Looking for that perfect blend of humor, wit and reflection? Allen Esrock delivers! We talk about TikTok, cat videos and not looking at Allen Esrock’s internet history when he was running a tween girls’ networking site! Allen shares with us the moment he realized that running the family retail business was not for him. He had other dreams! Allen drove from St. Louis, MO to Los Angeles, CA to realize his goal of becoming a TV comedy writer--only to discover that he hated being in the writer’s room!
Allen knew that he didn’t want the life that was laid out for him: A family-owned retail clothing business, a home in St. Louis, being a country club tennis doubles champion. He credits being in touch with his emotions and knowing that he needed to do something different. Rather than living with regret and saying, “I could have tried this or should have done that," Allen shares with us his mantra of “not wanting to live with regret” is a deep part of his soul and what ultimately guides him.
His shares key advice when making decisions: Before you make the decision, ask yourself, will you be happy with this decision in 5-10 years? For Allen, personal reflection has led him to become the person he is today.
Allen is the founder of NxtGen Nexus, a local/global community for Family Business and Family Office NxtGens that supports their interest in Social Impact, Family Dynamics, Philanthropy, Pop Culture, Family Legacy, Food, and Real Estate, at both local and global levels.
Allen started working for Big Men’s Shop, his family business, when he was five-years old. His first job was guarding the front door during holiday shopping season. Allen went through the age-old debate of going into the family business. He joined a buyer's training program at Macy's to prepare to run the family business. Instead, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being a television comedy writer. Allen left the entertainment business and became an executive recruiter working across industries which included digital media, technology, healthcare, and non-profits.
Allen was also the Founder of Jitter Fingers, a safe social networking solution for tween girls and their bffs, with on-line clubs in 200+ cities in the US and twelve countries. Allen is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a graduate of Indiana University.
Connect with Allen to learn more about him and his background:
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Keri [00:00:12] Welcome to the reCHARGE®, Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther, we are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives often. They push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that changed their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior. And in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it.
Kelly [00:01:18] Hi, everyone. It's Kelly. We're so excited to have Allen Esrock as our special guest. Allen is the founder of NxtGen Nexus, a local and global community for family, business and family office next gens that supports their interest in social impact, family dynamics, philanthropy, pop culture, family, legacy, food and real estate at both local and global levels. Allen started working for Big Men Shop his family business when he was just five years old. His first job was guarding the front door during the holiday shopping season. Allen went through the age old debate of going into the family business. He joined a buyer's training program at Macy's to prepare to hit to run the family business. But instead he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being a television comedy writer and left the entertainment business and became an executive recruiter working across industries which included digital media, technology, health care as well as nonprofits. Allen was also the founder of Twitter Fingers, a save social networking solution for tween girls and their beefs with online clubs in over 200 cities in the US and 12 countries. Allen is a member of the Writers Guild of America and a graduate of Indiana University. Allen, thank you so much for being on our podcast. We always look forward to starting our conversations by asking what show, podcast, book or blog do you go to when you want to push yourself and expand your thinking?
Allen [00:02:52] Thank you, Kelly. And it is great to be part of this podcast. And when I'm trying to expand my thinking, I go to TikTok. I think TikTok is extraordinary because when I was growing up, basically there were three television channels, ABC, CBS and NBC. Those channels also helped kind of drive how people communicated in a water cooler talk, stuff like that, as media fragmented, the relationship between community content and commerce changed. TikTok really represents the latest incarnation of this platform where there's true interaction. It's actually pretty interesting. I got introduced to TikTok when my cousin Ryan, our youth pastor Ryan, as he is known, came over for dinner a few months before covid and he said, you are starting this new thing called TikTok, and in a month you have 440,000 followers. So we had dinner, we had hamburgers after dinner. We then checked again and he was up to 446,000 in an hour and a half. So to me, TikTok really represents the next wave of communication. And to look at it and to see how people communicate with each other, how they're expanding the platform, I think it's just terrific.
