Mission-driven Companies Are Pulled to Fast Growth with James Schmachtenberger at Neurohacker Collective

Younger workers in today’s world want to be part of something meaningful. Some advantages of being mission-driven are easy to see. Mission-driven companies get extra press (more than their peers). They attract top talent, which gives them a real advantage. When you understand mission-driven companies, you can leverage the benefits for the benefit of everyone. Today’s guest is James Schmachtenberger, CEO and co-founder at Neurohacker Collective. Inc Magazine ranked his company #412 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Neurohacker Collective was founded in 2015 with the mission of creating best-in-class well-being products by employing a unique methodology to research and development based on complex systems science. James shared with me the benefits of mission-driven companies. He is open and forthcoming in this interview. We look beyond the traditional advantages to mission-driven companies. This interview will give you clues to creating a fast-growth company with a mission-driven team.

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James Schmachtenberger: The Transcript

About: James Schmachtenberger is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder at Neurohacker Collective. Neurohacker Collective, believes that humans perform at maximum capacity when they are empowered with the tools they need to make the best decisions, and when they take responsibility for making those choices. 


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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

James Schmachtenberger
Being mission-driven just means having an organization that is designed to do something materially beneficial for the world. And that can fall into any subset, right? That can be to help people that can be to help animals help the environment. In the case of neuro hacker, the particular mission, like I mentioned is improving quality of life and increasing human capacity, but specifically of where it originated was with some of my own experiences of realizing that with the right types of medicine and with the right approaches to healing, not only we dramatically increase people’s capacity, to be more intelligent, have greater motivation, confidence, etc. But we can also do things like increase the amount of empathy that someone has.

Intro [0:48]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett, I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth, are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [1:06]
Being mission-driven means that you have a clear purpose that you’re serving in this world. And a mission-driven company has certain benefits, that companies without that mission just can’t attach themselves to. those benefits are things like a clear understanding of more than just making money, a clear understanding of how people are able to serve the mission as they come on board. And it’s also a big benefit, that when you invite people on this mission with you that they are doing it not just for the money that you’re paying them, they’re doing it because it’s a part of what they believe. And this is a recipe that drives growth inside of companies. I’ve done a lot of episodes around mission-driven companies. And I really love to have multiple mission-driven aspects that we look at the inside of this. Our special guest today is the CEO of Neurohacker Collective. And James Schmachtenberger talks about the mission of Neurohacker Collective about you, helping the well-being of others, and all their products really support that. But what you really can get from this is looking beyond their mission. And think about your own mission, how that aligns people together because that’s the real benefit of having a mission-driven company is to create a real mission-driven Alliance or alignment that allows employees to come in at a completely different level. I want to remind you that if you are listening to this content, you’ve listened to a few episodes, you’re getting value out of it, that you can refer us to people that you think would benefit from this conversation. This research the what we do these interviews, the solo episodes grow to think tank is for founders and CEOs that want to be extraordinary leaders, they want their companies to grow faster than they are. And we’d love for you to think of one person right now and refer them to Growth Think Tank. Now here’s the interview with James.

Gene Hammett [3:03]
James, how are you?

James Schmachtenberger [3:05]
I’m good, Gene. How are you doing today?

Gene Hammett [3:07]
I am fantastic. excited to have you on the podcast to talk about leadership, culture, growth, all things that drive companies to fast growth, you have multiple companies, that probably would qualify. But today, we’re mostly going to talk about the Neurohacker Collective. So give us an idea of what that company is.

James Schmachtenberger [3:26]
Yeah, absolutely. So Neurohacker Collective is a company that I and a couple of others founded really with the intent of improving quality of life broadly, and increasing human capacity. So through a lot of my own kind of self-experimentation, and research, and years prior, I got the opportunity to see that there are pretty extraordinary types of medicine available, but not in a way that’s easily accessible. And a lot of the science behind it is just complicated to a point that most people aren’t ever going to dive in and be able to make sense of it. So I wanted to be able to build a team of really extraordinary scientists with a particular focus on complex systems and applying complex system science to human physiology and so that we could do major upgrades in different aspects of human health. We started off focused on improving cognitive function. And then as time has gone on, we’ve kind of branched into other domains of health working on increasing longevity, improving immune performance, increasing quality of sleep, any number of areas, but the real sort of mission and intent behind it was how do we use science and chemistry to be able to as dramatically as possible, improve quality of life and see significant upgrades in human capacity across multiple different aspects of life?

