404 Media Got CEO Coaching From John Hittler

John Hittler told us why he hasn’t changed his name, and why we need to celebrate 404 Media at the French Laundry next year.
404 Media Got CEO Coaching From John Hittler

An entirely too common experience on Twitter is logging in and seeing a trending topic that is somehow antisemitic. It might be “Jews,” “6 million,” or just “Holocaust,” and the reason either is trending is never good. I was not surprised when I logged in yesterday and saw that “Hittler” was trending. Probably something Elon Musk said, I thought, but why was the spelling wrong?

I clicked through and was shocked to discover that Hittler was referring to a man named John Hittler, who, for no reason that he understands, went viral yesterday.

When I Googled him, I saw that he was a CEO coach that specializes in helping leaders of new businesses accomplish their goals. Seeing as how my co-founders and I just launched 404 Media and have many goals we want to accomplish, I called Hittler to get some advice, and also find out what’s up with the name.

This interview has been edited for length and Clarity.

Emanuel: So, do you have any idea why you went viral yesterday?

John Hittler: It was average, everyday people just retweeting a gazillion times.

I have had that sort of reaction. I get it. I get it every day when I introduce myself if I have to. I usually introduce myself as John. But when people ask “What's your last name?” I'll say it's the worst surname in the history of humanity. I go, take a guess, if you had to pick the worst name ever, and a lot of people don't get it. And then when I tell them they go, “there's no fucking way.” Yes, yes. And the ironic thing is that we're Irish. Our family is mostly Irish. Sullivan, Lynch, Hunter, and Hittler are the grandparents. And of course, God has a sense of humor, I ended up with that one. My parents were stubborn Irish, and they said there's no way we're gonna change our name. That's our name.

And you just didn’t want to change the name?

The penalty got less the further you moved away from the Holocaust. I grew up a generation or maybe a generation and a half after the Holocaust, with kids who had ancestors, a grandpa or an uncle or somebody that was killed in the Holocaust. I got in trouble, I got in fights all the time. But later when I was on my own it actually had advantages. No one ever forgets it. I didn't need business cards. It's a novelty of sorts. And as long as I could put up with the teasing, I just didn't pay much attention to it. I've got seven kids, five of my own and then my wife's got two kids. Two of my five kids have changed their name. One got married and his wife didn't want his surname, and neither did he. So they went to Hunter, my paternal grandfather's name, and they both said, that's a good name. There's another John Hittler in Missouri and he and I kid around online. But we don't think we're the same family. Their family was as stubborn as us and they kept it.

So you have a CEO coaching business, Evoking Genius, where you help companies scale. It just so happens I started a business with my friends and while we don’t have a CEO, I am a co-founder. Do you have any advice?

Most coaches sit you down and say, “Emanuel, give me your goals. What do you want to do? I'll help you do that.” So basically they present themselves like a tutor. Like, “I'll help you do your homework better than if you just did it by yourself.” I think that's stupid.

For my first coaching call I have two questions. The first question is: It’s September 7, 2024, and we're at the French Laundry, which is in Napa, California. That's the best restaurant in the country. If I flew you out to French Laundry at about $1,500 a head—and it's worth every penny, I've been there four times, it's great—and we are celebrating everything that you and I created in our coaching collaboration, [and it’s] September 7, 2024, what are we celebrating?

Most people go, “Hmm, well, I want my business to grow 20 percent,” and I go, bullshit. We go to Applebee's for that. Then they say “I'd like to make a million bucks this year.” And I say, you know, that's the one because that's French Laundry worthy. I get people to think outside the box or reconsider the possibility of who they are at their best. And then that's who we redesign in our coaching partnership.

I also ask people, “What if you were sleeping better?” And they go, “Oh, I don't sleep, I'm under stress all the time.” So I say, “Do you think you might do better work If you optimized your sleep?” And they go, “I haven't slept through the night for a good 10 years.”

[I nod in aggressive agreement.]

Got it. So what would you like to celebrate a year from now? What if you felt rested when you wake up in the morning? That's going to take a full redesign of your physical, mental, and emotional state. It sounds simple, and it is, but it's not easy. You're not going to do that on your own. So this is what we end up doing. We reinvent them.

Thank you John.