107: Robert Angel – The Inventor of Pictionary Tells His Story

Game Changer a Simple Act Can Change Your Life

Speaker 1: Welcome to the authors who lead podcast. This podcast is dedicated to you. People who want to be inspired by authors leaders and the messages they share. This is such an important podcast to us because we help uncover what goes on behind the scenes. When authors are writing their book, we talk about the process. We talk about where they get big ideas and you can listen in on those conversations. We can't wait for you to join us. So let's get started. Everybody welcome

Speaker 2: Going back to another episode of the authors, really podcasts on muscle thoroughness, your host, super thrilled today to have Rob angel here, an incredible speaker, author and entrepreneur, and we'll be discussing his book game changer. The story of Pictionary and how he, as he says, I turned a simple idea into the best selling board game in the world in 1985, using just a few simple tools like the Webster's dictionary and a number two pencil and a yellow legal pad. He created the phenomenally successful iconic board game that most of us have in our closet somewhere. And it played for holidays and all these events with our friends, Pictionary, and now putting together this first 1000 games by hand in this tiny apartment, Rob mastered all the need business skills, including sales, marketing distribution, before selling the game to attend 2001. And today he makes his home in Seattle where he's involved in philanthropy, mentoring young entrepreneurs.

Speaker 2: And I'm so thrilled to have him here on the show. Rob, welcome. Well, thank you for having me. Yeah. Now I was so excited. Well, of course, those of us who grew up in the eighties played this game endlessly. It really did become a sensation. Like everyone wanted to have it and had tournaments. We had nights where you could play it with your kids, or you could play it binge drinking and doing all these fun things with it. It's such a versatile game. And as you described in the book, you really don't have to, you could get playing after two minutes of understanding and off you're going, laughing your heads off. And it really struck me in your story about how this moment came to you to create this game, because you've talked about your book, you weren't the most successful student. You were a waiter, you were a young kid.

Speaker 2: Didn't really have any knowledge about the board game industry, but you had this one moment in the book, which I thought was fascinating when you call it like the aardvark moment. Tell us a little bit about that moment and why that sort of shifted things for you. Yeah. I call it finding your art. I came by it naturally. It was that when I decided to work on picture, there's a big backstory there about how I was in college and I was going to be a businessman like my dad and all I wanted to be like, my dad be an executive. My freshman year of college, he gets fired. And not only do I have to pay my own way through school, everything I thought I was going to be, I was going to be a businessman is now gone because I'm not going to let anybody be in charge of my life. Like he was, he was just powerful guy that got fired for no reason. So I go, okay, I'm in charge of my life. So it turned my thinking around from working for somebody to being my own boss, being an entrepreneur. So my class has changed. My attitude changed. So then I moved in with three buddies after school and I discovered this as we called it charades on paper, but you're saying you want to play a game? Well, it's that complicated,

Speaker 3: But it really wasn't an opportunity other than to have fun. That's really all it was. But we started playing this game all night long and then the next night and the next night I just kept going and going and going and I'm gone. I just couldn't make it. So I'll make a good board game. And I did, but I panicked. I started thinking about all the steps necessary to put this game and make it a completed game. I can visualize picture on the show, but marketing plans and business plans and all these other things that I needed. It just became too much. I put it away. I can imagine that it would be

Speaker 2: Exciting to have that finding that moment. And then the welcomes who like to come and sort of drown some of those that thinking. I think a lot of people would probably have that spark at some point, but then that moment that you just described, they walk away from it because it just seems so hard. What kept you in it? What kept you pushing through?

Speaker 3: I had to decide that I want to do this and I did. I couldn't shake the idea, even though I kept telling myself it's too much work. I don't know what I'm doing. Self doubt. I okay. What if I break it down to its simplest task? What's the easiest thing I can do. And I didn't list out all the things necessary to get to the finished product and then take them one at a time. Even I was gone too. I said, what's the first task it was making a word list. Was it everything in front of me, pad of paper, a dictionary, and a pen went in the backyard, opened it up and looking for words that make sense for Pictionary. First word, as we now know that I saw was aardvark. And I write down the word aardvark and I kind of look around.

Speaker 3: I'm kind of breaking down a little cold sweat because in that moment I was no longer a waiter. Cause that was my job. I was a game inventor. That's all it was. I'd labeled myself a game, a waiter by writing one simple word. I became a game inventor. And then what does a game? And that's another word and another, and it just kept building one step after the other. And Pictionary did not start this big dream and I'm going to make a million dollars. I'm going to sell a million games. It started with writing the word aardvark and everything.

Speaker 2: From there you described in your bio that you now help entrepreneurs. Do you think most people don't recognize this artwork like this, finding the artwork? Do you think they notice it when it comes and they just ignore it? Or do you think that they talk themselves? Like they don't just let it be like name themselves. I know when I work with writers and say, I want you to look in the mirror and say, I'm an author before you write a single word, because it's a commitment that you're making to yourself. It's not something someone else bestows on you because once you decide it, that's it. How is it for you when you're working with other young, whether young or hard or young and age, trying to find this moment in themselves,

Speaker 3: Take the differences. They have the moment, right? The aha moments, the aardvarks right in front of them. It's just a matter of tell them, just take that step. Because if not, I know it sounds almost cliche, but without taking that step of writing down, aardvark of going to go daddy and getting a domain name, whatever, it takes something tangible for me, it was something tangible. I tell people you've got to do that because those ideas are great. I'm sure everybody has a million dollar idea or saves the world. But without taking that step, it's not going to matter. And to do it, you just have to tell yourself it doesn't really matter. The step I'm taking. It's like, it's not the end of the world either way. If you write down this word, in my case, it wasn't like, Oh my gosh, now I've got to create a marketing plan. Now that the mindset starts going back to it.

Speaker 2: I think it was like 5,000 something, 80 words or something. You know, at least I remember I was close, but I remember thinking that the momentum and energy that must have been building up as you started to do this and started to feel, it really probably solidified the way this game developed. Even from those early words, you, how you chose and why you chose them. Like you were building what this could be in that simple action. Who would that be true?

Speaker 3: Oh, absolutely. It builds upon itself because know there's no manual. And so there wasn't, we're this step of running words and here's some more steps we can get to and we figure those out. Just everything is intuition and just keep one foot in front of the other, just keep going forward. And what else I like to say, though, if you get down a path, you go down a path and you spent time and energy and money, but it's not working. You just know it's not working. Don't force feed it. Don't say, okay, I've got this idea and I've got to make it work. No you don't. It's okay to walk the wrong path, go to another one. You'll find it. Eventually.

Speaker 2: That's a hard lesson to learn. I may speak from my own experience. I did live in Austin or another time. So it's not like, I don't know Austin. I don't know the current also, but what happened when I was here, I was a principal of a school. And though I was good at it. I didn't love it. I'll start a gym. I want to start a gym. And man, it was the best and worst time to do it because it's right before 2008. And what it taught me is how to run a company, how to hire people, how to sell. But the hurricane Katrina came and totally wiped out any suppliers that I had to build out the thing. So there are 30% markup. And then after that I was selling gym memberships with the headlights of my minivan, with things hanging down, it wasn't built out or was like a show. And I was selling this dream. I sold 75 memberships to somebody, to people who I said, this is what it's going to be like when you get here. I learned sales from that. And then everything crashed and I lost everything and totally went bankrupt, lost everything I had what it taught me though, was you just dust yourself off. You get very focused, picture ego a little bit. If you have to, and you just keep going, but it's really hard to push past those.

Speaker 3: Yeah, totally is. You know, when your whole role craters and all of a sudden you're starting from scratch or, you know, you realize, Oh man, it's not working. That's tough in the book.

Speaker 2: So blown away, because for people who are listening, who don't get context is it's the eighties. There is no internet. There is the things you need to know. You got to go to the library and look it up like phone numbers and addresses. And how do you write a business plan, anything. And even then you're still searching for the right thing. There's no social media to market. How do you think that shifts now in this modern world, this need to create is different now? Um, how do you see it impacting the way people sell things or create things or their beliefs about what really makes things go viral? Viral is a really interesting word, but what really happens with the Olympics in areas we observe in your book, as you went to Nordstrom's and started selling this game, everybody wants to have this game. I thought it was so clever that you would do these demos in Nordstrom's early on. But that was, that seemed like an invention of necessity, as opposed to like a really strategic thinking plan.

