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Jan. 25, 2022

Dave Hollis

Dave Hollis is a sought-after speaker, author and a former Disney executive. As a coach, Dave is equipping other professionals with lessons from his own success. But as he shares in his new book Built Through Courage, that success has been forged through personal difficulty and discomfort.

Dave Hollis is a sought-after speaker, author and a former Disney executive. As a coach, Dave is equipping other professionals with lessons from his own success. But as he shares in his new book Built Through Courage, that success has been forged through personal difficulty and discomfort.


In this conversation on Trevor Talks, Dave Hollis walks us through the painful process of surviving a divorce, and the ways that those choppy waters drove him deeper into a personal sense of purpose. While vulnerably offering his own story, Dave also insights for anyone else who might be navigating their own personal transitions and life change.


Get Built Through Courage on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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Dave Hollis  0:00  
I found myself, hmm, five years, six years into that seven year job, starting to get the itch for something new, recognizing that, oh, this feeling I was hoping I might have and getting to this place where I have this title or the status or this access. It's not giving me the feeling that I would have otherwise hoped for. It's not creating fulfillment, in part because I've stopped growing.

Trevor Tyson  0:29  
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today's guest is a New York Times best selling author and former Disney executive as well as the author of his latest book built through courage. And he is such a powerful story to share. In the midst of a challenging season of life, he is opening up about the vulnerabilities he is facing, and what he has found to be super helpful within a time of so much uncertainty. My hope for this episode is that you'll all walk away refreshed, encourage and feel a little bit less alone than before. Here's my interview with Mr. David Hollis. Dave, I said, David, so we'll put that hold on one second.

Dave Hollis  1:13  
You don't have to clip it. You can just pretend like you were upset with me like you're my mother was David Marshall,

Trevor Tyson  1:20  
David Marshall note, we're doing a thing with David Crowder tonight. And so I've been saying David all day. So my apologies on that is Dave Hollis, you're here. We made it.

Dave Hollis  1:30  
We made it, brother. It's so good to see you, Trevor. Thanks for having me on the show,

Trevor Tyson  1:34  
dude, of course. And I'm looking at your hat. And I need that I need that in my life right now. So, dude, this has been a super just trying season for everyone. But you've you've been making it through some storms. And man, just thank you for being so vulnerable, just right off the bat, like a lot of people are going to be encouraged to walk through storms with a new perspective, even hopefully, after listening this interview and go in and purchase in the book.

Dave Hollis  2:01  
Oh, man, thank you, I appreciate that, you know, it's, if there's a constant in life, it's that you are either going to choose Change as in, you're going to find yourself fed up time to make some moves, do some things to get closer to purpose or out of your own way and into something that feels more accustomed to why you're here on this planet or change is gonna choose you. And you know, 2020, for a lot of us was changed that chose us. We didn't necessarily love the way that we had to make new normal thing. We're still making new normal thing. And yet, it's probably not the last time that something unexpected shows up in our life. And so it's a good conversation, not just how to get through the trying things that have happened in the last year, year and a half, but how we can learn from how we've gotten through those things to be prepared for getting through whatever ends up coming next.

Trevor Tyson  2:55  
Dude, I love that. And when it comes down to it, like you've got four kids, you've got a thriving business. So it looks like you're starting to find that new normalcy. But how has it been with like, obviously the new situation with co parenting, having a beautiful girlfriend in the equation? How has it been for the kids? And how are you helping them navigate through it?

Dave Hollis  3:18  
Well, I mean, in any situation where an adult goes through identity shift or grieving relationship, that was that grief is something that is also of course, going to be experienced by the kids. And so, you know, in 2020, as much as there were a lot of things that we collectively experienced, I got to personally experience the end of a 16 year marriage. And that transition from what I knew, to something new, was jarring. My primary identity in so many ways was husband to her husband to Rachel. And the only normal that my kids had ever known was a world in which we were married, that we lived in the same house. And so like anything, it has been a season of adjustment. But if there's a thing that I think you appreciate in going through hard things, it's the way that we sometimes will underestimate the resilience that we already possess the ability for us to get back up or keep on going in the midst of things not necessarily going the way that we might have hoped. And the way that in going through hard things or you know, in my case, walking, certainly through hard things myself, but more importantly to your question, walking alongside my children as they're processing their experience of this experience and their grieving of what was and their acceptance of what now is, is something that has developed for them strength that has developed in them an appreciation of their ability to get through something that they wouldn't have necessarily chosen themselves but have I think, in acclimating to new Do an appreciation for their ability to be somewhat flexible and kind of move with the things that are changing and moving in their life in a way that they wouldn't necessarily known if it wasn't for having to go through something that was as big a change as this has been. So the beautiful thing in these four humans, one of the things I think I pride myself most in is that they know in each house that they will be seen, they will be celebrated their individuality, the strengths that they possess, or things that each of us as parents are going to focus on and pour into. And so, you know, no one, I hope no one ever has to go through divorce. But if you know it has to become a thing, or does inevitably show up as a thing, I hope that you find yourself fortunate in the way that I am. And knowing that my kids are loved and seen and celebrated in both houses. As much as it's new for them, at least there's a through line and consistency and the way that hopefully love is showing up on the regular for each of them in the ways that they need to experience that love.

