On this episode, we sit down and talk with CEO of GRIN, Brandon Brown!

This episode is extra special because GRIN is our podcasts summer sponsor! GRIN is an all-in-one creator management platform meant to help e-commerce companies build more valuable brands. On this episode we discuss Brandon’s career journey, how one must always push forward even if it’s scary, the drive towards unlocking one’s full potential and the importance of separating self-identity and self-worth from work.

Dan Hodgdon
Jodi KatzHi, Where Brains Meet Beauty family. I am over the moon excited to introduce you to our summer sponsor, GRIN. My team at Base Beauty uses the GRIN creator management platform every day. It’s an incredible tool. Let me tell you why we love it and why you need it.

So, your team already works with influencers, but they’re probably getting lost in spreadsheets and busy work. They’re combing through a messy web of communications and content your creators post, wondering if the campaigns are actually delivering a return on your investment. Well, that’s where GRIN comes in. GRIN is the number one creator management platform, helping ecommerce brands connect with their audience through the power of creator partnerships. It’s an all-in-one software. It allows you to treat your creators like your brand revolves around them, because in the creator economy, it does.

My team loves that GRIN has project management tools that provide for a seamless workflow. Thousands upon thousands of creators already live on GRIN, so it’s super easy to meet and build organic relationships with them, track the metrics of their content, and pay them all in one platform. Find out how GRIN can help you grow your brand. Watch the demo at That’s G-R-I-N.C-O.

Hi, Esperanza.
Esperanza RosenbaumHi, Jodi.
Jodi KatzGreat to see you.
Esperanza RosenbaumIt’s great to see you too. I feel like it’s been a minute.
Jodi KatzI’m really excited about this episode. It features Brandon Brown, CEO of GRIN, who I am gloriously proud to say is a partner and sponsor of Where Brains Meet Beauty podcast.
Esperanza RosenbaumYay! Ring the bell!
Jodi KatzOh, here. Let me find the bell. [bell ringing] It’s cool to have GRIN as our sponsor because we actually use this tool in our day-to-day at Base Beauty, and the team loves it. And the universe just made this happen. And I’m so proud of this partnership.
Esperanza RosenbaumAbsolutely. I know. Whenever I tell other folks on our team that our sponsor’s GRIN, they get super excited because they use it every day, and they know how useful the tool is.
Jodi KatzHe did such a good job on this show. I think everyone’s going to really love it. There is special Instagram-only content, though, so I have to say, if you’re listening to this on a podcasting app, which you actually are—I know you are—please head over to our Instagram @wherebrainsmeetsbeautypodcast, because you’ll get special Instagram-only content in our after show. And he played a really fun game with us called Would You Rather: Extreme Sports Edition.
Esperanza RosenbaumYeah. I think it was super fun listening to the different descriptions of the extreme sports. I personally wouldn’t do any of them.
Jodi KatzYeah. There was actually a really fun exchange in the comments on Instagram Live about people saying like, “Nope, none of these are for me.” So basically, Brandon has to do these alone or with people who are not on the live.
So I want to launch into the episode, but before we do, I just want to put some thoughts in our listeners’ heads about what Brandon had to say. And I pulled a few quotes from the conversation. He talked about flirting with a limit, and unlocking his full potential as a human. So I just want you to think about those two things as you listen to this episode.
Esperanza RosenbaumLet’s hop in.
Jodi KatzOkay. Enjoy this episode with Brandon Brown of GRIN.
Hello, everybody. Welcome back to Where Brains Meet Beauty podcast. Today we have an amazing guest for our Artistry theme. His company is the number one creator management platform, essentially making it the number one supporter of our newest generation of artists and creators. Please welcome Brandon Brown, CEO of GRIN.
Brandon BrownThank you. Yeah, I’m really excited to be here.
Jodi KatzBefore we start with the interview, I want to acknowledge and thank GRIN for being a partner and sponsor of Where Brains Meet Beauty. It’s like the coolest thing in the world to us that you’re our partner. And we’ve been able to amplify GRIN in a variety of ways through the past few months. And we use GRIN as a tool at my agency, Base Beauty, and my team loves it. So it’s a really meaningful partnership to us, and I want to thank you again.
Brandon BrownYeah, likewise. I mean, we’re really happy to be a part of it. I enjoyed our catch-up last week, and I think there’s a big overlap in both of our audiences, so hopefully today’s discussion is valuable. And appreciate you guys as a customer and everything that you do for the whole space.