Speaker 3: Yes. But in reality, the thing was for Pictionary word of mouth, it's still kind of the same way that we knew people got the pencil in their hands. They would like the game. They would play it. And more importantly, they would go buy it. You can't take away from that interaction. That's what makes picturing so great. Is that interaction we launched online now, then I think it would take longer because by putting those pencils in the hand, creating a community that fast, that hard watching the game out and made the game expand from there. It was a sampling people playing. And today there's a lot of games on Kickstarter and all the rest of it. But culture too, all they're doing is just creating a game and a job for themselves. Not necessarily creating a great product, a great product. So you can get it funded. You can get a game funded on Kickstarter, but actually getting people to play it by another one. That's the trick

Speaker 2: And to talk about it, right? Isn't that the thing like someone to be the, I think you described them as evangelists, that once they started to play there, like they were talking about it nonstop to anybody and everybody, that sort of feeling that you get about something you get so excited about. That's something that takes, thought about creating. And that's true with the book I tried to authors, look, your book is more than just the words on the page. Your book is the conversation. It elicits when you're not with it, that people can share the title of concept in such a brief thing, a brief moment. And they can continue on with just the conversation. That's the power of a book. It's not so much that they read all the book and took notes and highlighted it. It's not, it doesn't want to make it talk worthy.

Speaker 2: It's this message that it holds. Where would you, if you could look back, say that the moment where you felt you gained the most clarity and understanding as you were shifting in producing board games, you'd describe it. That I can't imagine the moment where you got all those cards delivered to half a million cards, there were supposed to be sorted. So then you just put them in the box and you were assembling these 1000 games in your apartment with your buddies that were working together and then they arrive sorted at all. That's definitely a moment where I was thinking that what a sock, but what other moments showed up for you that kind of made you look back and go, wow, I can't believe we pushed through that. Or when did that happen?

Speaker 3: My first sales call was one of those moments where I had to make my first sales call I've ever made. I never made one. I was woefully unprepared. I'm talking like get to the front door with I'm ready to go in and make my first pitch. And I realized I left my sample bag. I left my order form everything in the car. So I go back to the car and guess what? Cars, doors locked. Of course. But the car was still running. I was so nervous. I get there like, Oh gosh, do I laugh or cry at this moment? I'm kind of laughing at myself. I go to the front door, I go in and I have this big pitch. I'm ready to go. I got this. And I go, she goes, let's go to the perfume counter. I remember like yesterday, I know y'all have the perfect, I'm nervous enough and all the smells.

Speaker 3: And she, I started into my pitch and I go, so a picture is a very good game. I think your client, how much? And she goes right into the bot and now I'm like deer in headlights. I don't know how to fill out the order form. I don't know what the term she's using. I'm like, Holy moly. So I got the sale. I got to say, I really had no idea what I was doing. I got lucky. And that was my learning experience to be a little more prepared. But it was also kind of a little acknowledgement that somebody is willing to spend 15 bucks wholesale. It was almost like a little Pat in the head. It felt good.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Now that I noticed, I felt like I got to watch you all grow up in this book. Like, I really appreciated you returning us to those moments where, you know, cause times past, you know, it's probably even hard to choose every moment you're going to put in a book to tell the story. Cause there's so many of them. So how did you find doing that process? Like returning to the cause you've talked about this for years, this, this isn't new. It's probably been a time where you didn't talk about it cause you didn't need to anymore. You obviously sold it to Mattel. What was it like to journey backwards and then sort of like retell the story in a way that you're like, this is going in a book like this is a continual story. It's not one soundbite in a media or, you know, an interview. What was that like for you

Speaker 3: Really fascinating because I've never written a book. So I kind of brain dumped everything. Here's the story, all these different stories. And there'd be a story that I thought was so dramatic and it was, Oh my God, I can't wait to tell the story. It's so important. But then the larger context as I'm writing, I'm realizing, well, it doesn't really connect to any other stories, kind of a standalone. And he has, of course, some of those are, are fun and were telling, but it was just how everything was connected and it made it harder and easier to choose which stories to leave in and out. Because if it didn't really go with the flow or relate back to some premise, some philosophy that it had to go out, it was a really interesting process to be connecting the dots for the first time. Cause I've told these stories a lot, but only as stories, not as an overarching world.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And that's always the challenge because what you see and what you remember, some things that are not as significant and that they're really significant to others. I was really surprised. And I wasn't sure exactly how this was fitting in at first. But when you told the story about the flam Bay coffee and people who don't know, you know, it's your light, but liquor and your light, the coffee sort of like a novelty. Right. And then things go straight. Can you describe that moment and tell us a little, why would you put that in there? What were you helping the reader do? Cause I'm sure that was a choice. Like, do I put this? Do I don't?

