Kevin Kelly was the founding editor of Wired. He reached 70 last year and shared 103 bits of life advice. I find these lists often are mostly cliche… but there is depth in this list.
This week’s video is me picking out the 3 bits of life advice that most resonate with me – and then sharing why these bits of advice are so important and relevant to myself.
3 of the 103 bits of life advice that I loved…
Living with Paradox… and Mentors (at 2:20 in the video)
Building A Life of Learning and Growth (at 5:33)
Trusting People (9:35)
Living with Paradox… and Mentors
“Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.”
I love this one for this paradox: you need to be stubborn enough to stick to things beyond where someone else might abandon… and you need to be flexible enough to stop doing something when someone else might really struggle with the “sunk cost”… the hours and effort already invested in the activity.
How do you develop this capacity? You don’t. You are too close.
The only way you can develop the ability to navigate this paradox is with the input and perspectives of others. It took me a long time of stubborn arrogance before I finally had to accept that other people have much better perspectives on my life than I do.
Building A Life of Learning and Growth
“Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.”
Once you have mastered something, we need you to move on… to take on something more complex. If you stay doing a job that you are now completely competent in… you begin to coast… and then feel like you deserve more… and become complacent… and then you find yourself out of a job.
I am currently leading Vistage in Spain… and the team around me can tell you that I am not yet the “perfect leader”… I am a work in progress… I am learning a lot as we go. I am completely committed to the mission of the organisation, and working hard to build up my skills and capacities to be a good leader… but I’m not there yet.
“If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.”
I trust people as a general principle. It has worked out marvellously 99.9% of the time… but I have been let down, cheated and disappointed a number of times.
There is a saying “cheat me once, shame on you. Cheat me twice, shame on me.”
I have interviewed and hired hundreds of people over the last 20 years. I have accepted investment in my business, partners, employees… I have invested in others’ businesses and lent money to friends… and I’ve learnt that only behaviour counts… what people say they will do has no correlation to how they will act in future… what people have done in the past has huge correlation with how they will act in future.
If someone commits to pay you back $20 and then breaks that promise – it is a very inexpensive way of identifying someone not to trust in any way in future. While you might be wrong, there are 8 billion other people who are likely to be a better bet.
I’ve been reviewing my purpose statement. I rewrote it earlier this year. The year of Covid shook up my routines and threw me out of balance. It took some discipline with mentors, coaches and my journal to get re-connected to why I get up in the morning.
My purpose is “to inspire and challenge others to do the most important work of their lives”.
This video is a reflection on the context necessary for someone to do the most important work of their lives.
The 4 Ingredients necessary to do the most important work of your life:
Here is the full recording of the How Leaders Network webinar from February 9th for the IESE Alumni community. We had 520 people connected to the zoom call, and some great questions. We didn’t get round to answering all of the questions, so I have taken some time to give full answers here in this post.
“There are various levels of ‘networking’ from your close friend to the professional contact with whom you have met a couple of times at an event. How should each of them be managed?” Klaus
I’d say that each of us has 10 people who are family/close friends, 20 friends we see irregularly, 200 acquaintances that we have had an opportunity to share some experience together and 7.7 billion people with whom we have no real connection.
I remember a conference where Verne Harnish gave a keynote about high growth entrepreneurs. He recommended a strategy of making a 3 lists – 20 VIP, 30 important and 200 valuable. The 20 Very Important people in your network you would proactively seek to help them each week… one suggestion I heard back then was to do a google alert for the name of the person – and every time their name is mentioned in the press or around the web you will be notified.
Personally, I don’t deliberately “manage” my network. When I travel to a city I will often look up a couple of people and see if they could meet for a drink or coffee. When I am at one of IESE campus around the world I take some time to wander the corridors and say hello or have a coffee with professors and staff. I have 2 seats at FC Barcelona and I will reach out to people to invite them to come to the game… this can be a powerful second step in building a relationship around a shared passion (football).
My father has been on the boards of an orchestra, an opera festival, 3 public companies, 2 universities… The orchestra and the opera festival create wonderful moments that he can connect with people – he invites many people to these musical events, he asks people to sponsor musicians, he asks friends to come to operas…
I would suggest that rather than “managing” a network – you create opportunities around things that you have a passion for. Get involved in music or culture or galleries or politics… anything that gives you a reason to ask others for help for a cause that is bigger than you.
