Ep264: Todd Dewett – How the Pain of Failure Can Inspire You to Become an Expert

Listen on

Apple | Overcast | Stitcher | Spotify | YouTube | Other

Guest profile

Dr. Todd Dewett is a best-selling leadership author, educator, and professional speaker. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young, he completed his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor.

Today he speaks, writes, coaches, and has created an educational library of courses at LinkedIn Learning that is enjoyed by millions of professionals in nearly every country in the world. Visit him online at www.drdewett.com.


“Hard work always pays, but it’s not always in money. Sometimes it’s in growth and learning, and sometimes that ends up making you more money in the long term.”

Todd Dewett


Worst investment ever

The successful young professor

Todd was a young professor teaching classes and writing papers. His little fledging side career of speaking at conferences started to grow. Todd was getting more and more calls to speak at conferences. He was now feeling happy, grateful, and entirely too full of himself.

Jumping on a trend

Todd was doing an ancient podcast back then when no one was doing them when he noticed an obvious trend or what he thought was an obvious trend. He noticed that that microlearning,  shorter focused videos from YouTube were becoming popular.

Todd kept getting feedback from students and people in the community and businesses about his talks. And so he figured well if he’s that good, then people would pay for his advice.

Investing his inheritance

Todd’s mother, unfortunately, passed and left him a small amount of money. He decided to do something he’d been thinking about for several years at that point, which was launching a business to monetize the advice he loved to give. And so he jumped onto the micro-video trend.

Todd hired a video director who came with a lighting person and a hair and makeup person. Todd wrote scripts for over 100 initial mini-courses, three to five-minute advice oriented bits that he was going to do. Then he scouted the city where he lived, got 10 different locations, and started shooting the videos.

Lights, cameras

Todd was having a blast creating this database. He also hired a firm to build a subscription-based website in readiness for all the people he knew who would love his videos and pay top dollar, no doubt.

And so he took over $100,000 and created all of this content over many hours, working alone to write and working with his team to shoot videos, have them edited, and loaded onto the website.


The day to launch the videos finally came. Todd hit up his list and told them the videos were live. He went onto social media and made a huge announcement. Then he waited for the money to start rolling in. Crickets chirped.

On the first day, only two people signed up. Then one person the next day. That’s almost all he ever got. Todd called his clients, and they said they were not sure the videos were what they needed. He heard many other statements about why the videos weren’t the right thing for so and so.

Admitting he had failed

Todd had this beautiful product. He had told so many people about it publicly through every microphone he could get his hands on, but no one cared.

Six or seven months into this, Todd made a public announcement that this thing he was so proud of working very hard on and that had cost him more than any single investment he’d ever made in his entire life, was an absolute failure. He admitted that it was indeed his worst investment ever. It didn’t come close to breakeven; frankly, it just failed.

Lessons learned

To become an expert, you must learn

Don’t be blinded by what you know, and thus less capable of seeing what you should learn. At the very least, build a team to help you understand what you don’t know. To become an expert, talk to smart people who know what you don’t and build a team that knows things you don’t.

Andrew’s takeaways

It’s not only about the content

Success in business is not only about your content. It is also about how good you are and, most importantly, how good your relationships are.

Hard work pays

Hard work pays eventually. It may be one year or six years or even 10 years later, but hard work pays.

Turn your losses into your winners

In every loss and mistake is the seed of your next stage of growth.

Actionable advice

To become an expert in what you do, find someone who has traveled the road you want to travel, and ask them what they learned so that you can learn from all of their mistakes and successes.

Please share some of that wisdom. Don’t assume you understand what’s about to happen; just find someone who’s done it before. They will save you a ton of heartache and money.

Parting words


“Listen to this podcast and take it personally. When you fail, learn something, then go share it with somebody.”

