Where Resilience, Creativity, And Authentic Connection Meet To Create Impact With Aaron Craig Mitchell

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Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience


With resilience and creativity, you can achieve limitless possibilities and reach great heights. Just like our guest in this episode. Aaron Craig Mitchell, an LA-based entrepreneur, advisor, and changemaker, joins Darrin Tulley to share his transformative journey from corporate life to entrepreneurship. From resilience cultivated in a challenging upbringing to leaving a high-ranking HR position at Netflix Animation Studio for personal well-being, Aaron’s narrative unfolds. As a strategic advisor and storyteller, he discusses his unique skill set, emphasizing the learnability of creativity. He also shares his involvement in a groundbreaking Netflix initiative, moving $100 million into black banks for social impact. Aaron’s commitment to authenticity, vulnerability, and community building shines through, offering profound insights into personal growth, happiness, and the pursuit of an authentic life. This conversation weaves together creativity, resilience, and authenticity, creating a compelling narrative that resonates with listeners.

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Where Resilience, Creativity, And Authentic Connection Meet To Create Impact With Aaron Craig Mitchell

Don’t miss out on our dynamic guest, Aaron Craig Mitchell, to examine the world through different perspectives and unlock the creativity we all possess at the intersection of Playful Impossible. I first met Aaron at Mass Mutual where he both worked and knew back then he was on a path to delivery with higher meaning. We talk about Aaron’s journey filled with failures and how he cultivated resiliency to keep him moving forward, resulting in far-reaching impacts. He is currently an LA-based entrepreneur, advisor, coach, and change maker, focused on helping individuals and companies realize their potential by building resilience, cultural competence, and community coalition, building. His unique skills bring people together and unlock the unique potential that resides within both individuals and groups. Enjoy the show.


Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience


Welcome, Aaron Craig Mitchell, to the show. How are you doing?

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

It’s good to see you again. It’s been many years since we worked together.

That’s a long time and time has flown by fast.

Finding Purpose And Passion

A lot has happened since then. I remember, when we first met, how impressed I was when we were connecting and chatting about the world. You were in the talent space and discussed how we were trying to change the way of thinking, and how we brought, the best talent into the organization. I’m excited that you’re here. I’d love to start with what you are passionate about these days, and let’s start to jump into your journey.

We met back at MassMutual in 2017. It has been a good amount of time, but these days I left HR as a profession in September 2022. I broke off and I started working as an entrepreneur. I am a strategic advisor, executive coach, facilitator, and storyteller. I do some public speaking, podcasting, and of that nature. My passion these days is helping people and organizations redefine what prosperity means. When I say that, what I hope to be doing and what I’ve been doing in a lot of the spaces is 1) When we talk about being happy, we were talking about that a moment ago, a lot of times people are focused on attaining things, whether that be the title, a certain amount of money, etc., and so forth. If I could get that thing, then I’d be happy and prosperous.

A lot of the work that I’m doing at the individual level, at the organizational level is saying, “What is our real objective? What is our real purpose? How do we maybe change the goalpost so that we can achieve this thing versus we have to grow 20% as a metric? Arbitrary. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t add any value to society, but we have to do that thing versus why don’t we expand how we think about where we spend our money in order to create a healthier consumer group? How do we think about my own personal journey? I’ll talk about that real quick. I was head of HR for Netflix animation studio up until September 2022. After being given a choice to either take a smaller role or leave the organization, I blew up my life.

I was like, “I don’t think I’m going to do HR anymore. I think I’m going to start over from scratch.” A lot of that for me was redefining my own personal prosperity. What is it that I’m trying to get out? At the time, I needed to be able to spend more time with my wife and my kids. I needed to be more present and more available, but I also needed to be focused on my own personal, physical, and mental health. I had chronic back issues that I wasn’t dealing with because I was like, “I’m too busy to do what I need to do. Let me keep going and eventually, the pain will go away because that’s what pain does.” I had to change certain aspects of my lifestyle and I had to take a pretty significant pay cut in order to do so, which I would not have been able to do if the pay, title, or achievement of those things was the factor or the signal of prosperity.

I went back to the drawing board with my wife and had to map out, “What are all the things that we’re trying to accomplish? How much time do we want to see each other? Is me being on the road 60% or 70% of the time worth it if what I’m supposed to be doing is spending time with my family?” To add a little context to why this was such a critical moment, my daughter six months before I left Netflix, had been diagnosed with autism, which meant that we were going to be in therapy five days a week for two hours. Doing that then asking my wife, “That’s your responsibility.” It is ridiculous because if I’m on the road it means she’s in therapy every day. I don’t know if you’ve dealt with a child on the spectrum but nothing makes sense.

To put that on her would’ve been inappropriate. My wife had lost her brother, her best friend. He died suddenly in March 2022. The grief and depression that comes along with that, she was essentially out of commission for an entire year because grief doesn’t have a timeline. My father had a heart attack. My mom was dealing with all of the things with a heart attack. He had beat cancer. All of this was happening all at the same time. I could do what I’ve been doing because I’ve always been able to handle a lot or I could listen to my body in this chronic back pain. I could listen to the circumstances around me and do something different. I’ve been doing that now for the last few years.

It has given me so much perspective on helping others craft and find that purpose for themselves because it doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but it should be something that is evident in everything that you’re doing. Otherwise, you’re doing what I was doing. You’re lying to yourself. You’re engaging in self-imposed gaslighting and we can’t be our best versions if that’s the lives that we live.


Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience


Cultivating Resilience

How did you remain resilient through those times and help out your wife and the family? There’s definitely a lot of sadness and circumstances that you had to work through. That would settle most folks back for a long time. You’re right about grief. Grief has no timeline and it’ll always be with us to a degree. How did you handle that? How did you and the family go through that? What was your resilience like?

