Designed to Grind Origin

about this episode

“It doesn’t matter what your background is or where you came from. If you have dreams and goals, that’s all that matters.” – Serena Williams

Introduction music by the up-and-coming band The Beeves! Thanks boys!

episode transcribed

Todd Burnham 0:00
Hi, this is Todd Burnham. I am a licensed practicing attorney. But just because you're listening to me doesn't mean that I represent you. This is for informational purposes only. If you're good with that, then let's roll.

Chris Braden 0:23
What do you do when you move to a new state during a recession with no contacts, no job, no money, little experience, and a family to support. You lean on what you know you continue to learn, grind every day, and you keep getting better. Join Todd Burnham as he outlines how he started Burnham Law in his basement and grew to seven offices relying only on his experiences and inspirations from being a college athlete. His unique style of motivation and raw sense of humor are a welcome change from the business advice you're used to hearing. Whether you're a new or seasoned attorney, trying to grow your practice or an entrepreneur in any service industry, Todd's story is sure to inspire you to take action and follow your instincts. This is Deep Bench with Todd Burnham. Hey, Todd, how's it going, buddy?

Todd Burnham 1:11
It's good, Chris. What's up, man? Good.

Chris Braden 1:12
So we got a new podcast Deep Bench with Todd Burnham. I guess first of all, what does deep bench mean to you

Deep bench, it's a football reference, or any other sports reference, that having a deep bench means you have a lot of talented people. So much so that you have starters. And even the people backing up the starters are talented.

Well, most championship teams have a deep bench. Exactly. Yep, there's a six man award. There's a reason for all these things.

So Todd, I know you as an attorney, and I've heard of the Burnham Law brand, but I want to know more about you because being an attorney is just your job. But you're a lot more than that. You're an entrepreneur, you're a competitor. You've done a lot of things in your life. So let's get started like this. Why are we listening to Todd Burnham? And why should we care?

Todd Burnham 1:58
You should care because I care. And my intention here is to help people. It's to help people get past mental roadblocks. The ways that people think a certain way of how to build a business. And I think a lot of those ways are antiquated. I've tried it a different way. I've made a lot of mistakes. And I've had a lot of successes. And now we have almost seven offices with 50 employees and stable or a bench of attorneys that are second to none. And that didn't happen overnight. So what I'm trying to get across to people is that if you have some core ways of thinking, and doesn't matter how you are now, but if you can get to a point where you're thinking differently, or even being open to thinking differently, a different way than most people have professed that you have to do things, then I think it opens us up to a whole different way of running a business, growing a business, inspiring people being a good employer, being home at night with your family, being an inspiration to your children. And a lot of that comes from failure. And if I can express the things that I did wrong and things that I did, right, I believe, hopefully that'll enhance and shorten everyone's learning curve.

Chris Braden 3:09
Well, you don't get as successful as you are without being really competitive. And I can tell you’re a really compassionate and competitive guy, where'd that all come from?

Todd Burnham 3:18
Well, I was raised by a single mom, Nancy Burnham in Syracuse, New York, I was raised on the south side of Syracuse, but it was just my mom and I, my whole life. And I learned early on, you had to fight a little bit to get what you needed. The things that I've learned over the period of time, a lot of it relates back to Syracuse,

Chris Braden 3:35
So early on in Syracuse, being a son of a single mom, how does that form you? How does that make your outlook a little bit different?

Todd Burnham 3:43
You know, it's funny, I used to think about this a lot and feel bad that I didn't have a dad present in my life. As I was getting older. I was an all-American lacrosse player, and my dad maybe went to one or two games, my mom was there all the time. So the thing that I think of the most when I when I think about that is the strength that came from that is that I've learned over time, one what it means to have a strong, independent woman in your life and what that looks like, and I ended up marrying one. And then the benefit of not having a male role model allows you to pick up role models along the way. And other people that you can emulate based on common principles related to sports. It's literally all I knew, and it's the one thing that I relate to so well is being competitive.

Chris Braden 4:33
So talking about support, having support when you're young is important. Some kids come from two-parent homes. Sometimes it's just a mom or dad, uncle, a friend. What did your mom do when she was sitting alone at those games when you knew that your mom had your back?