Todd Dewett


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that winning investing you must take risks, but to win big, you've got to reduce it. This is Andrew Stotz at a Stotz Academy where we help investors learn how to build and manage stock portfolios, and where aspiring professionals learn how to value any company in the world. We also help business leaders learn how to make their companies financially world class. And we even help beginners who just want to learn how to implement a simple lifetime investment plan. Join the Academy at my worst investment ever.com slash Academy and get free access to the short course I created, called six ways to lose your money and six strategies to win. This course comes from what I've learned from interviewing hundreds of people on this podcast and now on with the show. This is your worst podcast host Dr. Andrew Stotz, and I'm here with featured guest, Dr. Todd do it. Todd, are you ready to rock?

Todd Dewett 01:05
Hey, I'm ready to rock. Thanks

Andrew Stotz 01:06
for having me. Man. I am so excited. There's so many things I want to learn about you. And I'm going to start by introducing you to the audience. So Dr. Todd do is a best selling leadership author. He's an educator and a professional speaker. After beginning his career with Andersen consulting, and Ernst and Young he completed his PhD in organizational behavior at Texas a&m, n, A and M University and enjoy a career as an award winning professor. Today he speaks rights coaches, and has created an educational library of courses at LinkedIn learning that's enjoyed by millions of professionals, nearly every nearly every country in the world, visit him online@www.dr do att.com Well, take a minute Todd and Phil any further tidbits about your life?

Todd Dewett 02:00
Well, I'm living a charmed life. So far, if I'm being honest about it, I get paid to do something I love. And it's not the first time that's happened. So I fell in love with studying people at work back in the day working for what is now Accenture, and then Ernst and Young. loved those roles. And then I figured out to be honest with you real quick. A couple things, business is fascinating relationships are everything. And people aren't great at all those people's skills, all those relationships heals. To me, that was just an obvious opportunity to go become an expert, and figure out how to better myself and better others. And I did that. So I love being a professor writing dorky, scientific literature, helping graduate students, you know, try and get promoted, I love doing all of that. And I thought I would do it forever that give me a watch, never retire. Really, that's what I thought I would do. And as you well know, life has its own plan for you and unfolds in unpredictable ways. My phone started ringing, people started offering me money to speak, which I thought was the most laughable, insane thing I'd ever heard of. And then a few years later, I had to retire early to take the speaking and writing thing seriously. And I've been doing it ever since. So I'm it's what I do I I talked to good people like you who care about what's going on in my world. And I write a lot, from the blog to the tweets to the next book to the next educational course. Which means really, I have a lot of fun helping people, and it makes me a living.

Andrew Stotz 03:22
It's interesting when you talk about that, I'm sure there's a lot of professors that are listening in. And they would love to make that transition, but they're kind of stuck at the university. And it's a slow pace. And you know, and what you described is something that a transition that a lot of people would like to do. And I'm just curious, like, what would you say was the key element that really allowed you to catch the interest of the world, the market that allows you then to say, Okay, I'm stepping away from the traditional teaching at the university?

Todd Dewett 03:55
It's a great question. I'm not sure I had a perfect answer back in the day when it first started happening to me, looking back now, I think I have a pretty good answer. First of all, it's not just about being a content expert. That's a lovely thing. And we'll help you in life in the ways that we understand. It's not enough if you want to maximize helping people maximize your own life to doing so you also have to be different in an acceptable way. I mean, you look at me and bald and unrecoverable. I don't