This is going to sound weird, but I was fortunate enough to have a very troubling upbringing. What I mean by that is I was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut and I grew up in the part of New Haven that anybody who’s from the Northeast during the ‘90s, New Haven was not a place that you went unless you had to go. I remember, there was a New York Times article in May of 1991 titled “Armed Youth Turned New Haven Into A Battleground.” At this point in New Haven’s history, New Haven was the top ten most dangerous city on the FBI’s list of cities. Most people don’t know this because New Haven is a small town. It’s Yale University.

My experience was that of violence and chaos all around us. I had a good family. My mom and dad were loving parents who did everything they could to cultivate creativity and safety in the spaces where they could. The soundtrack outside was, I heard gunshots every night. We had drive-by shootings. I think I was ten years old when I was walking home from school and I saw somebody get shot in the head. These are things that became my normalized existence. I developed resilience because my parents knowing they couldn’t control the surroundings, cultivated that resilience.

Whenever something bad or tragic happened, we talked about it so that we understood it. I learned how to communicate my feelings early on. Being able to communicate those feelings and being able to talk about them and have my parents say, “This is not normal. This is not good, but we must survive this. We must go forward regardless. There was always this idea that no matter what we go forward.” Both of my parents are not college-educated. My father dropped out of high school and went back and got his GED as a mechanic. My mom decorated cakes.

Both my parents are extremely intelligent, not based on their education but based on their common sense and street smarts. They knew based on their own experiences growing up what emotional support we needed in order to survive this thing. That was the early cultivation. I also went to a performing arts high school and I read this book called Your Brain On Art. I highly recommend it to anybody, specifically anybody who’s had any connection to the arts. It talks about how much creative pursuits are important for mental health, essentially all creative pursuits, whether they be music, art, acting, storytelling, poetry, spoken word, or even cooking.

All of these things allow us to access a part of our humanity that is, I’d say it is natural to all of us. You can be an artist without being a professional or a commercial artist because all art is art. For me, going to a performing arts high school, I got to see art in everything because no matter what the class was, they somehow incorporated some aspect of visual or performing arts. I remember doing papers in English where we would have to do something like, “You have to interpret this story and create a book cover.” It wasn’t only the art students that had to do this, everybody had to do this or you had to do something performance-wise. I had this interesting multidisciplinary experience with creativity that allowed me to infuse creativity into everything.

I thought that’s what everybody did. I didn’t realize this was something that was special for performing arts. The upbringing and having access to this way to cope and express myself created a mechanism that allowed me to continue to cultivate that resilience. I also failed a lot. When I say a lot, I failed at everything. I failed at Little League baseball. I was good at t-ball, but when it came to hitting the ball, it was terrible. I have this memory of like my dad trying to teach me how to catch and there are all these kids around. My dad is frustrated because who father doesn’t want to play catch with his son? It’s the American thing to do.

Before I started wearing glasses, I could not figure out how people caught balls. I’m like, “I don’t get it.” One day my dad has all the kids around. He throws a fastball. It goes into this cloud of kids. I’m like, “My dad knows I can’t catch.” I put my hands down and the ball comes out of the crowd and hits me straight in the mouth. My dad is mortified. He’s feeling guilty and everything. I got out of Little League because I was terrible. I was the least valuable player.

If they had LVPs, it would’ve been me on this team. My team ends up winning the championship. My mom convinces me, “Support your team. Go to the award ceremony to support your team.” I’m like, “I don’t think I should do that.” She’s like, “You should absolutely do that. Support the team.” I get there and they all clown me. They’re like, “You didn’t do anything. What are you doing here? You don’t deserve to be here. You just came from the trophy,” and even the coach is laughing at me.

I’m humiliated and destroyed. I look at my mom like, “Why would you do this?” There was something that she understood like in order to be unbreakable, you have to break. You might as well do it when the bones are still soft because when the bones get harder when you’re older, those breaks can kill you. I tell you if there were trophies for losing, my trophy case would be impressive and all of those things coming together help to cultivate resilience early on. I never shied away from failure because I was familiar with this. I’m going to try, if I fail, I already know what that feels like so why not?

I kept trying because 1) I failed at everything. 2) I grew up in a family with smart parents whose intelligence did not give them a leg up in their careers, but they kept going. There was never a day where my dad was like, “I’m not doing this anymore. I quit life because it’s not fair.” When I graduated from college, my father, because I had to fill out financial aid forms, was making like $30,000 a year. He was the sole breadwinner, which you can’t be the sole breadwinner on $30,000 a year, but my dad was, and I respected him. I love him.

I never thought about that as some deficiency because he kept going. No matter what, he was going to keep going. My mom was going to keep going. There was no version of quitting that seemed acceptable because I didn’t have that personal experience. It started there and that foundation is something I built on as I went on.

Leveraging Creativity

I like how you talk about the cultivation of resilience and your mom’s point about being unbreakable, you got to break. Your willingness to share that. I always commend folks for being vulnerable and I appreciate you sharing that, “You failed and you kept going.” As you’re going through that, I imagine you’re seeing things, you’re learning things when you talk about creativity, how’s that carrying forward in what you’re doing?

In terms of creativity, once I realized that I had access to this creativity, whether it be through art or music. It was something that I infused in everything that I did. I left New Haven, graduated from performing arts high school, and went to Temple University, that’s where I met my wife in freshman year. The story I like to tell is I didn’t know it, but I landed my wife because I played the saxophone. I had no idea that that’s what did it for her until maybe a few years ago when she was like we were at a place and I was playing and I was serenading her. I was like, “I think I’m going to incorporate this into the show.”

She’s like, “I’m not showing up at every show.” I was like, “No, I’ll do it with whoever’s in the audience, a nice woman who’s sitting in the front.” She’s like, “You will not.” I’m like, “Why?” She’s like, “Do you understand how much of a tool the saxophone is?” I’m like, “No, you’ve never told me anything.” She’s like, “That’s why we started dating.” I’m like, “You waited until we were together for seventeen years to tell me that my superpower was the saxophone thing?” It was because it was Jazz’s personal expression and it allowed me to find a way to be my authentic self. It worked because my wife was the best decision and the best thing that happened to me in college.

