398: Donny Willis: How to Intentionally Build a Better Life

Donny Willis: How to Intentionally Build a Better Life

Welcome to On the Brink with Andi Simon. I am so delighted you have joined us today for this podcast with Donny Willis, where we share his inspirational advice on building a better life.

In this enlightening podcast episode,  Donny Willis is an excellent guest, who you may recognize as the “butter man” from the iconic 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Donny shares his remarkable journey of personal transformation, a story that resonates with many of us navigating our life transitions. Donny is a pastor and founder of a thriving church community in White Plains, NY. In this podcast, Donny and I dig deep into his life’s journey and how he helps others intentionally build a better life for themselves and those around them. You might also like to read Donny’s book,  “Good, Butter, Best,  From  Dream  to  Reality.”

What are Those Universal Themes of Life Transitions?

Throughout the episode, Donny Willis and I delve into the universal themes of life transitions, the complexities of decision-making, and the pivotal role of emotional intelligence in adapting to change. Donny underscores the importance of seizing new opportunities and the transformative power of building and nurturing relationships to support personal growth and community resilience. We often forget that we are in control. Yes, we can intentionally build a better life if we think about our own story and continuously build that story around self-improvement.

Can Christopher Columbus’s Voyage Serve as a Metaphor as You Intentionally Build a Better Life?

The conversation also draws insightful parallels between personal transformations and historical events. We discuss figures such as Christopher Columbus, using his voyages as a metaphor for the courage required to venture into the unknown and the perseverance needed to overcome the inevitable challenges that accompany change. And Donny loves baseball. There are a lot of lessons learned in a game that can build your character and patience. Remember Babe Ruth’s quote: “Yesterday’s home run will not win tomorrow’s game.” As you might expect, this leads to all the metaphors around sports and life’s lessons. Every great athlete understands they might need a coach or a great trainer. Their success is in their hands. And they must intentionally build a better life themselves. 

Here are 7 Ideas that You can use to Open Your Mind to Intentionally Build a Better Life:

Donny Willis shares knowledge and practical advice for listeners facing transition periods. He offers a list of ideas that have proven invaluable in his own life and in the lives of those he has guided through change. These ideas include:

1. Stay Open to Learning: Embrace a continuous learning mindset and be willing to acquire new skills and knowledge that can help you adapt to changing circumstances.

2. Cultivate Emotional Resilience: Develop the emotional strength to handle the ups and downs of life. This involves self-awareness, self-regulation, and staying optimistic in adversity.

3. Build a Supportive Network: Surround yourself with people who encourage and support you. A strong community can provide guidance, feedback, and the emotional sustenance needed during change.

4. Take Calculated Risks: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone but do so with forethought and planning. Assess the risks and benefits and be prepared to pivot if necessary.

5. Reflect on Your Values and Purpose: Regularly consider what is truly important to you and let that guide your decisions and actions—knowing your ‘why’ can provide clarity and motivation when navigating new paths.

6. Practice Empathy and Compassion: In times of change, being kind to yourself and others is crucial. Understanding and sharing the feelings of another can foster connection and mutual support.

7. Stay Flexible and Adaptable: Change is the only constant in life. Being flexible allows you to adjust to new situations and embrace the opportunities that come with them.

If you prefer to watch the On the Brink with Andi Simon Podcast, you can find Donny Willis’s video here:

Donny Willis On the Brink Podcast Video

You can find Donny Willis here:

Donny’s Profile: linkedin.com/in/donnywillis

Website: donnywillis.com 

Listen to others who can help you become the best you can be:

Embracing the Imposter Syndrome within: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Success

Podcast #397: Traca Savadogo–Rethinking Your Story:: A Path to Transform Your Life and Find Joy

Podcast #388: Srikumar Rao–Achieve Great Success While Remaining As Serene As A Zen Monk

Additional resources for you


From Observation to Innovation,

Andi Simon PhD

CEO | Corporate Anthropologist | Author


Read the transcript of our podcast below: 

Andi Simon (00:00:02) – Welcome to On the Brink with Andi Simon. Hi, I’m Andi Simon, and as you know, all of my loyal followers. My job is to get you off the brink. My job is to bring to you people who can help you see, feel, and think in new ways. Today, I have Donny Willis with us, and Donny and I met by chance. Although I have a friend who said there is no chance there’s a pathway and whatever, and you would like to think about it. But we were sitting next to each other on a plane, which often happens, and I was intrigued by his story, his personal brand. I will let you tell you. I’ll let him tell you all about being the butter man in the Macy’s parade in 2019. But what’s more interesting is how that tie into Donny being a pastor and at Westchester Church in White Plains since 2017. And you’re going to say a butter man and a pastor building a congregation of people to really do things in important ways.