Todd Burnham 4:48
I didn't realize any of that at the time, right? I didn't. I'm just like, Oh, my mom's here again. Hey, Mom, like I'm a parent now. I'm traveling with my kids. It's a pain in the ass, but it's showing up So the first step is just showing up. And so when I look at that, and I look back on it now being a single mother, social worker dealing with broken homes and foster children. Coming home and try and do the best that she could, for me, it's inspiring. She told me a story just the other day, that in high school and we went into my mother we move when I was in seventh grade from Southside of Syracuse to Fayetteville, New York, where lacrosse is king, so I didn't know anything about lacrosse until seventh or eighth grade. And she moved there because I was held up by a knife. So she knew that. Yes, this she knew that this shit was going south, right? And so she didn't have the money. She begged, she borrowed, she stole. I don't think she stole, but you know, I'm saying and you wouldn't do that. No. And she got a house in Fayetteville, New York. It was like the nice suburb. We were in the bad part of the good part of town. And she told me this story how for it was like a dance and I had to have a sport coat. And she came to me and I remember this, he gave me two options. She said, You want this one on this coat rack with the plastic over it. Or do you want this one? I'm like, oh, Mommy, I take that one on the left. That one looks really good. And she told me literally, like three months ago that both were from the Salvation Army. And I'm like, yeah, you are such a badass. My mom's a badass. So I appreciate her so much more now. But growing up without a father basically. Or that kind of male presence. I latched on to coaches. I latched on to other friends’ parents and their dads, I was looking for anything.

Chris Braden 6:24
You talk about showing up and how your mom always showed up for you showing up no matter if it's business, family, is the easiest thing to do. But for some people, it's the hardest. But it seems you continually show up for your employees and your clients.

Todd Burnham 6:38
It wasn't always like that I've had to have a number of failures in my life before I learned how to be successful showing up is one thing but if you have a lot of time and you have a working mom then you're getting into trouble you're exposed to different aspects different elements and that was probably like one of the, you know, like when you have kids and you have that kid he's the troublemaker I was Todd Burnham. Like you were that guy I was that guy. And it was it was lonely, lonely growing up without a dad and just a mom doing the best that she could be can each other all the time we're just... we just survived we’re survivors.

Chris Braden 7:13
Did you know you were that kid?

Todd Burnham 7:14
No, no. I didn't realize until much later. And I think when I look back now, I think a big strength of mine is emotional intelligence. And that is directly attributable to Nancy.

Chris Braden 7:27
Yeah, cause you know what, I don't think you would notice that as you’re a kid. A lot of times I would think that you put that on yourself.

Todd Burnham 7:32
Well, it's a challenge.
Chris Braden 7:34
We're in Syracuse, New York. Your mom was a baller and moved you man you got held up by a knife?

Todd Burnham 7:40
Yeah, yeah, it was crazy. But and that's the thing like she's like no, that that shits not gonna fly for my son, the only child. And it led to this ability to just rely on each other, but that's all I knew. I knew nothing else. I went to college for lacrosse and I was surrounded by people that clearly, looking back, I had a much more foundational childhood. Everything that I learned about how to be a man I really learned on the fly later in life.

Chris Braden 8:12
So lacrosse, seventh eighth grade you said you picked it up. Seventh eighth grade, that's not normal nowadays.

Todd Burnham 8:18
No, I started playing lacrosse legit like actually competitively in 10th grade. I was playing baseball lived on a street, guy across the street Jamie Allanson is bigger than me and he always used to make me play catch with him. So that's how I got good at lacrosse but it was the cross is the thing that kept me focused, kept me grounded without having that male influence, without being a product of divorce. It was the competitive outlet, the anger that I had, the resentment that all these people had parents that were together, and they had were just surviving man. And so I started competing against those people in lacrosse and what took them 10 years to develop skills. I broke my wrist in my freshman year, and for three years I had lacrosse and that, like I busted my ass, and that's in that competitive drive has carried me for the rest of my life. Even when I've been depressed down going through just forms of anger, depression, alcoholism, those things that competitive drive to just not disrespect my mom and I'm her legacy. Whatever it took in the beginning to get motivated I used.

Chris Braden 9:30
I think back in those days someone starting something like a later age - it's funny you say later ages 13-14 right? But nowadays that's unheard of. Kids don't even try to start things at that age.

Todd Burnham 9:40
My daughters were just playing in a travel tournament for lacrosse. One’s in second grade one’s in third grade, playing up against sixth graders right? And I coached both of them. And I, the big thing for me is like man, we're not trying to establish all Americans here. I want them to have exposure and to learn about competitive, team-based athletics. And enjoy, enjoy it. Have fun, you have to have fun. If it's not fun, then we're just wasting our time. You're not looking to create the new Todd Marinovich. I'm not looking to do those things. What I'm literally trying to do, which is the most important job in my life, is to raise strong, healthy, independent girls and boys.

