Welcome to Episode 127!
STIMY Episode 127 features Alejandro Navia.
Alejandro Navia is the co-founder and President of nft now, the premier source of NFT content and analysis. As an advisor, coach, and early supporter of web3 and the creator economy, Alejandro has helped numerous founders and creators scale their communities and raise over $92MM in funding.
Prior to NFT Now, he held leadership positions at startups and enterprises in AI, aerospace, and media, including Verizon, where I led Strategy and Acquisitions, and Elite Daily, which I helped lead to a $50MM acquisition.
This is a story where Alejandro transparently shares some of his lowest moments, e.g.:
- being suicidal at age 16;
- being kicked out of Harvard; and
- scoring a $4.5 million deal only to lose $125k two days later due to a huge mistake!
P/S: This interview is also available on YouTube!
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Alejandro Navia’s Life Story
- 2:26 A rupture in his life
- 8:49 Being suicidal
- 14:41 Turning point
- 21:13 From getting kicked out of Harvard to becoming the Director of Innovation and Culture at Elite Daily
- 29:02 Losing potentially $250,000
- 36:09 Worthy of receiving love
- 39:17 Building company culture
- 41:43 Best hire & hiring process
- 43:48 Identifying rug pulls
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Eric Toda: Global Head of Social Marketing, Meta
- Jacqueline Novogratz: Founder, Acumen
- Karl Mak: Founder, Hepmil Media – Building a Viral Meme Business in Southeast Asia
- Apolo Ohno: The Most Decorated US Olympian in History – on the power of psychotic obsession & how to win in 40 secs
- Lydia Fenet: Top Christie’s Ambassador who raised over $1 billion for non-profits alongside Elton John, Matt Damon, Uma Thurma etc.
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If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s Patreon page here.
Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:
- Alejandro Navia: Website, Twitter, Instagram
- nft now: Website, Twitter
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STIMY 127: Pain Makes Us Grow | Alejandro Navia (Co-Founder & President, nft now)
Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!
Welcome to episode 127 of the So This Is My Why podcast. I'm your host and producer Ling Yah, and today's guest is Alejandro Navia. Now Alejandro is the co-founder and president of N F T now. A great source of all things NFT, which is something that was pretty big in 2020 and it was certainly how I learned a lot about NFTs and the web three industry in general.
Now, the reason why I interviewed Alejandro is because he's actually lived an incredibly varied and colorful life, and he's not afraid to talk about all the highs and also the low, like how he was suicidal at age 16 and was kicked out of Harvard when he was 23. Later on, he closed the biggest deal in history at 4.5 million for his company, only to make a huge mistake two days later and lose $250,000.
Now, Alejandro, after being kicked out of Harvard, spent his twenties doing a lot of exploration before landing a role as Director of Innovation and Culture at the American Dream Company, Elite Daily. Now he shares what it was like being on that rocket ship. Because Elite Daily, it was on a meteoric rise.
It was publishing over a hundred articles daily, its videos were becoming culture movements, and it was getting 84.1 million millennials visiting every month. All with the help of a team of 45 people.
That said, Alejandro always has his eyes peeled for the next opportunity, which as it turned out was Verizon.
Before he then became the chief of staff to the CEO of an AI company where he crashed and burned.
Eventually, Alejandro moved back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, discovered the world of NFTs and launched nft now.
That's quite a journey, isn't it? I hope you enjoy this episode and feel inspired to take a leap when things don't feel like they're quite aligned for you.
And just a heads up, this interview was recorded admittedly almost a year ago, so some information might be outdated, but regardless, I feel like Alejandro really has a lot to share just in terms of his life story and how he makes decisions and thinks about risk.
Are you ready?
Two weeks before you turned eight, you moved from Columbia to Florida and you didn't speak a word of English. So it sounds like that move was really traumatic for you.
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, it was both like the best thing and the worst thing. Speaking to my therapist recently, I recognize that's what people call a rupture in your life when it's something that's not necessarily understood or explained but that it actually affects you in more ways than one.
And yeah, I didn't speak a single word of English when I first moved to the United States. And I remember one of my next door neighbors, I would try to speak to them in English and I would just make words up.
It wasn't until later that my parents would tell me like, Hey, our next door neighbors a little concerned about you. You're speaking in tongues, you know. And I was like, tongues, I'm trying to speak English. And it was really a very interesting period of my time. A lot was happening.
Was I informed that we were moving to the States? Yeah, but it wasn't grasped. Like no one really sat down and explained to me the circumstances or the reasons behind it.
That's like 95% of like immigrant stories. You just see an opportunity and you take it and my parents did what they could. I loved them for doing their best . It's not until more recently in my life that I can actually understand.
Being able to heal my own pain has actually allowed me to really see the big sacrifices that they made for me and my brothers and my sister to be here in this country and have the opportunities that we do. Has it always been rainbows and butterflies? Absolutely not. I remember being bullied as a child because I didn't speak English.
I remember being bullied because I had a specific set of teeth grow in a particular way, you know? And just not being able to defend myself in communication really produced a lot of internal aggression. Violence is never a topic that people wanna say. So you hold that aggression in.
I would get in trouble for hugging my friends. Like in Columbia, you say hi to your friends, you give each other a hug. But in the States it's a no-no. In our Columbian cultures, we're very touchy.
I love to communicate. Touch is very important, right? A hug, a touch. Like if I'm speaking to you, I wanna hold you.
And so that was always there for me as a child. And like growing up that was told, No, no, you can't really do this. You can't really do that. And so, from that perspective, I think there's always that drive, that innate drive of like wanting to improve and always wanting to be better. That's something that growing up was inherently part of who I am as a personality.
