My a cappella group was nervous as we walked on stage on a warm Kansas day in 1994. We had just learned a new arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner and we were hoping we’d deliver to the 30,000 people in attendance.
“I have that exact same tie at home,” he said when I shook his hand as I crossed the stage. I was wearing a blue chambray shirt, acid-washed jeans, and my favorite Elvis tie. Three seconds is all it took for him to connect with me, and to make a kid from Kansas feel important. When I left the stage that day, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn how to connect with people.
I went to school to earn a degree in biology, but I really loved music. I booked gigs, sang for pizza and toured with my vocal group. It was awesome. I was friendly, I was the business guy, and I made connections. Those connections led to some incredible experiences.
I moved to California, owned a music agency and tried put out fire with my voice on Mythbusters. I learned how to spell entrepreneur, and I had a tiny blurb in the magazine that carries that name.
The music business changed. I had two VCRs, and I started editing video. Play, record, stop, play, stop, rewind, damn!, play, record... perfect. I bought an iMac G3 and pushed its 600 MHz of power to the edge. I had a new outlet for creativity and a new passion. I produced video for big-name companies—Amgen, Google, YouTube—and bought way too many cameras.
I came to Stanford and was given an opportunity. I took advantage. I was the creative video director for 36 sports. I had a canvas, and I painted outside the lines. I made 1,200 videos. I had an amazing six years of connecting with people to make things happen.
I caught the bug. I started dangerbrain. Now I’m an entrepreneur again.
It’s been 20 years since I shook hands on that stage with President Bill Clinton. It only took him three seconds to connect with me—just by being a friendly and genuine guy. Twenty years later, those three seconds are still the basis of my relationships and business.