SCOOTER BRAUN: The idea that we think we manifest everything I find to be kind of ridiculous at this point. I think that I play a role, but I also think I'm participating.
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JAY WILLIAMS, HOST:
Welcome to THE LIMITS. I'm Jay Williams. It's hard for me to really accept that statement we just heard because that guy who is on the fence about manifesting for himself, who says he's just a participant in the bigger picture, that is none other than Scooter Braun, or as I like to call him, Scott. Scooter, aka Scott, which is his real name - more on that in a second - is the manager behind superstars like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. Scooter famously spotted both of their talents early on and in his trademark style, relentlessly worked to make them household names. You see, Scooter has always been a visionary. He can spot a talent with X-ray-like precision, but that doesn't mean he's not misunderstood.
Depending on whom you ask, he's either an entrepreneurial success story of a party planner turned music mogul, or he's a ruthless money-minded businessman. And to that end, yes, we will talk about Taylor Swift in this conversation. But to me, this man is a lifelong friend, someone who's always known how to make things happen for himself, for me and for others. We met when we were just 16 years old. And while we might have different takes on what happened that day, we do know it was, as they say, the start of a beautiful relationship. We'll get into that story and more. Believe me, we got really honest on this one. Here's my conversation with the one, the only, Scooter Braun.
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WILLIAMS: When I tell the story, most of the time when we're having dinner, you typically cut me off because you're a way better storyteller than I am.
BRAUN: Well, it's also - to really explain why I probably cut you off in the past is that this story for me was a huge highlight in my young basketball career. For you at 17 years old, where you were ranked the No. 1 player in the country, it wasn't a highlight for you at all. You were not going through your basketball career at that point thinking, I'm playing against Scott Braun today. I'm so excited. But the story is simple. Your high school team had a team camp at Fordham University, my team as well. I was late to the camp that day, and my coach subbed me in quickly. And you were Jay Williams. You were Jason Williams, the No. 1 player in the country, point guard, built the way you're built now. You had a man's body when we were in high school. And I started to dribble up the court. And I saw you, this look in your eyes of, oh, he has no handle, and I'm about to rip him and have fun with this little white boy.
I came down, and I realized that you had made the mistake of underestimating me - not by a lot but enough. And I hit you with an in-and-out crossover and pulled it back, and you bit. And I winked at you and shot a three and hit it - first play I was in. And the place went crazy. I felt so good about myself because I crossed you and hit the three. And I made a very big mistake that day where I was living in an Instagram, TikTok world before Instagram and TikTok had arrived, so there was no documentation of this single moment that could have gone viral for me. And instead it was a time where the rest of the game actually mattered. And for the rest of the game - I'll never forget - you dribbled down the court, and you looked at me. And you said, you f***** up. I have never in my life asked for a coach to take me out of a game except for that game. You destroyed me the rest of the game. So the beginning of the story was a huge highlight for me. The rest of it, I try to shut out and I've been going to therapy for ever since.
WILLIAMS: And that started our beautiful friendship.
BRAUN: It did. And since then, since we were 17, we've remained friends.
WILLIAMS: It's funny just hearing you talk about the story about how we met because you made some mentions of some interesting words, underestimated - right? - which is I kind of feel like a theme for how people kind of saw you when you were younger. People always kind of, like, underestimated how you moved, who you could talk to, who you're around, what moves you were making. And also, like, this thing, like, about, like, you, you have this audacity, man, where if there's something you want, you go out and get it. And I'll never forget when you told me you're going to drop out of college. Can you just take us back to what went into you dropping out of school and how you were able to make this huge leap into the music industry?