Jodi KatzWell, let’s get started with my favorite question. Since we’re a career journey show, I want to take you back in time to your 11-year-old self, Brandon. When you’re 11 years old, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Brandon BrownWhen I was 11 years old… That was so long ago. So I grew up in northern California, so Sacramento area. And I grew up in action sports. So, doing lots of skateboarding and just being a very active, active kid. And I got into snow skiing and then snowboarding when I was very young. And so, I think if you were to go back in time and ask my 11-year-old self what I wanted to be, I for sure would have said professional snowboarder. And that was just about the time that I was kind of learning how to go fast down the hill, and had a great family where we were up in Tahoe all the time snowboarding. And but who’d have known? You’re in tech instead.
Jodi KatzIs that a snowboard behind you with the skeletons?
Brandon BrownThis is actually a—that’s a skateboard. A friend of mine who’s in that industry gave it to me as a gift to have it on my wall.
Jodi KatzYeah. It’s cool wall art. So, Brandon, do you feel like you have a need for speed?
Brandon BrownA need for speed. I don’t know that I have a need for speed. I think I do well with risk, I think. I don’t know that I would say a need for speed. I think I like pushing myself. And whether that’s in sports or in business, I like probably flirting with the limit. That said, I don’t think that I’m dangerous or out of line. But I guess you could call it a need for speed, maybe, as like a simple way to describe it.
Jodi KatzI think of myself as like a preteen, teen, and playing with my friend’s stuff, whether it was a skateboard or a bike or whatever, and being like—having the brakes on as tight as possible on that bike going downhill. I did not want to go fast. I did not want to feel out of control. I did not want to test the limits at all. So I’m fascinated by people who—and I live right near Bright Hill, where kids just dart down on their bikes so fast, hands off the handles. And I don’t know what it’s like to be that person, but I’m so curious about it.
So is that one of the things that’s most appealing about extreme sports to you, this idea of flirting with the limit?
Brandon BrownI don’t know that it’s necessarily about extreme sports. There’s a funny video that if people are watching, you should go look it up. It’s from Ice T, and I won’t cuss and use an explicit word on this podcast on Instagram right now. But it’s definition of eff it. So you can fill in the expletive there. And the whole message that he gives in that video is creation and things that really make you come alive, it comes at the edge of when you’re pushing yourself beyond something that you would normally do. And he uses an example of when men meet their wife, right? It’s a moment that is a risk to go up to that person and talk to them if you’ve never talked to them before. And there’s a risk of failure and rejection, and you’re nervous, but you just say, “Eff it” and go across the line. And then not always, but in some moments, right, that ends up being your partner for life.
And so, I think there’s definitely some realness and knowledge in that. And I think oftentimes, life’s most powerful moments for me have been, yeah, when I am at the edge of my limit. Not going beyond my limit, but at the edge of my limit. And it’s something that I think is kind of rooted in my DNA. And I think it’s been that way since I was young and skating and snowboarding, and now obviously business-building.
Jodi KatzSo Brandon, when I, as an entrepreneur, find myself this close to a dream coming true, where here’s the dream, and I’ve been working, working, working, working—whatever that dream is. It could be a big one or a little one. When I get this close, I kind of—I feel like all the blood leaves my head and drops down to my feet, and I get kind of racy heart. And I have a true visceral reaction to being so close. And what happens is, my old history takes over and says, “Jodi, you’re wrong for wanting this. Jodi, you’re limited, and this isn’t for you,” or “Jodi, you don’t belong here.” And I’m curious if, through the years, when you’ve been so close to whatever that limit is, do you have a visceral reaction to that? Maybe it’s different than mine, but I’m just curious if your body’s telling you that you’re so close.
Brandon BrownI wouldn’t say it when I’m so close to achieving something. But I definitely think that there is just—and I don’t know if we want to talk so much about risk-taking in action sports. But there is a moment when—also, when I was young, I would go to the river because there’s a big river here in Sacramento. And what we would do maybe in my early teens was we would jump off these cliffs into the river all the time. Maybe some are 20 feet, some are 50 feet. But there’s a moment when, before you go, that you actually have to decide in your head, I’m gonna go anyways. I’m gonna take the risk. I’m gonna do it anyways. I am nervous and scared, but I’m gonna keep pushing forward and go anyways.