Andi Simon (00:01:00) – But there are three themes we want to talk about transitions, really making good decisions and managing your emotions as you go through life, because not everything is exactly the way you’d like it. Donnie, thank you so much for being with me today.

Donny Willis (00:01:15) – And it is such an honor to be on this podcast. Thank you for the invitation. And you know, your friendship over the last two weeks has been awesome. For three weeks.

Andi Simon (00:01:25) – We did have a great it was great conversation. A little bit about Donny. I’ll read the bio like I like to do. He served as pastor to the Westchester Church of White Plains since 2017. As I had mentioned, he’s the founding pastor and currently the board president of living Hope New York City in Manhattan. He earned his Master of Organizational Leadership from the Colorado Christian University and a Bachelor of Theology from Texas Bible College. He’s the author of a leadership book called good, better, best, and he’ll tell you how that came about. And he’s the infamous butter man in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Andi Simon (00:02:01) – Donnie and his wife, Ashley, live in the greater New York City area and are blessed with three children, Braden, Claire, and Elliot. And this is such fun, Donnie. You have a very interesting story. Please share it with our audience because it sets the stage for what you’re doing now and how you’re helping people see you feel and think of new ways to change. Donnie.

Donny Willis (00:02:23) – Absolutely. Well, once again, Andy, it is such an honor to be with you and on this podcast and to everybody out there, thank you so much for tuning in. It’s an honor to be with each and every one of you. I know that you gave your time to a lot of things. So, the fact that you’re giving your time to this, I honor each and every one of you for that. But yeah, you know, as Andy was saying, my name is Donnie Willis, and I’m the butter man in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That was not always something we were looking into.

Donny Willis (00:02:51) – I guess you could say it was not intentional. I feel like I have backed into meaningful moments in my life more than I have intentionally found them, but So I’m originally from Louisiana. 2017 we, my family and I moved to New York to start a church, and it was a lot of fun and everything. And there was a family who started coming to our church, gave us a chance. and they had a job at Macy’s, a pretty high up job. And just through conversation, put it together, offered to serve. And my act of service became being a stick of butter in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. that morning, you know, I looked at my wife. Her name is Ashley. And, you know, as Andy mentioned, she mentioned my kids’ names. We love to rhyme things. We love Doctor Seuss. We love idioms. My book, you know, like good butter. Best play on words. Well, my family there’s Ashley she’s the a plus. There’s Brayden he’s our oldest there’s Claire, there’s Donny and then there’s Elliot.

Donny Willis (00:03:49) – So ABCd and we have a dog named finished. I’m just kidding. The dog’s name is actually Frankie. But, but yeah, in 2019, so I’m dressed like the stick of butter on Thanksgiving Day parade. I look at my wife and I tell her, like, babe, we’re not telling anybody about this, because the last thing I want to be known for is as a stick of butter. And she’s like, yeah, haha, okay, whatever. And twice during the parade, I went viral on Twitter with Al Roker the first time I knew I was on. But I really, you know, in the moment you’re so amped up you’re not thinking about it. He had a joke. He pushed me away. And then the writer of the musical Hamilton tweeted it. And whenever he tweeted it, it just went viral. and then the second time, I had no idea that he was. I mean, it’s a two-hour parade. What are the chances he is live in that moment? He’s in his little motorcade.

Donny Willis (00:04:51) – I come running up beside him. I throw my head into his camera and just starts screaming about butter. And he was alive in that exact moment. Well, that moment went viral. Then NBC puts it together like, hey, this is the same drunk teenager chasing al all over the street. And, and they’re like, we need to find this guy. And whenever they found me, they were like, oh, it wasn’t a drunk teenager. It was actually a pastor. And, so and that, you know, as only in America can happen led to more appearances on TV shows, writing a book deal and then so many other domino effects happened because of that, that one thing. But it all stemmed from a conversation that I had with a friend saying, hey, how can I serve? What can I do to serve you? I know you have the entire Manhattan Island at your disposal, but if you need anything, please let me know. And so that was kind of how the butter deal happened.

