When Winston Churchill said, “Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time,” it’s clear he wasn’t talking about Matt Higgins. Whether leading successful companies, investing in startups, or helming legendary NFL franchises, Higgins has proven himself a renaissance man with an entrepreneurial spirit. On the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, Matt Higgins talks success, regrets, and highlights from his new book Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potential. Listen to the episode here.
Breaking through the noise
Born and raised in Queens, NY, Higgins’ mother taught him the value of a strong work ethic; a lesson that resonated throughout his life. Many years later, while attending Queens College, he wrote an award-winning investigative column for the Queens Tribune. Higgins created a buzz in a city where even the most talented people find it difficult to break through the noise. Instead of slowly fading, that buzz intensified until it caught the attention of some of the city’s most influential people, including mayor Rudy Giuliani.
At just 26 years old, Higgins made history as the youngest press secretary in New York’s long, proud history. The position proved challenging, but it paled in comparison to Higgins’ aspirations and talent. While his days were spent in lower Manhattan working in the mayor’s office, his evenings were spent studying at Fordham University School of Law, where he was a student.
But nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. In an instant, Higgins found himself heading a global media response to the worst attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil. As time went by, he turned his attention to helping a grieving nation heal by leading the first phase of rebuilding. As the chief operating officer of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, he helped organize the international design competition responsible for the construction of the September 11th National Memorial and One World Trade Center.
The private sector
In 2012, Higgins took a chance on himself and co-founded RSE Ventures, a New York City-based venture capital firm specializing in sports, entertainment, and technology. As a CEO with a talent for identifying promising young companies, Higgins helped the firm amass a multi-billion-dollar investment portfolio that included brands like Vayner Media, Napster, and the International Champions Cup. RSE Ventures was also an early investor in startups around blockchain technology, such as Qredo, Flowcarbon, and Dapper.
During the podcast, he touched on something profound when discussing motivation. “The joy of living is [experienced] in striving,” said Higgins. “Anybody who reaches the top of the mountain realizes there’s not much to see. We like looking up, not looking down.” Later, he explained that he’s not motivated by money or competing against others because the only person he competes against is himself.
In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, he made a name for himself in the sports world. In 2004, the New York Jets recruited Higgins to serve as the team’s director of media relations. He quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the team’s executive vice president of business operations. During his tenure with the Jets, Higgins oversaw the construction of a new stadium and helped negotiate naming rights with MetLife. After leaving the Jets in 2012, he signed on to serve as vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins.
Success in the business world allows Higgins to give back. In 2019, he joined the ranks of Nobel Prize laureates and former American presidents when he was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, a distinction reserved for those with a deep-rooted commitment to helping marginalized populations. As a board member of Autism Speaks, Higgins has worked to spread awareness about the challenges faced by neurodivergent people.
Despite his impressive list of accomplishments, Higgins remains humble and grounded. He attributes his success to a willingness to manage fear. “We all have anxiety when taking risks…it’s about managing it,” he says. As he continues building his legacy as a serial entrepreneur and investor, it’s clear his impact on the world will be felt for years to come.
The Talking Series is a weekly segment that delves deeper into topics discussed by guests on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast.