Knucklehead Podcast Ep 116: Lead By Example When You’re Called to Serve, TX-4 Congressman Canidate Trace Johannesen

Knucklehead Podcast Ep 116: Lead By Example When You’re Called to Serve, TX-4 Congressman Canidate Trace Johannesen

Trace Johannesen (00:00): I know that our district deserves this kind of leadership. If no one's leading, there's a firefight, I'm going to step up and run to the fire. Like my duty demands it. And my training as a Marine commands that I go towards a fight, right? Like this is what we do.

Intro (00:13): Choose not to live in a world of filters, realize your mistakes, set the foundation for your success, get some wins, knucklehead podcast.

Stephen Colon (00:28): Well, welcome to another edition of Knucklehead Podcast you got with you today, the Knucklehead Steven. So I've gotten a friend of mine and it's not all the time that I get a chance to talk with my friends on the podcast, which is fun because they're out kind of doing their own thing. They're they're living life. Not everybody records information for a living. You know, they, they take information in, they absorb it differently. They interpret differently. And I think that today's topic and today's guest is a fun conversation to have because my buddy Trace who I met whenever we first moved to Rockwall is running for Congress. And I'm proud of him for saying that that's why I'm going to lead with it. But at the same time, I'm also proud of, of his story. About a year, year and a half ago, he was talking to me. I remember we were going to shoot like clay shoot. Well, first of all, welcome to the show. How in the hell are you?

Trace Johannesen (01:10): Hey, Steven, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I'm doing, doing as well as to be expected now I'm doing great. Good. There's always crazy in for context. Do you also have kiddos? A couple of twins. Yeah. We got a, we got five kids, Amy and I we've got from 19 years old to 17 to seven to 20 month old twins. So we've got the whole range we have. Have you got all flavors of ice cream there? My goodness. Totally all phases of life. So like starting college, starting driving and then starting first grade and then starting walking is kind of where we were and in diapers. So we've got the whole, the whole range. So yeah, our life is a little bit crazy

Stephen Colon (01:51): and it's not like you're, you're not doing anything mentally stimulating throughout the day. Either you've got deliverables, you've got deadlines projects. Uh, you got a lot of people who rely on you to make good decisions. That's right. And so it's not lost on you, really? The weight and the decision to run for Congress. That's a big thing, but it's not like you didn't have anything going on

Trace Johannesen (02:10): before that. Yeah, we stay pretty busy. That's for sure. Right. You know, you mentioned my day job, which is with a company called slalom, slalom consulting, like slalom skiing, uh, best job ever. Hat. I love slalom. I was looking for a great place to work when I found this place, you know, like a lot of foreign military guys, troop welfare is so common in the military. Like it's day one, it's one Oh one leadership. Like you take care of your troops. They, they take care of the mission. It's kind of basic, but what a lot of the spine, when you get the civilian and business sector is that taking care of your people is not job. Number one, it's actually creating shareholder value or the almighty dollar. And that becomes disheartening for those of us who are used to working with a higher purpose. When we think that that's what the whole civilian world is like, but it's not the whole Sylvia world is not like that. You just got to look hard for them, I think is what I'd say.

Stephen Colon (03:03): Let's back up just a sec, because I think you're talking about the reasons why people do things, right? You're talking about aligning missions, people having more than one motive. And what I call the competing number one priorities are the number one priority conundrum, right? That's kind of the way I describe that, what you're talking about. And largely I developed that thought process after hearing you and Matt and a few other thought leaders that I, you know, that I trust with their judgment, uh, you had actually handed me a book at one point in time called Travis and right there, Sebastian, your honor, shouldn't be required reading for every military person transitioning out of the military. So I think that it's important to S to talk about why, right? And, and, and understanding that you got two pathways whenever you get out of the military, let's just say you're able bodied 100% mentally capable all your mental faculties over there are there.

Stephen Colon (03:50): You've got two pathways whenever you're in the military, you can either go down through the victim or victim route. I think you do get revealed that perspective prior to leaving, but you don't truly have an appreciation for it until after you're gone, because a lot of your bare necessities, your basics kind of your survivalist type of thinking gets taken away from you whenever you get out, right? Nobody else's is there to help orient your vision. So if you were a victim, then you're going to continue to perpetuate, probably go on steroids. How much of a victim you're going to become? And you don't realize that you're behaving that way, because you're just trying to make sense of the world, so to speak. You know what I mean? And I think you did a, a very good job of articulating your journey and your process to kind of reveal to you where you are.

Stephen Colon (04:31): And I remember appreciating the fact that you kind of leaned into it. And when you handed me the book, cause you were like, Hey, listen, you went to a and M I'm going to, I don't want to retell your story, but you went to H and M a few times and just Marine Corps and left with one degree. And it's not because you're a quitter. I like that share with people a little bit, because a lot of times they want to categorize folks, either being moraines or maybe they're Aggies. If they're here, they're from Texas, or they were an officer, if they're in the Marine Corps of their, uh, enlisted guy. So they develop these paradigms and these expectations around how you're supposed to act, but help people understand a little bit more about how some of the mistakes affected the way you thought about things. Whenever you were going through the military. And whenever you were decided to pursue your education and better yourself,

Trace Johannesen (05:13): well, you know, you hit on a lot of stuff about my, my story. Cause you know, we're good friends. Yeah. But when you talk about the mistakes, you know, probably the good mistakes are our learning experiences as they've been for me. And I've had a handful started before the Marine Corps. Um, you know, I went straight from high school to Texas a and M we're talking mid nineties, right? The story was, you can't get a job unless you have a four year degree more on that. And as far as prices, opinions on education in the year 2020. So I went down there and I joined the Corps of cadets and I loved it. I had a fantastic time. I love the tradition and the culture at Texas a and M uh, kind of like redheaded stepchildren in the state, perhaps. Uh, maybe I like being one of the few, something like that.

Trace Johannesen (05:57): I did a whole lot of core cadet stuff and I drank a little bit of beer and I barely studied it with the class. Um, but as it turns out, if your checks are in this case, mom and dad's checks still cash at a state school, you stay for a long time and take a pretty deep hole, which I did successfully, uh, dug a very deep hole after five semesters on Scholastic probation. And they finally asked me to, to go drink beer at home. So there was a, a college dropout, which I was definitely not proud about tucking my tail and heading back to Denton County, Texas

Stephen Colon (06:26): grass at all. I mean, they allow you to go from freshman year to sophomore.

Trace Johannesen (06:30): Yeah. Technically I was a junior because I had a bunch of hours, but the problem is I had like 89 attempted hours and a 1.6, eight, so, Oh, wow. I mean, I probably managed to barely squeak into a sophomore year, technically through passing. What have you. But the bottom line was my tote. My overall achieving of the GPA was so low. They were like, you gotta go. And my in my head, wasn't in the study. Right. I wasn't mature.

Stephen Colon (06:52): Yeah. I was about ready to ask that, like what, so what was your you, weren't thinking about, you know, all right, listen, I'm going to be competitive. I'm going to, I'm going to lead the way I'm gonna sit at the front of the class. I'm going to, I'm going to go home.

Trace Johannesen (07:04): I didn't do any of those things. So why did you go to school? Cause that's what you're supposed to do. You go to the high school and you go straight to college and you know, my dad had a motto and this may have been true in the nineties. Definitely not through day two. Oh. And go to O and go meaning just pass your classes and get that piece of paper. And you'll be set, which if there was some validity to that back then, which there was, that is pretty much gone now, like in anyone who gets a degree with a 2.0 and thinks they're going to get a great job out of college is probably kidding themselves. Like the ROI on a four year degree has been in rapid decline for years. Okay. We teach these kids. We teach through our actions and through what our counselors tell them through societaly.

Trace Johannesen (07:42): And even through the federal government and with how we subsidize lending for four year degrees, what we're showing them through all these actions, what we're saying and communicating through these actions is that a four year degree is the way to go. And if you offer a degree, you know, you're, you're worthless, which I couldn't disagree with more like Mike Rowe. And I are like the dirty jobs guy, super smart. I love everything. He's about like, I love all about the trades. I love that stuff because a four year degree is not the end all be all in my mind, wasn't in it. And I didn't know it at the time that I didn't realize it. I didn't have the maturity. I didn't have the drive to do anything, but have fun. And I did. I mean, I was in the Corps of cadets, which is a lot of fun. It's a pseudo military organization. In fact that Texas a and M corporate that's put more military officers into the service and world war II than all three academies combined. So long, rich history and tradition of military involvement. And I was more interested in that stuff than I wasn't going to class. And the new found freedom and Dixie chicken favorite bar.

Stephen Colon (08:41): Yeah. For the, for those of you who are listening, what he's talking about here is he's talking about some of the characteristics that make college station unique. I mean, the perspective of the love of the military, the perspective of the love of the core. I mean, there, there's a lot of folks who pride and rightfully so in that time at 8:00 AM I, both my brothers played football at a and M I would have loved to have played football there. I think it was great. I decided to go a little North of that, a little town called Lincoln Nebraska. So the thought process though, of those folks that come from college station, once they leave, they always go back. It's almost as if they have this common connection, especially whenever you're, it's viewed through the lens of the military there's folks who ask you, I think it's a common phrase in the military where they said, did you go to a and M or you went somewhere else? Uh, if you're an officer, right? So it's like you go through the college ranks, you kind of earn your stripes. So to speak. I don't imagine the core cadets was really that much different. They have their traditions and, and you kinda almost take pride in participating in those, whether it's hazing or not, the whole point of it is you share that common suffering in a way with those who you're running with.

Stephen Colon (09:46): Have you ever asked yourself why you haven't started a podcast? Well, I already know the reason. So to you, you don't feel like you're tech savvy. You don't feel like you've got your message wired, right? And quite frankly, it's just, it's all this mystification going on. Quite frankly. Uh, our process helps the demystify that we're pushed button for podcasts. We're knucklehead, why knucklehead, but we lead with the fact that you don't know what you're doing. We do. We've been there. We've actually been in your shoes. We take your spoken voice. We literally give a human voice to your website. You want to bring dead leads to life. Well, then you need to talk to knucklehead. Essentially what we're going to do is we're going to take you through our process, or we're going to help take your human voice and increase the process for you going from dead leads to life.

Stephen Colon (10:28): How do I, how do I do that? Well, you essentially just take your human voice, put it in a directory and let people consume more of you. Give your audience the ability to Netflix on you. They want to binge watch you. They want to binge listen, give them the ability to take your voice along on that commute with them. So you can get in touch with us, Steven at knucklehead podcasts, or if you've got a really cool story stories at Knucklehead Podcasts, you can find us on LinkedIn and on Facebook at Knucklehead Media Group, and get in touch with us. Don't be a beta about the process. Don't let be fact that you don't know permitting you from getting some wins. So don't be a beta, get some wins and contact us the next day.

