Principles I Live By | Be good. Be a morally good person. Make the world a much better place with all that you do. If you won’t commit to that; if you don’t see the compelling truth of that? Well, nothing else you do has any significance.
How I Use My Mind | I am highly creative (I couldn’t turn the spigot off even if I wanted to) and intensely curious. I’m extraordinarily extroverted, and I just flat-out love people – indeed, I collect fascinating people, even without trying. But each of these core attributes, or “superpowers,” as I like to think of them, comes with a corresponding weakness. I’m not famous for my organizational skills. It isn’t just that I think outside the box: I don’t even see the box, and so process-oriented environments are at times confounding to me, at other times soul-quashing prisons. So to best leverage my superpowers, and to fill in my gaps, I try my best to find people completely unlike me – driven by the same principles and goals, absolutely, but coming at them from an entirely different perspective.
The real question is, will these people with the requisite skills I need want to work with me? To do attract the incredibly talented peers I have today, I’ve had to work on myself for years. There are two things to work on there: one, to be a better, more alluring version of me. Probably more importantly, to respect the differences of my colleagues. My partners at SwitchandShift.com, Shawn Murphy and Mark Babbitt (who is also my co-author of A World Gone Social) – they’re world-class leaders themselves. It has taken me years of personal development to be worthy of their time, energy, and partnership. That’s never far from my thoughts as we work together.
Performing At My Peak | I’m not. Not even close. But several times throughout each day, I spend some time in my peak. Those are when I’m engaged in my work, when I’m fascinated by something I’m doing. I couldn’t imagine being at peak for 16 hours straight – I’d die of exhaustion! I doubt anyone is all peak all the time – and I know a lot of truly accomplished people.
Advice On Building Wealth | Find something more worthy of your time and energy. We’re only here once. Don’t waste your talents on frivolous things like trying to fill the bottomless sack that is a needy ego.
Instead, serve a higher calling of your choice. There are plenty of ways to build a fortune while you do that. Let wealth be the result of your work, not the point of it.
On Inspiring Others | Years ago I left others to manage my first business. Jane and I established a foundation and I dove headlong into leading volunteers – on a very small scale, mind you. But those two years of intensive cat herding changed everything in how I show up as a leader. I dare anyone to call themselves a leader until they’ve tried to lead volunteers. When you have neither the carrot nor the stick of formal, positional power – when you can’t fire anyone because you don’t employ them, can’t bribe them with a bonus because their participation is unpaid – only then will you see what your real leadership mettle is made of. It’s incredibly frustrating until you figure out what every leader needs to learn: that to get people to do what you want to do, with an open heart and a creative, committed mind, you have to figure out why they would want to help you, and help them get that.
At Switch and Shift, our guest contributors and our League of Extraordinary Thinkers is composed of volunteers, many of whom also contribute to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc. and Fast Company. To make participating in our community of purpose worth their time, we do everything in our power to make it a triple win: the Leaguers and contributors win with a highly-engaged, top-notch leadership community that reads/watches/listens to and actively shares their work (our social sharing is through the roof), the community wins by finding brilliant actionable inspiration like nowhere else on the Web; we win as a result of the first two groups winning.
I Am Inspired By | When I look at the business leadership icons of today and ask, “Who could I emulate if I really pushed myself?” Richard Branson comes instantly to mind. I love his, “Screw it, just do it” philosophy of business. I’ve been called “Dr. Yes” quite a number of times in my career, which is his nickname at Virgin. He’s a true entrepreneur, not a professional manager. He understands his limitations (I’m dyslexic just like him), so he surrounds himself with eminently capable professionals to carry out the shared vision he helps create. He’s confident, which is the opposite of insecurity-based arrogance. He values his workmates and customers, for which I respect him a great deal. He’s jolly, rather than stiff and serious – he makes business look simple and fun, which it is if you’re doing it right! And he’s deeply committed to making the world a better place.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I am driven by the notion that the only reason we’re here, the only thing that really matters, is to make this world of ours a better place than we found it. My talents lie in business, so I’m working with what I have. If my partners, friends, and I can move the needle a bit to help tap the power of business for the common good, I will consider mine a life well-spent. To do this will require a movement. Right now the core of this movement is still just in the tens of thousands. All we idealists are still discovering each other, but there are millions more of us out there: more and more of us connect each day, thanks in large part to the power of social. Before we’re done, our ranks will have to swell into the billions. I’m confident that is coming. My legacy? If I am considered a leader of this global movement toward a more human side of business… what could be more gratifying than that?
