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Inspire Q&A With Combat Flip Flop’s Matthew Griffin

by Katie Pietrak
Matthew Griffin Speaking at Inspire Conference
Matthew “Griff” Griffin, a former member of the elite Army Special Operation Forces and the co-founder and CEO of Combat Flip Flops, was one of the ten incredible keynote speakers at our 2018 Inspire conference on February 23rd. Known for his moving TEDx talk and his successful appearance on ABC's Shark Tank—where he secured a deal with three sharks including Mark Cuban, Griff lit up the stage as he shared his inspiring and motivating story of chasing big goals and creating positive change and the most important business and leadership lessons he's learned along the way.

After witnessing the worst forms of poverty while serving four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Griff co-founded Combat Flip Flops, a footwear and apparel company that sells goods manufactured in conflict and post-conflict zones to aid the areas in which they are made as a part of his mission to encourage peace through trade and “business over bullets”. 

Throughout it all, his biggest takeaway has been the importance of persistence, creativity, and respect—or, in other words, never underestimating the abilities of yourself or those around you. His journey has been eye-opening and full of challenges, successes, and continuous learning. During his talk, Griff explained why running a purpose-driven business is “harder and takes longer” but ultimately worth it because of the people they attract and the amount of good they are able to do. He strongly believes that, “The older you get the more you’re obligated to help the world.”

Closing out our Inspire conference on a high note, Griff left the audience feeling inspired and determined to chart their own course, focus their goals, tackle big challenges, and try to become a better human.

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Q&A With Matthew "gRIFF" griffin

You have an incredible spirited message. What do you tell your daughter about your work and how do you help her shape her views of the world?
I heard a great line and I haven't been able to articulate this to her very well until about the last year: "A person's reach should exceed their grasp." The older you get, the more people you should be able to help and it should be more than out here. As you grow up, the best thing that you can do is help others and your reach should exceed your grasp.

Do you think empathy and rage against injustice should go hand-in-hand?
I'm going to read you a line out of my journal. Negativity does not work. Instead of attracting a desirable condition, it prevents it from happening. To continue with negativity is insane. Rage doesn't work. You can call it attention or you can call it media. "If it bleeds, it leads" I think is the line in the media and it does get a lot of cameras but it doesn't work. No change happens. We've seen this cycle plenty of times before. We have to be compassionate, we have to be empathetic, we have to be understanding, we have to figure out how to work together.

Are you able to better realize now when the universe is trying to send you a message?
Yes, I think once you are open to it and you believe that the universe conspires in your best interest. When those coincidences and accidents happen, you recognize the signs a lot more.

What do you see now in Afghanistan as a result of your work?
I remember being in my garage, because we were a garage-based business until mid-last year, and after Shark Tank happened, we believe internally as leaders of the company that we should know our employee's jobs better than they do when they come onboard so we can train them and make sure we are adhering to the standards, so I was running customer service. We did more business in 36 hours than we did in our entire history. I was answering all the customer service emails and thousands of emails were coming in because we were late on product and all of a sudden an email popped in from our schools and it was all these little girls in a classroom and they were holding up these little signs that said, "Thank you Combat Flip Flops for your generosity." I forwarded it on to my team, my family, everybody. We finally made it work! We love seeing those pictures.

Why do you think women do different things than men when they have power and agency?
I think that women recognize the power that comes from community, it's not winning, it's helping. I think that woman are more likely to look at something as I am going to help, instead of win. We see that in our media and in our politics and everything else now. You hear I am fighting for you, which means if I fight I am going to win and somebody else is going to lose. Everything is a win-lose situation. Whereas, I think women are more likely to seek out win-win situations.

Where can we buy some flops?
You can buy our flip flops at www.combatflipflops.com.

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Want More Inspiration?

To get a better feel for what we covered at our Inspire conference, catch up on anything you may have missed, or learn more about the motivational speakers featured in our Inspire lineup:

• Check out our favorite moments from the event, including presentation recaps and Q&A sessions from each of the keynote speakers

• Subscribe to the Leading Authorities' podcast, Speaking Of, and listen to the podcast episodes we recorded with our Inspire speakers 

• Follow us on Twitter @LAISpeakers and see the inspiring tweets and photos that attendees shared

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