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Gary: Not everybody's work ethic is the same.
So if you don't feel like you're up to that place right now, to run a marathon, how do
you start training for a marathon?
By running.
By running more, and running more.
Baby steps.
Take it as you can take it to grow, and to work those muscles, develop those muscles.
And if you're willing to go through the pains and the ebbs and the flows, and the new shoes
and the blisters and the whatever you've got to go through to get to that goal, you will
run that marathon.
Tom: Hey, [00:00:30] everybody.
Welcome to Impact Theory.
You are here, my friends, because you believe that human potential is nearly limitless,
but you know that having potential is not the same as actually doing something with
it, so our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas
that will help you actually execute on your dreams.
Today's guest is an award-winning rapper, actor, author, entrepreneur, and political
figure who's made a career out of not letting people put him in a box.
When everyone told him that his dream of becoming [00:01:00] the first ever Native American
rapper was ridiculous, instead of bowing his head and slinking away, he founded his own
record label and signed himself.
This is pre-internet, boys and girls.
He did not complain about not having money or connections.
He just got to work.
Over his career, he's recorded 11 albums, toured around the world, performed hundreds
and hundreds and hundreds of concerts, and launched a thriving clothing line along the
He's also starred in feature films such as The Indian in the Cupboard, Mortal Kombat,
Kull the Conqueror, as well [00:01:30] as monster TV shows like House of Cards and CSI:
An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and a vocal proponent and lobbyist for Native
American issues, he has leveraged his celebrity and talents to draw attention to the issues
faced by indigenous people.
He's testified before Congress multiple times on Native issues and proven that he's just
as comfortable lobbying on Capitol Hill in a business suit as he is rocking at a rap
video in a fitted cap and baggy pants.
His diverse and seemingly endless stream of accomplishments [00:02:00] is due to a relentless
mind set that refuses to back down from any challenge, and a deep drive to give back.
Those aren't just words for him, and his evidence of that; in a single year, he clocked 54,000
That's the equivalent of driving around the earth twice, criss-crossing North America,
to inspire people living on reservations and show them it does not matter where you start.
It only matters where you're willing to go.
So please, help me in welcoming the CEO [00:02:30] of Davis Strategy Group and the host of the
Litefoot show, the executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association,
Gary Litefoot Davis.
Gary: Wow.
Tom: How you doing?
Gary: Very good.
Good to be here.
Tom: It's a pleasure.
Gary: Awesome.
Tom: Thanks for coming on.
Gary: Absolutely.
Glad to be here.
Tom: Dude, it's awesome to have you.
Hearing your story, obviously it's a very unconventional tale of success.
Gary: Right.
Tom: And it started from something pretty powerful.
Walk me through what happened [00:03:00] with the financial collapse for your family, what
that led to, and what your parents taught you through that hard times is pretty amazing.
Gary: Yeah, I had grown up with a father that had shown me, a grandfather that had also
shown me hard work; and that through hard work, we can accomplish providing for our
family, if nothing else.
That we can show them that maybe we didn't have these things when we grew up, but we
[00:03:30] can give back if we just get a very clear-cut idea of what we can do, however
small that it might be to make an impact.
For my grandfather, it was way tougher.
He had a way tougher start in school, had run away from a very well-known Indian boarding
school in Oklahoma and hitchhiked back all the way with his little brother to Claremore,
Right outside of Claremore, Oklahoma.
[00:04:00] He, his whole life, taught himself resiliency and showed us resiliency; that
you can do things that will help motivate other people, and my father was the beneficiary
of that.
He saw that it was possible to be an entrepreneur, and then myself, I would see both of these
My grandfather at that point, very well along in his years, getting up every morning and
going to work at 4:00 in the morning- Tom: Wow.
Gary: ... in very hot Oklahoma weather in the summer, then coming home and working [00:04:30]
all evening in the garden, and I couldn't get enough of that.
I wanted to be around him as much as I possibly could.
Then my father, seeing him do everything that he needed to do, even if it meant taking it
into his own hands to get it done, and just me through osmosis absorbing all of this and
seeing these two men do very, very great things for our family.
And then in a turn of events, we lost everything.
It [00:05:00] was pretty devastating.
We went from having a decent sort of middle-class life to really having to lose our home and
end up living with my grandparents, and the burden that that put on them, and then I had
to sort of forgo school for a year to get out of that and go work.
Not that they forced me to do that; I just feel like, look, these guys have a load on
them, and what can I do to help?
So I went and got a job, and tried [00:05:30] to contribute the best that I could with my
paycheck to provide groceries and food.
I just probably didn't realize it then, but I was building this feeling that I need to
do as much as I possibly can so that we never have to go through this situation again, so
that as an adult, things will be different for me.
I was fighting, and I was fighting to try to make sure that I kept moving forward.
And I realized that if it was going to happen for me, [00:06:00] I probably was going to
have to make it happen.
That there was going to be no way that somebody's going to swoop in and just put it in my lap,
and that it was just all going to be there for me.
Tom: When did you start thinking that?
'Cause that's a pretty incredible moment of awakening that shuts most people down.
Gary: Right.
Tom: But it definitely didn't shut you down, so at what age do you start actually thinking
in that way?
Gary: Around that time that things started to fall apart with my parents' marriage.
Even in high school, there was this sort of guy [00:06:30] that was the it guy on the
team, and one other guy that his father had built the stadium, so he was going to play,
regardless of what happened and regardless of how good he was, so I started to learn
these lessons; that it's not always about how good you are or how talented you are.
You have to work 10 times as hard to cut through some of this.
And as I was going through this, I lost my grandparents.
Both of them, within a very short period of time.
So here I am, I think sort of being forged in the flames [00:07:00] to realize that you
really can depend on yourself.
You of course have to have many great people around you, but I knew that if it was going
to happen for me, I had to keep moving forward.
And maybe that was a stumble.
Maybe it was a crawl.
Maybe it was just barely trying to put one thing in front of the other during that time,
but I kept pushing forward.
I kept moving forward, and I think that's one of the lessons I still carry forward with
me to this day.
When I see things getting tough, or when I see things that seem insurmountable to other
people, [00:07:30] I know we just have to stay the course.
We have to stay focused, and we keep putting one foot in front of the other.
The key is to keep moving.
That's something that I think really was that turning point for me.
Tom: But there were people that had that same belief, but they didn't make it.
So what is it that people can cultivate, like right now, the kid that's listening to you
that for whatever reason, whether he's Native American or not, he's being told the same
Whatever you want to do, it's ridiculous.
What can they do to make sure they've got the fortitude to last through the whole [00:08:00]
Rez tour ... How do you build that in yourself?
Gary: Every experience that comes your way is a tool.
When we lost our home, and we had to go live with my grandparents, I understand that these
are just material things.
That that doesn't define you.
It doesn't make you.
So when you get these challenges, when you have these things that come up in your life,
continue to move forward.
Now, how do you get to that place where you come back and move forward, and that you [00:08:30]
become very intentional about it?
I just did one of our footnotes that's sort of a daily motivational inspirational thing
about baby steps.
Baby steps.
Become intentional about what it is that you're going to do.
Nobody in your family may have done that.
Nobody in your community, your city, your country may have done that.
But if that's what's been put here for you, take it in baby steps.
Begin to see how that you're going to move forward.
It's exactly what I did once I came and understood my purpose, and I understood what it is that
I was supposed to be doing.
I sat down and created [00:09:00] a plan as to how I was going to go about deploying that.
And I think that's what you really have to do, and take it in baby steps.
Don't try to do the whole thing at once.
Sit it down, look at it, break it down, rebuild it, put it back together, and then assign
timeframes to everything that you want to accomplish, and break it down in phases.
And then focus everything you have on that phase.
Tom: How do you do that, by the way?
I heard you say this in probably the footnote you're talking about, where you said, "Okay,
I start with where I'm trying to get.
This is my goal.
And then I work backwards to where I am today."
Gary: Right.
Tom: "And [00:09:30] I identify each of those baby steps that I have to take."
How do you do that process?
This is a question I get asked a lot, because I'm totally with you; that's exactly what
I do.
But I'm not sure how to explain that in between.
How do you get good at identifying the real, tangible steps?
Gary: We only know what we know right now about what we want to do, right?
There could be things out there that will be so much more awesome, but we just don't
know what we don't know.
Tom: Right.
Gary: And to the best of our ability, what we can say is, [00:10:00] here's where I am
right now.
I can put a weight point right there.
I can mark that.
And I know that I want to do X.
And this is that thing.
So if I'm going to step back, now what I've got to do is go to work.
I've got to study every single bit of that, and understand every iteration.
If it's to make an album, what are all the steps in making an album?
From content creation to music production to mastering to editing to recording the record,
what are all the [00:10:30] business aspects of things that go into that?
Who do I need to sing on all these 10 songs?
How many are going to have a chorus that somebody sings?
How many ... So I start to understand what I have to do, and what I'm going to need other
people to do.
And then I start to think, okay, well, what's the money going to be?
How much do I have to put from a money point of view into each phase?
Each phase has a capital raise that I have to ascertain all of these other things, but
what am I going to do to have to put into this to make it become a reality?
And so that's where I'm focused on.
Once I hone in on all of these things, yes, it's to [00:11:00] be on tour with somebody,
But first, I have to have a record.
I have to have an album.
Tom: And do you model after somebody?
If you're trying to do an album, do you find somebody that you can feta lot of information
from and then copy that as a starting point, or how do you do that process?
Gary: I think every successful person always looks at other successful people, especially
in their field or a field they're endeavoring to get into.
Why fix it if it's not broke?
You just have to find your piece of it that you bring [00:11:30] to make it you.
But if they're doing it and they're doing it incredibly well, sit back and look at it
and find all the ways that you can take that great model, fix it where you feel like it
needs to be fixed, make it you, and then can you add to it?
Can you put something on top of it?
And then you take that and really, that's when you start to really do the work and sit
down and study each piece of it, and then you assign the time frames.
I think the time frames, the timelines are the critical piece to it.
Because [00:12:00] that's where so many people go from just having a hobby or a dream, and
I'm sure many people understand that dreams are tough.
Because without a timeframe, a timeline, they may just stay dreams.
When you assign a timeframe and a plan of action to it, it can become a goal, and then
it can become attainable.
And I think that's what you have to do, and it makes it very present then.
You have your work cut out for you.
You know what you need to do, and [00:12:30] now it's just about doing it.
So you execute- Tom: Do you set really aggressive timelines,
or how do you decide your timeline?
Gary: Very aggressive.
Very aggressive.
I guess it would be that old adage, shoot for the stars and if you fail, at least you're
in the clouds, right?
Tom: Right.
Gary: I remember somebody telling me when we were choreographing some of my first songs,
just whatever you do, don't stop.
Because more than 99% assuredness, nobody's going to know it was a screw- [00:13:00] up
unless you stop.
If you keep moving, everybody's going to think that's just ... You know, own it.
If you were supposed to go right and you go left, then the minute that you realize, oh
my god, I just went left, what am I going to do?
Go to the crowd and start dancing to the crowd or ... They're never going to know that it
was a mess-up.
So yes, you have to improvise.
You have to adapt.
You have to overcome.
You have to be like water, the great Bruce Lee saying that you have to be able to [00:13:30]
conform yourself to those situations so that you ever don't do yourself a disservice by
not growing and not becoming better.
You have to be able to be malleable.
And I think that's the greatest thing about being shaped and having been to that place.
You know it may cause you to go through some growing pains, but that's awesome.
First when you go through that, you're just, oh my god, this hurts, I don't want to be
here, oh, it hurts.
And complain, complain, complain.
But if you start to look at it once you've got through it a couple times, you're like,
well, here we go.
This is probably [00:14:00] going to be pretty good.
Ow, but this is going to be awesome.
Ow, man, this really hurts.
So if it's really hurting, I know it's really going to be good on the other side of it.
And you just see yourself grow, and you grow, and you grow, and you grow.
And I think that's how you get from rapping to a small group of people and then speaking
to larger audiences, and testifying to Congress.
Tom: Wow.
Yeah, it is pretty unbelievable, the chasm that you've crossed.
In fact, walk us through a little bit of that.
Who are some of the performers that you modeled yourself after, [00:14:30] you feel like you've
learned a lot from, and what have you learned?
Gary: I would be remiss if I don't first go right to Michael Jackson.
He's the man, and he was a master.
There will be never another Michael Jackson.
He just was all it.
When you get into hip-hop, so many folks influence me, from very early on.
[00:15:00] And then I remember all the way forward into folks that really started taking
it into the mainstream; folks that were really ridiculed.
That were berated for their commercial success.
MC Hammer- Tom: Yes.
Gary: ... was just ostracized, because he got a British Knights shoe deal and he was
a sellout.
Now, you can't find a rapper that doesn't want a shoe deal.
Tom: Yeah, they're rushing to it.
Gary: No, and you can't find a record label that's not factored in a shoe deal, a clothing
deal, a movie deal, a commercial [00:15:30] deal, a Sprite deal, something deal to promote
a product or a brand, and it's just part of what it is.
So it's very accepted today.
But I also looked at the people that hung onto these people and milked them dry of all
their money, and coming from the hood or coming from your struggle, and everybody that ... And
I, to my degree, experienced some of that, too, so it helped me as I was watching other
people and again, modeling.
Some of the mistakes, some of the things that they did do, didn't do.
Getting into the problems with your money, in general.
[00:16:00] And so, long story short, just looking at the things that Public Enemy was
Things that- Tom: From a political activist standpoint?
'Cause your lyrics are very political.
Gary: Very much so.
Tom: In fact, people were calling you militant, if I'm not mistaken.
Gary: Early.
Tom: When you first came out.
Gary: Early.
Now they're just like, "Wow, that's so awesome."
And grandmas are like, "This is so awesome."
Like, man, I wish you would have said something when people were calling me militant and an
activist and all of this stuff.
I didn't feel like it was militant.
And I say that ... [00:16:30] My stuff was at least even with some of the concepts and
things that Public Enemy was talking about, or X Clan, or some of these old-school groups
that Professor X and all these guys and S1Ws and everybody that was down with Public Enemy.
So, you know, it was trying to really, with my music, give folks [00:17:00] some pride,
some understanding, to remove some of the oppression.
I think still to this day, we suffer from an intense amount of fear that I think is
just genetically, and through years of oppression, built into our community.
So people are very hesitant to do anything outside of the box, because every time we've
done that, we've felt the wrath and the power of the government.
It's very tough.
Again, you only know what you know, right?