So I think maybe like that, right? For me, it hasn’t occurred when I’m close to something. I think our journey at GRIN, which has been a very exciting journey, but it’s also been very arduous and long and very challenging and painful. And I think having kind of the perseverance to keep going up the hill when it doesn’t look great to keep climbing up the hill, I think has something that’s been valuable. I don’t know that I get that visceral body reaction in those moments. But what I have done is trained myself to go anyways, right? Whether it’s a conference, or speech, or raising money, or snowboarding and doing the big jump. You have to feel the fear, acknowledge it, and then decide to move forward anyways, is how I think about it.
Jodi KatzI love that. Okay. So I do want to jump ahead a little bit. You had a very, very, very cool job or time with Red Bull, right? So you’re a super fanatic extreme sports athlete yourself, and then you get a job with them. Basically, I can’t think of a better fit for someone who loves this world. How did you get that job?
Brandon BrownSo, yeah, I agree. And I talk about it a lot because it was a very impactful part of my life. My career at that brand, I think, just opened my brain up and my mind up to a different level of things that are possible.
So, when I went to school, I originally majored in graphic design, which not a lot of people know that, right? Communication design, and then an option in graphic design. And that’s because I had a love for art and creativity and things when I was younger. And then when I was at school—I went to Chico State—I started basically doing things around campus, like throwing parties, doing the snowboarding club, and having these big events. And through that, I met one of the campus reps at Red Bull. It was called a student brand manager. And then that person had asked me to apply for Red Bull when they graduated. And so, I went through that process. I had kind of the same reaction you just had, which was, if I have to have a job in college, this seems like the best job to have.
And then through that experience, it introduced me to a side of marketing which, fast-forward to today, has really colored how we’re building our company and how we think about culture and our product. But it really showed me a side of marketing that wasn’t so quantitative. Marketing can be very quantitative and numbers-driven for sure, especially digital. There’s also a very important part of marketing that’s about relationships and people. And probably no brand in the world has mastered that better than Red Bull. Their whole strategy is how do you create word of mouth in communities that matter?
And so, it showed me a part of marketing that I really enjoyed, and that kind of set me on a trajectory to continue to grow my career there outside of college in a bunch of different roles and then into what we’re doing now today at GRIN, which is building a product that really help accelerate word of mouth, in a way. It’s not how we describe it, but that’s kind of what it does.
Jodi KatzI mean, I can’t think of a company that did influencer marketing before it was called influencer marketing better than Red Bull. They just created a whole dynamic around support in the community and relationship-building in the community, building momentum for brand awareness. I mean, all that stuff—I think I’m a little older than you, so I’ve been watching this for a long time—they knew this decades ago, how valuable this is. And now the rest of the world is catching up. But I’m curious to know, being on the front lines of what—we didn’t call it influencer marketing, but it is, at Red Bull, what was the most memorable part of their partnership marketing for you in that time when you were working there?
Brandon BrownWell, so their formal name for it—I don’t know if it still is—but this is before social, they called it opinion leader. Opinion leader programs. So it was like, how do you go build brand outcome in these really hard to reach communities, skateboarding, surfing, graffiti, hip-hop, fashion, beauty? These communities that, oftentimes, outsiders are not welcomed. They’re actually rejected. And what I found in that environment was that if you don’t actually—if you’re not actually adding value to whatever the culture is, like let’s call it skateboarding—it’s really hard for a brand to come into skateboarding and be perceived as credible, unless they’re actually doing things that help accelerate skateboarding as a discipline, and they’re actually giving back to the community in a really real and honest and authentic way.
And so, how do you do that? Well, you do that by supporting the people that are really the taste-makers in those communities, whether it’s skateboarding or surfing or fashion. And so, what I learned there was that the relationship that the brand has with the person who actually has the influence before social media is actually the critical ingredient for it to work, because you can pay someone to pretend like they like you, no problem. You can say, “Hey, look, I’ll give you a bunch of money. Say that you like me,” as a brand. But if there actually isn’t a relationship between the brand, and in this case, the creator, but let’s call it the skate shop owner or the fashion brand entrepreneur who’s actually the brand owner, then it’s just gonna come off as just fake and transactional, and people are gonna be able to see right through it.
And so, you’re right. It’s a little bit of a legacy brand. But that whole brand was built through word of mouth. And they understood that the key to driving word of mouth was giving people experiences that they could talk about. And so, it was a very formative experience. And then I know we’re not talking about GRIN at this moment, but you fast-forward to our approach today—we solved the problem of influencer marketing and working with creators very differently than our competitors. GRIN is not a marketplace where it’s hyper transactional. It’s a system designed to build direct relationships between brands and creators and keep them organized. And a lot of that’s rooted in my time at Red Bull and what I learned there, and how a global brand really does it very well.