Donny Willis (00:05:50) – I wasn’t necessarily looking for it, but I believe that opportunities are around us all the time. There I believe that there are moments in time that are an opportunity. And whenever we open our eyes and we say, you know what, there is an opportunity for something to happen today. I’m just going to keep my eyes open. I’m going to keep my heart open to conversations. I’m going to keep my eyes open to people. I’m going to listen. I’m going to make myself available. And whenever we take that approach in life because we live and I apologize if I, if I feel free to stop me at any time. But, you know, we live in such a world. You know, I live up in the good old suburbs of New York, and we live in a world where people raise their garages, they drive their cars in, they shut their garage in, and then they live in their little world, and everybody’s kind of in their bubble. And we’re scared half to death for some reason, to enter into the inner personal relationships.

Donny Willis (00:06:49) – are at an all-time low. I, I’m concerned about. And so, I believe that if we would just kind of open ourselves up to people, you never know what opportunities are out there, because I believe that people truly desire to connect with others. It is easier for my kids to go on a public, playground and make a bunch of friends than for me, because me, you know, it’s like headphones in, walk wherever I need to go super-fast. And so, but if we would just kind of let our guard down and say, you know, I’m available to serve you however you want, I believe there’s opportunities all around us. And so that’s kind of how the butter man happened.

Andi Simon (00:07:26) – Well, but, you know, the butter man is symbolic of a man. Donnie Willis, who was a willing to push past the ordinary and not knowing exactly where anything is going. was quite willing to trust that it’ll be a moment, or it’ll teach you. You never even anticipated. And the fun that you were going to have with it.

Donny Willis (00:07:51) – Oh, it was a blast. It was a blast. Oh, my goodness. Like, I’ll, Look, I’m a dad of three young kids. I’ll do anything for my kids. I will, I will have a blast with them. Whatever. And I just enjoy life. Life is. Life is short. And we take ourselves too seriously so many times. And I think sometimes we just need to say, you know what? Let’s laugh a little bit. Let’s enjoy life. Let’s not. It’s like I’ve got I’ve got a lot of friends who love deep thinking. And I. And anytime. A lot of times whenever I enter their room, they know. Look deep thought time is over. We are about to have fun. We’re going to laugh. And I believe that even that brings a depth that we’re missing. Being able to sit and say, you know what? Yeah, that was a fun moment. Let’s see where it goes.

Donny Willis (00:08:46) – You know, the path go I don’t know, but let’s walk it.

Andi Simon (00:08:49) – Well. And this morning, we were listening to an expert from Harvard talk about the lack of happiness here in this country. Now, when we traveled, my husband and I have been to 37 countries. I will tell you that the poorest folks here are richer than most of the world and somehow don’t have a point of appreciation. and we know that humans are they want to live in a herd in a group of people. And we become to your metaphor of driving into the garage, putting down the drive, the, the, the wall and living in an isolation and of course, the pandemic wasn’t kind to us. but even now, we’ve lost for many people the ability to communicate, to socialize, to smile, to laugh, to have fun, to trust, and all of those things are essential to finding peace and happiness. Now, I have a hunch that you, as a pastor, but also as a person, are beginning to find ways to help other people transition from and, and it is transitioning from the isolation that we had during the pandemic to a new reality that’s also changing very quickly with lots of and humans.

Andi Simon (00:10:00) – I specialize in helping people change. They hate change and companies hate change. But the changes are here. So how do we begin to help people give us some wisdom to begin to see, feel and think a new way and develop the fun part? The smiles. And I have a hunch you have some tools, tricks, and wisdom to share.

Donny Willis (00:10:22) – Absolutely. So, you know you the keyword you just said there was change. Yes, everybody wants change, but nobody wants to change.

Donny Willis (00:10:35) – Yeah, I’m only like.

Andi Simon (00:10:36) – Just don’t change me, I got it.

Donny Willis (00:10:37) – Exactly.

Donny Willis (00:10:38) – That’s exactly right. And because change forces us to take a deep breath and do something that might be uncomfortable. Because it’s hard for us. my, you know, my kids into baseball a lot right now. Whenever we started, he could not catch. But it was an ad, and, you know, he’d get frustrated. I can’t catch. I can’t do that. I’m like, no, no, no, you can’t do it yet.

Donny Willis (00:11:11) – It’s like you will, you just haven’t done it yet. And the only way to be able to do it is for us to go out there and throw every single day. Yeah. We’ve just got to; we’ve got to practice being able to do it. So, we’re here say isolation mode. But we, we want to be here in community with others, and we don’t understand what the gap is to be able to get from point A to point B. And so, it’s. So that was like, who are you hanging out with? Okay. Who are the people in your tribe right now? Yeah. and what are you doing to maybe get into a new tribe? So that that maybe doesn’t think like you, that doesn’t have the like. It’s scary making new friends. And I know that that kind of goes back to a very simplistic thing. But the truth is, is you it can be done. What are we, but how do I put this? What are we doing whenever we go home? Are you going to a community event? Okay, get that community calendar.