I learned English in like six or seven months. You know, really took on the ESL program by storm, and just really navigated the transition as best as I could.
I still remember this day, when we first registered for school. My dad had to go to a business trip in India and he left my mom by herself with the two kids.
And we didn't even speak English. And my mom was like in shock. We had just moved like a month before. Seeing all this pain or seeing all these tensions without the understanding of why left a lot of questions in me, Right. Why are we here?
What are we doing? Those things end ended up becoming kind of like subconscious aggressions, I wanna say, or subconscious motives operandi that really continued driving me to probably like five, six years ago.
Like specifically sitting down with therapists and coaches. And sitting down with myself and with God, and just doing a lot of deep question. And not only questioning, but answering. Yeah, that was really my beginning of the United States.
It was really a beautiful journey but it was painful. I always say who are we to judge beauty away from pain. Pain is really something that allows us to grow. People call it discomfort, but really it's pain. Discomfort is a form of pain, right? Just that level of it.
And so for me, I think that was the best decision that could have ever happened for me. Again, I didn't have sovereignty to choose and I'm grateful that I didn't cuz otherwise I would've stayed back for comfort. But my parents made some incredible sacrifices.
Very grateful that my parents have always looked at the bigger picture in some shape or form. That have always learned how to work hard and plan for a future and maybe see an opportunity that other people didn't. You know, this is 1997 in Columbia, where things were not necessarily the safest or the most stable.
And then coming to Miami and to struggle, right? Thankfully we had a leg up. My dad had already a social security number he had studied here in the States before.
So there was a process that was pre laid out for us. Nevertheless, we had to go through our own challenges, right? I remember my dad telling me at one point, I was maybe like nine or 10, I want you to know that I have to choose between putting gas in the car or putting food on the table.
Like that was the level of sacrifice. I don't even know what existential crisis or existential questions must have been been going on through both my father's and my mother's journeys from that perspective. And on top of that, taking care of three children and transitioning and trying to make better and do better and all these things.
It turned out for the best because I love this country. I love America. I love everything that America has to offer. I believe that American dynamism is coming back. I think we took a period of a lull. I think the American dream is still the greatest experiment that's ever been done.
Very influential mentor of mine. I asked him, what do you feel is the closest example to utopia in the world? And this is a foreign politician. So like, just from a perspective, he's not American himself.
He said, America's democracy is the closest thing that we have to utopia. It's one of the youngest nations in the world with the oldest constitutions and this is the only country where you can actually start again from nothing .
I think America has something that's really powerful, which is redemption. It gives you a second, maybe even a third chance.
If you take ownership. Like the concept of bankruptcy. People can come back from that, right?
Of social cancellation. People can come back from that. Even from political things, people can come back from it. The American culture, from my perspective, I think it's one of the greatest cultures in the world. Yeah. Is there a lot of things wrong with it?
Absolutely. Is there a lot of great things involved with it? Yeah. But no one talks about the British dream. No one talks about the Singaporean dream. No one talks about the Brazilian dream, right? Like the American dream and manifest destiny. Still very much real, very much alive. And I'm a very proud patriot.
Like I love paying my taxes. I love providing services here. I don't see myself wanting to live anywhere else in the world. And from a terms of a passport perspective. Like I have lived abroad, I still travel a lot, but I'm just really proud to be an American. And so that full journey of coming in from a rupture of undecision. Sometimes the best things that happen to you come with a lot of pain at the beginning, but actually create a lot of abundance in your life in other ways.
Ling Yah: I want to explore one of the pains that you got out of, which was when you were 16, and you were actually suicidal. What was that period like for you and how did you step up for something like that?
Alejandro Navia: That's a really wonderful question. And I just wanna say suicide is a very real thing. Depression's a very real thing in today's society, right?
And if anybody listening to this podcast and at any way, shape, or form, you have felt the need to do. So there's a lot of resources out there. If you wanna talk to me, I'm happy. Just DM me on my Twitter, DM me on IG.
If you're suicidal, I will make time for you. Because life is really good. Life is amazing. Life is really a beautiful thing. And just know that this chapter is just a part of life. It's not life in its entirety and in that darkness, I promise you, there is strength, there is light, and there's love.
So if you're going through something like that, please know that I'm here to support you. And there's a lot of resources in the world.
Yeah, back to my own journey, for me growing up I was very confused. There was a lot of confusion stemming from hanging out with the wrong people, right?
As an immigrant, you get told 'no' a lot from your parents. No, you can't afford this. No, you can't afford that. No, we can't go this. And you're like, you're just asking why a lot. And the whys don't want to be shared because quote unquote they wanna protect you. And that's okay. It happens.
I realized that I was horrible at school. Like, I don't like systems. I get bored really easily. Novelty is something that's really important for me. Like, I would absorb a lot of things very quickly. For example I would read the syllabuses and do the work within the first three or four weeks.
I would read Huckleberry Finn over the weekend, or, all of the books that were assigned 1984, all these different books that, reading as an adolescent you get told that you have to wait a month and you have to do the book report and you have to do this.
And I'm like, Why? I just read it in three days. Here's the book report. And they're like, Well, you don't really qualify for gifted because like the standardized test, right? And again, esl, you don't really understand a lot of this concept.
Ling Yah: ADD was nothing.
Alejandro Navia: I would never say that I have ADD. I wasn't interested. I think it's important to understand the difference between ADD and boredom, right?
Like some of the greatest minds in the worlds have been and will continue to be ostracized in educational systems that don't fit them, right?
Like being bored is not ADD. It's just the lack of actually allowing you to focus. And so coming back to my story on that front is, in that boredom, I started hanging out with the wrong people.