Trevor Tyson  6:07  
Yeah, and for you personally walking through this, it seems that I've been following you for a while and you've gotten a little more keen on your mental health and even your physical health, how have you found that to be beneficial to you? And when people ask you that? How are you walking them through first steps, like some people are just not into running or working out or even taking care of yourself, but it can actually be a huge help when it comes to mental health.

Dave Hollis  6:36  
Yeah, at the beginning, it was survival. I mean, when you know, what you've known is no longer and you're trying to make sense of how you take this blank piece of paper that's been handed to you and actually write out something of a new future, something in new identity, something in a new normal routine, all of it. It's hard at first. I mean, one of the first casualties of divorce for me was my imagination, I just had a really hard time, not having considered divorce a thing that whatever happened to me to contemplate what life could be like or what it would look like how I would show up if I were faced with having to figure it out when it did, in fact end up happening. And so the processing of that beginning where that blank piece of paper is both terrifying and exhilarating. When it's more terrifying at the beginning, the art of running or the practice of, you know, leaning into therapy for my mental health or reading books to understand what I was feeling from my emotional health that that became survival. And so I would man, I was running at the beginning 10 miles in the morning and 10 miles at night. I mean, I was putting miles on the road, I ran more than you know, 200 miles on that first two, three months consecutively. And what ended up being 2000 plus miles for the year, because the time on the road was a chance for me to process my emotions to be away from the pain that I was experiencing, sitting in a house without movement and in motion, get connected to emotion to the things that I was feeling to ask questions of why I was thinking or feeling the things that I was, and it was man. So there was so much cathartic. It was this combination of like therapy and church for lack of a better descriptor. And it was important, but in that in that beginning season, and if you find yourself right now in something that feels upside down, and in any way that you have a an imagination that also has been impaired because of the circumstances of your present. One of the things that worked really, really well for me was taking what had historically been an ability to cast a vision for five years in the future or one year in the future. I couldn't even think about you know, getting that far I had to really pull the window of what I was thinking about future wise down and I started thinking about 90 day increments. And so I just asked this very simple question. What Dave, considering the circumstances that you find yourself in today, what do you need in this season and the season again, I would describe as like a 90 day window. And I would ask the question against the five dimensions of health What do you need for your physical, your mental, your emotional, your relational and your spiritual health. And if I can come up with two or three things for each of those dimensions, this then was the foundation that I was attempting to lay to afford me this opportunity for equilibrium and what felt like a very unsteady environment where I didn't really know what was happening or what might come next. And the answers to those questions the two or three things for each of those five dimensions that became My morning routine, some of the habits, I had to adapt my coping mechanisms circle of people, I surrounded myself with my boundaries, some of the circle I needed in my life. But all of it was an answer to a question of how I could establish something of a foundation to allow myself just the opportunity to create forward momentum, one step after the next in the midst of feeling, you know, somewhat in a muck, but in that creating motion, it started slowly allowing me to conjure some of the imagination for what might be next, in the hope of seeing something hopeful, so that if I could now start to believe that there was something good that might exist on the other side of this hard, it might have me now continuing to keep one foot after the other every single day, working toward whatever that next ended up being.

Trevor Tyson  10:55  
Yeah, and I love that you mentioned you had a creative block, when did you really start to think like, Okay, people can be impacted by this, I think I should turn this into a book. But also, you, you it's, it's a big thing to start opening up about vulnerability, especially as a guy, and especially when it comes down to a divorce. So how that had to break some boundaries with your comfort zone. So how did you navigate the comfort zone like getting out of there, and then really starting to find your creative again, to bring built their courage to life.

