Episode 52

December 29, 2023


Episode 52 - Tom Briggs - At 30 Years Old, I Had This Mini Mega Existential Crisis. I Was 10 Years Into My Career, Working for an Old Friend and I Could Tell It Was Time for Us to Part Ways, Which Was Very Difficult.

Hosted by

Drew Deraney
Episode 52 - Tom Briggs - At 30 Years Old, I Had This Mini Mega Existential Crisis. I Was 10 Years Into My Career, Working for an Old Friend and I Could Tell It Was Time for Us to Part Ways, Which Was Very Difficult.
From Caving In To Crushing It
Episode 52 - Tom Briggs - At 30 Years Old, I Had This Mini Mega Existential Crisis. I Was 10 Years Into My Career, Working for an Old Friend and I Could Tell It Was Time for Us to Part Ways, Which Was Very Difficult.

Dec 29 2023 | 00:26:17


Show Notes

This episode: At 30 years old, I had this mini mega existential crisis. I was 10 years into my career, working for an old friend and I could tell it was time for us to part ways, which was very difficult. 


Here’s what you’ll learn about:

Overcoming setbacks and living a fruitful life. (0:01)

  • Tom Briggs shares a defining moment in his life where he realized there's a better way to live, and he's made changes to become the best person he can be.

Personal growth and relationships. (1:43)

  • Tom experienced an existential crisis at 30, questioning his identity and career after 10 years of working for a close friend.
  • He and his friend grew up together, but their friendship evolved over time, leading to a difficult separation. 

Overcoming complacency and building confidence through taking on challenges. (4:10)

  • Tom learned that leaving a job can be like working on muscles, and it's important to take on challenges to build confidence and become a better version of oneself.
  • His experience of being ahead of his partner in a business venture led to a realization that complacency is a killer of innovation and creativity, and it's important to take on hard challenges to stay sharp and grow.

Fear and its impact on decision-making. (7:21)

  • Tom agrees that fear is a powerful guiding force, and acknowledges his own struggle with conflict in his family of origin.

Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way. (8:14)

  • Tom reflects on learning to handle conflict in a healthy way.

Improving communication in marriages through empathy and addressing root causes. (9:34)

  • Tom discusses the importance of addressing root causes in relationships, rather than avoiding conflict.

Personal growth, martial arts, and business. (11:07)

  • Tom reflects on his journey in martial arts, citing it as a means of personal growth and self-improvement.
  • He discusses how his business, which he never intended to start, has been strengthened by his martial arts practice and his epigraph.

Branding and marketing strategies for disruptive industries. (13:31) 

  • Tom reflects on past lessons to inform future strategic branding consultancy work, focusing on values-aligned organizations and advancing the human collective.
  • Tom works with disruptive industries, helping engineers articulate world-changing products and their impact on humanity, with a focus on Portland, Oregon.

Brand strategy, positioning, and career development. (16:48)

  • Tom draws on his background in technical writing and copywriting to work with various companies in the tech and creative industries.
  • Tom is active on LinkedIn and mentors early-stage startups at an incubator in New York, and is always open to connecting with others for professional conversations.

Life and business advice from a seasoned professional. (19:53)

  • Tom advises young Tom Briggs to find his tribe and remind himself of the importance of finding people who share similar interests and values.
  • Tom encourages young Tom Briggs to look for lessons in every experience, even the difficult ones, and to craft his own story.


To learn more about Tom, go to LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tbriggs/ or you can go to Tom’s website at https://www.helloepigraph.com/


Tom Briggs Bio: Tom Briggs | Epigraph | Brand, Creative & Content Strategy Director & CMO

After nearly 20 years of collaboration spanning Global Fortune 50 to early-stage startups, Tom Briggs offers strategic CMO-level brand advisement with a focus on [product + market fit] and strategic competitive positioning for innovative and highly disruptive organizations and individuals. As a mentor at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator NYC—New York City’s largest tech incubator, Tom specializes in building values-led, sustainable, scalable brands rooted in purpose, values and mission. Tom is an internationally cited social media researcher, Center for Creative Leadership graduate, mentor, coach and advocate for more ethical, humane and conscious capitalism.

A visionary leader of award-winning strategic marketing, design, creative, publicity and communications teams, Tom has a proven ability to cultivate, lead and inspire high-performing, disruptive, values-conscious teams. Fueled by curiosity and a commitment to the gritty pursuit of the greater human good, Tom is an internationally cited [social media + brand] researcher, Center for Creative Leadership graduate, mentor, coach and advocate for ethical startups and more human brands.



epigraph is an independent [brand + innovation + design] collective focused on highly disrupted spaces. epigraph cultivates, equips and inspires high-performing, disruptive, value-conscious teams to tell their stories better. epigraph collaborates with strategic marketers, thinkers, creatives, change-makers, academic researchers and early-stage investors.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Speaker A: Welcome to from caving in to crushing it, the podcast for those who find themselves immersed in adversity and choose to write their story instead of having others write it for them. I'm Drew Deraney. And I'm your host, tom Briggs. Thanks for coming on, my friends. [00:00:23] Speaker B: Good to see you. It's a pleasure to be with you here today, Drew. [00:00:28] Speaker A: I'll tell you, tom, there have been people in my life I've known for my entire life, and then people in my life who I've known for, like, three weeks, and there are some people I've met just recently, and you're one of them, who I feel like I've known you for a long time and just could pick up. You ever have a friend where you haven't talked to him for a while, and then you can just pick up, and it's like you pick up where you left off? I don't know how to explain it, but we met in a networking event, and then I happened to connect with you on LinkedIn, and then I saw that you were a podcast host, and I listened to one of your. It. What was the name? Rogers. [00:01:07] Speaker B: Sitting down with Jason Rogers. Yeah. Olympic saber fencer. [00:01:11] Speaker A: What an awesome episode. And I'm listening to it. I'm thinking, I. I got to get Mr. Briggs on my show, so I'm really thankful you're here, my friend. I bring people on who I've known, gone through stuff in life, and made a choice not to retreat from them, and instead became a better person because of the setbacks, not despite them. And I really would love for you to touch on how you had a defining moment in life where that kind of shook your foundation, because we're usually told in our belief system that if we do A-B-C and d, life's going to be linear, and e's going to happen, and that's not like that. So, can you reach back as far as you can think about that defining moment where it was like a two by four hitting Tom upside the head, and you were like, man, there's a better way to live. Why am I doing this? I'm going to make some changes, and I'm going to be the best person I can be that's going to help me live a more fruitful life, if you may. Yeah. [00:02:12] Speaker B: Well, yeah, there's definitely one point in time, Drew, and it's funny. So I'm 42, turned 40 a little bit ago, and crossing over the hill was not nearly as wild or bad or rough for me as turning 30 for some reason. There's something about turning 30 of like, okay, I'm done with my 20s. That's the time where you can kind of try things. But I came to 30 and I was like, oh, my gosh, I had this mini, maybe mega existential crisis. I was ten years into my career. I was working for family, actually, old friend of mine who we'd been journeying together a while, but had hit a point where I could tell if I was being fully honest with myself, that it was time for us to part ways, which was very difficult. This person, I think, thought we were going to skip on down the path merrily together until we retired as old men. So to step away from that really challenged both that relationship and then just my conception of who I was and how I was going in the world. Son of a workaholic. So I know, looking back, that I took way too much of my identity from my career as a man, as a working professional, as a dad. I layered a lot on what am I doing, nine to five? What am I putting out into the world? So much so that it hit the point where no career can bear that much weight upon it, and it collapsed and honestly kicked me into a little bit of a reset cycle where forced me to go way back to when I was way younger, kind of look at some of the family origin stuff that I came out of and really take a little pause and say, okay, how do I want to be if I get this hard reset? The beauty of life is we all get to do over if we want it. You just have to push that button. And sometimes that means nuking everything. Fortunately, it wasn't that dramatic, though. If you asked me at the time, it would have felt like the world was upside down, the Titanic was slipping under the waves. But, yeah, very formative, a few things. [00:04:27] Speaker A: That you said, and one of the main things is people come into our life, right? And