A Key Talent | I have a few personality traits which I like to call my Superpowers – we all have them, so the only trick is to determine which ones might be helpful in your life, and which will never amount to more than party tricks at best. (Among the latter, I can often “Name That Tune” in two or three notes – but who cares? That game show went off the air in the late ’70’s, I think. Party trick, not valuable life skill.)
Two of my potentially useful Superpowers, though, are my childishly competitive spirit and my boundless enthusiasm. I have always been enthusiastic – I’m often called Tigger, after Winnie the Pooh’s pal; I’ve also been compared to a Labrador retriever (which I hope was meant favourably.)
While still in my twenties, my now-wife Jane was teaching a Dale Carnegie course, and we discussed her class almost daily for a whole year! In Jane’s course materials I found this terrific quote among many great ones:
“Be the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.”
I loved it! First of all, “Be the most” is a great inspiration to a kid like me, who loves to win at anything, even the little stuff.
“Positive?” That was very useful to me: up until that point, I was not always positive – I often took sport in knocking holes in just about anything, from scientific experiments to politicians’ rhetoric to how people pronounced words. Being smart and right doesn’t help at all in life if you’re unpleasant company. So a focus on positivity from then on has really served me well, and it turns out it’s not just a great way to win friends and influence people, it’s also a more enjoyable way to go through life.
Now, the problem I faced was that I was in love with the most positive and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, Jane. And being who I am, second best just didn’t sit well with me. So I printed the quote up, framed it, and stuck it on my office wall in our house. Jane saw me gunning for her, but that’s half the fun, isn’t it? You don’t want to win if your opponent doesn’t realize there’s a contest on, do you?
It took me years – probably a decade – but I believe I’m more positive and enthusiastic than Jane at least 51% of the time. So I won!
In all seriousness, has this served me well in accomplishing my goals in life? Absolutely! Dale Carnegie’s quote inspires me daily. As a writer, I don’t tone down my arguments at all, and my readers have come to appreciate that. As a keynote speaker, I feel my audience’s reaction to what I say very keenly, and I make sure they’re feeling my passion with me as I speak: nobody is swayed by a presenter who is not convinced himself. And as a leader… well, same idea. If I’m not engaged in the vision, and the mission, and the phenomenal people helping me bring them to life, why on earth would anyone want to join me, or stick with me?
I Am Driven By | I’m a “bleeding heart capitalist.” I am absolutely obsessed with making the world a better place through business, through how we get our work done, and to what ends we apply ourselves in our business endeavours. I’m convinced that good karma is good business, and that there’s a whole world full of people who believe the same, or who long to feel the same. What we’ve done with Switch and Shift, mostly by happy accident, is we’ve given this desire a platform. The brilliant, motivated idealists we’re collecting have spawned a movement. What drives me? Driving that transformation, from the dreary old Industrial Age way of managing to the much more enlightened, inspirational Social Age reality of today – and of the near future.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I’ve met, interviewed, and at times befriended many uber-successful people thus far in my career. The real difference between good and truly great? Both work hard – really hard; you have to if you want to amount to anything in this life. But the great ones love what they do so much, it doesn’t seem like work to them. Look around for the one who’s smiling deeply, from the eyes, the one who tells a joke as they outshine their peers – they’re just happy, right then, doing their thing with aplomb. Anybody can be top notch if they apply themselves. But unless it’s an absolute joy to do what you do, you’ll never break into the ranks of the truly great. That’s why you must love what you do, or find something else that you do love and figure out how to make that your life’s work instead. I pity people who aren’t in love with their work. And right now, there’s a world full of them. That’s our Industrial Age legacy. It stinks.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | “Stand for something important. You’ll be amazed at the calibre of talent you attract to help you.” – Bernie Turner, founder of Walden University, “A higher degree for a higher purpose.”