On this episode of Leading Las Vegas, Tiger Todd joins me to discuss helping the homeless, the Hero School way.
Tiger Todd – Helping the Homeless [Video Transcript]
Danielle Ford: Hello there, and welcome to another episode of Leading Las Vegas. I'm Danielle Ford of DanielleFord.com, where visibility makes a difference. I am so stoked to be sitting here with one of my favorite people in Vegas, Tiger Todd. He is the founder of Hero School. We kind of go back a few years. We've done pretty cool things in the community, have some mutual friends, and when I have something to offer a non-profit, his is my go-to. I really care about his mission and what's he's doing for homeless people here in Las Vegas. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Tiger Todd: I'm glad to be here. Thank you.
Danielle Ford: Can you explain to the audience a little bit about Hero School and what makes it different than some other non-profits, especially here in the valley, that kind of are just … help feed the homeless and things like that?
Tiger Todd: Sure, sure. Well, Hero School started off as a movement, if you will. So a hero movement, just trying to get the people in the community to be more heroic. You know, do stuff for other people. We took it to a group of homeless people in 1995 and talked the first 1,850 people out of being homeless. We just believe in education, so one of the differences we find is that if you want to become an engineer, you go to school to be an engineer. If you want to become an accountant, you learn to be an account. So we figured, well, let's just apply the same thing we apply to ourselves, to the homeless. One of the differences was our group of people were entrepreneurs. So we also knew things, we knew how to manage risk. We knew to put our own out there first, right? To be personally responsible for everything. We applied those techniques into creating the class we call the Hero School. And then it later became the charity, Hero School Initiatives.
Danielle Ford: I remember you telling me when we sat down one time. We were having coffee and you were explaining to me what I want you to tell the audience in a second. That was it four different components that keep somebody homeless?
Tiger Todd: Yes, indeed.
Danielle Ford: It was really eye-opening because I could relate to it myself and I could still see these things, even in my children. Things that are keeping people from becoming better or learning more. I remember you said that you applied it one time years and years ago outside. There was a big line outside and you started teaching it, and you realized then that this worked. You've just been duplicating the same process, right?
Tiger Todd: Ever since, yeah. Yeah. That's why.
Danielle Ford: Can you explain this?
Tiger Todd: That's why I discovered it. It's Stephen Covey who said we don't see the world as it is; we see it as we are. Many times people have answers, solutions to things, but they don't always go back to find out what was their own frame of reference for being able to see that solution. I think it's an Albert Einstein quote, he said, “If I had just an hour to save the world, I'd spend 55 minutes figuring out what the problem was and then five minutes solving it.” I was walking this line. I was the retired business owner writing the big check to the charity that said they were helping the homeless. I didn't know anything about homelessness or homeless people at the time. So I followed my money out to a park, Ethel Pearson Park in North Las Vegas where 1,850 homeless people were lined up to get the food I was paying for.
Having lived alone at age 11, dumpster-diving in Henderson, I was wondering why in my world of earning everything I got, we're feeding them first. Now this sounds odd because that's what you do. They're hungry. Well, it's not what they did for me when I was a kid. We had to earn everything. I built the sound system. But as I was walking this line, I built the sound system so that we could reach them all and get this message out there. As I'm walking the line, I've discovered that they each had the same four kind of, I call them now… habits, but these were four responses that were the opposite of what made me, me.
Danielle Ford: Interesting. Okay. Yeah.
Tiger Todd: You know, what made me the guy that could come out there with the food. The one who was able to retire. The one who was able to manage a business and not go out of business. We called those the Four Habits of Homelessness. For the next three and a half years, we did this class in the park. 1,850, then it was down to 900, and eventually the last 13 people in the park. And we've gotten 9,200+ homeless people off the streets just teaching them the opposite of these habits, these traps they'd fallen into. Now you want to know what they were. Yeah.
Danielle Ford: I remember one of them very well.
Tiger Todd: Okay.
Danielle Ford: I'll tell you that I still apply it and I think it all the time when I'm in a rut. I'll stop and be like, “What is stopping me or why am I not getting better?” It was the lateral learning because I tend to do that. I'll have my own group. We're kind of at the same level and nothing wrong with that, to have those people in your life, but then you don't have someone who's way more successful than you telling you what to do. That one definitely sticks out to me.
