Joe Davis started in the hospitality industry in 2006, and from then worked his way up through the ranks to become general manager at Stacked Pickle, where his career in food service was ended due to Covid-19. Unsure where to go next, his former employer – Gary Brackett – brought him on board to help build out his new venture – the Champions’ Academy. Since then, Joe has been working with Gary to build out Champions’ Academy (an online course initiative) and to build out courses. They have also worked together in business consulting to help new entrepreneurs understand the systems they need in place to operate at their peak level.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in a small town in Northern Indiana – Argos. My graduating class was 45 kids. My childhood was good; my dad was a teacher at the school and my mom was a nurse. They loved us (younger brother and sister) and did so much for us. I attribute a lot of the man I have become to my father and how he raised me. My dad was a sports nut – he played football in college and loved all sports. He wouldn’t pressure us in a negative way – but he helped us be the best that we could – with honest and pointed conversations. One thing I will always be grateful for is my parents’ decision to enroll me in the Culver Military Academy Summer Camp program – the seven years I attended definitely shaped who I am today. I learned a lot of things at that camp – and discovered my pure love for sailing.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Happiness and success are not defined – it is up to each individual person to define those two things for themselves. There is no picture-perfect definition – we each have to find our way. Never take a moment for granted – you never know when it might be the last with that person/thing/pet/etc.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

This one is interesting because of everything that happened last year – so many things were fundamentally changed (for the long term) – that there is quite a long list that could be mentioned. I think the biggest thing to remember, for any and everyone, is that you can’t satisfy your customers/clients without your staff. Your people have to come first – in whatever form that means.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

There have been a few. My grandfather passed from throat cancer just before I was married, and it affected me harder than I knew. It derailed my focus on school, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I think the darkest period in my life was shortly after the decision to divorce my wife; we had grown apart, and though we had a three-year-old daughter, I knew it was the best course of action. There were moments during the process that broke me – seeing my daughter not understanding and being upset…it still gets me to this day. Ever since then, I struggle with myself, believing I’m a good father. It’s hard, but as time goes on you learn that it was just a bad moment – that your kid still loves you. Understanding comes with time, and you have to remember that.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Hold onto a persistent, furious determination and tenaciousness to always give my all-out effort and to never quit. If I run into an obstacle that I don’t know how to fix – I’ll learn how to. Mistakes are just that – mistakes. Make them, learn from them, and move forward. Hard work and a will to keep going can take you places.

What is your morning routine?

I typically wake up around 7 am. The first thing I do is start the coffee pot, then start getting ready (i.e. bathroom routine, clothes). Then coffee and breakfast – honestly, I typically look at funny pictures or watch videos to start the day off positively and with a laugh (TikTok is a great source for this). Once I finish coffee and breakfast (typically a bowl of cereal), I clean up and make my lunch for the day. Then it’s off to work.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

I don’t know when it became one of mine, but challenging the status quo. I have found myself in several meetings, questioning things that I feel everyone else might want to say but are too afraid to ask. I have an ability to understand what is being discussed, but I also like to play Devil’s advocate and push for a why before just blindly accepting. I found by doing this, I typically earn more respect and my team becomes stronger in knowing that I will stand with them. When you question things it might put you on the “outside” of your circles, but you’ll have a clearer vision in your mind and you will feel better about a lot of things.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

This is a good one because at times I struggle to stay on task. The biggest answer – for both productivity and time management is planning; make a list of what all you need to do, putting the most important items at the top. Now, some will say “what if it’s all-important?” – yes, it is all-important and must be done…BUT – what has the highest priority/needs to be done immediately? It is challenging, especially in today’s world where there are seemingly unlimited ways to contact someone and everyone needs what they need right now, but make the list and stick to it. Sometimes it’s best not to worry about time – just complete the list.

Another key, for me at least, is to find something that locks you down; when I really need to focus and grind things out, I turn on one of my favorite bands that helps me focus (typically no vocals). It allows me to tune out distractions and focus on the task/s at hand. I also have a YouTube playlist of motivational videos that I will play in the background – these help me stay focused and energized.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

There are a lot, but I’ll try to list just the most notable. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK by Mark Manson is definitely one of the top books. A lot of us think we can handle so much on our own, and we can, but sometimes it takes another view – bluntly given – to really help us realize our potential. When I was at school at Purdue, one of my business classes had us read several small books, but they fundamentally helped create the person I am today – Who Stole My Cheese? by Ilene Hochberg and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. While the first one was fun and interesting to read, the second one (in a way) blew my mind at the time. The last one, though a work of fiction, again helped me change my thought process and realize that all we ever really have is this moment: Ten Seconds After.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

Perhaps cliche’, but one I strongly live by: “Never Give Up”. I can remember having a shirt in school that showed a crane with a frog in its mouth, and the frog was choking the crane even though it was being eaten. That lives, rent-free, inside of me. “What matters is how a man stands to the sea” is another one I love. It is a reminder, for me, that no matter what comes your way it is how you choose to stand to it that determines the outcome.