John Mackey is the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market and the co-author of Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business. Robert talks to Mackey about the dearth of leadership in America, why leaders must have integrity, Whole Foods’ merger with Amazon, socialism, capitalism, veganism, animal rights, and why he sees Texas-based grocer H-E-B as his company’s fiercest competitor.
Robert Bryce 0:05
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m your host, Robert Bryce. On this podcast, we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. But today somewhat of a detour, although there’s politics in business, of course, my guest, I’m pleased to say is a longtime friend of mine, john Mackey, who has a new book out called conscious leadership. JOHN, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
John Mackey 0:27
Thanks, Robert. I’m glad to be on the show.
Robert Bryce 0:30
So, john, I didn’t tip you off before we started. But my tradition is to have guests introduce themselves. So if you don’t mind, give me assume you’ve just arrived at a dinner party, a vegan dinner party. You have 30 seconds or a minute to introduce yourself go.
John Mackey 0:51
I usually just say i’m john Mackey. I’m a co founder, CEO of Whole Foods Market. And that’s certainly what I say. I mean, I’ve written some books, conscious capitalism, conscious leadership, whole foods diet. I’ve done lots of other things. But I’m usually not wanting to put myself out there too much.
Robert Bryce 1:08
Okay, good. Well, fair enough. Well, let’s jump into the book. And I’ve been reading it the last few days. It’s your third book, as you say. What is it? What is the key message here? I’ll put the ball in your court. what’s what’s what is the key takeaway that you want people from to take from this book?
Unknown Speaker 1:27
Well, I don’t sure there’s one key takeaway, I think, because complexity to it three or five. But I mean,
Unknown Speaker 1:40
a, I think that businesses misunderstood in the world. And this is a sequel to conscious capitalism. When we wrote conscious capitalism, we put forth a narrative and a vision about the way business could be and should be, and also the way it’s misunderstood, we fundamentally beef capitalism, I believe that capitalism is the greatest thing humanity’s ever created. And that’s it’s the chicken, it’s laid all the eggs, the golden eggs, the goose that laid the golden eggs. And it’s but it’s universally despised. So part of that is to get a different narrative out there. Secondly, increasingly, the type of leadership that we need in the world needs to be a more conscious leadership and needs to be more evolved. And it’s never been clearer than it is right now in the United States. We’re so polarized, we’re divided into tribal factions, there’s, there’s hatred, there’s mistrust. And we need leaders that can transcend that that are able to connect with to understand and empathize with the different worldviews that are clashing with each other and United States. We talked about that in the book under cultural intelligence in the appendix, particular. And I don’t see that many conscious leaders we need them not only in business, but we need them in politics, we even government, we need them in education we need in military. And so that’s part of the the message of the book. And thirdly, it the book is really about business people are the most part doers, we get shit done. And we have long to do list, we have appointments that reschedule every day, and we go, go, go, go go. And that frequently, doesn’t leave much time for any inner development, for inner growth. And yet, to be a conscious leader needs to means to be more self aware, more connected, more emotionally intelligent, more spiritually awake, leading with love, finding purpose, being able to find purpose and communicate it. It’s this softer side of this inner side of our beings that business relatively neglects. And increasingly, a conscious leader can’t neglect them. So the book is, in some ways, a self improvement book, because we give practices and we help people to do the inner work they need to do to grow as a human being and grow as a leader.
Robert Bryce 4:07
Well, you hit on the point. In fact, it was the question right here at the top that it reads in some ways, like a self help book, you say, continuously learn and grow, recharge in nature, the essence of conscious leadership. I thought this was interesting, because I have Benjamin Franklin is a hero of mine. essence of conscious leadership is the willingness to follow in the footsteps of individuals like Benjamin Franklin and to embark on a journey of never ending learning and growth. He also talks about meditation. So my question is, you’re advocating almost in an acidic kind of leadership style, that is you just said that there’s requirement for more inner growth in in to be a good leader? Is that the question I wrote here, it’s not the exact right question, but is it a calling then is it that it is the calling of leadership in business or anything else then require A different kind of approach to your life a deeper, a deeper dive?
Unknown Speaker 5:04
I think it does. I mean, to be honest, the first chapter in the book has put purpose first. And you can’t put purpose First, if you don’t know what it is, if you don’t have, if you don’t have a sense of your own purpose in life, the and I think we all do have higher callings. I do think that we have this deeper narrative that’s written in our, in our consciousness that we can, we can discover and create and expand it as we if we, if we will do the inner work required to understand purpose and purpose is something that comes out of our passions, the things that we care most deeply about. But then again, it’s something we also grow and develop over time as you follow a passion. I mean, my first passion, my first passion, my first passion was to probably be a centerfielder in the major leagues, but there’s I got it didn’t
Unknown Speaker 5:54
work out. That didn’t work out. Fortunately
Unknown Speaker 5:56
for me, I would have made a port for centerfielder a better a better her
Robert Bryce 6:02
probably for baseball. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 6:04
Yeah, definitely. So. But I had a passion for when I moved into this, I moved into vegetarian Co Op when I was about 22, or 23 years old. And in Austin, around when I was going to University of Texas, and that was a food awakening for me, I became the I got interested in all things natural and organic. I became I learned how to cook, I became the food buyer for the co op. I started getting interested in business that way. And I became a vegetarian, I transformed my diet, I saw my health improve, my vitality gets stronger. And I didn’t realize it but I had stumbled into or was drawn to what really turned out to be the meaning and purpose of my life and to create Whole Foods Market and and to help to help people discover the importance of healthy eating for longevity of winning obesity, reversing heart disease, there, it’s it’s, it’s sort of the greatest, really greatest truth and health that people still don’t really understand. And there’s so much misinformation out about it. But as I pursued it, it got deeper and deeper and deeper. And it’s still getting deeper. It’s I’m still growing, so to speak in this particular domain of my life.
Robert Bryce 7:23
Let me interrupt there because you mentioned something as I was reading through, at the beginning of your book, he talked about the kind of the turning point with your leadership at Whole Foods in 2001, the meeting and in Miami. But I’ll ask the question this way, because it was one that popped in my head. Are you an accidental capitalist?
Unknown Speaker 7:43
I am actually I mean, I was brainwashed, like most students of my generation, and increasingly students are even more today into into the world’s not fair as too many victims. There’s inequality, we need to correct all the problems in the world, and how are we going to do that without government changing things and disrupting these patterns of inequality and making everything fair? So I was a, I would define myself I wasn’t particularly political when I was in my very early 20s. But I would have defined myself as a probably as a democratic socialist back when I was 22 or 23. And but starting a business and trying to make a payroll and all of a sudden I gone over to the dark side and many of my many of my socialistic friends didn’t like me anymore and distance themselves I was
Robert Bryce 8:36
pay that tax bill and suddenly you’re republican then.
Unknown Speaker 8:40
Yeah, that was SEO joke. What is a conservative as a liberal who’s been mugged?
Robert Bryce 8:48
Exactly. Well, let me let me touch on the on some of the themes in the book, because there’s one section in which you talk about integrity, which to me is, I mean, it’s a really important word and an important concept and you talk about Jeff Wilkie Tell, tell me who Jeff Wilkie is tell listeners who Jeff Wilkie is and why you use his example, as an example of integrity in in business leadership.
Unknown Speaker 9:16
Or currently, Jeff is one of the three CEOs of Amazon. And that’s when I first met Jeff, when Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market and Jeff and I got to be friends. And now he’s leaving Amazon. he’s retiring from Amazon on December 31 be his last day. So that’s a sad day for me because I think, Jeff, it represents many of the best things about Amazon that I most admire and respect and I do think he’s what
Robert Bryce 9:42
and what’s his portfolio and Amazon, you said he’s one of three CEOs, what’s
Unknown Speaker 9:46
all the consumer, everything about consumer part of Amazon reported up through Jeff.
Unknown Speaker 9:52
So I mean, AWS did not report up. That’s it. That’s it. There were three CEOs Jeff page. Jeff Wilkie and Andy that runs AWS right. And and so Wilkie oversaw pretty much everything Andy didn’t doesn’t oversee at AWS and now Dave Clark, who I report to will be taking Jeff’s place is the CEO of all consumer all operations and consumer. It’s a huge, huge job
Robert Bryce 10:25
and 50 billion or more in revenues. I think I’m it’s I can’t even I don’t even know what those numbers are. But no, abs is the big profit engine, but the consumer side is just yeah, gigantic.
Unknown Speaker 10:36
It is. I mean, Amazon has like a Whole Foods has about 100,000 people working for us. And Amazon’s got like a million and a half people working for the company. And and almost all of those, I mean, three quarters will report up to Jeff, and then we’ll soon be reporting up to Dave. Right.
Robert Bryce 10:57
So Jeff Wilkie so who Why did you want to tell his story about him? He went to business school, I’ll just start it there. But then that he didn’t take an ordinary path after he finished. What was that story?
Unknown Speaker 11:11
Jeff’s story is he’s kind of got a bit of an engineering background. And when he went and got his MBA, but instead of doing what most MBA graduates do, which is go to work for Goldman Sachs, or an investment bank, or going to work for McKinsey, or Accenture, those are the two paths that hire most folks. He started he did not start out at Amazon, which was just a start up at that point. No, Jeff was, he went into, basically hands on in, in, in, in distribution, and distribution and warehouses. He wanted to get his hands dirty, he wanted to understand that from the ground up, which is what he did, it didn’t pay as well. But he began to master the ins and outs of distribution and and that that that means Amazon recruited Jeff eventually to come work for them and, and he’s gets a lot of credit for the amazing logistics and distribution capabilities. And Amazon has created a course Jeff didn’t do that alone. He got people like Dave Clark and others. But though I wanted to
Robert Bryce 12:26
tell a story beat the integrity part of it is because you felt that that being on the shop floor was integral to us that we wanted
Unknown Speaker 12:35
to tell that story. But Jeff, Jeff just shines integrity, everything about him shines integrity, when you talk to him, you’re dealing with, you know, we talk about integrity in the book is like love is a complex. Really, it’s not just one thing. Integrity doesn’t mean just mean you tell the truth. It’s honesty is part of it. But so is is trustworthiness, authenticity. Honor, these are all aspects that make up integrity. And I think Jeff has all of those things, moral courage to do the right thing. This has integrity. And so the thing I noticed about Jeff and better I got to know him was this is a man that has a great deal of integrity. And so we asked him if he would we can interview him for the book. And that’s the story he told about how he sort of wanted to be true to the things that he thought that were most important, rather than just going after the, the easy, the easy, quick money when it came out of him because he got recruited, he was an outstanding student, and he just went a different path. Because that was, he thought the path of integrity that the man that influenced him tremendously when he was getting his MBA and advised him, forget his last name, but dawn, somebody or another, and Dawn had a huge impact on him and and sort of mentoring Don Davis at EMI Don Davis, thank you.
Robert Bryce 14:02
Right. Correct. It was was it Stanley works. But I want to, I want to talk about this integrity part of it. It’s an it’s a word that I use in, in my new book and in a question of power, talking about the electric grid and the society that first societies to have electric power they need, the system has to have integrity, it can’t leak too much. But what you wrote here about this idea of always acting with integrity said, You and your co authors I have to mention your co authors are Stephen Mac and Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps you didn’t write, you’ve had co authors for all of your books. And and now as an author, I can certainly understand why.
Unknown Speaker 14:36
The The big advantage of a co author is you don’t have to write the whole book by yourself. Exactly.
Robert Bryce 14:41
But you said the idea of integrity. The integrity in this sense includes but also transcends the standard of being a good person. It’s an aspiration to reach our higher potentials to develop our ability to more clearly see more deeply feel and more wisely respond to the myriad of complex situations. An ambitious leader will inevitably face. So it’s again it goes back. It’s it sounds. I don’t know, I hate to use the word New Agey, but it’s a self help. It’s that if the leaders are going to have to be effective leaders, they’ve got to that has to be foundational. And it seems as you say, it’s something that was this in particular, we’ve seen a lack of it, even with Jackie G and other, you know, Jeff Immelt at GE, and I mean, other very high profile failings of top leaders. That seems like it’s just this kind of recurring theme, the hubris that inevitably brings people down.
Unknown Speaker 15:34
It’s not just in business. I mean, we see those failings and politics and we see it everywhere, right? Very Sure. Yeah, exactly. So. So I think one way we just talked about, you won’t talk about integrity, let’s just talk about a little bit. So integrity, it’s it’s pretty, it’s not that common, at least the way we want to define it. It’s not extraordinarily rare, but it’s not very common, either only think about when you start out with small children, because you’re a dad, and you have small children. I mean, small children, they learn to lie about as soon as they learn how to talk,
Robert Bryce 16:06
because they had another piece of candy.
Unknown Speaker 16:09
That’s right, because they don’t want to get in trouble. And they want what they want. And they they study their parents, and they, they they magical, wishful thinking things, they can get away with stuff if they’re good liars. And so that comes first early in life. We don’t start out as truth tellers. We start out as liars, to sort of become fundamentally a person who tells the truth that requires a certain amount of evolution. And you know, honestly, most people are liars. Robert, I mean, if he, they just, they just tell like little lies all the time. They just people’s respect,
Robert Bryce 16:45
or sometimes big wins about the electoral college or vote.
Unknown Speaker 16:51
Tell him over and over and people
Unknown Speaker 16:52
believe him. Exactly, exactly. So. So that’s the first one is we have to teach ourselves, to have a fidelity to the truth, to be honest. And that is something that you have to work at. Because even just, you know, you’re telling a story. And it’s just sort of natural to embellish the story makes some things up because it makes the story better. Sure. It’s a slippery slope. And, and so that’s one aspect of it, just truth telling and being honest. But let’s talk about the one that is where most people fail, is moral courage. It’s particularly evident in today’s society, where we have a canceled culture, the whole idea of the First Amendment is kind of under attack in the United States, because you shouldn’t say things that might hurt people’s feelings, you shouldn’t say things that others might object to, or might find offensive, or they might be sensitive to. And there’s a tendency to, to label things people disagree with is that’s that. That’s racism. That’s hate speech. That’s, that’s insensitive. And then there’s an attention that attempt to not let people speak any longer. because someone’s you know, courage. It’s
Robert Bryce 18:11
the courage to not be quiet.
Unknown Speaker 18:13
It’s the courage. That’s one. That’s one aspect of moral courage. One is to be able to speak your truth. And, and that’s increasingly difficult to do that. I pick and choose my moral courage things on telling the truth, I don’t do it honestly, casually, in most podcasts, some because, you know, headlines can blow up and, and to take it out of context. So this one’s okay, because my voice is being recorded. And my full context is being told, talking to a journalist who’s going to write things down is I just don’t do it anymore. Because they have no respect to create, create any context for what you’re saying. They just rip things out of context. So I’ve learned to just to shun print journalist. So takes a lot of moral courage, not only to tell the truth, but to do the right thing, right. I mean, if you were talking about some moral failures in business, there’s always this pressure to make the quarterly earnings. So and a time when jack welch was waxing, it’d be easy to figure out ways to do that, that we might think we’re maybe on a little bit not as much integrity as you might like, because it’s not transparent. It’s not fully disclosed. It’s just, you know, making it work. And that led to changing some of the reporting laws. The FCC definitely clamped down on that.
Robert Bryce 19:36
It’s interesting just to reach back on that because when I have a forthcoming podcast with Tom Greider, who wrote a co wrote a book called lights out on General Electric and really the the era of welchen and ml, it was amazing to me how similar it was to the Enron’s You know, my first book was on Enron, right? And it was just that ability to just tweak the earnings just a little bit because we always we never failed and
Unknown Speaker 19:57
they don’t want to miss because your stock can go down 50% if you miss expectations.