Gene Hammett [4:47]
I’m really fascinated by the work that you guys are doing. I’m excited to try some of the products because you were going to send me some and I’m going to do that but I’m always I’m very hesitant to just like put anything into my body. I go pretty naturally. I know that you guys have kind of keep that natural. So tell me a little bit about the natural safeness of what you’re producing?

James Schmachtenberger [5:10]
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, all of the different ingredients that we use are classified as natural. And they fall under the dietary supplement set under FDA protocols. And just because something’s natural doesn’t inherently mean it’s safe. There are obviously all kinds of natural substances that are quite dangerous, and all kinds of chemical substances that are quite safe. So I think oftentimes, people overemphasize that particular element versus emphasizing actual safety and efficacy. So for us, you know, we tend to only use natural ingredients. But that’s not actually emphasis, the emphasis is how do we design the right formulas, using ingredients that are not only safe on their own, but also factoring the synergies behind how different ingredients work together, both in terms of maximizing absorption, but also safety. Because oftentimes, you can mix ingredients where each one individually is safe, but the way that they interact and creates downsides. And that’s an area that most companies don’t seem to do as deep research into because it’s a particularly hard area to dive into and make sense of, but that’s an aspect that we go quite deep down because the aim is to be able to create products that are going to have high degrees of efficacy, where people feel a noticeable difference in their health, their vitality, their cognitive function. But to do so in ways that don’t have any downsides, either short-term or long-term. And, and honestly, that’s a pretty hard goal to achieve.

James Schmachtenberger [6:39]
Most of the products on the market, whether natural or pharmaceutical, if have a very substantial effect on them, they usually have some degree of downside that’s associated, whether that’s you know, stressing liver or causing anxiety or any number of challenges that come with them. And so it’s an area that we dive very deeply into. And then one of the things that we do somewhat uniquely within our industry is we actually create what’s known as safety data sheets on all of our products, which is something that is mandated within the pharmaceutical industry, looking at the products and how they correlate to any kinds of drug interactions or any kinds of known conditions. But it’s not something that’s common at all in the supplement space, because generally speaking supplements are a lot safer. But just kind of given our ethos and our approach, we wanted to take things to a whole different level and make sure that we provide not only a safe product, but all the information so that somebody can actually make an informed decision around safety for themselves.

Gene Hammett [7:40]
So I’m glad you made that really clear because I think all this gives context to what we’re really going to be talking about today, which is I had asked you about what really drives the growth of the company from a leadership and culture perspective. And you talked about the power of being mission-driven. So what is being mission-driven mean to you?

James Schmachtenberger [8:00]
Well, I think broadly, being mission-driven just means having an organization that is designed to do something materially beneficial for the world. And that can fall into any subset, right, that can be to help people that can be to help animals help the environment. In the case of neuro hackers, the, you know, the particular mission, as I mentioned, is improving quality of life and increasing human capacity. But specifically kind of where it originated was with some of my own experiences of realizing that with the right types of medicine, and with the right approaches to healing, not only can we dramatically increase people’s capacity, to be more intelligent, have greater motivation, more confidence, etc. But we could also do things like increase the amount of empathy that someone has. And when you start to look at the capacity of having hundreds of 1000s, or millions of people who have dramatically enhanced capacity, more intelligence, more motivation, etc and have increased empathy, will now because of the empathy piece, there’s an intrinsic motivator for people to use those increased capacities, not only for personal gain but to actually improve the state of their families, their community is ultimately the world at large.