BRAUN: I moved to Atlanta. My thought was I'll play D3 basketball at Emory University. I don't really think I had any intention of playing basketball for four years. I just wanted to get far away from home and kind of start something new. I started going by the name Scooter, which now, as an adult doing a lot of the self-work, I understand why I did that. But I was trying to create a new identity. I was trying to create something new that I felt was strong enough for the world that I was entering. So I created this kind of alter ego, and I became a very big college party promoter. I first sold fake IDs, which I think all our friends got from me. Then I became a - kind of a party promoter and never been to a club before I got to college. And then I got approached by this young rapper and his manager to help them out - that rapper was Ludacris - promoting, you know, their music at my parties. And then another guy, Shakir Stewart, rest in peace, kind of took me under his wing of, like - thought I had potential. And then the big break happened when I dropped out of school. Jermaine Dupri came to my parties. And he said, you have more potential than just these parties, and I want you to come work at So So Def. And because I was missing so much class flying around the country with Jermaine and writing these marketing plans, I got on academic probation. And I got brought in to meet with the dean, who thought, you know, what's going on? This kid had, you know, a 3.6 or 3.8, whatever I had, and now he's on academic probation. Is he on drugs? Is he this - they were meeting me to check things out. And I explained, no, I'm an entrepreneur. I want to build this company, and I'm working for this guy. And I want to do this. And he told me the story of Robert Woodruff, this story of this great entrepreneur. And I'm thinking, this guy gets me. He's going to help me. And at the end of the conversation, he looked at me, and he said, the chances of you being Robert Woodruff are 1 in a billion. And the better chance is that you finish school, get your degree, and you're going have the rest of your life to chase these dreams with an Emory degree. And I looked at him, and I said, I understand what I need to do now. And he said, great, we're going to get you back in class, get you focused. And I said, actually, I'm going to withdraw. I told myself I would never come back. And I told myself, there's no failing. You're going to do this. You're going to find a way. Do not give up no matter what. You're never going to come back here and be told that you're 1 in a billion.
WILLIAMS: Could you have done that if you didn't - never asked you this before, and there are so many similarities - right? - because you referred to me as Jason - as I still am Jason. But Jay helped me find a different gear. There was a different mindset associated with Jay than what Jason had, right? Like, Jay was my own core ego, was my bravado. It was my swag. Did Scooter help you get to that point of having the confidence or moxie to say, no, college isn't for me?
BRAUN: I think that I had Scooter because I didn't think Scott was strong enough. I think there's stuff that we all have in our childhood. I was a confident kid. I was a - you know, a kid people thought had everything going on, but I didn't trust myself. So I would have said, yes, I needed Scooter. But now doing the work years later, I realize that that little kid Scott created Scooter, that it was always me. It was always - the thing that I didn't think was strong enough was so strong it could create that character to protect me. And Scooter is definitely a part of who I am. But the truth is, the underlying character, that little boy that wasn't sure, that was a lie. I was always enough. And that character I created was always there only because Scott was there. So I actually don't believe that.
It's the same way when you were talking about I always made things happen, I used to believe that, too. I used to think I manifested everything. And I think there's a part in that. I think you've got to go after - you have that drive. But the universe has, you know, been going on for a lot longer than our 60 to 80 to 100 years we have on this planet. And the idea that we think we manifest everything I find to be kind of ridiculous at this point. I think that I play a role, but I also think I'm participating.
WILLIAMS: Well, there is something about the process of the way life works - right? - and if you're aware enough to learn from the steps that have happened throughout the journey. But I also do believe in, especially at a younger age, like, the ability to manifest or speak things into existence because I'm almost on the court, right? Like, I can't go out and score 30 if I don't tell myself or if I don't feel confident that I can actually go out and score 30. Like, Scott, I remember you having a purple Mercedes that you got off of eBay.
BRAUN: eBay - cash.
WILLIAMS: Right? And some of my friends would say, oh, look, man, he's kind of, like - he's fronting, or he's acting like something he's not. And I'm like, actually, I see it completely differently, during that time. I was like, he's speaking this world that he wants to be in, and he's...
BRAUN: I was faking it till I make it, too.
WILLIAMS: ...Building it. Exactly. You're building into it.
BRAUN: Yeah. I agree with you.
WILLIAMS: To an extent. There was a time and place, right? So like...
