G80. Will Zell

Failing Forward: Knowing When to Never Give Up with Will Zell

Will Zell made his mark at an early age when he ran for a city council seat in his hometown of Bellefontaine, Ohio at the age of 17. He’s since gone on to serve as Executive Chairman of Nikola Labs and as CEO of Zell Capital, which he also founded. Zell Capital was designed to open investment opportunities to all – not just the wealthy. 

We look at Will’s entire life, from his upbringing surrounded by maturity and female role models, to his early experiences in politics, and how they led him to where he is today. He believes that having an older-than-average father instilled a greater sense of maturity in him from a young age, as though he matured quicker than most to keep up.

We also get to the bottom of how he built up a wealth of invaluable experience – all despite, as he says, being formally unqualified for every job he’s ever had. He’s living proof that outsiders with passion and belief in themselves can bring fresh ideas that rejuvenate their fields and how we should never dismiss people based on their background.

Will’s philosophy is one of getting out there and doing. The worst thing that can happen when you try to achieve something is that you fail, and Will doesn’t see “failure” as a negative word. It may seem negative, but failure always comes with positives as well, be they experience, credibility, or newly opened networking opportunities. It’s that mentality that has allowed him to “fail forward” and build the impressive career that he has behind him, today.

From his early attempt to join the city council right up to his current work democratizing finance and making it accessible to all, it’s clear that Will is ethically minded and intentional in all aspects of his life, so he’s completely aligned with Gravity. His story should hold value for us all.

What Brett asks:

  • [00:01:05] Tell me about your early days.
  • [00:03:00] Did you find the maturity of your older father helped you?
  • [00:07:30] What were your siblings like?
  • [00:10:20] What was it like having an older father as a child?
  • [00:11:05] Where did your decision to run for a seat on the city council during High School come from?
  • [00:17:30] Do you think you believed in yourself because you hadn’t been conditioned not to?
  • [00:19:20] Do you think you owe a lot to your parents’ support?
  • [00:22:30] Do you see value in failure as a way to learn?
  • [00:33:00] Can you highlight some of your failures that led you to where you are today?
  • [00:41:15] Can you tell us about Nikola Labs?
  • [00:46:30] How did you transition away from Nikola Labs and into launching Zell Capital?
  • [00:52:40] Tell us about Zell Capital and what you’re doing.
  • [01:00:00] Would you agree that it makes sense that you’re helping democratize finance so that people who aren’t rich have access to the same tools as those who are?
  • [01:01:30] Do you think outsiders are better suited to jobs because of their unique viewpoints?


Lessons for intentional living:

  • All too often, we see people dismissed as “past their prime” once they reach a certain age and there’s a certain stigma surrounding having children later in life. For Will Zell, though, having an older dad meant that he was surrounded by a heightened maturity from a young age and it accelerated his own journey into maturity, giving him an undeniable head start in life. It’s a stark reminder that we should always look to our elders for their wisdom.
  • When you put yourself out there and try to do something, there is almost no such thing as a negative outcome. Even if you don’t succeed, there will always be positives that come from the experience, be it things you learn or connections that you make in the process.
  • We should never dismiss people’s thoughts and opinions because of their level of experience or their background. They may know “less” about a subject than the experts, but that can sometimes allow people to see things from a better vantage point while the experts are stuck, unable to see the wood for the trees.