Chris Braden 10:20
You’re a good dad.

Todd Burnham 10:21
I appreciate that.

Chris Braden 10:22
There's a lot of horrible sideline parents. We'll get into that in another show, I’ve got stories. You started seventh or eighth grade, you play in high school. How did you know you had an aptitude for this? You know, like sports?

Todd Burnham 10:31
Do you mean for lacrosse?

Chris Braden 10:34
So we're specializing in lacrosse, yeah. How did you know you had an aptitude for like, what happened that made you be like, ‘this is it, I can do this’?

Todd Burnham 10:44
I didn't know that I could do it. I just did it. And I think that's a common theme for me. It was you know, we're not into ready, fire, aim yet. But it was, I felt it. A lot of what I do is based on feelings, and I wanted it to be great at something. I never was. I was always in baseball. I was, I was a good baseball player. I wasn't great. And I turned into my 10th and 11th grade became fast. And then I saw that that other people were talking, that other people had parents that you know, were together and had money, were talking about where their kids were going to go to school. And without much motivation from outside sources, I just grinded. I wanted to be great at something for the first time in my life. I was behind the eight ball I had only had three years and really only had two years because you start getting recruited in your junior year. So at the end of it, I had a full ride at Syracuse and I ended up going to Naval Academy prep school, which lasted about six weeks, ended up with pneumonia, lost my rides and went to Hobart and luckily I did because I met my current wife there.

Chris Braden 11:54
So the recruiting system back then was a lot different than it is today. The recruiting, first, athletics is like it's big business. It's a machine now back in my day the coach would just show up on campus and stuff.

Todd Burnham 12:04
That's exactly right. Same deal like this is a whole different game now. We went to Sandstorm tournament, we went to Santa Barbara tournament recently like there's major division one colleges there. So this is like AAU basketball, and lacrosse. Now that's exactly what it is. AAU basketball back in the 80s 90s. Now it's all club, right? It's the travel leagues. It's the top 100. It's all of those things. But back then, it was just word of mouth. Internet letters, definitely snail mail. And then when you get to that point of that of that level, and you get through college doing that, that competitive drive just keeps going and keeps going and keeps going. And I still didn't have that male influence, right? Again, high school, they're talking about colleges. In college, I was all American, and I didn't have anybody banging down the door and trying to figure out like, Hey, what are you gonna do with the rest of your life, Todd?

Chris Braden 12:49 - So an interesting thing, I want to take you back a little bit because the theme is you're kind of looking for that male role model? Not really, I think going into lacrosse, you kind of get that. Was there any particular person or coach? Yeah, that was kind of a big influence to you early on. Because you know, that's huge. I have coaches along the way that I think about now that I'm older and I'm like, you know what, at the time, I didn't know how big of an influence that was. Yeah, but for some reason, I'm 50. And I'm thinking about that guy.

Todd Burnham 13:28
Yeah, there's many there's and I know him all. My first year actually playing lacrosse competitively was my JV year. And Paul Chapman was my coach. And he was a lawyer in town. He knew my mom. He was a family law attorney, which I am now and I saw him at practices. He was playing with us and he had his dog with him. And I said, ‘That's new. What's this about? Holy cow. This guy has his dog. He has a job. He's a lawyer, and his car’s pretty cool.’ So like that's a nice exposure to something. So it starts with Paul Chapman and then Tom Hall and Chris Canali, at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, they gave me tough love. My junior year, I couldn't try out for Empire State games. Empire State games in New York State is the thing that you try out for. If you go if you get Empire State games, and you make that team, and I would have made it, you go Ivy League. It's all state. It's every county is playing against itself. And so we're playing against Long Island because those are the hotbeds of lacrosse. And at the time, it's not so big as it is now. So at that point, I'm like, I'm going to make Empire State games. I'm going to go to Harvard. I'm gonna do all this shit, and I'm going to smoke it. And I decided one night to drive on the school lawn. I gave my school a long job over 1500 bucks. And I was charged with a felony and my mom grounded me for the summer. And I didn't try out for Empire State games. And all I had to do at that point. All I had was really my senior year to get some scholarships.

Chris Braden 14:52
Yeah, that's rough, man.