Donny Willis (00:12:18) – My family and I moved here in 2017. From Louisiana. We had no friends. One night I was lying in bed, and I just looked at my wife and said, hey babe, if this house burns down right now, nobody will know it, and nobody would know who we are and that it wouldn’t matter to nobody. And she and her, my wife is an educator. She and her very eloquent way looks at me and goes, daddy, stop it! And so, I did in the conversation was over. But we had to find ways to enter into other people’s world. In a non-intrusive way. But yet and the way that we have that we kind of learn was just friendly and open conversation. You know, it’s like there’s a lot of I know that that’s an oversimplification. And sometimes we want these deep theoretical, hypothesis of things. But the truth is, is if we are friendly with each other, if we allow and we give ourselves permission to go and do things we’ve never done before.

Donny Willis (00:13:23) – You never know what could happen. You might, you know. Every time I fly on a lot of planes. And most times I stick the earbuds in, listen to music and I’m like, Lord, don’t let anybody talk to me right now. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I want to sleep. Yeah. And so, but I know that if I do that, I am missing the opportunity to be on the Andy Simon podcast.

Donny Willis 00:13:49) – Yeah.

(00:13:51) – And so it’s just changing the way that we think about things, making the decision. I’m going to put myself out there and I’m going to find a way to meet two new people this week. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got a goal. I’m going to meet two interesting people. I don’t know when, I don’t know where, but I’m just going to keep my eyes open and I’m going to and it’s going to happen because we get what we look for.

Donny Willis (00:14:17) – I firmly believe we get what we look for.

Andi Simon (00:14:19) – Hold your thought.

Andi Simon (00:14:21) – We get what we look for. So, I was upstate on a bike trip this past weekend for a few days, and one of the conversations was around how all the New Yorkers who moved up during the pandemic time upstate, were, aliens who came into the locals and the locals and the newcomers weren’t particularly nice to each other until new newcomers started to come in. And then the newcomers and the old folks got together and didn’t like the new newcomers coming in. Now, tribalism is human, but the positive part of it is when you belong to something, you can develop nice, deep relationships with people who are like you. But then we put up those wonderful walls because we as humans are afraid of the unknown and the unfamiliar, and therefore the barbarians who are at our gate are clearly not as good as we are. And so, you said something very important in the context of that. Meet two new people every day. See how you can be of help to somebody new. Reach out and touch someone. Bring them into the community.

Andi Simon (00:15:30) – See where they might belong. It doesn’t happen. because it happens. It happens because somebody reaches out and sits next to you on a plane, has a conversation, and wants to get to know you better, cares not about themselves, but about who you are. And that’s how you and I came to end our flight saying, you got to be on my podcast. you and I talked about some transitions besides go out and talk to two people a day to share with the audience some of your wisdom around transition, because a lot of this is having new skills at a time when you’re not forced to, you know, the pandemic forced you to stay home, but now you’re coming out and it’s two years and you’re still not comfortable doing what you might have done before. Some thoughts.

Donny Willis 00:16:14) – Absolutely. And just to one more story to illustrate the previous thought before jumping into the next one. My mom just transitioned out of her job. She was an educator for over 30 years. and she retired. And it was like, woo hoo! Go, mom.

Donny Willis 00:16:35) – You retired. You worked hard for this. I’m very excited. And she’s like. And we’re like, so what are you going to do next? Because she can’t sit still. Sitting still is just not an option. Well, she has found a new community to be a part of. And it’s called pickleball.

Andi Simon (00:16:52) – Oh you’re Kidding.

Donny Willis (00:16:54) – And now she’s like this avid pickleball. And she’s got all her pickleball friends, and they’re in a group, and they go to different courts all over South Louisiana, wherever there’s a pickleball thing. And I went with her, and she walks in, everybody’s like, Hey, Kim, hey, Kim. Hey, Kim. People from all different walks of life.

Donny Willis (00:17:14) – But she made a decision that she was going to be in community with somebody, and she found her people. And I thought that was so awesome. Now it’s.

Andi Simon (00:17:27) – But then. But that’s a perfect illustration because I know lots of people who are leaving education. They’re reaching that retirement age.