when they come in, I think there's an assumption, at least there has been for me, that they're going to be in my life forever. But there's that old adage that people come into your life for. Was a season a reason or a lifetime? However order you do it, and it's true. And I think most of us, when we're young, we think people are going to be with us forever when we meet them. And so how was it for you? Did you have a belief that this partner, this friend of yours, was going to be in your life forever? And how did you go about that separation without devastating yourself or him or your inner child or whatever the heck. [00:05:13] Speaker B: Yeah, it was wild. I've been walking with this guy since middle school. We grew up together. We were snowboarding buddies. We'd cut school and go up and ride at the mountain. And it was challenging because I think I was further along in that journey. I think when I brought it up to him, it hit him a little bit like the two x four. And I thought, okay, this is going to be a typical two week severance. And then came back in the next day, he's like, okay, you're done here. Get out now. I'm like, okay. So, yeah, it was challenging, but by throwing me back on my heels, it really forced me to unpack. Life is lessons, right? So, I mean, I look back and I learned so much about business, culture, formation, leadership, what it means to stand on core values. And then, as I'm looking, going on in my career now, values alignment has been one of the key things, and I think that's one of the things that you mentioned earlier. You and I resonated on. You can tell. It's always such a good yardstick where if I come across someone networking or if I'm considering a collaboration, business collaboration, really leading with values, I found that's a really nice way to know. From day one versus six, nine months down the road where you're talking past each other, you find you can't stand each other, and it's not workable. Yeah. Values have been such a core component of guiding me. Been a north star. [00:06:51] Speaker A: I agree 100%. Take us. When you ventured out, what you really helped bring about is that complacency is a killer of innovation and creativity. And by you realizing that, you were a little bit ahead of your partner and that broke off, you broke some complacency, which then enabled you to see things in a different way. And there are many people in life who are just complacent, and they will comply with what they hear, and they just travel through life on autopilot and not really live. You gave yourself an opportunity to live. So now that you gave yourself that opportunity, Tom, tell me how your life took off after that. [00:07:34] Speaker B: I mean, the thing I learned, Drew, is that leaving a job is like working. A know, the first time you do it, you're biting your nails. It's terrifying. You put in a few more reps, and you realize, okay, I can get another gig. I'm employable. This isn't the last possible job, but until you've done that and sort of jumped off the boat into the lifeboat or made that leap, it does seem insurmountable. The older I get, the more I realize the hard things. The things that scare us are probably those things we need to do. Otherwise, it's just always going to be lurking there in your peripheral vision. It's going to be whispering in your ear. And I think, especially for men having overcoming challenge, we draw so much strength from that, and it affirms us as who we are. It shows, okay, we can take on hard things. There's nothing that builds confidence like taking on a challenge and overcoming it. And it sounds a little trite, but honestly, like doing hard things, it's a great book by a guy named Michael Easter called the Comfort crisis. And it's just all about how our society is not benefited by such a smooth path like we need to. As humans, we are wired to take on hard, challenging things. It brings us to a better headspace. It keeps our heart neurochemistry in order and just makes us better, more fully functioning entities. [00:09:04] Speaker A: Well, agreed, 100%. When you think about people who are scared of making a move, they then are in their own head making assumptions of what the result will be if they do it. And 99 times out of 100, when you do it scared, the results are nothing at all like you built up in your head. Would you agree on that? [00:09:29] Speaker B: Fear is such a powerful guiding force. [00:09:34] Speaker A: Really. [00:09:34] Speaker B: And yeah, the more you can address it, look it in the eye, the better it will be. My backstory was looking back my family of origin. I'm like, man, I have a big problem with conflict. I do not like to be in conflict. Growing up. Don't rock the boat. Don't cause a problem. It's not okay. To not be okay was not the overtly spoken message, but definitely the implicit message throughout everything. So to overcome that and say, okay, I'm not going to go out and smash my head against every person I meet on the street. But there is a time and place for