Steve Madden (@stevenmadden) is a fashion designer and businessman, and author of The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever.
What We Discuss with Steve Madden:
- How growing up as a half-Jewish, half-Irish outsider gave Steve a unique perspective and mindset that dispensed with establishment formalities.
- Why it’s not failure that defines someone’s character, but how someone responds to coming up short.
- In hindsight, Steve weighs the pros and cons of living by the “better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission” credo.
- Why knowing what you don’t know can be what Steve considers “a very big gift.”
- Why it wasn’t designs or talent that made Steve’s company successful; it was the cultivation of an unstoppable work ethic.
- And much more…
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We all make mistakes. But as Steve Madden, fashion designer and author of The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever was more than a little relieved to discover, it’s not failure that defines who we are; it’s how we respond to life’s lowest points that reveals our true character.
On this episode, we talk to Steve about how growing up as a half-Jewish, half-Irish outsider gave him a unique way of seeing the world and creatively rolling with its uncertainties, the entrepreneurial superpowers of ADHD, how inspiration strikes, the Yiddish word explaining why he would never give his own employees the Undercover Boss treatment, how he got wrapped up in Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort’s web of deceit, the chief lesson that two and a half years in prison taught him, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the show we did with legendary funnyman Howie Mandel? Catch up by listening to episode 210: Howie Mandel | A Conversation About Mental Health, Talent, and Perseverance here!
THANKS, STEVE MADDEN!
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Resources from This Episode:
- The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden
- Steve Madden | Website
- Steve Madden | Twitter
- Five Towns | Wikipedia
- The Myth of Voter Fraud | Brennan Center for Justice
- Fight of the Century: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 1 | Newsday
- Positives of ADHD: 12 Amazing Superpowers | Additude
- Cameron Herold | Making the Most of Your Bipolar Superpowers | Jordan Harbinger
- To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well | HBR
- Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
- Business Lessons Learned from Sir Paul McCartney | Forbes
- Undercover Boss | CBS
- Rachmones | Jewish English Lexicon
- Sam Walton Got Arrested | Quinn Nolan, Medium
- The Department Store Museum: Marshall Field & Company, Chicago | The Department Store Museum
- The Wolf Of Wall Street | Prime Video
- Behind the Wolf of Wall Street Fraud with Steve Madden | Advisor Perspectives
- How to Overcome FOMO: Fear of Missing Out | Time
- The Rolling Stone Interview: Walter Yetnikoff | Rolling Stone
- Charles Koppelman | Long Island Music Hall of Fame
- Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo | Instagram
- The True Cost of Bobby Shmurda’s Rise, Fall, and Coming Return | NPR
- Shallow Hal | Prime Video
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
- Marc Jacobs | Twitter
- John Lennon on Copying Others’ Music: It’s Not a Rip Off, It’s a Love In | Techdirt
- What I Learned Spending the Day in a Maximum-Security Prison | Jordan Harbinger
Transcript for Steve Madden | How a Cobbler Disrupted an Industry (Episode 459)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Steve Madden: It is so true. I used to just freak out when I saw somebody wearing my shoes, but now everybody wears my shoes. So seeing a great shoe is like hearing a great song when you're alone in your car, on the radio, that tingle feeling you get when you're alone in your car and you hear that great song and you're just driving. That's what it's like for me. I might've said that. I said a lot of things.
[00:00:33] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional national security advisor, former cult member, mafia enforcer. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:02] Today, Steve Madden. Yes, the shoe guy, the story you didn't know was that the company was originally started, of course, as a labor of love, as many companies are, but was funded and went public as part of a literal scam, despite Steve's tremendous work ethic and talent and smart. He was addicted to drugs. He was addicted to money. All his brothers were addicts, substance abusers. He later went to prison for working with Jordan Belfort, aka the Wolf of Wall Street. Of course, we know Steve Madden as the shoes that can be found in every woman's closet, all across North America. I'm glad to call the guy a friend. He's a living example that talent is nothing without the hustle and grind. Both of which he has in spades. It wasn't design or talent that made Steve Madden's successful company. It was indeed the work ethic and there are a lot of lessons and a few great stories in this episode here.
[00:01:52] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, these thinkers, these amazing founders, every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on our show already subscribed to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, here's Steve Madden.
[00:02:15] Having listened to the book, I had a feeling that you were a little bit more gregarious than slightly above average on the gregarious scale.
[00:02:23] Steve Madden: I don't know what I am anymore. I'm not sure on the same guy during COVID.
[00:02:30] Jordan Harbinger: Well, that's a really good starting point. Let me tell you, because your book starts with you being half Jewish and—
[00:02:36] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:02:37] Jordan Harbinger: I don't even know if you said the other half, but anyway, it doesn't matter like—
[00:02:39] Steve Madden: Yeah, Irish Catholic.
[00:02:41] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds right. I mean like you look the part.
[00:02:43] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:02:43] Jordan Harbinger: So you never really fit in according to yourself. You never really fit the mold anyway. I don't know if he didn't fit in, but you didn't fit the mold.
[00:02:50] Steve Madden: I didn't fit the mold and it was a Jewish neighborhood, very Jewish neighborhood. It's called the Five Towns. It's very famous suburb in the '60s and '70s. It was the prototypical Jewish suburb in America. So the few Irish that were in the neighborhood — there was a section of town where the Irish and Italian lived and they were like firemen and cops, blue-collar guys. So the notion that someone that was Irish could be with these Jewish guys and sticky and literate and whatever, you know, was a shock to the Jewish guys. And then of course, the Irish guys that I knew didn't want any part of me. I actually enjoyed it. I have to say being a little different.
[00:03:44] Jordan Harbinger: I wonder if that's where you get your — I mean, you write in the book, "It's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission." I know neither you or I made that up, but I'm figuring, growing up as an outsider is a great way to develop that mindset, right? Because you grow up going well, if I don't fit in here and I don't fit in there, I'm just going to do whatever I want. And people get mad at me then I'll just fix it later.
[00:04:05] Steve Madden: Yeah, I'm not sure I had that sort of long-range planning.
[00:04:09] Jordan Harbinger: Of course, he didn't have the planning, but it develops like sort of intuitively, right?
[00:04:14] Steve Madden: Yes, it does.
[00:04:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The crap you put in the book you think of afterwards and you go, "Ah, yeah, that sounds good. I'm going to write that down. That's what I was doing the whole time."
[00:04:21] Steve Madden: Yeah, good one. I actually learned that later in life and unfortunately that is a truism. It is slick little saying. It is actually true.
[00:04:31] Jordan Harbinger: Why do you think it's unfortunate? I feel like that's — I mean, do you think it's a big deal that you have to be that way?
[00:04:36] Steve Madden: You know many rules that are so important to us when pushed, you could break those rules and then nothing happens and you know, your life is better or enriched or whatever happens. And you think to yourself, "Gee, why don't I do that more?"
[00:04:56] Jordan Harbinger: What are the limits of that? Because you yourself — and we'll get to this later on and in the notes here because I've read the whole book cover to cover. I really enjoyed it. I didn't think I'd like a book about a guy who started a shoe store, which is what it initially seemed to me. And now, I'm like this guy — it's a good brand. You know, it's a good story. You're a good storyteller.
[00:05:12] Steve Madden: Thank you.
[00:05:13] Jordan Harbinger: So where do we run up against the limits of that? Like 20/20 hindsight, what's the limit of better to ask for forgiveness than permission?
[00:05:20] Steve Madden: You're asking me some deep questions. I'll say that I wish I wasn't such a rule breaker and I'm not proud of a lot of things that I did. And we were getting into some things, but I mean, look, what's going on right now. Lots of millions of people that believe that the election was rigged. Muhammad Ali did that in the first Joe Frazier fight. You know, like he said, I really won the fight. This was before you were born, Jordan, but it was a big deal. Ali-Frazier one was a big deal.
[00:05:50] You know, I think it's unhealthy. I worry about my children. I want to say to my children losing. Does that mean you're a loser? It means you had a contest and you came up short, but you gave it your all, you left it all on the field. And you look your opponent in the eye and you say, "Good game." How you come back from something is what makes you a man and makes you a winner because there is nobody that doesn't go through life with some upsets, you know, no one.
[00:06:23] So I want to say to my young boy that I have and love, I want to say, "No, actually, you're not a loser. It's how you act in the face of coming up short. That's what makes you a winner?" I really believe that.