BRAUN: No, listen. But the only way I would put it is there's a really great book by Michael Singer called "The Surrender Experiment." And what he talks about is this idea that there are - part of life is this manifestation, that you have to participate, that you go for it. But don't be so disappointed if you don't get what you want because, yeah, part of manifesting is to show you what you're worthy of and everything else and what you can go get if you put your mind to it. But sometimes, when it's not given to you, it's actually - there's a reason for that, you know, because you and I did manifest so many different things that we thought were going to happen. And one happened after another, and it was all rolling until it wasn't. And then those wasn'ts (ph) were just as important as the was. And, you know, I don't want to go too many quotes. I'm going to butcher this one. But I think the gentleman who wrote "The Alchemist," he has this great line where he says, the key to happiness is loving the cards that you're dealt. And I think you and I both manifested a lot of things in our lives, but the things that weren't given to us taught us probably the more important lessons.
WILLIAMS: Agreed. I'll never forget - I don't know if you'll remember this. You showed me this video of this kid, like, around 2007, this little tiny kid in Canada that was doing his thing. You're like, I'm going to get this kid. And I'll never forget saying to myself, like, that's - man, you have a lot of time on your hands. Like, you're really on YouTube. And this is a kid, and you're telling me you're going to go out and get this kid. And this kid turns out to be Justin Bieber. I've always thought, Scott, that you have such a superpower in how to pinpoint talent - right? - and also to help incubate talent, bring - you know, help the talent evolve and grow. Take us through finding Justin Bieber and what that process was like and how you actually executed after being able to go get him.
BRAUN: It's almost like kind of like fallen in love. It's like when it happens, you feel, like, this sensation inside of you of like, OK, I know what this is. I saw clearly that he could be one of the biggest artists in the world and one of the biggest artists ever. I was just like, I know what to do. I know how to help him because he had this natural God-given talent, and we did something really special together, the whole team. And it was - it wasn't just introducing the music. I wanted people to hear this angelic voice from a child singing love songs like they heard Michael Jackson back in the day in The Jackson 5. Because when you hear an angelic voice singing love songs, it makes you believe in love before you got jaded. And we went on an incredible journey, you know, together for a very, very long time. And I'm very proud of what we've done together and what he's accomplished. And, you know, the similar thing - I saw Ariana Grande singing a cover of one of Justin's songs on YouTube, and I was like, how is this girl not blowing up? And why is she not being paid attention to by Nickelodeon, so much so they didn't even sign her when she was on one of their shows? Same thing, you know, seeing "Gangnam Style" and being like, I don't speak Korean, but I know this is a vibe, and I want to do this horse dance. There's just things that you hear, and you go, what is that?
WILLIAMS: Watching you work with JB - Justin Bieber, I refer to him as JB - I remember thinking like, man, you're kind of like - obviously, he has a dad. He has a mom. But you're that older person in his life that is helping him navigate and deal with that lifestyle, man, which we've had conversations about. I struggle with. You struggle with, to a degree, dealing with fame and attention - can't imagine for somebody his age doing that. Did you ever have a moment where you thought, maybe I'm not ready to be this type of leader?
BRAUN: You know, I've got three kids now, and I think I'd answer that question the same way I look at my children. I love them like family. I'll always be there. He picks up the phone. I'm going to be there for him the rest of his life. Same for a bunch of the people I work with. Ariana and I went through the Manchester attack together. You know, these things bring people together. But why I compared it to my own children - because these people aren't my children, but I would compare it to any friendship in general. You do the best you can with what you have. If you do it with integrity, if you treat people the right way, you're going to mess up. We're human. We're interacting with each other. Our traumas are hitting each other. We're being triggered by things that have nothing to do with even the person in front of you. But you do the best job you possibly can.
So could I have been equipped more? Yes. Could I have done things differently at times? Yes. Did I do the best job I possibly could? Yes. Did we have success? Yes. Did we falter at other times? Yes. Did we learn from those? Yes. My kids are going to grow up with a dad who loves them to death. I'm the assistant coach on two soccer teams right now, and I'm about to coach a basketball team. That one, I'm going head coach. And I'm about to start watching "Ted Lasso" just to really get in the mood. But what I'll say to you is, I'm going to do the best job I possibly could, the same way my parents did, and I'm still going to mess up.
WILLIAMS: Coming up after the break, Scooter shares how trying to do the best he could was tested in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy on tour with Ariana Grande. This is THE LIMITS from NPR. I'm Jay Williams. Stay with us.