Andi Simon (00:17:34) – No plans for what’s next. And, and you can FaceTime Facebook a whole lot, only up to a point. That’s not a real life. And but that’s a real clever one. Oh, my goodness. And it’s a new field, so nobody owns it yet. You can still crash into it. That’s so much fun.

Andi Simon (00:17:52) – Right. So go ahead please finish your thought.

Donny Willis (00:17:55) – And she’s sending me and she’s sending me groups of Westchester pickleball.

Donny Willis (00:18:03) – A group you can get in. Here’s a group. You can get it.

Donny Willis (00:18:10) – It’s just being open and saying, you know what? I’m going to be open to people. I’m going to be open to ideas. I’m not saying don’t be anchored to your core. I’m just saying that you know what. There’s a there’s a world out there. Was it a couple billion people living in the world? And there’s a good chance that one of them wants to be friends with you, just like you want to be friends with them.

Donny Willis (00:18:33) – And so it’s, but like, talking about, like, transitions, you know, transitions are absolutely hard. But at the end of the day, it comes down to you making a decision that this is what you’re going to do in your life. One of my favorite stories. Christopher Columbus had just discovered the New World. He’s sitting in a pub with some buddies. One of them was getting a hard time. They were like, you know what? All you did was get in a boat and start sailing. That was it. It’s ridiculous. You’re a national hero because you got a boat. You sailed. You found something that nobody else had found.

Donny Willis (00:19:10) – And so Christopher Columbus is sitting there, and he looks at these guys, and he grabs a hard-boiled egg, and he hands it to him. He says, stand that egg up on his end. So, they put it up and it crashed back down. They stood it up. They crashed back down.

Donny Willis (00:19:27) – And they said, you do it. He takes it. He slams the bottom of the egg into the counter. The egg smugly set up in front of everybody. And they all went, oh, well, we could have done that. We could have done that.

Donny Willis (00:19:40) – Anybody could have done that.

Donny Willis (00:19:42) – To which he responds, but you didn’t.

Donny Willis (00:19:46) – Yeah.

Donny Willis (00:19:47) – And I believe that that is the point of separation and transitions and things in life, because it is the separating point of what are you doing and what, what do you have the opportunity to do and what are you actually doing? For frogs sat on a log three decided to jump off. How many actually did one because a decision is not actually an action. Yep. It is stepping out there and actually doing something. It may not always turn out like you want it. Their hardships, their pains. There are. There’s. There’s a cost to putting yourself out there. But sometimes you can’t worry about the what ifs. You’ve just got to take on a new opportunity and, you know, take on a new relationship.

Donny Willis (00:20:37) – Well, what if they disagree with me?

Donny Willis (00:20:40) – So what?

Donny Willis (00:20:41) – I disagree with myself.

Donny Willis (00:20:43) – So.

Donny Willis (00:20:43) – Many times. I don’t even like the decisions I make a lot of times. And that’s okay. That’s a part of the human experience.

Donny Willis 00:20:51) – Yep.

Andi Simon (00:20:52) – You’re you referred to your three children at the beginning. I want to refer back to them because to some degree, the positivity that you exude, I hope you’re passing on to them. But it is a mindset which says, you know, you can figure it out, make it possible, be resilient. you know, you can be competent and confident. You can do all of these things. If your mind says you can, you can. You know, of course you can throw a ball and catch it. You just haven’t done it yet. And the metaphor or the lesson to be learned is teach them young and hug them tight, because there’ll be lots of walls they’ll crash into. But it’s okay. If they didn’t take the step, they wouldn’t have known there was something to learn from the wall. And I have a hunch you work with kids and adults in this way, am I right?

Donny Willis (00:21:44) – Absolutely. There are two things that I tell my kids often, and I’m very vocal about this. Number one, I always love you. I always love.

Donny Willis (00:21:55) – You.

Donny Willis (00:21:55) – It does not matter. You are always loved by dad. You’re always loved by mom. Those two are anchors in your life that you can always hold them to. Nothing changes. How much I deeply love you. And. And I have no problem. Public, private. It doesn’t matter. Anytime I say to one of my kids. Hey, guess what? All. And now they just drop their shoulders. They look at me. They. I know you love me.

Donny Willis (00:22:27) – And don’t ever forget it. So that’s number one. But number two is. I’m proud of you. Whenever you work hard. I always love you, but I’m proud of you. Whenever you work hard, whenever you make good choices.