Speaker 3: So I haven't told that flaming coffee store in a while, I was very adept at making these flaming coffees. So one day the manager, the owner wanted me to make some for it. Well, I made three at one time, which was kind of my shtick during the middle of it. I flamed the coffee too much. And the run one 51, which is on, excuse me, on fire. Terrified. Can I go put me out? And I'm throwing the glasses down. My clothes are on fire. Fortunately my face was on fire and it was like, Holy crap. This is like, what am I doing? And that was kind of a moment where it shifted from, okay, I got to go wall in. This was that moment of looking back of like, I know I have a good product. I know I'm going to be successful. I know it's all gonna work, but I'm still catching my bed a little bit. And that moment it was like, okay, I quit. I'm done. The universe is telling me it's time. And that was the time where I go, okay, I'm out.

Speaker 2: I think those all in moments do come as you get successful and you have to make a choice. I'm not going to listen. That was a pretty stark wake up.

Speaker 3: I was fine by the way. But thank you.

Speaker 2: It was like, Oh no, where's this going? But that sort of wake up. I'm like, aren't you? What are you doing? Do you believe in this enough? Are you going to go all in? And a lot of businesses probably could go grow or could make a shift, but because we're afraid to make that shift. Do you think, as you're helping out young entrepreneurs, do you see that happening where people don't believe enough in themselves to go all in and things don't turn out as they had hoped?

Speaker 3: Yes. And I mean, there's practical reasons for not going all in as well, physically, which I had to do because there was so much to do. But also there's backwards. You've got to pay your bill. You've got to take care of responsibility. My rent was like 180 bucks a month. It wasn't a goal in, but it was a mental shift for me in that case. And for that point going for a ball in, yeah, I think to go all in is a big commitment. I mean, that was an understatement. How was that for pointers? Wow. That one down. I know it's a mindset. You have to tell yourself I may fail and that's okay. And you also have to tell yourself I may succeed and that's okay. Success as well.

Speaker 2: Why do you think that like, that's, I've heard that multiple times from many successful people. Why do you think that's so, because I think you were prepared

Speaker 3: Mentally conditioned mentally for failure. You're always told to have a plan B have a plan B. Okay. Well, by definition, I'm planning for failure and that's okay. I mean, you know, my major Pictionary story had no plan B. So I'm telling you what to do and not what to do, but you have to plan what if this is successful? What does that look like? And how do I deal with that? Because people are preparing for that. So 10 years after five years after I launched Pictionary, I was a big success. I mean, I made a lot of money and I picture and he's all over the world, but I had thought about it before that moment too. So it wasn't just like, Oh gosh, now what? I'd prepare myself to think about it. I thought about it before it actually.

Speaker 2: Yeah. You know what? If this goes wildly, well, what does that mean? And let me ask you this to step backwards. What was your main reason why you decided to write this book? Because obviously with your success, you didn't have to this wasn't something like, well, this is something I have to do. What, what

Speaker 3: Was the deep reason I wanted to share my story? I mean, the more I talked about it, the more I thought about it, it was kind of like, okay, if I get inspired people to be, to follow their dreams, to give them hope because I was waiting tables. And then I invented this thing that took over the world. So I wanted to share that story. I want to show a story, put it down on paper. It's not just a business book. Right. I didn't want to do that. If you follow these lessons, then you'll be successful too. I don't know if you're going to be successful. Here's what I did. And it worked for me and I really, it was time for me to share that story in my life. It was just right. Yeah. So let's talk about the journey of writing because a lot of people here listening, we have a lot of leaders who listen to this podcast who are thinking about writing a book or thinking about writing the book that they've been holding off writing. What was the process like for you? So you had this idea, like, I want to share my story. And from that moment, what did it look like? Did you sit down a plan? Did you lock yourself in a cabin? Did you get, what was your process and how did it kind of come about? Oh, okay. I'll tell you just between you and me. How's that? Yeah, just between us. It was not that much fun.

Speaker 3: There was moments. And I'm just going to be honest about it. Eventually a writer by trade. And so getting started, I wrote a couple of words, just I followed my own advice, the aardvark, I started writing the story and then I made the mistake of letting somebody else tell my story. So that took a fair amount of time. And then I realized, well, no, that's not what I want to say. So there's a stretch of time and it's gone. And then I go, well, maybe I can fix that. Well, you push, you can't fix that. Ben and I went through and I audio taped all my stories. Well, it's getting better. Had those typed up. Now it's a little more manageable. And I that's where the process started, what stories make sense, what don't make sense. So that was a much easier process, much more defined process.