Robert Bryce 20:00
Yes. Right. And so you’ve had to deal with that yourself. But But yeah, I think that that issue of integrity I guess it’s the the more successful in particular in business. And I think in the military and politics that easier it is to tell that little lie and then make it all okay be because in telling the truth might be might be painful in the near term
Unknown Speaker 20:22
and one lie begets another lie to cover up for the first lie you get you get down into a narrative that oftentimes that first traces back to that first lie that you didn’t want to admit it
John Mackey 20:34
what I what I
Unknown Speaker 20:35
have found a better strategy, generally, if I, if I do catch myself telling a lie is to go back and say, you know, let me just correct that right now. Because I want to go down that path of having to tell other lies to cover that first lie. It’s better to just go back and correct it. Some other aspects of integrity just to make them important. Authenticity, because that’s another way of truth telling. And we hunger for authentic people. I think about some of the people that are most popular like take Joe Rogan, I think he’s a pretty authentic guy. And because he tells he speaks what’s on his mind, he doesn’t care if he’s going to get judged. Traditionally, comedians have been the ones that could poke fun at almost any sacred cow. But it’s
Robert Bryce 21:24
time to be a
Unknown Speaker 21:24
difficult time to be a comedian. It takes a lot of it takes some authenticity and moral courage to be a comedian in today’s world. But we crave authenticity, we don’t see it, we want our political leaders to be authentic. But when if one shows up, I mean, Donald Trump, you know, whatever else you might say about the guy, he actually he’s pretty authentic. He shows up he is he is and that’s why so many people loving and also why so many people hating, right, because here’s this guy who’s, you know, clearly a narcissist and, and exaggerates things and will never apologize it one apart. Well, politicians don’t apologize. They, they don’t admit their mistakes as a general rule, because they get they get, they get attacked relentlessly for that mistake. And they always, I mean, you can see what’s happened like with COVID, if a governor makes, you know, mistake, you know, the governor or write a book about defending everything he did, instead of just saying, I shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake. Okay. Sorry, a few 1000 people died, I learned a valuable lesson I won’t do it again. Instead, there’s just massive denial and
Robert Bryce 22:35
and in the case of Andrew Cuomo, he won an Emmy Award is Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 22:40
you’ll probably get in probably get a Nobel Prize out of a
Robert Bryce 22:42
totally get a Nobel and we won’t talk about the nursing homes in New York, because that doesn’t fit the narrative. A one
Unknown Speaker 22:47
other one that’s really important, and for integrity is what we could call honor. And honor means when you get right down to it honorius is basically a standard that you hold yourself to, that just says, I’m not the kind of person that does that. Even if it was easy to do, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t steal from somebody, because I’m not the kind of man that would do that. And, and that’s an important part of integrity is basically you’re holding yourself up to a standard of excellence. And you’re saying I’m the I won’t, I will adhere to that standard of excellence, and I won’t. I won’t retreat from it. Because I wouldn’t even if even if I can make a lot of money doing it. Even if nobody will ever know. I’ll never be caught the the because you’ll know, right? you’ll always know. Yeah. And you’re just not the kind of person that would do something like that. Even if you could get away with it. Because you because you have honor. And that’s what people with honor. Do.
Robert Bryce 23:58
You know, it’s an interesting a, I think about as you’re saying these things, I’m thinking about the military, right? Because that’s what’s the pledge at West Point, I do not lie, cheat or steal or associate with people who do, right. And there was another part of leadership that occurred to me when I was reading through conscious leadership. And again, my guest is john Mackey. He’s the co author of conscious leadership, which came out September,
Unknown Speaker 24:21
right. It came out September 15.
Robert Bryce 24:23
Right. The co authors are Steve McIntosh, and Carter Phipps. But what occurred to me is you’re talking about integrity and the and the role of the leader. I flashed back on the Marine Corps, which is that the, the the leaders eat last right that the platoon leaders, they make sure everybody in their team has eaten and then that but it’s considered an honor to have your food after all your people are taken care of. And I thought that that’s that that met lesson. I remember reading about it a long time ago And just a quick digression. It was somewhere in Pakistan or some other Asian country and and there was a truck that had a bunch of stuff on it had To be unloaded and the the I’m not saying Pakistan or whatever country it was that the the colonel or the you know the the head of those troops from the foreign country was standing around and watching all of his men unload the truck. And then Meanwhile, this marine Lieutenant is up on the truck. And he’s helping just as hard as anybody else. But it was about that idea of the integrity of the leader not being above the people who are supposed to be lead, which I thought is, you know, example, a really of an of integrity in action, right that oh, well, if I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to ask my men to do it, or my people to do it, which to me, I don’t know, that’s always resonated with me as something that that is that idea of honor in in in the people who were in the military or taking up arms. It’s key to their whole system.
Unknown Speaker 25:49
Yeah. So Simon Sinek wrote a good book, based on that whole, that’s the title of the book eaters, eat, leaders eat last. And he’s making that very point that you’re making, so might be a good book for you to read, if you’re interested in it. I also might say that that’s also an aspect of servant leadership, which we have in the chapter on lead with love, right? That leaders shouldn’t be about self aggrandizement, it shouldn’t be ego driven. It shouldn’t be narcissism, it’s all about yourself, your perks, your power, your money, your compensation, ultimately, leaders are there to serve those who follow them. That’s why it’s right for a marine. Platoon leader t last because they’re serving making sure that the troops their team, are taken care of. And I think we try to, we follow that philosophy at Whole Foods, we teach that philosophy, which is your job is to serve the higher purpose of Whole Foods, serve our customers, and serve your team members. And in that order, actually, and, and that’s, frankly, I promote servant leaders. And it’s one of the questions I asked them over interviewing somebody, or I’m asking myself, is this individual servant leader? Are they just about it for the money and the power?
Robert Bryce 27:05
Right. So let me shift gears a little bit here. And we and we preface this and I know, you know, since wholefoods was sold to Amazon, and we talked about it just a bit before we started recording. But this idea of that winners take all and if if I were going to be combative here, I’d say well, you selling to Amazon as an example of winner take all that here’s a massive company that has driven a whole lot of retail businesses out of business. And yet this is and that that transaction is another example of gigantism, and the move toward gigantic corporations. But before we started talking, you said, well, you can answer that. So how do you answer that? How is why is there it was the winner take all ideas that wrong and if so how?
Unknown Speaker 27:52
Well, it is wrong. Because it, it’s it’s always based on a snapshot in a particular period or point in time. And it lacks historical context. And it lacks real understanding of innovation and how disruptive it is. So if you, if I think back in just my own lifetime, when I was a little boy, the argument used to be General Motors was a monopoly. And they were they, they, they were taking everything. And they in the end, they had to be stopped by being broken up that it turned out that all all you needed with General Motors is to open up the American economy to some competition from Japan, and Korea, and change the game in Europe. And all of a sudden, the General Motors I mean, they went bankrupt, for God’s sake, here was a winner take all that look like it was gonna dominate for the next 1000 years and automobiles. It’s now it’s struggling to stay relevant. I mean, with the pay with Tesla and electrification movements here, there’s something near your area. But then I went from General Motors that I heard all of everything about IBM, IBM is going to completely control winner take all IBM, you know, they, they cry, they got the apples, you know, Apple two, they got the personal computer, and they’re going to dominate this. And they’re going to dominate all aspects of computers, and it’s unfair, and we got to break them up, and they’re going to get too powerful and rich. And so that then the next thing I heard was, you know, Microsoft, nobody can compete with Microsoft.
Robert Bryce 29:32
And over Microsoft in the browser went on for 20 years and kind of ended in a stalemate.
