Mitchell Levy: How To Show Up With Credibility
When we're looking for something, we are more than likely going to the most credible thing we can find. That is why people, businesses, and brands need credibility for others to trust them. So how do we achieve that? In this episode, Tony Martignetti has the perfect guest to help. He is joined by Mitchell Levy, a Global Credibility Expert, two times TEDx speaker, international bestselling author, and executive coach. Mitchell dives deep into what being a credibility expert is all about and why people need them. He also uncovers the values of credibility, zoning in on the importance of integrity. Letting us in on his notable work, Credibility Nation, Mitchell shares the lessons he learned while on a journey to becoming who he is. Follow along with this conversation and learn the secrets to showing up with credibility!
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Mitchell Levy: How To Show Up With Credibility
It is my honor and pleasure to introduce my guest, Mitchell Levy. He is a Global Credibility Expert, a two times TEDx speaker, an international bestselling author of over 60 books, and an executive coach with Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches. After interviewing 500 thought leaders on credibility, he published a seven-country international bestselling book, delivered a powerful TEDx on humanity, and created courses and the Credibility Nation membership community to help those people live, learn, and surround themselves with others on the credibility journey.
He's an accomplished entrepreneur who has created 20 businesses in Silicon Valley, including 4 publishing companies that have published over 750 books. He's provided strategic consulting to hundreds of companies and has been the Chairman of the board of a NASDAQ-listed company. Mitchell has been happily married for over 30 years and, prior to COVID, regularly spent four weeks a year in Europe with family and friends. It is truly my pleasure to welcome you to The Virtual Campfire.
It's fun. I feel very warm sitting around this campfire, Tony. Thank you for having me.
I'm thrilled to have you on. We have had a chance to get to know each other over the years. I'm looking forward to sharing you as my guest and uncovering the story of how did you get to be this person, what's called a Credibility Expert, which most people are probably thinking to themselves, “What is that?” We will share more about that as we get into the story but maybe I will give a little preamble as to what we do on the show.
When we get on people on the show, we love to share their flashpoints, the points in the journey that have ignited their gifts into the world. As you are sharing your story, we will pause on the way and see what's showing up. I will have you start where you would like to start. You can start with your childhood, the end of the story or the beginning of the story, whatever you feel comfortable sharing. I will turn it over to you, my friend, then you can take it from there.
It's only because of the last meeting I had, what comes to mind is setting a stage of this is what other people think is credible. Let me give a concatenate of stuff, and then we could either rewind to the beginning or somewhere in the middle. I have been in Silicon Valley for 35 years. I have started twenty companies. I have sat on the board of a NASDAQ firm for nine years. As a book publisher, I have published over 750 books.
I have run four different CEO networking groups, Vistage type groups. I have created four different executive business programs for Silicon Valley companies. Now I've got the Credibility Nation community and have done over my 10,000 hours on Credibility. I'm a parallel entrepreneur. I do a number of companies and activities at the same time because I love the word the L word, Leverage.
Leverage is the L word I love to use myself because it's hard to come by but once you start doing it and get into that flow, you see more of it.
There's only one solution to solve your problem, and you got to be known as the person who can solve your problem.
Lovable is not a bad L word either.
Lovable and Leverageable. Tell me more about the trials and tribulations, especially the early days of starting companies and moving along your journey were the struggles you had.
I have done two TEDxs. I have put myself out there in terms of that. As a matter of fact, the 2nd one that came out of the research was the 28th most popular in 2021. I'm beyond excited about that because I dove deep into both TEDxs. I'm going to say my parents were divorced when I was nine, and then I never had a father figure until my stepdad, who passed away. He came in into our lives when I was initially at college. I never actually got to live with him, although my brother and sister did. I was always looking for, since I was nine, “What is a father figure? What is a dad?”
My mom was amazing. She did both the mom and dad roles. It was that question on either integrity or authenticity like, “What is an authentic dad is supposed to be or do,” or integrity is like, “How can you be one way and show something else?” As I'm thinking about my background and being the oldest child, trying to think about, “Who I am and how I am supposed to show up.” The next time something significant happened. I went to undergrad and did amazingly well. Prior to undergrad up into high school, it's mostly a blur. I was certainly a premature birth and might have had some ailments or defects but not something that we noticed at the time or people talked about.
I consider myself waking up somewhere in my freshman year of college. Prior to that, it was a blur. When I first started waking up, I was like, “This is interesting. I like life and things going on.” My first male mentor came about when I went to MBA school and started doing work for a professor and proving some financial theory for him that he was trying to prove and use.
It was some night, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning using, for those that know SAS language way back when, and came up with the proof of his formula. I was so excited to share it with him the next day. He was excited about it. Two weeks later, I came back to him and said, “I started writing the paper. I want it to be published.”
This is what you want to do when you are MBA. I said, “Are you okay? We are interested in publishing?” He looks at me and he says, “No, we are not going to publish.” I’m like, “Really? You must be joking.” He says, “I have used what we are doing here to get a job at a colonial mutual fund in Boston. I would like you to come with me.” I don't know if I said yes right away but I said yes.
It turns out that he was hedonistic, narcissistic, my first male mentor, and he taught me these amazingly horrible lessons about how to treat people. It wasn't until I did my second TED Talk that I realized that although I was with him for one year. At first, in my first TED Talk, I said he was with me for 13 but he was with me for 36.
Credibility: One of the values that came out of the credibility research is authenticity.
For the first thirteen, Tony, when I was in corporate, although I felt like I was authentic, apparently, I wasn't. I will tell you why. When somebody would ask me a question inside the company, my answer would always be the answer that I thought my boss would want to hear. Not necessarily my direct answer. I don't feel like I was not authentic but I do remember doing that.
I do remember the first time when I started my own company in 1997, the first time working for myself, the first time a client CEO started sharing his stuff with me. It was his marketing plan, marketing strategy, the website, the social media was just beginning, the social media stuff. He goes, “What do you think?” I took a second to think about it.
Although I didn't physically cross my arms across my chest, that's what I did mentally because I was prepared. I looked him in the eye and said, “It sucks.” What was going through my head was, “If I said what I felt and he fired me, would I care? I care, but I need to now be me.” He looked me in the eye and said, “Nobody ever talks to me like that, Mitchell. Tell me more.”
This was thirteen years after being with that guy. We don't know anyone else who's hedonistic or narcissistic in the world but there are many of those breeding in the earlier days. That was pretty normal. It still is for some people, obviously. That was when I thought I had originally gotten rid of thirteen years later but I realized there were a bunch of other things I had to unpack as well.
I love what you shared because there's something about this, which is to say that we’ve learned from watching others. Especially the more influential people around us, they have an impact on us, good or bad. We sometimes have to unlearn those things that we are exposed to. Luckily, the good things have shown up. Now you have tapped into the ability to show up more authentically and have your voice be heard because there's something about not giving the truth or not being honest with people which ultimately comes back on you and makes you feel as though, “I'm not being real with myself.”
The thing that's powerful is that people say, “It's always a good thing to tell a white lie.” I'm going to say no. It's better not to say anything than to tell a white lie. Let's say, for instance, Tony, you had a bad day yesterday, and today you don’t look as good and you said to me, “Mitchell, don't I look amazing?” I'm going to say, “No, you don't.” It's only because you asked.
I may have noticed it when I first saw you but I'm not going to say anything because there's no need for me to say you are looking good if you are not right. That's inauthentic to me. Of the values that came out of the credibility research, authenticity is one. What's surprising to me is, I'm not going to say integrity is too, integrity actually was the only value that I listed twice.
There are ten values. Another component of credibility is vulnerability. I'm going to say something that essentially, I'm going to speak authentically with integrity, and I'm going to be vulnerable. I want to demonstrate these things. I did the research and published the book. I did the TEDx. By the way, I had the value of integrity is so powerful, it came up twice. I have three pillars associated with credibility. We know the phrase, “Know, like, trust.” When I originally published everything, I published it under know, like, trust because that is the marketing cookie-cutter approach we use.
“Happiness is on the outside. Joy is on the inside.”
When I think of credibility, that's what I think of initially, know, like, trust.
I want to change it. I'm going to give two things, which I published one way, but now, I'm telling you that we need to change it. One is, know, like, trust, and then I'm going to tell you what integrity is. Under know, like, trust, I published that way. I had the document. When I would share it with people, I would go in and share it. As it turns out, of those three areas, trust is the most relevant, then comes know, then comes like.
Some could say it could sometimes be, trust, like, know but you can't get to like somebody to get to know them. For those who are reading, imagine if somebody landed on your social presence or your web page accidentally. Not a referral, just they googled, “I need help with an area,” and they landed on you. You have three seconds for them to trust that you are somebody they want to invest more time in. As they decide to invest more time, they are getting to know you. As they are getting to know you, they then will get to trust you a little bit more and decide that they like you. It’s trust, know, like.
I love that turn of phrase because maybe back in the old days, it was a little different. Now in this day and age, when you do have a very short attention span, it has to lead with trust, and you have to lead with trust.
In the old days, it was all about being known. The way we were taught, there's one and only one solution to solve your problem. You’ve got to be known as the person who can solve your problem. Everybody on the planet, essentially or almost anyone on the planet, has a camera and a microphone. The ability to be known is pervasive. You've got a lot of competition.
They have to do more than know you. They have to trust that you are going to help them. They have to know you. They have values associated with trust and know. Here's the interesting part, I was not taught this, they have to like you. Let me do the integrity thing, and then I will be open for another question. I had this word, integrity, twice. I didn't know why. It was about a month after the trust, know, like thing came out.
I was talking to a woman by the name of Cheryl Lynn. She focuses on one primary thing. She has one word. Her word is joy. We had an hour of conversation. We have been trying to play together for a while. This was another attempt at trying to play together. We still haven't figured that out yet. That's a different story. It's a different model. I don't want to talk about people in direction.
We will talk about what's wrong with the world now and why we can't have more leverage partnerships. I will put it down on the side. I'm talking to Cheryl Lynn, and she left the conversation, giving me something that was profound. Here's what she said, “Mitchell, happiness is on the outside. Joy is on the inside.” I’m like, “You can't argue that.”
Credibility: The ability to be known is pervasive. So people have to do more than know you. They have to trust that you're going to help them, and they have to like you.
Tony, when I woke up in the morning after sleeping on that, I knew why integrity was there twice. We think of the word integrity as a single unit but integrity is two units. Under the pillar of being trusted, it's your external integrity. It's the integrity you show to the world. If you are a politician, are you doing all the right things? If you are a leader, are you doing all the right things for the company? Under the pillar of being known, it's your internal integrity.
Do you cheat on your spouse, your diet, and your taxes? If you are a politician, you are a public figure. If you are a public figure, people want to know about you. That level of the issue with internal integrity comes out. I remember a story with somebody who said to me. She had a boss that she respected and had a couple of thousand people underneath his boss, who respected the boss. They went on a business trip together. During the business trip, some late night in the bar, she saw him cheating on his spouse.
Although this was his internal integrity, thinking it was okay, for her, she was never the same. That relationship was never the same. It was blown forever. Integrity is both an internal and external integrity because, for some odd reason, we make these excuses in our brains of why things are okay when they are not. We let that happen. Maybe the universe told me I needed to have integrity twice. I still hadn't figured it out fourteen months after I did my first publication.
I love this change-up of how integrity can be looked at in this different model because it makes a lot of sense when you describe it like that. I can see how there's this conflict that starts to show up when people are not inside, and outside integrity is aligned.
That's the thing that's fascinating. In so many different places, think about how they show up synchronously versus asynchronously. There's a person who I want to partner with. Apparently, he's magical but his online stuff sucks. It is bad. For those who are reading, “He's working on the next version of the website,” but what sits there at the moment is incongruous with who he is.
The reason I'm getting to know him is that there's somebody else who I trust implicitly, who is saying, “Yes, I'm a student of this person's program. These are everything he says he is.” That was the, “I trust, and like somebody, that like is allowing me to like this other guy, transfer it over,” but the lack of integrity with his asynchronous presence is something that says, “I can't share you.” I can't share him because if people do what I recommend, they do is a google search and the person's name, they are going to see yucky stuff.
