with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode, we meet Josh Ellis.

Josh is the editor-in-chief of SUCCESS, the American newsstand magazine that since 1897 has been devoted to the personal and professional growth of its readers.

An accomplished sportswriter before joining the SUCCESS staff in 2012, he originally served as the magazine’s features editor before being named to the top position in 2015.

In the years since, he built a staff that has won industry awards, including two nominations for editorial team of the year, and in 2017 the trade journal Folio named him a 30-under-30 honoree and one of the 100 most influential people in the magazine industry.

In this episode we talk about: 

  • What factors separate successful people from the rest;
  • How to achieve balance in life, particularly as a leader;
  • Why his age hasn’t hindered his achievements; and
  • The fallacies of success and what to look out for.

Connecting with Josh Ellis

You can reach Josh via LinkedIn. But the best way to connect is via Twitter.

Our greatest thanks go to James Whittaker for connecting us to Josh.

Books and resources mentioned in the episode


“So when our baby gets here, I'm probably going to have to cut out some friends, I'm not going to get to see your talk to as much. And so you just have to accept the fact that you can only do so much.

On what successful people do to win

  • I think that the most successful people among us have almost without fail a mindset that they can control their own outcomes. They feel more like they can dictate the terms of their future and they take ownership. So they have a sense that their future is in their own hands and not let their situation determine their outcome. A lot of them also just have a general lack of fear.
  • Tim Ferriss has a strategy if he comes to a decision point in his career or life. While a lot of people do the SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), he does that but he also includes the worst case scenario. So, what is the worst case outcome if this opportunity absolutely fails? And almost invariably, it's not that bad.
  • I would say the ability to define what it is that they want, understanding who they are, and defining what they want from there. A lot of people never set a goal, a lot of people sort of just vaguely want to make more money and be healthier, but they don't actually go through the process of setting up a goal and getting a time constraint to the end, which allows you to create the steps to actually get there. Very successful people are able to narrow in on what it is that they want, so that so that they can go and get it.
  • They understand what they're good at and what they're not, and the places and facets of work where they need to enlist other people. A lot of these folks just don't have the time to do everything that their business would absolutely require. And so they find people to run their social media for them that are much better than they would be. So they understand how to make the most of all the resources that they have available to them. They understand what their superpower is.

On confidence

  • I think it's an ability to remember your own past, keep an inventory of successes that you've had in the past. I just have that memory of wanting something and doing everything necessary to make it a reality. So anything I do now, I can draw on that, and the confidence that comes from being able to do that.
  • I think that people who have a series of successes over many years, each one they have just helps create new confidence and they learn from them. And likewise, each of the failures that they have too. They don't waste successes or failures.

On hitting a career stall

  • Sometimes the best move is to not make a move right away. If you don't have your own passion lined up for whatever the next step is, you don't have to make another move right now. You can once you have a certain amount of success and equity in what you're doing currently, but it's okay to tread water there for a little bit.
  • You're not necessarily losing ground until the next thing comes along and makes itself apparent. And then you can go for that.
  • So passion is a big part of it. You might take a while before the thing that your passion is going to be devoted to reveals itself, but there is some comfort in just sitting still for a bit.
  • Just do your best and be good to people. That's all you can really control. And as time goes on, there's more that you can control. So don't necessarily feel that you are so stalled. Because every day you have the opportunity to do your best and be good to people.

On what he attributes is success to

  • I think that maybe other people aren't as good at compartmentalising as I am. So I have a 20 minute commute every morning and every evening and in that 20 minutes I'm able to get my mind ready to think about work. And in the 20 minutes on the way home, I'm ready to get my mind off work, push it out, forget about it and spend quality time with my wife.
  • None of us is able to be productive and focused 100% every minute of our day, at work or at home. So not worrying about one while I'm doing the other is my gift. Our view is that you can only give the requisite percentage of yourself to so many things.
  • I built the front of the book section that appears in every issue. It's called your plan, and it has four sections to it on happiness, health, growth and purpose.
  • My definition of success is constantly making some effort to pursue all of those things. And I don't think that you can judge success in them in the short term. But if I look back on what my life was five years ago, or 10 years ago, then I have a lot of excitement about where I am now.

On the fallacy of success

  • A lot of the folks that I've had the chance to interview have something in common. It's that they reach a certain status or level and then a lot of them have people around them or they have people that are catering to them, and they're so used to getting what they want and not being told that some ideas are bad. So there is a lack of self-awareness.
  • I think that my vision of what we try to do is help people understand that success can look like many different things for many different people. And ultimately, the only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself. So it's not a certain number of commas on your bank balance, or what kind of car you drive or anything like that. We all live in the space between our ears, this is how we feel about ourselves, the way we perceive the world, the way we perceive ourselves. That's the most important thing.

On relationships

  • The best coaches that I was around in my time in sports, they were fair to everyone, but they didn't necessarily treat everyone the same. Different people have different needs. They have different ways that they like to be talked to or ways that they like to be coached.
  • Emotional intelligence is understanding what other people need out of you, and how they want to connect with you. Some people are more emotional. Some people like to be spoken to directly, so they like tough love. And then some people would crater if you told them that their story sucked. So you just have to understand and pay attention to people and it doesn't mean you don't make mistakes along the way. You can still upset some people!

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • In my generation, there is an excitement about data. We have more data available to us; business decisions are made completely on data. It's all data, data data.
  • In business, the data points that you receive represent people ie. your customers or your employees. Every sale you make represents a person that made a purchase choice.
  • In spite of the inclination to make the purest, analytical, high efficient decision based on what the data says, you have to remember the people, you have to know who your customer is. As long as we don't lose sight of that, then I think that over the long term, our businesses, ourselves, our society, continues to accrue that interest and continues to get better. And when we look back 10 years, 100 years, there's more chance that we'll be excited for where we are and how far we've come.

Stay epic,