Unknown Speaker 29:37
Well, it ended with Google coming along. So So, and one of the other things it’s important to realize is that there are remarkable individuals who are highly creative and they are in the right place, the right time, certain giant individuals that we think about historically people like john Rockefeller, or Andrew Carnegie or today, you’ve got Jeff Bezos, and you’ve got Bill Gates and Steve Jobs was in that category. You know what happens to those people, they get old and they die. That’s the reality. And the visionary leadership, sometimes it just burns out, it gets old, sometimes he just gets interested in other things. I mean, like, like, look how what happened to Microsoft, when Bill Gates got out of it. And now they’ve got strong leadership again, and they are but they they went into a strong period of time where they went from the largest corporation to sort of, you know, fell to number five or six, the, the office and Windows was always going to throw off a lot of cash flow for them until until it was disrupted. And that still hasn’t really fully happened yet, but it will. And as a result are always new people that come up, new entrepreneurs come up and disrupt the market leaders. It’s, it’s, it’s not a static situation. So right
Robert Bryce 31:05
now, so winner take all is a myth.
Unknown Speaker 31:08
It’s a it’s a myth over the long term. Uh huh. In the short term, somebody’s winning, and they’re and we, we shake our fist at the winners and say it’s unfair winners taken all and we and we projected out in the future that the Jeff Bezos is never going to get old and eventually die. Of course he is, and Amazon will, will no longer have his visionary leadership and other entrepreneurs come along and disrupt.
John Mackey 31:34
Unknown Speaker 31:35
let’s think of some good examples like, like Elon Musk is disrupting the automobile industry right now. Right, a Google disrupted search, but Google itself will be disrupted. This is the nature of capitalism, it’s dynamic. And so the winner take all is temporary. And the fortunes get squandered as those as those people die, and they, they pass it on the next generations, they might put trust and things like that. But the people that follow them generally don’t have the same drive the same ambition, the same vision. And eventually that money gets pissed away. And that’s what happens over the long term.
Robert Bryce 32:11
So you’re the only one that who I’ve met or knows is met Bezos wise basis? Why is he been so phenomenally successful?
Unknown Speaker 32:22
I mean, I think Jeff is extraordinarily brilliant guy. He’s very intelligent, very smart. He’s very visionary. Jeff is very bold. He’s very aggressive. And he, he’s a big dreamer. He doesn’t think other people would say, we can’t do that. That’s impossible. And Jeff doesn’t he doesn’t, he doesn’t see it that way. He always think there’s a way to invent or innovate around a situation. I’ve seen this happen many times since the merger, where I think, well, that’s a dead end. And Jeff says, Let’s innovate around that. And more often than not, Amazon figures out a way to him innovate around it.
Robert Bryce 32:58
And that merger was how many years ago was that now?
Unknown Speaker 33:00
We’re three over three years ago. Now we finished them. It’s we announced it in June of 2017, and completed it in August 28. So it’s been not quite three and a half years, maybe regrets. It was the right decision to make at the time considering all the circumstances. And I’ve asked myself many times, if you could go back, would you have chosen a different path? And I think ultimately, as I talked about, in conscious leadership, it was a win win win solution to the challenges that Whole Foods Market faced, and Amazon’s made Whole Foods a better company in many ways. We, we’ve they’ve taught us many things. Obviously. They’re their technology is a upgrade for us. And so, yeah, I mean, whenever you make decisions in life, there’s there’s going to be pluses and minuses, if you’re asking me there any minuses. Well, you know, there’s some minuses But hey, getting married. I’m very happily married. But there’s some minuses in that too. Sure. Sure. Overall, I
Robert Bryce 34:01
would do a marriage is perfect, by the way. So I,
Unknown Speaker 34:04
I made a mistake. I made a mistake. Once on some podcast or some interview, I said, you know, it’s like marriage. And I’m there. I’m happily married. I’ve been married for 30 years. I love about 99% of everything about my wife and 1% bugs me, I got home and she says what’s the 1%? And I said, you focusing on the 1%?
Unknown Speaker 34:29
Robert Bryce 34:31
Well, so let’s talk about capitalism, then. And and and in particular, we’ve talked about antitrust. What do you think of the government’s move against Facebook? And and Google the antitrust efforts now that the government is launched this is this just another example of Microsoft that, you know, the government trying to go after Microsoft or similar thing? Will it succeed? And if so, what’s your view on that antitrust effort?
Unknown Speaker 34:56
Well, antitrust, there’s many motives for it, and the the political motivation for it is that you have aggrieved competitors that believe they’re being that the company that’s beating them is cheating in some way and that the government needs to step in and stop that cheating from going on and make it a more level playing field. So you have aggrieved competitors, on the one hand, in general disruption and innovation will, all those companies, as I’ve already pointed out, will eventually they’ll fail eventually, that’s the long term trajectory, they’ll die. Because they lose their innovation, they lose their vision, they they get, people take over, they’re mostly just trying to figure out how to make quarterly earnings and they begin to lose their way. However, most people aren’t patient enough to wait 20 or 30 years for those new innovations to disrupt it, and they’re not wait, they don’t want to wait until the visionaries get old and sick and die. They want to do it
Robert Bryce 36:02
faster than that, and a populist politician can feed on those aggrieved grievances.
Unknown Speaker 36:07
And all politicians are populist in one sense or another, meaning they they need enemies and need bad guys that they need to make. They need to make people scared and evil corporations is an easy isn’t an easy attack point to say these people are greedy and selfish. There’s another factor that’s often left out, that drives it. And that is that politicians, they need to get reelected. Right. And part of it is making people think they’re doing some positive things to make the world a better place. It’s also getting campaign donations from really rich corporations. It’s it’s a bit of extortion, a bit of a you, you better pay me off or something to go after you kind of thing. Right. So yeah, it’s it’s a complex, and I’m not saying anything particular about what’s going on. Now.
Robert Bryce 37:05
Fair enough. Well, so let’s talk about that. Because you talked about this, in fact, on Joe Rogan, a while back, and socialism and and I guess before that, I want to ask you this, because now you’ve been When was the last time you ate meat? You mentioned being a vegetarian Co Op.
Unknown Speaker 37:25
Unknown Speaker 37:26
I was vegetarian, but a dairy products for a number of years. And then I added fish back into my diet. And that’s I haven’t eaten any animal foods, any any meat or seafood or dairy products or anything like that since 2003. So 17 years. Gotcha.
Robert Bryce 37:44
So if I’m only asked that question as a setup to this point, because you’ve been perhaps the most from where I sit. And you know, we’ve known each other a while now, here in Austin, and also looking at the business scene, as you have been one of the most consistent and outspoken proponents of capitalism. And I remember speaking of journalists, you mentioned not talking to print journalists, a piece at the Austin Chronicle wrote about published about 30 years ago that attacked you because you’re anti union. Right? And you were and I remember after that piece came out, you’re you talk to you or like, the hell is going on here. This is not what we agreed on. But your your you’ve been consistent, been perhaps more than any other American business leader that I can name as a proponent of capitalism. Why aren’t other other business leaders who have similar advantages, similar size platforms or similar capability? Why are they speaking up more in that in the way that you are? Or what are that are just speaking out for markets and capitalism instead of rent seeking and mandates?
Unknown Speaker 38:50
It’s very difficult to or any anytime to speak about other people are not doing and
Robert Bryce 38:56
well, let me ask the question in a different way. So who else is out there that you whose messaging you agree with or that you think is doing is speaking up in a way that you admire? Let me put it that way?
John Mackey 39:10
Well, I’m not
No, no, it’s
Unknown Speaker 39:14
not he’s not very PC, but Charles Koch has always been sure of Koch Industries has always been outspoken for, for capitalism. There’s, there’s good reasons why sometimes business people don’t speak up about it. So let me give you about three reasons. Sure. The first one is that they don’t really understand economic history. Right? I I’m, I’m a passionate reader. I’ve just I read many hours every single day. And I’m a longtime student of the history of business and the history of capitalism and economics in particular. I feel like I have a fundamental grasp on these things that most people I talk to don’t they just are ignorant. I mean, the We’ll give you some examples of that in a second. But, but, but the second reason is that business people are, they’re focused on promoting their own interest, the interest of their business. And a lot of times putting forth a, well, I’m not gonna tell this name of this person, but I once had a conversation with this person who, who wasn’t billionaire and made a ton of money. And I asked him, I said, so how come? You don’t defend capitalism? Why are you? Why are you? Why are you a democrat? Why are you opposed to capitalism when you’ve benefited from it so much? And he looked at me and he said, it’s good business, john. I don’t get I don’t get how often do you see me getting attacked?