Andrew Stotz 04:20
quite look the part that most people expect of a leadership expert. So being a little different, in some acceptable way is quite huge. And then there's the communication component, no matter how different you are or how interesting you might look. You have to be able to deliver in a way that is colorful, memorable. We talked offline a little bit. Here's a word emotional, otherwise, people won't really pay attention and they certainly won't retain or truly learn in a sticky sense. So looking back, I happen to be blessed with a lot of caffeinated energy. And when you're talking to people, what you say matters and how you say it. It sounds So simple a million before me had said it, I actually think that's the best answer to your question. Hmm. It's interesting, because the big takeaways, you know that I think from our discussion before, and this is the emotion, I think a lot of people don't take risk when they get up on the platform. And, you know, I'm required recall a speech I was asked to give in Thailand, we had a big event, between the CFA society and the regulator here, the SEC, and they asked me to talk myself about us make a speech about ethics, in the profession. Now, you got to think that's the most boring thing that you could probably ever talk about. So I had to try to think about how to make it real. And so I told the story of a young kid, and he grows, starts to grow up, and he meets his wife, and then they build a family and they find a financial advisor. And here's where a financial advisor could cheat them if they weren't ethical. And here's this gap in knowledge between the financial advisor and this, you know, young guy that doesn't really care about finance, he just wants to make money at work and do a good job. They raise a family and all this and then eventually they retire. And then they are able to retire because of the great advice that they got, and that they had an ethical advisor. And I highlighted the different tools that we have in CFA, that helps us to be ethical. And later I started, as I showed the pictures of his life, people start to realize I'm talking about my father. Yeah. And then as they start to see the pictures of my father, my mother, and then they see their happy retirement. And then they see my father, you know, on his last day in the picture, I have that. And by that time, I'm in tears, the audience's in tears. And then I explain how my mother came to Thailand with me. And how when she came to Thailand, financially, she was okay. And then that was because of the ethical advice that we got. And, you know, then I said, so my, my challenge to you in the audience is to care for your client, as you would your mother.

Todd Dewett 07:03
Listen, I as a professional speaker, I would analyze your success in that scenario as follows. Yes, it was a good presentation, content wise, the structure the family, making it personal, those are huge, but just watching you in case you ever get bored with this finance and investing thing, I'm just saying, just watching you, I see things that I coach others to understand and see when they speak. Most people you say are afraid to get on stage, and they're afraid to get on stage. And when they do they actually shut down. That's extremely normal compared to their normal communication. They shut down and they become stoic readers of slides. You've seen it many, many times, I know this, what you just did without thinking twice about it, because you've done it so many times. Or maybe it's just natural for you like it is for me, you used all kinds of emotion in your face, you used changes in the volume of your voice, you used pauses dramatically before introducing sir, these are dark secrets for professional speakers. And you were using them like a pro. Well done.

Andrew Stotz 07:58
Thank you very much. Well, now before we get on to the the question in the show, I'm just curious, like for those people that really want to learn more from you, what's the best waste way to engage you said to go to your website is to read your blogs to go to your you know, your online, like your TED talk like? And also that's the first question. And then the second one is like, what can people get from you? Like, what is it that you can really help them to do because I know my audience is looking to improve themselves? Sure, thanks.

Todd Dewett 08:29
I help people believe more as possible and make themselves into something more special than they were yesterday. That's what I do. It's about careers, leadership, relationships, and success in life. So a whole lot of it is on the soft skills side from introspection and self improvement, to understanding how to influence and communicate more effectively at work. That's what I do. Most of my time is spent managerial leadership executive types. Having said that, the answer your question is go to doctor do a.com. There's a blog, there's everything else you'll ever want, of course, over at LinkedIn, a whole slew of courses to consider as well.

Andrew Stotz 09:01
Got it. And we'll have links to all that in the show notes. So but now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be telling us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it. And then tell us your story.

