Today’s episode is with Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels.

For decades, environmentalists have been telling us that fossil fuels are going to destroy our planet. But Alex is interested in the other side of the story: How every measure of human well-being, from life expectancy to clean water to climate safety, keeps getting better and better, despite our reliance on fossil fuels.

In this episode, you’re going to hear an amazing opinion on climate change and the future of energy production.

Listen in to Alex Epstein to learn:

  • Why fossil fuels will continue to help human civilization flourish for decades to come
  • How unclear thinking is complicating our modern decision-making process
  • What it means to think with reason and clarity

Get The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels on Amazon.

Find out more at IndustrialProgress.com. 

What’s the one big idea from your book that you’d like our listeners to remember six months from now? 

My book presents a framework for looking at not just fossil fuel use but any large-scale policy decision. This framework is based on the idea that the way in which we measure the positives and negatives, the way in which we measure whether a policy or a decision is moral or not, should be by looking at whether it advances human flourishing or not.

By contrast, the dominant way in which we currently measure energy production’s morality is by the degree it impacts nature.

The idea of maximizing human flourishing versus minimizing human impact on the environment is a deliberate choice we have to make before we can objectively analyze fossil fuel use. 

But it’s true of other issues too. It’s true of how we think of vaccines, GMOs, antibiotics, and so on.

We first have to decide what our goal is. Is it to maximize human flourishing? Or minimize human impacts? When you’re clear on that, and if you decide that maximizing human flourishing is the best way forward, you’ll start to see some really surprising conclusions.

One of my goals with this book is to help people start thinking about the large-scale issues facing humanity in a way that has human flourishing as the primary goal.

How did you come up with the concept for your book?

My interest in the issue of energy, and specifically fossil fuels, was very unexpected because growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a very liberal place, I certainly heard nothing positive about fossil fuels. The same goes for Duke University where I attended college.

I wasn’t an environmentalist and I was pro-free-market, but I did have a general kind of concern around global warming, or climate change. At the same time, I don’t really like fossil fuels but even energy didn’t interest me that much.

During college, I was more interested in philosophy, so I decided to become a philosopher who would use philosophy to clarify practical issues. I started writing about any issue you can imagine.

Cloning, foreign policy, animal rights, the list goes on, but writing about energy issues never really never struck me until I found myself doing research for a course I was teaching on the history of journalism. I suspected that the account of John D. Rockefeller monopolizing the oil market was inaccurate and in researching that, I began to understand the history of the energy market.

I realized that before fossil fuels dominated the energy market there was this whole early competition among different ways of lighting our homes. This thing that we call oil, or petroleum, won out over other methods because it was that it was the only thing that could provide cheap, plentiful, reliable, illumination energy. It was so superior in terms of being the most cost-effective solution.

Fossil fuel-powered electricity lights many modern homes.

This early research impressed two things on me. One, energy is very under-appreciated, at least it was by me, and I’m not just talking about lighting homes or streets, but for powering every single machine in a machine-labor society.

The second thing I realized was that all forms of energy are not created equal. Certain forms of energy are much more cost-effective than others because they’re much more resource efficient.

Energy doesn’t come from nothing, people have to come up with a process to produce that energy cheaply, plentifully, reliably, and hopefully safely.

Those two realizations made me think, “Okay, well it’s really important that we use the best forms of energy. I know we’re still using a lot of fossil fuels, are these fuels really that bad? Or are we under-appreciating a positive value?”

I had this idea that there are environmental risks to using fossil fuels, but I didn’t really understand those very well. On the other hand, could there be major economic risks to not using fossil fuels?

Of course, I didn’t know enough about the issues to make an informed argument one way or the other, so I began to investigate further. That investigation led me to think that most of the discussion around this issue is biased in different ways. People have an animus against fossil fuels without really looking into it.

What I wanted to do was take a humanistic look at climate change from the perspective of, “What energy choices will most advance humanities wellbeing?” It was that question that led me to explore the issue of fossil fuel use. Ultimately, the conclusion became my book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

How did you go about researching such a complex topic as fossil fuel use? 

One thing I’m pretty good at is the purposeful acquisition of knowledge. There’s an unlimited amount of information in the world and there’s never been more good information and there’s never been more bad information.

Researching very complex topics is a question of how do you get good information and how do you integrate it in a way that gives you an organized body of knowledge that then you can then apply. I’m pretty good at separating the good information from the bad information. I get a sense of where the information is coming from and ask, “Is this person actually a good thinker? Are they biased or are they even-handed? Are they sloppy or are they precise? What’s their goal?”

With that in mind, I started out reading a lot from many different authors. The best author I came across was a guy named Petr Beckman. He’s a Czech immigrant who unfortunately died in 1993, but from 1973 to 1993, he produced a newsletter called Access to Energy. It was the best survey of the development of energy technologies over decades that I could find.

The whole volume was about one million words, so I got a volunteer to compile all the newsletters together and I read or listened to almost all of them.

What that gave me was a very fast injection of knowledge on the history of energy. Not just how different energy technologies work but also what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are. Beckman was not an advocate of fossil fuels but one thing that struck me was that he was very even-handed about them.

He’s known best as an advocate of nuclear power and ultimately, I think in the long-term, nuclear power will be the best solution for human beings.

He wrote this amazing book called The Health Hazards Of Not Going Nuclear.

Cooling towers emit steam from a nuclear power generating station.

Even the title, The Health Hazards Of Not Going Nuclear, implies that he’s looking at the risks of using something and of not using something. Even when I disagreed with him, I could still see his reasoning. That approach really struck me as a good way to think about things.

How did your assumptions around energy production change over the course of your research?

I had a number of assumptions going into this research. For example, I had some positive assumptions about solar energy that I ultimately ended up agreeing with. But I also had some assumptions that were completely wrong.

Take, for example, how most people view the environment.

In general, the way we’re taught to think of environmental impact is that anything that impacts the environment is bad.

We tend to think of energy production’s environmental impact on a scale from zero to negative. It’s either screwing up the planet a lot, screwing up the planet a little, or doing almost nothing, which is what we might call clean-tech.

But, if you look at the actual relationship between energy production and the environment then you start to see that the human impact on the environment actually makes the earth a much more suitable place for human life. Our environment doesn’t have everything in it that we need to live, it doesn’t have the resources we need to survive.

In terms of cleanliness, nature doesn’t give us ample Fiji or Evian water, we need to purify the water, we need to transport that water.

The whole human-centric perspective on the environment where human beings are producer-improvers and not parasite-polluters is a novel idea to many, but it’s the idea that we’re here to actually improve the planet for our own flourishing.

My original thinking of “there are economic benefits to energy production and environmental harms” changed to “there are major environmental benefits to energy production; therefore, if you do anything to make energy more expensive, you’re depriving people of those environmental benefits in addition to economic benefits.”

Where did the idea that human impact can only harm the environment come from?

The modern thinker most connected to this view is Jacques Cousteau. He definitely subscribed to the idea of the noble savage and of nature as perfect. I call this the perfect planet premise which in essence is that without humans, the planet is perfect. You often hear people that hold this belief say things like, “Human beings are a cancer on the planet.”

The perfect planet premise was much more plausible before the existence of science because people didn’t really understand nature. They didn’t understand how to transform it to meet our needs very well.

In that pre-scientific time, it’s understandable that humans would do things like rain dances, not to disrupt things, but in hopes that nature would nurture us. Obviously, that worked very poorly.

They didn’t have the science or technology that we do today. Once you have access to that knowledge you can start to understand the mechanics of your environment and begin to transform it to be much better for human beings.

Lowlands are transformed into productive agriculture using technology.

Sure, some aspects might not work out as well as others. But we also have the technology to correct that.

 

What’s one thing each of us can do to ensure we flourish as individuals?

My next project is The Human Flourishing Project. It’s about developing, spreading, and applying this kind of framework. I think that there are both macro and micro things we need to consider, and I think micro things are often very underrated.