“How can we network in a digital world where you cannot meet or have lunch together?” José P.
Zoom is a powerful tool. I’ve used it extensively to have 20 minute conversations over the last 11 months. It is actually more effective than meeting for coffee for an initial chat – we both save on time to travel to a location. We can go straight to conversation. Covid has made it completely acceptable to have video calls.
The challenge is that on video it is so clear if you are unorganised, unprepared and unable to facilitate an interesting conversation that is mutually interesting.
How to do networking in a natural way in personal and professional life? Thanks for the great session Rogger B.
Have interest in the other person. What are their dreams, goals, aspirations? Where are they doing well? Where are they facing difficulty? Who has played a significant role in their development as a person and professional?
“How does one promote his work to a higher level than your manager’s without stepping on your boss’s toes? There are multiple managers who frown upon such actions from their subordinates.”
I laugh and tell all IESE students that the answer to every question is “It depends”. My friend Matt told me about the P.I.E. model for career management.
P = Performance – First, you need to be good at the actual work of your job. In the first 10 years of your career, this is where to focus on getting really good.
I = Impact – Next, you need to get onto project that are doing work that is making a tangible difference to what the leadership of the company value. In the second 10 years of your career, this becomes important. It is not enough from 30 to 40 years old to just do good work… if you care about your career it is vital that you get to work on projects that have a big impact (and avoid working on projects of low value).
E = Exposure – Third, you need to find a way to get positive exposure with the senior leaders of your business. This becomes important from 40 onwards… you are good at performing the work, you are good at identifying opportunities to have a big impact… now you need to build relationships of trust with senior decision makers.
now we hear your full Irish voice loud and clear!! 🙂 Ricardo R.
I understand that the first 10 minutes the microphone was not doing its job and the audio was going up and down… Glad you let us know!
You sai you started of pretty clumsy when holding a 20 minute conversation with someone but now are pretty good at it. What advice would you give to holding such a conversation? Wadzi
I have gotten much better in several areas:
Reaching out by email/phone/LinkedIn with a short request to have a conversation
Being clear on who I am and why I am interested in a conversation (I will often tell a short version of the Sandra Erliso story…)
Asking good questions and making the conversation about the other person, their projects, their dreams, their aspirations, their lessons
Gratitude – via email, gifts of books, connecting them to others who could be of help etc
“Once you have the first contact and conversation how to build a relationship and keep it going?” Carolina S.
Serve their goals and objectives. The more I can get to know their personal and professional objectives, the more ideas I can have on how to contribute.
You said you have a very efficient way how to make the 20 min. Conversation valuable. Can you share some insides how you do that? Stefan S.
I have done a lot of sales training over the last 16 years. It is an important skill as an entrepreneur. Most of sales training is about helping the other person get clear on their current situation and help them articulate in a rational way (and feel in an emotional way) the value of making some change.
How do you get the contact you want and build and strong and long lasting relationship with someone with more power than you that does need less from you than you need from her/him? Isaac B.
Begin small. Find something they have accomplished and let them know you find it inspiring (I am assuming that you do find it inspiring… honesty is important).
How often the Meetings should take place? After the first one it might be difficult to find more topics to discuss Ruben R.
If I find that it is hard to get a good conversation going in our first meeting, I leave them alone. If I find that I am doing all the work to ask questions and keep the conversation flowing, this is not the time… and maybe this is not the person that you can build a trusted relationship with.
Are there differences in the way you do networking when you are in your late fifties (my case) from when you were in your early twenties? Pablo E.
Absolutely. I didn’t think it was important in my twenties. I didn’t have many clear skills that solve other’s problems.
Today I have several valuable skills that can be of great help to other people. I am pretty good at helping another get really clear on who they are and what they aspire to achieve. I am very good to helping them articulate their ideas in a way that they can attract many resources to make things happen.
Because I presume that depend on your current level and the level of the people you’re trying to impact/reach to. Isaac B.
When I was younger I was less able to help people in any material way – especially in Spain.
