Episode 212: Max Joseph – Catfish, Leadership, Making It Count, & Pete Berg

Max Joseph is one of the creative minds behind MTV’s Catfish and the director of the indie film We Are Your Friends, has teamed up with the social media app Vero to launch a new documentary series, Charismatic Thinker.  He started as an editor, then become a director. He has written, directed, or produced over 64 short films including commercials and web videos. He worked with Casey Nesitat for his famous video for Nike titled, “Make It Count.”  It has received more than 25,000,000 views. Recently, he released his latest documentary, DICKS: Do you need to be one to be a successful leader?  It has received critical acclaim and I highly recommend it. (We discussed “the making” of that film during this conversation).


Show Notes:

  • Sustained Excellence = Understanding the importance of leading and managing
  • Why make the film about leadership?
    • Max is a nice guy, not a bully… Was one of the bullied
    • He thought, “If I were a dick, would I be more popular?”
      • “Do I need to be a dick to be a good leader?”
  • As the director it is sink or swim… “You’re thrown into it. I did not learn how to lead or manage.”
  • Sports can be an education in leadership — If you don’t have that growing up, how do you learn how to lead?
  • A Disagreeable Giver — (Adam Grant) — Most reduced form of the film. As a protective measure, that is the lesson in being a great leader
  • “I do think you need to, not be a dick, but turn off the empathy meter some…”
  • A leader must
    • Prioritize the greater vision
  • Why he wanted to talk to Pete Berg (“I thought he would say, “You need to be a dick to be a good leader.”) Most people said you didn’t need to be one to be successful.  Max was looking for someone who said the opposite.
    • His paradigm — “You need to be a good coach”
  • “All great leaders have a very strong backbone”
  • Max’s parents were too supportive
  • “Being a dick is about ego… You’re a dick if you’re putting people down just to do it.”
  • How to make a living as a smart creative:  “I’ve always wanted to do this. I love all aspects of filmmaking. I went to Hollywood after college to do this.”
    • First job was cutting reels for directors — “Look you’re not the next Spielberg, but can you make this DVD?”
  • “I was a curious, excited, young filmmaker”
  • How did he get the job on Catfish?
    • He emailed Neev after the movie came out… The other guy who was supposed to film and be on the TV show dropped out at the last second. Max said yes and the rest is history (6 seasons, 99 episodes)
    • Read the book: The Surrender Experiment
    • “Every time I surrender to my passion, something amazing happens”
  • “Editing is like being a doctor. You need to put things back together after tearing them apart.”
    • “I’ve had to get better at not being a hero”
  • The famous Nike “Make It Count” video with Casey Neistat
    • Max got to LA 13 years ago. Initially he was unhappy. He hated it.
    • He took a vacation backpacking through Europe and thought, “I love editing, there is real passion there”
    • “Just focus on enjoying one thing I love and that will be enough to sustain happiness”
    • Casey called him and asked him to be his first editor
    • He asked him to fly to New York and then travel the world for the Nike video
    • Casey got a tattoo during it… “Do More”
    • Embrace the adventure… Let the project grow from it
  • Advice: “Everyone has a gift… Has a genius for something. I get really unhappy if I don’t do what I love for at least an hour a day”
  • Read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert
  • Look up Max on YouTube and Vero

Social Media:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: NateBoyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

The Learning Leader Show is supported by Rhone.  Use the code “Leader” for 15% off.  Rhone… premium activewear engineered with principle, performance and progress for the modern man.  Rhone builds clothing around 3 main tenants: Cutting-edge Performance, Premium Comfort, and Simplistic Style.

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