Judson Kauffman

Co-Founder of Terradepth

After enlisting in the US Navy 2 weeks after 9/11, Jud went on to become a surface warfare qualified intelligence analyst, a search and rescue swimmer, and finally a Navy SEAL. He deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom earning multiple combat distinctions. After his military career, Jud was selected to lead the US Navy’s Special Operations and Special Warfare Mentor Program to support recruiting and selection efforts nationwide. Following this role, he shifted into business and became the Vice President of Product Development at Lightbulb Innovation Group in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2012, along with Joe Wolfel, he founded Exbellum—boutique consultancy providing companies with human capital solutions and strategic advisory services. After selling Exbellum in 2018, Jud and Joe combined their love of the ocean with their passion for adventure and founded Terradepth. Jud has served on the boards of Advena Defense, Cold Bore Capital and Desert Door Distillery. He has an undergraduate degree in business from Belmont University and an MBA from the McCombs School of Business. Jud is a compassionate family man, a free-spirited outdoorsman, a mediocre musician, and eats an unhealthy amount of barbecue.

Where did the idea for Terradepth come from?

A combination of a love for the ocean and observations of the advancements in space exploration. It didn’t make sense that there wasn’t someone building a Space-X for the ocean, given the modern state of robotics, AI and autonomy.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m usually up at 5:15 (to my wife’s annoyance), meditate for 20 minutes, in the gym (that my cofounder and I built) by 6 to work out and take a 10-minute ice bath, and then back home to cook breakfast for the family at 7:15. I get back to the office around 8:30 and work until lunch, then breathwork around 12:30 before returning to work at 1. I meditate again around 4:30 and then head home to play with kids and have dinner, do bedtime routine and then spend the next hour either reading or watching TV with my wife before going to bed at 9:00 or so. To ensure my workday is productive I try to schedule few or no meetings and I monotask. I start each morning with a prioritized list of tasks for the day and I do one at a time. For workouts, I like to mix things up depending on my mood and recovery level: I love yoga, hiking, Olympic lifting, breathwork (to support general performance and also my freediving/spearfishing), high-velocity training and sprinting.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I usually find inspiration or generate an idea when I am on a walk or hike, so I try and do these frequently. Once there is something stewing, I will write it down in free form. Then it needs some structure, so I start with defining the Task, Purpose and Desired End State. I’ll sleep on it for at least 24 hours before sharing it with anyone, but at that point I rely on others to build in more structure. My gift is generating a new idea and then generating excitement around it – then I partner with others for execution and management.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Mindfulness. It’s an established trend now and I think that the more people work to be more present, to appreciate what’s in front of them, the happier the whole of humanity will be.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Getting out into nature regularly. There’s this absurd expectation that entrepreneurs need to jam on their computer keyboards for 60 hours a week – that produces both mediocre results and high stress. Attention is a limited resource, and spending time in nature gives us fewer choices, flexes our focus muscles and makes us operate more efficiently and creatively. My fullest energy comes from nature, and so does yours, so go outside for 45 minutes a day and then go kick some ass.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Pay attention to small coincidences and pursue them. The universe is connected in mysterious ways and many things do not happen by chance. Also, be yourself and love yourself – nothing beats authenticity.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Everything is not going downhill – the world is getting better every day. Check out the book “Factfulness” to explore this reality.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read! I wasn’t an avid reader until the last few years; since then I feel like I’ve become a superhuman.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Precision in marketing. If you have $1,000 dollars for marketing, don’t spend $1 each on 1,000 people who might like your product, spend $10 each on 100 people who you’re sure will love your product. Because those people will bring you more business than anything else.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the early days of entrepreneurship, I tried to be all things for the company. This wore me out and led to depression. After I’d had enough pain I decided to do some introspective analysis. I spent a lot of time on myself. Through that process I learned who I truly am and who I am not – that led to a clear definition of my role based on strengths, weaknesses and interests. Nowadays, I hire or partner to fill those gaps so that I can maximize my potential for the business and enjoy pretty much every hour of every day. I call this self mastery.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A device that attaches to the inside of a car window and displays messages to other drivers. Imagine a simple voice-commanded, digital text display that could quickly show a message like “DRIVE FRIENDLY!” or “USE YOUR BLINKER!”…

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a book called “The Daily Stoic” – it’s leather-bound and made with fancy paper and costs $99. The book contains a piece of Stoic philosophy for each day of the year. It sits on my desk and the first thing I do each morning in the office is read the wisdom of the day. I love the way the Stoics thought and this little daily ritual usually gives me a boost of some sort.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

How do you use it? Docsend. This is a way to share business-critical documents and track activity – for sending investment decks etc., nothing beats it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (a quick read). Victor was an Austrian psychologist who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and had the strength to serve as a therapist to his fellow prisoners. He writes about his experiences and, most importantly, his observations of those who lived and those who died. This book helps people understand the meaning of life.

What is your favorite quote?

Impossible to have just one, but I have always liked Howard Thurman’s “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I have also always liked Thomas Carlyle’s “For suffering and enduring, there is no remedy but striving and doing.”

Key Learnings:

  • Spend more time in nature to maximize creativity, improve your ability to focus, generate ideas and reduce stress. Look into hedonic calendaring to find natural, easy ways to synchronize with nature.
  • By practicing self-mastery you can reach much higher levels of fulfillment and have a significantly greater impact on your loved ones and the rest of the world. Love yourself.
  • Want to operate on a higher level? Read. For much of my life, I wasn’t all that smart. Then I started reading my face off and now I feel like a total badass.
  • Be precise with your marketing dollars – spend them on “lovers” not “likers”.
  • Make “Man’s Search for Meaning” your next read.