Speaker 3: It started taking so long. This is probably not, not your typical writer's story, but I started changing as a human. And so the stories now, well, this story isn't quite right now because that's not how I really feel now that I'm looking back at this thing I did well now I'm seeing the connection. So this story needs to be rewritten to relate to that story. So the process became daunting in that I was learning so much about myself. So much about the writing process. I mean, there'd be days where my head would be spinning over what I just discovered about who I was as a person who, how, why this happened during the picture a year. So yeah, it was, it was daunting, but it's,

Speaker 2: I do believe he got me to where I am right now. That process while painful at times, I'm really proud of the book. It's the story I wanted to tell, tells how I want to tell it. It's a, it's a narrative. It's me and my partners, having conversations, how I'm feeling during certain moments, why I did certain things, as opposed to just saying this happened. So I'm really happy with it. Really proud of it. And while it was painful at times, it's no. Now your story is actually the author story like that. I've helped a lot of authors write books. That's what I do. I'm a book coach. And sometimes they come and say, Hey, I thought I could have this written, no matter what they did, it doesn't sound like me. It wasn't my story. Just as you described, can you help me? And I say, well, there's, there's two types of books in my belief that when we talk about these nonfiction books, one they're transactional, Hey, this is how you get 1 million followers on YouTube secrets book.

Speaker 2: You know, he can write that book very useful for people who want to do that, transactional, that's not bad and nothing wrong. That's a different kind of book. And then there's these transformational books where the author is shifting into a new space of understanding. And I say, those are the books. I really delight and help them because you start to become, or sort of evolve into the thing you're expecting your reader to be. And you realize, wow, these are things I need right now. Funny enough. Right? And I say, that's when you know, you're onto something, because if you don't transform during the process of my belief, then how do you expect anybody on the other end to transform or to have the moments you're hoping for it. You're just telling them stuff, information, even a story can be transactional, but when you live in it, as you did, and it really is impactful.

Speaker 2: And I could feel those stories. I could, I can feel you running that date with those boxes of Pictionary in your trunk, it meeting the sales person to pick them up. Like I felt those moments and I think you're right. I don't think someone else could show those stories in the same way, because I could feel you probably sitting in the think about God. I did that. That's something I did. Like what I do that now, am I that person still like all those wonders, that's a powerful way to tell a story. Thank you for that. It felt that way. And I love what you just said, that the journey of the book, and it just seems to work out that way without knowing that yeah, my growth as a businessman and a human and all these things that I learned that by reading the book, you're going to get to the point.

Speaker 2: Oh, Oh, okay. I want to have a journey with this guy. I get it. And now I've learned something. Now I feel differently because of reading this story. It's transformational. I appreciate that. Yeah, no, it really was for me. I was praying. I was like, gosh, everybody wants to have this big thing. I tell, I tell this to authors, but it's true. Probably in other areas. We're all looking for that big idea. If I could just get my big idea in someone might be thinking my Pictionary, my big idea. Then I could really make it. And the truth, I always tell people is like really big ideas, a misnomer. They're really small ideas that everyone else didn't notice, but you and you picked it up and go, Hey, has anybody noticed this thing? And then someone else goes, that's cool. Hey bill, did you notice this thing?

Speaker 2: And then it becomes a big thing, a big idea. When more people talk about it, that's it. That's what a big idea. It's a small idea that more than one person starts to talk about. And everyone just walks over these little ideas. Cause they think they're insignificant in. They're actually one of the most powerful things that in their disposal is looking at it differently than everyone else. And I think that's really what I saw in your story was, yeah, this is a simple thing. This isn't a complex thing. It's just right here before me and I can't put it down. I can't stop thinking of it.

Speaker 3: Got it. Yeah. I appreciate that. And absolutely because I didn't conceptualize this big thing, this big Pictionary thing being what it was. There was four other guys in the house with me and three other guys in the house with me. So it was something within me, but it just started out with a little word and then that's exactly what you're talking about. It doesn't have to be a big idea to get started. Okay. I can make a million bucks. Here's my big idea. I didn't getting off the coach 18 years or 22 years old playing this stupid game. And that's what I think I called it at the moment. It was going to lead to what I was. If I was thinking about a big idea, I would have never done it.

Speaker 2: I think that's so true. I, Dan Roan, who actually wrote the book back in the napkin and several other bestselling books, I met him at a conference and I've told this story multiple times that our listeners, but I don't want them to forget it. We were just chatting. I had wrote a book and you know, and we thought, what are you working on now? I said, well, I have this other book idea. He was like, well, what is it? Well, it, it, it for 24 years, as an educator asked the same questions of kids, what makes a good teacher great. But I collected 26,000 responses to this question. And I'm fascinated by what kids said and all the things that I learned. And he looked at me, he goes, that's the bestselling book. You should talk to my agent. That was part of the worst thing I could have ever heard. Because at the moment it was just a little idea,

Speaker 3: But you're right. When you try to attach

Speaker 2: Big of a meaning to something that's so simple, you add, it's like it weighs it down and it's supposed to float and it just felt so heavy. And I'm still working on that book. That's the book. I'm still talk about being in my head and struggling with the book. I feel like my Bernay Brown love. I'm a book coach who needs a book.