Based on my upbringing, I didn’t know how to study. I didn’t know what a syllabus was. I grew up in the inner city of New Haven, Connecticut. As much as the performing arts aspect of my education prepared me for so much, there are a lot of things I wasn’t prepared for. I got to college and I was taking remedial classes because I didn’t do well in math. My wife and I met second semester, freshman year Electrical Engineer, she’s like, “You don’t know how to do this math?” My offering to her beyond the music was I’m a good writer. I’d write all her papers. I’m like, “You helped me with math, I’ll write your papers.”

Partnership. That’s awesome.

Beyond that, I started to discover that where I was deficient as a saxophone player, there were a lot of things that I learned about connecting with people in terms of performance. In terms of creativity, I started to leverage that in how I told stories and how I connected with people. I ended up going the route of HR, which I was attracted to because of people. The thing that attracted me to the people was not, “I like people.” I don’t dislike people, but it wasn’t because, “I really like people,” because I would’ve been a social worker if that was the case.

It was more like, “I appreciate connecting with people, learning about their stories, their cultures, and what makes them tick.” There was something about improvisational music that created an access point to that for me. In order for a piece of jazz music to be, there has to be this honest, authentic collaboration amongst individuals who in those moments, everybody’s valuable and matters. Nobody is less important than the other.

I think embodying that in my interactions with people was a big part of the creativity that I had taken forward. Fast forward, I wrote my essays to get into Harvard Business School. Half of the essays I wrote were about music and experiences that I got leading people, working with people or mentoring people in the context of music, not in the stuff that I did in the business world. It’s funny because like I was working in Bakersfield, California. Do you know anything about Bakersfield, California?

Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience
Cultivating Resilience: Anything and everything that is going to happen is going to happen through collaboration and through leveraging and working with other people.


I do not.

Neither do most people. Bakersfield California is the country music capital of the West Coast. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger of Running Man?


His character’s title was The Butcher of Bakersfield. That’s all I knew about Bakersfield before I got there, but ended up leveraging music to make a lot of the initial connections I made. I leveraged music to get my first leadership promotion because when my boss is like, “I want to invest in you. I believe in you. You just don’t have any previous supervisory experience.” I’m like, “I was the musical director of a salsa band and I’ve hired and fired and disciplined.” He’s like, “You check all the boxes. You’re promoted.” I get into HBS on a lot of that stuff. I ended up moving to Singapore about a year after I left HBS and working with Citibank.

A big part of the reason that I got moved to Singapore, was the responsibility was, “We need you to go and fix recruitment in Asia.” That was it. I’m one year out of business school and they’re like, “We need you to fix recruitment in Asia, either in Singapore and Hong Kong regionally. We don’t know what you need to do. We don’t know how you need to do it.” I approached that in the same way that I would’ve approached, “We need you to put together a set for this type of music at this particular venue. I’m going to immerse myself in it, understand it, listen, get to know, meet people, build relationships, and collaborate because anything and everything that is going to happen is going to happen through collaboration, leveraging, and working with other people.”

Many of those skills are the skills that I learned as a musician. As a musician when I was in Singapore, I joined an R&B band. I had my day life personality as the serious corporate head of strategy and planning for Asia Pacific recruitment, then I was in this R&B band, then I would also play at the jazz clubs. I was able to walk and move in these different spaces, which when it comes to connecting with people, understanding stories, and understanding Singapore beyond the glitz and the glamor, musicians are going to give you the real real.

These are the people, especially in the context of Singapore who didn’t go to the good schools and didn’t get the awards. They’re like me. They did a lot of losing along the way because in a society like Singapore that promotes Math and Science, becoming a musician, specifically an R&B or jazz musician is not necessarily an aspirational goal.

It has always been and continues to be a big part of what I do, either directly participating in the arts or leveraging everything that I’ve learned about connecting with people as an artist in the workplace. Even the stuff that, the short amount of time that I spent at Mass Mutual, a lot of what I was trying to do in terms of driving change with culture comes from that very creative mindset. Let’s take two very unrelated things, put them together, and figure out where the intersection is. In most cases, that is the definition of creativity.

That’s a unique skill. It takes like a lot of things. It takes intention and effort. I imagine you see things differently. You see that you have more clarity to see what’s possible than maybe others based on your level of creativity. What do you think about that?

I’m doing a workshop and one of the things they ask us to do is, “Reach out to people you work with and ask for feedback.” I got a bunch of feedback. That’s the common thread. People tell me, “You see things differently than a lot of people.” It’s not so much like a lot of the things. I’ll talk about one of them, it’s not much that I’m thinking of something that is unfathomable and I pluck it from Skyer. It is a really simple thing that nobody else was thinking about because they were overbaking or overcomplicating.

It’s like, “Why don’t we do it this way and flip that thing on the side?” That’s been the superpower that I’ve cultivated over time. I’d say it’s only been a benefit to me in the last couple of years. At every point before Netflix, it was more of a hindrance than it was a superpower because people are like, “Can you stay in the box?” not, “Can you find a new box?” Now that’s what I get called to do, but up until 2020 with Netflix, nobody wanted that.

People weren’t ready for it because a lot of people I’ve seen can’t see what’s possible or they want to go get the results that we’re trying to get rather than build better results or maybe even bigger results or different results with different people and different perspectives, different ideas. Have you read The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson?  What you are talking about resonates with me regarding this book.

When I read that book, I was like me. I felt seen. If I were a jazz saxophonist, my family owned a bakery. I’m a baker and a cook. I almost went to culinary school, which is why I decided between culinary school and Temple University I chose Temple because it was a big city. Not Providence, Rhode Island. That was my decision-making criteria. I have done martial arts for most of my life up until recently because of age. Stuff starts breaking down and not repairing, but touching on that. Running HR for Netflix Animation opened up a whole other area of my life. I went to a performing arts high school. I initially wanted to go for visual arts. I’ve always drawn. I was big into comic books and I’m big into animation.

