Hi there. I'm Liston. I suppose you're here to learn more about me.
I'm driven to learn why people make the decisions they do, and how systems affect the decisions we make and the world around us. My personal curiosities and professional life have revolved around these two questions.
I've mostly applied my curiosity to sales and marketing, and published a whole lot over the last 5 years. During that time, I've published 300+ podcast episodes, run a top 1% podcast, and written over 1M words online and in email.
But enough about that. Here's my story. Note these themes:
- I need to make things and share them
- I need to constantly learn and try new things
- I love to tell stories, especially through writing
I grew up in Los Angeles, California surrounded by smog, traffic, and concrete. I was a timid kid who loved to play sports and was introverted to the point of self-retreat. Despite being placed in the "gifted" program, my grades were only slightly better than average.
I spent my childhood playing basketball, listening to hip-hop music, and playing video games. I still listen to hip-hop. In case you're wondering, Train of Thought is the most important hip-hop album to me.
I went to college and only lasted a year before dropping out. I had no idea why I was there. It's hard to stay motivated without a purpose. I had none.
I found purpose in music. I began writing music and rapping. I eventually played 20+ shows up and down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. I never treated it like it job, all while pretending that I was developing a career. I had a few song placements, including a national spot in a VH1 show "40 Least Hip-Hop Moments." That I was the rapper on the theme song is an irony not lost on me.
I taught myself to produce and engineer music. For some reason, I need to make and share things. I never was this way as a kid - or perhaps I didn't know I was - but making music was the first time I discovered my need to create.
Making music was also about telling stories. About imaging how other people felt. About bringing new and different perspectives. About giving voice to how I felt, and to the voiceless.
A reality hit me about music: I didn't want the lifestyle. I didn't want to tour, and bars are a bad place for my health. Plus I didn't want to be broke. So it goes.
Around this time I'd totally let myself go. I'm tall - 6'5". I knew it was bad, but one morning I weighed myself and the scale screamed 298.5 pounds. Something had to change. I quit smoking and lost 90 pounds in 9 months. That was probably too much, but I was healthy again.
I returned to undergrad at the spry young age of 26. I was the old guy in many classes. I had purpose though. I was on the Dean's List 5 of 6 semesters and graduated in 3 years. I got a scholarship to grad school to study Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara (go Gauchos). I graduated in 2 years with a 3.92 GPA and gave the commencement address at the Technology Management Program. So much for college dropout.
The most important moment of my life was meeting my wife in grad school. Our timing didn't work out until 2 weeks before school was out. After dating each other for 2 weeks, she was set to move back home. Fuck that, I said. I moved in with her so she could stay in Santa Barbara, and the rest is history. We've been happily married since 2014.
In 2011 I moved to San Francisco to join an environmental consulting firm as the Director of Business Development and Marketing. It went well. I helped the firm grow from $8M to $13M in three years. A rising economy helped, too. While there, I discovered digital marketing. That I could send an email and get a $50k contract back for my company blew my mind. I had to do it.
I left my dream job to freelance and, eventually, start my own agency. We did copywriting and conversion rate optimization. Writing. Making. Learning. Incorporating everything I'd learned to that point in every client engagement.
One thing I missed about sales and business development was the people. Marketing can become a numbers game, even though it's about people. I decided to focus on sales for a few years.
I had two primary questions to answer in my sales consulting and training business:
- What causes people to buy, or not buy?
- What's different about selling services v. products?
It turns out that 4 years is barely long enough to scratch the surface of these questions. During that time I published 400+ posts and 150+ podcast episodes about what I learned.
Through my efforts I discovered something about myself that hadn't been obvious prior, at least to me: I think about everything in systems. Sequences, processes, sets of variables. Whether it's marketing, sales, writing, whatever. It's all about systems for me.
I can tell you what lead generation has in common with how the atmosphere deals with climate change.
I'm currently Head of Growth at Gold Front, a category design studio working with high-growth startups. I met Josh, the founder, through a cold email I sent him on LinkedIn. Prospecting really works.
Here, on this website, I cover three main topics: systems thinking and decision systems, and how they affect marketing and sales. If you haven't already, I invite you to subscribe to email newsletter so you get my new articles sent straight to your inbox.