Speaker 3: Yeah,

Speaker 2: Exactly. So, you know, let's move forward in the story. So you're making success. You're, you're selling these books. You're starting to get noticed in the press you guys are doing while you're, you're getting a little more money to kind of help support this. When did you feel like this was actually going to lift off, like move, like in the story you talk about it, but help the readers to those who I want them to read the books. I don't want to leave it all in there, but like help, help you understand. When, when did you know, Pictionary was really going to be the big thing, then it became, is this the French story?

Speaker 3: Yeah. I still kind of had this mentality up until about a year plus maybe two years, but I still wasn't

Speaker 2: Sure. I knew it was a big idea. We were selling a lot of games, but I still wasn't convinced in my head that we had turned the corner. We'd actually, we were that big idea. And we launched in France and launched in Europe after two years of launching in Seattle. And I'm taking a time out as I call it, take a little break because I get overwhelmed, exhausted. I can't think so. I do it all the time, even to this day. And I started a little walk and I happened to walk past this score. And in the store window was Pictionary in French. I literally stopped dead in my dread. And you can't see, but I'm pointing in where it was. It's still so vivid in my memory that it was down to the right. I remember it like it was yesterday and I see Pictionary unfold meal, his family, and it's in French for goodness sakes.

Speaker 2: And I'm looking around like my candid camera what's going on. And that was this moment in my life where I went, Oh, Oh, I'm in France. I'm from Spokane watering. Something I did is we got a window in France. Okay. Maybe, maybe we've got something here. And that was kind of the turning point as well. I became more of an entrepreneur, much more of an entrepreneur than a game inventor. It was like, Oh, how do we do this? Yeah, it was really huge. And I think that's, I think the beauty of reading your story as it was told, allowed us to be in those moments with you. I felt those moments. I felt those sort of, sometimes it was a whispery like this, a decision that didn't take much effort, but change the course of the business. And like, those were the things that I really appreciated about the book was that I felt like, gosh, this is possible.

Speaker 2: Like for any one of us that this could be possible, is there luck involved? And I hope that everyone's lucky. Like that's how I feel about it. That's how it made me feel. Like I want to tell you how inspired I was by the story and the way you told it. And to hear that you told the cause so many people give in and let someone else tell their story just so they can sell books. And I really appreciate you willing to us that it's not easy. It's hard. It's hard to find your voice as a writer. You're trying to find yourself in this book. But I think he did a brilliant job of bringing us to the simple understanding that this isn't a business book about how to, this is a book about to me about life. Like this is what life feels like when you let it be.

Speaker 2: So I have to thank you for that. It really meant a lot to me. Thank you for that. If you had one reflection that you would want to share looking at, you know, as, as the book, you know, I hope people read it, we'll link it into the show notes. We want people to go buy it and leave a wonderful review for those of you listening. If you buy books of an author and especially if you admire them, you appreciate the book. And even if you didn't love it, that any review is helpful because we've used help books. So like they need a reference points. People want social proof. So please go review this book. But one of the things I want you to share is as this book has sort of shaped up for you, you're now sharing it. It's going to get into the world. What are you thinking now, as you've kind of created a book that it is, there's a little bit of a pathway for us to follow, at least in our thinking, what are you envisioning happens next, more

Speaker 3: Sharing of the story. I mean, the book's coming out now, obviously. So there's a lot of interviews, but I'm, I'm loving this because it is the reason I wrote the book is to share that story. So I want to get it out there and it will be in print obviously. And that's the big thing, but I want to keep talking and motivating. Inspiring is more inspirational. Motivating. I'm not the rah rah guy, but the more I can tell and say, here's what happened. Here's how I lived. I lived my life and here's what happened. Hopefully I can inspire people to do the same thing. And that's kind of where I'm headed, whatever that looks like, whether it's whatever, whatever media that looks like. But that's really what what's driving me right now. And I'm loving it. Yeah. Yeah. There's an, there's a natural teacher in you in the book.