Robert Bryce 40:50
I don’t get attacked, it’s easier to stay quiet.
Unknown Speaker 40:52
Yeah. Well, if you’re a billionaire, if you’re if you’re Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, but you’re you’re progressive, supporting Democratic candidates and donating to them, they tend to get off pretty light in the media. Right? You are republican business person, and you’re defending markets and capitalism. You are ruthlessly attacked in the niches such as Charles Koch, yeah, exactly. is a great example.
Robert Bryce 41:17
Built built many different businesses and as in, I don’t know of anyone who maybe Buffett but anyone who runs an well, his business, obviously is privately held, but he’s carpet paper refining, I mean, completely different industries. But he’s been remarkably successful on all of them, I think, because of his managerial capability and managed understanding of how to motivate people in his business. But yeah, I mean, he’s, he’s the arch villain, and any number of democratic fundraisers or you know, just the continually pilloried?
Unknown Speaker 41:48
Yeah, because he’s giving, he’s giving money to their
Unknown Speaker 41:51
Unknown Speaker 41:53
right. And buffin engaged, we’re giving money to them. So
Robert Bryce 41:57
that’s identify the enemy and vilify them, pretty
Unknown Speaker 42:00
much. And but also, it’s, if, if people are self interested, it’s no they’re looking out for they’re not looking out for the good of the whole system over the long term. They’re just looking out for either in protecting their their own reputations or wealth, their own interest, then it it makes sense, because the intellectuals are pretty much universally anti capitalist? Well, let
Robert Bryce 42:23
me ask you that because you talked about that with Joe Rogan.
Unknown Speaker 42:26
There’s nothing that gets people more upset. Anytime I say something like that. I say it frequently. I think it’s historically a fact. Not every intellectual, but in general, the intellectuals don’t like capitalism, they don’t like business they never have. And I challenge you to think about the history of humanity. When has business people ever been esteemed by the intellectuals, the intellectuals could be in the form of the clerici clerics in the day from the church, the people, you know, most of the world’s always been illiterate. But the merchants have always been locked down. And if you look up when Great Britain in the UK, and the UK and Europe, they went out an aristocracy. The business people were were tradesmen, they were they dirty their hands, they oftentimes were immigrants, or ethnic immigrants, such as Jews in the West and Chinese in the east, and they’ve been universally disdained by the intellectuals who don’t who think making money is somehow another kind of an unethical thing, that making profit is wrong, that it’s taking something from someone else that they that they deserve themselves. I mean, the whole premise of Marxism is that the means of production should be owned by the workers. And if there’s a profit being made, it belongs to the workers. And if they don’t get it, then they’re being it’s being stolen from them. That’s the fundamental Marxist narrative. Most intellectuals sort of adhere to that one form or another.
Robert Bryce 43:54
And that and that socialism would work if we just would do it, right.
Unknown Speaker 43:58
It’s 42, which we’ve done. 42. So we’re, and people say, Well, first of all, socialism has been tried 42 times in the last 100 years, 42 different countries have tried socialism, and they’ve all failed. Now, then people refer to Scandinavia, but Scandinavia, if you look at the economic freedom index, places like Denmark and Sweden and Iceland and Finland, these are Norway, these have very high degrees of economic freedom in most ways. You can you can pick out high tax regimes they have Well, it’s interesting. I high personal tax regime, right? Yeah,
Robert Bryce 44:35
Unknown Speaker 44:36
if you take a place like Sweden, for example, their their corporate tax rates are only 21%. So one of the lowest in the world, and that helps businesses to flourish Low, low corporate tax rates. Also, Sweden has no inheritance taxes, there are no death taxes, they’re not also commonly known. So if you are able to accumulate wealth there then you can pay pass that on to your children without it all being a big percentage of going to the government. So they do have high personal taxes. Now, most of the time the socialism thing gets around socialized medicine. So, so it’s always a matter of degree like if the, it’s like the United States doesn’t have socialized medicine, but we do not have free market healthcare, either. It is the, it is the most highly regulated part of our economy. And the only one that approaches it is education, K through 12, which is also highly regulated, both of those sectors underperform by World standards in many, many ways. And it’s partly due to these high regulations, that so they’re less free to innovate, the pharmaceutical industries sort of dominates the, that’s the type of crony capitalism dominates in the United States. Almost all the doctor continuing education programs are involved. You know, junkets playing golf, being hosted by pharmaceutical companies to get continuing credits and where they learn about the latest new drugs. That’s what medical schools teach
Robert Bryce 46:08
me the format. Can I interrupt? Yes. Would you make your point on the map?
Unknown Speaker 46:11
Keep going, if you don’t
Robert Bryce 46:12
know, that’s fine. The medical part of it. So I had now this is almost 10 years ago, I had to had to have surgery, and we’ll go into the details. Anyway, I’m meeting with the neuro neurosurgeon. I said, Well, I’m just curious, how much do you I’m interested in health insurance? And he said, how much you gonna get paid? He says, I don’t know. What you don’t know. How do you not know what you’re being paid for? It’s simple service, right? I mean, it’s not you know, if you fix my toilet, the plumber always knows what he’s gonna bill. But I just thought this is incredible, you know, and turned out the bill that we ultimate bills that we ultimately got were just absurd. I mean, they were insane. But there’s, there’s no pricing transparency, but
Unknown Speaker 46:49
so the insurance car insurance company paid for it. And that’s what’s driving up healthcare costs in America. Actually, there’s not really any competition for there’s no pricing, no transparency on pricing, there’s no price competition.
Robert Bryce 47:01
Right. Well, so then I wanted to get to this this question, because you’ve we’ve talked about this. And you talked about it with Rogen, with this idea of academics and that you said that there’s underlying resentment or envy among the academics toward entrepreneurs, because they don’t have they’re not as St. esteemed and I thought about it. Well, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, who’s the highest profile academic in America? I don’t know. Maybe Steven Pinker or appraoch, Paul Krugman, Krugman, but he’s a journalist. He is, you know, there’s a column in the New York Times, but yeah, I mean, Krugman is a Yeah, I’m
Unknown Speaker 47:35
not saying I’m not saying he shouldn’t be, I’m just saying, you
Robert Bryce 47:37
know, that’s a good, that’s a good, that’s a good thing. But here’s the question, why is socialism so popular? Now? I mean, we’ve seen Bernie Sanders from Vermont, we’ve seen this kind of rise of, of in the Democratic Party, and people like identifying them themselves. AOC and others saying, well, we’re democratic socialists, what, from Why is this an ascendant in America today, and the defendants of capitalism, not ascend? And where do you how do you explain that the rise of socialism
Unknown Speaker 48:06
drive primarily ascending, because the academics, the intellectuals who run the universities are socialists for the most part, and that, and that’s the, that’s their narrative. That’s what they’re teaching. And so, and I was there when I was going to college, literally, almost 50 years ago. And it wasn’t as dominant as it is today. But it was still there. And because, again, intellectuals even even in the business schools, so the business schools are very interesting. I always point out that in if you if you go to medical school who teaches in medical school,
Robert Bryce 48:54
Unknown Speaker 48:55
yes, if you go to law school, who teaches in law schools, lawyers, if you go to business school, who teaches business,
Robert Bryce 49:06
Unknown Speaker 49:08
Yes, intellectuals, teach people who’ve may not have you ever worked for a corporation or started a business, those
Robert Bryce 49:15
are those who can’t do teach?