constructive, good conflict, because if you run from that, it fundamentally turns inside on yourself. And then you start to get into things like anxiety, depression, and it's just not a good, healthy road to go down. So figuring out to walk that road and be in healthy conflict and hold that tension and be able to sit with someone and say, we're still in relationship. But my wife can tell you we've learned to disagree better over our marriage. I was terrible at it to start out. I wouldn't lose my mind. I wouldn't blow up. It was more like the sulky, just like, accept whatever, turn around and go to my corner and she knew we still weren't okay, and she kind of tried to pull me out, and then I was not very adept at playing that, the conflict instrument. [00:11:07] Speaker A: A lot of good points there because there's no class in middle school to teach you how to deal with conflict. More often than not, they teach you to shy away from conflict. Right? Yeah. And I think you gave a really good point here about how men and women work well together or should be able to work well together. The divide that's happening in this country is one of my things that I'm very angry about, and I try to remove the labels. You think about each man and each woman have strengths, and in your marriage you were able to. Your wife has that intuition that women have. Right. And that's a good thing. Instead of being defensive and all that and resisting having helpful suggestions, it helps to learn the thinking language of the other gender, both sides. That's going to enhance relationships. I know in my marriage, which ended in divorce, our mode of communication was, I call it silent avoidance. We would communicate in avoidance, and that's the thing about being afraid of conflict. And when you avoid it, you're not solving anything. You're not addressing the root cause by you and your wife actually addressing things. You're hitting the root cause, we're hitting symptoms. You're hitting root causes. And I think that's a big lesson in life, that you need to address root causes. [00:12:29] Speaker B: Yeah. And knowing that it may be ugly the first few times, you may not do it well, and that's okay. Not feeling like you have to do it perfect from day one. Even just if you each move an inch toward each other, you're still moving toward. You're stepping away from that avoidance, just not addressing it mentality. Yeah. [00:12:52] Speaker A: I love it. Somebody mentioned to me yesterday that the best way to go in life is try to improve 1% each day. [00:12:58] Speaker B: Yeah, that's huge. And I think that's. You would talk about core values. Yeah. Continual growth, continual evolution. Yeah. I'm into martial arts, and I got into it after college because I realized, okay, I'm done with my formal structured education. I need another ladder to climb. I was going out in the wide open world, which is fundamentally very unstructured. I'm like, holy cow, I need a nice. To continue this ladder. I'm not going to go get a graduate degree right now. I have just about as much student loan debt as I can handle. But, hey, this will keep me sharp physically. It'll give me something. As I was looking at. I believe in staying in shape and really just equipping good skills for life. And that's been a really nice way to sort of talk about conflict. And the arts I've studied, they're not conflict based. It's not like going and smash the other person's face into the mat. It's more. What I've come to realize Drew is the biggest opponent I will ever face is myself. [00:14:00] Speaker A: Absolutely. [00:14:00] Speaker B: That is bigger than any 500 pound dude I will face on the mat. The opponent inside is Wilier. He's craftier. He'll try. He knows me better than I know myself. Like the shadow side. Holy cow. You could battle that for a lifetime. [00:14:18] Speaker A: Yeah, well, martial arts is great for mental preparation for any kind of conflict. Right. You're preparing yourself, and I think that's important in any part of life. All right, so now you have all this growth, all this stuff you learned. Tell me about epigraph. Did I pronounce that right? [00:14:34] Speaker B: Okay, epigraph. [00:14:35] Speaker A: Yeah, epigraph. Tell me about what you're doing now professionally, how it has strengthened you or how you have strengthened your new business and what you're doing now. [00:14:45] Speaker B: Yeah. So, fundamentally, my dad was a solopreneur, swore to myself I would never go into business for myself. But we are called by that which draws us. So, yeah, an epigraph is that bit. So if you're reading a book and before chapter one or before any chapter, there's that little bit of text that maybe it's a classic quote. It basically shows that what follows stands on the shoulders of giants. It stands on our forebears who came before us in this moment. I had this insight in 2020. We do well to remember these lessons from the past, why humans are unique in that we can pass down knowledge. We have things like language that no other species on