I wasn’t a good enough artist. My mom convinced them to accept me on music instead of art, which was a big point of contention for me and my mom for a good year and a half because I’m like, “I don’t like music. I don’t enjoy this. Why did you make me do this? I want to do art.” She’s like, “You don’t need to go to school for art to draw.”

I’m like, “What’s the point of going to an art school and not going for art?” There was that whole thing. I learned very early on, “Just listen to your mom .” In fact, listen to the women in your life because they are almost always smarter and more informed than you. shut up and listen. Bringing all of those things together I always thought was a little bit more of a distraction until I read the Medici Effect and I’m like, “There’s something to this.” In fact, “We should probably try cultivating this in people because all of this stuff is learnable.”

Listen to the women in your life because they are almost always smarter and more informed than you. Click To Tweet

It’s like taking the best of different things and coming together, as you described earlier. Any of us could practice that. That’s the beauty of your ability to create, discover and explore. You can look at two different things, products, and companies, and make the best of or can you learn an idea from something that is totally indifferent to make it something that makes a product or a solution better. I’m curious to see if there’s something that you’ve created or identified at the intersection of two things that we’re talking about here.

2020 Netflix Initiative

The one that I’m most proud of and that’s become a big part of my story and my journey. In 2020, Netflix announced an initiative to move $100 million into black banks’ financial institutions, earmarking it around to 2% of their cash holdings. It was an initiative that I conceived and helped to implement. It was born out of a time when corporations didn’t know what to do in this space. Right as the pandemic started, it’s taking its hold on the US. Organizations were 1) Trying to figure out how to work, but also trying to figure out what to do as the news started to come out that certain communities and certain constituencies were being more negatively impacted by the results of COVID than some other communities. A lot of that was on racial lines.

Black and Brown communities were faring worse. I had at the time been doing a series of dinners. The dinner idea in itself was something that was a bit creative. my job was running recruitment for all of our corporate functions, finance, legal, and HR. My boss at the time who ran all of the recruitment for Netflix was like, “We need better diversity recruitment strategies.” By simply doing the same old things that everybody else is doing is not yielding the right results, I need all of my leaders to come up with ways that they’ll address that in their particular spaces. I’ve never been a fan of anything that’s conventional.

I think you know that about me. Everybody’s doing it this way. I’m like, “Why don’t we do it this way?” Everybody’s like, “Because everybody’s doing it this way.” The same thing happens at Netflix where a lot of my colleagues were focused on recruiting from HBCUs, connecting with professional networking organizations, sponsorships, and things that are more recognized, tried and true diversity recruitment strategies. Nothing wrong with them, but not something that excited me.

I presented an idea where we were going to do Jefferson-style dinners. We were going to do Jefferson dinners not to recruit people. We’re going to solve a recruitment problem by not recruiting because my theory was it was not a recruitment issue, it was a network issue. If you’ve ever hired anybody, you know that the process usually goes something like this. I’ve got this problem that I need to solve, or I had a person that left and I need to replace. Based on this problem that I need to solve, I need a job description to describe the thing that I’m trying to do.

Who do I know who does that thing? Let me reach out to all my friends and put together some version of the thing that I need based on the people that I know. When you think about my job as a recruiter, I take that job description and I go out into the market and I try to find people who most closely match that thing. If your entire network, let’s say in the instance of, and I’ll use the CFO one specifically, our CFO 50-year-old White male. When I sit down, I ask him, “If I were to ask you the top ten people that could replace you, what would they look like? Who would they be?”

He is like, “They would all be men. Maybe one would be a person of color and a woman, but that’s a strong maybe.” What that does in the mind of the hiring manager is it biases you to the possibility that there might be somebody outside of your network who’s qualified to do the job because you built the job based on people in your network. I’m like, “Let me hack the network by creating a space for these dinners to happen where you can get to know people in ways that you would not normally get to know people because you don’t get to know people during an interview. You’re trying to fill a box.”

That’s not the thing and you’re chatting over dinner on a topic where you’re all equals. You get the real opportunity to know people. One of my superpowers is facilitation, being able to sit down, listen to the energy in the room, ask the right questions creates the opportunity for everybody to show up as their best authentic self. We started doing these things and these things were helping our leaders think more broadly about their networks. The pandemic happens, and we’re no longer able to have dinner.

Working with this firm called Yardstick Management, I’m like, “How about we do this thing virtually or somehow like in a way that we can do it while everybody’s sheltering at home?” We settle on doing these Zoom dinners. During the first Zoom dinner, somebody’s like, “It’s cool, and all that we’re worried about like changing the complexion composition of the C-Suite. I’m a banker and I’m trying to make sure that people and business owners don’t lose their businesses because they can’t get access to this PPP funding. I love this conversation, but I’m a little distracted.”

Somebody on the call is like, “How do we get corporations to move their money into black banks because it seems like a capital problem, not necessarily a competence problem?” That person asked the question in this environment that was created for connection, but I’m like, “Let me take that idea, press that thing forward.” fast forward, I write a proposal, I present it to our CFO Friday, May 25th, George Floyd is murdered. I’ve got this proposal that has nothing to do with George Floyd. That has nothing to do with addressing criminal justice or policing. At this moment where people are like, “Something’s got to change,” there’s this opportunity for Reed Hastings to consider, “Maybe let’s do something else that’s completely unrelated, but it’s connected to the systemic problem.”

On June 30th, we make the announcement. In about a month we go from an idea and a proposal to executing this thing. The $100 million that Netflix committed ended up inspiring $2 billion more from across Corporate America that money is still in these communities today doing work. The amount of money that has been created from that $2 billion alone because of the money multiplier effect is profound. That’s probably where I finally got to see a lot of these creative energies and tactics come together in a meaningful way.

For me, what it clarified is that maybe I’m not supposed to be in HR anymore. Maybe I should be doing something differently, but what? I can’t describe this thing that I’m doing as a job. There’s no job description for this thing. there’s no role that I could apply for. Going back to all the stuff I mentioned in terms of resetting, and rethinking, I was like, “I’m going to spend more of my time trying to figure out things like this than I’m going to spend trying to figure out how to hire people because this stuff matters and this stuff can change the world,” versus, “We hired 100 amazing people, great for us.”

Those 100 folks are impacted positively too in the organization. To your point, it’s within that space. It’s great work and you’re impacting probably millions of lives with $100 million seed and then followed by billions. Were they investments?

They were either deposits or investments. The way this worked because I didn’t want to promote something that was philanthropy or a donation because those things are not sustaining. I sit on a couple of nonprofit boards. There’s much frustration around the availability of philanthropy capital. This had to be something that didn’t go anywhere. The cool thing about a deposit is I can take my Scrooge McDuck-sized safe full of gold coins and simply park it somewhere else. By doing so, the money that’s available now in that community can do the work because it’s not going anywhere. Netflix’s $100 million is still there. It’s sitting in a different bank. Because it’s in that different bank, the lending, the $2 billion is sitting in instruments that allow that money to continue to perpetually flow through those communities.

It’s a great way to leverage that creativity. Leverage the money and the funding into the community. I don’t know if you remember Shamiah Lodge, she was at Mass Mutual in Arizona. She’s working on second chances, fair chances, fair hiring folks that are coming out of prison trying to help skill up, give communication tools and technology. It’s an amazing work that she’s doing. What she talked about there is not that different.

She was talking about, “This is all about a hand up. Give it a hand up to help people get the opportunity. Get the chance to do something with this.” It’s not a hand-up. I love that she mentioned that and how you described this amazing work and idea that you had. It’s the same type of thing. The money sitting in these banks and giving the opportunity for folks to reinvest or keep their money, their money there or present to reinvest in their teams, reinvest in their businesses, and keep it alive, especially in these tough times. I applaud you for bringing that up. I saw you in a clip. What show was that?


That was fun to see you out there. Congratulations. Congrats on everything. I think it’s amazing.

The point you raised is the thing that I love to be able to tell folks because it’s going on four years in June. I caught up with the treasurer from Netflix last year after she had connected with LISC or the Local Initiative Support Corporation. They’re one of the recipients of the funding. Netflix had moved $25 million into them and they created a $250 million impact investment fund called the Black Economic Development Fund. When I spoke to her, every single dollar deployed had come back with interest. All the loans that they made had come back. All these were good investments, with no defaults, and no bad actors. It was successful in every organization that they were talking to because the thing that we started with them think twenty organizations invested in.

All the organizations were like, “Sign us up for another three years because why not? This was easy. All we did was move our money to a place and we get a modest return,” which is what we knew going in because the fund was designed to give as much to these small businesses as possible. They get a modest return, which would’ve been similar to what they got with the money market bank. The impact is phenomenal. Going into the restaurants and businesses that not only have survived the pandemic but are now thriving and employing people because in the United States, most businesses are small businesses. Most jobs come from small businesses. Being able to see that connectivity has been phenomenal.

Authenticity Through The Highs And Lows

I love the connection you’re bringing through everything you do from the jazz music to the arts, to the making the connections at the dinner. It’s impressive, “You’ve been brought up a certain way to see things and you’ve been broken and used that as opportunities to learn. You persevere. You take action, work, and continue to persevere. We talk about happiness a little bit. Happiness isn’t just about the titles and the outcomes all the time. It’s about where you’re going and what you said about the journey. It’s the actions you’re taking and how you’re going through this journey. How have you been through these times? Have you been able to maintain that level of joy and happiness through this? It sounds like there’s been highs and lows throughout your journey.

There’s been many of those. There are a couple of things that I think are important. 1) I started being vulnerable before it was cool to be so. I think that that vulnerability has 1) Allowed me to attract the right people because you need more positive affirmations than we allow for in this world. I’ve essentially manufactured an amazing fan club of people whose positive affirmations I take to heart. I reach out to them all the time. Not in a like fishing for a compliment way, but in a way where we support each other.

Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience
Cultivating Resilience: I started being vulnerable before it was cool to be so.


I was talking to a friend of mine earlier today, congratulating her. She entered into a film festival stop motion animation director. I sent her a text to congratulate her, and tell her how special she is to me and how much I love her. She does the same. It’s reciprocal. I have so many of those friendships because I lead with the brokenness, the pieces that aren’t perfect, the things that don’t work. When somebody’s like, “How are you doing today?” If I’m having a bad day, unfortunately, if you ask me, you’re going to know because in that moment, if you’ve asked me and you cared, then you might be what I need to get over it.

I’ve always led with that vulnerability and that’s allowed me to cultivate meaningful friendships because I need help. I have not done a damn thing by myself. As I tell my stories, I’m always saying, “I contacted this person and none of it happened because it was me.” There’s definitely something about having a resilient attitude that’s helpful, but I still need help. I still need so and so to make that call and that introduction because without that I’m nothing.

The second piece I’d say is building a strong community and having access and being insistent upon doing. I’ve done that every place that I’ve lived. I do it constantly. Even when I was working as a recruiter professionally, the number of times that the conversations I was having were just for me, I’ve always done it that way because I’ve always had the flexibility to do so. There’s going to be some interviews, but this call, this friendship-making thing here, going to take this with me. I’ve been able to do that everywhere I’ve gone. The last thing in terms of maintaining is that I’m honest with myself when stuff is hard, I’m like, “This is hard.”

When stuff makes me sad, I’m like, “This hurts.” I was having a conversation with my wife and I’m like, “This thing hurt my feelings.” I’m a grown man telling my wife, “You hurt my feelings.” Being able to communicate that, it’s like, “That was not the intent. Here’s how we can move forward.” That open, honest communication and fighting for that thing is what’s allowed me to because I’ve been down more than not in these last few years.

Starting in 2020, I had a cousin who was murdered by police officers in January 2020. I was open and honest about that with my team at work, then when the George Floyd thing happened, like my boss, we had a staff meeting the next day. I sent an email to my boss like, “Can we move George Floyd to the top of the agenda because I cannot jump into this meeting without sharing what is heavy on my heart, especially given the fact that this feels a tinge more personal than something that happened in Minnesota.”

Her giving me that space is part of what gave me the confidence to then send Reed Hastings the email the next day on this initiative because every single step of the way, I wasn’t going to do it. Every step of the way, I’m like, “This will never happen.” I kept saying that. I kept looking for way reasons to maybe try and do. Part of that was being open with people when I’d be like, “I’m thinking about this thing, but I don’t know.” I even sent an email to my section from HBS to 90 people.

I’m like, “Here’s this thing that I’m going to try to do, but if it doesn’t work, here’s the template. You all go do it if you think it makes sense because I don’t want my failure to be a failure.” It’s funny because even one of my section mates took it to their company. Maybe a month after Netflix, her company did the same thing. She was one of the ones that followed part of. That was because I’m like, “You all take it. I’m not going to try to maintain ownership and authorship of this thing because it happening is more important than me being able to say I did it.”

It’s selfless and there’s a level of abundance that you’ve allowed and enabled. You’ve encouraged other folks to step in with you. That sense of community is huge, is that reservoir when we need it, when we need to lean into it. I have to say I keep hearing the important connection back to communication, back to what you talked about with your parents and how your parents would talk about what was going on in your neighborhood and in your life at that time.

It feels like it’s coming through with what you’re doing and what I love about how you’re doing it. You’re doing it with such care. Your intentions run deep. The fact that you’re saying, “I love you,” and texting to colleagues and friends, you’re openly sharing love. You’re there. You’re playing music for other people with your heart. You could tell.

I think because of the way that I grew up, I’ve lost a lot of people that I love. When I got to HBS, Harvard Business School, I never thought I’d get to a place like Harvard Business School, but I applied because it’s like, “They can tell me no.” The worst thing they could happen is they reject me. That’s been a very useful attitude. I get there and I’m in this space that does not feel like it was created or crafted with me in mind because as a Black kid from the inner city who grew up in the the wake of Yale, these places did not feel like they were inviting me in then. About 1 or 2 months in another one of my cousins is murdered.

I’ve had 5 cousins murdered from 2009 to 2020. This was the first one. He was five days older than me. I looked up to this dude. He was the most charismatic, dynamic, and beautiful soul. He got 2 or 3 months into me being at Harvard Business School. I remember feeling like, “I can’t even talk about this because if I say this out loud, people will know that I don’t belong here. At the same time, if I miss this funeral, my family will be like, ‘You don’t turn your back on who you are and where you’re from.’” I remember being conflicted until I was able to say it out loud to somebody who helped me find a pathway through. I was stuck but being able, to be honest about who I am and live in my authenticity has been the biggest upside for me in my journey.

It means that there are going to be some places that don’t work, don’t accept you, and don’t embrace you. Because of the resilience that my parents cultivated, I can take those lumps and keep moving. Does it hurt any less? No, it sucks. Leaving Netflix and circumstances I left because it was like a smaller role or severance, I cried when it was like, “Why didn’t y’all fight for me?” At the same time, I get it. Corporations change. Perspectives or priorities change. I can also get over it, move on, and put it in perspective, but it doesn’t stop it from hurting. I think that you talk about the communication stuff. Have you ever seen one of those emotion wheels where they have all the words for all the complex emotions?


I was lucky enough to learn a lot of that stuff. Not because I had the wheel in front of me, but because I had parents who helped cultivate that. I learned the language for a lot of that stuff way before learning that stuff. It’s allowed me to be super intentional as I communicate with people because we only live once, at least as far as anybody I know knows. I don’t want to waste this one.

Your intentionality is genuine and authentic. It’s amazing. I feel like you’re bringing the legacy of others with you. You’re bringing what you’ve learned, maybe folks that have been unfortunately impacted negatively. I wish we could do more. I wish we could go back in time. We can’t. We’re here and I appreciate you bringing it forward. I’d love to learn more about how are you bringing some of this pain into the work you’re doing. How are you bringing some of this forward with you to help change the world? Those are some of the dynamics that I’ve seen on your website. You’re looking to help bring and get different perspectives to the table so we can make a better world in front of us.

I’ll keep this one short because it’s all a work in progress. One of the things that I do, and I mentioned those dinners I’ve been after leaving Netflix have continued to do these dinners on a number of different topics. Part of it is I want to keep opening up the invitation to have people join, “Join these conversations. Learn how to be your authentic self.” It’s hard to do when you don’t see models of it, but it’s the change that we need I feel like we’ve done much of this work to try to be people that we’re not. It could get beat into you in high school, college, then in workplaces like, “In order to be successful you must blah, blah, blah.”

I resisted that accidentally. I didn’t know that being my authentic self was going to be the win. I was ready to lose. I was ready to be the LVP, but because of that and I didn’t have that expectation allowed me to navigate this path that now I can show others like, “You can do your thing your way,” because I’ve never subscribed to the self-made individualistic, push others aside to get where you need to go mentality.

I was okay with finishing last and it turns out that I didn’t have to. If I can share this with people and then bring them into the environments, one of those being those dinners and I put on my LinkedIn page like, “Sign up because I’m doing these dinners in every city that I can go to wherever I’m invited to do so,” because there’s something about listening to other people’s stories that helps to sharpen your empathy. Sharpening your empathy makes it hard to normalize some of the stuff that we see happening now, the divisiveness and hatred.

There's something about listening to other people's stories that helps to sharpen your empathy. Click To Tweet

You cannot truly engage in any of that if you have empathy for all human beings like, “I’m big on humanity these days,” and I would be like, “I’m not an activist. I’m not a humanitarian. I’m just the person.” I want more people to be like, “I don’t have to be all these labels and I can live in this authentic truth.” We need guides because all the guides we’ve had thus far are the ones that have told us how to be fake and how to leave more of ourselves at home. I’m trying to give the stage to more people who can walk and live in their truth. If that’s interesting and exciting, I want people to join. It’s not, “Join me.” It’s, “Join this community.” What I don’t want to do is be a personality cult.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the only documentaries on Netflix these days are cult documentaries. I watch these things and I’m like, “Yuck. I don’t want that.” Don’t follow me if following me turns into this. Read this thing that I said. You don’t even need to give me credit for it because I don’t need anybody following me to a small village in Kazakhstan drinking strange liquids. Please don’t do that.

You Win Being Good

Your story’s amazing. I’m up for dinner. Whenever you’re in the area or when I’m out in LA, I’ll give you a buzz if you’re up for that. because I’m all in. I’m with you on, “Is it that hard to treat each other like human beings? We’re all here. We all have the ability and the right to make a difference, be happy, and live the life that we want to create.” This is why “Live Your Possible” exists. This is part of why I wrote my book. We met back in 2017. I was a year into my journey of being vulnerable and trying to understand my authentic self. I thought I had everything right. I thought I was one of the good leaders or guys and I wasn’t even good enough.

I had that awakening that I had shared with you. I wasn’t looking at differences as possibilities, or strengths or to look at the intersection of two amazing different people and what is possible. When I started to open my eyes and my heart differently, I started to realize that was who I was meant to be, not the leader who had all the answers and hired the same people like myself. The stories you talked about earlier could totally resonate. When I started to hire people who were different than me, amazing because of where they came from and their experiences and their knowledge and their abilities. We did amazing things and incredible things, things I could never even have dreamed of.


Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating Resilience


It’s better than I would’ve done had I continued the path that I was on. Everything you’re talking about with authenticity and the ability to be vulnerable, I’ve been pretty vulnerable. It’s pretty amazing what people step in to pick us up when you don’t expect it. That’s not what I’m looking for when I’m vulnerable. I’m looking for people to slow down, start to look at themselves, self-reflect and see, “What can I do differently? Am I doing it the right way?” Not to beat ourselves up. You have to ask ourselves, “What does it mean? What am I doing? Am I being that good human that we’re talking about?”

There’s this mentality baked into our society where it’s like you can be mean, nasty, rude, but as long as you win whatever the proverbial win is, then it’s okay. I believe similar to what you were alluding to, the win is in the how. I want people to understand that instead of the win being the thing that you get, the win is in how you approach it. The win is in the relationships.

You can win by being good. Click To Tweet

How To Keep Going

We talked a little bit pre-show about happiness and how we could have that in our world, even though there’s much divisiveness, high points, and low points and you’ve talked about many of the low points and you continue to keep going, take the actions, try and keep swinging. Even though you said you weren’t a good baseball player, keep swinging. How do you do it? How do you stay smiling? How do you stay upbeat knowing that there are topics and there’s darkness on other days? How do you maintain that? What do you do?

In addition to the stuff I mentioned before in terms of vulnerability, community, and trying my best to communicate as clearly and as deeply as possible. 1) I’ve got a therapist. I only started psychotherapy back in 2021 when my whole life thinking, “I don’t need therapy. Therapy is for those people.” I didn’t realize everybody needs therapy. If you think you don’t need therapy, you definitely need therapy. I ended up seeking out a therapist because when I was still at Netflix, it was right after the black banking initiative and I became internally an expert on racial equity. I was helping out the people that were building out supplier diversity and stuff like that not as a full-time job, but people were now seeking my thoughts and my opinions and passionate about these things.

Everybody needs therapy. If you think you don't need therapy, you definitely need therapy. Click To Tweet

 I could feel it wearing on me in that like, “I’m in this position where people want to know how I might change the world. It’s now my responsibility to change the world.” I remember reaching out to Rene Myers who at the time was the chief diversity officer, and I’m like, “How do you do this job without letting it kill you?” She was like, “First off, you need a therapist. Read this book.” There were two books that I picked up on and started digesting. One was Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, which is about Buddhist teachings.

I’m not Buddhist, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom and knowledge in Buddhism that applies to finding your own happiness within. The other one was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. This idea of stoicism and Buddhism made sense at this point because it’s like, “If I choose to be happy, then I can be happy. Everything that is in my life that has challenged me is an opportunity to learn how much I want to be happy. If I commit to this idea of being happy, then I have to do that thing.”

Some people assume once you make that decision, everything gets easier. When you choose a certain mindset that you’re in that mindset, it’s every day. Every day I have to make the conscious decision to sit down. I meditate in the mornings. I wake up around 5:00 in the morning before my girls and my wife get up so that I can have some peace and quiet. I meditate. I try to think about how I want to be with the energy I want to bring to stuff. I have to be very intentional about this stuff because I don’t know that that’s my natural state. I get frustrated, angry, and mad. I curse.

I’m not somehow exempt from any of these things, but I choose every day with my wife and kids to embody this joy and happiness. I don’t need a particular outcome in order to stay in that seat. I’m at a point in my life where I’m like, if I accomplish nothing more, I’m still going to be happy every day. My happiness is not contingent upon landing a contract, a certain accolade, a certain promotion, or whatever it is. I’m unfocused on those things because all of them induce suffering. I have to continue to read all these things like I reread Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, or Meditations often. In the same way, anybody who’s religious might read the scriptures.