Unknown Speaker 49:17
Well, if you think about it, the entire world of intellectuals that are that are nurtured in the universities. As I say, these were, these were the smart kids, they were really good at school. They, they they were good to take and test. They were good at whatever it requires to get ahead academically. And the universities are like their little bubble worlds, right? They’re beautiful places. And they’re sort of set off and the rest of society in many ways. And and that’s a lot of ways that’s what all these professors have known. Because they’ve lived their entire lives. They went from elementary school, to high school, to to college to post to graduate school. To Postgraduate School to teaching in a university that’s been their entire life and
Robert Bryce 50:04
never had to make payroll. Exactly.
Unknown Speaker 50:07
So. And for them, the reason democratic socialism is always going to be around no matter how many times it fails, I call socialism zombies. Because, you know, it doesn’t matter how many times you kill it, it always springs back. And it always will. Because it’s utopian. It’s utopian. And, and if you if we’re going to do it, right, this when I debate socialists, and I’ve done many debates for socialist, I always raise this question. It’s been tried 42 times or no successes. How do you explain that? And ultimately, they cannot explain it. The best debaters ignore the question and pretend like I never asked it. The ones that try to wait in there talk about mostly it just hasn’t been done right yet. That it’s always a betrayal that, you know, Chavez, Hugo Chavez looked like he was he was going to be a good leader. And he was while oil prices were high, by redistributing the income, but then he built
Robert Bryce 51:05
this man. Then he dismantled peda vase and the entire economy collapse. Exactly.
Unknown Speaker 51:09
And when it collapsed, guess what? He was no longer really
Robert Bryce 51:12
a socialist. Right? And then he conveniently died. And the neither was
Unknown Speaker 51:15
and neither was Castro, and neither was Lenin or Stalin, or pol pot. I mean, it’s, it’s always it’s always a failure of leadership. And so there’s always this faith, it hasn’t been done right yet. But you know, what we know so much more than we know, before. Sure, it’s failed. But it’s such a good ideal for there to be quality and for no one to be wanting anything. That’s always going to have a siren song for people, people are particularly young people. There’s that old joke that’s, you know, everybody’s heard it. It’s almost a cliche that if that if, by the time if you’re, by the time you turn 21 years old, if you’re not a socialist, and you don’t have any heart, you don’t care about other people, the attacted always comes a capitalist is that they don’t care. They have no compassion. But then there’s a joke goes on by the time you’re 30. If you’re still a socialist, then you don’t have any brains.
Robert Bryce 52:13
Exactly. I’m familiar with that. Right? Yeah. It’s, it goes along with the whole whole idea of that capital that what is the mugged by reality? Right? Yeah. Well, so let’s talk about food a little bit. And and again, my guest is john Mackey, the co author of conscious leadership, elevating humanity through business. And it’s it’s a remarkable book, as we’ve talked about, it’s, in many ways, a self help book, it’s a call to, to leaders to look in inside themselves and to be to be responsible to the people they lead. But let’s talk about food or more, because we’re coming on an hour. And I don’t want to keep you too long. But I saw this headline the other day, and I thought it’s interesting, the politics of food. And there are a couple of a couple of questions on this. You said? Well, here’s the recent study that in the in the election, Donald Trump lost 171 of the 202 counties in America that have Whole Foods stores. It’s an 84% margin that that Trump lost. What you have a theory about why your customers about why they would be voting against Trump is there. What is all that? What is the whole foods is that you think that’s coincidence. Correlation? What is the what is that statistic? It’s
Unknown Speaker 53:30
just Cora is obviously not causation. It’s correlation in and it’s correlation, because Whole Foods, locate stores primarily in dense urban areas. And the dense urban areas tend to vote vote for democratic. Yeah. And the suburban and rural areas tend to be more weighted towards
Robert Bryce 53:49
republicans in service. Yeah, yep. So I’m curious about that. Is there a was one thing I think we talked about some time, same
Unknown Speaker 53:56
thing would be true for Trader Joe’s, I might add, they also locate stores, close to ours, almost almost all in urban areas. And so if that could be another headline that would be similar if you did the study.
Robert Bryce 54:10
How do you? How do you know where to put stores? I know there’s a lot of science that goes into this is there you have a team that identifies what the ideal location in a given city is? And if so, are there certain characteristics of what that location looks like? Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 54:26
I mean, think about it, Robert, we are going to spend to open a new store, we’re going to spend somewhere between how big it is, but somewhere between 10 and 15, to even $20 million or more sometimes, depending on the scale of the store. And you’re also going to sign usually a 20 year lease. So you’re gonna be paying million dollars a year, something like that for 20 years. So you’re making a massive bet on a location. It doesn’t work out, you sunk all this capital into the store, you still have to pay the rent. So it really you have to be very careful in site selection and Whole Foods, Whole Foods devoted In the early days, when we didn’t have the resources, I just spent a lot of time studying it and thinking about it, because I knew we were gonna if we, if we made some bad location decisions early on, and that would have been, that would have been the end of the wholefoods dream, we those locations would have held us back and some of my friends did exactly that they there, they wrecked their businesses by getting some bad locations early on. There’s people that are doing the same thing wholefoods was doing my brother and sisters of that of that era. So I was very careful. And then as we got we just got smarter over time, we began to devote more resources to we have a whole a whole real estate team, that we do site analysis, we go in and we look at every competitor, we look at things like demographics, what’s the population density? How many have college degrees? What’s the average income? Are they we do psychographic analysis? Are these going to be immediate acceptors or early adopters? Are they going to be a long term sale? Are they we look at the ethnic components of it as well. I won’t go into those details because that’ll get I’ll get headlines for sure. We look at if their family life if or they are they younger, we we there’s lots of different demographic psychographic factors we look at the one I personally pay the most attention to is the density of college graduates is just sort of an easy proxy. It’s a lot more complicated
Robert Bryce 56:31
and the higher the higher the concentration of college graduates, the more more customers you’re for Whole
Unknown Speaker 56:36
Foods Whole Foods has always been a niche. The fact you know, I mean we’re $20 billion a year company now but most Americans never shop at Whole Foods. And we have people say nasty things about us because we’re you know, we’re selling the highest quality food we can and oftentimes the food’s higher quality is more expensive and and that just generates and we also sell a lot of stuff to to affluent people, yuppies, well educated people and and so we get attacked a lot by people that I’m always amazed how many people dislike wholefoods, it’s kinda like we have raving fans. And then we have a lot of people who just really hate us. And I’m thinking Why do you hate us? Because we haven’t done anything evil. We’re bad here. But they hate us because we’re like a club. We’re a club that they don’t think they can belong to or that they don’t belong to. They and that
Robert Bryce 57:24
club they don’t want to or shouldn’t belong to, right. Yeah. Besides when you’re since you mentioned your competitors, and we both live here in Austin and what do you think of HGTV the supermarket chain here in Texas? What do you think of that company?
Unknown Speaker 57:37
HGTV is the the best competitor wholefoods competes against anywhere. That’s what I think about them, they’re the best. I’d rather compete against Walmart than htb or they compete against Trader Joe’s nature to be I’d rather compete against Publix, Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, the only one we compete with it’s maybe a worthy rival of HTV at Wegmans and on the East Coast, but he they’re they’re really good. They’ve learned a lot from Whole Foods, and we’ve learned a lot from from them. I think both companies have made the other company better.
Robert Bryce 58:11
There’s there was a really interesting piece in Texas Monthly, gosh, it was the beginning of the lockdown on in Texas on HGTV and how they’re training for hurricanes and preparing for hurricane events and restocking their stores, set them up well for the pandemic. And I think it was a really interesting story I read I read that article about the logistics and I thought that was because I go on HGTV and I’m continually amazed by just how good they are.