the earth can do. So why not tap into lessons from the past, from psychology, sociology, philosophy, politics, to steer a wider, smarter path forward? Because humanity, we're facing some really daunting, gnarly challenges. So why not? It's going to take all the lessons of our past from maybe the dominant culture, maybe people who didn't hold the mic in the past, who nonetheless had some great insights on the human condition. So epigraph sits at the convergence of design and marketing. So we're a strategic branding consultancy. I've worked in branding advertising, kind of, if you're familiar with a marketing funnel model. Worked every level of that with organizations ranging in scale from global Fortune 50 all the way down to pre venture stage startup. So what I realized was I wanted to hang out my shingle and draw people into my orbit who are values aligned organizations who are looking to make the world and advance the human collective and leave the world a little bit better place. So I get to help companies like that communicate strategically determine things like product market fit. Look at their total addressable market. If they're in the pre venture stage and they're kind of trying to figure out, okay, where do we fit in? If you're familiar with blue ocean strategy, how do we avoid going head to head with the incumbents in the market and differentiate our service offering our product offering as genuinely unique? And that's a process you can do as a solo consultant, you can do as a global fortune ten mega corporation. There's a lot of similarities between those two. The dance steps are a little bit different, but the fundamental music in developing a strategic brand in this cultural moment is the same. [00:17:25] Speaker A: Do you have specific industries with whom you work or size organizations? [00:17:30] Speaker B: Yeah, I work well with disruptive and disrupted industries. So looking at things like SaaS, fintech, electrification as far as transport, things that are a little bit tip of the spear, maybe think of things that will look back in ten years and just be like, oh, wow, didn't see that coming, but it changed everything. Okay, I have a deep technical background. I've worked with a lot of brilliant engineers who are making amazing things, but maybe they struggle a little bit with articulating. How does this world changing product, how do we explain it to the average consumer? How do we help it make sense? What can it fundamentally do? What does it bring to humanity and kind of advancing this thing right now. [00:18:15] Speaker A: You'Re located in southern California, Portland, Oregon. Oregon, I knew you're on the west coast. Is that right? So in Portland, Oregon, how did you get into this type of field being in Portland? What got you into it? Was there something there? [00:18:33] Speaker B: Portland is a creative hub. You think of Portland. So if you've heard of, you know, the big independent ad agency in the world, they launched our house that launched. Know the house that launched just. Yeah, so that's a huge. Because Nike is here. We have a big soft goods ecosystem. So under Armour is here. Adidas North America, Columbia sportswear, which owns Prana. [00:19:01] Speaker A: I didn't know they're all in Oregon. Okay. [00:19:03] Speaker B: All right. Yeah, so we're a real hub for that. And then the other big ecosystem here is intel, the microchip manufacturer. [00:19:11] Speaker A: Intel, I remember, yeah. [00:19:13] Speaker B: Based out of Santa Clara, but a huge presence up here. They have a couple of their very advanced manufacturing facilities called fabs here. So I've crossed my career. I've kept a foot in each of those ecosystems. From Nike, I learned. I mean, their brand craft is world class. You look at Nike and they are just consistent. Their communication arts are just top tier. And then working with Intel, a microchip is an amazing product. I mean, they're literally machining these elements of these things at 100,000th the width of a human hair. Like, we're literally running up on the limitations of physics, and that's really cool. But for the average person, what does that mean? Oh, it means I can have an HD Zoom conference while streaming, while checking that spreadsheet without my computer slowing down. Cool. The manufacturing is amazing. Just tell me what it can do for me. So, yeah, my background draws upon both of those. And in working with those players, I've had the privilege to work with others in their ecosystem as far as tech, b to b, b to c, the joy of what I do. I get to work with so many different types of companies, and fundamentally, like I said, I'm a lifelong learner, so I love jumping in. My background is in technical writing and copywriting, so I'm very comfortable just jumping in over my head. You can't give me too much information. I always tell my clients, just bury me. [00:20:37] Speaker A: I'll tell you everybody. When you talk to Tom, he's like this all the time, and he fires me up. There's so much about you, man. We could