I want to talk about this for a moment before we get onto the next thing, which is this transferred credibility is what I hear from you. Sometimes credibility is passed on through other people, and that can be good or bad. It's good when it's credibility that we can see, that we can trust for the person who's getting the transfer or if it's someone who's like putting it on the website like, “I have worked with X, Y, and Z.” You don't know for sure if that person even enjoyed working with them. There’s that level of how much of what people say is credibility is truly credible.
Let's say a person puts on their website that they have worked with people but they only worked with them. They just didn't have a good experience. Is that what you are saying?
Credibility comes from within. It's how you show up. It's the trust, know, and like.
Yeah. For example, let's say someone who says, “I have worked with Richard Branson. I'm endorsed by Richard Branson.” He's met him once.
That's not credibility. I got you. There is a group of people who feel that you can pay money to get a photograph with, for instance, Richard Branson. You could pay $30,000, $40,000, get him to sign, get a photograph but you have access for him to a little bit of time because of the money you paid. You could say you have exchanged with him but he's not a sponsor of yours unless you end up working out a deal.
To me, that by itself is not credible but it is what many people do. “This person knows these names and brands.” When I do my story with friends, I have met a lot of the richest people in the world but I don't flaunt that anywhere because it doesn't make me unless those people go, “Mitchell, I love what you are doing. Let's do something together.”
That hasn't happened. Unless that happens, then it's not worth flaunting. Initially, credibility comes from within. If it's the individual, it's how you show up. It's the trust, know, like. If it's the company, it is the employees of the company that make up the entire company that decides if the company is credible and its ecosystem. You have heard this before but the credit of the company is essentially the credibility of the weakest link or the person who interacts with your customer base.
If I were to put it in my own words and think about how you are saying it, you can't manufacture credibility. You have to be it. You have to be credible. That starts with being the person who shows up with credibility and not trying to create a facade of credibility.
I love that. I'm going to use that. I will quote you most of the time. I don't know if I have ever said that before. I will most likely say it is going forward. I will have to think about that because you can't manufacture credibility. You have to be it. The answer is yes. What I have to think about as I'm processing this, you can manufacture the environment that allows you to be it. That's the thing. I've got to be careful on the words there but you can't artificially manufacture. Let me add the word artificially there. That fixes that.
That makes a lot of sense. Co-creation at its best.
That is exactly what we did. Thank you.
I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about the thing that you are most well-known for, Credibility Nation, and driving forth this platform. What I want to know is, what have you learned on this journey to becoming who you are? What are the things about you personally that you would want to share with people the lessons you have learned about yourself?
We demonstrated one of the lessons here, one of the values of credibility is being coachable. No matter where you are, what age or experience you have, there's always an opportunity to learn from everybody. I have learned that, and I will go back into a TD story on that. I also learned for myself that I prefer co-creation on everything.
What we did was, “Perfect. You create the environment by having the show. We had fun talking,” and all of a sudden, something magical happened. Typically, I have always done that. My twenty different business partnerships are you find somebody, you like them, you go, “Let's try something.” This is, by the way, what I do is, “Let's throw the spaghetti against the wall and try something.”
I typically do a handshake deal for the first client. It's only after we decided we still like each other after the first client that we might do a contract because otherwise, it's a waste of time. On the learning part, when I'm thinking about myself personally, I come up with some flash at some point in time. Some people might say, God. Some people might say universe. Some people might say spirits.
I would say GUS. Gus will give me some flash, and something will come up to be. I always thought I knew my purpose in life. I thought my purpose in life was to get married, have a child, be a good dad, friend, father, and husband, have companies, make money, and enjoy. It wasn't until I actually interviewed the 500 people that I realized it was something I was meant to do my entire life, and I have ignored it.
It was simply the fact that when I started doing all the research. You and I have talked about this before in the interviews. By the way, thanks for being 1 of the 500 interviews. In any interview, I define coming late as coming within three minutes of a live show. If you check the email, I was sitting here ten minutes early waiting for you. Even though I knew it wasn't live, that's okay. I would find coming late within three minutes, 23% of people came late.