Jodi KatzWell, you helped me with my segue, because I was gonna move on to talking about GRIN. Before you tell me why you started this business, I want to know, in that moment years ago, what was your definition of success? So you’re about to start this business. What did success look like for you? And this is a judgment-free zone, so whatever.
Brandon BrownYeah. So for me, I’ve always felt like, okay, money and accomplishment will come. That was never the goal for me. The goal for me was feeling like there’s this—I have this internal kind of calling and desire, and whether it was GRIN or some other product. But it was really about testing my personal and professional limits and unlocking my full potential as a human. And that sounds like a really big statement. But through building a company, it forces me to get up and get in the gym, and have good relationships with my family, and live this well-balanced life, such that I can show up as the CEO of GRIN and actually deliver.
So for me, success was like, yeah, we want to make money, and we’ve been really great at doing that thus far. But it was always about this deeper calling to try to pursue something bigger for me and really minimize regret when I’m older. And yeah, just I didn’t want to be one of those people who always talked about starting a company and felt like it was really in them, and then never did it and had regrets 20 or 30 years later. And so, that was really kind of—it sounds silly, but almost in a way, fear of regret was the initial push. And our definition of success was just build something with legacy that’s meaningful that we can look back on in 20 years and really be proud of. And if we do that well, then we’ll all be compensated along the way and we’ll solve interesting problems, and we’ll have fun doing it. That was how we approached it.
Jodi KatzI feel like you and I should plan a workout together, because I think we could have a lot of fun. Because the thinking in my mind—well, I thought success was about money. For sure, I thought that. But then as I grew and evolved a little bit more, I realized every day is an opportunity for me to grow as a human. So it’s like, I spend most of my time on me through the catalysts of my work, my podcast, my book, my other stuff, right? My family life. But it’s really for me to grow as a human being. And I feel like that’s very tied to what you’re saying as unlocking your potential, right? I want to make the most of every day. We don’t have unlimited time here, right? We only get what we get. So I want to really squeeze the juice out of it.
Brandon BrownYeah. I agree completely. I have entrepreneur friends who have had various levels of success. And one of the things that we’ll talk about is this inside joke, right, this inside joke that success and achievement actually brings sustained happiness or fulfillment. And people believe that until you actually go achieve something that has always been your dream. There’s this—last year, two years ago, I told the team this story I heard on a podcast.
It was basically, this podcast host was talking to this other guy, and he was like, “Life is like, you get out of school and you hop on this ladder. And as soon as you get out of school, you hop on this ladder. And you’re working every day to try to climb the rungs of the ladder. And it’s like, it’s hard. You’re trying to get up and climb another rung of the ladder, and you pull yourself up, and you pull yourself up. And then one day, when you’re on that ladder, what you realize, at the top, a small little bag appears. And it’s super interesting because you’re like, whoa, this looks like a treasure bag. What is this? So then you’re like—you start to become obsessed with trying to see what’s inside the bag. So every day, you’re climbing, you’re pulling yourself up, rung by rung by rung, to get up to the top to see what’s inside this bag.”
And then the podcast host looks over at the guy, and he says—the guy’s on the edge of his seat. He’s like, “I’ve seen inside the bag.” And then the guy who’s hearing the story is like, “Tell me. What’s inside the bag?” And he looks over very calmly at him, and he says, “The bag’s empty.” He’s like, “But you still have to go up to the top of the ladder and look for yourself.”
And so, that’s the story I heard from a podcast from the founders of TOMS, this guy Blake Mycoskie told that story on a podcast. And it’s so true because it’s like, yeah. It’s like the inside joke of life. And you see it in athletes and entrepreneurs who have these crazy dreams, and then they achieve the dreams, and they spin out, right? It’s because I think they forgot to do what you’re doing along the way, which is like, realize that there’s a lot of other ways to be fulfilled. And that’s it. And we still want to win, and we want to build a big company, and we want to do something that’s really meaningful. But it’s not the only thing that matters.