Dave Hollis  11:32  
What's interesting is I started writing the book in like an every single day kind of way in March of 2020. And one of the one of the very first things that I wrote it, I mean, it happens that COVID was just happening to really become a very real thing. But I wrote this line, in this rush to return to normal, let's use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to. And what I couldn't appreciate in writing it in March is that divorce would become a topic of conversation in May, and that my sense of normalcy would be turned on its head. And what kind of normal I was rushing back to is going to ultimately be the journey of the next 612 18 months of my life. Now, what's interesting is as much as I started writing the book, I had a frame and an outline for what I thought it was going to be divorce, stop that writing process. I just, there was no way in that state that I could keep writing what I was writing. So I stopped writing the book. But I started writing in journals. And in a way that I hadn't necessarily journaled as a part of my everyday discipline. Prior to divorce, it became this very important cathartic tool to get the things I was thinking out of my head and onto a piece of paper so that I could start making progress. And so what happened to happen, and this is, yep, I'm on a healing journey. I'm processing the things that I'm feeling. I'm working in connection with a therapist, I'm having long conversations with a pastor I'm, you know, like meeting friends who themselves have been divorced. And I'm workshopping some of the things that I'm thinking or writing down. And after, you know, call it six months worth the time really ends up passing maybe five months, I realized that I have now chronicle journal after journal after journal, just you know, hundreds of 1000s of words. And I now am going to return to finishing a book and the source material is now sitting inside of some of these unexpected experiences of discovery, you know, identity shift, who am I now that I am no longer who I've been? Who did I want to be before I became who I've become? What does it take to actually become this version that I believe I meant to be on this planet, and so much of that, like of that work of establishing something in a relationship with myself in the aftermath of losing myself? Boy, it was just like, it was all there in those journals. And then it became an exercise in restraint. How do you pick the things that you think might serve the audience best? How do you tell stories that might afford someone an ability to see themself in the story, so that if you're then offering some kind of recommendation or tool that worked for you, it gives them the invitation to consider if it might work for them, but man, it was a process and it was also in a beautiful kind of a way, a part of my healing journey to be able to work through so many things in journaling that also became super instructive and important as themes inside The book.

Trevor Tyson  15:01  
And journaling is such a powerful tool, you know, you can talk yourself out of some pretty in depth decisions, and you can talk yourself into their journaling. And really just piecing it all together. I want to discuss the cover art for the book, because you're a creative guy. Obviously, the book cover shows some dark waters. When did you start thinking about what this thing was going to look like? And what did the creative process look like for you?

Dave Hollis  15:26  
Well, in a vain way, I thought that the cover was going to have my picture on it, because that's the way that I released books. And my last book was that way, my wife had a handful of books that have been successful her faces on them. And so I went down a creative exploration with some different looks that were me. And none of them felt like they conveyed the thing that I was hoping that the book might. And I asked if we could do some explorations that were more about book theme than they were about Dave Hollis, author of sedbuk. And when they showed me this picture of the water, I was like, oh, man, that's it. Because as much as I am not one for the ocean, I'm not good on boats, the book is written with a lot of, you know, see analogies and analogies of a safe harbor, that is your comfort zone and the power of pushing into the choppy waters where you can grow. And so the, you know, the cover is the showcase of this place, this choppy water, where you if you have the courage to step into it or push into it will be the beneficiary of the kind of growth that might allow you access to purpose that might allow you just an opportunity to get just a step closer to who you were put on this planet to be. And I just I don't know why I ended up loving the look. And I every time I see it, I'm like, Man, that was always the one.

Trevor Tyson  16:56  
Yeah. And we know what the book looks like. Now, we obviously can see what you look like, I want to hear from your childhood up. Like, what was God's creative process with you for say it, it's always intriguing to me to be able to hear, like what's happened in people's lives and then circle back and hear about their childhood, like, the things that built the creative Dave Hollis that we know. Now, former Disney exec, you helped build rise to what it is. And now like you're taking the wheel yet again, and building something completely new. And it's just inspiring for me man to hear. And I'm really curious to know, where did all this start for you?