To make matters worse, we were doing a live show. Four percent that means twenty people came after the hour. Every time I think about that. Think about this, 20 people out of 500, 4% thought it was credible to be interviewed by the Global Credibility Expert and come late or after the hour for a live show. It happens. I could explain it. I explained it in my last TED Talk. We can rationalize that. Some were taught wrong. The one that bothers me the most is that 98% of people cannot articulate who they serve and the pain point they address in ten words or less. This is 98% of people.
I have come up with a way to do that. I called a CPOP, Customer Point of Possibilities, and mine has changed. The other thing I have learned over time is there's a fundamental CPOP I have but my CPOPs change. What's interesting to me is, at first, I thought, “I’m an expert. I'm the expert in the world.” I was buying into the marketing cookie-cutter approaches and my ego started getting big, and then I went, “This is trainable. This is teachable. I can teach other people.”
The credibility of the company is essentially the credibility of the weakest link or the person who interacts with the customer base.
You and I talked about it. You would be one of those people I would want to have trained in helping other people articulate their CPOP, their Customer Point of Possibilities. Mine is now four words. It's leaders living their values. By the way, if you are living your values and your values are credible, you are, by definition, credible. It’s cool. I started changing and posting them. I now have a different purpose in life. One that's much broader than I originally had because I didn't realize that I was called to do something else and living in a world where I thought my purpose was just those surrounding me.
What you tapped into here is having a purpose. It's so large that no one person can do it alone. It's powerful to have a purpose like that. One of the words that you didn't mention now but you have mentioned before in the past is, is spreading Credust, which I love. It has this element of seeing it as something that has to be spread to other people, where they get to see that their credibility is important in the world. We all need to see more credible people in the world.
I'm a big Credust fan. Thank you for sharing. I referenced it twice in this interview. Once, I mentioned the name Cheryl Lynn because she had an impact on me. Second, I said we co-created something. I said, “I mention your name most of the time.” It's where I'm like, “I was on the show with Tony Martignetti. Let me tell you what we came up with.” That's a fun story when I started telling that. That's spreading Credust. It's sharing the ideas, thoughts, and wisdom of other people. Everyone wins.
I love this conversation. It has been amazing to learn all the great insights. One of the things that I wanted to ask you about is you mentioned before we started about some of the programs that you run around the Bootcamp that you do. Tell the people about the Bootcamp that you run for people.
If my initial CPOP or my business CPOP is leaders living their values. My broader fundamental CPOP is humans that want to be seen as credible. That’s such a big thing. How do you start? We've got a credibility assessment. There are a number of different things we have been doing and focused on. My TEDx has 200,000 views.
That's technically 300,000 people who are a teeny bit more credible but that's only 300,000. That's not 300 million. What we are doing on a quarterly basis is called the Ultimate Credibility Bootcamp. I have done this six other times in different formats. The past format was a five-day challenge and learning and growing along the way.
Fundamentally, every quarter, go to UltimateCredibilityBootcamp.com, and you will see when the next quarter is coming up. We have two days. Two weeks before the two days, we've got a 90-minute session to get people prepared. One week after the two days, we have another 90-minute session answering questions, “How are you doing on deployment?”
In the 2 days, there are 3 things. First, when you sign up, you get a chance to go to a course where you get to articulate your CPOP, your Customer Point of Possibilities. Once you have that, on day one, what we are going to focus on is you showing up when you're either in the room or when you are talking with somebody, you showing up credibly.
Credibility: One of the values of credibility is being coachable. No matter where you are, what age or experience you have, there's always an opportunity to learn from everybody.
Let me give you a hint. The PhD in the school of hard knocks is so much better than your picture with Sylvester Stallone or your PhD from an academic institution. We are going to focus on how you actually show up and can be you in a way where when you are in integrity, people want to share you because they get brownie points. They get favors. When you introduce somebody else and you help them, they remember you for spreading their Credust. That's day one. Day two is we focus on how you show up asynchronously.
