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  • Gary: Not everybody's work ethic is the same.

  • So if you don't feel like you're up to that place right now, to run a marathon, how do

  • you start training for a marathon?

  • By running.

  • By running more, and running more.

  • Baby steps.

  • Take it as you can take it to grow, and to work those muscles, develop those muscles.

  • And if you're willing to go through the pains and the ebbs and the flows, and the new shoes

  • and the blisters and the whatever you've got to go through to get to that goal, you will

  • run that marathon.

  • Tom: Hey, [00:00:30] everybody.

  • Welcome to Impact Theory.

  • You are here, my friends, because you believe that human potential is nearly limitless,

  • but you know that having potential is not the same as actually doing something with

  • it, so our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas

  • that will help you actually execute on your dreams.

  • Today's guest is an award-winning rapper, actor, author, entrepreneur, and political

  • figure who's made a career out of not letting people put him in a box.

  • When everyone told him that his dream of becoming [00:01:00] the first ever Native American

  • rapper was ridiculous, instead of bowing his head and slinking away, he founded his own

  • record label and signed himself.

  • This is pre-internet, boys and girls.

  • He did not complain about not having money or connections.

  • He just got to work.

  • Over his career, he's recorded 11 albums, toured around the world, performed hundreds

  • and hundreds and hundreds of concerts, and launched a thriving clothing line along the

  • way.

  • He's also starred in feature films such as The Indian in the Cupboard, Mortal Kombat,

  • Kull the Conqueror, as well [00:01:30] as monster TV shows like House of Cards and CSI:

  • Miami.

  • An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and a vocal proponent and lobbyist for Native

  • American issues, he has leveraged his celebrity and talents to draw attention to the issues

  • faced by indigenous people.

  • He's testified before Congress multiple times on Native issues and proven that he's just

  • as comfortable lobbying on Capitol Hill in a business suit as he is rocking at a rap

  • video in a fitted cap and baggy pants.

  • His diverse and seemingly endless stream of accomplishments [00:02:00] is due to a relentless

  • mind set that refuses to back down from any challenge, and a deep drive to give back.

  • Those aren't just words for him, and his evidence of that; in a single year, he clocked 54,000

  • miles.

  • That's the equivalent of driving around the earth twice, criss-crossing North America,

  • to inspire people living on reservations and show them it does not matter where you start.

  • It only matters where you're willing to go.

  • So please, help me in welcoming the CEO [00:02:30] of Davis Strategy Group and the host of the

  • Litefoot show, the executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association,

  • Gary Litefoot Davis.

  • Gary: Wow.

  • Tom: How you doing?

  • Gary: Very good.

  • Good to be here.

  • Tom: It's a pleasure.

  • Gary: Awesome.

  • Tom: Thanks for coming on.

  • Gary: Absolutely.

  • Absolutely.

  • Glad to be here.

  • Tom: Dude, it's awesome to have you.

  • Hearing your story, obviously it's a very unconventional tale of success.

  • Gary: Right.

  • Tom: And it started from something pretty powerful.

  • Walk me through what happened [00:03:00] with the financial collapse for your family, what

  • that led to, and what your parents taught you through that hard times is pretty amazing.

  • Gary: Yeah, I had grown up with a father that had shown me, a grandfather that had also

  • shown me hard work; and that through hard work, we can accomplish providing for our

  • family, if nothing else.

  • That we can show them that maybe we didn't have these things when we grew up, but we

  • [00:03:30] can give back if we just get a very clear-cut idea of what we can do, however

  • small that it might be to make an impact.

  • For my grandfather, it was way tougher.

  • He had a way tougher start in school, had run away from a very well-known Indian boarding

  • school in Oklahoma and hitchhiked back all the way with his little brother to Claremore,

  • Oklahoma.

  • Right outside of Claremore, Oklahoma.

  • [00:04:00] He, his whole life, taught himself resiliency and showed us resiliency; that

  • you can do things that will help motivate other people, and my father was the beneficiary

  • of that.

  • He saw that it was possible to be an entrepreneur, and then myself, I would see both of these

  • guys.

  • My grandfather at that point, very well along in his years, getting up every morning and

  • going to work at 4:00 in the morning- Tom: Wow.