Dave Hollis  17:43  
Well, I grew up in Southern California, oldest of four kids, I have identified myself as a three on the Enneagram Enneagram, which is the achiever. What's interesting is I credits the wiring, I have an achievement for so much of what I have been able to do in building a career or building business or creating value that I might be able to transfer to others. And also, I have a complicated relationship, to be honest with achievement in that my wiring from a very young age was that if you achieve then you are loved if and when you memorize enough Bible verses, or become the valedictorian of high school or get a good enough job at Disney then, but not before, you will be lovable, you will be seen as worthy and enough and as much as I know, on an intellectual level that No, no, no, that's ridiculous. Before I achieve any individual thing that I am good, I am enough, I am lovable, I am worthy. There's still something for whatever reason, in my wiring that has me programmed to believe that I have to, in some ways, produce either there needs to be some yield, for me to feel like I am deserving of that love. And so you know, spending time in therapy or doing work in personal development has long been the work of understanding but also potentially unpacking and dismantling some of the wiring that exists around achievement so that it doesn't feel like if I don't do this, then I won't be that. And it's interesting because even in the release of the book, I put an unbelievable amount of pressure on myself to have this book achieve in a certain way, because of it being something that I was doing on my own separate from the Hollis company or the support of Rachel and I did so in a way that made me work. Unbelievable hours. I mean, I just worked myself into the ground into exhaustion. And in ways that sometimes backfired and how I ended up showing up as a result of set exhaustion. And I wish I could say like, oh, because I wrote a book on courage, I'm immune from fear. Because I wrote a book on courage, I don't experience the human thing that is being confronted by your greatest insecurities. And in fact, that's just not the case. You know, I am as much teacher as I am students, and the things that I have historically had fear for, if you don't have this work the way that you'd hope, then you may not be seen as credible as deserving necessarily of the kind of success that you think you deserve it or lovable. And so you know, like, I am, like any of us working to unlearn some of the things that existed as as a kid. But I say that not in a way to kind of demean anything that came from childhood I was, I was the beneficiary of a great set of parents and that my mom and dad were and are incredibly supportive of me throughout my life, they're just about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. So they have been a model of consistency in how you love and how you fight to stay committed, and, and how you, irrespective of contribution, irrespective of title, love the people that are in your circle, and that has been an amazing thing. I have three siblings, they all live in Southern California. And so I identify also is a brother to three rad human beings. I went to Pepperdine University when I was growing up. My family, we grew up inside of faith, a Christian faith and getting to go to a local Christian University, where it was close enough to come home and do laundry. But far enough away that I can establish some of my self separate from my parents start building some of my own capital T truth rather than having exclusively adopted all of theirs was super important. And then I got into the media business. And I spent about 20 years in media before I found myself leaving it for Texas. And here I am coming to you live from Dripping Springs

Trevor Tyson  22:15  
did a test phenomenal. And what all did you do with Disney? Like always hear Disney exactly saying what was the day to day like for that? Was it your dream job? Or was it something that you're like, so do for now.

Dave Hollis  22:27  
Man, it was such a it was a dream job in so many ways. I spent 17 years there, firsthand, I worked in packaged media. So it was a lot of things in DVD and then blu ray VHS. And it was 10 jobs in 10 years. So I had never had professional add as a thing that was trouble. Every time I ran into, you know, feeling like I was getting the hang of something. Either I was raising my hand or they were tapping me on the shoulder, I had the benefit of just a broad diversity of responsibility and technology, brand marketing, sales, technology, there are a handful of things, it was just honestly the best. I left, I left that for the back half of my journey, which was inside of the theatrical business. And so I first was the head of international sales. And then ultimately the head of Global Sales. I was that for the last six, seven years of my time there. And those first three years were absolutely extraordinary at 36. When I got the job, I had no experience relative to every single person on my team and to the teams around the world relative to teams around the world. Which was exciting, which was overwhelming, which was in it's exciting, overwhelming this a thing that was having me grow, it was having me learn. It was fantastic. But about three years in to my seven. There was something that happened in the learning curve that happened in how challenged I felt. That changed a little bit of the dynamic just as I was going from 30 to 40. And asking a bigger set of existential questions around why I was on the planet and what the heck I'd been placed in this role to do if I wasn't having to use all the gifts that I had been put here with. At the time, Disney acquired first Marvel Studios and then a year later Lucasfilm. And so with that combination of the greatest collection of intellectual property in the history of the movie business, we had in Marvel, Pixar, Disney Lucas and a distribution agreement with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Pictures. Just the most comprehensive film slate in the history of time shed that leverage in a world where I am the one with my teams negotiating the price of film with customers like AMC or regal in the US. and other brands around the world, it's an interesting thing to have a bunch of films that they 100% need in a way that, you know, didn't necessarily require the use of every ounce of skill that would have otherwise been necessary when you're still learning the job or don't have the benefit of some of those brands having been added to the portfolio. So I found myself five years, six years into that seven year job, starting to get the itch for something new, recognizing that, oh, this feeling I was hoping I might have and getting to this place where I have this title or the status or this access, it's not giving me the feeling that I would have otherwise hoped for. It's not creating fulfillment, in part because I've stopped growing. And in that recognition, I knew, Oh, I've got to make a change, I've got to go find something I can jump into, that will become a catalyst for the growth that I need to feel the way that I'd hoped to when I was by myself,