James Schmachtenberger [9:15]
And so in the case of neuro hacker, it’s, it’s a mission to directly help people but it’s actually a bigger mission to help all of the issues that face the world by increasing the capacity of many people that then each have their own intrinsic motivators for what areas they want to be able to support. Because for me, like, I’m someone who cares deeply about a lot of causes. And functionally, I don’t have the ability to actually work on all of them all of the time. So if we can increase people’s capacity so that whether they care deeply about animals or human rights or whatever it is, they’ve got more ability to create more benefit in that area that gets very, very exciting. And so for us, that was what it really meant to develop. The mission was so the thing that directly helped people and then had sort of this meta fact of being able to help even more through that increase in capacity. And that mission creates such a degree of sort of passion and excitement, that not only for myself but for the entire team, people are willing to work harder and more diligently and focus and apply themselves in ways that they might not otherwise. because it adds such a level of meaning beyond just making money.

Gene Hammett [10:25]
Let me stop you there for a moment because I want to make sure that everyone listening in here can really connect to this a in just the rarest, smallest essence of it. What is being mission-driven means to you?

James Schmachtenberger [10:38]
It’s a great question. I think the simplest way to say it is probably to have a set of goals that transcends making money and focuses on creating impact in the world. that inspires you deeply to get out of bed and do the most that you possibly can each day.

Commentary [10:58]
Hold on a second, James just talked about a mission-driven company. And I want to pause here for a minute because I wrote about this in my last book, the trap of success. And I’ll probably write about this again, in my future book, because I really do believe mission is being a core foundation, to creating a place where people feel like owners. Now, one of the questions I always have to ask is how do you determine the difference between mission and vision. And this is the way I describe it. The mission is the right you’re trying to correct in the world. Vision is what it will look like when you get there. So vision is a very picturesque version of your mission. And it is how we’ll look like a company who we work with what our business model will be the impact what media may say about us there’s, there’s a lot of different pieces to the vision of a company. But the mission is the underlying foundation of what do you stand for. And when you do the work that it takes to get there, when you have your executive team and you may be invited this out to include others, which does create ownership, you will have a mission that everyone can stand behind. I’ve helped a few companies do this. If you have any questions about what this is and why it’s so important, then reach out to me, I can probably help you in five or 10 minutes point you in the right direction. Or we can create a conversation and I can really go a little bit further with it. So just look me up. I’d love to help you with this mission or vision, whichever is your need help, you create the kind of company that will make an impact long term. Back to James.

Gene Hammett [12:31]
I remember something from the Simon senate talk that a lot of people kind of connect to and you know, I’m talking about with Simon Senate, right?

James Schmachtenberger [12:39]
I don’t actually.

Gene Hammett [12:40]
Okay, so he’s got this book called to start with why. And it really is, you know, a lot of people know what they do. Some people know how they do it. But most companies don’t really lead with their why which is really kind of that mission and why we’re here. And that’s what people really connect to not the actual widget or the service that you offer. When you think about when did you come up with your mission? Was it after the product was out on the market? And this was a way for you to kind of describe it? Or was it before you actually create a product?

James Schmachtenberger [13:16]
No, it was well before creating a product, the creation of the product was a function of trying to deliver on a mission that had already become clear that was important. So for me, that started actually, quite a lot of years ago, I had, when I was running my first company, I had burned myself out terribly, didn’t sleep more than an hour or two for about three years, and was just in really bad shape got diagnosed with adrenal failure, etc. And it was through the process of trying to heal the damage that I had done and being able to see some of the opportunities to not only get back to sort of baseline but then with additional experimentation be able to substantially increase capacities.

James Schmachtenberger [13:59]
And I had a particular experience in my early 20s, with some experimentation, where I realized that my empathy had gone up dramatically, where it became impossible for me to think about the things that I was going to do in the world without automatically being aware of what the implications of those actions were on the people and the world around me. And as I was reflecting on that experience, and realizing how much greater capacity I had, and also how much how important it was that that was tied with a sense of empathy. I was like, wow, if there was a way to make this kind of experience accessible to a broad audience, this could be something really powerful for changing the world. And then it was from that idea that I started to go down the path of finding the right types of science and the right scientists and the right opportunities to be able to develop something that could deliver on the mission.