So some of my lyrics were very, very cut to the point, and [00:17:30] get right to it.
Because at the same time I was writing these things, I was having grandmas crying.
I was out in their community, seeing how people were living.
Not just in my community, and not just the struggles that my family was having, but I
was everywhere, constantly, in the community for years and years and years.
Just from one reservation to the next reservation.
It would be nothing to be in three or four reservations within 10 days.
And we're doing this every year for years.
So you can't help but absorb the struggle of [00:18:00] everyone.
Tom: What does it mean to you ... You've got a really powerful saying, "We are the people
we've been waiting for."
Gary: Right.
Tom: What does that mean, what do you hope people do with that?
Gary: There's a prophecy that our ancestors will return one day, and so you kind of take
that at face value, and you sort of think, okay, what does that mean?
We're going to see a bunch of spirits rolling up?
They're all, "Oh, hey, I haven't seen you in forever."
I don't think it means that.
I think that [00:18:30] everything that has been done before us is a part of us, and so
it's equally as important that we do everything that we possibly can with our life for everything
that they did for us before we were even born.
And I think that makes it even more powerful when you think of ... We can't depend on other
That's been my through line, is I've never understood how you can be independently co-dependent.
You either can be independent and stand on your own two feet and know who you are and
[00:19:00] what you're here for, and in the tough times, when everything is pulling you
to do something that maybe just go with the flow, that's the moment you have to be the
And it may run in the opposite direction of the current that's asking you to jump in.
Tom: You talked about that with your dad.
You said, "One thing that I learned from my dad was never be afraid to stand alone."
Or maybe even be the lone wolf, I don't know, I might be painting that on it, but that was
the image that I had.
Gary: I think you could assign both of those things to him.
Tom: Yeah?
What [00:19:30] does that mean?
How have you manifest that in your own life?
You seem the absolute embodiment of that, right?
Being the first Native American rapper when everybody not only is just going to obviously
tell you that it can't be done, 'cause that's where people always start, but this is also
at a time where you would be the only person who isn't African-American being taken seriously,
with minor exceptions.
So how have you, in your life, been not afraid to stand alone?
[00:20:00] How has it served you?
Looking at you self-published your book, you created your own record label to sign yourself
... How has it worked for you, what are lessons that you hope people will take from that?
Gary: It can be a very lonely journey, so you absolutely have to know where you get
your strength.
I remember walking on the set of Indian in the Cupboard, has never had a acting class
in my life.
It started to dawn on me, and it becomes pretty big.
[00:20:30] You're like, I'm the Indian in the Indian in the Cupboard, and this is already
a classic book.
This is a huge production.
Frank Oz, Industrial Light and Magic, Paramount Pictures, Sony Studios, and I'm like, does
anybody know I don't know what the hell I'm doing, man?
And I went in the sound stage, and I was ... First day of filming.
And I found this quiet place over off of the set, and I just went down on one knee and
I just asked the [00:21:00] creator to give me everything that I needed to do what's in
front of me.
Not everybody's work ethic is the same.
So if you don't feel like you're up to that place right now, to run a marathon, how do
you start training for a marathon?
By running.
By running more, and running more.
Baby steps.
Take it as you can take it to grow, and to work those muscles, develop those muscles.
And if you're willing to go through the pains and the ebbs and the flows, and the new shoes
and the blisters and the whatever you've got to go through to get to that goal, you will
run that marathon.
[00:21:30] You speak about the people on the tour that couldn't make it through.
Here, we are very focused of all the people that we left to go on that journey with.
Only my wife, my son, myself, our documentary film director, and one person made it from
beginning to end.
There was literally a time where there was somebody complaining on the tour, and I'll
never forget this in my whole life.
[00:22:00] We were almost through I think probably midway, and this really big guy,
and he was hungry, right?
And we hadn't had a chance to really eat well that day, but we were on our way to it.
And he was complaining about not wanting to go anymore, because he wanted to eat now.
Tom: Right.
Gary: So my wife went over ... Now, you've got to imagine.
This is a F-550, really large Ford pickup truck, and a big, huge, long 48 foot trailer.
So [00:22:30] it's pretty big tandem.
And she walks over and she says, "Can I have your car keys?"
And he says, "For what?"
She's like, "Why don't you go get in and sit down and I'll drive?"
And he just shut up.
That was it.
He said, "All right, so ..." And he just turned around and went and got in, started the car,
and we were ready to go.
But I think you have to lead.
You have to be willing to lead.
If you're not, nobody will follow that.
And in the moments where it's [00:23:00] most stressful, if you don't know where you're
headed, if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing, nobody else will either.
And you have to be able to stay that course and be willing to do what you need to do.
There were times where the bus driver that we had ... We're thinking, okay, this is already
hard enough on everything else we got to do.
He didn't make it probably ... I would say he didn't make it 5,000, 3,000 miles of that
So I learned how to drive a tour bus.
Tom: Just to paint the picture for people, the reason [00:23:30] that people are dropping
off is because you're having to drive through the night, you're doing multiple shows in
one day.
There's just no rest for guys to do the 211 shows, meetings ...
Gary: Speeches.
Tom: In the single year, with as much driving as you guys have to do.
Gary: Right.
Tom: When you said that it was the equivalent of twice around the earth, you really get
a sense of how far you guys are going in such a short period of time.
It was really quite inhuman, frankly, [00:24:00] and what I loved is I heard you guys talking
in another interview where your wife said, "I wasn't trying to check the guy," when she
took his keys.
"I wasn't trying to check him or get in his face about it."
And the interviewer said, "Sometimes that's the best way to check somebody."
It's your point about leadership.
You lead by example.
It's not like you're trying to make some big statement.
It's just, well, in my world view, we are getting there.
It's not even an option to not go.
So once you take that off the table, we'll eat when we eat.
No judgment, right?
But I am going to take the [00:24:30] keys and I'm going to drive.
And that's one of the things that I find so fascinating about your story.
And one thing, reading your book, that really hit me was when you were talking about your
And she goes from the nice middle class existence to being the peer of everybody.
You guys lose everything.
She doesn't miss a beat, and she starts working as a maid for some of, essentially, her former
And she told you, "Never be afraid to start over."
Gary: Right.
Tom: I don't even know [00:25:00] your mom, and that hit me.
I can only imagine what you took from that.
How has that echoed through your life?
Gary: She led by example.
I really believe what they did in their lives.
My father, his work ethic, my mother's resiliency ... I'm the beneficiary of all those things.
I stand on their shoulders.
Therefore, I can't be anything less than that.
You talk about [00:25:30] the inhumane nature of this tour, this effort.
The situation out on the reservation is that crazy.
It's that unknown to people, how horrible the conditions are.
Here in America.
And how under the radar it is, almost for everybody.
The anomaly that it is for almost everybody.
How hard ... Maybe it's almost akin to standing on a [00:26:00]
island where you're the only inhabitant wanting to be rescued, or wanting somebody to come
down and provide some assistance, and you keep seeing ... It's an island next to an
You know?
Everybody sees you, must be.
But nobody's going to come down and do anything about it.
And yet, at the same time, you see all of this going out to all of these other countries,
and we're doing everything for everybody else.
Is it intentional?
This must be intentional.
People must intentionally not be looking down to see that, because it's right here.
So [00:26:30] the tour was an effort to draw over and above and beyond the attention, not
just from outside of Indian country, but for Indian country, again, leading through example.
I'm going to make this an example of if some folks ... I'm not a tribe.
I don't have all that funding, I don't have all of these things.
But if a couple, their family can go out and garner enough support to be able to execute
and deploy and logistically [00:27:00] do this whole effort, what is our bigger excuse
to not do this?
If a few people can make this happen, collectively, what could we do?
And it was to really say that as well.
And in order to say that, you had to be willing to do more.
You had to be willing to take a stand and make a difference almost on an epic scale,
just sometimes to get people's attention.
And I think that's really what it was about.
But going back, again, to do something like that, to have the [00:27:30] resiliency to
believe in yourself.
Going to see my mom at a home where she was cleaning a toilet, to know that when I was
going to school, she was cleaning those toilets to help pay the tuition for me to be able
to go, and a lot of the kids there's parents were doctors or ... Because she wanted me
to have a better education.
She wanted me to have a better chance.
And also, the things that I would have to [00:28:00] do every Saturday to go work at
this lady's house that helped pay the other part of my tuition.
I learned nothing's free.
Everything has a price, one way or the other, that you have to pay for it.
Understanding that early on, and coming to terms with that helped me, I think, navigate
my journey.
Tom: You talk a lot about self-belief.
How can people cultivate that?
Gary: [00:28:30] You know, it's interesting you say that because literally, one of the
issues that I think that we're dealing with more in Indian country right now than ever
before is knowing our value.
Knowing our worth.
If you don't love you, you can't love anybody else.
If you don't appreciate you, it's impossible to appreciate anybody.
If you don't respect yourself, it's impossible to respect somebody else.
And if you are absorbed [00:29:00] with that, really what it is is hatred of self.
And however you got there, through trauma or oppression or genetic historical trauma,
it becomes a situation that can be so devastating.
Not just in the lives of individuals, but in communities.
We have that trauma, absolutely.
One of the biggest challenges right [00:29:30] now for us to really stand up and come together
as a community, I believe, is the need for our people to realize their purpose and their
value, and to come to terms with who we are, and the beauty of our culture, and the beauty
of the life that we have.
That self-worth manifests and grows, and I think it's very contagious.
And that's one of the things that sometimes people say, "These are just words," or, "These
are just things that you're saying," and don't put a very high price [00:30:00] on motivation
or inspiration.
But if you don't have hope, if you don't believe that there's possibility for you, then you
do start to understand why we have the highest rates of suicide.
Why we have the highest high school dropout rates, the lowest college attendance ... I
think right now, we have less than 1,000 tribally enrolled attorneys.
Right now, in 2017, in the United States.
I think we have [00:30:30] less than 250 certified public accountants that are enrolled tribal
Look at the doctors.
The whole scope begins to be almost unattainable.
Tom: I know you and your wife have started talking about actually getting into filmmaking,
being on the other side to tell stories.
When I put that in conjunction with helping anybody, but Native Americans specifically,
see a sense of self-worth, get a picture of what's possible; one, why [00:31:00] do you
think that filmmaking will be effective, which is something my entire life is built around?
Gary: Right.
Tom: And then, two, what are the kinds of stories ... I know some of it is, we just
want them to see people playing normal roles.
A dad, regardless of that fact that he's a Native American.
Gary: Absolutely.
Tom: But what's that other thing?
You talk a lot about the warrior spirit.
Are there stories that you want to tell people that impart a certain life code that you want
people to internalize?
Gary: I think [00:31:30] sharing stories of course in our culture is how things were passed
down, how historical events were passed down, how we learned from each other.
My grandfather talking to me every day in the garden when I was working with him is
how I learned a lot about who I am today, and who he was, and who he is.
I think when we look at these mediums that are more accessible and more viable than they've
ever been before, with access to reaching people, we have to be out there telling our
We can't let other people tell [00:32:00] our story for us, and continue to not have
the ownership of who we are.
I think we just have to do that.
Again, hopefully that's leading my example, because we don't have all the access in the
world to doing these things, but I know that it's meaningful.
So at the end of the day, we start with is it meaningful?
Absolutely that's meaningful.
The power of our people seeing somebody on TV, on film, playing [00:32:30] a role that
is just a person.
That's just a story that they see that's there, the power of that can impact and change folks'
whole idea of what is possible.
Tom: You've got such a big mission in front of you, and it's really amazing, and you've
clearly got the willingness to put in all the hard work, but how do you think about
What do you teach your kids about failure?
Do you see it as a teaching mechanism, something to be afraid of?
How do you conceptualize of that in your life?
Gary: [00:33:00] Failures are our greatest teachers.
I don't think anybody that's ever endeavored to ever do anything didn't fail at some point
in some aspect of what they were trying to do.
We learn from it and we move forward.
Tom: How do you keep it so ... Your dad used to say that one of the things he'd gotten
good at and he wanted you to get good at was not letting the energy of a negative situation
or confrontation to carry you away.
[00:33:30] So how do people in that moment of failure, which is usually really embarrassing
... And when you're failing, all the talk in the world, if you're caught up in the energy,
it sucks so much.
People just want to turn and run in the opposite direction.
So how did you learn not to get caught up in that energy?
Gary: We're people, and we feel how people feel.
Meaning, it hurts when people say bad things about us.
It doesn't feel good [00:34:00] when people don't believe in you.
My dad always told me, "If something ever doesn't go the way that you planned and you
find yourself in that situation, don't panic.
The most important thing you can do is stay calm.
Stay present."
And I've always sort of likened ... I can't remember which ... I think it was a Vietnam
war film or some other film that I was watching one time, and this sergeant stood right up
in the middle of this battle, and bullets are hitting branches and knocking trees down,
you [00:34:30] can hear them zipping by.
And he stands up, and he says, "Hey, go over there.
Move up.
You, you need to watch right over there."
The presence amidst all the chaos and destruction and calamity was what saved all of their lives.
And I think that presence of mind, and that being able to be calm, that you've laid a
plan out, that you've done what you've done that got you to this point ... If [00:35:00]
something comes up that you didn't expect of that you didn't know was going to come,
your plan's not bad.
It got you to where you are.
Right now, you have to deal with what's in front of you.
That doesn't mean run away.
Doesn't mean stop and don't do anything.
It means deal with it.
Deal with what's in front of you.
Move through it, move around it, move over it, move under it, but keep moving forward.
Rectify the situation.
Regroup and go.
Tom: I've got a somewhat ridiculous way of practicing this, 'cause I'm such a huge believer
that you have to learn how to do that, because [00:35:30] I think naturally, you're saying
we're people, right?
Naturally, I think people just kick over into the sympathetic nervous system fight or flight,
they freeze, blood is literally leaving their prefrontal cortex, they're not able to process
Gary: Right.
Tom: So I started playing first-person shooter video games as a way to practice, 'cause on
the other end of that computer is a 14 year old who wants to say horrible things about
my mother.
Gary: Right.
Tom: And I've got to, in that moment, learn how to just literally [00:36:00] not get caught
up in the emotion.
Literally, not get caught up in the emotion.
Lower my heart rate, slow my breathing, find that calm in the center of that storm.
In that moment, you have to go the opposite way of what your body's telling you.
Gary: Right.
Tom: And you're learning to go the opposite way.
So whether it's everything's heightened, you're panicking ... Dude, I can't imagine testifying
before Congress.
I've worked pretty hard not to get pretty nervous.