Tiger Todd: Sure. Yeah, that's habit three. Harry Potter needs Hermione and he needs Ron, but he really needs to be learning from …
Danielle Ford: Dumbledore.
Tiger Todd: Dumbledore. McGonagall, right?
Danielle Ford: Yes. I love this reference.
Tiger Todd: Even Snape, right? Because even the villain can teach you occlumency.
Danielle Ford: He wasn't the villain, though. You saw the last movie.
Tiger Todd: Okay. Even the masked villain, right?
Danielle Ford: Yeah, yeah.
Tiger Todd: The one who's playing the role, right? Okay, so yeah. The habits are this, and the best way to understand them is to see them as what I call my Four Laws of Entrepreneurship. As entrepreneurs what do we do? We add value first. It's a Starbucks. We go into debt for our lease. We buy all the machines. We have all the resources before anyone gives us money for a latte. What do they do? I was walking that line and they would ask for my stuff first.
Danielle Ford: Give me, give me, give me.
Tiger Todd: They beg, beg, beg. I said, “Okay. We’ve got to get them past that.” Of course, that's where you'd have to create the curriculum or create this intervention to get them to flip from begging, to adding value. The second one, what do we do? We take responsibility even for stuff we didn't do. My favorite movie on that one is True Lies because in that …
Danielle Ford: Okay, Jamie Lee Curtis?
Tiger Todd: Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis film there's this Omega Sector. This organization we know nothing about. But there it is, built into the stone floor. It's a sign that says, “The last line of defense.” Every entrepreneur is the last line of defense. It doesn't matter whose fault it was, you take the blame even for stuff you didn't do. It's also in the Old Testament, Numbers, Chapter 14. Moses takes the blame. Jesus took the blame for stuff he didn't do. And so these all old themes, mythological and movie themes, and it's every entrepreneur. What did I do? I asked them a question and they blamed. They blamed this, that, the everything else.
Danielle Ford: Did you ask them like, “Why are you homeless?” And it's my ex-wife, the kids.
Tiger Todd: Yes, and where you're from, whatever. Yes. The language is a little more colorful than that. Again, they need a way out of it, but I'll get through these habits and maybe we'll talk a strategy. The third one that they do is horizontal learning. As I walk the line and they said, “This, that and the other is what's going on with me,” I said, “Well, just do this. Go do that. Go here” like I would do my staff or my friends or anybody that came to me for help, or like Daniel would could to Mr. Miyagi. “What do I do” You know?
Danielle Ford: Yeah. Wax on, wax off.
Tiger Todd: I would tell them what to do. At first it was wax the car. How to wax comes after the instruction. The problem is, we hear the instruction …
Danielle Ford: True.
Tiger Todd: …with our under-developed brain and we think it's just what? It's just child labor. You're mean.
Danielle Ford: Right, and it's the result.
Tiger Todd: It's that, “No, no. I have a purpose for what I'm telling you and if you understood my purpose, you wouldn't be in this condition, would you? Daniel? Homeless?” We learn vertically, so the way we move up is we learn from somebody who's mastered engineering in order to become an engineer. We learn from the Dumbledores, the Miyagis, those who know more than we can possibly know. Then when Mr. Miyagi, which was habit, law three, right? Learn vertically. They learn horizontally. As I walked that line and I told them these things, I'd notice groups of eight and 10 of them would get together and talk about me.
Danielle Ford: “This guy is crazy.”
Tiger Todd: Well, yeah, but isn't that what happens in the rest of the world with …
Danielle Ford: You take it back to your tribe.
Tiger Todd: People at an employer. These four habits are everywhere. I mean they're pervasive. We found them in 1998 in public school. Kids had already learned them by seventh grade. We did an intervention at some schools in Henderson about four years ago. They'd already learned them by second grade.
Danielle Ford: That's why even my kids, it's like, “Whose fault is this?” “Well, if you hadn't put the paper on the table, then …” You know?
Tiger Todd: Yeah, yeah.
Danielle Ford: I'm aware of it and trying to teach them.