Donny Willis ((00:22:47) – I am not automatically always proud of you. I automatically love you, but I am not automatically proud of you. That’s whenever you work hard, and you make good choices. Because I believe that if you work hard, if you make good choices, then life is fun. Kind of like I love the baseball analogy. I tell my boys like, guys, if you work hard at practice, the game is fun. If you give it everything you got in practice, if you will put the work in. The game is fun, and I believe it’s the same way in life. If I am constantly evaluating my thoughts, evaluating my decisions, trying my best to make good decisions and work hard at constantly being better yet today than I was yesterday, I want to be a better human today than I was yesterday. I want to be a better dad today than I was yesterday. I want to be a better husband today than I was yesterday. And then if I constantly have that goal tomorrow, I’m going to even be better than life is going to be fun.

Donny Willis ((00:23:52) – Life is going to have purpose and fulfillment and it’s just waking up with that mindset. My favorite quote, Andy is actually from Babe Ruth. I could go baseball analogies all day long, but Babe Ruth said that that yesterday’s home run does not win today’s game.

Speaker 3 (00:24:13) – he’s right, and I am solute believe that.

Donny Willis ((00:24:16) – And that comes back today. I’m going to put in the work today. I’m going to make good decisions. And my life is going to be better today than it was yesterday.

Andi Simon (00:24:24) – You know, I, I and to some degree, you’re very philosophical about this because in baseball you come up to bat and if you hit one out of three times, it’s you’re a real star, right? Yes. You’re in the Hall of Fame.

Andi Simon (00:24:40) – And so and we often use that metaphor because, you can only show up and, and sometime that pitcher is going to be better than you. And sometimes that catch is going to be better than you’re running. And but every time you show up, there’s an opportunity to hit that home run.

Andi Simon (00:24:58) – and every time you work with your coach on it, you can rise above whatever it was. The trick is to show up.

Andi Simon (00:25:07) – Right. If you don’t show up, guarantee you won’t ever hit a single ball, much less one out of the park.

Donny Willis (00:25:15) – That’s that is exactly right. You know, a couple of Saturdays ago, we were out at the ballpark. It was the game. we get back in the car and my son is just kind of bummed. And I was like, what are you bummed about? He goes, well, I got out and I was like, well, why’d you get out? Because they caught the ball. I hit and I was like, I want you to stop right there. And I brought him back to three concrete instances in that game where he made good decisions. And I said, as far as that hit was, you hit the ball. The player in the field was in the right position and they called it. You did your job of hitting.

Donny Willis (00:25:53) – They did their job of catching and was like, everybody did the job that they were supposed to do.

Donny Willis (00:26:01) – You just hit in a spot where he could get to it. I was like, there’s nothing wrong with that. You did everything you were supposed to do. They just made a good baseball play, and I try to teach them. I was like, yes, we want to win, but we all. But more than winning, we just want to see good baseball.

Donny Willis (00:26:21) – And it’s like, I want people in life to win. But more than I want them to win, I want them to have purpose in their life and just and have a life worth living.

Andi Simon (00:26:31) – You know, Donny, I work with a lot of organizations and sometimes I have leadership academies or management development programs, or sometimes I’m just coaching. Often, I’m working with them to change the way they think and do things. And we started out by talking about why change is so difficult. But the metaphor with baseball is a very important one, because you need to show up knowing that today is better than yesterday. Yesterday’s home run is not going to win today’s game. And you need to be open to learning new things. But you also have to practice a lot. And I often use the metaphor of theater. You use baseball. I said you wouldn’t get on stage without a script, rehearsal time and somebody to be there coaching you on how to stand on stage and where to play the right role. But you try to do that with your folks by telling, we’re going to change, and then all of a sudden, they can’t. But there’s no practice time and there’s no applause, and there’s no knowing if it’s good or bad. And they become frightened. The whole world is designed to help you fail and not to help you succeed. And I’m wondering, as you’re working with people, whether it’s through the ministry or every day, how do you get them to create an environment where they can? I’m not going to say fail but show up and grow. I mean, you’ve got to change the mindset that I don’t have a job that pays my thing.

Andi Simon (00:27:54) – I have a place where I can continue to grow and add value purposefully, but I need somebody around me who helps me do that. No, we need to change it.

Donny Willis (00:28:03) – Yeah, I think there’s three threes. I guess you could say. and I’m going to try to remember all three right off the spot here. That kind of help with this. Number one is environment. You have to make sure that you’re in some sort of a growing environment to be able to, to change, if the environment around you, it has a lid on it, then you’re not going to change because you’re never going. I believe everything rises and falls on the leadership that’s in your life. Everything has leadership. Every job has leadership, family, whatever. And if the leadership is not leading and if the leadership is not growing, nobody in that organization is going to grow. Yeah. So, I believe there has to be a positive environment of growth and intentional growth. the second thing, outside of environment is what does it what was the second thing equipping we have to equip.