[00:06:39] Jordan Harbinger: You said you think you're ADHD — let me tell you as one ADHD diagnosis to another maybe undiagnosed person, probably all entrepreneurs that are successful, have it at some level, whether or not they ever had to take medication for it or they self-medicated like you did.
[00:06:55] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: There's definitely an advantage to having ADHD in business, I think. And you mentioned you had four screens, you had to pay attention to all the time with various things in your business. But I'm curious, you must've had to hire around your weaknesses or the weakness of being able to focus on one thing for a long time. What advantages did you find in business from being kind of hyperactive and having your focus go from one thing to another really rapidly?
[00:07:22] Steve Madden: I think it was the secret to my success, frankly, was hiring around my weaknesses. For sure. I just had a very keen awareness that I was a complete idiot at certain things. I just knew it, like I didn't fool myself. I said like, "I'm good at this and this. I'm really bad at that. I remember one of my first hires was an accountant.
[00:07:44] Jordan Harbinger: Generally, a good idea. Yeah.
[00:07:46] Steve Madden: Yeah. Selling a lot of shoes. I had a lot of good ideas, you know, running a business. And very shortly. I was introduced to this Indian fellow who was so different. He would organize things and pay the bills, mostly pay the bills. I would never pay a bill.
[00:08:03] Jordan Harbinger: I'm laughing because I married my accountant. She's my wife.
[00:08:07] Steve Madden: Oh.
[00:08:07] Jordan Harbinger: And it's a great move. I got to tell you.
[00:08:09] Steve Madden: It's a great move. Marry your accountant, I would have married this guy if I wasn't — I'm not gay, but if I was, I would have married him. So, you know, that's another thing with ADD. That's another big thing I didn't really touch on is the bill paying thing. Like it's not that you don't want to pay. It's just that you can't handle it. It's like, "We'll do that next week. I'll pay that next week." There was no rhyme or reason to it other than control or whatever it was, you know, not to pay some bills. You're going to pay it or you're not going to pay it. So he came in and all the bills were paid and I was able to have this maniacal sort of force but all the while paying my bills and building a real business.
[00:08:50] Jordan Harbinger: You're like the Tasmanian devil going through the office. And he's like behind you with the little sweeper in the little bucket, just like making sure that things don't fall off the wall.
[00:08:59] Steve Madden: Yeah, that's actually good.
[00:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: Your dad yanked you out of college. And you said it in the book, "It was impossible for me. I just couldn't function like an adult." It's funny to look at that now. And I think this is me. It's weird now because I'm super responsible and organized. I somehow outgrew it. I wonder if you feel like you outgrew that or if you are just better at hiring around your weaknesses now than you were before.
[00:09:18] Steve Madden: I still do it. I mean, it's different now. We're in a different place because the whole — everything has changed now and the company runs better without me, even though I'm still working every day.
[00:09:28] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, you said you were in your office. What did you just show up? And they're like, "Ah, Steve's here. Give him something to sign."
[00:09:34] Steve Madden: "God, that asshole is here again." I come to work and I focus on the shoes and I focus on ideas and I have great people that are kind of running stuff. It's great. But yes, it's a key thing. I would say, knowing what you don't know is a very big gift. Now, I know a lot of guys and girls who don't have that gift. Or they think they're supposed to know something.
[00:10:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, and they try and figure everything out and do it themselves.
[00:10:03] Steve Madden: Yes, they think they're supposed to. That's an interesting thing. They'll say, "Well, I'm the head of this. So I'm supposed to know all of this stuff." That gets people in trouble.
[00:10:14] Jordan Harbinger: It can sink your business. I mean, imagine if you're the—
[00:10:16] Steve Madden: Absolutely.
[00:10:16] Jordan Harbinger: —chairman of Google and you think, you know how to write a search algorithm and you're ignoring the other 3,000 business units that you have. I mean, you'll never get that far.
[00:10:26] Steve Madden: You know, I think sometimes that it happens to people when they're very, very successful and they start to think they know everything because they're at the top of their industry. And then they start to opine about other things.
[00:10:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's a term for this — and I wish I could remember the name, but it's something where the concept where — it'll come to me after the show, when you're an expert in one thing and you're really high up, like if you're a doctor, you're a medical doctor and then somebody asks you about what you think about politics. You will potentially not always, but potentially have a very strong opinion about it and you go, "Well, I'm a medical doctor. I'm a brain surgeon. Of course, I'm going to be good at all these other things that I'm sort of only moderately good at, or even terrible at. You might know that you can't fix your car yourself, but you don't necessarily know that you can't sell shoes—
[00:11:16] Steve Madden: That's great.
[00:11:17] Jordan Harbinger: — or design shoes.
[00:11:17] Steve Madden: That's great. The one I use is — well, can you imagine if you walked into a cockpit and you thought that you were supposed to know how to fly on the first day, you know, like you walked in and said, "Why don't I know how to do this?" And you start beating yourself up and not knowing. And that's the one that I kind of use it as a guide.
[00:11:36] Jordan Harbinger: It's easy to do that. When you think of a radically different skill, like flying a plane, you go, "Of course, I don't need to know that." But if you think, "Well, I designed shoes, so I should be able to balance the books of a shoe company." You're actually choosing to skills that are just as different.
[00:11:50] Steve Madden: Absolutely, the same thing.
[00:11:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:11:52] Steve Madden: It's really, so that's why the plane analogy works for me very well.
[00:11:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:11:57] Steve Madden: There are different things and a lot of founders get in trouble like that.
[00:12:01] Jordan Harbinger: When you were younger — we talked about self-medication — Quaaludes. I know you got into cocaine and things like that. You had paranoia. You're so addictive. I imagine you've got a lot of work done at that point in time, just because of the nature of cocaine and working in New York. I used to work on Wall Street, so you can fill in the blanks. You know, some of those guys—
[00:12:18] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:12:19] Jordan Harbinger: And they get a lot of work done, but they're dysfunctional. I've heard you say, "Creativity has to make money. Otherwise, it's boring." That sounds pretty controversial. It's not that I disagree, but most creatives don't make money from their creative work. Right? Do you think that those people are just wasting their time?
[00:12:37] Steve Madden: Well, first of all, that's not true for everybody. It's just true for me.
[00:12:41] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:12:42] Steve Madden: That's all. I want to say that. There's plenty of starting artists that are not boring or they don't think they're boring and they're probably not. And I have a lot of respect for them, myself. But for me, part of the creative process was hitting the register. That's part of the thing for me. It's all part of the same thing. It's not enough, just to make a great shoe. It has to sell to lots of girls.
[00:13:08] Jordan Harbinger: Hitting the register, like cha-ching — is that the sound you hear in your head when you're thinking about it?
[00:13:12] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:13:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:12] Steve Madden: And I know that that's the case with a lot of artists. I have actually heard Paul McCartney talk about this. You know, everybody thinks they're the Beatles. They were just these artists that didn't care about money or whatever, and nothing could be further from the truth. And they were no less creative by the way, but Paul would say, and I heard him say this in an interview that he tells him and John would write a song, "Oh, we just, we just got a swimming pool."
[00:13:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:38] Steve Madden: "That's another car." They understood that. It's not even materialistic. It's just part of the game.
[00:13:47] Jordan Harbinger: I think a lot of people are motivated by that. Not just purely by money, but the financial success is part of the game, right? You got to look the part. You live in New York, so you know exactly what that's like. There's a lot of people that only care about what money can buy them in terms of status. It's not even necessarily materialistic or it's the only measuring stick that they have because of the way they were raised, potentially.
[00:14:08] Steve Madden: I think that's it. I think it's the metaphor for love or winning.
[00:14:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:13] Steve Madden: It's really crazy. And I'll tell you, what's boring, listening to a guy with money talking about how money doesn't mean anything.
[00:14:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I know I try—
[00:14:21] Steve Madden: That's fucking boring.
[00:14:22] Jordan Harbinger: I try and reel that in sometimes because I'm like watching — you know, there's college kids who are coming into the worst job market in like a century. And they're like, "Jordan, tell me more with Steve Madden about why I don't need money while I'm living on my mom's dirty couch in a garage."
[00:14:36] Steve Madden: However, what is true? What is true is that money cannot buy you happiness. That is true. Money can make you very comfortable, even if you're miserable. It can make you comfortable. Now there's no question that you can buy extra blankets and lots of shifts. But it will not buy you happiness. That is something that you have to get somewhere else.