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WILLIAMS: Welcome back to THE LIMITS. My guest today is Scooter Braun. His achievements are unparalleled. His amazing success comes from his drive and skill of identifying budding talent. But as a music manager, he didn't necessarily expect the difficulties, even trauma, that world would come with. He shares how he dealt with the tragic Manchester attack in 2017 at his client Ariana Grande's concert, where 22 people were killed from a suicide bomber.
What kind of responsibility do you feel like you have to manage the trauma for your artists when they go through something that devastating?
BRAUN: I feel like it's the responsibility of being there for someone. I don't look at it as like, oh, my God, I got to be here for my client. In that moment, I had to be there for my friend. And we had to stand next to each other, and I had to be support. And in turn, she was also support for me. After it happened, we all met up in Florida to kind of figure it out. And at first, it was cancel the tour. And I was adamant. I want to go back, and I just wanted to strike back at the terrorists. You know, I wanted to show them the strength.
And it was very unfair of me to ask Ariana to do that. She had just met some of these people in her meet and greet, you know, and she knew them. And these were kids and parents, and people were still in the hospital. It was just - I was just angry. And couple of days later - I'll never forget it - she texted me, hey, I've been thinking about it. I want to do that idea you had. I want to go back. I want to help them. I want to be who I am.
WILLIAMS: So brave, man.
BRAUN: And - incredibly brave. She will always be a hero to me for that. And all the artists who showed up - Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Take That, Pharrell, the Black Eyed Peas - so many people - Miley - all these people showed up to support - Marcus Mumford. The list goes on. But when you say, like, what is the responsibility, you - that's your family, your friends. You step up, and you try to do the right thing 'cause you're not suffering nearly as much as these parents are, as these children are who lost their brothers and their sisters and their moms and their dads. And, you know, these are young kids and young parents. And I remember we met with the families two days before we did the show privately, one by one. And Ariana - that's a lot to ask. And she stood in it, and she's like, be here with me. And at first, she was crying. And it was very difficult. And about the sixth family came in - I haven't talked about this in a while - was a father my age, and he'd lost his kid and his wife, and he had two more children. And seeing him - I was being strong for Ariana, but when I saw a father my age in that position, I broke down, lost it, had to leave the room, and she became my support system. So when you talk about it's a responsibility, I think it's just humanity. You can do a lot of things in your career. You can have a lot of wins. You get everything else. I don't think money gets you anything other than an avenue to freedom. It gives you more opportunity when you're successful to do things that you want to do that make you happy and make others happy.
WILLIAMS: Outside of your clients, Scott, what do you think has been the most challenging moment of your career thus far?
BRAUN: Yeah, I don't want to go into it because I don't want it becoming, like, a headline. You know, look, I think the most challenging thing of my career is when you get to a certain - there's a great line in the "Batman" movie where he says, if you - I think he says something like, if you do it well long enough, even you become the villain. I think sometimes when you're doing it at a large scale for a long time, people want to create a story of who you are without knowing you. And I think that was really tough for me for a while because I don't think I had enough self-love at the time. I was too dependent, which actually probably made me great at my job. I was too dependent on the validation of others. I worked my butt off because I so desperately needed other people to see how hard I worked and to give me that validation that I was good at what I did.
And it wasn't until certain things happened in my life that I was forced to really look inward and realize that I was enough, you know? Like, it's not it's not an ego thing to look at yourself and say, I'm enough, you know? But I don't need that outside validation anymore. And it maybe happened because I wasn't getting the validation I wanted. It was all these different things. And I was like, I got to choose to love me before I can ask anyone else. And I've been hearing that my whole life. We all have. You got to love yourself before you can love someone else. And at the time I was like, oh, I love myself, but I loved what I created for myself. I didn't love my essence.
WILLIAMS: I've dealt with this some, Scooter, but I'm curious, how do you let go of other people's perceptions of you?
BRAUN: Ten years ago, I think I didn't know how to be present. I think that - you know, my family has Holocaust trauma. My grandmother was in Auschwitz. My grandfather was in Dachau. I grew up with these stories that tomorrow, someone's going to come and take it all the way, from the day I was born, and these stories of never again, it's on you, be strong, you know, don't allow this to happen again. So I was almost raised with this idea that they're coming, and I have to be prepared, you know? So kind of like when Manchester happened, that's why I was like, let's go. It was like, I've been preparing for something bad to happen and how I would react. And that's great when something really bad happens, but it's not great when people in your life are asking you to be present with them right now and nothing bad is happening. And 10 years ago, I was so focused on building for tomorrow to avoid something happening tomorrow that I wasn't paying attention to how beautiful my life was in that moment. I was always in the next day.
And the thing I'm most grateful for is my world getting broken. Because if my world hadn't changed or gotten broken in certain ways, I would have never slowed down. And I would have been asleep at the wheel building something for tomorrow and not experiencing the beauty of the present. And now I feel like I'm constantly doing the work. We do the work the rest of our lives. But I'm in a place where I can be present to people and start enjoying life in a way that I didn't before. And I think the beneficiaries of that change in me the most other than myself is my children. You know, it's - I was a good dad before, but I deep down knew something was missing. And I was a really good dad. I'd be home every night. The relationship I have with my kids now is the relationship I always wanted to have.
WILLIAMS: Is that because you have a relationship with yourself?
BRAUN: I believe so, yeah. I think slowing down and doing the work on myself and getting in touch with myself and understanding more about myself made me more present, made me stop being so afraid of tomorrow, healed a lot of stuff and allowed me to be here with them right now because they don't have my trauma unless I give it to them.
WILLIAMS: You know, I think one of the things I'm dealing with in - with my growing family, two kids with a third on the way due in three weeks - pray for me on that one - is now my daughter, my oldest, Amelia, starts to hear things from, like, other people or kids at school. It's like this whole new level that I didn't really even think about. It's like, well, your dad did this on TV or your dad said this about this. And she's like, well, Daddy, did you say that? Daddy, did you do this? And I don't want you to go into details about it because you already kind of alluded to it, but I'm curious about what you learned from it. And I just got to state it. So I know in 2019 when you bought the rights to Taylor Swift's masters, it turned into a really big thing, right? But I'm just curious, if you can go back in time, Scott, would you have done it differently? Would you have handled it differently?
BRAUN: Yes, I would have. I learned an important lesson from that. So when I ended up selling our company recently to HYBE, which now is the company I'm a part of, which has BTS and chairman Bang, I told myself this time around, everyone is going to participate. Everyone's going to know. And obviously, I was under NDAs then, too. So when I did that deal that you're referring to with Big Machine, I was under a very strict NDA with the gentleman who owned it, and I couldn't tell any artist. I wasn't allowed to. I wasn't legally allowed to. What I told him was, hey, if any of the artists want to come back and buy into this, you have to let me know. And he shared a letter with me that's out there publicly that - you know, the artist you're referring to said, I don't want to participate in my masters. I've decided to, you know, not make this deal, blah, blah, blah. So that was the idea I was under. I was excited to work with every artist on the label. So when we finalized the deal, I started making phone calls to say, hey, I'm a part of this. And before I could even do that - I made four phone calls; I started to do those phone calls - all hell broke loose. So I think a lot of things got lost in translation. I think that when you have a conflict with someone, it's very hard to resolve it if you're not willing to have a conversation. So the regret I have there is that I made the assumption that everyone, once the deal was done, was going to have a conversation with me, see my intent, see my character and say, great, let's be in business together. And I made that assumption with people that I didn't know.
BRAUN: And I learned an important lesson from that, that I can never make that assumption again. I can't put myself in a place of, you know, arrogance to think that someone would just be willing to have a conversation and be excited to work with me. I don't know these people. So when I did the deal with HYBE, I took 50 million of my own stock that I received, and I gave it to my employees and my artists. And it - I didn't think it was going to become public, but it was a publicly traded company, so I can talk about it now 'cause it was very much out there. And I made sure that everyone participated significantly. And even employees that were no longer employees - you know Kenny.
BRAUN: I called up Kenny, and he is a shareholder. I called up Tommy Brown, who had produced stuff with me with Arianna, and he's a shareholder. I called up Poo Bear, who had made stuff with Justin and I, and, you know, he's a shareholder. Justin and Ariana and Demi and J. Balvin and all these people, and they all became shareholders alongside all our, you know, major, long-term employees and former employees. And everyone felt good, you know, and they could sell the stock if they want to. It's worth real money. But I wanted them to feel good about it 'cause I learned that lesson. And I think in any conflict, you can say, I didn't do anything. It's their fault. And you could be right. You could be justified. And you could say, this is unfair, I'm being treated unfairly, or you can say, OK, I'm being treated unfairly. I don't like how this is feeling. I can't fix this, so how am I going to look at it and learn from it? And I didn't appreciate how that all went down. I thought it was unfair. But I also understand, from the other side, they probably felt it was unfair, too.
BRAUN: So I choose to look at it as a learning lesson, a growing lesson, and I wish everyone involved well. And I'm rooting for everyone to win because I don't believe in rooting for people to lose.
WILLIAMS: And I've always known that to be your true intent. It is fascinating when these conundrums come up where - there's always three sides to every story - right? - like, your side, their side, then God's side, that's the old saying. But it's funny - when social media gets involved and then, like, you know, avid fan bases, like, it doesn't matter what context is anymore - right? - doesn't matter what details are, according to people. It's all crazy things and one person online saying the devil works hard, but Scooter Braun works harder. Like, that's crazy to me.
BRAUN: Yeah, but you - listen.
WILLIAMS: But, like, how do you even respond to something like that?
BRAUN: You don't because I don't know that person. And for them to write about me and they don't know me, it takes a certain amount of, you know, effort. And I'm - that's - I'm not going to put my energy towards that. What I'm going to do is I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to move on. And, you know, the thing I need to worry about is, like you talked about with your daughter, I just got to worry about how my children are perceiving this stuff and make sure that they have enough self-worth and they know their father enough that they know what is true and what isn't true. And that's my focus. Beyond that, I'm moving on with my life to do the best things I can possibly do and treat people well. And if people don't want to believe that, great. I think one of the proudest things for me is that when all that went down, the people that knew me said, that is not true. And I didn't even have to say it for myself.
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WILLIAMS: I got to say, I'm proud of Scott, too. The growth I've seen in him over the last several years has been remarkable. After the break, he gives me a piece of advice I won't forget for a long time - about my birthday, no less. This is THE LIMITS from NPR. Stay with us.
Welcome back to THE LIMITS. Scooter Braun and I have had each other's backs for close to three decades. And that means he always hits me with the realest advice when I need it the most. And he always keeps me in check. You see, turning 41, I started going through almost a midlife crisis, and I started to complain about my 41st birthday party. But listen to his take on what went down. Let's get into it.
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WILLIAMS: Your journey, man, therapeutically, over the last couple of years has really been transformative. And it's been an honor to be your brother and hear you in your growth through your own personal self-exploration, right? You know, for me, like, turning 40 years old, you know, there was a moment like, oh, OK, like, 40 now. All right, my body doesn't work as much anymore. I got two kids. I got 529s. I got a lot of bills. I have a mother who has been on the verge of passing away multiple times. I have - things - a lot of responsibility, a heaviness, right? And I turned 41 on September 10, and my daughter, my third child, is being born on October 13, which is Amelia's birthday, October 10, around the same time. So we decided to do Millie's birthday party and my birthday party together. And I'm sitting here, I'm like, I'm 41 years old. There is daughter's theme party, "Paw Patrol," and I have 30 little kids running around and don't really have a lot of my friends around. I have guys from the neighborhood I don't really know. And I'm like, holy shit - like, going through a little bit of a midlife crisis here early in the game, right? And also, like, my wife having two kids in the span of two years, there's been a lot of stuff that's going on. I know publicly, man, like, you're dealing with going through your divorce. But I do want to ask you, Scott, first off, like, how are you? And then secondly, like, where are you with who you're turning into as a father?
BRAUN: You went there.
WILLIAMS: As a father?