The book “So Good they Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport is a powerful study. He interviewed 500 people over 50 years old who were “personally and professionally fulfilled”. His quest – what did they do to create a life that was personally and professionally fulfilling?
His answer – first you need to develop “rare and valuable skills”.
If you don’t have “rare and valuable skills” you are not in a great place to help others. I recommend the book to many people as they think about how to develop a successful career.
What can you do when you are 20-30 and want to meet senior people? First tell them what they have done that you find inspiring. Then ask good questions about them. End the conversation before it gets boring. Then send a written thank you (this is so rare that you will stand out a mile).
“How can you learn to ask effective questions to people you just meet?” Manuela V.
Care about them, about who they are, about what they aspire to become. Don’t ever assume that a person has their whole life sorted out. Everyone has some areas of life where they are not getting the fulfilment they hunger for.
If you were to have a 15-min Zoom with a potential mentor, what three questions would you ask them to move up in their “list” and build a powerful and lasting-mentoring relationship? Javier C.
This was answered in the webinar, but here’s the summary:
First, we need to ask about their past… their journey to today, the moments and the people that have impacted them. Questions: Who inspires you? What are the 3 lessons you have learnt in your career?
Second, we need to ask about their future. What are their aspirations, dreams, aims, plans?
Third, we need to get a sense of where they are today. In Vistage we start every meeting with everyone sharing 2 numbers – 1-10 personal, 1-10 professional. 10 is best month of your life.
If you have been able to build a conversation around these three areas – past experience, future dreams and current situation… then there is connection and a relationship can begin.
If you talk about yourself for 15 minutes, there is nothing.
I volunteer to open a chiringuito on the beach with Conor if he´s still interested! 🙂 Ricardo R.
I tried that. I had a chain of ice cream stores (Giangrossi) and we won the concession for a chiringuito. We learnt that it is not such a wonderful environment to run a business. I’d rather have a friend with a chiringuito these days.
I would be honored to hear the advise on whether it is better to focus on building a wider network or focusing on strengthtening a smaller inner circle? Both? Irina P.
It depends. If you don’t know exactly where you are going and are still exploring, then a wider network will give you more ideas. If you have clarity on what is important to you, then focus on people that play a key role in that domain.
What is your main advise to young entrepreneurs that are seaking to get good mentorship and good network but do not have much to add to successful businessmen. Marco B.M.
Mentors: don’t ask them for permission. Just watch them and learn from them. You don’t need to ask Elon Musk for permission to learn from his approach to life and business. You don’t need to ask Rockerfeller permission to read Titan, his biography by Chernow.
There are several types of mentor. There are several roles mentors can play in your life. Learn more here: What is Mentorship?
how long do you suggest a first talk with a potential mentor should take? Mercedes Fevre
Enough to connect. You can do that in 15-20 minutes.
How do you build on after the “First Great Meeting”? Lets say I’ve had a great 20 minute conversation… how do I build the relationship further? Whats the next conversation so the relationship can grow deeper? Wadzi
There is a book “Never Eat Alone”. I don’t like the book as a whole, but it does have a lot of suggestions for how to manage your network in a deliberate
Thanks Conor and IESE. another great session. Congrats!! Ricardo R.
How do you manage your network? Do you have your own CRM system for meeting someone once a week? Will A.
Linkedin is pretty good for this. I don’t have a specific CRM system for personal networking. I have a page in my journal where I add names of people that I want to meet, and also for those I want to thank.
In my business we use Hubspot, but this would be an expensive tool for a personal list.
I send out Christmas cards each year – and about 50 go to people who I want to thank for positively contributing to my life during the year. I have a google docs spreadsheet with address details for all of these people.
“Conor thank you for existing :-)” Rubén M.
Thank you! Sun-Sun de S.
What about professional over 55 ? Which will be your advise for them to improve their networking skills and relationships? Maria S.
It was an incredible eye opening conversation…. Thanks!!!! Michel W.
The best leadership book is not one that you can buy. It is your own life, if well documented.
Do you take time to document your life? Do you take time to look at your past year and get clear on where you are, and where you are going?
Last year Covid-19 brought a lockdown to over half of the world’s population. Covid changed our plans, it changed our businesses and it shook up our world. If we are to take something valuable from this year, it is important to take time to reflect on how the experience of Covid impacted you.