Donny Willis (00:28:59) – we have to be able to equip people. Yeah. for example, I have an incredible team. And there are some things that I’m personally not equipped to teach and to do. I am not in all to be all. I have my limitations. But that does not mean that there are some areas that people need to be equipped in. I won’t I you know, in church, our church, we are very big on music. I do not sing. I do not play an instrument. I cannot help you. But that does not mean that our musicians and our singers do not need to be equipped. So, what do we do? We look for environments to make sure they are equipped in. That might be saying, hey, we are going to send an entire team to a music conference. Hey, we’re going to send the entire, culture development team to a conference to be able to get them. And then whenever they come back, I sit down with them and say, train me, teach me.

Donny Willis (00:29:56) – What did you learn that can benefit me? And I turn around and let them speak into my life. So, we have to build environments. We have to equip. And then the third thing, the 30 and like I said, I’m doing this all off the top of my head. Remember what the 30 it is, but there’s one out there. And if I think of it, I will with, I’ll think of it, but the, the, the scenario that I would put with that is we have to bring people along with us.

Donny Willis (00:30:26) – along the journey. There are times whenever I am sitting in on a meeting and I there’s two guys who are super close to me and I’ll ask them, hey, do you want to join me on this meeting? They add no value to the meeting. they they’re probably not going to say anything in the meeting, but I just want them there, because if they’re there, they’re learning something new. They are gleaning something. And I’m investing into their life because we cannot.

Donny Willis (00:30:53) – We? I have a cup. Everybody has a cup. And every day we get the opportunity to pour that cup out. Are we pouring it out wastefully or are we pouring it out into other people because our lives should be invested? We do not spend. And for me, this is how I look at it. I do not spend my day. I do not waste my day. I invest my day. And where am I investing? I am investing it into people and relationships that actually matter to my life and to the betterment of others. Because I and whenever I fill my cup, it is not for my glory. It is so that I can invest in somebody else and make somebody else better. Because whenever we become people centric and we realize that it’s all about the people, it changes everything. It absolutely changes our perspective, our mindset, everything. and feel free to cut me off at any time you like.

Andi Simon (00:31:51) – I’m not going to cut you off. I’m going to add to your thought, though, because in 2005, which seems like yesterday, but almost 20 years ago, a horse rolled over on me and he broke my back and hit my neck. And I broke my arm and gave me a concussion and lost my memory for a while. And, but as I’ve recovered most of my memory and my body. But I, I learned something, that it was a bad luck moment. I’ve been riding since I’m ten, so it certainly wasn’t a horse that I wasn’t experienced on. but bad luck moments wake you up to the fact that every day is a gift. And the outcome. You know that your metaphor of the house burned down. Would anyone know we were here? that’s what I went through. It was my goodness; a bad luck moment changed my life. And every day is a gift. So, we’ll wake up in the morning. People say to me, how do you say so positive? I say, every day is a gift. You know you’re not entitled to another one. And it is a very important gift not to waste on yourself, but on how can you make someone else’s life better? And with that, I’m going to ask you a couple of things you’d like the listeners and viewers not to forget, because they often remember the end better than anything else.

And then we will wrap us up because it has been absolutely delightful conversation. We could keep going, but I know that my listeners like about a half hour of time as they drive to work in the morning or they’re cooking. And so, you know, Donny, wrap us up, butter the butter man has given us all kinds of ideas today, but 2 or 3 things you want them to remember.

Donny Willis (00:33:33) – Absolutely. So just kind of wrap it up this entire conversation and leave you with this investing with people. Here are some practical things that you can do to invest in other people. Number one, become genuinely interested in other people. Yeah. Whenever somebody else is talking just and a lot of these things I did not originate with. These are not my things. They are actually, if I’m going to give credit, it’s going to be Dale Carnegie, Dale Carnegie’s How to Invest in other people. But it is so true. Number one, just become genuinely interested in other people whenever they’re talking.

Donny Willis (00:34:11) – Don’t try to formulate a response in your brain. Just listen. Number two smile. Smile more. It makes your face happy, and it actually lets other people’s guards down. So don’t be afraid to smile. Number three.

Andi Simon (00:34:28) – They’re smiling. We’re monkeys. We copy each other. So, the more you smile, the more somebody else feels a smile. So now you’re a third one. Please go ahead.