Unknown Speaker 58:37
I’m gonna forgive you for that for that send this one time but you know that’s like you know, last like, you know, going to your wife and saying you’re sleeping with somebody else but
Robert Bryce 58:51
don’t focus on the 1%
Unknown Speaker 58:53
Exactly. Focus on one person well, so
Robert Bryce 58:55
I’m going to bring up just a couple less things here with john so food is political right and the ideas around food and was
Unknown Speaker 59:02
become political. Okay, welfare and everything’s being politicized now in our society. Fair
Robert Bryce 59:06
enough. But you’re also you’ve advocated for veganism now for a long time been a been a vegetarian and a vegan now for a very long time. And I remember a while back, we were, I think, having dinner and we were talking about something and we have a mutual friend, Jimmy McWilliams, who’s a well known vegetarian. And you said something that stuck to me that that you said that in when we look back in the future, but people look back at this time there’ll be horrified at how we treated animals and and and confined animal feeding operations, your high profile, but you haven’t been a big critic of our meat eating habits. What Where do you stand on animal rights? Is this is or am I gonna put you on the spot here?
Unknown Speaker 59:46
I think it’s a little bit like religion. I think it’s personal matter. And so, I am an ethical vegan, I became a vegan for ethical reasons not to want to harm animals. And I’ve tried to work at Whole Foods to, to lessen to our animal welfare rating program we developed definitely I push really hard for that to lessen animal pain and suffering. But I do think what we are doing to animals today is people don’t want to see it because they’re complicit in it. People won’t like this analogy, because it’s but if you look back in the if you study the history of slavery, you can see how that the amount of confirmation bias and denial that was going on in the, in the southern states in the day, the rationalizations they were doing in terms of Well, we’re actually this is a win win, we’re benefiting them as well. Because we are, we’re you know, we’re civilizing them, we’ve given them Christianity, we’re civilizing them, we’re taking care of them, because he’s, he couldn’t take care of themselves, and all kinds of horrible rationalizations to where they they increasingly they had to secede from from they wanted to secede from the United States when Abraham Lincoln got got elected, because they were so part of its guilt and denial, and, but there were they weren’t prepared to give it up. So I think it’s that way with the what we’re doing of livestock animals, there’s massive unwillingness for people to look at it clearly. If people looked at it, clearly, they will be horrified. They don’t look at it clearly, because they don’t want to change their habits, they enjoy eating meat, they think it’s good for them, and they’re not going to change. And so they you know, they don’t, they don’t want to encounter viewpoints that differ from that. They don’t want to look at it clearly. Because they don’t want to change and so for many people can ignore it, and others deliberately become hostile. I don’t even like I don’t even identify as a vegan because that triggers so many people. I didn’t I didn’t identify as a plant based person. And I prefer to eat plants because I do think it’s an individual decision. And I’m not going to go out there and proselytize for my spiritual beliefs. I’m not I’m not not proselytizing for my political beliefs, I’m not going to proselytize for my dietary beliefs in terms of trying to compel people to live or make the same choices I make. So I think it’s an individual choice thing that upsets many of my of my more radical vegan friends who see me as you know, that it makes me complicit since I’m not devoting my life to not not vocal enough, like, yeah, it’s like if you were living in the north, and you were, you could be against slavery without being an abolitionist, right? The abolitionists were the ones are proselytizing. I’m not an apple. I’d like to think I would have been an abolitionist back then. But I might not have been, I might have just been somebody that was opposed to slavery, but wasn’t going to devote my life to it. Sure.
Robert Bryce 1:02:59
In the so just the last few things, tell me about whole planet Foundation, or we have a mutual friend, Philips and Sony, who, who works there. Why is that that that effort? What is it and why is it important to you?
Unknown Speaker 1:03:14
All planet foundation is an amazing institution. And Philip deserves great, great credit for what he’s accomplished with it. It’s on that day, the origins of what it is, is it’s a, it’s the foundation that Whole Foods Market had created that makes microcredit loans to poor entrepreneurs all around the world. And we’re now in 77 countries. And we’ve helped over 5 million people. We made almost a million loans. And it’s it’s 89% to women. And 92% of those loans have been repaid, although there’s no there’s no contract. There’s no guarantees, there’s no collateral. So I read Muhammad Yunus, his book banker to the poor about 16 or 17 years ago, and I was very inspired by it. I thought, this will really help in poverty. And so I contacted Muhammad Yunus through a mutual friend, he and I met and I said I want to do something like this at Whole Foods. And so we started working initially we worked with exclusively with the the Grameen Bank, which unit started right and but we found it very difficult to import Bangladeshis like we started out in our first country was Costa Rica. You couldn’t get them in there. They were they were seen as undesirable. So we couldn’t import the Bangladeshi talents. So what we ended up doing was doing a lot of spending a lot of time finding other locally based micro finance organizations that were doing the same thing that that Grameen was doing, sort of vetting them and checking them out and then slowly beginning to work with them. That proved to be a very sustainable strategy. So it’s amazing what this thing has done. I’ve already I’ve already mentioned some of the accomplishments But I’ve toward it. And the difference that makes these people’s lives is incredible because you’re not giving people a handout, you’re actually helping people. And you know, the story about Yunus is Muhammad Yunus is pretty interesting how he came up with this idea, because he met this woman in Bangladesh, who was basically almost a slave because a slave to moneylenders, they would lend her a little bit of money. And then they they charged her such high interest on that money, then she had to pay it back every day, that they pretty much took everything she she could make in a day, except for the very little she needed to eat to get up the next day. So she was trapped. And Eunice asked her, What do you need to be free? What do you need to be free of this trap? And it turned out, it was about $1 $1 would free her from this. So he just reached into his pocket and gave her $1. And then he thought, you know what, we could break this cycle of slavery to these moneylenders if we started a bank that just did this regularly and made these microcredit loans. And then they get repaid, and they get recycled. So
Unknown Speaker 1:06:15
Unknown Speaker 1:06:16
that’s what whole planet is about. And it’s about ending poverty by making microcredit loans to poor entrepreneurs. And you know what, we’re now in 17 cities in the United States as well. So this is not just an international thing.
Robert Bryce 1:06:31
Well, so we talked before we started recording about a call to action and of course your your you like people to read your new book conscious leadership and conscious capitalism, but if they wanted to contribute to whole planet Foundation, how would they do that?
Unknown Speaker 1:06:43
It’s really easy. You just go to WWW dot whole planet foundation.org you can donate and wholefoods pays 100% of the of all administrative costs. So every dollar somebody donates to that foundation will go to actually making the loans none of it goes to overhead zero,
Robert Bryce 1:07:02
soon scratches your edge, both on the entrepreneurial side and on the intellectual side. Is that fair? I mean, how do you this is something that you know, yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:07:13
both and it scratches a third itch, which is I’m a do gooder, Robert. that’s fundamentally who I am. And Buckminster Fuller, I’m gonna paraphrasing, but he once said something that really inspired me, and I’m gonna, so I’m just not exactly what he said, I’m paraphrasing it. But he said, My job is to discover how much good one human being can do in a lifetime.
Robert Bryce 1:07:46
And that’s what motivates you.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:47
Pretty much, how much good can I do in the world? And I, of course, I think capitalism is, is the greatest, one reason I support capitalism so strong and wrote conscious capitalism and started conscious capitalism organizations, I think capitalism has done the most good of anything else in the world. But it could be it could be done better. There are greedy, selfish people and capitalism and conscious, conscious capitalism. And conscious leadership is somewhat an ethical reform of the of the way we think about business is trying to change the narrative, but it’s also trying to change the way we do business.
Robert Bryce 1:08:18
Well, let me follow up on that, because that we kind of beat me to the punch, I’m one of the questions I was going to ask about what your what your motivation is, or what your endgame is, but how do you then gauge that success? And you say, how much good can I do in my lifetime? How do you gauge that? What’s the metric?
Unknown Speaker 1:08:37
I mean, I,
Unknown Speaker 1:08:38
I don’t necessarily know if I have a metric that that?