2021 is going to start without much change… the vaccines are coming but we will still have 6 months with restrictions on our movement, on our businesses, on our travel plans. I am not going to wish you a “wonderful 2021”. I am going to wish you the energy and clarity to handle the challenges that 2021 throws at you as the best version of yourself. That is my 1st January wish for you.
How to Reflect on the Last Year
In this post I will share a set of questions to structure a reflection on the past year, that might help clarify how to make changes in how you approach the coming year.
Here is a 3 page pdf worksheet that will guide you through a reflection process on the past year. I would recommend you print out the pages and carry them with you for a while.
The best results come when you go through the questions a couple of times over a few days. I often tell EO or YPO forums and Vistage groups that I want to see dog ears on the pages, and different colours of ink… even a coffee stain… showing that you have taken the pages out several times in preparing your end-of-year reflection. The 19 questions will help you think deeply about what contributes to your fulfilment, what detracts and what lessons you can actively take into the coming year.
Writing in a journal
I am asked in classes “what is the most important habit to learn to speak well?” My answer is writing each day in a journal. Capture your life. Capture your dreams, your frustrations, your questions, the people that helped, the people that made things more difficult… capture it all. My biology teacher, Mr Matz, always said “the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory”.
Warren Rustand taught me to start the day with “10-10-10”. Ken Blanchard taught me to “start the day slowly”. Eric Matz (my biology teacher, when I was 14) taught me to write stuff down in a journal every day. Each tool involves taking time at the beginning of the day to reflect on what is important and get clear on who you want to be.
In our executive development programs at IESE Business School we make specific time in the program each day to reflect. Learning happens when you go through an experience, but is multiplied if you take time to reflect on the experience (and share your reflections with colleagues who share your path).
I’ve written several posts on how to approach writing in a journal:
Life 101: Develop competence. Build the discipline to finish small projects. Solve interesting problems. Help good clients succeed. Do lots of small good things for other people. Share the credit. Take the blame. Share your journey. Associate with good people. Help others realise they are capable of more than they think. Give them confidence. Lift them up if they fail. Celebrate their courage. Ask them what they learnt. Be present in their lives. Live with purpose and intention.
The days of sending your CV over to HR and waiting for the job offer are dead. No great job offers come through HR.
As Seth Godin says “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”
“My boss won’t let me”
“They won’t give me permission”
“I don’t have a publisher”
“Oprah Winfrey won’t respond to my emails”
Stop “waiting to be chosen” and “Pick yourself”.
If you want to write, write. If you want to make videos, make videos. If you want to be creative, make things with creativity. If you want to run an event, invite 50 people to an event. Don’t wait for permission… because there is nobody left to actually give you permission.
If you ask your boss for permission to do something, this is what they hear: “If this fails, blame goes to you (because you gave me permission); if this succeeds, credit goes to me (because I did it)”. Only an idiot would take this deal. Your boss didn’t get there by being an idiot.
Great problems create great leaders. Take the time to build the foundations before you build the skyscraper. Take responsibility. Become a trusted team member.
If an oyster keeps all the sand out of his shell, he lives a life of comfort. At the end of his life, you find a dead oyster… in an empty shell.
If a grain of sand enters the oyster’s shell, he loses his life of comfort. In order to protect himself from irritation, the oyster will begin covering the sand with layers of nacre. Layer upon layer cover the grain of sand until the pearl is formed.
When an oyster is bothered by a grain of sand, it creates a pearl.
If the oyster lives this uncomfortable period in their life, at the end of his life you find more than a dead oyster… you find a pearl.
Don’t wish for less problems.
Our problems allow us to create our pearls. When we remove challenge from our life, we remove growth from our life.
Take a moment to reflect on this question. I imagined myself in a room full of entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers… and wasn’t sure I could give a completely confident answer.
Now imagine that you have 20 years before you step into that room… What do you want to be able to say in 20 years that you have done the work to truly be a master, to have established a reputation for excellence, to have made a difference? Write that down.
This video responds to the question: “I want to change career, but I am worried about the risks”.
Rather than worry about the possible mistakes you could make in changing, reflect on the story you want to be able to tell about your life when you are 80 years old. Will you regret not having tried?