This is my approach. This doesn’t have to be the approach because I think you can find these answers anywhere. You can find them in prayer or in different religions. This has been the way that I found them. I try to leverage my wife and my daughters as a constant reinforcing mechanism. I need to be this for them because I learned what I know from my parents because the kids are watching when we’re not giving lectures. When we’re not telling them, they see us. If they don’t see me being the person that I’m trying to encourage them to be, then they won’t be those people. I need desperately for my daughters to know that their happiness is within them. I’m willing to do all the hard work so that this is normalized for them.

I could resonate with that happiness within. It is a mindset and it does take work. It isn’t some fluffy thing that just happens. It’s every day. It is a choice. I appreciate your story. What resonated there is that we could get there a lot of different ways, but it is this place where we can have happiness, and it’s wherever we are. I didn’t take your path. You didn’t take my path. I didn’t follow Buddhism myself.

There are some teachings that I totally can relate to. I have my own backgrounds that I’ve learned from. My point is we all have to go down our own path. It’s not on social media. It is within. You have to look within. It sounds like, “No kidding. It’s work. It’s self-reflect. Take action. A lot of things we’ve been talking about is taking the actions and the steps. Before we close out, I’d love to know a bit about where you’re headed. We talked in the beginning about redefining prosperity, which I think you did personally A bit about where you’re at. How are you helping others do that? How can we reach out to you? How can we be part of these amazing dinners?

Reach Out To Aaron

The easiest way to connect and understand what I’m doing, how I’m doing it would be I’ve got my own webpage, AaronCraigMitchell.com. I try to make it as easy as possible, then my LinkedIn page, I post quite a bit on a number of different topics like mental health, creativity, equity, leadership and culture. That’s probably the best way to see what’s going on and what’s timely. More importantly, on my website, I do have a call to action to join to sign up for the dinners because these dinners that I’m doing, I’ve done these on a number of different topics.

I’ve done them on addressing antisemitism in the workplace, which as you can imagine is an extremely timely and relevant topic. I’ve been doing this work in antisemitism now for almost a few years before it became as daily a topic of discussion for most people. I’m having conversations on changing the composition and complexion of the C-Suite. I do those on behalf of organizations that are looking to do something similar to what Netflix did. The signup is on my webpage.

Between following me on LinkedIn, and signing up for that webpage, I will find a way to connect with you because one of the things that I do is I reach out to people and have conversations. I’m glad that you reached out to me Darren because people don’t use these tools as much as they should. You’d be surprised at how many people when you’re like, “I love to talk to you,” are like, “I’ve been waiting to hear from you.” When you reached out, I was like, “Let me make sure you’re not some AI bot, and you’re Darrin. Why do you want to talk to me?”

I was like, “You’re Darrin, great because I’ve been following you.” At some point, I’d love to do something with you because even when you started your journey when we met I like what you’re about. I like what you’re doing. I want to see it go from where it is to what it’s going to be BECAUSE I know that the thing that you’re trying to do, which is essentially unlearning a lot of habits that you thought were the right way is not only a hard thing to do, but it’s a beautiful thing to see.

As people start to strip away these notions like, “I thought successful was this thing, and now wait, I can stop and be successful because I said so?” That’s powerful. In all those ways that I said, “Follow me. Join me,” that’s the work that I’m trying to do. I also do one-on-one coaching with people, career coaching, leadership coaching, and executive coaching. If embodying some of this stuff as an individual is important, I do help people with that and that’s all on my website. More than anything, I’m trying to make human connections because everything that I want to do comes from that.

You’re amazing. I’m glad we connected. I’m looking forward to continuing our friendship and conversation. I appreciate you recognizing I wasn’t a bot and you’re spot on too. I am learning. A growth mindset is based on the ability to unlearn, relearn, and revisit. What’s most important is right back to our authentic selves and what matters. I loved our conversation. I have much love for you and admiration. I’m honored you are on the show. I look forward to our next conversation.

Same here. I can’t wait.

Take care.

Thanks. You too.


Aaron Craig Mitchell is a super-connector with the ability to see the potential in people and opportunities where we intersect. Let’s highlight some key points from this episode. Open and transparent communication with his parents is leading to caring conversations he has having with everyone he meets, making emotional connections with people and their stories to help redefine prosperity as a way of being. You need to break to become unbreakable. Being a jazz musician helped him be more his authentic self, leveraging and building a community as his reservoir to be there when he falls down.

Sharing with vulnerability to relate, learn, and grow. We all have the ability to tap into our creativity as we invite different perspectives at the intersection of different things that make each better. We are both inspired by Frans Johansson’s incredible book, The Medici Effect. Happiness is a choice and is within all of us. It is our mindset and it takes work.

We all have the ability to live joyful lives and each has our own path to get there THROUGH the ups and downs. Aaron Craig Mitchell is living as possible and evolving as we speak. Seek out what is most important to you and live it. Reconnect with your happy, authentic love like Aaron has shown us and you too will be living your best life possible. Until next time, make each day count and choose happiness as your way of being.


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About Aaron Craig Mitchell

Live Your Possible | Aaron Craig Mitchell | Cultivating ResilienceAaron Craig Mitchell is an LA based Entrepreneur, Advisor, Coach, and Changemaker with nearly 20 years experience across various industries. He is currently the CEO of Aaron Craig Mitchell Enterprises, LLC (ACME, LLC), a coaching and advisory business.

He was recently the Director of HR for Netflix Animation, one of the largest and fastest growing animation studios in history and prior to that spent his career as a leader in Talent Acquisition across various industries, companies and geographies.

An experienced business leader with a demonstrated history of executing change, Aaron has become globally recognized for his historic work pioneering Netflix’s 2% Cash Holdings Pledge of $100 Million into Black Owned Banks. This initiative anchored a movement for financial equity & inclusion and opened doors for marginalized communities to flourish. His work has led to features in The New York Times, CNBC, and Wired.

Born in New Haven, CT, he earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, and BBA from Temple University. He serves on the boards of The Atlanta Music Project, The People Concern and UNICEF USA where he also serves as Co-Chair of the Nominations and Governance Committee. He resides in LA with his wife and two daughtersV

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