Speaker 3: At least that's how I felt like this. You're the kind of teacher that says, Hey, look, I can offer you some advice. I can offer you my mistakes, that I can offer you a little bit of inspiration. But ultimately it's your choice to make, whether you listen to that moment that you find your artwork or you decide to stick with the status quo, that's up to you. But I'm going to tell you, this is my story. And I feel like anyone out there who's thinking maybe I have something I want to do this books and inspiration to help you get started. One final advice. What would, what piece of advice would you give to other leaders out there? People who want to write a book or thinking about it, who are questioning it? What would you share with them? Don't do it.

Speaker 3: If you want to share your story. What I, what I learned was it's your story, your voice, somehow get it out to get started. You're going to have somebody clean it up and you can do all those things for sure. But the it's your story and it's your journey. So put it down on paper, voice, note it, whatever it looks like to make sure what you want is there. And then you're going to have to go back and find out what stories work and what don't. Because if you leave it to somebody else, you won't be happy. I could have put this book out a year ago and it would have been probably 95% of what it is today. But that last 5% was driving me crazy. It wasn't my story. It wasn't my voice. There was words, there were spots in there that weren't what I wanted and I couldn't release the book.

Speaker 3: And so maybe you call it overachieving or maybe taking too much into detail. But once I finally got past that, it's my voice. It's my story. That's what I wanted to put out. So my advice is at a very least, least before you release it, make sure it's what you want. Make sure it's the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. Amazing advice. Hope everyone writes that down. That's an incredible probably I want to be respectful your time. This has been amazing. I could keep talking to you. But one of the things that I'm learning is that the gift of people who are leaders like yourself is they they're very selfless. They want to serve. And they know that they had a path that brought them so much joy and they they're usually writing a book because of this deep sense of wanting to give. And I really appreciate your time and sharing this book with us. It really made a huge impact on me. Well, I appreciate that. And you know, you can get it on Rob angel.com and go to Amazon, follow me on all those handles the Robbins. But you know, I hate a sale job because I just want people to read the book and hopefully inspire them. So I've got to get it out there. So I appreciate this and great questions and I've really enjoyed this interview. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening

Speaker 1: Again, to another episode of authors who lead, we appreciate you being here and we hope you subscribe. So you get this delivered to your device every week. And if you haven't left us a review, please do so. It really helps. And if you have a book in your heart, you've been wanting to write a book. Please go to authors who lead.com and join us on this journey of becoming a published author.

Rob Angel is a speaker, author, and entrepreneur. He just recently launched his book called Game Changer: The Story of Pictionary and How I Turned a Simple Idea into the Bestselling Board Game in the World.

In 1985, using a few simple tools, a Webster’s paperback dictionary, a No.2 pencil, and a yellow legal pad, he created the phenomenally successful and iconic board game Pictionary®. Putting together the first 1,000 games by hand in his tiny apartment, Angel mastered all the needed business skills including sales, marketing, and distribution before selling the game to Mattel in 2001.

Today, he makes his home in Seattle, where he’s involved in philanthropy, mentoring young entrepreneurs.

What We Discuss with Robert Angel:

  • Finding your aardvark
  • Taking that first step
  • The writing process and why it became daunting for him
  • The flaming coffee story
  • The power of mindset shift and visualization
  • The impetus for writing the book
  • Why your book is supposed to transform you
  • Why sometimes you can’t attach to big ideas and just start small
  • From being a game inventor to entrepreneur

[01:59] A Desire to Take Charge of His Life

Robert has always wanted to be a businessman like his dad. But then during his freshman year of college, his dad got fired. So Robert had to pay his own way through school. At that point, he decided to take charge of his life, and not anyone else.

He turned his thinking around from working for somebody to being his own boss and being an entrepreneur. His classes changed, his attitude changed. 

Then he moved in with three buddies after school. Then they started playing this game all night long. And then the next night, and the next night. So Robert thought he’d make a good board game. 

He got excited about it but thinking about all the steps necessary to put it together along with the marketing plans and the business plans, he just put it away. However, he couldn’t shake the idea even though he knew how too much of a work it was going to be. 

[04:23] Overcoming Self-Doubt

Robert thought of breaking it down to its simplest task. He thought about the easiest thing he could do and didn’t even list out all the things necessary to get to the finished product. Robert was just taking things one at a time. 

The first task was making a word list. And in front of him was a pad of paper, a dictionary, and a pen. His first word? Aardvark.

Then he went to the backyard to look for some words and then he saw an aardvark which was then the first word. So he wrote it down. At that moment, he became a game inventor. He was no longer a waiter, which was his job at that time, but a game inventor. So came up with one word after another and he just kept building one step after another. It started with writing the word aardvark and everything built from there.