Todd Dewett 09:17
Well, if we have to do this, man, all right, so set the scene for you, a young professor, this is a dangerous thing to be you think you have a clue about what's going on, you uniquely understand what I'm talking about. If you're crazy enough to go all the way to PhD land. Well, then you start to think you I'm an expert, and in a knowable way, I'm an expert. And so you don't always question yourself the way you should. One of the biggest traps of success I've ever seen, I fell prey to it's part of this story. So it's humbling. It's not ironic that I have to share with you. I was a young professor, I'm teaching classes I'm writing papers. The phone is starting to ring the little fledgling career on the side taking the podium at conferences that's starting to happen. I'm feeling happy and grateful and entirely too full of myself. And it got me here's how it got me. I'm sitting around, I'm doing an ancient podcast back when no one was doing them, I was starting to build my own and write a blog, all those things. And I noticed an obvious trend or what I thought was an obvious trend, I noticed that that micro learning shorter and shorter, focused video from YouTube displayed, paid Pat platforms, all kinds of places, were starting to be obvious. And I thought to myself, well, what can I do with that, and I over many months played with just taking a recorder, whatever the brand was at the time and pointing it at myself and say, Hey, you want to build trust in your team? There's three things you've got to understand and doing my version of that. And people liked it. A few people here and there, were paying attention. And I was pretty interested in that. And I thought to myself, you know what, if you're good enough at anything, you can monetize it, you know, this, Andrew? And I thought, Okay, um, how good am I kept getting feedback from students and people in the community in businesses, hey, you're somebody, how good am I? Well, if I'm good enough, I bet you people will pay for this advice. And my mother unfortunately passed not too long after that left me a small amount of money. And I thought about doing something I'd been thinking about for several years at that point, which was launching a business to monetize the advice I like to give. And so I did just that I saw the micro video trend, I went and I did the research about hiring a video director, I got a video director and they had a lighting person hair makeup, I don't have much hair, but we needed to make up. And I wrote scripts for over 100 initial mini courses, meaning three to five minute advice oriented bits that I was going to do. And we scouted out the city, where we lived at the time. And we had 10 different locations and lights and cameras. And I was having a blast creating this database and hired a firm to build the website subscription based ready to go for all the people I knew who were going to love my videos and pay top dollar, no doubt. And I knew this. I knew this why I knew this because I asked a handful of clients. Hey, I'm thinking about doing this.


Todd Dewett 12:11
Does that sound interesting? Would you subscribe? Would you pay for this? Yes, I would. I'm glad you asked. They said. And so I took what in my world was a very, very large sum of money just over 100,000. And I created all of this content over many, many hours, working alone to write working with these people I mentioned to actually go shoot videos, have them edited, loaded onto this website that I purchased in the day finally came when we announced to the world that we had, so they just had to see Hold on. I said, I mean, this is how giddy I was, hold on. You got to go check this out. And I hit my list and told them It's live. And I got on social media and said check it out. In crickets chirped. And two people the first day signed up one person the next day. And that's almost all I ever got. And I called my clients and they said well, I'm not sure that's the vehicle that we need, we can call you and you do things for us. And I heard many other statements about why it wasn't the right thing for so and so. And I had this beautiful product, I had told so many people publicly through every microphone I could get my hands on, and I've gotten a lot of them about how great it was and no one cared. And a few months, maybe six, seven months into this, I made the decision publicly very embarrassed from my newsletter to YouTube to Twitter, you name it, just embarrassed that this thing I was so proud of working very hard on that cost me more than any single investment I've ever made in my entire life. absolutely, positively failed, didn't come close to a payback to get even breakeven, frankly, just failed. And what I after, to be frank with you, after a few months of keeping my office door closed and not speaking to anyone, because that's how embarrassed you feel. And you're looking at you like really, really, your friends are looking at you like he thought this was Oh, it was a very new experience for me actually talking about mistakes and failures a core part of what I do these days. And it kinda was before I did this, but boy, this is a great personal anecdote for someone who talks about this topic and cares about it educationally. And as a coach. I didn't want to talk to anyone and I finally ended up putting all of that material hours and hours of good material on youtube for free when I was finally brave enough to open the door and start learning from this situation the way I teach and preach you're supposed to. So I did that. I begrudgingly shut down that website. I think to the handful of people who have signed up, who I'm still friends with, we're still fans what I do. And I put all of it for free on YouTube. And a lot of people enjoyed that people use it around the world in small, different ways. And, and then something strange happened, I got over it, I'm done licking my wounds, I'm going to put my thinking cap on and turn this, like I teach and preach into something that can help me be better. I finally got into that attitude. And I'm thinking, you know what, I'm going to find the right way to monetize through video what I do, that was obviously the wrong answer, what's the right answer? And then my phone rang one day, and a person at a company called lynda.com said, Hey, I saw your stuff. It's interesting, we should talk, we do what you do, except we're really successful at it. And we've got millions of customers. And I think maybe you'd be good member of the team, let's talk and I wasn't interested at first. But they convinced me and I went to LA and I shot some stuff in their studio. And we started making videos, and a lot of people cared. And a couple years later, LinkedIn purchased them and grew them into the largest, most successful online platform anyone had ever conceived of with unbelievable millions and millions of customers. And then that got so successful, Microsoft bought LinkedIn. And now because of well, serendipity and a good product, I'm one of the most watched faces around planet Earth. I was so embarrassed, so hurt and embarrassed, ego is fragile, is it not? And I failed miserably. But that effort taught me a ton about making content the way I now make all the time. And it helped attract a company that really had a clue about what it means to run a business around that idea, which is something obviously Andrew, I did not understand that was my worst investment ever. And I'm grateful to say it led to one of my biggest successes,