Let’s pretend that the masses hold on to the idea that human flourishing is the guiding principle of human progress, including each person’s progress as an individual. Well, when I use Facebook, I’m now going to think, “Am I really flourishing using Facebook? Is it possible to use Facebook to flourish? How do I do that?”

That’s obviously a very micro-level application of my framework. But being weary of the truth that any new technology can be misused and that sometimes there are conflicting incentives where people want you to overuse their technology is important to think about.

For example, and this isn’t something I’ve talked about publically before, but one thing I’d like to do as part of The Human Flourishing Project is to get people to think more about how they spend their free time. Think about your weekend and ask yourself, “What does it mean for me to flourish on a weekend?”

Let’s say for me, it’s all about rejuvenation and social connection as I have a fairly solitary work week that’s quite intense mentally.

So by taking a step back asking, “Hey, is what I have planned for the weekend going to rejuvenate and connect me?” can be a game changer.

I really hope that one consequence of The Human Flourishing Project is that individuals enjoy their lives much more because there are so many people doing a lot of good work but not getting enough enjoyment out of life.

People enjoy sitting in the sun talking in a park.

What would a flourishing weekend look like for Alex Epstein?

In terms of rejuvenation, I have that down pretty well, so going for a swim in the ocean is pretty high on my list of rejuvenating activities.

Right now I’m in the Bay area so it’s quite cold but I’ll still go in without a wetsuit. Certainly, when I was living in Laguna Beach I would go in three times a day and do transcendental meditation. It was really rejuvenating.

I also ride something called a One Wheel. I would highly recommend this to anyone. I think it’s criminal that everyone doesn’t use one, but check it out at OneWheel.com. It’s basically a snowboard for the streets and it really is just as fun as snowboarding, if not more fun.

Electric Cyclery GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Finally, I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 14 years so that’s another big thing for me as well.

If I can make sure that I get to my jiu-jitsu class, get some One Wheel in during the day, and get in the ocean before the weekend is over, then that’s a pretty successful and rejuvenating weekend for me.

As for social connection, I actually find that a bit more difficult because I move around a lot. I have a couple of really close friends in the Bay area, so they’re on the top of my list, but they have kids so sometimes it’s a matter of planning things a week in advance just to make sure I get that social interaction in.

My main point is that you need to figure out what’s going to help you flourish, maybe it’s rejuvenation and social connection, or maybe it’s something else entirely.

Once you know what that is, make a plan in advance because your chances of success are much higher than if you simply react in the moment. It’s too easy to say, “You know, I’m tired, I think I’ll just watch a couple of episodes on Netflix.” Well, five hours later you still haven’t contributed to your flourishing.

So plan ahead.

Who are you most excited to talk to on your new podcast, The Human Flourishing Movement? 

The whole podcast concept has been fascinating because often times I’m more interested in the topic and the guest than the audience, unfortunately. But I love it. My goal is to extract the best knowledge from people and apply that in a way that enhances human flourishing, but it’s harder to do that than it sounds.

There are three basic components to the upcoming podcast: acquire, organize, and apply knowledge to advance human flourishing, but each of those is quite difficult.

It’s really hard to acquire good knowledge because how do you validate it? How do you know that it’s accurate?

It’s hard to organize knowledge because there are so many different ways to think about a single piece of knowledge. How you put it into a system that makes sense for your specific aims?

Then, it’s hard to apply knowledge because again, there many different ways to apply a single piece of information. How do you apply it in a context that makes sense and is useful for the most people?

So, screening guests is going to be a big part of the show. How can I pick people that are objective? How can I pick people who aren’t afraid of challenging questions like, “Why should we believe you? How can we validate what you’re saying?”

It’s also going to be interesting in terms my own learning as far as knowing how to ask effective questions and knowing what to say in order to get good answers versus bad answers.

But in terms of who I would actually want to talk to, right now I’m really interested in this psychiatrist named David Burns. He wrote a book called Feeling Good which has sold over five million copies, so it’s one of the more popular ones.