Keri [00:04:29] Welcome, Allen. Thank you so much for joining. As I was listening to your bio, I thought, what hasn't Allen done? And because you've done so much and I really appreciate how Tic-Tac is where you go to push your thinking, it is the you're the first person to say that. So breaking ground, Allen, usually people say some kind of blog or or podcast. So I appreciate the story about youth. Pastor Ryan, what's he up to now? Not only do we know he eats hamburgers, but what's his following now?
Allen [00:05:01] Because it's growing. It's about just under 4 million.
Keri [00:05:06] Oh, my. Is he is a TikTok influencer?
Allen [00:05:11] It's pretty amazing because he'll walk down the street and people will stop him and say, you're a youth pastor, Ryan. And so it's it's an extraordinary phenomenon. And it is not shocking that not too many people who are sixty five years old used TikTok as a reference point for learning.
Keri [00:05:36] All right, Allen, since you brought it up, what what is it about you? Because you just said you're 65 and that's typically not the TikTok age range. And quite often as we get older, we're like we're not going to get involved with these new fangled things. So what is it about you, Allen, that you're like, I got it, I got a crush, this TikTok and I got I got to be involved in it and I have to to interact with it. What is it about, Allen?
Allen [00:06:04] As I think it goes back to Allen Esrock says, it really goes back down to I had a career as a television comedy writer, and after I broke into the industry called The Family Business, I realized I hated it. And so that was really a bummer. But what I found fascinating was the fragmentation of media, the whole notion of community, how people communicate, how they're going to do commerce. It just was an amazing eye-opening thing for me because it it brought together kind of that creative wrap route, but in a whole different environment. And it's just stuck with me over the years. I mean, Jitter Fingers was a tween girl, safe social networking site. Yeah. And the world had said, hey, this guy, figure it out, safe social networking for tween girls. You know, at the same time, it's a good thing people didn't like, look at my computer because I had every tween girl website listed I would have if I had gotten arrested and thrown in jail.
Keri [00:07:22] It would have been a very different podcast, Allen. A very different Allen Esrock.
Allen [00:07:30] Live from San Quentin, Allen Esrock. It's just I find it fascinating and its community and society and it's building. It's just building together. And TikTok is truly the latest incarnation of it.
Keri [00:07:45] What are the videos that you watch? What are the things that are recommended to you? Kind of what's on your what's on your list?
Allen [00:07:54] I watch a lot of Youth Pastor Ryan videos.
Keri [00:08:01] Shout out to Ryan. Well, we'll have to put a link at our show notes since we've talked so much about him.
Allen [00:08:05] Yeah, I just got to go through with things. The other day I was looking at like some guy who was some person who was doing financial advice. And so that was kind of interesting. They used to call them cat videos. And let's face it, the entire Internet was basically founded on cat videos and porn. So you probably don't look for porn on TikTok. That's probably not a good thing, but it's both entertainment. And and I just kind of scroll through it to see how they communicate the methods, the the inflections, because it's it's almost the the medium itself that I find so interesting.
Keri [00:08:55] Hmm. Well, Allen, a couple of things before we get to the big question. One, not only were you the first one to talk about TikTok, but porn as well. So thank you, Allen. So we have TikTok and porn that have come up that we have never talked about before. So thank you, Allen. And your you're inspiring me to I have been slow and the TikTok train and listening to you, Allen, and your joy with it, like maybe I just have to start with Youth Pastor Ryan and give it a shot and see see what we can do.
Allen [00:09:30] He's very good. He used to be he's like because he's like twenty four years old and he was a character at Disneyland. So they're lots of fun stories of being Prince Charming and Spider Man, and he just does a great job.
Keri [00:09:46] Nice. Nice. Well, thank you. Thank you for that inspiration. Allen. Kelly... and I like to say that we learn so much in this podcast and and just pushing us to even do some some TikTok. So I'm sure Kelly is like, oh, we have to do TikTok videos now, but we can do it with Allen. Talk about porn. That should get the numbers up right away so we could at least talk about it with a cat. That sounds horrible. It's gone very dark now. I'm sorry, Kelly.