I started using lying as a coping mechanism. It wasn't until I was like 10 or 11 years old where someone actually taught me the difference between imagination and lying.
Like, what's the difference between me seeing a vision and a dream and imagining something and then me saying it and being portrayed as if it was delivered as a lie. The concept of lying wasn't really introduced to me until somewhat of a late age.
When you think about the concept of communication that's okay. In that process I used lying as a coping mechanism growing up. Like I would lie about the type of shoes I have or the types of things I would do or the places I go to or the vacations, like things of that nature kind of to escape.
I use it as a form escapism, but then those lies would catch up really quickly . And so from that perspective I wasn't really welcomed or accepted. In school I was bullied.
And in bullying I wanted showcase that I was cool. Like people pleasing was very much a thing for me. And then I would be left really drained from that capacity.
I was inconsistent in my adolescence around certain things. So that inconsistency in my personality, I was looking to grasp on external things versus having the moments of being able to depend on myself. So a lot of survival came through and I just became really tired of surviving. And there was a point when I was 16 where I thought about hanging myself.
I even got the rope. I still remember my dad walked in at the perfect timing and he like sat down with me and he was like, Holy shit, this is happening. Hey, we're gonna be okay.
And I knew that I couldn't do it. Like there was a light inside me saying No, this is not your time.
I still very much remember that conversation with myself. I was just in deep silence and it was just like, this is not your time.
I started self-medicating. 16, 17, I started self-medicating, start doing parties, wanting to drink, smoke, and do some recreational things.
I was just so lost. And at that period of time some of my best friends would set me up and I got jumped many times. Jumped means I got beat up. Like purposely. Somebody actually orchestrated me getting jumped and things of that nature.
So from that place a lot of trust in people was ruptured, cause I was in the wrong environment.
I remember very vividly telling my mom I need to move to the north. For some reason I'm feeling called to the north. I don't want to be in Florida.
From 16 to about 19 I remember being atheist. I was like, Why would God allow anyone to live through this? Why let an adolescent , even though at 16 you think you're on top of the world? This is what was going on in my internal world.
My family was doing great, things were coming up. I had a very privileged childhood. Things weren't exorbitantly abundant but I had a roof over my head. I had meals. I was able to get from point A to point B.
In those dark relationships, I also found some meaningful ones. I still have some of my childhood friends with me. Those were really beautiful cuz we navigated those episodes together.
I don't wanna paint that my adolescence was like this crazy thing. I just wanna say it was like a period of confusion where you're just like, who am I?
What do I wanna do? There wasn't a stability or a safety net. A lot of our friends had the stability of parents coming in with their jobs . My dad had his own business, but the business would fluctuate up and down. Like resources weren't stable.
We'd ask how come everybody gets a car and we don't. Or when we did, it was like the hand me down. A lot of these questions, when you think about it and look back, it's just not understanding.
I think when you lack that understanding is really when you start creating your own stories and your own narratives. And then it became very clear for me like I wasn't worthy. I felt that I wasn't worthy of my friends' time. That I wasn't worthy of my parents' love. That I wasn't worthy of my brother and sisters love and things of that capacity.
And so I was just like, if I'm not worthy, God, why am I here and why am I supposed to believe in you?
Ling Yah: There must have been a turning point.
Alejandro Navia: Oh, there was, there was. There was a turning point where my family, my mom particularly, I gotta give that woman so much grace. If it wasn't for her love and her intervention really I wouldn't be the person I am today.
I had just had a really challenging breakup and I had just gotten into U for the first year cuz I wanted to go to Harvard and there was this amazing program that I found, but I needed to showcase that I can actually meet my grades. I had really high standardized course grades, but really low gpa.
And they were like, how? And I was like, Well, I'm smart. I'm just not educationally smart, you know, like I'm not high school curriculum intelligent. I'm like real world intelligent.
My mom saw that I just didn't have anything or anyone to believe in. She asked me to have a conversation with my grandfather. My father and I have a lot of father son issues.
There was a period of time where I didn't speak to him for about eight years. A lot of trust broken . But my grandfather really became this fixture in my life, it was a lot of stability.
10 children from poverty all the way to this. He calls me one day and he's like, Hey son, your mother tells me that you're having a very difficult time and that you don't believe in anything right now. And I was just like, Yo, what is this old man gonna tell me?
For one reason or another, I decided to listen. I was like, Yeah, that's accurate.
He was like, Look, son, I'm not here to preach to you, but what I wanna tell you is this. I don't care if you believe in a dog and a cat, and a tree, and an elephant in a flower, in a God, whatever you wanna believe in, but a man of purpose needs to believe in something greater than himself.
And that really stuck with me. That really stuck with me. That's when the amber turned into a flicker, and that was the same year that I had gone into the Harvard Extension Program and I was like, Hey, this is really awesome. This is a really great program. You know what? I'm surrounded by the best theologist.
The best academics in the world are here. Let me explore what I now call spiritual tourism. At the time it was more academic intellectual rigor, but I really dove down and spoke to a lot of priests. A lot of rabbis. I spoke to a lot of people of the Islam community.
I went to mosque. I went to temples. I went to churches.
I started looking into ancient teachings like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism. And what I came to understand was the fundamental aspect of understanding of teaching of God and all agree across the board it's love, right?
Like love really is everything across every facet of faith. Faith and religion are two different concepts in my book. And like faith is an incredible aspect. That's an incredible vehicle where people take religion to that road.
But faith is something that is completely different than religion from my perspective. This is context for where we're going.