Trace Johannesen (11:06): That's exactly right. You have a shared misery with, with your classmates and that this is one thing that military, and this goes back to before spar now, like the shared misery and hard work creates cohesion and connectedness with, with the group of people like it's, it's pretty, it's pretty foundational and psychological. And I don't know all of the, the science behind it, but it's, it's a pretty clear cut thing. And that goes for bootcamp that goes for deployments and workups. For those of us who need to get ready to deploy when you're out there in the field for three weeks straight, dirty, you know, that's when you build those tight relationships when you're suffering together and you have, you could say you have a common enemy. I mean, the enemies, maybe, maybe it's the company guns. Maybe it's a CEO. Maybe it's the training schedule. Maybe it's the bad guys or the terrorists, but everyone's working towards the same thing. Maybe everyone's working towards positive thing that might be Liberty. When you get back, get the weapons clean.

Stephen Colon (11:59): That's the true, you know, that's the truth. Well, I mean, so you're talking, you're touching about a couple of things. One the shared experience of having struggled through the expectations of, of your parents. So going into being 18 years old and, and kind of shaping what that thought process was like, and going and sharing all these experiences with people that can almost circumvent the whole reason why you're there to begin with, which is to go get an education and you got an education, you got an education on potentially what not to do, right? You got an education on, on maybe how to go through it with a, just a, maybe had more of appreciation the second and third time that you, that you went through. I mean, I, I struggled in school too, so it's not a, it's not, I don't think it has anything to, I honestly, folks who get 4.0, God bless them. They're, they're amazing people. And they, they go on to write, you know, become PhDs and write incredible policy. Who knows. But my point is, is there's, I don't know of a whole lot of folks that run in circles that feel great about themselves after hanging out with a bunch of 4.0, because there's that same infection. You know what I mean?

Trace Johannesen (13:00): I'll tell you this, the number of stories I have about going to bed early and studying and going to class and ACE and to test and texting them is zero. I have no stories about that. And I'm not saying that's right. Okay. This is the reason my parents pulled the plug and I had to foot the bill the last semester because I was screwing up. Right. I wasn't holding up mine to the deal, but I learned from that. Right. You know? Yeah. I feel that I've got great, great friends still to this day that I was in the Corps of cadets with down there at Texas a and M you know, and then that day we, I came home and I worked construction and that afforded me three years of a decent living.

Stephen Colon (13:36): You can try it and know that. What kind of conversion did you do?

Trace Johannesen (13:38): I've done construction my entire life. When I was 14, I had always worked with my dad. You know, when we first moved to Texas in 1990, he was building a big shop and I've always, my dad's always worked with his hands and he taught me to do the same thing. So I knew how to do construction. So I think the summer after my eighth grade year, my dad was like, you can work here at the house, you know, which looked a lot, like all kinds of hard manual labor, like digging ditches for French drains all over an acre and a half property, which I did that when I was, you know, 10, 11, 12, and a broke, a lot of shovel handles. He said, or, you know, work at the house or go get a job somewhere else. I'm like, dude, I'm 14. Like, how am I, what am I going to do? He's like, well, you can think about it. You're smart. You're smart. And somehow you probably engineered this. But my neighbor, mr. Hanson came by and was building a house down the street, up on the Hill and asked if I wanted to work. And I made, so I did. So I went to work that summer. I'm 14 years old, riding my bike with a tool belt and making 10 cents more than minimum wage doing just random construction.

Stephen Colon (14:39): I'm going to ask a question here, cause this is, this is interesting. I think that there's a lot of people who have an appreciation for hard work. Maybe that's, what's missing from folks as experiences, uh, as they accrue experiences through life. And so let me ask the question this way, being able to see something built when it, when there was nothing there before, and a building is left after, you know, folks go there to work, seeing something built from start to finish. Did you have an attraction to the way that that was constructed or did you have more of a, uh, an appreciation of just being told that you could do something and then you go do it and you actually see it

Trace Johannesen (15:20): being constructed? I think it's more of an appreciation. And I'll just give you a quick little anecdote to illustrate that when I drive back to my parents' house, uh, the second was the summer when I was 15, before I could drive, I, I worked on a different house and I had to ride my bike about a mile and a half down the road, again, with my tool belt. And, uh, you know, I worked, I worked really hard that summer. It was long days out in the sun, you know, Texas heat. And we worked on like a 6,000 square foot home with like two, three car garage, like a pretty fancy, fancy home. And I showed up on the job site, like as their framing and I got to be there through drywall and everything. So for most of like two months, I worked on this house to this day. I can go in and drive in that neighborhood, look at that house that I worked on in 1993 and be like, I helped build that thing. That's pretty, that's pretty crazy. So it's kinda, it's kinda silly. Um, you know, but

Stephen Colon (16:16): it's the, I don't think it's silly. I that's the reason why I was asking that question because you don't have an appreciation for, unless there was some type of shared suffering that you had with the folks that are around you, or you were able to see something start to finish and you played a role in whatever that was. Whenever you, you had spoke on a panel, a veteran's day of last year, there was two questions that were asked. And so for those of you who are listening,

Trace Johannesen (16:39): that was with the center for brain health out of UT Dallas, and they had a veteran's panel, a sip sips and science. It was really cool.

Stephen Colon (16:46): It is really good. I was, I think the bank of Texas actually sponsored that entire event. So there was a lot of very, very deep pockets in terms of the bank attack. I mean, you're talking about a bank organization for the state of Texas. You have a lot of, I mean, there's a university long story. Short is there was a few folks that were, that spoke on that panel and you were one of them. And so there was a lot of donors that were in the room. There was a lot of people who with incredible experiences and the first few questions they asked were, I remember, I remember one of them was, it was an older gentleman. He said, how is it that we can trust the decision making of people who are responsible for making decisions? The way that policy is written and the way that the, uh, essentially the government is to be ran when they haven't had the level of experience, they haven't gone through pain, they haven't screwed up, they haven't built something.

Stephen Colon (17:36): So to speak, to have an appreciation of what it's for making decisions, that influence all of them. And he was an older gentlemen. And I think it's akin to kind of what you're talking about now with having built that house, these help build the United States to what it is. So they're proud of it. I mean, we have our warts at all. There's no question. However, it's still something that they built. And so they have a pride in wanting to protect it and make it a better place for their kids and their grandkids. So I want to, I want to kind of pivot based off of that story that you just told to, what would make somebody want to run for office to compete against other, you know, well, qualified individuals to go and be that person who's responsible for making those decisions?

Trace Johannesen (18:16): Well, I couldn't tell you what motivates a lot of people. And I think a lot of us normal folk think that they're motivated by power or by title or by status. That's not me. So you mentioned a reform running for us Congress in Texas congressional district four, which is Northeast Texas. So from Dallas up to Sherman, to the red river, across the red river, down in Texas, Canada, and then back across 18 counties. Okay. Huge area. It's three hours to drive East to West across the entire district. Rock wall is in the Southwestern most corner of that district, which is where you and I live. So recently our Congressman John Ratcliffe, yours and mine here in CD four, was nominated for the second time for director of national intelligence. And he was just sworn in yesterday. So I was confirmed last Thursday,

Stephen Colon (19:04): for those of you who are listening, that may be a couple of weeks ago, by the time this comes out. So it may seem like old information, right?

Trace Johannesen (19:10): Yeah. Old news. So apologies there. I was approached last year when this first came up and I kind of poo-pooed it, that kind of blew it off. And then I was approached in a few weeks ago from, by people who I trust a great deal. And I, I believe, and their motives are right. And they told me independently. So this is where, it's where it's key. They told me independently, I should consider running. And there's a parable that I don't remember when I learned it. It was probably 10 years ago that has stuck with me. And it's informed a lot of my life choices. And it's for the better, there was a flood and there's good pious Christian man, living in a house and the flood waters were rising up kind of like Katrina. And they issued the order to evacuate the city. And so they sent all these school buses around and they went to this guy's house and they stopped out front, said, Hey man, come on out and get on the bus.

Trace Johannesen (20:05): The floodwaters rise and the rain's not stopping. And he's like, Nope, God's got me. God's got me. Y'all go ahead and go save somebody else. But God's got me. So the rain keeps coming and the water keeps rising. And the next thing you know, you get those flat bottom books to come by the rescue boats. He's stuck upstairs in the second story of his house now. And the boat says, Hey, come on, man, hop on the boat. We're going to save you. The, the rain is not stopping. The water's going to keep rising. We don't want you to die. Like we've all evacuated. Come on, hop out. And the guy's like, Nope, God's got me. Y'all go on and say, someone else got and got me. Well, the rain keeps coming and the floodwaters keep rise. And next, you know, he's sitting on the roof of his home and the floodwaters are almost to his feet and a helicopter comes and drops a rope down the guy's like on the loudspeaker, Hey, grab a hold of the rope tire cell phone.

Trace Johannesen (20:50): Or we're going to get you out of here before the flood water washing away. And the guy's like, no, God's got me go save somebody else. And the rain keeps coming and the flood waters rise up and they sweep him away and he dies and he shows up to heaven and he goes before God, and he says, God, I thought you had me. And he goes, son, I gave you three chances. I don't know when I heard that story, but it hit me like a sledgehammer. I was like, Oh my gosh. You know, I'm not the best Christian in the world. Okay. Like, we're all, we all have our flaws, but the, you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. That's kind of that's it personified. Right? And so what that meant for me in my real life, after I heard that was when I hear things from two different angles, this the same message I probably should listen to it.

Trace Johannesen (21:40): And I don't have to question it. I don't have to know why. And I don't have to try and be in control and say, no, no, no. And I found not surprisingly that when I do that and I listen for those signs and I follow it, even if it feels wrong or uncomfortable, it's usually uncomfortable. It feel wrong. It feels uncomfortable. Right. Because it usually involves some kind of change. Yeah. I feel it. I mean that, I don't think that when I listed on the week of nine 11, it wasn't necessarily that I heard it from two from sources that was kind of like getting smacked upside the face. And that I knew there was no possible way I can live with myself if I didn't step up. And I quit my job and was in the Marine Corps and I fit in my life has been forever better because of that.

Trace Johannesen (22:21): But there have been many other instances in my life when I've heard something. It's like, okay, you know, alright, now I get it. Now I'm listening. And this is one of those, another one of those occasions where, when I, I stepped up to, um, I was asked to run for city council in 2018, my wife and I were trying to have the last baby, which turned out to be, well, it turned out to be three. And then it turned out to be two healthy babies, thankfully, but we talked about it and she's like, you know, we're going to have a baby or not. We have to keep living life and we need to figure it out. My wife is way smarter and tougher than I am. So I said, okay, I'll, you know, I'll run for city council. And I ran and I won. And then I just recently got sworn in for my second term.

Trace Johannesen (23:01): But when I was approached by the people a couple of weeks ago and said, you should run for Congress. I was like, he has no understand, not a politician. Okay. I'm a government servant. I was like, what that means to me, a politician is in it to win it for themselves or for the status they want to, they want to please everyone and talk out of both sides of their mouth. You know, I don't do that. Right. You know, I tell it like it is. And I explain from a position of truth, exactly how I think about stuff. And as you know, it's typically data-driven and then I say, look, you may not agree with what I'm saying. I was like, at least, you know exactly where I'm coming from. You know, exactly what, how I think about stuff. And I'll say, I'm not a politician.

Trace Johannesen (23:40): Like I don't do those things. I don't have aspirations to be a career politician and get up to Washington and live on the Hill and make that a career and retire, you know, fat and wealthy and charge a crazy speaking fee. And the gentleman I was talking to, he was like, don't you get it? That's exactly why we want you up there. We need more people like you up there. And I said, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah, I'll think about it. And I'm going to have a phone later on that night, I was talking to my wife and I said, Hey, I got approached yet again, that's you know, about running for this spot. And I just kind of like, ha and she's like, well, what'd you, what'd you say? I said, I told him, I think about it. And she's like, well, did you? I was like, not really just like, well, why not?

Trace Johannesen (24:20): Like, Hey, we have five kids. Okay. Like I'm trying to balance work for a company that I love. I'm trying to be a really good husband. I'm trying to be a good father. And I'm trying to be a good government servant with city council. And then of course, you know, you and I are in the American Legion together, and that's very active in the chamber of commerce and the band of brothers and all the things that we do in town, because we all like to be involved. I'm trying to balance all these things. And this is like, this would change our life forever. Like this does not align with me trying to be a good dad necessarily. And she's like, well, we'll figure it out. Like we can get through it. And I was like, do we want to subject ourselves to that? And she's like, I don't know, but tell me, how long are you going to keep ignoring the signs? And I was like, yeah. Okay. Yeah,

Stephen Colon (25:06): you're right. It does. It sounds as if speaking directly to out, people think it doesn't, it doesn't exist in your house just with, you know, for those of you who don't know his wife, she doesn't mince words. We'll just put it to you. My wife is pretty straight forward. The guests, what she's thinks she's pretty strong and you don't have to ever guess what she's thinking. I appreciate that about her. We're a good pair. I mean, you, you're touching on a couple things, which is the story of kind of how you got asked and almost your decision making process to how you, how you agreed to it. I think the perspective that I'd be interested in adding here is when it comes to folks who don't agree with you, folks who don't maybe see things the same way that you do, you're not scared to have a conversation with them. Right. That's

Trace Johannesen (25:51): absolutely right. In fact, that's something that I, you know, we try to do that here on a city council in our own little town of 45,000 in Rockwall, Texas, we try to have a dialogue conversation. Let's listen, let's talk about and consider an idea just because I have a conversation about a subject does not mean I'm signing up for that thing. You know, whatever the subject is, we should be allowed to have conversation. Unfortunately, we've noticed that we tend to dig into our camps and dig our heels in and not discuss issues. And I think that's lacking terribly, you know, and I think that we need to have more conversations like that. So if I have a conversation with someone with who I disagree, philosophically that's that's okay. And it's okay. We disagree, you know, I'm more interested in, can we learn from each other? Can I take what you're saying and apply it? Can I learn from it? You know, I don't do have to compromise my values. Absolutely not.

Stephen Colon (26:45): Yeah. It was about ready to say that it's not as if you're sacrificing any ego or, you know, as a matter of fact, you're, you know, when you think about it from an integrity standpoint, the more pressure you put on a rubber band there's there is a certain point where it breaks. However, I was just sitting there, Lucy goosey with no resistance whatsoever. It's useless, right. It really only serves its purpose until it's stretched and it can contain things. And so I think that ideas that get you out of your comfort zone or ideas or perspectives that you wouldn't have otherwise considered, there's merit to essentially just communicating together. There's a principle of the mastermind, which, you know, if you put two folks together, typically that third mind that happens as a result of them being together comes up with a better idea than either one of them, independently of themselves. Totally. And so that, that thought process and given the responsibility that you have, how do you view somebody who's currently there, they are being in Congress, for instance, that makes decisions that you don't agree with and that's now policy, how do you evaluate, you know, what's the best way to either undo or challenge or provide them with a perspective? How would you go about going through that

Trace Johannesen (27:55): boy? That's a, that's a really meaty subject that would require a whole lot of unpacking. You know, I think that the, the altruistic and the go getter attitude is I'd go up there and have, would change, change the world. You know? Um, the reality of it is right. Um, I'm looking down the barrel of the possibility being a freshman Congressman, right? So let's not kid ourselves. What this probably looks like is I go up there, I'm all fired up and I quickly learn how little influence I have, you know, why, Hey, I don't have the knowledge and experience, but B I haven't created that trust or relationships with other people.

Stephen Colon (28:34): No, I think it's clear. Clarify what you were saying there, when you said the knowledge and experience you're talking about simply because you haven't served in U S Congress before. That's what I mean. Right. Okay. The perception that you have to talk to, or you have the ability now, and you've taken upon yourself to go and communicate with other freshmen, congressmen that are now in multiple terms, and you've already done that. You've already taken it upon yourself to go have conversations with those folks. Correct?

Trace Johannesen (28:56): I have, I've been introduced to a couple of folks that I, whom I respect a tremendous amount. And I told someone today, I was like, I'm such a spun right now. I'm learning from everyone. I had a conversation with a person who is a, um, what's the best way to put this, their, their government relations in a private company. And I'm on the, I'm on the phone with this person. So he works in his industry. He interfaces with U S Congress and tries to inform them on what regulations should and shouldn't work and whatnot. And I was such a sponge and I'm well aware that I noticed it a little right now. And I'm on the phone or the zoom with this gentlemen and his, um, his assistant and she, and the three of us talking and mostly it's myself and this gentleman talking, and at the end, I asked this, isn't how it was.

Trace Johannesen (29:41): We've been talking a lot. I get the sense that you listened to a lot of these phone calls. I'm like, what do you think? And she said, well, I'm glad you asked that she gave me a couple of really good nuggets. I'm like, yeah. I was like, I'm in, I'm in intake mode right now. I'm in learning mode. Right? So I am aware that I don't know everything. My job okay. Is to listen to congressional district for people and what they want. I need to listen to our folks here and figure out what they need to take it to Washington. My job is not to go talk at them and talk about myself and how great I am and tell them what they should believe or reinforce the Republican platform. That's not the job. The job is to listen to what the district needs and take that to Washington.

Trace Johannesen (30:22): And, Oh, by the way, speaking of listing, and I know this is something I'm well aware of the irony here. Sometimes I talk a lot, but I also know that like, as a freshman Congressman, my job is to do a lot of listening and that's alone. And that goes for people across the aisle, right? In the Democrat party, you know, I should be listening to what their thoughts and perspective are because I may disagree with a lot of their policy ideas, but you know what they have. And I don't think that's an experience I can learn from. There's a possibility. There's a, there's the, the ability to build some trust by me, like listening to them personally. And like, you know what, the Johannessen, he's not that much of an idiot after all. He actually listened to consider my point of view and didn't try to insert his opinion and tell me why I was wrong. You know? So my job is to listen to my people and congressional crush on district four in Northeast, Texas, and to go up and listen to the seasoned individuals in Congress and listened to my peers across the aisle and just, and just take it all in and synthesize that that's my

Stephen Colon (31:24): well, that's my job. I think, I think it's important to remember that we're, you know, this is knucklehead podcast. This is, this is what what'd, you just screw up to get to where you are podcast. And so I think given that where you're starting from is you want to learn, there's the assumption that there is more information out there than, you know, than what you have available to you now. And so you have to go find it and you have to go talk to folks who have their own perspective on things let's transmit, let's juxtapose or contrast, maybe that perspective with a period of time where you were faced with something similar, where you decided you maybe made the mistake of thinking that you had the answer. When in fact you didn't, can you think of a time where my Sergeant said to go left? And I went right. Thinking I had the right answer and it didn't work out too well for me, or maybe an example in city council where, you know, you, maybe you wish you would have made a decision a little bit differently looking back on it now, or I can think of about 15 examples of mistakes I made with my wife. You know what I'm saying? He didn't take the trash out that day or something, something along those lines.

Trace Johannesen (32:28): So I work in the world of consulting as you know, business strategy, technology consulting. What does that mean? It means I have a job, a lot like Chandler being from friends and Barney Stinson from how I met your mother. And what I mean by that is nobody knows what trace does for a living. Okay. If you ask my wife from the outside, it looks like I talk on the phone and buy drinks for clients, which factually is true, but there's context there. That's not really where well aware my job is to kind of listen to clients and what they're trying to accomplish, grab our experience in other areas where we have done stuff and that similar and bring that experience and help the client get to where they're trying to go solve a problem. Maybe it's like, Hey, we merged with this company. How do we take our, the best parts of our culture, the best parts of their culture and marry them up.

Trace Johannesen (33:17): Um, Hey, we merged with this company or, Hey, we're going to close this data center because it's costing us a lot of capex, capital expenditure. Um, we want to switch to more of an OPEX model. Can you help us refactor our applications to be cloud first? So we can move to the cloud. These are all business decisions. So here's what I don't want to say, where we make her say here's where trace has made mistakes. Before I have made the mistake, knowing full well logically my brain, that 80% of communication is not at least 80% of communication is nonverbal. Like you and I sit in a room across each other, looking at ourselves in eyes. We can tell when one's about to say something, or you can tell there's just a lot more than just the actual words. So what I learned is I have to go into situations with a mindset of look, this client knows their company, their product, their customer, better than anybody else I might in.

Trace Johannesen (34:11): My team might know this technological domain over here. That doesn't mean this client doesn't know anything. Not at all. If I go in there thinking that I'm the smartest guy in the room, you know, what's going to happen. My posture, my words, my tone, all of that stuff is going to convey that trace is the smartest guy in the room. And what's that going to do to the client? It's going to be off-putting okay. There. They didn't get there by being idiots. Right. They're smart people. Okay. They just have eight problems that they haven't solved yet. So when I have to shift my mindset, I made that mistake. I made it more than once. Let's be honest. People have called me, pulled me aside afterwards, like, Hey man, remember when you said that, or you kind of cut the climate off, like, you know, and I was like, Oh my gosh, you're right here.

Trace Johannesen (34:53): I was thinking that like, we already saw the problem before we even listened to what the problem was like, Oh yeah, we aren't good. The problem is, and the client's like, no. And so what I missed, what I miss in those occasions is a place where in consulting, you probably have seen 70 to 90% of the problems and they have roughly the same answer. You know, it's not the same song. It probably rhymes pretty well. Okay. But if you go in there with the mindset again, a knower mindset versus a learner's mindset, not only is it off-putting, you are sacrificing the opportunity to create a relationship with that client that you could create by being a very good learner and listener and listening for that little 5% area of where that client really is different. So now I've learned when I go in, I try and find it's a, a trigger for myself when I find myself, ah, yeah, I know the answer I say, okay, stop, go listen for that extra five to 10%. So you really find out where their, where their problem is because not only will the answer be much better to find, but you have, the client has been heard and you built a degree of trust.

Stephen Colon (36:03): It's interesting. The, the way that you even answered that question, um, you can feel the pain of not having that perspective and going in and trying to solve problems. Does you end up painfully having to undo some situations sometimes that quite frankly, you ended up caused

Trace Johannesen (36:22): cause myself you're no, you're a hundred percent, right, man. It's almost like you've been in the room sometimes.

Stephen Colon (36:27): I've been there. Yeah, for sure. There's, there's been plenty of opportunity for me to screw up along the way. And I'm thankful for, uh, for you taking the time to explain one, uh, the psyche of a person who would want to go and serve our country, right? There's a, there's this disingenuous way of describing service that a lot of folks are kind of capitalizing on, in my opinion, whenever they talk about service, right? They think that, uh, I call it operating off of borrowed credibility in a way, right? Where they understand that as an admin in the Marine Corps, somebody else who lacks perspective may think that that admin of the Marine Corps is like a force recon Marine going out and jumping out of helicopter,

Trace Johannesen (37:00): Oh, by borrow credibility needed. It's not something that are under their own merits, but this idea of a Marine 100% on that. Yeah, totally

Stephen Colon (37:08): 100%. And so there's, there's this, this perspective of service that, you know, people think as if they're, they're doing a service to the greater good of people, if they're, you know, grabbing a cause of social justice and trying to equate things now in 2020, there's a lot of perspectives with information where people are trying to, uh, to make that happen. Where I think that sometimes folks lack is truly service without an intent in our, I remember a long time ago, Oh, a long time ago. A couple of years ago you had said something to me about having 60% of the information, but being confident going into the unknown. So 61% of it is what you, what you need in order to feel competent. No, I'm going to have less. I'm gonna go ahead and move forward with things. And if I'm going to serve here, I'm going to, I want to serve from the perspective of not having strings attached.

Stephen Colon (37:54): I want to, I want to go and, and so good out there. Even if folks around you have made less quality decisions, made poor decisions, uh, with the wrong intent or, or had the wrong intent. And so I'm excited to have a friend that wants to go be one of the 700 folks or so that exists here in the United States to make decisions that will be hopefully influence a better future for my kids. Right? So I think that, that's why, however, this turns out the reality is, is more folks that are like that, that have that makeup need to be in those positions. If you asked me,

Trace Johannesen (38:28): Hey, and it for our kids, it may be too late to avoid making them pay the bills that we're racking up now for, for our kids and our older ones, a 17, 19 year old, but it might not be too late for our 20 month old twins. So if we can make a difference today to take that, why are we writing checks today? They gotta pay. You know what I mean? So, yeah, that's, that's my whole intent going up there and you, you hit on it. Like I want to serve and Oh, by the way, if I don't win, my identity is not wrapped up in this. I've got a pretty awesome life. Like I got a great wife, a great family. I mean, y'all are great friends. We live in an awesome town. I have an amazing job. Like life is really good, but you know what?

Trace Johannesen (39:10): I'm willing to set that stuff aside because I know that our district deserves this kind of leadership and I'm not seeing it. And so until I see it, I'm like, well, if no one's leaving, there was a firefight. I'm going to step up and run to the fire. Like my duty demands it. And my training as a Marine commands that I go towards the fight, right? Like this is what we do. So until a smarter, more equipped, faster running Lieutenant comes and runs around all Sergeant Johannsen says, okay, I've got to leave there, Sergeant fall in. Good to go, sir. But guess what? I don't see that guy anywhere. Right. So when I'm at, okay. And now we're running. So

Stephen Colon (39:48): have you ever been asked [inaudible]

Trace Johannesen (39:52): yeah. It's not as, and again, it's not like I'm trying to be a hero, not believing, not at all. Like when they asked me to, Hey, you should go step up and do this thing. Obviously, like I mentioned, my initial response was like, that's that ain't me, but Hey that's

Stephen Colon (40:05): but it is what it is. Well, I hate that name is ER, it's that phrase, but I say it constantly also, isn't what it isn't, which is equally as true. That is true. And almost as Thomas is asking, so the, the, I think leave these folks with, uh, with this. So, you know, the premise of today was to talk about how you can learn from your mistakes. It took you a few times to go through school doesn't mean that you stopped, right. And just because you ran into some resistance in Marine Corps doesn't necessarily mean that you stop serving. Right. And just because you ran into some resistance with people who don't think the way that you do, when it comes to running for city council, you still were able to help, you know, move, uh, this city and this County forward and, you know, with your leadership. And so how can folks support you? Where do they need to go? Is it on social media? Do they need to share this particular episode with somebody that thinks like them help people understand?

Trace Johannesen (40:56): You know, the obvious answer is shared knucklehead podcast. Let's just start with that. Okay. In typically when people ask me what they can do to help my knee, knee jerk reactions, like I don't need anything. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. And I say, go do other stuff. So people like talk, we support you. I'm like, no, go, go serve and give selflessly. That's what you need to do. When guys are getting out of the mill, the guys and gals, you know, in the military, like, I don't know what to do next. I'm like start serving figured out, go get involved and go give of yourself. As far as what I'm doing. Um, the best way to find me is trace four, the number four, And you can find my Facebook from there and the Instagram and the Twitter and the YouTube channel and all those things.

Trace Johannesen (41:42): And we'll, we'll put everything out there. Um, I hope that you'll, you'll follow me and just, and just watch to see what I do. My last name is spelled Johannes and J O H a N N E S E N like a phone number, uh, one of those long Norwegian names, but I'm not that hard to find. So if you want to follow and just see what, what we do next and tell your friends that there's somebody running for Congress in Northeast, Texas, who's, who's in it for the right reasons like with a servant's heart actually lives in the district, you know of the people. Yeah. I actually live here and I've got a pretty solid track record of setting aside my personal agenda when, when called upon to serve. So just follow me and in watching, see what we do. And we are going to keep taking steps forward and trying to listen for the signs. And I'm sure that God will tell me when it's time to either throw in the towel and refocused on family or to back a better horse.