Tiger Todd: Yeah. Look at their parents. Their parents are out at a sports bar at night bad-mouthing the boss, so the only opportunity they have to learn and become indispensable is vertical learning. Instead what do they do? They befriend and only talk about the one they should be listening to.
Danielle Ford: Absolutely.
Tiger Todd: They can't bad-mouth Morpheus and make it into the Matrix.
Danielle Ford: I love the references.
Tiger Todd: Mr. Miyagi then tells Daniel, “Wax the car.” Then you're just supposed to do it to prove it, to see if it works. Of course, then he's going to say how to wax, but the way in which you wax is important. What happened there, I'd go to tell them, “This is what you do” and they'd want to talk back or tell a story. I initially defined Habit Four, I called it being unteachable. If you break down that category, it's talking back, making excuse, telling a story. It's what a typical teen might do. We're 12, 13. We think we know it all.
Danielle Ford: Being defensive about it.
Tiger Todd: Yeah, yeah. You're trying to protect your ground. All the while, you have to start to have the respect to say, “No, somebody who's lived a little longer might know a little more than we do.” As a recap, begging, blaming, learning horizontally, and then telling a story are the Four Habits of Homelessness, which is why when we engage someone on the street, you can never let them talk or it recycles their homelessness. They might go through another year of homelessness because you listened to their story.
Danielle Ford: Right. If you validate them.
Tiger Todd: And see, what we're all about. We're all about story, right? In the business world, all my business clients were all about story. But the problem is, you don't tell a story when you're still in the valley of the shadow of death.
Danielle Ford: Right, you just listen.
Tiger Todd: You only tell the story when you've made it out. And now you have a completed journey. A hero's journey.
Danielle Ford: Totally.
Tiger Todd: Entrepreneurs, what do we do? We add value first. I think it's true with all of us. We take the blame even for stuff we didn't do. We learn vertically, and then again, when Mr. Miyagi tells us to wax the car, we say, “How do we wax?” Then we do it to prove it.
Danielle Ford: Always trying to be learning. I love that. One thing I've always … I used to be the kind of person who would pick up like a pizza, and then I'd be driving down the street and see a homeless person. I would be like, crack the window and putting the pizza out the window, which was so good to help them right then, but it was really interesting.
Tiger Todd: Right. Sure.
Danielle Ford: I attended your Suit-Up event, which was really fun at the Palms, in the big private suite and everything.
Tiger Todd: Yeah, yeah.
Danielle Ford: I learned what homeless people need instead of the immediate instant gratification. If someone was to donate money to your non-profit, it's probably not necessarily going to food. I know you still go and pick up things from grocery stores and help people out, but the core of it is not just feeding them.
Tiger Todd: Food is a tool or a vehicle for change.
Danielle Ford: Right. I love how you do your workshops and you promise them lunch if they stay.
Tiger Todd: Right.
Danielle Ford: If they want food, like you're listening to the whole thing.
Tiger Todd: Everything was the way I was treated when I was a kid, you know? I think, to be honest, there are so many sweet, helpful people out there, but you have to start with what do you want. What do you want? It was a line out of Joe Somebody, that movie. What do you want? I walked in that park wanting the homeless to be free from homelessness. A lot of other people might embrace it thinking, “”Well, I want them to feel good. I want them not hate me.”
Danielle Ford: Be happy right now.My goal is to free them for homelessness. I don't care if they hate me. -Tiger Todd @HeroSchool Click To Tweet
Tiger Todd: That's how we address our kids, right? I want to have a feel good experience for me. It's important, but my goal is to free them for homelessness. I don't care if they hate me. In movies, there are three parts to every movie. You have to have a relatable character. Not necessarily likable. They’ve got to be relatable. Then they have to endure conflict and obstacles in order to accomplish the impossible. Every single movie is based on this formula. I just reverse-engineering the math of movies in the '90s, turned it into a two hour, like a movie intervention, or a treatment. It only works in a group, like on an audience. One on one, it's a lot harder just talking to your team. They'll go back to their group and talk back about you, right? So to get them back in the group is where change can occur like in the movies. Yeah, so if you think about that, when you roll down that window with the food or your intervention, you think, “What do I need to say? What do I need to do to help that person?”