Kelly [00:10:14] Now can't wait. I mean, that should include our include our list of download. Our download should increase. Number of followers should increase whatever it takes.
Keri [00:10:23] Right. Thank you, Kelly. All right. Porn cats, picture whatever we're doing TikTok around it soon. Allen. So we could talk about this for the rest of the podcast. But the big question is, what is the decision you made in your life that changed the trajectory of it? And what are some of those charged qualities you use to help you make that decision?
Allen [00:10:49] Well, I referenced it. I grew up in a family business and I would have been the person to have run the family business. We were business partners. My father and my uncle were brother in laws, and I would have gone into the family business with my cousin. I was very successful. And I graduated college and wanted to bias training and I thought, you know, this is just not what I need to be doing. This is not what's going to get me fulfillment. So I said bye bye to Macy's department store and drove out to California and became a one of those legions of wannabe entertainment people. And I had all the cruddy jobs that you had. But I got to a point where, you know, I I accomplished my goal and my dream, which made me very happy. The fact that I hated it did not make me very happy. So I think courage is the is the quality because, you know, it took courage. It's like you pick up, you leave. Wasn't like there was a world waiting for all of us to get to Los Angeles. You just kind of land and just start moving forward. And so, yeah, I'm in retrospect, you could either go see for courage or I added another one to those, which is us first. Stupid. Yeah. Those were the right box to pick up across the country, have a good quality jobs and then ultimately achieve your goal and then hate it. So it's me and Superman with the big US there.
Keri [00:12:47] We have talked a lot with other people and that that courage can also mean slightly crazy is slightly almost naive to the oh God, what's going to happen after this? So there is an element of this insanity, stupidity, naivete, whatever it is, when you make these leaps in terms of courage, they are very much to, what is it, two sides of the same coin. What Allen, let's go back. So you really broke out of a mold that was developed for you. So a lot of people have this, whether it's the family business or they need to be a lawyer or they need to be a doctor or whatever they need to be, their family has told them. So you go to college at Indiana University and you think you're going to go into the family business. So when does this kind of. Aha moment happen for you, Allen? And when that happens, tell us about when you told the family that you weren't going to be in the family business.
Allen [00:13:45] That's a great question. And it is a great notion of the moment, because in every person who's in a family business, mind you, every person who grew up in a family business, whether you go into it or you're or you don't, you have what we call the moment where you make that decision. Now, for some people, that moment can be when they're four years old and they go and they make the family business for other people. They can be 50 years old. And once again, they're so. So this moment is something that that is so unique to family businesses. And I mean, I can tell you specifically where I was standing. I was in Atlanta. I ran the children's department at Macy's, and I also ran the Doll Department at Macy's. And we were doing some inventory of Madame Alexander dolls. Yes, I do know what Madam Madame Alexander dolls are. And it's like, I can't do this. Nothing against the dolls, but I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to go back to St. Louis. I'm not going to not follow my dream because that it's always sitting there going me. Well, you should of could of. So I let my girlfriend know who I worked with and her response was great. What are we leaving? And I told my parents it was like, this is what I'm doing. And there was very little pushback because. This is a decision that was made so just kind of went ahead and did it and and here we are many years later.
Keri [00:15:35] So, Allen, when you did you have when you were younger, did you think that you were all in the family business? And then the moment happened and you said, I don't want to be a part of it? Or did you always have kind of in the back of your mind? I like writing and I like comedy and I have a different path.
Allen [00:15:54] Yeah, I think it's two things. I think it's part of that is. Yes. A you know, for a while I like comedy, so I thought about that. But I think there's also kind of up for me at least there was a bigger picture, which is I could have written my life if I had stayed in St. Louis. It just was very clear where I would have lived, what country club we would have belonged to. I probably would have won the annual doubles tennis doubles tournament at the country club. And it was a life that I could I could just see. And I knew that. It just was not going to be inspirational to me. So part of the decision, I'm sure, in my little brain was that it's both part about the family business and the notion of what it would have been to have stayed in St. Louis and lived a life that's path I could already see below. The next 30 years of my life
Keri [00:17:02] Allen, you mentioned the inspiration part because for some some people, Allen might say, well, that's great, I know exactly what I'm going to have. There's stability. I would like to be the doubles champion. I want to know what country club I'm going to be a part of. So where and you said but it's not where you find your inspiration. What where do you find your inspiration? What is your inspiration? How do you get so in touch with that, Allen, that you need to listen to it first? Sometimes people have a hard time listening to that intuition and that inspiration. So how is it so clear for you that you're like, no, I don't want this life?