Trevor Tyson  26:03  
Hey, student, and you never stop innovating. So I can't even imagine what is about to come next, from Dave Hollis. Like, obviously, the books out is doing amazing. I literally like before I do interviews, I'll go to like, Target or Walmart. And I'll look to where I can actually go purchase the book and hold it in my hand. And I'm, I'm just, I'm super like, as someone from the outside, I'm super proud that you're taking proud of you for taking the step and taking this leap. And, you know, a lot of people have a lot of things to say, and for you to step out and be like, You know what, I'm going to jump out of my comfort zone, I am going to go full fledged into my dreams and do what I feel called to do. So many people I pray are going to hear this and be like, You know what, I can do that too. I can innovate, I can start and whether they're living in their parents basement, whether they have a multimillion dollar house, it doesn't matter whether you got roaches crawling on the floor, or some marble, you can start where you are. And dude, I'm just I'm Ford. Excited for people to hear this. And I'm excited for people to pick this book up and hopefully find a certain kind of piece that they've been looking for. So thank you so much for your time and for being so vulnerable with us for opening up on topics that are real, like they're super real to you. And Godspeed, man, just keep trucking along, keep doing what you're doing. And we're always here to support you here at Trevor talk. So again, thank you so much.

Dave Hollis  27:38  
I appreciate you, Trevor. I'll end with this because someone needs to hear this today. This tattoo that I got it's in the book at the very beginning. It's been a mantra of mine for five years of change. Now it's a John. John, I mean, like this so many interviews I've done. I've lost track of the name of the person that has given me the quote that I use every single stinking day. Hold on now I got it. Oh,

Trevor Tyson  28:05  
John, Mark comer, John Maxwell. John.

Dave Hollis  28:09  
There's only so many John's that it could possibly be. How in the world. Dave? Could you forget John shed, John shed, there we go. So it's a John shed quote, it says a ship and harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are built for. And as much as the book itself has a lot of nautical themes, it does so in part because of this quote. And the thing I want to leave your listeners with is that I believe with 100% certainty that you are created with design, intentional design, that you have been through experiences, you have wiring, thinking, feeling love that only you experience and that that was intentionally created, and that the work we have on this planet is to honor the intention of our Creator. But that honoring of the intention of our Creator, it starts with this belief that we were built to handle the choppy waters, that chasing that intention require us to push into because none of what you were put here for none of the intention of a creator who designed you with perfect perfection. None of it is something that can happen inside of your comfort zone. None of it will happen inside of that safe harbor that you have become familiar and comfortable with it all will require you to push away from something you know for something you need. But you have to believe first with every ounce of certainty in your being that you were built to handle the choppiness of the waters that exists outside of comfort. And once you do you give yourself that chance to honor the intention of your Creator to step closer to purpose to have a sense of and a feeling for the fulfillment that might exist. When you actually are using the gifts that were given in the hopes that you might actually use them. So, it starts with belief. It starts with believing that you were built for this. I know you, Trevor Noah, that you were built for this and I appreciate you showing up like you do. But listen, or you gotta believe it too. And when you do, look out, because now you're gonna be able to unlock purpose, which is everything.

Trevor Tyson  30:19  
Y'all heard it here first from Mr. Dave Hollis, Buster move, get out and do something like I'm ready to go run around the block a few times. i Let's go let's all I just walk away with a sense of newfound purpose if that's what you were looking for today. We're gonna link the book in the description below as well as all Dave socials. Y'all go check him out, go purchase the book. Don't be don't be a stranger. I'm just thrilled for people to hear this message. So for all of you who've made it this far in the interview, thank you so much for being here. Go check out the whosoever has a new release day. We love those guys. Thank you all for supporting the podcast. And Dave again. I'm about to go run around this block. People go bust a move, go do something. And we'll talk to you guys next week. Take care brother

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Dave HollisProfile Photo

Dave Hollis

Dave Hollis’ purpose on this planet is to encourage people to step toward their calling while equipping them with the tools to lead an exceptional life.

Dave is a New York Times best-selling author, host of the popular Rise Together podcast, keynote speaker, and life and business coach. Dave’s history includes CEO of a media start-up, President of Sales for the film studio at The Walt Disney Company, talent manager across film, tv, and music, along with work in publicity, research, and technology in the entertainment sector.

Dave is the father to four kids, a four-time foster parent, an avid runner, a sports memorabilia enthusiast, and the proud owner of a 1969 Ford Bronco.

Dave’s philanthropy exists via the Dave Hollis Giving Fund where acting as an ally to the needs of children in foster care, teen homelessness and food insecurity have been a recent focus for grants.

Dave has sat on the board of the membership committee for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, of which he is a member, and on the boards of Fandango Labs, Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers, National Angels and his alma mater Pepperdine’s Institute for Entertainment Media and Culture.