Matthew Griffin is the co-founder and CEO of Combat Flip Flops, a footwear and apparel company that sells goods manufactured in conflict and post-conflict zones. He is a powerful and emotional speaker known for his moving TEDx talk on the power of persistence, creativity, and respect, as well as for his successful appearance on the entrepreneurial television show, ABC’s Shark Tank, where he secured a deal with not only one but three “sharks” including Mark Cuban.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was a military brat of divorced parents. During the majority of my childhood, my Dad lived in Europe while I lived in Southern Maryland with my Mom. Both parents worked hard and/or weren’t present, so I was a latchkey kid–learning self-sufficiency at a young age. My dad retired when I was 14, then moved to Iowa to become a Chiropractor. Finished my high school years playing football, wrestling, and wrenching on cars in Eldridge, Iowa.
As far as experiences, I would say that Dan Gable Intensive Wrestling Camp was the most impactful. I learned to take a beating, work out while vomiting, and understood the only limitation on our bodies is the wall our mind puts up. Your mind will take you and your body farther than you can possibly imagine.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Yoga is good. Adding yoga to my physically abusive, young adult life would have prevented a significant amount of injuries and provided space for mental clarity.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“You should make this!!!” When you run a company, people make product suggestions for you out of the kindness of their heart and creativity, but most don’t know the dollars and work that goes into making new or novel products. You can squander your creativity and energy by chasing down ideas. Stick with the products that work, sell them well, and use the margin provided by the goodness to fuel your next great product.
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?
We almost shut down in November 2015. It was the time between our Shark Tank filming and air date. We planned for a November 2015 airing, then it didn’t happen. We got caught with lots of inventory, no cash, and bills to pay. It almost bankrupted us.
In that moment of peril, we shifted our pricing to be competitive online with other brands in the market. Immediately, our volume tripled. We learned that retail was dead, keeping our pricing to give retailers acceptable margin was unsustainable, and there was a path to success.
We ended up making the ends meet, carrying on through the holidays, and crushed our Shark Tank airing in February of 2016.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Mentors. You can’t do it alone.
If you want to succeed in an industry, look to the top performers and simply ask if they will mentor you. If you’re a good mentee, they’ll be open to helping you succeed.
What is your morning routine?
545 am wakeup, weigh-in, drink water, take vitamins, and make coffee
6 am 10-15 minute meditation
615 am Drink coffee while tidying up the house, reviewing schedule, and checking work/personal social media
7 am Workout: Yoga, hiking, jogging, weights, whatever. Body movement.
8 am: From the home office, go through my daily work priority checklist that covers the website, advertising, promotions, dealers, etc.
930am: Team morning meeting
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Meditation. I unsuccessfully tried meditation for a few years, but it finally stuck right around my 40th birthday. Every time I sat down, the endless tasks through the day would overpower the meditation and it felt like a useless waste of time. Through enough practice, I was able to convince myself that the 10-15 minutes of quiet was a breather for the brain, enabling me to perform better for the rest of the day. It worked.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Make Lists. Going back to the “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” book mentioned above, I created a personal and worklist that clearly stated my priorities, the metrics for the priorities, and the daily checkbox to make sure everything gets checked daily.
I found this method keeps me engaged on my priorities and provides slow, steady bumps toward success instead of major corrections that typically occur with neglecting priorities.
The lists are then backed up in my journal that goes with me everywhere. That way I have no excuse to not tackle my priorities daily–regardless of internet connection.
One other thing with journaling is the mark the good things that happen in your life. A great cup of a coffee, beautiful sunrise, a surprise visit by a friend, major goal accomplishment, etc.. On the tough days, you can look back through your journal and remind yourself that more good things happen than bad. With that assurance, you’re able to tackle your problems more confidently and effectively.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
On The Far Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George: The story of a boy that made it out on his own to survive in the wilderness through ingenuity and grit. Good book for young men to learn about respecting nature and self-sufficiency.
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish: What are your priorities? What are the metrics you use to measure your priorities? How often do you look at the metrics to measure your priorities? When you master these principles taught in this book, your priorities will manifest positively.
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza: Do you have self-limiting habits that prevent you from being your best self? Most of us would say, “yes.” This book teaches you how to address those issues through the power of quantum physics and meditation to permanently break bad habits.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
If there is any doubt, there isn’t any.
Amateurs talk tactics. Professionals talk logistics.
Thinking makes it so.