Allen [00:17:40] I've no idea. Quite honestly, I just knew it was there. And I was, fortunately enough, in touch with my feelings to know that I had to I had to try it. I've actually a few years earlier, I dropped out of college after my freshman year of college and I moved to Los Angeles because it's like, I want to try this and why not drop out of college and do that? So it certainly was always like in the back of my mind. But people have goals, people of aspirations, you know, whatever they are and. It could have been I was just uninformed of what the life path would have been, but I just knew it was, you know, it just was part of my soul. And ultimately, you know, life is about peeling back the layers of the onion so you can get there. So, you know, ultimately you don't have these questions in your mind. I could have done this. I should have done that, because that's kind of the one thing that. I couldn't live with I mean, you know, whatever life is, it brings you it gives you what it gives you, brings what it brings. But the idea of not looking at something in the face and go, this is important to me, I need to do it, that that was the line of demarcation for me. I knew I would never be satisfied if I didn't try. I could have gone back and run the family business. At least I would have said I tried this, but that's what it was.
Keri [00:19:30] I think talk about that that courageous because making sure that you don't live the life of regrets and going, wow, I never did it because of this or I never did it because of that. And so you that's such a compelling force for you. That's like you said, this kind of part of your soul that that's just not going to happen to you. So, like, of course, I'm going to go try it because I don't want to look back on my life and realize that I regretted things. And I think that's why you have such a varied bio and background, Alan, because you did go out and you tried it and then you listen to yourself. So here's Allen. I'm listening to some kind of road road song, right. Car driving song that you're driving across the country and you're going to L.A. and you're like, this is it. You have a goal because you're pretty goal oriented. You get to L.A., you're in the writers room. And then when do you have that moment, Alan, of, well, this isn't what I thought.
Allen [00:20:31] The first time I got in a writer's room was like...
Keri [00:20:37] So it didn't take long.
Allen [00:20:38] It was I mean, because I can go into depth as to some of the things that I didn't like about my childhood growing up, how people valued things, etc.. And I thought the cool thing about the entertainment industry is, oh, you have a bunch of people who who who aspire to a different set of values, but just the opposite. You have more insecure people. You have more people that want this and wants that and want attention to themselves. And it's all about themselves and truly a comedy writers room. That's what it is. And it's like I just I just didn't like it. I don't like being the loudest person in the room. And that's, you know, as I like to say, I guess they're called Myers Briggs test. You know, if I had taken one like 1980-something, it would have said, boy, when you could have done all these different things to be good at this, you'd be great at this. The one thing that you should not be doing is being a comedy writer or whatever else is on the map. Do not do this. Do not collect two hundred dollars. And I didn't do it. So. So that's how it all happened. The worst decision in the world.
Keri [00:21:57] Well, I'm pretty sure, though, the Myers Briggs will not tell you not to be a comedy writer. I'm pretty sure they don't get that granular. So they wouldn't have stopped you. But I thank you for that. It's interesting because you said it's the worst decision, but at the same time, look at how amazing your life is. You stayed out here. You are still in Southern California. It probably opened doors or made you kind of think about the next stage in your life and what you want and need. And you don't have regrets on it. You're not. 65 all curmudgeonly and grumpy saying "I could have been a writer." No, you know, like, oh, I don't want to be a writer. I knew it as soon as I walked in. I'm done. And so how much freer and lighter your life is because you don't have that weighing down on you that that sort of I could have been someone I could have been a contender like. You could have been a contender, you could have been I just I don't know, I've heard about comedians. They're the saddest clowns, Allen, to the most insecure. So, yeah. You went into the lion's den for that one.