Anyway, he has this theory on psychological resistance, or why certain people exhibit resistance to psychological change.

He’s found through experiments that two-thirds of patients typically exhibit a positive response to psychological therapy while one-third of patients see no effect. So it’s really quite interesting and he’s basically asking, “Why is that? Why do we see a positive response from this group but not from the other group?”

His methodology and his eagerness to be validated is really interesting. So he just seems like a super exciting person to ask questions to and to try to challenge and to learn from.

At this point, I’m looking to find the people that I think are killer thinkers and extract the best knowledge from them and organize it in a way that makes sense to me and, hopefully, to my listeners.

How can we become better thinkers?

I’m a huge Ayn Rand fan. Her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is a really good introduction to thinking with reason. I don’t know if there is any one complete guide to thinking though. There are all sorts of important aspects to thinking that are covered by different books.

I wish I could have a complete list of them right now, but the main thing to focus on is that the path to better thinking lies in formulating clear concepts.

Clear concepts are at the root of better thinking.

So going back to the issue of human impact on the environment, well environmental impact is not a clear concept. Are you talking about environmental degradation or are you talking about environmental improvement? Until you’ve been clear about what you’re talking about, you’ll never be able to form a convincing argument.

But part of having a clear concept is also having a clear purpose for formulating that concept. So when I start to think about the environment I’m doing so in the context of human flourishing, and in that context environmental impact is not a useful concept for me.

One more example is the climate change.

Everyone uses the term climate change, but it’s not a clarifying term at all. What does climate change mean? Climate change is a fact of nature. Are you are talking about change within the global climate system? Or are you’re talking about a change to the overall global climate system? Maybe you’re talking about man-made change, maybe you’re not.

There’s this incredible vagueness to the term yet there are some super smart people who just throw these words around like they know what they are talking about.

Ayn Rand once wrote, “No mind is better than the precision of its concepts.” And I definitely live by that.

If you could give one piece of advice to Elon Musk, what would that be?

I’ve been studying him lately because there are certain things about the way his mind works that are so phenomenal, and I think even under-appreciated by his cult following, which I am not a member of at all.

I would love to have a public discussion or debate with him; that’s my number one goal.

As far as advice goes, I’m not in the business of giving epic geniuses unsolicited advice even though I think his thinking is deeply wrong about certain things.

I would really like to ask him to think about what the purpose of life is in connection with technology. His thinking seems to be focused on this platonic ideal of technological perfection. But he seems to define perfection, in part, as having as little impact on nature as possible.

He’s got this amazing enthusiasm about technology but he doesn’t seem too focused on human flourishing in the way that makes sense to me.

I’d really like to ask him, “Do you buy into this minimizing human impact premise? And is that preventing you from contributing to human flourishing as much as you could be or as much as you might think you are?”

What parting advice do you have for aspiring authors?

One great piece of advice I found very useful was to think of intellectual products as commercial products.

There’s a lot of literature on marketing: how to think about a market, how to position yourself in a market, and how to create value in someone else’s life so that they go out and spend their time and money on your product or service over everyone else’s products and services.

So take that marketing approach and apply it to your writing. Ask yourself, “What need can I fulfill with my writing? What market gap exists that I could fill with my book?”

Once you’ve identified a market for your writing, you have to validate it. Will people really want it? Will they buy it?

In addition, make sure you really care about the topic.

If you want to write a book that sells, it needs to have two things: first, it needs to address a real need that people have, and second, you need to really care about that need.

That’s a really good start.

When you’re ready to actually write, a book is just another form of value creation. Don’t sit around waiting for an agent to come to you, just start writing.

I spent 10 years trying to create a lot of value for people who were confused about an issue that I really cared about and that they really cared about. Eventually, that paid off, and the result of all that hard work is my book.

Get The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels on Amazon.

Find out more at IndustrialProgress.com. 