[00:14:57] Jordan Harbinger: Well, you tried and certainly, some of the other guys in the book tried that — and we'll get to that in a little bit. I want to back up just a smidge because you did, you worked at a lot of places. You go through a couple of jobs you had in the book, but you're drinking, you're partying. Like I said, you got yanked out of college. And you started your own wholesale business and it sounds like in part you started the business because you were not really functioning well in sort of regimented environments because of ADHD or possibly because of the drugs or possibly both, it actually sounds kind of miserable, right? Like you're, you're not starting a business because you're called to it. You're starting a business because you're being pushed out of a lot of the other jobs that you had. Is that accurate?
[00:15:35] Steve Madden: It’s sort of close to the truth. And I was sort of unemployable but I always wanted to be in my own business, you know, ever since I was a kid and I was. Then fantasized about it. I worked for some amazing people. Some of the jobs in the shoe business, I worked for incredible teachers and I took, you know, a lot of their knowledge and went into business. I'm grateful to them.
[00:16:03] Jordan Harbinger: There's a story in the book. And I can't remember if this was also in a trailer, but I think this is just, so this sort of puts you in a nutshell, if it's possible to put you in a nutshell, you're walking down the street or you're driving down the street, or you're being driven down the street in New York and you stop a woman on the street and you say, "Hey, where'd you get those shoes?" And did you offer to drive her to another shoe store, if you could buy the shoes off of her feet, what's going on there?
[00:16:27] Steve Madden: I've done that so many times. I don't even know what you're talking about, but I stopped people all the time, in a supermarket, in the street. I see a girl wearing something and it looks great. I'd even stopped people. And I said, "Where'd you get that shoe?" And they say, "Steve Madden."
[00:16:43] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[00:16:44] Steve Madden: How about that one?
[00:16:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:46] Steve Madden: So that's happened to me a few times, but I like to see that the street, the way they wear something and it gives me an idea. And it's a real turn on for me creatively to see a certain woman wearing a certain shoe.
[00:17:00] Jordan Harbinger: What do you do with the shoe that you buy? Do you just take it apart or something like that? Because I'm trying to think why keep it instead of just taking a picture of it, for example.
[00:17:08] Steve Madden: Well, it's often not copyable. It's just the attitude of the shoe. Just something that you just want to capture that spirit and it's going on in the whole outfit, you know?
[00:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:17:22] Steve Madden: It's almost like a marker or something, but—
[00:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: These women must've thought you were like a complete creep though, right? Like, at first he's hitting on me.
[00:17:29] Steve Madden: I'm not hitting on them.
[00:17:30] Jordan Harbinger: Now, he's like trying to buy my shoes.
[00:17:32] Steve Madden: I just want the shoes.
[00:17:33] Jordan Harbinger: Then he's like, "I'll drive you to another store. I'm not getting in the car."
[00:17:37] Steve Madden: When I meet women. I'm like looking at their feet. I'm not even looking at them. Literally, my first move is always to look at their feet. Just obsessed.
[00:17:49] Jordan Harbinger: And you get like, "Eyes up here, buddy?" "No, your shoes. I'm looking at your shoes."
[00:17:53] Steve Madden: Now, especially I'm older and everything. And I just got one — in East Hampton. I was in East Hampton and I went, "Please. I'm so sorry." She goes, "I know who you are. Relax."
[00:18:06] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny. "I saw you coming down the street and I wondered if you were going to ask about my shoes. I've heard about this on the Internet. Yeah."
[00:18:11] Steve Madden: I've heard about this.
[00:18:13] Jordan Harbinger: Whenever you weren't selling shoes, you were hanging out in the shoe department at Macy's. This is from the book, "Watching women react to shoes."
[00:18:19] Steve Madden: Nordstrom, Macy's Bloomingdale's, all the stores.
[00:18:22] Jordan Harbinger: I'm not going to lie. That's still a little bit unusual behavior, right? Nobody else is doing this.
[00:18:26] Steve Madden: It's an old sort of shoe doggy kind of — I think they probably did it, you know, maybe a hundred years ago or something, 50 years ago. But I like to see — I love stores and I would hang out at my own store. That's one of the reasons why I opened my store to hang out and see what they were gravitating to. And I can't speak for other people, but that was always something that I — and still do. I just was in my store in North Miami, Florida, and just hanging out. It's not as busy now because of COVID, but—
[00:19:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:03] We're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Steve Madden. We'll be right back.
[00:19:08] This episode is sponsored in part by Chili technology. You've probably heard of the chiliPAD. A lot of you probably don't know this, but you're supposed to sleep in a colder environment. I'm using my chiliPAD to do that but — well, recently I've been cheating a little because it's winter and I'm cold. So I've been turning it up to warm. I love this thing. Actually, you can change both sides of the bed. So if you want one cold side and one warm side, you can, or if your partner likes a warm side, you like the cool side. There's significant health benefits. And only about 44 percent of Americans report a restful night's sleep almost every night. And the chiliPAD has helped me greatly. Chilisleep makes both the chilliPAD and the Ooler. I've got the Ooler. Those are both innovative options that fit over the top of your existing mattress. You don't have to replace your mattress. It uses water to control the temperature of the bed to either lower your core body temperature or make it nice and roasty toasty.
[00:19:55] Jen Harbinger: Head on over chilitechnology.com/jordan for chilisleep's best deal, which they're offering to our listeners for a limited time. That's chili C-H-I-L-I-technology.com/jordan for your special offer.
[00:20:08] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by Better Help. The new year is always a great time for a mental health check in and often look, I get it. You'd freak out a little when you hear the word therapy, but contrary to common misconception. Therapy isn't just for those of us who are struggling with mental illness or suicidal or something like that, a lot of you have asked me about this. It's beneficial for anyone who is experiencing stress, intense emotions, life transitions, or just wants to improve their life. Talk therapy provides you with a safe, nonjudgmental place to vent and about your experiences. Explore your options, and develop the skills to handle various life challenges. If you wanted to try out therapy or you want to try it again, or you just need to talk some things out Better Help offers online licensed professional therapists who are trained to listen and help.
[00:20:52] Jen Harbinger: Better Help is a convenient and affordable option. And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month with the discount code JORDAN. Get started today at betterhelp.com/jordan. There's no shame in asking for help.
[00:21:05] Jordan Harbinger: And now back to Steve Madden on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:21:10] Do you tell the store you're coming in? Like, do you call ahead or do you just show — you're like driving by and you're like, "I'm going to pop in there and see if I get helped right away," or something like that.
[00:21:17] Steve Madden: They know who I am because we got loops in the store.
[00:21:19] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:21:20] Steve Madden: I don't really like that sort of idea.
[00:21:22] Jordan Harbinger: Undercover boss?
[00:21:23] Steve Madden: I don't really fancy that.
[00:21:25] Jordan Harbinger: Employees are under enough stress.
[00:21:26] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:21:26] Jordan Harbinger: They don't need to wonder if you're going to pop in.
[00:21:28] Steve Madden: I think that's so true. And I really — I always found that show kind of offensive, to be honest with you. It's hard enough working in a store. It is really — you're dealing with the public and you're on your feet. And whether it's my store, Zara, those people are in the trenches of fashion business. And I always have a lot of sort of rachmones for them. You know, that word?
[00:21:52] Jordan Harbinger: I don't, but it sounds like Hebrew or something. What does it rachmones?
[00:21:55] Steve Madden: Rachmones, it's a Yiddish word.
[00:21:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yiddish word. Okay, that makes sense.
[00:21:58] Steve Madden: I'm the only Irish guy that you know that speaks Yiddish.
[00:22:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's probably true, even in New York, that's probably true.
[00:22:05] Steve Madden: Yeah. Rachmones, it's just like, I have like, not pity, but like I feel for them, Rachmones.
[00:22:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that is a good word.
[00:22:13] Steve Madden: To Jewish friends.
[00:22:14] Jordan Harbinger: I'm Jewish. I should know this, you know?
[00:22:16] Steve Madden: You're Jewish.
[00:22:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:22:17] Steve Madden: You look like as Irish as Patti Smith.
[00:22:20] Jordan Harbinger: You know why? It's because my dad is Ukrainian German and my mom's side is Jewish. So I'm only like—
[00:22:27] Steve Madden: Oh, you're only a half-breed like me.
[00:22:28] Jordan Harbinger: I'm a half-breed like you. That's right.
[00:22:30] Steve Madden: Oh, wow.
[00:22:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. I didn't even know I was Jewish quote-unquote until I was like 13 years old because we never did any of the Jewish stuff when I was growing up. It didn't really matter.
[00:22:39] Steve Madden: I never did any of the Jewish stuff.
[00:22:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:22:41] Steve Madden: The thing is that my grandparents who were Jewish, they lived with us for a couple of years on their way to Florida.
[00:22:50] Jordan Harbinger: On their way to Florida — very accurate, subtle — yes, on their way to Florida.
[00:22:54] Steve Madden: On their way to Florida.
[00:22:54] Jordan Harbinger: For a couple of years.
[00:22:56] Steve Madden: They did — you know, it was great. I remember a lot about it. And they spoke a lot of Yiddish. I hung out with them. They were interesting people.
[00:23:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:23:04] Steve Madden: And they were very smart and, you know, readers and I really dug them. The Yiddish is such a great language.
[00:23:10] Jordan Harbinger: It really is.
[00:23:11] Steve Madden: And it's a dying — well, maybe it's not.
[00:23:13] Jordan Harbinger: It definitely is. It definitely is. Like, it's not going anywhere anytime soon because of Orthodox Jews.
[00:23:17] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: But it's definitely — if there are any Yiddish schools and things like that, they're just like religious schools.
[00:23:23] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:23:23] Jordan Harbinger: It's pretty isolated. It's pretty insular. And it's probably nobody's first language. You know, what you hanging out in your store reminds me of — you ever hear that story of, is it Sam Walton at Walmart? They called the police on him once in like Brazil or something.
[00:23:37] Steve Madden: I don't even know that.
[00:23:38] Jordan Harbinger: He was on the floor, like measuring the aisles and stuff and they thought they had this mentally ill guy in the store and it turns out he's like this billionaire or at the time, you know, a hundred million dollars, whatever, a hundred years ago. And he was like, "Oh, I just want to see if they know something that I don't with these narrower aisles. Maybe they can fit more items in the store and dah, dah, dah."
[00:23:56] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:23:57] Jordan Harbinger: So he was just like obsessed with every element of the business. And he liked hanging out in his stores just to see how it works and how everything worked and try to optimize everything and be in every level of the job. It's just a funny visual to see you or to think about you like lurking in the corner at Macy's and women looking at you side long like, "Does that guy work here?" And the salespeople be like, "No, no, that's Stevie. He hangs out here because he loves watching women try on shoes."
[00:24:22] Steve Madden: I identify with Sam Walton. I love Sam Walton story. And you know, I identify with that, man. He just believed in his company and he built it and one story after another and I love the Sam Walton story, and I admire him so much. And a lot of great entrepreneurs, they did stuff back in the day. They worked — they were on the floor of their store. There's famous stories about Mr. Marshall Field, you know, being on the floor in Chicago. And there is no more Marshall Field.
[00:24:50] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, it is out of business?
[00:24:51] Steve Madden: Well, no it's owned by Macy's.
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:24:53] Steve Madden: So the Marshall Field famous Chicago store is now called Macy's, but yeah, identify with that very much. And I always felt like his spirit — it's funny, but that kind of hands on silly founder.
[00:25:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The eccentric founder who shows up and is measuring the aisles always and it's like—
[00:25:12] Steve Madden: That would me.
[00:25:12] Jordan Harbinger: "Don't mind him. He's the owner. We don't question him trying to buy shoes off customers that walk in the store to buy our shoes." Yeah.
[00:25:20] Steve Madden: Yes.
[00:25:20] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about meeting this guy, Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street for people who don't know, right? People who don't know who he is. They made the movie, the Wolf of Wall Street. He's essentially this hardcore sale, shyster, you know, sells bad stocks.
[00:25:35] Steve Madden: He was actually quite a brilliant guy. Yeah. He was actually quite intelligent and he just chose this boiler room thing.
[00:25:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like a dark path.
[00:25:45] Steve Madden: But I'll tell you about them anyway.
[00:25:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:25:46] Steve Madden: So they raised money for companies and, you know, I never had a lot of money, so he threw my childhood friend. They raised money for my company and they were quite dynamic and it was really something. It was very much like the movie captured. A lot of the spirit of what they were. And, you know, I got involved with them on doing some other IPOs and that's how I got in trouble. But he was a very charismatic, very, very brilliant guy. And of course, our relationship fractured, but I don't have a lot of regrets. I mean, other than I did stupid things—
[00:26:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:26:21] Steve Madden: I'm certainly not going to blame him for it.
[00:26:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I know that makes sense. Do you think 20/20 hindsight, you should have known at the time or was he just really magnetic and you weren't even thinking about it?
[00:26:31] Steve Madden: I was greedy. I was young and greedy and fearful. And he was charismatic and I never met anybody like him. And he kind of like, it sorts of was outside all the fears — you know, all the sort of middle-class fears that I had. I could never be a rich man. I thought I was good at what I did, but I never thought I would be—
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: Great.
[00:26:57] Steve Madden: —this guy, Steve Madden, right?
[00:27:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:01] Steve Madden: And he was able to go beyond that and reach for the stars and he did some bad stuff, but it doesn't take away from the fact that he had some stuff that I really admired as I made mistakes. And so, yes, I do regret some of the things I did. I got involved with these guys. I knew it was shady and it was too good to be true. It was too good to be true.
[00:27:26] Jordan Harbinger: So what they were doing — for people who are confused.
[00:27:29] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:27:29] Jordan Harbinger: They buy companies or pieces of companies, and then they convince people through like shady marketing tactics and lies and things like that to invest money so that the stock price gets inflated.
[00:27:40] Steve Madden: Right.
[00:27:41] Jordan Harbinger: And then at the top, which they coordinate, they sell off their share of the company at the all-time high for that stock—
[00:27:48] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:27:48] Jordan Harbinger: —and dump it. So it's called a pump and dump. And they do that and then everybody else who they convinced to buy through the marketing and the phone stuff, the boiler room stuff—
[00:27:55] Steve Madden: Right.
[00:27:56] Jordan Harbinger: —those people lose their investment because the stock is actually worthless. It's been artificially inflated, right? Is that more or less how it works?
[00:28:03] Steve Madden: Yeah, it's sort of the greater fool theory. It's a Ponzi scheme, you know, you just keep selling the stock. Now here's the thing about it. So most of the companies were shitty little companies, right? Like a bagel company, karate company, and then here comes Steve Madden, tiny little company, Steve Madden. You know, I was doing nothing. They invested in me and we're part of the scheme. In the meantime, I'm designing one hot shoe after another, the girls are going crazy over my shoes. I'm building a business simultaneous to this boiler room, you know, Stratton Oakmont and lo and behold, I built this amazing company. And I think I was the only stock they took public that ended up being successful.
[00:28:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It was like an accident that they bought a share of your company and it didn't just bomb, right?
[00:28:49] Steve Madden: Yeah. It was, it was kind of an accident but I learnt a lot from those guys and I learnt a lot from Jordan and Danny. I learnt a lot from them, the good bits, the good stuff.
[00:29:02] Jordan Harbinger: Like what? Give me an example.
[00:29:03] Steve Madden: You know just the relentless, singleness of purpose, believing in themselves, believing that they were the best, believing that the impossible was possible. You know, when they came to me and they said they were going to raise me $600,000. That'd be like me calling you up, say, "Jordan. I'm going to send you 60 million bucks." That was like that, "Like what? 600,000?" I mean, I never had more than like 30 grand that ever together in my life, you know?
[00:29:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:34] Steve Madden: And then they took me public and they raised nine million bucks. The numbers were that kind of thing, you know, just this, these dreams.
[00:29:42] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think you got addicted to money like you were previously addicted to other substances? Was it the same thing?
[00:29:49] Steve Madden: It's not quite the same thing, but certainly—
[00:29:52] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, you're not putting it up your nose or whatever, or popping it in pill form, but like you get that same rush, right? Or similar?
[00:29:58] Steve Madden: Yeah. Same rush.
[00:29:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:00] Steve Madden: For sure.
[00:30:01] Jordan Harbinger: How did that break or do you still have it but you keep it on a leash, you know?
[00:30:06] Steve Madden: Well, I was punished and then, at the same time. I've been very fortunate. I had a very successful company and I was punished very severely. Deservedly, I want to say, deservedly. I paid all the money back, millions and millions of dollars. So I learnt how to keep it on a leash. You know, your addictions do pop up, you know, but fear is healthy. Like the fear of getting in trouble is a very healthy fear.
[00:30:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:36] Steve Madden: Like we all lose our temper, want to kill somebody but like, you know, the fear of shooting someone, the fear of the trouble stops it, keeps order in this society, right? Otherwise guys would be rocking around with guns, shooting each other if there was no consequences, right?
[00:30:52] Jordan Harbinger: Absolutely. Yeah, of course. I know that — so being punished for something doesn't always keep an addiction per se—
[00:31:00] Steve Madden: No, no, it doesn't.
[00:31:01] Jordan Harbinger: —at bay.
[00:31:01] Steve Madden: It doesn't. I'm just trying to say what I've learnt in my recovery that—
[00:31:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:06] Steve Madden: —there's other things and it's not the end of the world. And right now, one of the things, they call it FOMO.
[00:31:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. I talk about it all the time
[00:31:16] Steve Madden: Driving this market right now, you know, and I have to fight that fear of missing out, for the listeners.
[00:31:22] Jordan Harbinger: What do you have FOMO about as somebody who's like—?
[00:31:25] Steve Madden: Well, just like a human being, you have FOMO, you see people making money and—
[00:31:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, let me get more. As I sit in my — if you're watching this on YouTube, you got a pretty good view. I don't even know what that building is behind you. It's absolutely enormous.
[00:31:41] Steve Madden: It's the tallest apartment house in the world. It's behind me. It's on Park Avenue in 57th, Spire.
[00:31:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:50] Steve Madden: It's kind of amazing. I don't know who lives there, but I'm very lucky.
[00:31:53] Jordan Harbinger: But you're looking at it. And you're like, you're probably on Park 56 in park or something at that point. I don't want to dox you on a podcast, but you're not too far away from wherever that building is.
[00:32:03] Steve Madden: I'm down the block, I'm down the block.
[00:32:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right, right.
[00:32:05] Steve Madden: But it's unhealthy. And I think that when I'm in a good place, it's because I want what I have.
[00:32:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:14] Steve Madden: You know what I mean? I want what I have and I want what I have and we're comfortable and it's an inside job, if you know what I mean. You kind of have to feel good about yourself through—
[00:32:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, self-actualization and development, growth.
[00:32:29] Steve Madden: You get self-esteem from estimable acts, right? Don't you think?
[00:32:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, ideally.
[00:32:35] Steve Madden: You know, I always like to say — do you remember the telephone booths and they used to have big telephone books?
[00:32:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like metal chained or whatever to the thing.
[00:32:46] Steve Madden: Yeah. So I would look for a number. I'd be in the booth 20 years ago, let's just say. And I would see the number and I ripped the page out of the book and that's not very estimable.
[00:32:57] Jordan Harbinger: No, but you see it in every movie.
[00:32:58] Steve Madden: Right. You see them ripping it. So at some point, I stopped doing that and I went, "Wow, that's not nice to the next person using this book." And so I would close the book and put it back. That was an estimable act. And I would build my self-esteem from the fact that I didn't rip that page out of the book and that's how it works for me. I didn't do that today. And I was very proud of myself. I didn't rip pages out of books anymore.
[00:33:27] Jordan Harbinger: You got to set the bar somewhere, right?
[00:33:29] Steve Madden: You got to start somewhere and it's that kind of thing.
[00:33:34] Jordan Harbinger: Did you want to scale your business huge? Like, did you feel an addiction rush or a big dopamine hit when you grew the business or the bottom line the business.
[00:33:42] Steve Madden: We would just sort of happen and it was sort of like a big show, you know, that I was putting on and I probably over hired. I had a little bit more people that I needed and a little bit more fanfare, but I knew that I was building something and it just kept adding and adding and it just exploded. It was kind of like that. If it didn't work, we wouldn't be talking.
[00:34:03] Jordan Harbinger: That's true. Yeah, of course. I just wondered if it was always part of the plan.
[00:34:06] Steve Madden: No, it wasn't really.
[00:34:08] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:34:08] Steve Madden: It really wasn't. Anyway, so it was kind of like the show. I remember like early on, I would think, I got all these people, I had like three extra people. It would make me insane and they weren't busy or something. You have a business that made me — I would see them and go, "Oh God. I look like a big hubbub.
[00:34:26] Jordan Harbinger: The buzz so you kind of got swept up in that and you're growing the business. And then of course eventually get punished. We'll get to that in a second, because I want to get some of the details on that. I do want to go back to the shoes and the designs and the customers because I've heard you say, "Seeing a woman wearing your shoe out in public is like hearing your own song played on the radio." Or somebody wrote, whoever wrote the book, wrote it in there.
[00:34:49] Steve Madden: I thought I said it. I might've said, but it's true. It is so true. I used to just freak out when I saw somebody wearing my shoes, but now everybody wears my shoes. So seeing a great shoe is like hearing a great song when you're alone in your car, on the radio, that tingle feeling you get when you're alone in your car and you hear that great song and you're just driving. That's what it's like for me. I might've said that. I said a lot of things.
[00:35:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's a lot in the book, whoever proof-read it condensed it a little bit.
[00:35:22] Steve Madden: No, no, I did. Those are Steve-isms.
[00:35:24] Jordan Harbinger: It makes sense though, right?
[00:35:25] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:35:25] Jordan Harbinger: It's a good combination of art and commerce. And I find that to be the same with like this podcast. Not that it's the same thing as a shoe, but in many ways to kind of is. You know, I'll do an interview. It'll get edited and I hear it and I go, "Huh, we did a pretty good job with that." Like we cut out the train siren, whatever that was going on behind it, we cut out the dog barking and then it all ended up pretty well. Like during, in the making you've got glue stuck to your hands. I mean, you know, not me, but you probably, you know, get glue, stuck your hands. There's some high fabric on the bottom of your foot.
[00:35:56] Steve Madden: Yes. It's like they say, watching the sausages get made is not pretty.
[00:36:00] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly.
[00:36:01] Steve Madden: But they taste good at the end.
[00:36:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:02] Steve Madden: You know, that's so true.
[00:36:03] Jordan Harbinger: And then you hear it. Like, I'll hear it. My wife listening to something and I'll be like, "Oh, what is she listening to? It sounds kind of interesting." And then I'll be like, "Oh, I could barely hear it, but that's our own show about our own topic." And I'm like, "Yes!"
[00:36:15] Steve Madden: Fantastic.
[00:36:16] Jordan Harbinger: You know, as long as it's not my voice, usually I can recognize my own voice, but if it's somebody else I'll go, "Oh, who is that?"
[00:36:20] Steve Madden: You know I've always compared it to the music business, which I was fascinated with, like with hits because—
[00:36:26] Jordan Harbinger: Hit songs, yeah.
[00:36:27] Steve Madden: We would make a shoe and it was like a hit, like a song, you know, like everybody wore it. I was always fascinated with why a song would become a hit. I was so interested. I had big moguls on my board of directors, two monster music guys on my board of directors that I met through different various things. Because I was so interested in capturing that and I had this fellow named Walter Yetnikoff — you're too young. He was the fucking moguls, this dude in the eighties, you know, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson. He was the prototypical music mogul. I had this other fellow named Charles Koppelman, another big gigantic music mogul. And I would always be like, "How did he do it? Like, what's it like?" Because they were like me, you know, they would just put in one foot in front of the other.
[00:37:22] Jordan Harbinger: But somehow, like there is something that makes these people different and sometimes on shows like this, we try to get to the heart of it, but it is hard to decode. Right? It's very hard to decode some of its habits. Some of it's just the way that these people think. In fact, I know that you wanted to know everything about your customers, not just what kind of shoes they liked. And I feel like there's something here about taking tons of little inputs that you, maybe you can't even quite put your finger on in order to design something for a specific demographic.
[00:37:50] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:37:50] Jordan Harbinger: How did you get the information that you wanted? Did you talk to the customers that came in and say like, "Hey, what music are you listening to? How are you getting the data?
[00:37:58] Steve Madden: Yeah. That's interesting. If you go through influences and you sort of soak it up, and that happened in the stores a lot. It was cool to soak up that stuff.
[00:38:11] Jordan Harbinger: Through osmosis, basically.
[00:38:13] Steve Madden: Yeah. Yeah. I remember recently getting plugged into this little hip-hop thing with—
[00:38:19] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:38:19] Steve Madden: —my friend Irv Gotti, a buddy of mine. There was this artist named Bobby Shmurda.
[00:38:25] Jordan Harbinger: Rolls right off the tongue. No, I haven't heard of that.
[00:38:26] Steve Madden: No. Okay. So Bobby Shmurda, I would say it was maybe five years ago or four years ago. This guy, this Jamaican kid does a hip-hop song and a video for like $600. And it captures the imagination of the entire country and the entire hip-hop community. Like nothing I'd ever seen before. It might've been — I wish I could remember. It was four years ago and he does this hip-hop song. And at the end, he does this dance and apparently Beyonce did the dance at her concert. And it just goes, people just go crazy. I'll go over the Shmoney dance, Bobby Shmurda. And I remember like getting plugged into that. And how exciting it was that I knew about this hip-hop song, which, you know, it's not my instinct to, like, I would never listen to hip hop on my own, you know?
[00:39:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:39:22] Steve Madden: And I would go to the stores and I would play Bobby Shmurda and the kids would go crazy. Like, how did you know about this? And like, It was such an interesting phenomenon.
[00:39:33] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because they're used to hearing like freaking smooth jazz, 94.7 when they go to show a store.
[00:39:38] Steve Madden: Yeah. They don't hear that at Steve Madden. We're not smooth jazz people.
[00:39:42] Jordan Harbinger: Or even elevate — the music you have to buy from like the Muzak company so that you don't get sued by the—
[00:39:47] Steve Madden: Kids love hip-hop music. Kids who buy my shoes, they love it.
[00:39:52] Jordan Harbinger: You just throw on a SoundCloud playlist in a store now probably. And you're probably better off. It's safer, safer, then turn it on Sirius XM and getting sued by RIAA or whatever though, artist label.
[00:40:02] Steve Madden: Yeah, but poor Bobby Shmurda. By the way, the song was about like Robin and killing people. And people like connected with that genuineness. Right? Well, he was so genuine that the guy actually got indicted for murder.
[00:40:14] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:40:15] Steve Madden: I think he's in jail now, but he was terrific. It was greatest song. You got to get listened to the song.
[00:40:19] Jordan Harbinger: I will. I'll just google it. And Google will say, "Did you mean this?" Because I'm not going to be able to spell Shmurda but Google will find out.
[00:40:25] Steve Madden: No, Shmurda. it's exactly like you think.
[00:40:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh really?
[00:40:28] Steve Madden: S-H-M-U-R-D-A, Bobby Shmurda.
[00:40:29] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. I probably would have thrown an E in there. Good thing you told me. Where do you get your design ideas? Do things just pop into your head or is it like a small kind of iterative process?
[00:40:41] Steve Madden: It's a process. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. It's kind of like a writer looking at an empty page and you have a big team. I always say that Steve Madden, it's like a big stew.
[00:40:54] Jordan Harbinger: This is the Jordan harbinger show with our guest Steve Madden. We'll be right back.
[00:40:59] This episode is sponsored in part by Brother.
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[00:41:48] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by HostGator. Breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate yourself for making it to 2021. It feels good, doesn't it? But you know, it would make this year even better finally building your own website. Like you've been meaning to do since forever ago. It opens the eyes of the world to your brand if you have your own business and it puts your portfolio or resume front and center for potential employers, if you're looking for a job. Best of all, HostGator makes it affordable and easy for all budgets and levels of tech expertise. In fact, with the Gator builder, you can have a site online. And as few as a couple of clicks, additionally, free HostGator plan comes with unlimited bandwidth and disc space and gives you the power to make email addresses customized to your own domain name. HostGator also guarantees 99 percent uptime with 24/7, 365 support and a 45-day money back guarantee, if you aren't completely satisfied. Visit hostgator.com/jordan to get up to 62 percent off. Again, that's hostgator.com/jordan.
[00:42:44] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers. That's what allows us to make all this stuff for you, this hopefully great stuff. To learn more about who advertises on the show and support the sponsors that support us, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. That's everything in one place, all the codes, all the URLs. Please do consider supporting those who make this show possible. And don't forget, we've got a worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. The worksheet has all the drills and a lot of takeaways from the episode. So you don't have to take notes while you're at the gym or driving. Now for the conclusion of our episode here with Steve Madden.
[00:43:22] I know many of the designs are adapted from small run shoes that you discover overseas, or somebody will send you something or show you something, or you're maybe—
[00:43:30] Steve Madden: Million different things.
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:31] Steve Madden: Million things, dreams, movies—
[00:43:34] Jordan Harbinger: Dreams, really?
[00:43:35] Steve Madden: Dreams — walking into the Gucci store. I mean just a million different, a million different ideas. They just come from everywhere. We're trying just to make great trendy, great shoes.
[00:43:47] Jordan Harbinger: If you think of a shoe in a dream, do you wake up and draw it? Or what?
[00:43:51] Steve Madden: You describe it to somebody usually they're terrible, but my dreams are so awful lately.
[00:43:56] Jordan Harbinger: The shoes from dreams are terrible.
[00:43:58] Steve Madden: Sometimes. Sometimes you think, "Oh, I dreamt about this wedge on the beach." I remember that.
[00:44:04] Jordan Harbinger: And then it's impossible to wear wedges on the beach.
[00:44:06] Steve Madden: No, people do.
[00:44:07] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:44:07] Steve Madden: People actually do.
[00:44:08] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know much about shoes. It just seems harder to wear that on a beach. But what do I know?
[00:44:13] Steve Madden: I remember seeing like a movie poster. You know, remember the one shoe. There was a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow called Shallow Hal.
[00:44:22] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, that's a good movie.
[00:44:24] Steve Madden: And I remember seeing the shoe on the poster. I said, "We got to do that shoe. What is that? This is what I've been trying to get to." Like, you know, it was like that kind of thing, you know?
[00:44:32] Jordan Harbinger: So you recognize it when you see it.
[00:44:34] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:44:34] Jordan Harbinger: And then you want to make some changes and make it a Steve Madden thing.
[00:44:37] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:44:37] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:44:38] Steve Madden: Yeah. There's a lot of that.
[00:44:39] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense.
[00:44:40] Steve Madden: There's a lot of things.
[00:44:40] Jordan Harbinger: There's a whole book by my buddy, Austin Kleon called Steal Like an Artist. And the whole idea is like, artists are always saying like, "Oh, I'm original, I'm original, I'm original." And he's like, "Literally, no one is original." So just take the bits of the best things from other people. That's what real artists do.
[00:44:55] Steve Madden: That's what we do. So we do it, sure, yeah, we do it.
[00:44:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:58] Steve Madden: We do all of that stuff and be a memory. Marc Jacobs talks about memory. He's a real American genius. True genius, Marc Jacobs, and somebody I look up to and even though he's younger than me.
[00:45:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh really?
[00:45:12] Steve Madden: Yeah. He's more handsome than me too which I don't like.
[00:45:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's infuriating generally,
[00:45:17] Steve Madden: But Mark always talks about memory. Because it's so true, what you say, you know, again, listening to like interviews with Lennon or talking about like, "Oh yeah, he heard this song. And he liked that lick and he would take that bit. Put it in and to change it a little bit." That kind of thing.
[00:45:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Look, even with podcasting, people are like, "Oh, you know, this is different than everything else." And all I think of is, "Well, I mean, I listened to like 50 other interviews to prep for this one. So are any of my thoughts, even original, I don't even know anymore."
[00:45:49] Steve Madden: Nothing is original. We should have a TV show. Nothing is original.
[00:45:53] Jordan Harbinger: So Jordan Belfort, eventually this catches up with him. He gets indicted. There's a lot of stress I would imagine in your life at this point, because if you're working with somebody on something shady and they end up getting indicted, the first thought has to be, "Oh, crap. Are they collaborating with the Feds against me?" I mean, what, what are you feeling at this point in time? Were you suspicious that they were working against you? Like with the FBI?
[00:46:18] Steve Madden: Yeah. Yeah. That was a tough one. They got in trouble and then they cooperated and that was it. I kind of knew the way it was going to go.
[00:46:26] Jordan Harbinger: If I'm in your shoes at that point, I'm replaying every conversation I've ever had in my head.
[00:46:31] Steve Madden: All of that, I remember hearing it and I was in the back of a car. And I remember the first time I heard they're telling you. And I remember like slinking down in the bottom of the car. Oh shit. I actually knew exactly what it was going to be too. Like, it was weird, like I had a premonition. I was going to do X amount of time in prison.
[00:46:51] Jordan Harbinger: But you knew instantly like, "Oh crap. I've had incriminating conversations with these guys."
[00:46:56] Steve Madden: Oh, yes.
[00:46:57] Jordan Harbinger: And like, "Where are they wearing the wire around me?"
[00:47:00] Steve Madden: Yes.
[00:47:01] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:47:02] Steve Madden: I had a good friend wear a wire on me on the golf course.
[00:47:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man. How did you find out that it was—?
[00:47:07] Steve Madden: I did and I found out later.
[00:47:08] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that makes sense.
[00:47:09] Steve Madden: I remember the day, he was acting kind of strange. You know, that was it. It must be weird.
[00:47:15] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, this is a dumb question, but how did that feel? I mean, it has to sting, right? Because these are childhood friends, some of these other guys—
[00:47:20] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:47:21] Jordan Harbinger: —in the book, and I suppose now maybe you understand their perspective given that they were facing serious jail time, but it's still got to be like, "Dang man, we grew up together and you're talking to the Feds.
[00:47:30] Steve Madden: Totally. Yeah, it was all of that. It was terrible. It's stung and you know, it's like a betrayal.
[00:47:35] Jordan Harbinger: Not great for the addiction recovery, right?
[00:47:38] Steve Madden: Yeah, not great. But you know, you go through what you go through and it makes you stronger. I mean, for me, adversity has been a great teacher. It was a betrayal. I hope you never go through it, Jordan.
[00:47:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it sounds miserable. Reading in the book, the story, the way that you're feeling, even when you were reading that part of the audiobook, I was like, "Man, he still feels bad about this." Like you can tell in your voice.
[00:48:00] Steve Madden: Yeah. I felt bad about it. I'm not hung up on like, "Oh, those guys are assholes."
[00:48:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:48:05] Steve Madden: It's over for me, you know, it's past.
[00:48:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I supposed. Were you worried about the business falling apart if you went to prison? Like, were you thinking, "Oh my God, now it's going to, I'm going to ruin everything now"?
[00:48:15] Steve Madden: I was. And had a lot of great people and they kept it going really great. They did. I hired a guy at CEO and he knew what I wanted to do. And it was impossible for me to run my business from prison.
[00:48:27] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:48:27] Steve Madden: Impossible.
[00:48:28] Jordan Harbinger: And illegal, probably right?
[00:48:30] Steve Madden: And illegal and impossible. Forget about illegal. It was impossible. This guy did a great job. My buddy, Jamie stepped in, Jamie Karson stepped in and handled stuff from me. And so I was able to come back to a not super successful business, but a business that was doing some things really well. And so I was able to step in and go to another level. So I was very lucky there.
[00:48:54] Jordan Harbinger: So you were sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. You did a couple years and a half in the, and this is like 20/20 hindsight, right? It was for money, not much else. And two and a half years, that's kind of a lifetime in the fashion industry.
[00:49:08] Steve Madden: It is a long time. It's a long time in any industry. It's a long time, and it's a long time to be in prison. And that's why I hate to see, they give such severe sentences to people and people think, "Oh, you only got four years."
[00:49:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:49:23] Steve Madden: Like really?
[00:49:24] Jordan Harbinger: For like selling a pound of marijuana. It's like a huge amount of time for somebody who's 29.
[00:49:29] Steve Madden: You know, they used to have mandatory minimums, over a hundred plants was 10 years.
[00:49:33] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh, that's so long.
[00:49:35] Steve Madden: That's so long. I could go on about that but we don't have enough time,
[00:49:38] Jordan Harbinger: I've talked about that on the show before too because people will — I said the same thing as you. "Oh, he only got eight years." He's a non-violent criminal who's 31. He's going to get out at 40. Like, it's a life ruining amount of time.
[00:49:50] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:49:51] Jordan Harbinger: And I'm wondering, even though it was quote-unquote only 2.5 years, right?
[00:49:55] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:49:55] Jordan Harbinger: That's a lot of time away from friends, family business. Do you ever in your head do the calculation of the money you gain and try and match it to the time you lost? Like if you ever try to calculate, "Okay was it worth it?"
[00:50:05] Steve Madden: It's a good question. All right. No, it's not worth it. I would have gladly given all of my money up to not go to prison. And we actually talked about it with convicts, like in the joint and they would laugh at me. You know, there's nothing worse than being in prison other than you can imagine what would be worse.
[00:50:23] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:50:24] Steve Madden: But I tried to convey it, the awfulness of it. The awfulness of it is not actually being in the prison. Because human beings, we make the best of every situation. Right? You know, I mean, we get a routine and you survive but it was just being in prison and being away from the world, knowing that the world was going on and you were stuck in your little cell and while the world was going on. And it was like, you were dead. And everything was moving along. And people were meeting other people and people were doing business deals and people were having children. People were dying and then you would just, the world is moving and you're sitting there. I can't explain the heartbreaking feeling that was on a daily basis was — it was like my heart broke every fucking day. I can conjure it up in my mind. It's just this horrible thing. And actually, I do my workouts. I read my books, play little cards, laugh with the guys. It wasn't awful. I mean, it's awful compared to our lives today, but you get used to your routine. You're surviving, you're training, but I can't. It's just terrible. The way that guards, the people in the prison treat you so badly. Like, you're not even a human being.
[00:51:47] Jordan Harbinger: It must be an interesting perspective. And I've heard you say, and I'm paraphrasing here, "The differences between other prisoners and me were negligible. I think I just had better opportunities." Talk to me a little bit about that.
[00:51:59] Steve Madden: Well, yeah. I mean, I was fortunate because a lot of white-collar guys had a tough time because some of them were lawyers and they got disbarred, stuff like that. And then, you know, dope dealers, guys that was with, particularly in the black community, really had a lot to deal with. First of all, they got so much time, which was one — that's a separate subject, but they really go back to tough neighborhoods. And it's just a tough situation for them.
[00:52:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They don't come out to like a hundred-million-dollar shoe companies, generally.
[00:52:36] Steve Madden: No, they do not know for sure they do not. That's true. And it's not a funny thing. It's a heartbreaking situation and we don't have enough time on this podcast to really deal with it, but they were really smart dudes. I was with it that just the opportunity wasn't there or circumstance wasn't there. And some of them were very smart, clever guys. And I taught classes and I try to teach the guys to try to channel that into stuff that was legal. If you use those same sort of marketing techniques, you know, you could be successful.
[00:53:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like the hustle that some of these guys have. I've done work in prisons. And I meet guys — I say this on the show all the time, so I'll keep it short — but I meet guys all the time that have really good ideas. Some of which already exist in our $400 million, you know, junk calling companies or different types of vendors. And there are guys that'll tell you stories about how they worked seven days a week, selling hats on a street corner to make X amount of dollars. And then they switched to drugs just because there was more money in it. And I'm thinking, "If you were already working 14 hours a day, seven days a week in the rain, sleet, and snow to make money, you could have been successful at anything." But they weren't, you know, and they got caught not selling hats, right? And they ended up in prison for 10 years and then it's game over.
[00:53:55] I'm wondering, what did you learn in prison, anything that you apply to business even now that you take with you?
[00:54:00] Steve Madden: Oh, that's a good question. Patience. Patience. You learn that for sure.
[00:54:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Everyone's on — you're on their timeline in there. That's got to be tough for an entrepreneur. I know that you eventually had some kids, one of whom I just met, she was very sweet and funny.
[00:54:15] Steve Madden: Yeah, she's sweet.
[00:54:16] Jordan Harbinger: And you can't be a selfish idiot or a workaholic when you have two little babies. I mean, you can, but most people don't do that. Right? So I'm wondering, do you think that if you'd had kids earlier, you would have become more responsible or do you think you would have just like screwed up your kids instead?
[00:54:32] Steve Madden: I would say that I had children when I was ready to be a good father, I guess. I was very fortunate.
[00:54:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:40] Steve Madden: I feel like I had them late. We have a wonderful relationship and I'm so happy. I love them. And they're like, it's pretty cool and it happens when it happens.
[00:54:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I guess we don't know, but it's lucky that you didn't have kids earlier.
[00:54:55] Steve Madden: But I know that I'm smarter than I was five years ago and I know five years ago I was smarter than I was five years before that.
[00:55:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, so that's helpful, yeah, exactly.
[00:55:04] Steve Madden: I'm not a perfect father. I just, I was making a sandwich for my son this morning and I dropped it on the floor and I freaked out.
[00:55:13] Jordan Harbinger: Where you, like, he doesn't know, I'll just pick it up and give it to him?
[00:55:16] Steve Madden: No, no, no, he was watching me and he was talking about the football game tonight and I was making the sandwich and I just dropped it. And I was so upset with myself. I freaked out. I screamed to the universe and I went, "Aaah," like this because it just, "Plunk," fell. And then he just sort of left me and then I just went to his room and I made fun of myself. Like, "What can you say I was such an idiot. I just exploded on myself?" I always act like, "Oh, I don't do that anymore." Then I drop a plate and I just completely freaked out.
[00:55:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The Irish, the Irish man comes back out in force.
[00:55:51] Steve Madden: That's so true.
[00:55:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:53] Steve Madden: I guess what I was saying was that I wanted to let him know that having a temper is not a good thing.
[00:56:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Tell me about it. My dad had a temper, I've got a little bit of a temper. And my wife's like, "Don't let our kid see you." I got a 15-month-old kid and I'm like, "I know," because it's the worst quality that I have, by far.
[00:56:12] Steve Madden: It is very bad, it is a terrible quality. And my dad had a terrible temper. You know, the house shook.
[00:56:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:20] Steve Madden: And then I have it. My brothers have it. And it's like, we're channeling our father and it's just awful. And sometimes I'm really good. And then today, with COVID, I have seven things on my mind and I'm late and I'm making this sandwich and I drop it and I just fucking exploded to the universe. Like I just actually let out an animal sound.
[00:56:47] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny now, but it's not funny in the moment. Right?
[00:56:49] Steve Madden: I was like this and I screamed to the universe, and he looked, he ran into his room.
[00:56:56] Jordan Harbinger: Did he run in there? Or he was just like, "Ah, fucking, come on, dad. It's pastrami. Calm down."
[00:57:00] Steve Madden: I think it was all of that. He slid into his room and I went back. And I made fun of myself, like freaking out. I was just — you know, this COVID thing.
[00:57:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, it's driving everybody up the wall.
[00:57:12] Steve Madden: Yeah.
[00:57:13] Jordan Harbinger: One thing I noticed about you is that even after you had money, you had a family, you had brand recognition. People, when you approach them on the street, they don't get freaked out. They said, "Oh, Steve Madden wants to look at my shoes." Okay. You're still grinding. You're still hustling. Did you believe at any point that you were as only you're only as good as your last hit shoe kind of music artists?
[00:57:32] Steve Madden: Oh yeah. And I still believe that. Yeah.
[00:57:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah?
[00:57:34] Steve Madden: Maybe it's not true right now. I don't know, but I still, in my DNA, I believe that I'm always looking, hunting.
[00:57:40] Jordan Harbinger: It's kind of like a music artist, right? They're only as good as their last hit record. And you want to stay — do you feel like you have to fight to stay relevant or that you're fighting to stay relevant?
[00:57:48] Steve Madden: We're fighting to make the best shoes. Yeah, absolutely. Yes, we 00are.
[00:57:53] Jordan Harbinger: In closing here—
[00:57:54] Steve Madden: In closing?
[00:57:55] Jordan Harbinger: In closing—
[00:57:56] Steve Madden: In conclusion.
[00:57:57] Jordan Harbinger: In conclusion—
[00:57:57] Steve Madden: Finally.
[00:57:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's how I ended all my essays in high school—
[00:58:00] Steve Madden: Yeah, me too.
[00:58:01] Jordan Harbinger: —and forever.
[00:58:01] Steve Madden: I used to say finally.
[00:58:02] Jordan Harbinger: That's better because in conclusion is a little on the nose, right?
[00:58:05] Steve Madden: Yeah. Yeah. That's right.
[00:58:06] Jordan Harbinger: So finally—
[00:58:07] Steve Madden: Finally, sir.
[00:58:08] Jordan Harbinger: —do you ever think to yourself, this could all come crashing down at any minute? Is it tenuous for you?
[00:58:13] Steve Madden: I did. And at the moment that I started to not think that, COVID hit.
[00:58:22] Jordan Harbinger: Just in case.
[00:58:23] Steve Madden: Just in case.
[00:58:24] Jordan Harbinger: To keep you on your toes.
[00:58:25] Steve Madden: Yeah. And you know what? COVID has been a big blow to all of us. You know, I have stores all over the world. Shuttered. It's been quite a blow to my company. Of course, we're going to crawl back, fight back and it's been a big blow and we're fighting through it. I've got a great Internet business. But it's been really something
[00:58:45] Jordan Harbinger: Even on a personal level, do you think? Like, "Okay. You know, my life is really good. I never thought I would be here. Maybe it's all going to go away."
[00:58:53] Steve Madden: Oh yes.
[00:58:53] Jordan Harbinger: No, not because of COVID, not because of the economy, but just because poof, one day you wake up and it's like, this whole thing was a dream and you're, you know, you're sweeping the floor of some place.
[00:59:02] Steve Madden: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't think I'll be sweeping the floor, maybe driving an Uber.
[00:59:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:59:06] Steve Madden: But yes, I had that thought many times. They don't have it as much now. I've saved some bit of money, but yeah, I thought that for a long time. It keeps me up at night or gives me nightmares.
[00:59:20] Jordan Harbinger: Steve, this has really been a good interview. I liked it.
[00:59:22] Steve Madden: I enjoyed talking to you, Jordan. I really did. Do it again?
[00:59:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I would love to. We'll do it in person when the world opens back up and I fly out to New York.
[00:59:29] Steve Madden: I love that.
[00:59:32] Jordan Harbinger: We've got a trailer of our interview with Howie Mandel, one of the most iconic comedians of our day and a judge on America's Got Talent. Howie spent some time with us being especially candid about his anxiety and about how he turned being impulsive into a superpower and more. Check out episode 210 here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:59:51] Howie Mandel: So what happened was we were doing — not unlike we're doing now. We were doing an interview — and he says, "Thank you. And we'll probably go to a commercial and thank you, Howie." And I got up and I started walking to the door and I thought he was like, wrapping it up and going to commercial. And then I just said to somebody really quietly, "Can you grab the door?" And he goes, "What are you afraid of the door?" And then he goes, "Just open the door." And I go, "I can't open the door." He goes, "Just open the door." And then what happened is I started getting a panic attack and I started breathing heavy. And I just turned to him and thinking that he had already thrown the commercial because he was just talking to me, "Howard, please, this is really serious. I go to therapy for this. I have something called obsessive-compulsive disorder. I'm about to pass out. If you don't open the door for me now, you'll be calling 911 and taking me to the hospital. This whole thing was on national radio. I thought, "Oh my God!" That was probably the darkest space. I've ever been and I'm walking through the lobby toward the door, out into this teeming street of Manhattan. I might as well just continue walking and walk right into traffic. And I stopped just outside the door. You know, millions of people are on the street, but I felt very alone. And some guy came into my periphery and said to me, "Are you Howie Mandel?" And you know, I just nodded affirmatively. And he said, "I just heard you on Stern." And my heart dropped him into my stomach. And right before I could take off in the traffic, he said two words, which means something very different today, but they changed my life and he went, "Me too."
[01:01:18] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Howie Mandel, including some pretty awkward moments of my own making, check out episode 210 here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:01:27] This is a fun show. Steve is all over the place, man. He has a lot of energy. There's a lot of editing. He was running the business from home. Of course, as all of us are right now and the phone is ringing and there's people coming in and out and I'm just like, "How do you focus when this is going on?" And he's just wired, so dang, ADHD, but he's turned it into an advantage. So it got me thinking about how we can use what most people consider to be huge disadvantages to advantages, especially if you're an entrepreneur and you can schedule everything around you or make everything around you or build your environment around what might be a weakness. You really can transform those weaknesses into strengths. So I would encourage you to look at your own environment and look at what needs tweaking in order to turn what might be a disadvantage for you now into something that could be an advantage for you long-term.
[01:02:15] So big thanks to Steve Madden. His book title is The Cobbler. We'll link to that in the show notes. Links to everything we talked about will be in the show notes, of course. Please do use our website links if you buy books from guests on the show. It helps support the show. Worksheets for this episode are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:02:42] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the systems and tiny habits that I myself use to cultivate relationships for business or personal reasons. That course is free. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty, people. Come on. It will be a game-changer for you.
[01:03:01] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabe Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. You know, somebody who's interested in the shoe biz, or just needs to know that ADHD could be an advantage in business, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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