Andrew Stotz 16:58
as is so often the case, our biggest learnings come from our biggest losses. So let's summarize what lessons did you learn?

Todd Dewett 17:07
Stop assuming you know at all stop being blinded by what you know, and thus less capable of seeing what you should go learn or at least build a team to help you understand. I went solo and thought that I understood how to run a small business, a small business is no different than a big business, you got to know all the functions. And I didn't I have my area of expertise. And I'm world class in that area. And I didn't understand the others. Ghosts talk to smart people who know what you don't is now what I understand. build a team that knows things you don't you shouldn't ask yourself how to leverage what you know, you should say, okay, that's important. I'm going to get back to that. But What don't I understand? And how can I go find people who do by far that was my biggest lesson in that venture?

Andrew Stotz 17:54
Hmm. All right, let me share a few things that I take away from that. One of the things that I think this is going to be one of the most difficult messages to deliver. And that is, it's not about the content. And I know when I started my career as a young analyst, I thought it's about the hard work and delivering the result, the content. And I really did everything I could. And I was talking to a young guy that was one of my interns recently. And he was like, Yeah, I don't I don't believe that. It's about relationships. It's about delivering about, you know, and I just thought, I just laughed, and I said, Yeah, you sound just like me, it's just all about the content. It's all about the quality of what I do. And I use that to write off the part of the relationships. And I didn't realize and later over time, I realized that success in business in particular, besides the impact of luck, is also the, you know, you know how good you are, but also how your relationships are. And so what this reminds me of is just creating great content and everything is not enough, there is the whole area of marketing, which has to do with what channel Am I going to bring this to the world in? Who am I bringing this to the world? You know, and how are they get it? What result are they getting? And are they willing to pay for it and all of that minimum viable product and stuff like that, which then brings me to the second lesson. And that is it's not about the content. It's not about the hard work only. But it is about the hard work. Because the paradox is, if you if you don't do the hard work, you're not going to get the you're not going to fail and get the opportunity that you got. So ultimately, the second takeaway is kind of the flip side of that is, I've always believed and it's a hard one sometimes when everything's going wrong, and that is that hard work pays eventually. It may be one year it may be six years it may be 10 years, but hard work pays. So those are my main takeaways. He's Anything you'd add to that.

Todd Dewett 20:01
Great One. I've said that exact thing many times, and I'll paraphrase or change it just a little bit and say it always pays, but it's not always in money. So sometimes it's in growth and learning in sometimes that ends up making you more money in the long term very similar to what you were saying. Absolutely couldn't agree more. It took me months to get over the embarrassment because it was the largest public failure I'd ever engaged. And, frankly, you're so correct, was the best learning moment that will serve me well for the rest of my career.