  • Gary: ... in very hot Oklahoma weather in the summer, then coming home and working [00:04:30]

  • all evening in the garden, and I couldn't get enough of that.

  • I wanted to be around him as much as I possibly could.

  • Then my father, seeing him do everything that he needed to do, even if it meant taking it

  • into his own hands to get it done, and just me through osmosis absorbing all of this and

  • seeing these two men do very, very great things for our family.

  • And then in a turn of events, we lost everything.

  • It [00:05:00] was pretty devastating.

  • We went from having a decent sort of middle-class life to really having to lose our home and

  • end up living with my grandparents, and the burden that that put on them, and then I had

  • to sort of forgo school for a year to get out of that and go work.

  • Not that they forced me to do that; I just feel like, look, these guys have a load on

  • them, and what can I do to help?

  • So I went and got a job, and tried [00:05:30] to contribute the best that I could with my

  • paycheck to provide groceries and food.

  • I just probably didn't realize it then, but I was building this feeling that I need to

  • do as much as I possibly can so that we never have to go through this situation again, so

  • that as an adult, things will be different for me.

  • I was fighting, and I was fighting to try to make sure that I kept moving forward.

  • And I realized that if it was going to happen for me, [00:06:00] I probably was going to

  • have to make it happen.

  • That there was going to be no way that somebody's going to swoop in and just put it in my lap,

  • and that it was just all going to be there for me.

  • Tom: When did you start thinking that?

  • 'Cause that's a pretty incredible moment of awakening that shuts most people down.

  • Gary: Right.

  • Tom: But it definitely didn't shut you down, so at what age do you start actually thinking

  • in that way?

  • Gary: Around that time that things started to fall apart with my parents' marriage.

  • Even in high school, there was this sort of guy [00:06:30] that was the it guy on the

  • team, and one other guy that his father had built the stadium, so he was going to play,

  • regardless of what happened and regardless of how good he was, so I started to learn

  • these lessons; that it's not always about how good you are or how talented you are.

  • You have to work 10 times as hard to cut through some of this.

  • And as I was going through this, I lost my grandparents.

  • Both of them, within a very short period of time.

  • So here I am, I think sort of being forged in the flames [00:07:00] to realize that you

  • really can depend on yourself.

  • You of course have to have many great people around you, but I knew that if it was going

  • to happen for me, I had to keep moving forward.

  • And maybe that was a stumble.

  • Maybe it was a crawl.

  • Maybe it was just barely trying to put one thing in front of the other during that time,

  • but I kept pushing forward.

  • I kept moving forward, and I think that's one of the lessons I still carry forward with

  • me to this day.

  • When I see things getting tough, or when I see things that seem insurmountable to other

  • people, [00:07:30] I know we just have to stay the course.

  • We have to stay focused, and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  • The key is to keep moving.

  • That's something that I think really was that turning point for me.

  • Tom: But there were people that had that same belief, but they didn't make it.

  • So what is it that people can cultivate, like right now, the kid that's listening to you

  • that for whatever reason, whether he's Native American or not, he's being told the same

  • thing.

  • Whatever you want to do, it's ridiculous.

  • What can they do to make sure they've got the fortitude to last through the whole [00:08:00]

  • Rez tour ... How do you build that in yourself?

  • Gary: Every experience that comes your way is a tool.

  • When we lost our home, and we had to go live with my grandparents, I understand that these

  • are just material things.

  • That that doesn't define you.

  • It doesn't make you.

  • So when you get these challenges, when you have these things that come up in your life,

  • continue to move forward.

  • Now, how do you get to that place where you come back and move forward, and that you [00:08:30]

  • become very intentional about it?

  • I just did one of our footnotes that's sort of a daily motivational inspirational thing

  • about baby steps.

  • Baby steps.

  • Become intentional about what it is that you're going to do.

  • Nobody in your family may have done that.

  • Nobody in your community, your city, your country may have done that.

  • But if that's what's been put here for you, take it in baby steps.

  • Begin to see how that you're going to move forward.

  • It's exactly what I did once I came and understood my purpose, and I understood what it is that

  • I was supposed to be doing.

  • I sat down and created [00:09:00] a plan as to how I was going to go about deploying that.