I found that the concept of God was really the ideology of how we ourselves navigate the world. What the values of that navigation look like and what do we stand for. Who we are and what are we willing to put up with? What are we not willing to put up with?
The concept of good and evil still stands out. You see this in every faith. Every practice has some form of like, Hey, this is good, this is bad.
It's not that it's right or wrong, it's just that there's some things that lead you to other places. I started resonating with the concept of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. And really understanding the dowing was really influential as like navigating my early development of that faith.
I was really curious by the concept of forgiveness. Cuz I needed a lot of forgiveness, you know what I mean? Like I needed a lot of redemption.
It has cost me friendships and it's cost me money. It's cost me opportunities. Things of that nature.
My behavior wasn't always the best but because of that journey happening so early on in my life, I was able to now navigate it a lot quicker. And so, from that standpoint, I found this concept of forgiveness very important.
What does redemption look like, and what does transformation look like? And where is this really aligning with myself? And so I resonated with the teachings of Buddhism or a Zen way to live moving forward.
But I really resonated heavily with the concept of forgiveness that catholics embraced.
I jokingly always say like, Look, I identify as Catholic. The reason being I like understanding that there's A, an afterlife. B, I appreciate the fact that there's homies or saints and angels, taking care of you in the background.
And the idea that through love, with love and ownership, as long as you are in full surrender to service forgiveness is a journey that allows you to embody who you truly are meant to be from day one which from my perspective, is the human form of God.
When you speak from a place of love, you understand that God made you in the image of himself. Like there is this concept of pure love, right?
And so when I embraced that and I started practicing my beliefs I recognize that even Jesus had gone to the east.
There was a mentor of mine at the Harvard Institute of Politics who said to me the most successful individuals in politics are not the ones who can stand with the giants. That's the easy part.
But it's he who can sit with the broken. And in that moment I was like, Wow, yeah, I've been broken, but it doesn't mean it's bad. If anything, I've been cracked open, like those facades, those mask. All these social conditions that I've been told that I'm not good enough.
All these things started to break apart. And that was my journey of going from that moment of 16, of dark confusion and pain and acknowledging it. And also understanding that my environment wasn't conducive for me. Like, I can't express how important it is that your environment is so critical to your development.
A lot of people are products of the environment. Very few of us in our lifetimes actually make that transition of being able to create the environment as a byproduct of who we are.
Majority of us are a product of our environment and so I recognized that I just didn't fit in here in South Florida. No one really understands me.
And so I decided to move. The only ticket that I knew how to was education. And boom, naively ended up in Boston, which was another journey in and out of itself. But at least I had gotten out of that environment.
Now in Boston, I was able to express my ambitions. I was able to express my beliefs. I was able to express what I was navigating.
There was judgment from others. But there was also understanding. There was also some guidance, like, read that book or do this or get this help. I'm really grateful for that moment, 16 year old me like, thank you for making the choices that you've made. Because of you we're here today.
So thank you for allowing me to share that.
Ling Yah: No worries. Thank you for sharing.
So you managed to get out to Boston. Would you say that eventually you realized that that environment as well, wasn't suited to you?
And I say this because I find it so fascinating. You're very open about your whole journey and it feels like there are lots of ups and it goes crashing down and it goes up again.
And so you were at Harvard, but then you got kicked out and you spend your time exploring. Then you became director of innovation and culture at Elite Daily, which is the American dream. And it feels like there's so many peaks and I was just wondering what that period was like for you.
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, I think that period of time was like a little short circuit because I was still navigating the embarrassment of getting kicked out.
First and foremost, no one wants to get kicked out for plagiarism, even though I was accused, I was never really found guilty of . .
and At the time there was just so many things going on at Harvard. Like a class of intro to Congress was going on. They're like the academic thing, just fast track people. I didn't have the means or the family name to defend myself, you know? And so it was like, okay, I'll take this acceptance.
Again, the environment wasn't conducive for me. So I was like, God, what do I go next? And it was like, New York, go back to New York. Again, those moments are short circuit.
I went back to New York and I had my most successful failure.
I wanted to bring your passion and job together. I really loved food. I really love hospitality. I love hosting people.
I learned very quickly that sometimes your passions and your hobbies should just be that: passions and hobbies.
I had a role as an operations manager at this restaurant chain that was very successful in meat packing.
I had this boss for some reason or another had a vendetta against me or something . I still remember this conversation. She said, Hey Alejandro, look, we need you to fit into this box. And once you fit into that box really well, we're gonna expand that box. And after that box is filled, we expand that box.
And I was like, I don't do boxes. Sorry, I don't do boxes. Again, I was living somewhat of a double life at the time. To some people, I had finished Harvard. I never said I graduated, but I finished Harvard, right?
There was maybe a handful of people who knew what actually happened.
I was managing emotionally while still being at the wrong job. Like being asked to stay up until 4:00 AM at a restaurant when it was empty. And it's like, yo, just close it. There's no business.
Right. I started seeing things as an entrepreneur cause I had just done my first media company. I had launched it and because of my fear of success, I stopped it. And then I had done TEDx and the Presidential Youth Council. So I had these ambitious things I had done.
My best friend Kevin came to visit before my 25th birthday. He's like, Ali, where's your spark man? Like, you feel dead inside.
In that moment I just signed my resignation and the next day I quit. There was a call back because of my signing bonus. I just didn't care. I was out. And I was sleeping in the lower East side on a mattress on the floor in a make shift room with no AC. No heater.
Our shower was literally a pipe coming out cuz we didn't have a shower head. The floor was so fucked up I had to wear flip flops. Otherwise I'd get cuts.
I knew I wasn't gonna come back home. I had come back home once and I was like, I'm gonna do whatever it takes to not come back. I burned the boats, take the island. At that time we were navigating some things and I decided to take time off.