Robert Bryce 1:08:42
Is it just to keep doing it? Just to keep going? Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:08:47
are you asking why I’m doing it? Or how do
Robert Bryce 1:08:49
I measure it? I think you already answered that. I think you said the why is that you want to do as much good as you can? It is but is there a way that you can measure how successful you’re being at
Unknown Speaker 1:08:58
it. None of us know exactly how much impact we have in the world. Sure. And the reason we don’t know about it is it’s like, it’s like throwing a stone into a pool of water. And all these ripples come out. We don’t see the ripples that come out from us. We don’t see all the people’s lives that we touch. We don’t see how touching someone and they touch somebody else. I mean, you’re an author, Robert, every author would like to know, is their book making any difference? You’re kind of throwing when you write a book, you’re throwing a stone into the pool of water. Yeah. And you know, you’re influencing some people, but you never really see the full extent of it. Right. So the whole planet foundation is is changing people’s lives for the better I can we can see that. But you can’t measure it in any absolute sense. Same thing with conscious capitalism. I mean, you know, that books now and it’s it’s been translated into 13 languages, and we have set up conscious capitalism chapters, all around America and all around the world. And now obviously I’ve I’ve contributed about I’ve consumed a lot of money to it my time and energy, I’ve written a couple of books to support it. But it’s not just me. It’s It’s literally 1000s and 1000s of other people that are joined up, that this resonates with them. So
Robert Bryce 1:10:18
if you, you give us some feedback, then that says you’re you’re, you’re, you’re you’re doing as well as you can, then I guess,
Unknown Speaker 1:10:26
that’s one reason the first chapter in conscious leadership is put purpose first. Because what happens when you put purpose first, Robert, we didn’t talk about that in the depth didn’t need to be talked about. And we’re out of time now. But if you when you put profits first, that that’s, that’s magnetic. That’s an attractor of other people who resonate with that purpose. And so one of the secrets to my impact in the world has been I’m very purpose driven. And I put purposes out there, whether it be the whole planet Foundation, or conscious capitalism, or Whole Foods Market are another big project. I’m starting up for funding right now, I’m not going to even have time to talk about I’ll talk to you offline about I’m very excited about it. that attracts very creative people, and people that are also purpose driven. And then together, you can do amazing things together. And by the way, I talked about Jeff Bezos, when he asked me that question about Jeff. Jeff is obviously a brilliant amazing guy. But Amazon’s success has been because part of this because just been able to attract mazing creative people like a Jeff Wilkie like a Dave Clark, like many, many, many other people that that are attracted to his passion, attracted his sense of purpose attracted his vision. And together, they create amazing things.
Robert Bryce 1:11:44
Last two things. So what are you reading now?
John Mackey 1:11:47
I’m reading your book. Right?
Robert Bryce 1:11:48
Okay. Well, that’s good. I’m glad you’re doing that.
Unknown Speaker 1:11:52
But let me favorite he knows. But you know what, let me just open up my Kindle. I read everything on Kindle. And I always am working on like, six or seven books at a time, kind of what I’m in the mood for today. So a question of power is the first one that came up because that’s what I was reading today and have the let’s see, looking at my library. I’m reading a kind of a self development book by Ryan Holiday called stillness is the key. So that’s what I’m reading. I’m reading Colin Campbell just came out with a new book called The future of nutrition an insider’s look at the science. So I’m reading that one.
Unknown Speaker 1:12:31
Unknown Speaker 1:12:35
I’m reading the evolution of everything by Matt Ridley. Oh, yeah. You know, it’s one of those books I started and loved. And it got buried and I forgot about it. And then I was looking through I was like, Oh, my God, I love this book. Why don’t I ever stop reading it in the first place? And it just really is amazing.
Robert Bryce 1:12:51
He’s Yeah, he was on the podcast. If you here’s a
Unknown Speaker 1:12:54
here’s a timely book that was written a long time ago, or, you know, in our lifetime has been an early part of my lifetime. The origins of totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. I never did. I never did read that book. And it’s it’s very important book to read right now, when we see what’s happening in America right now.
Robert Bryce 1:13:15
That’s, that’s enough. That’s enough. That’s you’ve done? You’ve done well, there. Okay. So last question. And I promise this lesson. So what? We’ve talked around this idea, but what gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 1:13:26
I mean, you should ask that question like, hope is sort of something that wouldn’t be common. What gives me hope is the endless creativity of humanity, we have a limitless creativity. And I didn’t, I never got back to the fact that one reason I think capitalism is greatest thing that’s ever existed is because how far humanities come in just the last 200 years. It’s simply astounding. If you go back 200 years ago, 94% of every human being alive on the planet lived on less than $2 a day, think about that $2 a day. And that’s in today’s dollar somehow knew that $2 a day was a living wage. 200 years ago, the average lifespan was only 30. Now across the planet 72.6 By the way, that average, the average, only about eight to 9% of the population in the world lives on less than $2 a day to day. So we’ve made great progress there. longevity is tremendously increased health outcomes are better, and almost every aspects. illiteracy rates were 88% 200 years ago, 88% everyone left couldn’t read 88% now we’re down to like 12%. So in my lifetime, I’ve seen tremendous innovations that I mean, I mean, hey, Robert, when I was a kid, a bunch of my friends got polio, okay, polio, they got little shrunken legs, their backs are all curved. And that’s that’s a that’s something that’s in our past. It’s not not there anymore, but due to the polio vaccination. I
Robert Bryce 1:15:00
don’t even hear that word really anymore.
Unknown Speaker 1:15:01
Now, because it’s been pretty much eliminated. Still minor little outbreaks of polio in certain certain small areas of the world. But for the most part, it’s been pretty much eliminated. When I was a kid, or even just looking back 20 years ago, Google was really just getting started. There was no Airbnb, no Tesla. No, Uber, Amazon was a tiny company. Nobody had a smartphone. Can you imagine everybody in the world addicted everybody? The United States is addicted to smartphones and nobody had 120 years ago, right? So it’s the world has changed so much. That’s what gives me hope, is we are and youth doesn’t yet know what it can’t do. So it tends to be utopian and hopelessly idealistic. That’s it’s, it’s it masks maximum danger at that point, but also there at maximum creativity at that point, as well. So humanity is going to it doesn’t go in a straight line, you know, this, we go up, we take five steps forward. And one step back, I’d say we’ve taken a step back in 2020. And so people think, again, we don’t have historical context for most of our beliefs. So it’s like, oh, my God, what do you hope for, and it’s like, I’m just knowing the long term, it’s all gonna work out, because it always does. provided we can avoid some apocalyptic thing, you know, and I mean, like, nuclear war EPM, that knocks out the electrical grid and across the United States, and so 90% of the people die in a year. There’s some there’s some apocalyptic things that could happen. But assuming we avoid those, there’s not even every reason to hope there’s every reason to believe and know that humanity will continue to make its upward climb towards higher consciousness. Me, Steven Pinker wrote and showed how violence is down. In fact, the most important book, I’ll just end it with this. The most important book, in my opinion, that’s been written so far in the 21st century, is Steven Pinker’s book enlightenment now, because he just so systematically documents how much better the world is today than it was in the past. And that should be mandatory reading and every in every university or high school, we should just make that a required book to read. Because everybody’s so pessimistic. So fill of fear. And, and yet, it’s so ridiculous because things have never been better. I mean, they were never better than before this pandemic started and once we get past this pandemic, we will begin our upward climb or continue our upward climb. So that was what gives me hope.
Robert Bryce 1:17:40
It’s a long, it’s a
John Mackey 1:17:41
Robert Bryce 1:17:43
But a good one. Well, john, it’s been a pleasure to catch up with you. We’ve gone over an hour so I’m gonna I’m gonna stop here. But again, thanks to my guest, john Mackey, you can buy his new book conscious leadership, you can contribute to the whole planet foundation at whole planet.org Oh, Planet foundation.org whole planet foundation.org. And I’m sure you can find John’s books on Amazon and many other fine book outlets. So thanks to all of you out there. Thanks again, john, for joining me and join us on the next episode of the power hungry podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai