When I came across Connor Traut on Twitter, I found his profile to be quite impressive: CEO and founder of Traut Financial, a local politician in Southern California, and founder of his community’s Teen Leadership Council. Oh yeah, did I mention that he started all of this when he was only 16 years old??!! Now 18 years old, Connor is still going strong by running for his community’s Civic Council, using his financial savvy to run his company, preparing to be a University of Redlands freshman in the Fall, and continuing to inspire and encourage teens everywhere to step up to leadership and create change in something that they believe in. I had the pleasure of talking to him today. As an Academic Life Coach and HUGE advocate for teenage leadership, I was eager to get his thoughts on teenagers and leadership, motivation, and Academic Life Coaching.
What is the backstory of Traut Financial? You started it when you were 16. How did that come to be? Well, basically, my company was founded on the basis of a simple choice. During the summer, I had the choice of either playing video games or to learn something new. I chose to learn investing which opened many doors for me. As I excelled, I came to learn that the world of finance was selfish with people always trying to make the quick buck. So, that’s when I came up with Traut Financial. Basically, my company assists people to make money while helping them reach their goals and dreams. We specialize in two aspects of finance: financial education and Angel Investing.
How important is it for you to learn something new? I think it’s really important. I like learning because when you are opened up to more things, you have a lot more opportunities. When you have more choices, you can see what you like. When you find all this new stuff, you’re open to more things, and it makes life better.
What are some of your top values? I’d say trust is one of my biggest values. If one can’t keep his own word, then he can’t be counted on for most other things in life. And loyalty, that goes with trust. If somebody trusts you, they will call upon you to do stuff. You will have more opportunities. Then, everything else tends to fall in place if you do that.
How does your business honor your values? My company honors my values because we will always do what we say and never over-promise. Our hard work coupled with motivation has led us to succeed. The fact that we keep our word on everything that we do, and we’re always straight up and honest with our customers builds the connection with them, and that’s what builds the trust.
Conditional Motivation is doing something for an external reward: “if I do this, then I will get this reward”. Intrinsic Motivation is when the act of doing something is the reward itself, and the process is just as fulfilling as the end result. What intrinsically motivates you? I’d say that I’m motivated to make a difference in the community. I believe that helping others can open your eyes to a new world, to a new passion.
What do you get out of helping others? Getting the good feeling of knowing that it’s not just for myself. If I’m not helping anybody else, what am I really doing? What is my impact? When you can see other people succeed right before your eyes, or you see them get helped from something that you did, it makes you feel like you made that change and your hard work went towards something. It gives you purpose.
How do you define purpose? Purpose is what you’re meant to do and what makes you happy. It’s knowing what makes you happy, and not just what would make you succeed the most, but what can help others the most. If you don’t have the purpose or the drive, every day, it lowers your motivation. You have to make time for what you love and what you need to do. Then, the two can be in harmony which couples with the rise in motivation.
You had mentioned that at one time in high school, your grades weren’t the best. Then you got better grades and better at time management. How did you do that? Basically it came down to having a calendar. I found that it was really important every day to have “me” time or time with friends. And if I had a project, I planned out how much to do every day. Through high school, I had a 3.0, so I guess it wasn’t the best, but I made sure to do a lot of other stuff; it wasn’t just necessarily grades. That’s why I got “Student of the Year” in the ROP Program out of 40,000 students. It’s usually all about GPA, but what I think colleges really look for, and what people should focus on is excelling at what they’re best at while having fun doing it, and that’s how they’re going to succeed and that’s how they’re going to be happy in life.
What do you love to do and why do you love doing it? I love going to Angel games because those are with my friends and family. It’s a way to get away and have fun and relax. Always spending time with my girlfriend and my friends helps me forget my worries of the day. It just makes everything easier. And with my business, I love doing it because it is rewarding and I get to help a lot of people.
How important is it for you to spend time for family and friends? I think it’s really important, every day, to be around the people that you love. If you spend time with them, you’re going to have fun. If you’re having fun every single day, that gives you motivation, the drive to succeed. You look at it all differently. If you’re sitting in a room and working all day, what are you working for? You’re not working to have fun. If you’re just working to have money, but you don’t do anything with that money, what’s the point of having it?
It’s about purpose. Yup. Yup.
What is your definition of leadership? Leadership. Generally, people tend to think that in order to be a good leader, you must hold a position with a fancy title. In reality, it’s not only about the change that you can create, but its about your ability to engage, motivate and inspire others to accomplish their goals and visions. You must also know oneself, delegate, be able to change the course when needed, and most importantly, be capable of instilling trust in others. That goes back to my Trust Value, I guess. And I think leadership must be executed within your everyday life to better yourself and your community. It’s not always about the huge scale of the President or the CEO. In reality, it can be in your everyday little decisions.
Having gone through the Core Motivation types and learning that you’re a Type #3 Doer, what are your biggest strengths as that type? Being a team player and being calm under pressure would probably be my biggest strengths. And I tend to be a visually based learner.
What are areas of improvement about being a Type #3? I guess when other people waste time, and I get really frustrated or annoyed, having more patience is something that I can improve on. And understanding when I can’t do something the best or understanding when I’m not the best at it. That’s something that I can work on.
How important is it for teenagers in high school to be self-aware of their learning styles, leadership styles, and motivation styles? It’s very important because if you’re not aware of yourself of your styles or how you learn, you’re just going to mindlessly be doing the same mistakes over and over. Or you’re going to be going down the wrong path, maybe not your purpose. And once you find your purpose, life just gets way better.
How does it get better? It gets easier. It gives you motivation. It gives you drive to wake up every day and go to work or go have fun, when you know what you’re going to do. It makes life a lot easier and simpler, and you get more rewarded out of that.
You’re only 18. When did you start thinking like this? I lived in the same house for 15 years, and once I moved to the community that I’m in now, I started to get involved. So around 16, I started getting involved in volunteering and in politics. I guess I have always been like this, but I guess I blossomed in the past two years to get more involved.
What was the “tipping point” that shifted you to think this way? I live in a community, its not necessarily a city. They had a board run by volunteers that is the voice of the community. Originally, they said it was no age requirement and everyone was welcome on the board. So when I moved here, I thought that would be a great way to get involved and I could represent the teens and I tried to be on it. After they accepted my candidacy to be on the board, they changed their mind and put an age requirement on it of 18 and made it so they did not have a teen leader on the council. It got me upset that so much of the community was not getting represented. That’s when I started the Teen Leadership Council. So now there’s an entire council for everyone under the age of 18 that gets represented. So from that, that’s when I started to get more involved and I started to look at what I really wanted to do in life. That’s when it came down to the decision with investing and video games. Everything has just gone from there. I became an Eagle Scout; I focused more on my schooling. So I guess being told that I couldn’t do something was my big motivator and that’s what really changed it all.
What do you think of Academic Life Coaching? If people want to succeed, a lot of it starts in the home; if they have supportive parents, if they have supportive teachers, if they have somebody that they can go to. I see tremendous value in your program, and I know that if more students knew about it , they would succeed on a greater level and be a lot happier. Because once you assist them with the finding of who they are and their strengths, I know you’ll help them achieve their goals by helping them find their passions and purpose in life. I think that’s what’s really going to help create the leaders in society.
What is your one piece of advice for high school students? My advice to students is that you must do what drives you; be with who you love. As a young adult, you have so many opportunities and freedoms to decide your future that you should take those opportunities and run with them!
What piece of advice would your Future Self (Connor 10 years from now – which we nicknamed “CJ”) give you today? If at some point in life, things don’t go your way, or you lose at something or lose an election, it’s okay. Just keep going out there and see what you’re best at and just keep on trying.
That’s pretty sound advice, “CJ”! You have MY vote!
Click Traut Financial to learn more about Connor’s financial business.
Click Traut 2012 to learn more about Connor’s campaign for Ladera Ranch Civic Council.
Click Hayden Lee, ALC to contact me and learn more about how I can help you or your teenager find the healthy balance between school, passion, leadership and purpose.