Gene Hammett [14:51]
I’m glad I asked this question because it gave me kind of the genesis of being mission-driven. Whatever ended up happening to that company was the cause of the adrenal failure and really was pushing you to the edge.

James Schmachtenberger [15:03]
So that was a vocational college that I was running. And I actually continued to run it for a number of years after that, that was like my first three years where I burned out really bad because honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. And I had to make up for it by working too hard. After that, I kind of got my foot in under me and continued to build the company for a number of years, and then sold it in, like mid-2010.

Gene Hammett [15:24]
Okay, and I really appreciate you going back that far into why you now see mission-driven as a very, you know, powerful force inside of this, I want to break this down into a few pieces. First of all, people, my experience with mission-driven companies is they’re able to articulate something that connects with some people doesn’t connect with others, those that connect to the mission, are more eager to engage and try it, you know, work through the challenges of whatever role they’re given. Have you seen that happen within your people?

James Schmachtenberger [16:01]
Yeah. So I guess when you ask the question, do you mean, have I seen some people within the organization that connects more or less? Or have I seen the ways in which people connect that are part of?

Gene Hammett [16:10]
What I’ve seen is those who don’t connect, don’t end up working with you? Because maybe you just don’t see that spark? And the ones that do, it’s a completely like night and day experience of them inviting them to come along on the mission with you. Is that fair to say?

James Schmachtenberger [16:23]
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, we, I think anytime you have a powerful mission, it’s going to appeal to some people, and it’s going to pull some people, right? Like, we live in a relatively polarized world where people have very different views, and they’re not all going to connect around the same thing, almost no matter what it is. And so I’ve absolutely had people that considered working for the company. And then as they got to understand the mission, I was like, No, that’s just not the right fit. Whether I recognize that array, they recognize that, but then the people who do come to work for the company, I don’t think we’ve ever had someone work for the come work for neuro hacker simply for a paycheck. It just wouldn’t make sense. For who we are as an organization.

James Schmachtenberger [17:01]
Obviously, people need to get paid, and they care about that. But they’re coming because of the passion that they have for the mission and the ways in which they feel like they’re uniquely capable of contributing to and advancing that. And, you know, ultimately, what that means is that it’s a mission that connects for them at an individual level, though each person I think has their own mission, or oftentimes missions, if there’s enough corollary between what drives them and what an organization is doing, they can often excitedly redirect a lot of their life energy into being able to advance their personal mission through the organization’s mission.

Commentary [17:37]
Now, James has talked about missions being polarizing, this is absolutely true. And it’s so good and so important for your company. Because what you want your mission to do is to attract the right people and repel those that are not right for your company. Because when you repel the people that are the wrong fit for your company, it’ll save you time, and it’ll save you a lot of energy, it’ll save you a lot of stress, and they get to go to a place that’s better for them. You don’t need people to just take your money and exchange that for some work. You want to invite people on the mission with you. So you want to create a mission that polarizes people so that you are attracted to the right people and the repelled by everyone else. That is my two cents. But I want you to really think about that, when you create space for your company, as a mission driven company to grow, and really make an impact back to James.

Gene Hammett [18:29]
So James, the reason why I kind of asked about this and started with people is because through all these conversations and all the people I’ve talked to founder CEOs of fast growth becoming one of the core elements around fast growth is people want to be a part of something bigger than just a job. And the way I describe that is they want a feeling of ownership. And most founders want people to feel like owners, so that they can think and act like owners’ mission is one of the pieces of that puzzle. Does that come into your mind and thinking about like when I when we everyone’s united around this mission? They will feel more connected to it like an owner would?

James Schmachtenberger [19:06]
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, obviously, having ownership in a company can be a way of giving ownership. But having someone just have a deep buy into a mission and feel a sense of ability to do something about it is inherently its own sense of ownership. And it’s a profoundly motivating one. Now, like in our circumstance, we do both sides, like we have people who have a deep sense of ownership because they are connected to the mission. And we make sure that everyone who works with the company also has a stake in the company. And that way they get to benefit both that sort of psycho-emotional level and the financial level. Which I think where that’s possible. It’s sort of the best of both worlds. That obviously doesn’t work for every organization, but it is something that I’ve tended to lean towards.