Allen [00:23:09] Yeah. No, it's it's not a I mean, I married with young kids and it's like and I enjoy having an evening cocktail. I confessed it's a martini and and it would have been that martini would have been taking place at six o'clock. It would would've been taking place at one o'clock and it would not have been a martini. And I just I just knew it. And it's like this just not what I wanted. Yeah.
Keri [00:23:38] I really appreciate your courageousness. And once, you know, Allen, you don't delay on it. I mean, maybe it took you a while to leave or something like that. But, you know, when you listen to it and you're like, I'm going to do it and I'm not going to wring my hands over it and we're going to make that decision and move on. And I think that is that's inspirational for others to hear that they can make that leap in that jump, Allen. And it still works out even when you look back and go, oh, I was horrible. I wish I didn't do that. But you learn from it. So I think, Allen, what are what are some of the advice that you would have for people and when they're at this kind of inflection point? This decision point?
Allen [00:24:22] You once again, it's peeling back the layers of the onion. How do you try to get to that point where you can make an informed decision about your life? When I was thinking about family business, it's like I really didn't have anyone to talk to about it because everyone had a stake in the game, whether it was my parents or my cousin or whatever. So, you know, today there are resources and family business groups and that's what NxtGen Nexus is about to to bring that community together. So it's about trying to get in touch with your feelings, trying to research and get real information about it, and then really kind of imagining. What you might be thinking about those decisions five, 10, 15 years later or so, it's about trying to learn about yourself, getting outside advice and then reflection.
Keri [00:25:31] Oh, Allen, that is so I it's so beautiful. It's such a powerful three steps or four steps. I didn't count the steps the right way, but that what you will think about five to 10 years later is such a great question. So I got in touch with my feelings. I, I, I did my research. I think I have this decision. And before I make it say, will I be happy with this decision in five years, in 10 years? And maybe I will, because even if it's wrong, I'll at least say that I did it. Or this is one of the reasons I don't get a tattoo, because I think in 10 years I'm not going to like it. And that's what always stops me from the tattoo because I'm like, I don't think I think in 10 years I'm going to be different and I'm not going to appreciate that. So I think that's such wonderful advice is just taking that beat, that breath, that pause. Will this work for me in five to ten years? Will I look back and what will I say? And I know Kelly, you for sure were happy when Allen said research, that's for sure. Get in touch with feelings, make your informed decisions, do your research, be thorough, talk to your community. But I know, Kelly, you often think too about, well, what what does this decision look like in five or ten years? What's the long term effects of this? So what are your thoughts on and Alan's beautiful story and Kelly playing tennis with Allen, right? Yeah, I know. Going to the French Open with Allen or Indian Wells out here and Coachella Valley. So you've got to bond with Allen on the tennis.
Kelly [00:27:11] I mean, listen, I've got it on my bucket list to go to each of the four tennis majors. So if there's a companion that wants to come with me now, Allen Esrock, I'm all for it because I think we'd have a good time. I also love the reflection aspect of what you shared to and the unique quality you bring to this particular conversation is that you weren't necessarily or maybe you were, but at least we've been here. It mired by feeling a sense of shame for not wanting to go into the family business or, you know, realizing that the first day in the comedy room wasn't a comedy writers room, wasn't what you thought it would be. And it changed you to the point where you said, I can't do this anymore. It's not what I want. So you didn't allow yourself to feel badly about it, at least for too long, because sometimes people can't really get past that. They hold on to it or feel like they have something to prove. And you were able to make that connection rather quickly. But then you also determined, look, I can still still live in Southern California and and find something that does appeal to me. So what what allowed you to make that to. What internalize it too much to the point where it might paralyze you?
Allen [00:28:29] Well, let's let's not go overboard. It did paralyze me. We had difficult decisions of that type of stuff. But but ultimately, as I said, it just came to the point that. This is you know, this is just not this is just not what I'm going, you know, the the cost benefits of doing this is not going to is not going to weigh out at the end. And, you know, I mean, look, it's what we live in L.A. My wife's in the entertainment business. You know, friends are in it. So it's not like, excuse me, I made a clean break, but. I mean, you just have to go forward and and and do the things that matter to you. Mm hmm.