Stephen Colon (42:38): You heard it here. You heard it here from trace trace for Texas, trace the number four congressional district for Texas trace for trays for And we also talked about a couple of things. We'd also talked about, you know, some books that have been influential, a tribe was one of them that just came to mind as I'm looking at it over here. But, you know, going through the decision making process when people are deciding either listen to this or share it with somebody else, are you talking about a couple of social media channels that they can tap into? What do you like to educate yourself on? I mean, do you, do you read, or do you just have conversations with folks?

Trace Johannesen (43:11): Uh, yeah, I read when I CA you know, having the, the babies has, has probably minimize a little bit of my reading and, you know, my buddy Devin introduced me to audible fucking 2012, and that was life changing for me because I would drive to work and I can listen to the books, or I went out running. I can listen to books, all these business books I always wanted to read, but I was having a hard time prioritizing that time I could do well. Now that we're kind of, hopefully by the time this podcast is out, we're past most of the lockdown here in Texas. Thankfully we err on the side of freedom. Thank God, because we're trying to balance freedom and public health and economy. But my commute time has been dropped down to zero. So I haven't done as much, but yeah, I do love reading books.

Trace Johannesen (43:54): I have a tremendous amount of books that I've, I've listened to on my LinkedIn page. I started a long time ago, a list of, of all the books. In fact, I just bought, um, Dan Crenshaw, his book fortitude. And I'm excited to read that. Cause I know from some of the talks he's made, he references a book by I'm going to, I'm going to butcher the last name, Greg [inaudible] and Jonathan HIDT. And it's called the coddling of the American mind, which I heard about, I don't know, two years ago. And it was, I love that book because it absolutely speaks to a lot of the challenges we're having today. And it talks about the strange culture that's been wherein words are perceived as harmful. And I'm like, well, I'm not having to put a tourniquet on someone who's bleeding out. Their femoral artery that's harm, right?

Trace Johannesen (44:41): That's actual injury. But because some of these words may have hurt your feeling because you, you took what they said with the absolute most negative intent. So some of the book is a lot about that, but yes, I just, I just downloaded that and a reading that I haven't read for pleasure in a while, which would, should be an indicator to me if I'm stepping outside and looking at Johannes and I'm like, you know, you probably need to reprioritize some things you can actually take that time to read for pleasure. And if I was going to read a book right now, it will be my favorite book ever, which is some dove by Larry McMurtry. Um, I've read it a couple of times. I've seen a mini series a bunch of times. Um, but I would probably start rereading that. Cause it's a phenomenal book. There were so many amazing and complex lessons wrapped up in what looks like frontier jargon that are just, uh, just fantastic,

Stephen Colon (45:28): like Canary in a coal mine, the whole thought process. So there's, there's a bunch of, well, history can help explain some of those. What'd you call them prayer, pray language. Would you say that language in front of their language? Yeah, there's, there's a tremendous amount of wisdom for, uh, and simplicity and the way that they communicate to which I think is the most effective form of communication is just taking a complex idea and distilling it down to something simple, simple. So I appreciate you, man. Um, so trace for is how people can get in touch with you. Uh, there's a few, um, a few other channels that they can go, uh, find folks on. But I mean really what that, if you like listening to podcasts, we've got new episodes coming at you every Tuesday. My suggestion is, is on Tracy's website. Go and let them know that you listen to his message here on knucklehead. Also let them know what you think about some of the things that he's doing. I encourage you to give him some feedback. He, he would probably encourage it there too. Cause there's something you heard.

Trace Johannesen (46:24): Do you think that I should think about it differently? I'd love to hear it. If it's something that I should be considering that I'm not, I mean, let me know again, I'm a sponge. I'm here to listen. So I, and you know, through friends down, get in the front, you know what I'm saying? So like tell it to me straight and I'll be like, ah, that's it gets me in the gut. Thank you for that. You know?

Stephen Colon (46:40): Right. A hundred percent. Well, we don't, we don't pretend to be perfect. And that's, that's the whole thought process of, of knucklehead is rather than, you know, let your accomplishment speaking for itself. What you want to do is you want to allow your willingness to go out and learn and work and listen, and then apply what you've learned and what you didn't know before to go out and be better. So we appreciate you taking the time. Anything else that you want to leave these folks with?

Trace Johannesen (47:02): That's it just trace for and share the knucklehead podcast. What Steven's doing is great. I love the idea of embracing your mistakes and really learning from it. Helping other people learn from it. I love that concept. Yeah.

Stephen Colon (47:16): Wow. That's awesome. I appreciate you guys trace we're out of here, man. That's a wrap

Trace Johannesen (47:20): Adios.

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When it comes to true service without intent, how much are you willing to give in order to serve? What are the reasons behind taking these actions and what thought process you need to develop in achieving your purpose?

Our guest in today’s episode of the Knucklehead Podcast shares it all.

Trace Johannesen is a US Marine Veteran. His life has been about leading others to work together to accomplish goals, relationship-building, and creative problem-solving.

Serving for City Council, Trace decided to take another step in his life to continue his service. This time, service without intent to the District.


Favorite Quote:

I know that our district deserves this kind of leadership. If no one’s leading, there’s a firefight, I’m going to step up and run to the fire. Like my duty demands it. And my training as a Marine commands that I go towards the fight.”

-Trace Johannesen

In this episode:

2: 11 – His thoughts about military leadership

5:14 – The mistakes he committed during the sophomore years

7:04 – His perspective of what makes a college-level unique

13:38 – How young Trace dealt with hard work

18:16 – The story behind the process and how he agreed in running for Congress

29:53 – His thought process of being a freshman Congressman

33:31– Recognizing his mistakes and what he learned from it

38:54  – His mindset when it comes to true service without intent

Get in Touch with Trace Johannesen







Connect with Knucklehead Media Group



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