Jodi KatzBrandon, before we hear the inception story of GRIN, I want to tell you a story. I really did for a long time think that money was the reason. I’m not ashamed to say it. I thought that’s what success was. And a few years ago, I was in the food store in my neighborhood in the bread aisle, and I ran into one of my neighbors, who had heard me for years lament about how hard it is to run my business, and every day is a hustle. And she asked me how work was going. And I said to her, “Well, I’m working really hard, but I’m not making a lot of money.” And then right next to the potato rolls, I realized, wait a minute. If money was the most important thing to me, I just wouldn’t do this. I’d go get a job at Lauder or something at some senior level and just get a paycheck. But I’m wealthy in time and flexibility, right? And then I just like, looking at the potato roll package, realize, oh, I get it now.
Brandon BrownYeah. Yeah. I mean, I agree. I have so many stories on that same tip and that same lane, where things that I thought would occur never actually occurred with how I thought things would make me feel. And I think part of the trick is, for me, I have an inner drive and an ambition that is a part of who I am, and I value it. And so, that’s never going away. And so, I think entrepreneurship and building companies will always be a part of my life because it’s something I enjoy. And it also—I opened up the conversation, which forces me to be a more well-rounded human, and actually show up consistently and dedicate myself to something. And in that way, it creates a life process for me that actually leads to happiness. But knowing that the achievement at the end goal is actually—won’t lead to happiness. It’s the whole journey, not the destination thing that you hear repeated kind of constantly.
But I mean, I completely agree with you. And it’s cool that we connect on that because there’s lots of, I think entrepreneurs and people who don’t—they just don’t think about it that way or don’t contemplate it, or for whatever reason maybe wouldn’t agree.
Jodi KatzWell, I’m enjoying the adventure. And the adventure’s much better and more fruitful now that I’m not obsessed with the money, just the fun. Okay. So let’s talk about this. Why did you start this business? What was your going on in your life, and what was in your head, and why did you think there was a need here?
Brandon BrownSo, we actually—when we started GRIN, we focused on a different problem. So, we were actually working with creators. And so, not a lot of people know this, but this is a pivot for us. So, we had build this cross promotion marketplace for YouTubers way before there was creator-side products. So, it was super early. And we had some good traction. We were able to raise money. But it just ended up—we realized through that process that there were some fundamental flaws in the business and that it was never gonna be a big company that has legacy and is really enduring over a long period of time.
So we made the very kind of painful decision to pivot the company. It was me and a co-founder, Brian. And that was a very kind of dark period of my life just because, yeah, you have something you’ve kind of poured your heart and soul into, and then to see the writing on the wall and actually accept that it’s not working is just very challenging.
And so, then we looked at influencer marketing, and our whole thesis originally was, people are cheating influencer marketing like advertising. And it’s similar, but it’s not the same, primarily because when the endorsement goes through the person, the person needs to believe what they’re saying in order for it to work. And you can’t buy believe; you can only inspire it through either brand-building or relationship-building. And so, our view was that the whole hyper transactional marketplace network model that was in the space was just the wrong business model. And the right business model would be about empowering the inside team at the brand to own these direct relationships over a long period of time.
And so, that was the original thesis. We launched with that, with a product in early 2017, and it immediately started resonating with brands. And we’ve been on a very fast growth trajectory since then. And we think this’ll be a company when you look back on it in 20 years, we’ll be a mainstay, very large public company that will have changed the way that modern brands operate, is how we think.
Jodi KatzOkay. Can we go back to this time that was painful? I mean, there’s just so much to learn when we look at these hard moments. About how much time passed before you and your co-founder looked at each other and said, “We don’t think that this is feasible and viable” to when you actually made a decision to switch gears?
Brandon BrownProbably like 18 months. Yeah, I think—
Jodi KatzWow, that’s a long time.
Brandon BrownYeah, 12, 18, months. I think it’s a hard balance of, you need to get enough signals. You need to actually try to see it through, because you don’t want to mistake a not viable business for just a lack of execution to get in front of the customers with the right message. So 12 to 18 months, I would say.
Jodi KatzAnd what is the most joyful part of growing GRIN for you now?
Brandon BrownI think, well, a couple things. Watching people grow their career is really exciting. We have some people who joined, like 10 employees that are still here with us, that have been able to just grow so much over the years, which has been really awesome. I think the culture that we’ve built, we’ve really built a culture. Our whole core purpose as a company is around growth and authenticity. And so, the way we think about that is personal, professional, business growth, in that order. You’re expected to be growing personally. If you’re growing personally, you’re growing professionally. And if you get those things right, our business grows and our customers grow.