That would freak me out.
So your body wants to amp up, right?
[00:36:30] And you've got to find a way to bring it back down.
Gary: Right.
Tom: So I'm looking at your son over there, and I'm thinking, what are you telling him
to do to practice that?
Is it, hey, life is going to present that, and in that moment, don't think of it as a
Or are there situations that you try to put him in where he can practice going the opposite
way of what his buddy wants?
How does he prepare now for what will happen tomorrow?
Gary: As you were talking, one of the things my mom [00:37:00] used to tell me also was,
"Run to the roar."
Tom: I love that.
Gary: "Run to the roar."
Tom: I love that that came from your mom.
That's something you'd expect from a father.
Gary: Yeah, no.
She was very ... She would sit me down and she would talk to me about this, and she would
say, "There's always going to be hard times.
You just have to have belief in that where you are is [00:37:30] where you're supposed
to be.
By moving forward, the strength of your faith will unleash the power of the creator in your
I've seen that happen so many different times.
I keep going back to it.
When you see that happen, when you see a man go out and talk to a storm and the storm goes
away, you can't un-see that.
You can't un-know that.
Tom: What's something about [00:38:00] entrepreneurship that you want to teach people?
'Cause, man, it's so clear hearing the way that you talk that there's so much entrepreneurial
thinking woven through the way that you see the world, the way that you approach things.
Gary: Absolutely.
Tom: What do you think people would benefit from learning or understanding about being
a real entrepreneur?
Gary: It's the most rewarding, hardest, [00:38:30] most beautiful, liberating journey you'll
ever go on.
I don't know of anything much more fulfilling than to see a possibility or an opportunity
when nobody else sees it, maybe, or see a piece of it that's already existent and say,
I could do that."
And then take that and breathe life into it through your hard work, your efforts, your
[00:39:00] passion.
And see it not only help you, but help other people.
There is nothing.
There is nothing I can think of that's more rewarding than that.
Every time somebody says to me, "When you came here on tour, I was thinking about killing
myself, and when I heard what you said, it changed my life."
Every bit of being day one, doing anything I was doing, that led me ultimately to impact
that person's life.
[00:39:30] Everything has been worth it.
The fact that there's kids in Germany that listen to my music and learn about Indian
people, everything has been worth it.
I guess that's the most beautiful thing, is that when you have the ability to do something
that maybe other people haven't ever identified as a tangible, and you can help people see
that, and then glean from it what it means to them, that's just the ultimate end result
for me.
Tom: What are a few tools [00:40:00] that you think will universally prepare people
to actually be an entrepreneur?
To not just talk about it, not just have the dream, like you're saying.
What are some tools that people need to cultivate?
Gary: Planning.
Planning, I think absolutely.
Your confidence.
Whatever you've got to do to really continue to build your confidence and continue to craft
the value that you bring to the table.
Tom: Where do you think confidence comes from?
Gary: I think confidence comes from [00:40:30] doing, trying, failing, correcting, and then
doing, trying, failing, correcting, doing, trying, failing ... Or, if it's not your own
journey, hopefully it's not, doing your work enough to look at what you're going to get
involved in or people around you and identifying where other people are having a hard time,
and correcting off of their mistakes.
You don't wish anybody bad and you don't want to see anybody fail, but if you can look at
that situation and say, "Wow, I know [00:41:00] that when I do X, I need to be prepared to
move right and take two steps forward.
Let me file that one."
So being aware.
Being aware of whatever it is that you're going to get into, or whatever is passionate
about you.
But I think that you really have to understand that if it's your dream, and that you're moving
forward to accomplish your dream, don't let anyone ever take that from you.
Don't let anyone kill your passion about what it is that you feel innately is what you're
supposed to do, what your journey is.
That's yours.
That's [00:41:30] almost been ordained to you, specifically, uniquely, that you may
be the one person that's able to move that forward.
Don't let anybody rob you of that.
And it's going to happen.
People are going to doubt you, people are going to ... As you had mentioned, there's
going to be people that just don't see it.
They just don't get it.
And it sucks.
It's hard to maintain that excitement.
I think the other thing right there in that window is absolutely [00:42:00] be about it
if you expect other people to be about it.
If you want people to be 100% excited, understand you got to be 150% excited about it.
Tom: Yeah.
Gary: Nobody is ever going to be more excited about what you're doing than you, so you better
be on fire about it.
If you walk in with your head down or you don't feel that this is something that you
really, at the core of your being, believe in; then you're not ready to walk in there
Don't go until you know it better than no one else.
That you know [00:42:30] it better than anybody else on this earth.
That's vital.
You have to know what you're doing.
You have to know every bit of it to the best of your ability, so that you can talk about
Because the minute they see you flinch, the minute that they see you not know or you start
to make it up as you go, I think that's where people start to lose confidence.
Who you are, what you're about, what you're talking about.
You have to be able to walk in and I think that all comes with knowing your service,
your product, what it is that you're doing, your story better than anybody [00:43:00]
else could ever tell it, and being on fire about it.