When people research you or social media or endorsements but I actually like live video endorsements from clients and then the video itself. What we ended up doing together is we created a video, which I have now turned into a product. In 5 minutes, I ask 5 questions. Imagine you could watch a five-minute video where you could trust, know, and like somebody, because they are answering the questions in such a way where you are like, “Not only can this person potentially solve the problem that I'm looking to get solved but I liked them and want to hang around them.”
Thank you so much for sharing that. Now people have a real sense as to how they can get involved and take this thing further. Now we are going to shift gears a little bit into something that is unrelated but something I still enjoy asking. What are 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why?
Let me give you three but the 1st one I will do super quickly because it's my book, Credibility Nation. It had an impact because originally, I was doing the research of 500 to write a book. I didn't do the research on the 500 to figure out that I now have a new purpose, by definition, one of the largest impacts ever on my life. One of the things that my company does is we now do-done for you book publishing, starting in 2018. I did a book with a guy by the name of Dr. Terence Jackson. We co-created. The done for you means that we co-create. We will ghostwrite but we will ghostwrite together.
We will ghostwrite, publish, distribute, and make the person an Amazon bestselling author. By the way, for those that are reading, six months from the time we start, you will be an Amazon bestselling author and spend ten hours. It is an easy button. Now we created a book called Co-Creation Leadership. As we were co-creating the book, I realized that the change in my life is the fact that I prefer co-creating with everybody. I would rather co-create versus singly create.
The last book came out of the mastermind that we run. I run it with a guy by the name of Lucas Root. He didn't recommend it to me directly. He recommended somebody in the first mastermind who then, when she was talking about it, I said, “I'm going to listen to that.” How circuitous is that? It's called The War of Art. We know The Art of War. It is the opposite of The Art of War.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a phenomenal book on how the universe conspires to make you the person that you can truly be. To allow you to be in the flow, to look at things that are negative as positive opportunities to allow yourself to be creative and let the creativity of the world come your way and move with it. He has been successful at what he has done in life. It is a transformative learning experience. I listen to books. For me too, listening to him was a transformative learning experience.
I love the books you mentioned because, first of all, when you talk about your own book, usually that's like, “He's mentioning his own book,” but you are absolutely right on the money when you think about there's a lesson hidden in that, which is to say sometimes the process of kicking off your own writing process can propel you into a new purpose. That's what the beauty of that is. By the way, Dr. Terrence Jackson, we are going to have to have him on this show potentially. He has been somebody on my radar for a long time. I haven't read his book yet, but I'm going to pick it up.
If you're living your values, you are, by definition, credible.
He would love it. You are on Credibility Nation. He is as well. You could ping him directly that way. The Art of War is what we know. It's hard to say, so I just say it's The War of Art. It's an interesting title. Given where you are, I highly recommend it.
I have learned the name and the book. I don't think I have officially read it. To be completely honest, that's one of the books I'm going to have to pick up and put on my list. This is fantastic. Thank you so much, Mitchell. I have enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for coming on the show.
My book is Credibility Nation, as well as the membership community. What you and I are going to play on is co-creation for the Ultimate Credibility Bootcamp. That's what I encourage you, take a look at what we have and come and join us or figure out how we could do something together. That's different than I have at the moment but works for you. If it works for you and it works for me, then that's, by the way, what co-creation is all about.
You beat me to the punch. I was going to say, “How can people get engaged with the work we are doing?” You laid the groundwork for me. The one last thing I will say, is there anything else in terms of places where they can find you and learn more about you besides what you have already mentioned?
Given the stuff that I mentioned, if you are particularly interested in me or want me to speak at an event, it's my name, MitchellLevy.com. You could connect to me on any of those social media platforms. I spend most of my time on LinkedIn, but on my website is access to my calendar. You can get time on my calendar by going there.
Thank you so much. Thanks to the readers coming on the journey. I know you are leaving with so many great things and action items to pursue. Go pick up a book and be part of the community.
Thanks, Tony. It’s nice to spend time with you. You were amazing.
Thank you so much.
- 100 Coaches
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- The War of Art
- The Art of War
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