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Dr. Chris Jackson of Betterbrand: Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned In The Military

Every team is different. My best advice is getting to know the individuals within the team so you can match strengths and support weaknesses. It will help ensure happiness among the team members and minimize frustrations because of inefficiencies.

As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Chris Jackson.

Dr. Chris, PharmD, is a Veteran and comes from a family of smokers that were always on the lookout for natural ingredients to support their health. After many years in the military as a Combat Medic and Infantry Officer, he dedicated his life to medicine. He is a published researcher covering topics related to rapid diagnostic testing for infectious diseases in populations such as bone marrow transplant and now owns and operated Betterbrand, a US-based supplement company.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Thank you for having me. I think I have a bit of a boring story but here it goes. Grandpa was from Missouri, was drafted into the Army in WWII. Dad was born about 10 years after the war ended and joined at a young age. I grew up as a military brat and lived everywhere from NJ to Germany to TN. I was a normal kid that just moved around a lot and really liked math and science. I knocked out some college before joining the military as a Combat Medic. While I was deployed, I used naloxone and made a promise to get into drug delivery after using what seemed like a magical clear liquid to fully revive a patient. Fast-forward a few tours, I retired as an Infantry Officer and wanted to get back to medicine, so I started my path to earn my Doctor of Pharmacy degree, entrepreneurship, and magical realism.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

Today, I’m a serial entrepreneur. While in school I helped start Elite Sweets, a protein donut company, but I wasn’t at the forefront. My big project has been Betterbrand, which I founded with my best friend. He had a lot of health issues growing up and I come from a family with a lot of respiratory issues, so it was a perfect match. We became friends based on our passion for the science and from day one, our goal has been to help others. Our reviews indicate we’re doing a good job. We’ve been growing the company for several years now and it really is worthwhile doing things that benefit others, while alongside the best people you know. Honestly, the war took its toll on me, and I struggle most days but knowing I’m helping others is what makes it all worthwhile.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I enlisted as a Combat Medic in 2005, in the thick of The Awakening in Iraq. I grew up incredibly fast and quickly began absorbing all the medical information I could. Down the line, I commissioned as an Officer in the Infantry. It was quite the transition going from one side of the rifle to the other and leading troops. More important than anything else, it taught me to be compassionate even when things are at their worst.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

“Interesting” is a subjective term. The whole thing was interesting. You have an idea what being in the military might be like if you have family that have served but the idea leaves out many elements. The most interesting single event may have been when a kid I never met told me I saved his dad’s life. I have zero clue who he is, I’m just in a crowd of people finally back from a rough deployment and as a medic, I treated a lot of people. We all did in those times. It completely floored me because when you’re there, you’re just preparing for the worst and responding when it happens. The only family on your mind is to the left and right of you and maybe on the other end of a static filled phone. Somehow, someway, this kid saw a picture his dad showed him, found out what flight I was coming back on (or waited at all the return flights), and was able to pick me out of the line as I walked by.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

Everyone is a hero to someone else. Its that simple. In the military, no one believes they’re a hero though. We’re all just doing exactly what we think is right and others would do in the same situation. My hero was Nathan Wilson. He was my first NCO and he took care of me on my first deployment. He would always volunteer to go on missions no one else wanted to. He would take all his spare time to develop me into a leader. He would go out of his way to ensure that I was prepared to help others. He’s still around but traumatic brain injuries have chipped away at him. One day, one of the vehicles ran over an IED and three of our brothers were in there. He opened the door and just started sprinting and trying to get to them. After all of that, we still ran a large community health event the next day where we served the same community. Despite knowing the bad out there, he chose to promote the good day in and day out.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

Serving others and seeing the good in everyone. You can find a million reasons to be angry or upset and you can choose to be neutral in the world. But to push forward daily and striving to do good in a world that seems bad at times … the ability to peel back that layer of reality and reveal the magical realism underneath … that makes you a hero.

Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?

Absolutely not.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Sorry I only have three big ones and I provided them as a researcher to my mentees and now to all partners in business.

Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard. We’re all talented, that’s why were here. The hard work we put in daily to learn from our mistakes is what separates us from competitors. Proper planning is one of the best predictors of success, but execution is just as important.

If you don’t enjoy the process, you don’t deserve the outcome. If it feels like work, it might not be the right fit. If you aren’t learning actively along the way, you are on the wrong team. Despite our best efforts, the goalpost will move. Its important to be flexible and adjust accordingly.

We only win if we win together. Diversity of thought is vital. What you learn will contribute to how useful you are to the team so cross train at every opportunity. No one gets left behind, but everyone pulls their own weight.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

I would not be as successful in business as I am without the military. It turns you into a “Jack of all Trades” and it taught me not to stop and sit down when I encountered an obstacle that might not fall under my job description. It throws non-stop problems at you daily and really forces you to critically think and problem solve … the same as is required in business.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

I still struggle. If I wasn’t part of the business I couldn’t work. Flat out. Too much anxiety to be part of any 9–5 or anything I can’t influence strongly. Even now, its hard to get out of bed a lot of days. I end up working a lot from bed … all of my email responses, social media messaging … it all happens from bed with my support animal next to me. I never really integrated back fully but I try to do good from the sidelines. Most days I feel successful but not every day. I feel like that’s a good middle ground from where I was a few years ago.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am advising on a few new projects. Both are through long time friends that are hoping to start their own brands and need a little advice along the way for some of the operational and product components. I’m optimistic both will be incredibly successful and hope I’m a small part of it all.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

The only way you win is if your team is winning. Keep that in mind with every success because none of them come through individual efforts.

What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Every team is different. My best advice is getting to know the individuals within the team so you can match strengths and support weaknesses. It will help ensure happiness among the team members and minimize frustrations because of inefficiencies.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father was a major inspiration. My father-in-law as well. They both taught me incredibly important things about business. My father is a people person. Everyone loves him without exception. He is one of the most positive people I have ever encountered, and it just can’t be chipped away. My faither-in-law was a different type of people person that I can’t quite explain but he commanded such loyalty at the head of his teams that I knew I needed to just sit and listen whenever he mentioned work, which wasn’t all that often. Both influence the way that I operate in the business world.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It starts at home. Not everyone in my family is as fortunate as I have been and I’ve been trying to create a home for my niece and nephew, while helping to take care of my aging father. Outside of that, I create products with true benefit to those taking them. At Betterbrand, we make all our products for friends and family and once were sold that they are truly helping, we release them to the public. I wanted to get into medicine and supplements ended up allowing me to fill that dream.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think if we all focused on building each other up rather than tearing one another down, it would help the world more than anything else. Imagine if everyone saw their failures as opportunities to learn instead of being terrified to fail? Imagine being bummed out and complete strangers on the internet provide encouraging words instead of negativity. I know it exists, but normally its limited to close knit groups. Why though? Let’s all try promoting positivity and invest in other and see how we all win together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t enjoy the process, you don’t deserve the outcome.” I can’t recall who said it, but I adopted it somewhere along my journey. It just emphasizes one of the things I see lost on a lot of people in business: that most of the time, you’re running the race! You can’t just skip to the finish line and enjoy the ending. On top of that, you probably don’t deserve that accomplishment if you didn’t enjoy your journey.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I keep a close-knit group of the best people I’ve met through my life and I have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people! The only person I haven’t met in person is JJ Watt. He was a hero for Houston a few years back and his outlook on life is an inspiration to all.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

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