You don't have to ... If it's really your passion, it's really that, it's just going
to come out of you.
But a lot of people maybe have to work on that skill more than other people, right?
And I think that get in the mirror, get your wife, get your uncle, get anybody that'll
let you listen, that'll let you talk to them and listen, and maybe he'll tell you, "Hey,
look, I didn't really believe that too much."
"Where did you stop believing me?
What did I not communicate enough?"
[00:43:30] And just go through the iterations.
Do the work.
Practice whatever it is that you've got that you want to communicate to folks.
Communication, I think back about what my dad said, and I said that earlier, "Be able
to speak.
Be able to know what you're trying to say."
And if you can communicate to people, if you can speak and talk about your idea, that's
the key to it all.
You've got to be able to express, and I think there's so many things people will find as
they begin that journey [00:44:00] that they didn't even know they had.
But you got to take one step, and I think that's where people fail, is they don't start.
Tom: Wow.
That, I will agree with you on.
What would you say ... I love when people have kids, 'cause it really clarifies what
their beliefs are.
What would you say if your son came to you and said, "I just don't know how to start."
Gary: If my son came to me and said, "I don't know how to start," I would say to him, "Do
you really believe [00:44:30] in what it is that you're trying to start to do?"
Tom: Yes.
Gary: You got to start there; do you believe in it?
Do you know why you're doing it?
Does it have purpose and meaningfulness to you?
Because if he's saying he can't attach to it or he can't find the place to move forward,
to me, he hasn't found the thing yet.
I would encourage him to keep looking and searching for it.
Tom: Before I ask my last question, where can these guys find you online?
Gary: [00:45:00] They can find us online at litefoot,
And of course, all the social media, Facebook, Instagram.
My wife would kill me if I don't say Snapchat.
I do my best on Snapchat.
But yeah.
Twitter, everything.
So yeah.
YouTube, I'd be remiss if I didn't say YouTube, right?
Tom: Yes, true.
Tom: I've rocked many of your YouTube videos.
Gary: Yes, sir.
Tom: [00:45:30] So what's the impact that you want to have on the world?
Gary: The impact that I want to have on the world would be for people to understand that
their life is not a mistake.
That their life isn't just because.
That they've been put here for a reason, that we're all here for a purpose.
None of us were put here to do nothing.
And I would never want to see anybody come here for the window of time that we're here,
[00:46:00] which ultimately is very short no matter how long we live, and not find that.
Because really, for me, life is contained within that.
Living is contained within that.
And through that, I would want them to understand that we're here to live, not survive.
I think too many people survive every single day, and not enough of us live.
And I wouldn't want [00:46:30] anybody to come here and do an 80 year bid and just survive.
We should all spend every second that we possibly can living.
Tom: Thank you so much for being on the show.
That was amazing.
Gary: Thank you.
Thank you.
Tom: Guys, you want to talk about somebody that has definitely lived their life?
In however much time this man ends up getting, every bit of it has been used wisely.
This is a story, an incredible story, of hard work, perseverance.
[00:47:00] He once said, "If you're going to ask somebody to do 10 push-ups, you better
do 50."
And that, I think, really sums up what he's learned, the incredible way that he's drawn
from his family, the lessons that he's learned, from hardship.
Seeing his mother in failure, only thinking about moving forward and reinventing herself,
and whether people were judging her or judging him, her encouragement was always to never
let anybody else define you and what you're capable of, and a story that we didn't even
get to.
When he goes back, he used to be a bus boy, he meets another kid [00:47:30] who's busboying
and sees him being mistreated by other people.
He goes up to him, gives him a $100 tip, and tells the kid, "Don't ever let anybody else
define you and give you your worth.
That's something you have to define for yourself."
And that is something that goes through everything that he puts out, all the content that he
creates, whether it's the raps, which go listen to, they're amazing, especially if you grew
up when I grew up.
It is amazing to hear the lyrical prowess, to hear the things that he's talking about,
to hear somebody that was political long before many people, if [00:48:00] anybody, was being
It's really, really fascinating.
Hard work gets you an outcome.
This man's life is absolutely proof of that, and just to see how far he's gone, from rapping
about the reservation all the way to lobbying on Capitol Hill.
It is an absolutely breathtaking journey that I think you guys will learn a lot.
So, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe.
And until next time, my friends, be legendary.
Take care.
Thank you so much.
Gary: Thank you.
Tom: That was really impressive.
Gary: Thank you.
Tom: That was impressive.
Gary: Thank you.
Tom: Thank [00:48:30] you guys so much for watching, and if you haven't already, be sure
to subscribe.
And for exclusive content, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
All of that stuff helps us get even more amazing guests on the show and helps us continue to
build this community, which at the end of the day, is all we care about.
So thank you guys so much for being a part of the Impact Theory community.
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How to Get More Done | Gary Davis on Impact Theory

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Maygan published on July 21, 2019
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