talk for hours. Is there anything else you want to tell people about professionally that I may have missed? [00:20:56] Speaker B: No, man. I just want to say thanks. Appreciate you and what you're doing. Good people know good people. So I'm active on LinkedIn. I cast a pretty broad network. So if anyone who's listening in wants to connect and is just looking to pick a brain or just unpack things, I've touched a lot of stuff in brand strategy, positioning, career strategy. I'm a coach mentor at a couple of different spaces. I mentor early stage startups at an incubator in New York. Yeah, always down for a good conversation. So just delighted that you and I can sit down and drop the needle on this thing. [00:21:38] Speaker A: Love it. All right, this is my favorite part of this. I have two final questions for you. So, Tom, you have an opportunity to sit down with seven to ten year old Tom Briggs, and you want to give him advice about life. What are you going to tell him? [00:21:56] Speaker B: Yeah, such a good question. You know what? For seven to ten, me, that's such a good formative age. I would remind myself, find your tribe. It's a big world. You can find your people. I grew up in a pretty small town, pretty small school. So it was the typical clicks, and I was a little bit weird. I didn't slot into any of those typical ones. And I was like, oh, my gosh, where do I fit? I mean, the beauty of growing up now in this day and age, the entire world is as close as closest computer screen. And you get these weird subgroups of people who are into this tv show that was animated out of Japan in the. They just share that affinity. So, yeah, find your people. They're out there. Just reminding myself of that. [00:22:48] Speaker A: I love that. All right, so we're going to switch hats here. And now you have the opportunity of sitting down with young Tom Briggs, the entrepreneur new businessman, and you want to give him some business advice. What are you going to tell him? [00:23:06] Speaker B: The lessons are there if you're willing to accept them. It's all grist for the mill. It's all training, the hard stuff, the good stuff. Just reminding myself to look for the lesson, even in those hard times. My dad's an executive coach and consultant, so I've had, like, leadership dripped into me from a very early age. And I look back at all my career. At the time, I thought it was taking weird right angles, but looking back, the privilege of anyone is you get to craft your story, you get to help that stuff make sense and stuff. Like, I took a summer off or one of my summers in college. I drove commercial water delivery trucks for a summer. And I was like, at the time, that felt like, shouldn't I have been getting an internship, building my professional skills? But looking back, I learned to step into a realm I knew nothing about. I learned to deliver exceptional customer service, even when maybe the customer was a giant, red faced guy on a big tractor who was losing his mind because I had done something wrong. But just the lessons are always there for those who are willing to absorb them and see them from life. Yeah. What lessons can you take away and just use those to always be sharpening the saw, always be getting better. [00:24:34] Speaker A: I love that message, Tom, because in the audience, there may be some of you who don't realize it, that there's a lesson around every corner. Whether you take a left or right, go straight, go backwards, you're going to find a lesson. So I suggest you just look for that lesson, because more often than not, when something really challenging happens in your life, it ends up being a gift. And I'll say wrapped in sandpaper? Because if you wrap something in sandpaper, that's not too pretty, right? Why would I want to? There are opportunities everywhere, and if you can reframe rejection and turn it into a positive, you'll find yourself wanting to send a thank you note to people because things happen for a reason. Find that reason. Tom, you are awesome, man. I just want to say I'm grateful you're in my life. Thanks for being my friend, man. And you're one of those people I've only known for like three or four weeks, and it feels like I've known you for three or four years or decades. So keep being who you are. You're a solid human being. You're doing some wonderful stuff for people in your life, and keep doing it, man. [00:25:39] Speaker B: Appreciate you. Thanks for putting out the good stuff you're putting out, Drew. All good things. [00:25:43] Speaker A: Absolutely. Be well, everybody. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed the episode, please subscribe and give us a review to help others find it. If you find yourself immersed in adversity and would like to find support from other men in times of struggle, please become a member of my men's supporting men collaboration tribe by emailing me at [email protected] expressing your interest and I'll get in touch with you. Speak to you soon.

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