[06:20] Finding Your Own Aardvark and Just Taking the First Step

You may have some aha moments in your life but it’s just a matter of taking that first step. Without taking that step of writing down the aardvark, of going to GoDaddy and getting a domain name, whatever, you’ve got to do that because those ideas are great. 

Everybody has a million-dollar idea or an idea that can save the world, but without taking that step, it’s not going to matter.

Tell yourself, it doesn’t really matter the step I’m taking. It’s not the end of the world either way. For Robert, everything is intuition then just keep one foot in front of the other. Just keep going forward. 

If you go down a path, and you spent time and energy and money, but it’s not working, don’t force-feed it. It’s okay to walk the wrong path. Turn around and go to another one. Eventually, you’ll find it. 

[10:29] An Invention of Necessity: The Challenge of Making It Work

According to Robert, what makes Pictionary so great is the interaction. But all Robert was doing is just creating a game and a job for themselves not necessarily creating a great product. You can get create a game and get it funded on Kickstarter, but the trick is actually getting people to play and buy your product.

Robert was woefully unprepared for his first sales call, but he managed to get the product sold anyway. It was a learning experience for him to be a little more prepared. But it was also an acknowledgment that somebody’s willing to spend $15 for his product.

[16:00] The Challenge of Telling Stories that Connect with Each Other

Robert has never written a book so he brain-dumped everything. He’d put all these different stories. But in the larger context, as he was writing, he realized it didn’t really connect to any other stories. It was rather a stand-alone. 

It was a really interesting process to be connecting the dots for the first time. He had told these stories a lot, but only as stories, and not as an overarching world. 

It was harder and easier to choose which stories to leave in and out if it didn’t really go with the flow or relate back to some premise or philosophy that it had to go out.

[17:28] The Flaming Coffee Story

Robert was very adept at making these flaming coffees. So one day the owner wanted him to make some for him. During the middle of it, he flamed the coffee too much that put the room on fire. At that moment, he thought the universe was telling him it’s time to quit and go all-in. And that was his wake up moment.

To go all-in is a big commitment. That’s an understatement.

There are practical reasons for not going all-in as well. There are a lot of factors – bills, rent, etc. But it’s about shifting your mindset. You can tell yourself that you’re going to fail. Or tell yourself that you will succeed. 

People are mentally conditioned for failure. You’re always told to have a Plan B. But Plan B is planning for failure. When he made Pictionary, it didn’t have Plan B. Five years after he launched it, it was a big success.

[22:11] The Impetus for Writing the Book

Robert wrote this book because he wanted to share his story. The more he talked about it, the more he thought about it. 

He wanted to inspire people to follow their dreams, to give them hope. He was waiting tables before he invented this thing that took over the world. So he wanted to share that story and put it down on paper. 

It’s not just a business book. He didn’t want to do that. But he talks about what he did and that it worked for him. It was time to share that story.

[23:05] The Writing Journey

Robert initially made the mistake of letting somebody tell his story. He realized it wasn’t what he wanted to say. So he audiotaped all his stories which he found a little bit more manageable and this is how his process started. 

It was an easy process at first and then it started taking so long. Then he started changing as a human. So he had to rewrite it to relate to that story. 

It was a daunting process for him but it got him to where he is right now. It’s the story he wanted to tell and tell how he wanted to tell it.

The book, Game Changer, is a narrative. It’s about him and his partners having conversations, how he was feeling during certain moments, why he did certain things as opposed to just saying this happened. It was a painful process but he’s truly proud of the book!

[28:22] Why Sometimes You Can’t Attach Yourself to Big Ideas

Things actually start from small ideas. For Robert and his friends, it started out with a little word. If he thought of the game as something that would make him a million bucks instead of just enjoying the game, then he never would have done it.

It doesn’t have to be a big idea to get started.

When you try to attach too big of meaning to something that’s so simple, it weighs you down.

[32:00] The French Story

Robert knew it was a big idea. They were selling a lot of games, but he still wasn’t convinced in his head that they’d turn the corner and that they were that big idea. They launched in France and launched in Europe after two years of launching in Seattle. 

Feeling overwhelmed, he took a little walk and saw in the store window a Pictionary in French. That was the moment he became much more of an entrepreneur than a game inventor. 

[36:41] Tell Your Story

If you want to share your story, it’s your story and your voice. Somehow, get it out and get started. You’re going to have somebody to clean it up at some point, but at the end of the day, it’s your story.

At the very least, before you release your book, make sure it’s what you want. Make sure it’s the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.

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