Danielle Ford: And what does this person need to like, get a job and to be able to be a member of society? They need obviously like a nice suit to go interview with.
Tiger Todd: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I would say, again, just to think about how Hero School works. Hero School, again, is based on movies and all these movie truths. But we're the lighthouse. Even when I'm doing, when I'm the one teaching the Hero School, I'm playing a fictional character. If I was a real person, then it's just like any real hero. If I have posters up … I remember doing this. We helped 17,000 men get through Catholic Charities, get through Catholic Charities, over the time doing all these Hero Schools. It was eight years. I had all my fictional movie characters that embody principles and characteristics. Someone says, “Well, why don't you have real ones up there?” I think someone brought up the name Tiger Woods. My name is Tiger, of course, but so he brought up Tiger Woods and it was a month before the whole scandal.
Danielle Ford: Oh my gosh.
Tiger Todd: This is our problem with real …
Danielle Ford: This is why we don't …
Tiger Todd: … characters and the reason why you don't because …
Danielle Ford: The nature.
Tiger Todd: … because our human nature is, “I'm looking for what you did wrong as an excuse not to have to do what you said.”
Danielle Ford: That's a really good point. People will always pick out the one thing that you said wrong or did wrong or didn't put effort into.
Tiger Todd: Absolutely, right. But no one is googling Happy Gilmore and saying, “I can't believe you did that, Happy.” Right?
Danielle Ford: Yeah, because it's okay for that person to do it. That's really interesting. Before we go, a couple of things I wanted to make sure you guys know that I think is really, really interesting. If you guys go check out, first of all, the website. I'll let Tiger tell you about in a second, the branding is amazing. It matches the same kind of story. It's way different than any type of non-profit website you go to and you're like, “Oh, donate here” and it's a sad story. It's really fun and interesting and cool. Really awesome branding. I really love how you give people things like bus passes and storage units because where are they going to put their stuff when they go for a job interview?
Tiger Todd: Sure. Right.
Danielle Ford: I really feel like when I either help raise money for your organization or donate, like it's really making a difference instead of just pacifying people.
Tiger Todd: Yeah. Everything is strategic.
Danielle Ford: Yeah. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we go?
Tiger Todd: Yes. Let's speak to the real world. All we did is we found out that there are these little mathematical models that make a movie work, and then they show us truths about human nature. And while every character in film knows what they want, none of them know what they need. It's the same in the real world, so we get them to choose what they want, a desire, and then start taking steps toward that. It's as they take those steps, is what they discover what they really needed.
Tiger Todd: The bus is when they get to take the step. Again, they fulfill their own journey. I can't help them become who they're supposed to be, but I can at least lead them in the right direction, entice them, set up the circumstances that aid that movie happening, so that's kind of the way we do it.
Danielle Ford: If they have the ground work, they have the bus pass, they have the clothes, they have the ability to interview …
Tiger Todd: And a class where they can see the big picture. But it's their goal, their desire and the character that they have to become. You know, a character must change, and who they must be, who they are called to be, you know, who they have to be.
Danielle Ford: I love it, and it's working.
Tiger Todd: Yeah, it works.
Danielle Ford: How many people do you think you've helped?
Tiger Todd: Oh, it's 45,000+ that are no longer homeless.
Danielle Ford: That's amazing.
Tiger Todd: Plus prevention. That's just in Clark County. Not including San Francisco, Honolulu. Then a quarter of a million kids. Prevention, prevent them from the seven habits of public schools.
Danielle Ford: Wow. You're really making a huge difference. Where can people find you or contact you, find more about your organization, even donate online?
Tiger Todd: Yeah, they can go to Heroschool.us or on Facebook, find it. I think we have an Instagram account too.
Danielle Ford: Awesome. Okay, thank you so much, so much for being here.
Tiger Todd: Yeah. My pleasure. Thank you.
Danielle Ford: This was extremely valuable for entrepreneurs and everybody who wants to grow higher for their personal development or business. Yeah. You guys, thank you so much for tuning in. This has been another episode of Leading Las Vegas, with Tiger Todd. I am Danielle Ford, and I will see you in the next episode. Bye, guys.