I was like, you know what, I have maybe $2,000 that gives me like maybe three months and I could hustle and do things on the side. So I was hustling, doing things on the side, and I decided to take six months off real world work. And my girlfriend at the time, Jessica, was really amazing, really supportive of this.
She asked me to move in with her and was an angel. My friends really supported me in this.
Then I started traveling to meet my friends. I was really focused on friends, family, and faith. I said to myself, I made a list of about 15 people who were there for me when it was uncomfortable for them to be there for me. When I asked for help .
So I went to visit them. I was like, I just wanna sit down and have fun with you, man. I just wanna spend time with you cuz I'm grateful for the time that you and I have had together and share together.
That really enriched my soul again. That's when I was like, Yo, I really need to get outta my own way and actually generate income and pay rent.
That's when I went to Pier 96. It was a startup fest. One of my friends pulled me to the side and he's like, Yo, there's this company called Elite Daily. And I was like, Oh yeah, I'm aware of them, that I don't really resonate with their content.
It's not really what I want to do. And he goes like, Let me introduce you, bro. He grabs me and introduces me to the political writer and he's like, Yo, you guys, he's done what you guys need to do. This is what you guys are missing.
And he's like, What do you mean? He's like, Look, it's been high brow thought leadership content well thought out long form. At the time that was a business card called our bank sophisticated. We were covering everything in culture, but from a thought leadership perspective, from the millennial view.
The political writer was really interested. He's like, Yeah, this is exactly what we need at this company. Let me introduce you to the founders. I end up going to this happy hour at Elite Daily, and I see what I've always wanted to build myself.
They built it. This is really, it's possible, right? I remember meeting with JSP, one of the co-founders. And I was like, Dude, the most important matter that happens here is your staff.
The people in this company is what really matters. Your company may not be around in two, three years, but the stories will be. You need to make sure that you develop the staff so that they can develop themselves. And I think this is a great environment. This is awesome.
Let me get you some books. Would it be cool if I gave you some books that changed my life that potentially can help you understand this narrative?
I remember I opened up my Bank of America app and I had I think $75 left. And I was like, You know what? Let me just walk down to the Barnes and Nobles and get him these books.
Like, worst case scenario, do you read them? He doesn't. So I go get the books and I come back. I'm like, Hey, JSP, here are the books man I promised you . He's like, Who are you? That was his response.
I had another conversation with one of the founders later on. I was just like, let me just put down what you guys should do. Like, this is what I would do if I was in your shoes. Put this together. Boom, boom, boom, boom. I put this like three page strategy.
I even put the context in there. I put like, who should they be talking to? Boom. I submitted it and then the chief strategy officer three days later calls me and he's like, Hey, are you Alejandro? Like, are you the one that put this together? And I was like, Yeah. He's like, Would you mind coming into the office?
He's like, All right, how would you do this? How would you do that? How would you navigate up this type of partnership? How would you navigate this? Boom, boom, boom. And he's like, Cool. Yeah, you're absolutely right. We need to do this, but we don't have anyone to run it.
Would you like to come and run it? I was like, yeah, absolutely. Let's do it. I remember telling my friend it's elite Daily. I wanna build my own thing. So shout out to Miguel who offered me a job.
And I remember sitting down in the couches of Elite Alia's offices in 25th and Park and he was like, So what are we gonna make your title? I really love innovation. I really love culture. So I was like, let's make a title of Innovation and culture and I will help you guys navigate the internal culture here at Elite Daily.
I will also help you innovate new products and be three years ahead of the company. I can stand them up and then hand them over, or I can start building different concepts and help generate new revenue and things of that nature. I was like, in my first year, I'm gonna bring you the first seven figure deal.
At Elite Daily, I met some amazing people, was able to really bring on some incredible opportunities, both for myself and a company and for other people.
We were also 20 somethings. We were between 22 to 26. The foresight of the founders was really great because they were able to sell the company literally three months before the digital media boom went downhill. Actually 30 days.
Because Facebook changed the algorithm 30 days later. Within that year, with the help of a lot of our teammates I was able to close a deal that brought in roughly $5 million for the company.
And then we generated more consultant agreements and we were starting to expand the vision. That really boosted my confidence. In that deal, I also learned the importance of putting things in writing.
Ling Yah: It's the thing, right? It's all highs. And then two days later it's the downs again.
Alejandro Navia: I don't think it's downs. I think it's harmony. Like being able to be proactive in your communication and taking care of yourself first.
It's not to say that you're selfish.
Ling Yah: For those who are listening who dunno the story could you just give us a brief overview of what is this whole thing that happened?
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, After I lost potentially $250,000.
That deal was actually 4.5 million. I was told by the founders that I'd be taken care of. In the spirit of being a team player saying, Hey, I put the company first. I'm not gonna really shine or grind on this. Boom. I didn't put anything down on paper or anything. I just trusted that they take care of me.
We had just gotten acquired and there was a new, new dynamic and I just had close the deal. And I remember I lost it. I lost it. And I remember seeing the loss cuz I got tied into the emotional aspect of this email back and forth with the then CEO .And then CEOs like, the deal closed. Why are you being so greedy?
Ling Yah: And you were only asking for 5%.
Alejandro Navia: I was asking for like 3%. Not even. What's 250k? It's like two and half, 3%. Right. When the industry standard's usually like seven or 8% for sales. Right. I was just like, Dude, I'm not asking for commission, I'm asking for bonus. You know that could've been life changing money for me.
Right. I remember emo losing my emotional cool. In like a matter of 10 minutes, I lost the opportunity because of the emotions. And I remember being toyed with, I felt this energy that someone was manipulating me.