Gene Hammett [19:52]
Yeah, I’m glad you brought a light on that because in some people, it’s just not available to them, the financial structure of their business if they can give away something is a very small slice and these option things that some people value some people don’t. But there is a way for leaders to be intentional about that feeling of ownership and one of those pieces is mission. So, before you run a time, you’ve talked about something that’s very important to your own style of leadership. But that’s the word empathy. I think a lot of people don’t really get this completely. What is your perspective on empathy inside of leadership as it relates to creating a company that grows fast? Like you guys have?

James Schmachtenberger [20:33]
It’s a great question. You know, I spend a lot of time thinking about empathy, not necessarily as much specifically in relationship to leadership with an organization as much as its applications broadly in the world. But I think it crosses over like, for me, one of the ways that I think about look at empathy is that, as a general rule in society, most people, whether consciously or unconsciously hold the belief that it is possible to benefit themselves at the expense of others, whether others is another person, whether it’s the environment, whether it’s, you know, regardless, and I don’t believe that’s true. There are obviously circumstances wherein the short-term or immediate situation, that can be possible. But when you zoom out, and you actually understand the way that the world works, the ways in which we’re all interconnected, the ways in which our actions affect others. And as a result, then what happens to them comes back and affects us, I don’t actually believe it’s possible to function in a way where we make choices that are good for us and bad for others.

James Schmachtenberger [21:31]
And so you take that and apply that to leadership. In many companies, the leaders don’t tend to actually care about their employees and their people all that much, they might say that they do, there might be some degree of lip service associated, but then you look and you see that they’re making hundreds, if not 1000s, of times more than their employees are, or, you know, they’ve set up a dynamic where they get to work from, you know, a Caribbean island a few hours a week, and everyone else is, you know, pulling 80 hour weeks and struggling, that doesn’t actually work in the long term dynamic. And so I think one of the applications of empathy is just paying attention and recognizing, what are the effects of your actions and leadership on not only the world broadly but on your team and on your people? And if you were to take money out of that equation, are you actually proud of the way that you’re treating them? Are you proud of the way that you’re interacting with them, that you’re caring about them, etc? And if the answer’s no, changes,

Gene Hammett [22:27]
Love all of this, James, you have put a light on something that I think not a lot of people were talking about inside of leadership. But it’s a conversation that happens here on the show quite often. And one of the things around this is what I call the impossible question where people founders really do value their employees, more than anything else, and they invite you that more than money. They invited that more than than the specific goals they have. And it really shows in how the company organizes around and addresses the problems that come up with fast-growth companies, which is there. They’re not immune to this, because of the chaos of growth requires you to think differently.

James Schmachtenberger [23:07]

Gene Hammett [23:08]
James, thank you for being here.

James Schmachtenberger [23:09]
Yeah, thank you very much. This was great. Appreciate the time.

Gene Hammett [23:12]
Well, while James is listening in here, I wanted to kind of recap this a little bit. I really appreciate you guys leaning into these messages to become better leaders. And one piece of that is understanding the power of being mission-driven. And that can really unite people together. It can improve your marketing, which we didn’t get into today, but it actually does bring you the right customers as well. But when you are the leader that puts people first and puts, creates this mission allows people to join something bigger than themselves. You really are tapping into real human motivators that aren’t available for you just because you write a paycheck.

Gene Hammett [23:51]
So if you want to continue your evolution as a leader, I invite you to check out the community we have around fast growth. founders, CEOs go to fast growth boardroom.com you can check it out. We do some fun stuff, but it really the core of it. Our mission is to help you become an extraordinary leader. Learn from other leaders that are growing fast. If you want to check that out. See if it’s right for you fastgrowthboardroom.com. When you think about growth, you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank, as always with courage. We’ll see you next time.


Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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