  • And I think that's what you really have to do, and take it in baby steps.

  • Don't try to do the whole thing at once.

  • Sit it down, look at it, break it down, rebuild it, put it back together, and then assign

  • timeframes to everything that you want to accomplish, and break it down in phases.

  • And then focus everything you have on that phase.

  • Tom: How do you do that, by the way?

  • I heard you say this in probably the footnote you're talking about, where you said, "Okay,

  • I start with where I'm trying to get.

  • This is my goal.

  • And then I work backwards to where I am today."

  • Gary: Right.

  • Tom: "And [00:09:30] I identify each of those baby steps that I have to take."

  • How do you do that process?

  • This is a question I get asked a lot, because I'm totally with you; that's exactly what

  • I do.

  • But I'm not sure how to explain that in between.

  • How do you get good at identifying the real, tangible steps?

  • Gary: We only know what we know right now about what we want to do, right?

  • There could be things out there that will be so much more awesome, but we just don't

  • know what we don't know.

  • Tom: Right.

  • Gary: And to the best of our ability, what we can say is, [00:10:00] here's where I am

  • right now.

  • I can put a weight point right there.

  • I can mark that.

  • And I know that I want to do X.

  • And this is that thing.

  • So if I'm going to step back, now what I've got to do is go to work.

  • I've got to study every single bit of that, and understand every iteration.

  • If it's to make an album, what are all the steps in making an album?

  • From content creation to music production to mastering to editing to recording the record,

  • what are all the [00:10:30] business aspects of things that go into that?

  • Who do I need to sing on all these 10 songs?

  • How many are going to have a chorus that somebody sings?

  • How many ... So I start to understand what I have to do, and what I'm going to need other

  • people to do.

  • And then I start to think, okay, well, what's the money going to be?

  • How much do I have to put from a money point of view into each phase?

  • Each phase has a capital raise that I have to ascertain all of these other things, but

  • what am I going to do to have to put into this to make it become a reality?

  • And so that's where I'm focused on.

  • Once I hone in on all of these things, yes, it's to [00:11:00] be on tour with somebody,

  • right?

  • But first, I have to have a record.

  • I have to have an album.

  • Tom: And do you model after somebody?

  • If you're trying to do an album, do you find somebody that you can feta lot of information

  • from and then copy that as a starting point, or how do you do that process?

  • Gary: I think every successful person always looks at other successful people, especially

  • in their field or a field they're endeavoring to get into.

  • Why fix it if it's not broke?

  • You just have to find your piece of it that you bring [00:11:30] to make it you.

  • But if they're doing it and they're doing it incredibly well, sit back and look at it

  • and find all the ways that you can take that great model, fix it where you feel like it

  • needs to be fixed, make it you, and then can you add to it?

  • Can you put something on top of it?

  • And then you take that and really, that's when you start to really do the work and sit

  • down and study each piece of it, and then you assign the time frames.

  • I think the time frames, the timelines are the critical piece to it.

  • Because [00:12:00] that's where so many people go from just having a hobby or a dream, and

  • I'm sure many people understand that dreams are tough.

  • Because without a timeframe, a timeline, they may just stay dreams.

  • When you assign a timeframe and a plan of action to it, it can become a goal, and then

  • it can become attainable.

  • And I think that's what you have to do, and it makes it very present then.

  • You have your work cut out for you.

  • You know what you need to do, and [00:12:30] now it's just about doing it.

  • So you execute- Tom: Do you set really aggressive timelines,

  • or how do you decide your timeline?

  • Gary: Very aggressive.

  • Very aggressive.

  • I guess it would be that old adage, shoot for the stars and if you fail, at least you're

  • in the clouds, right?

  • Tom: Right.

  • Gary: I remember somebody telling me when we were choreographing some of my first songs,

  • just whatever you do, don't stop.

  • Because more than 99% assuredness, nobody's going to know it was a screw- [00:13:00] up

  • unless you stop.

  • If you keep moving, everybody's going to think that's just ... You know, own it.

  • If you were supposed to go right and you go left, then the minute that you realize, oh

  • my god, I just went left, what am I going to do?

  • Go to the crowd and start dancing to the crowd or ... They're never going to know that it

  • was a mess-up.

  • So