And I remember the founders being like, Yo, we'll iron it out. I end up getting $15,000. Don't get me wrong, it's not nothing, but it's not 250 k.
And so from that moment on, I said, I'm gonna become the best fucking negotiator in the world. To this day, I've still practiced that. I still go to courses, I still read.
Now I've evolved that to wanting to become the best communicator in the world. Communication is what precedes understanding. And when you understand someone, you can navigate that. I wasn't even understanding myself. So there wasn't even self communication, right?
So of course I lost that deal because I didn't even know my own needs. I didn't know how to set those boundaries. I didn't know how to say, No, I'm not gonna continue with this deal unless boom, right? Unless these things are met. And now I always tell people, even the staff that I hire my own way, I'm like, Yo, put everything in writing.
Even if I tell you I'm gonna take care of it, email it, put it in writing. It's okay to take that extra day or two to pause. If you have an opportunity that's meant for you, that's not gonna go anywhere. And if someone's not seeing the value that you're bringing to the table, then that's not the environment for you.
If someone doesn't respect that boom, like that's really where it's at. And so from that place, from that place of that capacity, I was just like, Sure, cool. But then something happened. I was no longer invested.
That's when I decided to leave and my next cycle of joining, you know, a Fortune 100 company and being able to be the youngest member of a content strategy and acquisition team with a really great offer, with a really great team, right? And I was like, Yo, this is a learning opportunity. I get to grow.
It's a brand building opportunity for me. Boom. And literally I was like, Yo, I'm out. You know what I mean? I left equity on the table, I left money on the table. I remember people were like, Yo, you're really leaving? I'm like, Yeah. The way this is being managed, this can only end up in one location, right?
No matter what you do, no matter who you are, the energy that you bring into whatever is gonna dictate the trajectory of it. And if you were nickel and diming people, that means that people are gonna be nickel and diming you. You only reciprocate that.
The best cultures in the world are the ones that nurture and take care of their own people, right?
That's called tribalism. Right? And we look at tribes. Tribes really take care of one another. Even if you don't like each other. If you're bringing into the same mission and you're seeing the betterment of that greater mission, then that gets rewarded, right?
Coming back to America being the greatest state in the world.
We all believe in a set of values. Democracy is a very important stuff. We may not like each other from across the ways in terms of politics and stuff, but we can all agree that we love freedom and we love equality, right?
Does it get messy sometimes? Yes. But like if an outsider comes in and. Unquote attack those values. I guarantee you, everybody, whether you like it or not, they're gonna come together and stand against that, that common enemy.
Ling Yah: Hey, STIMIES!
Interrupting this just to say I've left law and this is essentially my year of yes, to meet, to explore, to see what's really out there beyond the world of law. While, of course, also doing the STIMY, which comes out every single Sunday. Now the thing is I've started to also help other people to build their personal brand.
I've spent the past three years essentially digging deep to the lives of Olympians, C-Suite executives, four Star Generals, and now YouTuber and Viral TikTok is as well. And what I've learned is that LinkedIn is an amazing platform to allow me to tell these stories, to allow other people to share their stories, what they're passionate about.
What they're trying to do to change the people, to change the community, the world around them. So if you are interested in also learning how to build a LinkedIn personal brand, do, reach out cuz that's what I'm helping people do right now.
Just drop me an email at, [email protected] and let's get started.
And if you're not sure what that looks like, just head over to my profile, look me up Ling Yah. And you'll see what I'm doing so far, snippets past guests and also what it takes to be a great storyteller.
Now let's get back to this episode with Alejandro Navia.
So, obviously big lesson learned there. You mentioned you worked for a Fortune 500 that was Verizon, then you end up being chief of staff to ceo. That didn't end well as well.
And I wonder what happened there? What were the lessons? Because it sounded like, you know, you were describing in your blog that you were filled with divine joy and then it seemed as though you suddenly went downhill. I just wonder what happened there.
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, that's a great question. It comes down to, again not vocalizing and setting those boundaries. In life, a lot of us get the perfect example of what to do, and that's great. Some people have it like here's that easy path that whatever.
But in my life has been more consistently than not, where I get shown what not to. And in not doing, you actually see what you can do. And so I got a front row seat at what not to do on how to grow a company, and I'll leave it at that. You know, it cost me a lot of my mental health.
It caused me a lot of my my peace, my own harmony. But it also helped me navigate a very dark period of my life in a way that allowed me to remember who I was and who I am. By remembering that concept and really took every ounce of me to step up and say, Hey, I'm no longer gonna work here.
Again, coming back to the environment, it's so important for you to nurture your environment as much as the environment nurtures you.
And so now I became a chief architect of my own environments and I set standards and boundaries. I operate transparently.
I'm playing a long term game, You know what I mean? Like, I'm like, life is incredibly short, but life is also incredibly long. Right? And mind you, have I made mistakes? A hundred percent.
But now the game that I'm playing is how do I bring harmony to people's lives? How do I bring fulfillment to people's lives? How do I bring freedom to people's lives?
And all I can say is that love of God has been instrumental to who I am.
Ling Yah: But what about that journey to accepting and realizing that you're the human manifestation of God and love? Because I read on your blog as well, you said after 31 years of not feeling worthy, I recognized that I am worthy of receiving love.
I wonder where that turning point came when you realize that you were worthy.
Alejandro Navia: When I met my wife, I was in a beautiful relationship for six years that I knew that wasn't serving neither one of us. And there was some attachment theories there but I wasn't receiving love.
