re obviously looking to achieve great business objectives, but you’re also doing it because you want to see the person next to you succeed. There’s a lot that can be said about that, about how, if you’re a co-founder or CEO or something, that’s really important to make sure that your people have good equity compensation because that sort of reinforces that message of we’re here together, we’re here to succeed together. To your earlier point, yeah, do I think that talking about your family’s experience with Judo and engaging with somebody at that level, or your people at that level, do I think that helps build your team? Absolutely.
John: Especially, like you said, that entrepreneur journey, when you’re a younger company, we’re going to go through some lows. It’s going to get crazy in here. The more we know each other, and the more we care about each other and have a genuine interest in each other, then the more that we’re going to be able to get through that. That brain science of the norepinephrine and the oxytocin and the, we’re in this type of thing, is cool. Yeah. It’s cool to hear that it’s not just like case study bubble world. It’s actual, something that you’ve experienced, which is awesome. How much do you think it is on the organization to create that atmosphere where it’s, yeah, we share. That’s what we do here. I care, and I want to know. Versus how much is it on an individual to just maybe, from the bottom and their little group, just start sharing?
Dan: Well, let’s be honest. It’s kind of hard for people at the bottom, as you described them, to drive corporate culture. Sure, they can have their groups, they can enjoy their coworkers, they can show little details about their lives, but it’s pretty rare that that would spread and become the defining corporate culture, if it’s not actually also coming from the top. Do I think that team leaders, do I think that senior executives have a very important role to play in defining and establishing and then disseminating the kind of culture that we’re describing, if that’s what they want to see happen? Yeah, absolutely. You can’t just sit around and wait for culture to magically happen. You have to define what you want your company to be and how you want it to feel. I think people talk too much about corporate values. There are lots of reasons for that. Do I think that corporate culture and that kind of thing is something that is very important and ought to be discussed? Yeah.
John: I agree totally. Especially, it’s not just giving it lip service, but it’s actually living it, walking the walk. I feel like so much of us are in a permission-based sort of mentality of, well, I’m not going to do it, unless they tell me I’m allowed to do it, as opposed to ask forgiveness after. Just go do it. One, they’re probably not even going to know. Two, they’ll probably be like, wow, that was awesome. I never even thought of that. Good for you. It’s hilarious. We just wait for permission for that insight. I think it’s great if someone, the leader, whether it’s a manager or whoever is there that can set that tone, makes it even easier. Totally. Do you have any words of encouragement maybe to some people that maybe they have that hobby or that passion, but they feel like it has nothing to do with their job or maybe no one’s going to care type of thing?
Dan: I would say, if it’s a very important thing to you and will help people understand you better, then absolutely, go talk to one of your coworkers about your “and”. I do think it’s true that when people know each other better and know what makes each other tick, it becomes easier to work together, I think, especially really savvy, well, managers, but also coworkers can understand your personality a bit better and either get more out of you or develop deeper, more meaningful work relationships that make any sort of collaborative work easier and more productive. So, I can say, don’t be afraid to share, unless.
John: It’s illegal.
Dan: Unless you shouldn’t. Right. Exactly.
John: Right. Yeah, exactly. Most of us aren’t doing illegal things for fun on the side, but I agree. At the end of the day, business is still humans interacting with humans. Whether you’re on the same team, or you’re with a client, or you’re with a customer or whatever, it’s still that human-to-human connection. That only becomes stronger and better by knowing each other a little bit below the surface level. You don’t have to be creepy about it, but just a little bit.
Dan: I think that’s right. If you know what makes somebody tick, your understanding of that may not arise in ways that you’re even fully aware of, but it will make collaborative work, make the team dynamic easier and better.
John: No, I agree totally. That’s awesome. This has been really fun, but I was so rude at the beginning by peppering you with questions. I feel like we should turn the tables and make this the first episode of The Dan de Roulet podcast. Thanks for having me on. You can ask me whatever you want. I’m all yours. Let it rip and see where this goes.
Dan: Okay. You asked me before, favorite adult beverage. Are you a wine or spirits guy?