Donny Willis (00:34:37) – Sir. Number three, the most important word in the human language is the other person’s name. Use people’s name whenever you’re in a conversation, drop their name in there. I am awful at this, and it is something that I have had to work at. But I want to say people’s names because it’s the most important. It’s the sweetest sound in the world when somebody knows your name. number four be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. Listen and let people talk about themselves because they’ve all everybody has a story that they want to tell. They’re just looking for somebody to listen.

Donny Willis (00:35:24) – And the next one talk in terms of other people’s interests. Andy, I really appreciate that you did this. You caught on quick. I love baseball, and so we took this thing in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, but I’m interested in baseball. And you allowed the conversation to flow in that way. So, talk in the terms of other people’s interests. And number six make other the other person feel important. Because they are, not because you’re trying to get anything from them, not because of a quid pro quo or anything like that with no agendas. Every person matters and they deserve to be heard, and you could be the person to actually stop and listen. What would happen if we actually just stopped? So, do you know what? There’s nothing more important than what you have to tell me right now. And the way I do that as a leader. And I practice that Sundays at my church. I could walk from the pulpit and disappear. But I don’t. And I could go to a couple certain people and find.

Donny Willis (00:36:35) – But I don’t. And I make sure I stand there, and I talk to anybody that wants to talk to me. And I have a rule that if a kid whose attention spans are much shorter runs up and wants to give me a hug or wants to give me a high five or has something to tell me. I paused the conversation with the adult. I turn around, I get on the kid’s level. I look them eye to eye, and I have a conversation because I know it’s not going to last long, but I want that child to know that they are important and what they have to say is important. And then once that’s done, I stand back up and I finish the conversation because it is so important to make sure other people know that there’s a there’s a quote that I use that I love is, is simply this is it is a big deal to you. It’s a big deal to me. So, bring it on. I am all yours. And so that that would be where I, where I guess I’d want to just invest in people’s lives.

Donny Willis (00:37:33) – And that comes whenever you make others so important that you realize it’s not about me and it’s about investing into your life. And so, I that’s, I guess that would be my final word there.

Andi Simon (00:37:47) – Donny. in a sense, a long, long time ago, I learned from a mentor, that people want to feel important, special, and appreciated. And that sort of captures what you’re saying. They also want to feel trusted, important, special, and appreciated. And you have a knack for opening up the conversations. I have a hunch you have a repertoire of people you’ve met on airplanes, exchanged cards with, and keep sharing the joy. If people want to get to know you more or find you someplace you know, what’s the best place to find you at butter man or Woman? Sure, sure. what works best?

Donny Willis (00:38:26) – You know what? I’m going to give you one website and let everything kind of stem out from there. Just my name, Donny Willis, dot com, Donny Willis. Com.

Donny Willis (00:38:38) – And there’s all kinds of stuff about the book and how we can get in touch and all of that kind of stuff. Now, just in case anybody’s looking for the shock of their life, I am unapologetically me on a lot of fronts. And so, you might even see some preaching clips pop up. because I love public speaking and I love preaching and I love getting passionate about things. So, all of that will be out there. But I it I Andy, one of my favorite things to do is just talk to interesting people. And you are an interesting person. And it has been such an honor to be on your podcast. And I cannot say thank you enough for, for trusting me in this moment. So, thank you very much.

Andi Simon (00:39:23) – And thank you. This has been fun. I find that the podcast, it’s an interesting medium, that I haven’t monetized by design because what I really don’t want to do is be obligated to somebody else. What I really love to do is be obligated to my listeners and my viewers.

Andi Simon (00:39:42) – And I found Donny by chance, which means if Shri Kumar Rao was right, it wasn’t by chance at all. It was by design. And who designed it, I don’t know, but it was an interesting experience. he guides me that serendipity is sort of an illusion, and I agree, but this has been such fun. Donny, I will, thank you many times over, and I want to thank my audience for coming, bringing interesting people for us to interview, and buying our books, sharing our books, and remembering that we take observations, turn them into innovations. Our job is to help you see, feel, and think in new ways. Because I love you. Get off the brink and change. And tonight, today’s times are changing very fast and you’re not very happy with change. So, make it your friend and begin to think about how you can help others. Listen carefully, hear what they’re saying. And I love Babe Ruth. Remember, yesterday’s home run is not today’s game. And so, every day is a day to grow and to learn.

Andi Simon (00:40:43) – And I’ll say goodbye. Wish your health and happiness and have a wonderful day. And thank you so much, Donny. Bye now.

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