And when my wife and I met, her love is so pure. In my journey of finding my wife, I understood that I was worthy of love and that's when true change happens. My wife was really the catalyst to help me understand that I'm worthy of love.
Ling Yah: That's incredible. And during this time as well, you also took time off after that pretty dark period and you've ended up doing coaching. What I love was you said that you realized a lot of founders find achievement and not fulfillment and that's their big struggle.
I wonder if you could just speak a bit more about how you avoid this.
Alejandro Navia: It's not that I avoid. It's embracing it, right? There's this quote that Robin Sharma says, Will you resist, persist, Right? Like, if you resist something, it persists. Like, if you resist anger, then anger will continue happening, right?
In terms of achievement, the question is, after you achieve it, what do you feel? And a lot of people feel empty, like look at celebrities in Hollywood, right? They achieve mega fame and then they start consuming copious amount of drugs and alcohol and party because they're looking for a feeling that's not really there.
So I started transitioning my goals from a measurement standpoint of, Hey, can I achieve my goals? Versus I start now saying, Can I fulfill my goals? I ask myself, who do I need to become versus when I need to achieve my goals is what do I need to do.
So it's like, for example, as we grow NFT and this new web three media companies, the question is who do I need to become to make NFT one of the greatest media conglomerates in the space.
Okay. I need to become a better media executive. Okay. What does that entail? Oh, I need to read, I need to study. Oh, I need to hire better talent.
Who do I need to become? I need to become a great storyteller because storytelling allows me to create recruitment. And in that recruitment, who do I need to become? Oh, great leader? What does a great leader look like? Oh, empathetic, courageous, taking care of people.
What does taking care of people mean? Okay. It means paying them well, giving them resources, giving them the benefits.
And then we start achievement. For me, I always start through the lens of fulfillment, and then I still need to achieve things. It's not to say that one or the other go away.
It's like they're twins.
Coming back to my childhood, that fragmentation of like this part of me wasn't allowed but this one, yes.
And then this one, no. Like once we start integrating all of our parts, we can then tap into them.
Like as long as you don't sacrifice your values, who you need to become becomes very, very crystal clear in that moment. So there's different parts of us that get called for different purposes. So the long version of that is that, but the short version is it's always evolving depending on the circumstances and the environment that I'm in.
Ling Yah: You actually lead NFT now with Matt, and as I say, I imagine. All three of you have very delicious styles, how do you ensure the way that you think about things, you know, thinking in a very futuristic way becomes a part of the culture in the company?
Because the way that you approach, like sitting down, having a difficult discussion, is a very unique way of looking at things.
I imagine it doesn't come as naturally to other people who are in the leadership positions, but I imagine it's also something you want them to adopt because it's a part of the culture of thinking in a very future manner. How do you ensure that it is a part of the company's culture?
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, that's a great question.
The first thing that comes to my heart to say is to ensure that other people's skillsets are heard and being seen. There's a certain amount of skillsets that I'm not good at. Like I'm not good at day to day operations, right? Like, I'm good at it, but I prefer not to do it.
The question that we had, NFT , when we sat down and we co-founded each other, we were like, What do you need to avoid at all costs?
Like, okay, so Ali, like you're good at accounting, but I don't wanna do it. Okay, great. Nobody wants to do accounting. Let's hire for accounting. Perfect. Let's align that. Okay, beautiful. And then we start finding our zone of geniuses.
Like Sam is a juggernaut for documentation. Sam is incredible at like bringing the big picture into small details and breaking it down and making sure that he's holding everyone accountable and moving the needle in a good perspective. Matt is an incredible storyteller and an engager in community, right?
Like no one beats him. This is why he's the face of the company. That's why he's CEO role. He's an incredible diplomat. He's so eloquent with words.
I thought I was a good discerner. Like Matt is a amazing discerner of storytelling. So guess what? He's gonna be running content. Matt's way better at discerning whether this is good or not, cuz his pulse in the industry is significantly better.
Sam's ability to actually operationalize an idea and seeing things through and through. And he loves creating and upholding systems, right?
I'm great at corporate governance. Like I love the business of media, right? Like I know and understand the shit like the back of my hand, and I love it. I also really enjoy my skillset of seeing the vision. Where are we growing? How are we navigating, how does this fit into the growth trajectory of our company and where does the vision need to be and where do we need to be at by this method and this point and this thing.
And right Coming back to the original question is like implementing the vision of a company from a grander scale is to really implement the vision of others.
And like allowing them to see that their dream is also coming true.
Ling Yah: I have to ask further question. Who do you feel has been your best hire so far, and do you feel like that hiring process allowed you in some way to find that person?
Alejandro Navia: Look like every single one of our hires has been the best hire we've made. But I think the best hire that I've ever made, Has been hiring God in my life, to be honest.
And you can't really quantify anyone because everyone plays a major key role in the machine that we're building, right? Nft now we treat it as a professional team, right? Like I think when we start hiring people, we let them know, Hey, nft, now we're not a family.
We are a professional team. Yeah, we're treating you as an athlete. We're investing in you for performance.
Markets are ruthless, right?
If you don't perform, if you don't bring revenue, if you're not growing, you're dying. We expect excellence of you.
Here's the standard of excellence. So when you think about who our best hires are, every single one of them. We separate ourselves in the marketplace cuz we wanna see this person succeed and develop and win championships. And as a business we also need to understand that we're in a free market that says if you don't create value in the marketplace, you are dead.
It's like, Hey, if you were an athlete, would you extend your contract?
Ling Yah: And what would you say the value prop is for nft now, given that at the time when you started, there wasn't that many people who were doing that, and it was full of scams, but now it's very, very different and you see everyone, all the major institutional players jumping into this space as well?