And then authenticity. We’re creating a more just real and authentic buying experience for consumers, rather than being interrupted with ads. And we unpack it a lot. But I think that and the core values we have as a company, one of the benefits you get of being one of the founders is you get to create the culture in the way that you want to design it. And I think we have a culture in our company that I really want to be a part of, regardless of if I was one of the founders or not. And so, that, I think, has been super fulfilling, and actually see that come to fruition. And it’s not perfect. Not everybody likes it all the time, and it’s hard, and people are held accountable. But it is a place, I think, that people enjoy working because of the type of culture that we’ve built, which is pretty awesome.
Jodi KatzIt’s amazing to hear that because I started my entrepreneurial journey because the culture wasn’t working for me where I was at. And I looked around, and I’m like, I’m not gonna get this here, and I’m also not gonna get it anywhere. I literally didn’t think I would get what I needed, so I just started my own business because there was no other option. So I love meeting people who are changing the name of the game so that people can feel fulfilled and appreciated and valued, and learn a lot.
Brandon BrownYeah, agreed.
Jodi KatzSo I want to ask you this question. I was just talking with a friend who has a podcast. His whole focus is routines. And when he was asking me about what my routines are like, “I don’t know, I don’t think I have one.” Do you have a daily routine? Do you wake up at like 6:00 and go to the gym and blah, blah, blah? Is there a standard way Brandon starts his day and ends his day?
Brandon BrownYes. I’m not perfect, but I definitely try to stick to routines, and it kind of is up and down. I usually wake up in the 6s, like mid to late 6s, depending. And what I try to do is go downstairs, and before I open up my phone or anything, I just kind of slowly wake up, and I try and write in my journal and/or meditate. And so, I do that each day. Usually, not always, but I did that this morning, where I’ll spend 30, 45 minutes just by myself before—and I’m typically the only one down there. And I’ll write in my journal and meditate, and kind of just think about how I’m feeling, and just brain dump whatever’s in my head.
And then a little bit before 8:00, I log in and check all my email. And so, I just try to knock out anything that came in over the night that is quick—I don’t do projects or anything at that time—and knock out all my email. And then I’ll either work out, usually from 8:30 to 9:30, or I will start writing. And I write. Part of what I like to do is write, synthesize strategy, things like that. It helps me think more quickly. And then I try to be—I try to not have any meetings before 10:00 to 11:00, outside meetings. And I try to use that morning to really exercise, journal, work on projects, clear my inbox, and just get ready for the day. And then I start external meetings. I try to not start them until 10:00 to 11:00.
Jodi KatzAnd do you have a routine at the end of the day as well?
Brandon BrownLess so. I’ve kind of gone back and forth on these. One thing that I started doing which I haven’t been doing lately, admittedly, but it was actually quite helpful, was a practice called appreciation and gratitude. And so you basically go through, and in the same journal, you write down three things that you appreciate about yourself. So I appreciate that I am able to sleep well. I appreciate that I show up for my friends, whatever it ends up being. And then gratitude. Oh, I’m so grateful for this awesome house. I’m grateful for how sunny it was today. And you just do three and three. And that’s a pretty, I think—I’ve found it useful. I’ve slowed down on that. But I’ll do that, especially if I’m going through a tough time either personally or at work, I’ll try to do that to reframe myself and just remind myself, look, a lot of it has to do with your outlook and how you think about the world can help. So that’s something I do every few weeks.
Jodi KatzOkay. So I really want your morning routine. I don’t know why I’m not able or haven’t chosen to adopt it. I feel like in life, I’ve tiptoed into this world of setting aside time and doing the meditation and the journaling. And I think I need some coaching offline from you. I want it, I crave it—I just am unwilling to make it a practice. So I need to work through this. Maybe I need some therapy and coaching on this topic. But I desire it. I really want that. And—yeah.
Brandon BrownSorry to interrupt. One thing I’ve found, the reason I do that is because as soon as you open up your phone, it’s just—it’s like more time. It’s like, it’s the news, it’s text messages, it’s Slack, it’s email. And there’s always something that’s gonna invade my head space. And it isn’t always necessarily bad. But it’s like, the stock market, or a news headline, or some problem at work, or something happened with someone in my family, or someone’s upset or something. And so, I just really try to not look at my phone. And then I take that time to just be with myself, really, in the morning, before I go be with everybody else all day. I really enjoy it. Sorry to cut you off.