Todd Burnham 14:53
Yeah, dude, it was tough. It was tough. And I still I'm like, ‘Mom, I could have gone to Harvard!”. My grades sucked, don't worry about it, I wasn't going to Harvard. And and that's the thing too. Like it's it's all-encompassing, Chris. When I think about my life, it really comes down to different quarters, different parts of a game. And in the beginning, it was me learning about what I didn't know. And not being not having someone on me that I was looking up to as a male role model that was telling me ‘Work hard, don't give up.’ It matters. What happens in school, these grades matter. My mom was telling me about it so I’m like ‘Okay, mom.”

Chris Braden 15:30
So it doesn't seem important at the time sometimes.

Todd Burnham 15:32
Well, it doesn't. But that's what parents are for. Especially I think, as a young man growing up that that's what like your dad is for. And I didn't have that.

Chris Braden 15:42
That's true. I think we glossed over something that's really interesting to me. So you were going to go to the Naval Academy.

Todd Burnham 15:48
I went to the Naval Academy prep school in Rhode Island. Okay. And, like, took that, yeah, thinking the Naval Academy pays, they pay you to go. So you go there, and I was gonna make money. And I was really concerned about the finances. And so I ended up getting pneumonia, left the Naval Academy prep school, and my rides were gone. And Hobart was the one school that is a major lacrosse school. It's an excellent liberal arts school. Interestingly enough, my coach in college is now the current Denver outlaws coach. Oh, really, BJ O'Hara, so I had Paul Chapman Canali, Tom Hall, and BJ O'Hara, all four men who left imprints on me and learned lessons from them, and that I still carry with this to this day,

Chris Braden 16:33
You have an interesting upbringing, the sports angle of your story is really compelling to me. For kids that come from single parents homes, it's, it's hard for the parent, and it's usually the mom, they have to do everything, because that's a 24/7 job, but the void of not having a dad at your house was filled by coaches and other role models. And that's huge.

Todd Burnham 16:54
That's life, man. That is that and that is why I coach sports are the ultimate metaphor for life. It's the closest thing that you can emulate and get better at and translate into life. And I've only recently, and really from Kobe, is really like bought into that so much before any of this was happening. I was learning how to be a leader by not being a leader, right? I was learning how to be someone that was caring and compassionate and wanted to help others by being selfish and fearful. That's just my life and where I'm at today, I feel very fortunate

Chris Braden 17:32
To wrap it up all that stuff that you went through, I just want to say this too, because you know, I have daughters, and I've always said: Everybody has their own stuff. Everybody's gone through their own BS and I think hearing your story now, for me, because I've never heard it before, helps me appreciate you a little bit more. So in closing, I would say brought up by a single mom, that was a baller that moved- can't believe you got held up with a knife back.

Todd Burnham 17:58
Yeah, held up with a knife. And but I also, you know, had a mom that was like, yeah, we're not gonna do this shit.

Chris Braden 18:03
Well, for me, out here just looking at it. That just makes me think you are priority number one. That's all you want from a parent.

Todd Burnham 18:10
My mother, my uncle, and my grandmother. That was my tribe. And I go and see my dad once in a while. I have two sisters. But I'm super proud of: Dee and Brittany. And I had a stepmother Patty, who was, did the best that she could do. And I'm really close with her now. So it's funny how life works. And the lessons that I've learned, I appreciate the fact that my dad wasn't there. My dad, I can shoot the shit with my dad. And no big deal because I did this. I did this. And I'm doing this. And I'm trying to like add value now to people's lives. Because it just makes sense to me. Like I'm not sitting here watching an infomercial, man, I'm just talking and trying to help literally

Chris Braden 18:51
Well, that's a good story. And I think for us moving into this being the first podcast, we're gonna find out how this shows itself and how this is relevant to what you've done in business and with Burnham Law.

Todd Burnham 19:04
And if it can help people like the beginning of our story, where I'm at today is I have a stable of amazing, talented professionals that I work with on a daily basis who inspire me to get better. We have six offices, we have a multi-division law practice, and it was the roughest, most humbling ride that I've ever taken. And if I again, if I can share my story and the lessons that I've learned, and if it adds value, then I'm the person that I was looking for 15 years ago to learn from and I just believe in paying it forward.

Chris Braden 19:39 Good stuff, Todd.

Todd Burnham 19:41 Right on, man. See you next time.

Hey, thanks for listening. Make sure you subscribe and until next time, keep getting better.