Alejandro Navia: You know, that's shifting every day as well, right? Our mission at NFT now is to empower the creator as a culture and bring NFTs from niche to mainstream.
That's really at the core of what we do, no matter what happens, that those are the two questions that we always ask ourselves.
So the value proposition of NFT now is to make things understandable and digestible. Our goal is to be the beacon and the gateway for people to enter the NFT space in a safe, sustainable, and recurring way. And as long as you make it understandable, people will adapt to it.
Ling Yah: And how do you determine what should be brought? Because a lot of people, they have the best of intentions, but things don't turn out that way. And given the nature, the culture of this space, then there everyone would say, This is a rock bull. I feel like I've been scammed. And the reputation goes down.
It's just such a tricky thing. How do you think through those things because you have obviously spent lots of time determining?
Alejandro Navia: Yeah. Like we have a very rigorous internal process and it's really about spending time with people. Like for example, new projects come up, we always request an hour meeting with the founders.
You can just tell so much from a meeting, right? Even if it's a Zoom, you can get the vibes right? You can see the legitimacy of it. We also ask for referrals. We have a very rigorous process for anything that gets covered at NT now. And on top of that, anything that that branded partnerships with nft now it's even a more rigorous process.
Like the organic coverage and the editorial team have done an incredible job of creating this methodology of what gets covered and what doesn't. And then on top of that, from a business development standpoint, we go through probably a life cycle that may not necessarily be healthy for us in the short term, but it's actually a life cycle of business where we actually spend a lot of time with this partnership.
We also have to show them who we are. It's really about taking our time and going through what we like to call our checklist.
A checklist and inventory list and a set of questions that are very rigorous to find out how intentional and what are your intentions behind the marketplace and what the longevity of a specific project is.
Ling Yah: And for those who are listening, who really like what you're doing, can they help you in some way?
Alejandro Navia: That's a really great question and I'm working on asking for help. We're consistently hiring. So I think the best way that you can help me right now is by sending me talent that you feel can help NFT now.
And the other way that you can help me is really by sitting with yourselves. I think we can bring world peace one relationship at a time. I don't know who set the quote, but it's like, it goes like this.
When I was young, I went out to try to change the world, but now I'm old, I'm trying to change myself. And when I did, I was able to change the world, you know?
Ling Yah: Alejandro, thank you so much for your time. I love, and all my interviews with the same question.
So the first is this. Do you feel like going on this entire journey, you have found your why?
Alejandro Navia: Oh, I've always known my why and I never needed to find it. I was born with it.
Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you wanna leave behind?
Alejandro Navia: The legacy that I wanna leave behind is that I help people create freedom and fulfillment in their lives.
And that no matter what happens, that I showed up with integrity, honesty, and transparency, and that I live my values. I think that the greatest legacy that I'm gonna have is gonna be my children. Right?
And so I think from that perspective, my name, my last name, but also the values that I instill in them, it's gonna be really awesome from my legacy perspective of family.
But from a world capacity, my legacy is like, I help create freedom and fulfillment in people's lives.
Ling Yah: And what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?
Alejandro Navia: Hmm.
Success can be defined in so many different ways. That's such a subjective word. Right?
Ling Yah: How would you define success then?
Alejandro Navia: What are the values of successful people, A, they believe in something greater than themselves. That's one thing. One thing I've noticed about every, every major person who I respect or admire.
Number two, they really know who they are.
Number three is, They don't work. They doesn't feel like work to them.
There's just that element, right? They just couldn't see themselves not doing what they do. And I think in no particular order, they're kind, they're empathetic, they're nurturing and they're loving.
And I wanna make sure I clarify, Kind does not mean nice. You can be kind and tell someone the truth. You can be nice and not be kind.
So that's really what I would say makes a successful person.
Ling Yah: I love the fact that you qualify on that point of kind because I just interview retired four star general and he said I have to be cruel to be kind and doesn't make sense. But then when you break it down, of course, of course you have to be cruel to be kind.
So I love that. And the way you were speaking about, all these people makes me feel as though as you are giving the qualities to successful people, you have specific people in mind. And I wonder if you don't mind sharing, who are the people you admire most in life and why?
Alejandro Navia: Oh man, that list goes beyond like so many that's like we can spend all day.
The person that I'm really admiring right now the most is my wife. I just seeing her grow in that capacity is really powerful. And really acknowledging the selflessness and the love and the compassion and the vision that she has for herself is really powerful. You know, there's so many mentors, idols and heroes within everyday life, right?
Abraham Lincoln is one of them. I think his values are very much aligned with a lot of things that I feel. And more contemporary is probably like Bob Iger, the former CEO of Disney. I think that there's something to be said about that. Mattias Dumper as well from Axel Springer from a professional standpoint. In terms of Spirituality like Ram Das Mahara, Like, there's so many different elements of admiration.
And also, I admire myself for the elements of investment that I've done in my home self and the growth and the trajectory of betting on myself, right?
And that's really the short list of it. And I really, that list can be going on every day. Like, I admire my co-founders every day. Like, I admire my, my CTO every day. I admire my brother, my mother, my sister, right? Like, like I, anyone who chooses to live life unapologetically and lovingly, that's who I admire, really.
Ling Yah: Fantastic.
And where can people go to connect with you, find out more about what you're doing, support you?
Alejandro Navia: Yeah, my website, alejandro navia.org or my Twitter, Instagram. Just look for the mushroom. If you find me like just look for the mushroom and you'll be fine. Just search Alejandro and if you see Alejandro Navia with the little mushroom, that's me.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 127.
The show notes and transcript can be found at www.sothisismywhy.com/127.
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