Andrew Stotz 20:30
And I would also tell a little story that this reminds me of, and that was when I was a young guy, my dad contacted his friend, and he wanted to contact his friend who owned a business and he was willing to hire me to work in his factory. And I was 18. And I went to work in this guy's factory, I did the best that I could, I was working in the warehouse, I was kind of having fun. He's like, you got a three month probation period and go for it. So you know, all that. And then at the end, at the end of three months, he invited me in the office and he said, Well, Stotz, you're fired. I was like, What? And he's like, you're not cut out for this kind of work. Good luck. And I assault home to my best friend. And this best friend of mine said to me, how do you know, you know that what's around the corner is not better for you, your focus on what's negative, that just happened to you. But how do you know? And that really woke me up. And I realized also that that got me started on the idea that I've got to study and I've got to get an education. And it reminds me of later in my life, I remember thinking of this friend of mines comment, because I lost the job. And it was a great job, I was doing very well. And for various reasons, I lost it. And part of it was I didn't understand how to build the relationships the way I should have. And I walked out of a very great company and a great job riding high in my career. And when I walked out, I looked at my best friend here in Thailand, and I said, it's over. I don't have a career anymore. I mean, if anybody knows, I lost this job. And you know, all that. He said, you'll be okay, you'll be okay. And then two days later, a lady called me and said, I, I know of you, I want to meet me for lunch, I need you to help me with something. And six months later, I made more money that I made in the last three years by doing a deal for her, that helped her massively to sell a particular asset that she had. And then, soon after that, the number one investment bank approached me and said, We heard what happened at that last company, and we're not going to mess around with this kind of stuff, we're going to give you the real opportunity. And then within a very short amount of time, I was ranked the number one analyst in Thailand, mainly because I also got on this platform. And what it taught me is that in every adversity, in every loss in every mistake, is the seeds if you let it be, it is the seed of your next stage of growth.

Todd Dewett 22:59
You know, we're obviously brothers in this one. I know this is supposed to be wrapping up in a little while. But I gotta tell you, I love this topic. I've written about it many times. In fact, one of my oldest stories on the platform on stage is about a speech I gave the State Farm will tell you the whole story except to say that man, I couldn't agree with you more. And one time I thought I knew what I was doing as a young speaker. This is about 15 years ago, maybe big wigs State Farm. I'm the guy lights music, it was one of my first times they have a big event. And I stood there. And I acted like a professor. And that's a problem. And I didn't know better and it went bad. And people were bored and tuning out and they looked at my watch thinking they're not having fun. I'm not used to what's going on. I had 50 5055 minutes left. I didn't know what to do. It was horrifying. I felt about that tall. In because just like you said, if you're brave enough, if you're smart enough, if you're lucky enough sometimes to choose to make that into a catalyst make that into a learning event, you'll figure out what you did wrong. And I did. And that became something I never forgot. I dissected great speakers for a whole I mean year after that when YouTube and other platforms, because I'd never done it before. I didn't think I needed to. And now I knew I needed to this horrible moment helped me understand that I needed to study and be a student and become a true legit no question to ask the expert not just kind of naturally good at something, there's a difference. And that makes it a great event in my life just like the one you're sharing. Absolutely.

Andrew Stotz 24:27
Yeah, pain is a partner of growth. All right, so let's think about that young man or woman out there who's listening in right now. And she's thinking, geez, I just put in like 30 hours into this new content. I was going to do this stuff. And I had this idea and I realized now listening to you that I have really haven't tested the market and I don't really you know, there's that she has questions in your mind. So based on what you learn from this story and what you continue to learn what one action would you recommend her to take? To avoid suffering the same fate.

Todd Dewett 25:02
But the one thing that I would share for sure, which I haven't said yet, because it just didn't hit me is go find someone who has traveled the road you allegedly want to travel. And ask them what they learned because you're dying to learn from all of their mistakes and successes. Please share some of that wisdom. Go find someone don't assume you understand what's about to happen because you don't go find someone who's done this. They will save you a ton of heartache and money.

Andrew Stotz 25:33
That's beautiful advice. Well, listeners, there you have it another story of laws to keep you winning. Remember to go to my worst investment ever.com slash Academy to get access to my short course six ways to lose your money and six strategies to win. As we end Todd, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Todd Dewett 26:05
Yeah, listen to this podcast, share it with someone else and take it personal when you fail, learn something then go share it with somebody.

Andrew Stotz 26:12
Amen. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow, and most importantly, protect our well fellow risk takers. This is Andrew Stotz, your worst podcast host saying I'll see you on the upside.


Connect with Todd Dewett

Andrew’s books

Andrew’s online programs

Connect with Andrew Stotz:

About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

Leave a Comment