Episode 1 – Ron Johnson: Apple’s Genius Bar Creator Finds Kindness in the Brutal Truth

Published November 21st, 2019

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It takes courage to innovate, to go against the tide of conventional thinking. But when we fail, it can feel nearly impossible to pivot gracefully from our mistakes, let alone face them with an open spirit and a can-fix attitude. Ron Johnson. CEO of Enjoy, knows the thrill that comes from innovation and also knows the pain of trying to innovate in a space that is unwilling to change. Ron’s career took off as the brains behind a refresh at Target that transformed the retailer’s whole brand. After that achievement, he joined Apple, and in an environment known for innovation, Ron thrived as he developed the highly successful Apple Stores and Genius Bars. With a reputation for bringing life to brands, Ron was brought on by J.C. Penney to revive the 100 old year retailer brand, but would find that his typical scenario of being a successful changemaker would be challenged and ultimately blocked completely. Ron walks us through how his successes informed him, and how his “failures” brought personal growth. He and John reflect on how the “pool of tears” that come from difficult times can either “drown us” or “refresh” us and that it is important that we make a choice to push forward in the aftermath of adversity.

Links, Products and Resources Mentioned

Ron Johnson LinkedIn
Designer Michael Graves
Apple Stores
Remembering Steve Jobs
J C Penney
Bible Study Fellowship

Interview Quotes:
“Every human being was made to flourish, every human being was made to create, every human being was made to grow.”
– John Ortberg

“If you focus on getting a little better, pretty soon you’ll be really good at something.”
– Ron Johnson

“Steve Jobs was a visionary, but he used to say, ‘The most important thing in my vision is to take that first step, and let the first step inform the next.’ Steve focused on one thing at a time, and if he did that well enough, he earned the right to do another. It’s a really great mindset to life because you never get ahead of yourself.”
– Ron Johnson

“One of the hardest things in life is to think through what you’re trying to accomplish, and get it down into such a clear expression of words that everyone understands. And if your mission is clear, it’s easy for you to step up to new ideas. But mostly in the world we live in, there’s no clear direction. And so, everyone’s got different opinions. So you’ve got to get that mission right, and then everything falls in place.”
– Ron Johnson

“Brutal honesty may be the highest form of kindness, because most of us want to be in relationship, but what gets in the way is truth. It’s really telling people how you feel. If you know how someone feels, you can learn and grow.”
– Ron Johnson

“When people walk in the Apple Store, they believe Apple and the employees care deeply about them, right? And it comes back to: we live our life in the relationship business. It’s true with our family, it’s true with our faith, it’s true with our work.”
– Ron Johnson

“That’s what I try to focus on through work, is really creating a culture of love that shows up through being kind to other people. When you’re restoring a computer, you’re being kind. When you’re greeting someone, you’re being kind. And when you listen to someone at work, you’re being kind. When you mentor someone, you’re being kind. Those are all acts of love.”
– Ron Johnson

“I had these tears, and I made a choice. They could nourish me or drown me, and I chose to make them nourish, right? And so, I let that water breathe a new freshness of life. And so, while Penney’s was getting worse and worse, I was actually getting stronger and stronger inside.”
– Ron Johnson

“Life is not perfect. Nothing’s perfect. There’s no straight lines up. And so, you have to understand sometimes you’re put in a difficult situation and all you can do is say, ‘What am I meant to learn through this?’ And that’s what I focused during my last months at J.C. Penney.”
– Ron Johnson

“Embrace the disruption in your life. Life is hard, but we all have low points and high points. And in life, you make choices. ”
– Ron Johnson

“I think if you bring your challenges to others, the natural response from human beings is to help, because we’re made to love. We’re made to help. We’re made to be in relationship. And so, when you’re struggling, it’s probably because you’re fighting a battle on your own, and I’d find a way to battle with someone else. Get someone to help.”
– Ron Johnson

“Everybody has their own pool of tears—you have them, and I have them, people who are remarkable leaders have them. People whose lives may look quite hidden, or even quite safe, have them. And those tears will either nourish me or drown me. And I will choose to have them nourish me. And what that means is I don’t wish them away. I don’t become embittered by them. I don’t blame other people for them. I allow myself to experience them deeply. And then I ask, ‘What can I learn, and what person do I want to be in response to a situation that has challenged and taxed me beyond my own human capacity?’”
– John Ortberg

About today's guest(s)

Ron Johnson

Categorized: Podcast

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