John: Yeah, I’m definitely a wine guy. It’s funny because I, for medical issues, didn’t drink for a while, from like 21 to, yeah, a while. Then I would do wine with food. I knew wine a little bit better but, yeah, I didn’t know anything about drinks. My wife would order them all the time for me whenever I would have them. One time I was on my own at a bar, and they didn’t have wine noticeably. I was like, I don’t know what to order. I just said what I say to my wife, vodka and something fruity. Don’t ever say that to a bartender ever. You might get kicked out. It was bad. It was hilarious.
Dan: That’s funny.
John: It was funny.
Dan: I don’t think your podcast listeners can obviously see what I’m seeing, but what’s the gold football helmet in the back? Is that Notre Dame?
John: Yeah, Notre Dame.
Dan: It is Notre Dame.
John: Yeah. I graduated from Notre Dame. That’s actually signed by Brian Kelly, who’s the head coach. I do some work with them for their award show every year, and two of them have been nominated for Emmys, which is pretty awesome. Yeah, it’s a fun little thing that I get to be a part of.
Dan: I’m not sure you know the answer, but was Manti Te’o’s girlfriend real?
John: No, she was not.
Dan: No, she wasn’t. You do know the answer.
John: She was not. Well, I mean, it was a real person.
Dan: She wasn’t his girlfriend.
John: Manti was, he’s such a good, kind person that when you have that kind of soul, I guess, he just, and the hard part was with that is that it wasn’t technically a girlfriend at all, even in his mind, but once the media started saying it, he didn’t correct. That’s where it fell apart. That’s where the problem was. He should have just been like, yo, yo, it’s not a girlfriend. It’s just a person I talk with. That’s it. It’s not at all a girlfriend.
Dan: They say that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth even gets its shoes on. Right?
John: Totally, totally. Yeah, especially with the media.
Dan: What’s the typewriter about?
John: Oh, the typewriter. Yeah. That’s a Corona typewriter, which maybe you’re not supposed to say out loud after 2020, but it’s a Corona typewriter. My grandfather had it. I have a Royal typewriter over on this side that’s huge and weighs, I don’t know, a billion pounds. The Corona was his sister’s in Brooklyn. They grew up in Brooklyn. It was almost like a laptop. You can put a case over the top of it and carry it almost like a briefcase. When she would do secretary jobs around the city, she could just bring her typewriter to work and work in there. It was a portable style. It’s so old. There’s no number 1 key on it. They use the L for number 1 back in the day. I don’t know why.
Dan: That’s funny.
John: It’s just a cool old typewriter. The one that my grandpa used more is over on this side, just off. I just think they’re neat, just kind of cool.
Dan: All right, last one. The third business I started was actually a biotech business. That’s still going. I’m just curious, if I gave you a magic wand and said you could solve any human health problem, but only one, which human health problem would you solve?
John: Wow, that is deep. Does ignorance count as a human health problem?
Dan: Ignorance. Well, the problem with ignorance is that we always assume the other guy’s ignorant, never us, right?
John: Yeah. No, no.
Dan: That guy over there, I don’t like.
John: Including my own.
Dan: You’re not saying you want to solve ignorance.
John: Well, yeah, a little bit.
Dan: Yeah. Right. Exactly.
John: I mean, 60-40.
Dan: Yeah, right.
John: Yeah, man, that’s hard. That’s so hard because that’s part of the human condition. That’s the double-edged sword of it all is, yeah, at some point.
Dan: When none of us gets out alive, is that what they say?
John: Kind of, yeah. That would be great. Imagine that, if everyone, including me, especially me, then I wouldn’t have to ask dumb questions about Judo and be like, well, is it like wrestling? You’re like, not at all, man. Just watch the Olympics.
Dan: It’s not that far off.
John: A little bit. Yeah, it’s just wrestling with more clothes on. That’s pretty much it. Well, Dan, this has been awesome. I really appreciate you being a part of What’s Your “And”? Thank you so much, man.
Dan: Yeah. No, it’s a pleasure to have joined you.
John: Awesome. Everybody listening, if you want to see some pictures of Dan in action or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourands.com. Everything’s there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget to check out the book, also called What’s Your “And”?
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.