The great danger in our lives are not the errors of commission, but the errors of omission… the opportunities we never even spotted along the way. Warren Buffett says he worries far more about the investments that he never spotted rather than the investments that he made that didn’t work out.
Managing Your Own Career
It’s up to you to identify your place in the world and know when to change course.
5 Thoughts on Careers from Peter Drucker:
Success is at best an absence of failure
People outlive organisations
People are mobile and will move
We must manage ourselves, and help others manage themselves
“Your ability to communicate with others will account for fully 85% of your success in your business and in your life.”
Imagine being paid well to travel the world and share your message with people that want to hear you speak?
If something in that question resonates, this post might be helpful.
Today, over 50% of my income comes from delivering keynote speeches and workshops to industry conferences and corporate leadership teams. It has taken over 16 years from my earliest free speeches towards a career where I can live from speaking. I have delivered over 2,500 hours of keynotes and workshops to over 50,000 participants.
In terms of quality, my recent 100 hours of speaking are astronomically better than those first 100 hours… but everyone has to begin. How do you begin?
How to get paid to speak…
1. Become an Expert.
Your fees depend more on you being (and perceived) as an expert than on how well you actually speak.
Maybe you can be paid well even if you don’t master anything, but if you are not on the path to mastery… I personally would rather you stayed home. If you are planning on being paid to speak, make a deep and lasting commitment towards true mastery.
There are 3 types of Expert speaker.
The 3 Paths of Expert Mastery:
The Result Expert – Proven ability to get specific results for others eg Toni Nadal, Marshall Goldsmith, Tony Robbins
The Research Expert – Has interviewed performers and has a deep knowledge of tools, strategies and tactics in an area eg Michael Porter, Jim Collins
The Role Model – Has been successful eg Jack Welsh, Barrack Obama, Casey Neistat
A well paid speaker needs to be seen as a thought leader. The classic path is to write and publish a book, but in today’s world there are new paths: build a large youtube, instagram, or blog following. Pick one and start producing thought. I suggest that you use your blog not for sharing expert articles, but sharing your learning journey. When you write expert articles, it is much more valuable to submit them to highly credible sites (depends on your segment, but for me this would be HBR, Forbes, Inc, FT, Big Think).
3 Actions that The Best experts regularly do
Interview other experts looking for patterns and best practice; building your connections and reputation in this important community.
Create arguments based on 4 parts:
What we should Pay attention to
What things Mean
How things work
What might happen
Simplify complex ideas with frameworks
Are you on a path towards being a true expert? Have you chosen whether you are a results expert, a research expert or a role model? Good… now we move to step 2.
Speak Lots and lots…
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
This blog is full of material about speaking well so I will not repeat. Some good articles on speaking well:
Learn directly from expert speakers. Rather than paying for a course on public speaking, pay to go and see well paid expert speakers deliver their keynotes. I learn more watching how a great speaker plans, prepares, delivers, follows up than by reading books or courses on speaking. In february I asked Luis Soares Costa to run a retreat for Vistage. I watched how he interviewed me, how he clarified what we needed and what we could do… I travelled with him the day before and watched how he prepared the room and himself for the 2 day retreat. I learnt more watching what he did and how he did it than by asking him for tips.
Here are 5 ideas for those who wish to make speaking a profession:
5 Advanced Tips for turning Pro as a Speaker
Model the Greats. Bill Clinton modeled himself as a speaker on President Kennedy, even down to the gestures and word choice. YouTube and TED have great examples. Personally, I spent years modelling my approach to speaking on the style of Jim Rohn and the delivery of Alan Watts. The idea is not to copy, but to clarify what works and how to make it work for you.
Practice Every Day. Make selfie videos. Every single day. (Here’s my 10 week email course Speaking As a Leader). Join Toastmasters, give speeches to the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Lions… Teaching at a university (IESE Business School) and delivering workshops at entrepreneur accelerator programs (for free) were how I got my first 500 hours of speaking experience.
Practice what is hard, not what you find easy. If you are naturally charismatic and go with the flow… practice deep structure; if you are analytical and structured, practice improv. In Aikido they believe that your early strength will become a weakness if you are not disciplined. I personally still work hard on structure and ensuring a consistent delivery of my content to all audiences.
