Josh Shear, his wife Jenny, and their black Lab, Rufus, aboard their new Gulfstream G650ER.
Meet Josh Shear: Building a Better World
By Walter Isaacson*
“We’ve made a bad habit of entitlement; we need to remember to do the work,” Josh Shear says from aboard his new private jet.
We’re traveling with his wife, Jenny, and black Lab, Rufus, to Italy for a seaside lunch. He’s generously invited me along. Their four children were staying with their maternal grandmother in Central New York.
“You’ve written about almost all of my heroes,” he tells me, joking that he’d “have to handle biographies of Buckminster Fuller and Richard Feynman” if I had no plans to do so.
“Fuller’s all yours,” I said, “but I’ll flip you for Feynman.”
We sit on plush leather and sip from bottles of 2013 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia to whet our appetites for
Mr. Shear is not a stranger to the entitlement vs. work paradigm. After 40 years of “floundering in mediocrity,” as he puts it, he and his business partner, Kelvin Ringold launched a new business, Better Humanhood, with the goal of creating a better world.
“I really wanted a better world to live in, for me, selfishly, and for our children,” Mr. Shear says. “Well, and everyone else, too. I felt that there was a lot of anger and fear in the world, and that we were lacking empathy, cooperation and, frankly, a willingness to get uncomfortable.”
Mr. Shear’s big epiphany came during a run.
“I’d been on a string of runs that I just kind of felt obligated to take. Typically, I’d take the final three-quarters of a mile and walk a block, run a block, walk a block … you get the idea.
“The last time I did that, I wasn’t even going a block at a time. I’d pick a landmark (like a tree or a fire hydrant) and say, ‘I’ll resume running there;’ sometimes I would, sometimes I wouldn’t.
“Then, I heard the harmonica-and-piano opening of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road.’ I took off running. I said to myself, ‘I’ll walk when the sax solo starts.’ I wound up running the rest of the way home, and along the way, I had a fully formed vision of the first 18 months of Better Humanhood.”
Josh Shear, after a run, in Forsyth Park in Savannah.
That first 18 months began with the writing of Motivation and Mediocrity: The Science of Pushing Through the Hard Stuff So You Can Get Great, an in-depth look at the biology, chemistry and psychology of motivation. Mr. Shear’s first book is full of physiological and psychological research distilled down to easily understood, actionable examples aimed at giving people the tools to push their limits and live better lives.
The book launched a movement. Mr. Shear and Mr. Ringold developed and still maintain, six years later, a two-tier community of individuals who are similarly minded. One group masterminds for free on Facebook, offering each other motivation to get past daily struggles like workouts, bad days at work and difficulties closing big sales. The other group pays a steep premium to connect with other high-powered individuals to help each other boost their businesses and personal lives.
Since the launch of those communities, the pair, under the umbrella of Better Humanhood and their alter egos, The Bearded Brain (Mr. Shear) and The Prince of Positive (Mr. Ringold), have developed a personal coaching business, a business consultancy aimed at helping top sellers grow even bigger, several more books, a merchandise line that includes quote-a-day calendars, planners, t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and basically anything else you could want.
They’ve also created a series of online classes and have just wrapped the second installation of what they expect to be a long-running annual live event, the Find Your Great Summit.
They fly around the world to talk to top experts across many industries on their podcast, JKWD (Josh and Kelvin World Domination). Full disclosure: I was interviewed in episode 426. Mr. Shear says they prefer in-person interviews for the connection, as well as the novelty of seeing new places.
“I’m so proud of him,” Mrs. Shear says. “He and Kelvin have been working on this business for over a decade, and it’s great to see it pay off just as they had planned.”
As for the Shear clan, Mr. and Mrs. Shear had been trying for over a year to have children when Mr. Shear had his running epiphany. From there, everything just fell into place. The day Mr. Shear sat down to write the book outline, Mrs. Shear discovered she was pregnant. They have four young children in the six years since then.
In addition to a thriving business with Mr. Ringold, Mr. Shear and his bride have created a veritable empire of rental properties spanning four states: Georgia, where they make their home in a gorgeous three-story house in historic downtown Savannah, as well as in neighboring Florida, Alabama and South Carolina.
While it might seem like they went from middle class jobs to fabulously wealthy overnight, Mr. Shear points out that it was years of hard work. “Kelvin and I worked piecemeal at the concept of Better Humanhood for six years, then launched and putzed around with it for two more years before we finally were able to firm up a plan, and then the work started, eight years in,” he says.
After three years, Better Humanhood spun off a 501(c)(3) foundation to help support other nonprofits in health- and education-related fields. Some of those organizations include Pencils of Promise, which builds schools in developing countries; Fight 4 the Forgotten, a partner of Water4, which digs wells in remote parts of the Congo where clean water is hard to find; and the Front Row Foundation, which provides a few days of relief for terminally ill children and adults.
What does the future hold for Mr. Shear and Better Humanhood? “We just keep going,” he says. “We started this business with the notion that we’d make a better world, and the world still needs improving, so we have plenty more work to do.”
Josh Shear podcasting from his home studio.
*DISCLAIMER: This is an educational assignment. The use of Mr. Isaacson’s name and likeness is purely for entertainment and educational purposes; he neither contributed to nor does he endorse this content. DMCA removal requests should be sent to joshuanshear+mke [at] gmail [dot] com.