Brett G. Jones began his career with a 5-year tenure ‘swinging with the Air Wing’ of the United States Marine Corps as a mechanic, martial arts instructor, and rifle range coach. For the past 10 years, Jones managed client service for McCann, Ogilvy, and Madras Global with portfolios spanning multiple verticals. Now as founder of Jones and The Motivators, Brett produces podcasts and livestream events and helps build and transform brands with his take on strategy. And in pursuit of his passion to explore the universe as a bonafide space cadet, Jones has recently become a Venture Fellow at VU Venture Partners, seeking opportunities with start-ups servicing the burgeoning space economy.
Finish this sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for ________________.
The United States Marine Corps. My tour was more like Harvey Keitel puts it when he talks about his time as a Marine, “For me the Marine Corps was a spiritual journey. It’s not about war.”
I served 2 years in Okinawa and 2 years in San Diego with the Air Wing, learning to teach a bunch of things like martial arts, basic rifle and pistol skills, and how to maintain a Technical Publications Library for a squadron’s Support Equipment work center at the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16. All these experiences came rooted in the 11 leadership principles, and the 14 leadership traits preserved and passed on by the United States Marines.
I talk a lot about the basic troop leading steps that got me here in my book, ‘Shock and Awe, RECRUIT! (Or, How I Learned The Fundamentals of Advertising in Marine Corps Basic Training).”
Resumes highlight professional and educational achievements. Which one of your life or personal experiences deserves to be on your resume?
S’able Labs certainly challenged me, from a professional perspective. The project really came down to five people creating what they are now calling a ‘galaxy brand.’ Perspective and checking your (un)conscious bias on the regular became essential. It certainly flexed my ‘Diversity & Inclusion Champion’ title I earned at Ogilvy in 2015.
I was one voice among five, two of whom have their name on the brand. The others? My French-Vietnamese-American creative partner with an unparalleled talent for design, Olivier; and, the other, a spritely Canadian with the kind of electromagnetic spark that will turn every head in a room upon entry, Jess, the product lead.
Helping to launch S’able Labs has been the highlight of my career so far. It speaks to the multitude of roles I had to play as a managing director, executive producer, strategist, copywriter, audio engineer, editor, technical project manager, junior counsel, and the list goes on.
“… champions of diversity come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders … take a chance when your gut tells you that a person is capable of great change …”
What qualities do you look for when hiring someone on your team? What qualities do you avoid?
Open mindedness is a big one for me. Being willing to change your position when presented new evidence.
The other big thing is having an entrepreneurial mindset. I read an article a while back that gave a great list of questions to screen for this sort of thing that I keep in my notes on my phone.
One of my favorite questions to ask is: “A space explorer is looking for people to colonize Mars. Have a conversation between the part of you that would say ‘yes’ to this mission and the part that would say ‘no.’”
I am kind of bigoted toward bigots. Most of the time bigots are jerks, but there are some sly bigots out there that play nice. Keep your eye out for them. They’re harder to spot.
What’s one piece of career advice you wish you could give to your younger self?
Find your Ikigai … the Japanese secret to a long, happy, and fulfilling life. It is the convergence of four primary elements: what you love (your passion), what the world needs (your mission), what you are good at (your vocation) and what you can get paid for (your profession).
Jeff Bezos says there are jobs, there are careers, and then there are passions. You can’t just follow your passion all the time (unless you have a trust fund), but if you’re lucky, you might stumble into it. Using the Ikigai framework, it helps you find the opportunities that will get you to the top of the mountain.
Just remember, at the top of every mountain, the view of the moon is always the same.
There are a lot of mountains out there. There are a lot of people out there. Every journey is different for every person, but the view is something we may all share together … if we’re lucky.
Which three books, podcasts, or new sources do you think everyone should read? Why?
Podcast – Uhh Yeah Dude: It’s America, through the eyes of two American Americans. It’s more of a dancecast than a podcast … maybe a comedy podcast … with some armchair philosophy … and current events.
Books – The Three Body Problem Trilogy (The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Death’s End): It’s a masterpiece written by Liu Cixin, a Hugo Award winner for the work. He gives a perspective on humanity that has never been presented to me before. The man must have read a teraflop of data before even penning the first word. Just … epic.
News – Unplug CNN, Fox, and whatever else is conventional news for you. Create a personal newsfeed with Google News and make sure you know where your source comes from on the media bias chart (adfontesmedia.com).
Diversity, equity and inclusion is front and center right now. How do you express your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in your personal and professional life?
I’ll say that commitment to diversity isn’t a one-off thing. It’s a day-to-day thing. The best way I’ve found to treat people is like human beings being human. Astronauts talk a lot about “the overview effect,” what happens when you realize there are no borders between people, and the planet is one big web of life that we humans are intricately woven into, that we are only one part of a broader story to be told. I think of it as the story of triumph of love over fear. Most reasons for exclusion stem from fear when you come down to it. Fear of the “other.” There is no “other,” there is only you and me on this big spaceship we call, Earth.
I like to use that lens when looking at people and situations with different types of people.
Let’s make the most of what we have … right here … right now … together.
What’s one tangible step every employer should take to help build a more representative organization?
When I was at Ogilvy, the Chief Diversity Officer, Donna Pedro, said something that has stuck with me: “Diversity is about everyone. What I’ve found in the years that I’ve been doing this is that if you take a narrow focus, that’s all it will be: narrow. Don’t exclude anyone, including white men. Our issue here is being an employer of choice. It is a journey.”
Now, it’s possible I received that diversity champion award because my booming voice carried at the various cocktail parties Professional Networks hosted on Ogilvy’s dime (most Marines will scout any free drinks within a 10-block radius!), but I also believe that champions of diversity come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders … take a chance when your gut tells you that a person is capable of great change … no matter what they look like, sound like, or if they don’t make sounds at all.