BRAUN: I'm really good. And I think I'm really good because the last 2 1/2 years have been the hardest 2 1/2 years of my life, yet the most rewarding. You know, I think sometimes you got to be broken open so there's a hole for something to get inside. You know, that's how we get filled up. And I think, you know, people listen to this stuff, you know, to hear people's stories, but they're also looking for something for themselves.
BRAUN: And I always heard this thing, like, boundaries are to protect you. And that's a hard thing for me to understand. And I was like, why do I need boundaries? I don't need protecting. I'm tough. You know, that hit the ego on that one. And I wanted to be strong. And then someone said something different to me. They said, well, boundaries aren't to protect you. Boundaries are to help you educate others on how you want to be treated. You know, and I think that's why I'm in a good place 'cause I'm understanding that I can treat people with kindness and respect, but I can also have boundaries. And I can protect myself, and I can say - I can ask for what I need. And, you know, when you tell me that story, what I'd say to you is, you're a great dad. I'm a great dad. I would choose my kids over me all day long. But you also can pick up the phone and call your friends and say, I need a 41st.
BRAUN: You know, I don't know these guys in the neighborhood. And I think as men, we always want to be so strong, but we don't ask for what we need sometimes.
WILLIAMS: Why is that?
BRAUN: My experience is people want to be heard. You know, they want to be heard before they're told. And as boys, we're told, be strong, be strong, be strong.
WILLIAMS: Keep your head down. Work through it.
BRAUN: Yeah. Get up. Be tough.
WILLIAMS: Don't whine...
BRAUN: And by the way...
WILLIAMS: ...Which means don't articulate your feelings.
BRAUN: Correct. And part of that is important - it is - because you've got to be tough in this world. This world is not going to be kind to you, you know? But at the same time, you can ask for what you need from the people that you love. And they're supposed to be there for you. You know, like, I'm hearing about it on NPR right now that my friend had a midlife crisis during his birthday. You didn't call me.
WILLIAMS: Ah, yeah.
BRAUN: So now what I'm saying to you is I hear you, and we're going to give you a 41st. You deserve to have your friends on your birthday and have your moment. But you've got to tell people that's what you're looking for. You can't expect people to show up for you and then be like, I'm having a midlife crisis. How did this happen? No one's showing up for me when no one knows, you know? And I think that's one of the problems. We don't create boundaries with people to educate them on what we need. And we also don't ask people for what we need. And I think every experience for why we get to that point is different in each of our childhoods and each of our lives and the things that are going on.
But I think one of the funniest things about my life that I've realized - and I see it in you, and I see in a lot of our friends - we say that these people love us unconditionally, that these are my friends, these are my boys, these are the women in my life, these are the people that are going to be there for me no matter what. That's my crew. And they say, who are your best friends? You name these people. Yet, those exact people are who you're afraid of being vulnerable in front of because you want to be strong. You want them to see the best of you. And I don't love you because you were Jay on the court. I didn't - I don't love you because you're good all the time. I love you 'cause of who you are. And who you are could be messy at times. I love that, too.
WILLIAMS: And I appreciate you saying that, man. I think this is one I've wanted to ask you for a very long time 'cause you and I have - we've shared a lot of, like, intimate moments, like, as it relates to, like, us being vulnerable with our feelings, and our lives have been very different, Scott, you know? You were with me earlier in my career where I achieved all that success and that, quote-unquote, "fame" - right? - and watching how that kind of went a different direction. I've been with you from the beginning, watching your climb, watching you navigate, deal with different challenges. When you dig deep into it, like, today, when you look back on all the things you have accomplished, is there a thing that stands out to you where you're like, that is a defining moment in my life and which opened the door?
BRAUN: Yeah. So the assumption would be I'm going to say discovering Justin Bieber or selling the company or, like, some moment where people would say, oh, that's what made him. The breaking down of my marriage was the thing that got me here. It was the moment that I couldn't fix something. You know, I'd always been fixing everything my whole life - achieving things, fixing things, winning. When I couldn't fix something, I had no choice but to fix myself. And I'm still in that process.
WILLIAMS: You know, I heard on the podcast from Deepak Chopra one time where he talked about ego stands for edging God out. And I've known ego to be something - for us both, there's been a process with ego, right? How do you manage ego?
BRAUN: I was - you know, I actually went out to Sedona to study breath work and meditation.
WILLIAMS: You told me about this.
BRAUN: Yeah. I did, like, a week - one of my weeks were no phone, no email. And I went out to Sedona and worked with some amazing teachers out there. And after one session, I was like, I got to kill the ego. And I went to the next session with this really great teacher. And he looked at me. And he goes, egos are essential. It's part of who we are. It's one of the greatest things that protect us, that teach us. He says, you don't have to kill ego. You just need to clean it. You need to understand that you need to forgive yourself for certain things. You got to give yourself grace. You got to understand that part of you. And that's my relationship with it.
WILLIAMS: Take me back businesswise for a second, because you've been fortunate to be around a lot of high-level, interesting, fascinating people, right? Has there been anybody that has kind of, maybe, course-corrected you from, like, a...
WILLIAMS: ...Mentor perspective, where you're like, I needed that quick pivot?
BRAUN: Yeah, I've had a lot of that. And sometimes it's just, you know, the big, famous businessperson. And sometimes it's a friend. You know, you've course-corrected me, you know? I've been, course-corrected by an intern who gave me a piece of advice. They didn't realize. Three years later, I remembered. Another one, someone who I read a book about when I was 19 - it made me want to do what I do now - became a mentor of mine at 30, and someone I'm very close with, is David Geffen.
And there was a time - I've never actually talked about this publicly. There was a time where David and I were together. And a very, very prominent businessman that I will not name happened to be at the same lunch that David was throwing. And he said, where are you staying? And I said, well, I'm staying here. And he goes, what do you mean here? I said, I'm staying here. I'm a guest. And he said - he kind of looked at me like, who are you, you know? And, like, who is this young kid in this baseball hat? Like, who is he? And my ego kicked in. And my insecurity kicked in. And this guy's girlfriend knew who I was. And she was like, oh, he does this. And I started to kind of say who I was to prove to this very prominent businessman that I deserve to be at that table.
And when lunch was done, one of my friends who was there was like, that was messed up of him. Like - but David said, hey, can I talk to you? And he pulled me aside. And he said, you never need to do that again. He doesn't need to know who you are. Let him find out from someone else, not you. Never let your insecurity force you to prove something to anyone you have nothing to prove. And he course-corrected me. He saw my insecurity. He saw it react. And he knew I was better than that. And I truly, truly appreciated it because he was right. I think the hardest part - one, you should have people who course-correct you. But, two, give yourself the grace. You're allowed to be course-corrected. You're going to stumble. You're going to mess up. You're human. Don't be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Like, chalk it up to learning.
WILLIAMS: You're in a really incredible place, man. What's next for you, Scott?
BRAUN: Look; businesswise, I have a lot of stuff going on. It's all great. Our company is doing really well. I'm part of an amazing fund called TQ. But the way I really answer that question is, for the first time in my life, I'm here - probably since I was 6. I'm here. So when you...
WILLIAMS: What does that mean?
BRAUN: It means that I'm not so concerned about what's going to happen tomorrow. I want to see what happens today, you know? I'm being present to the moment. I'm being strategic because that's the way my brain works. But I don't know what the next 10 years hold. And instead of trying to force myself to figure it out to protect myself, for the first time in my life, I'm excited to see what comes.
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WILLIAMS: That was none other than my brother, Scott Braun. You can call him Scooter, but I will always call him Scott. I loved having him on my show. We're back next week with new episodes. Until then, remember, stay positive. And let's keep it moving.
THE LIMITS is produced by Diba Mohtasham, Devan Schwartz, Mano Sundaresan and Leena Sanzgiri. Video production by Kaz Fantone, Langston Sessoms, Christina Shaman, Iman Young and Nick Michael. Our executive producers are Karen Kinney, Veralyn Williams and Yolanda Sangweni. Our senior VP of programming and audience development is Anya Grundmann. Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Special thanks to Christina Hardy, Rhudy Correa and Charla Riggi.
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