Deliver Emotion. Emotions are power. Nobody will ask you back because you were the most analytical and correct speaker, they will ask you back because you made everybody feel strong emotions (and they can see it is predictable… nobody will recommend you if they don’t know 100% that you will deliver the same emotional impact every time). If you struggle to deliver emotional content and create deep connection with an audience, start to work on yourself. If you can deeply connect to emotion and to your own inner struggle, you can then begin to connect to others. It may take psychotherapy, it make take mastermind groups with personal development angles… but you must get deeply connected with your own internal emotional life.
Focus your Speaking Topics. If you speak about anything to any audience, you will destroy your value. It is hard to say no, especially when you haven’t been paid for a few months – but each time you dilute, you die a little. A powerful brand is best defined what what it will not do, than what it will. Apple will never make toothbrushes… and if they do, sell the stock immediately.
Build your Reputation
…with the people that matter.
Be very careful who you take feedback and praise from. Only other speakers and people who pay for speakers count. Do not rely on friends, toastmaster club mates, family. They will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
The best speaker referrals are other great expert speakers. When a conference has success with a speaker, they will ask that speaker to come back. They will also ask that speaker for recommendations. When another speaker gives your name as a referral, this is the most powerful marketing. I get more opportunities from other professional speakers than from any other source. Build a good reputation with this group.
Testimonials and Articles on high Credibility sites
A blog is interesting, but it is not a path to expert credibility. Articles on Forbes, HBR, Inc are more valuable than articles posted on your own blog.
Testimonials from conference organisers, other professional speakers and people who have paid you are the most valuable resource for credibility.
Put some of your speaking on YouTube. It is such a powerful tool to share your message, and in a format that people can see your quality.
Long Term: Become “The” Expert
It is not enough to be an expert, you must become known as the expert. Some people become “The” expert – their name is so closely linked to a category that an event is not “The” event if they are not speaking. Jim Collins has built that level of personal brand in the business leadership category. Marshall Goldsmith in the business coaching category, Tony Robbins in the personal development category. They can multiply their fees by 100 because their name alone sells half the tickets.
My good friend Raul Aguirre’s TEDx talk (The Hidden Secret of Success) is about how to create a unique category for yourself. It is hard to be the best business school professor in the world, but I can combine 3 categories: Great business school professor (IESE) who also has a massive following on YouTube and also is the expert on the role and challenges facing CEOs (Vistage). When I put IESE + YouTube + Vistage together, nobody else can compete.
3. Become a Wealthy Expert
There are many experts sitting in bars sharing their wisdom for free with people who don’t want to hear. It is not enough to be an expert, and it is not enough to be known as an expert – you must become a professional. Professionals know the value of their time.
It took me several years to be comfortable with the following actions, but you must if you are to have the resources to be able to really make an impact with your message.
Four Actions of Wealthy Experts
There are 4 things that can differentiate the wealthy expert speaker from the non-wealthy expert speaker:
Package your knowledge: Write, speak, record – put knowledge into a form that people are willing to purchase
Campaign vs Promote your knowledge – each interaction leads to a further interaction. Build a community around your expertise.
Charge expert fees – charge more than you are comfortable with. Run your speaking practice as a business. You have value and are the expert. You are not selling 60 minutes, you are selling your lifetime of experience. Your service improves people’s lives. Price yourself accordingly. Most expert speakers build a structure to their offering around multiple price points:
free – blogging, writing, webinars
€100 – public speech or open event
€1000 – 1 day workshop
€3000 – 3-7 day workshop
€10,000 – 1-1 coaching or mastermind group
€100,000 – something high end to make the rest seem more reasonable…
Distinction – Keep studying the competition and keep innovating, get real feedback from the important people (the person who pays and from other speakers… not from your friends or people who didn’t pay you)
Excellence – Be better every day
Service – Be helpful and responsive
These 4 actions were inspired by a video from Brandon Burchard. Brandon advises others on how to become well-paid experts.
Are you a Speaker
Are you a paid speaker? What other tips would you give to someone thinking about this path? I plan to update this resource a few times with more materials and tips over the coming months.
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