Jodi KatzOkay. I want that, but you are—the universe brought you to my Instagram Live today because I needed to hear this. I crave it. I’m gonna try, but I’m gonna probably email you for some tips.
Brandon BrownI’ll do my best.
Jodi KatzOkay. My last question. This idea of being seduced by success is really meaningful to me. I feel like it’s kind of followed me my whole entrepreneurial journey, even before I was an entrepreneur. I get a little taste for one of my goals, and then I just want more, more, more. And I know that the more hours I put into work, the more I can get it. But yet, there’s other things in my life I want to do other than work. So I’m just curious if you feel like success seduces you, and how you navigate saying either yes or no to that seduction.
Brandon BrownYeah. I mean, I think it’s a super powerful question, for sure. And it’s something that I’ve struggled with over the years. I feel like today, I have a really healthy relationship with it. I mean, if you think about just my prior career, in a way, I’ve always been pretty work-identified. A big part of my social identity was being the rebel guy. It was really neat. I could get into all the events, all the parties. I knew everybody. It was really fun. And then when I started GRIN, it was the same thing. It was like, oh, I’m an entrepreneur. I’m building this tech company.
But what I’ve found is that it’s a very tricky balance because what ends up happening if you’re too over-invested in your ego and identity and work, you start to conflate your self-worth with your work performance. And as you know, work performance goes up and down, oftentimes due to things that are out of your control, but not always, but oftentimes. And so, what I’ve really spent a lot of time over the years doing is separating my self-identity and self-worth from work, and saying those two things are separate. They can coexist, but Brandon as a person, I have value just as a brother and as a son and as a friend. And that’s completely irrespective of any type of accomplishment that I make it work.
And I think that is very seductive, because what ends up happening is you get on this constant never-ending pursuit of achieving more and more. And what’s happening is you’re unconsciously trying to prove your self-worth in the world. And it can lead you down a very dark path without even really knowing it, right? And that happened a lot earlier in my career and even at GRIN. And so, I think it’s a great question. I’ve never heard anyone phrase the question that way, “Have you ever been seduced by success?” And for sure, I have. And yeah, I think I’ve learned a lot along the way.
But don’t mistake that. I am very ambitious, and we are going to build a very large, valuable company. I’m just trying to enjoy the process and realize that, yeah, my value is separate from the company. And I think it’s a trap that lots of entrepreneurs get into.
Jodi KatzYeah. This idea of the seduction came to me. I was at Disney World. I think I was at Epcot. And I got a text from my publicist saying that Women’s Wear Daily wants to do an article on something that I’m doing for the podcast. I was like, oh my God, this is like my big goal. This is the goal. I had no other goals, right? I wanted to be in Women’s Wear Daily. And I got that taste in my mouth. I’m like, oh. I want more of this. And I relate it to my relationship with sugar. I have a piece of chocolate, but then it becomes every single sleeve of chocolate in the package. And it’s just, I want more, more, more.
And it’s seductive because this is fun. I have a fun job, right? I get to hang out with fun, interesting people. I get to be in smart places, cool places. So I guess this is my Red Bull, right? Working in the beauty industry is my equivalent to working at Red Bull. So, but yet, this isn’t all that I am, right? This isn’t all that I want to do. And it’s hard to say, let me put the brakes on, or let me take a break.
Brandon BrownYeah. I completely agree. And I think—so you don’t want to be this—and I don’t say you. I don’t want to be this—nothing wrong with being a monk, but this monk who just is so enlightened that has not identified with their ego so deeply that they just don’t do anything, but I also don’t want to be this rampant, crazy entrepreneur that is crushing people and making their work life hell to achieve some external goal. But I think there is really a way to create balance. And ambition and drive and your entrepreneurship adds value to your life, because like you said, it’s something you enjoy doing, the creative pursuit of it. You’re around these interesting, inspiring people. But it’s also not the only thing in your life, and you have value as someone who’s in your family and all these other areas of your life.
And so, I think those two things do have to coexist. And figuring out how to make them balance, I think, is really the trick and the key, because my brain goes, there’s no way that I’m not gonna do tinker and build things. But I also want to be able to weather the ups and downs, and like I said, kind of separate myself from those things. So I think the trick is balance, but it’s hard, for sure.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you, Brandon, so much for your honest answers and your authenticity and generosity in this interview. I love learning more about you. And I am totally gonna email you for some tips about how to start a new morning routine.
For our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Brandon. Please subscribe to our series on your favorite podcast app. And for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.

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