Kelly [00:29:24] Yeah, that's what I love so much, is the intentionality behind the decisions that you make that you feel confident even when you may not have all the answers to the questions. You still go ahead and do it, because it would take a lot, I would think, to tell parents with whom they feel like, OK, son, you're going to take our family business and you're going to manage it and lead it and run it. And we'll be very happy that you do. I can imagine, although they seem to be very open to the idea of you saying, you know what, this is not what I want because you were so certain in your decision. What did the did the relationship with your parents change once you left and decided to move to Southern California? Was the relationship what you wanted it to be after the decision was made? Because sometimes there's the feeling of, OK, Allen, go ahead and do your thing and we wish you all the best. And then there could be, I don't know, resentment or things, feelings that happen up here after the fact. How would you say that kind of relationship looked after after some time?
Allen [00:30:26] So we're kind of like to a mini series on this because that is not going to be that is a very long quest, but a very long answer. It happens that my father passed away last week. He was 102 years old. So so we're dealing with a lot of those issues. The one issue that we're not dealing with is my relationship with my father, my relationship with what we did. I mean, as you can imagine, no one's really when you grow up in an affluent neighborhood and you go, hi, I'm Chuck in everything, I'm going to go to California. My father was a first generation American. So there's lots of tension, lots and lots and lots of tension. So at the end of the day, all those all those issues got resolved between us, so. So they did get resolved and I worked on it and he worked on it. And it really turned out to be we had a wonderful relationship and a wonderful life together. So I don't know if that would have stayed that way if I'd been in St. Louis, quite honestly.
Kelly [00:31:50] Well, I. I'm so sorry to hear about the passing of your father.
Allen [00:31:54] Thank you.
Kelly [00:31:55] So, so very sad to hear that. But I love that you have self awareness and you really worked hard to to build the relationship to the point where you were happy with it. And that's I think all you can ever really ask for from yourself is you gave yourself grace and be kind to yourself and know that, listen, the conversations are two way streets, right? And so I just love the positivity that you bring to the conversations that I know that I and you have had. You always have a sense of humor to it, which we always appreciate, because, you know, we can I can often take myself too seriously at times. I know that's shocking for for Keri to believe, but it is true. So I appreciate that you don't take yourself too seriously and you're all about the journey and realizing that it's a marathon, not a sprint. And every decision you make can impact good, bad or otherwise the trajectory of your life going forward. But that you were so intentional to know what do you want to do, how do you want to do it? And if it doesn't work, that's OK. I can find something else. I can be just as happy in another profession. I can do more research, I can reflect. And so we thank you so much for you being open and sharing your story and of course, sharing your humor with us. That's one of our favorite qualities about you, Allen.
Allen [00:33:15] Well, I love talking to you all. It's it's a highlight of the day. Whenever I see there's a calendar, we're going to be having conversation. I always have a little smile on my face.
Kelly [00:33:30] So do we. And so if you would like to and I hope any of you do reach out to Allen Esrock, feel free to do so on LinkedIn. I will also include all of the great social media links that we've mentioned regarding NxtGen Nexus. Youth Pastor Ryan in all of those good nuggets of information will be included in the show notes. So please make sure that you explore in and find those there again. Allen, we thank you so much for joining your podcast. Again, deepest condolences to you and the loss of your father. And we look forward to another conversation with you soon.
Allen [00:34:06] Thank you.
Kelly [00:34:07] Thank you.
Kelly [00:34:11] Thank you for listening to the reCHARGE® your Life podcast, please sign up for our newsletter at Abbracci Group.com and follow us on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn at Abbracci Group, Instagram at WarriorsofHR and Twitter at Warriors_HR. Remember to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review and please tell a friend and be sure to drop us a note on how you are reCHARGE® in your life. We can't wait to hear from you.