Still looking to challenge the status quo?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

Microsoft’s global executive and author of LOYAL: A Leader’s Guide To Winning Customer And Employee Loyalty, Aaron Painter is our featured guest in today’s show.

Currently based in China, Aaron leads a broad team of sales, marketing, product, and partner management professionals. So, if you’re a business leader, an executive, or an employee, you don’t want to miss Aaron’s advice for managing evolving expectations in today’s workforce.

By the end of this episode, you’ll know how to sustainably grow your business through employee engagement. Because loyal employees attract loyal customers.

Listen in to Aaron Painter to learn:

  • The difference between hearing what your employees say and really listening to them
  • How to attract loyal customers through employee engagement
  • The fastest way to build trust in a diverse, multicultural workforce

Get LOYAL on Amazon.

And find out more at AaronPainter.com. 

What was your experience moving to China like?

I still remember my first day of work in China about five years ago. I had moved over there on a Saturday and started working on a Monday. Just as I did at any other office, I aimed to be at work for 9 a.m.

Well, traffic in Beijing is a disaster, so I didn’t get to the office until 10 a.m.

Early morning traffic congestion.

The first thing on my agenda was a meeting with my manager. He outlined the current situation and reminded me of where our business unit’s focus was. I remember walking away from that meeting feeling super excited.

Often times when you move somewhere new everything is exciting and different at first and there’s just a ton energy around that. Then, weeks, or sometimes months, later you start to see the challenges a bit clearer.

In this case, the challenges became clear to me before the end of the first day.

I walked out of my manager’s office around 11 a.m. and immediately thought, “Alright. Where can I begin? Who can I learn from? Who can I reach out to to dive deeper into some of the things that I need to know for my job?”

It was over the course of that discovery process during that first afternoon that I came to the conclusion of, “Whoa! This is going to be a really big challenge. I’m up for it, but it’s going to be a really big challenge.”

What was your first assignment with Microsoft China?

I had two core objectives when I agreed to lead Microsoft’s business unit in China.

The first was to build a more sustainable business for Microsoft in China.

We had a lot of Office and Windows users but not very many of them had actually paid for those products.

Essentially, our users would find pirated versions and download our products which, on the one hand, was great. We were so happy that they liked the products and wanted to use them, but we’re a for-profit company and so at some point monetizing those products becomes pretty important.

The reality is that technology at Microsoft has changed a lot and we don’t just make things like Office and Windows anymore.

We make a lot more sophisticated business enterprise software and cloud computing services. The kind of tools that most companies rely on for their core business functions. But because of the piracy issue and the experience that most of our customers in China had with Microsoft previously, they didn’t really think about us when they needed those kinds of solutions.

They often thought about other companies and went to them first for their technology needs, not to Microsoft.

The root of the problem lay in how our customers interacted with us in the past.

The experience that they had with us was very transactional before. A salesperson would call them and say, “Hey, we see you have this number of employees and they probably all have a computer. Therefore, you probably need to buy this many copies of Windows.”

But the customer was already using Windows. They didn’t feel the need to pay for something they had already been using. It was almost like a tax. It wasn’t at all about us trying to understand what their business needs were to find new ways to help.

How did you go about solving Microsoft’s piracy problem in China?

First, I set out to meet our customers and talk to some of our managers to try and learn as much as I could about our operations in China. I called it a listening tour.

I still remember meeting with my first customer; they were a manufacturer. They told me that their business was doing really well but that over the years they were facing more and more competition and that the pace of change for manufacturers in China was accelerating.

When they first started they had 20 or 30 competitors and now they were competing with hundreds of other manufacturers in certain areas. They were genuinely worried about losing some of their customers and were finding it harder to differentiate themselves from the new competitors that were popping up.

They knew that they had to innovate or risk becoming obsolete. They wanted to make new products, but as their existing customers weren’t always coming back to them, they felt like they weren’t plugged in; they felt like maybe they weren’t listening as well as they could be, and that they were missing valuable feedback from their customers.

It immediately dawned on me that the challenges facing this manufacturing company were very similar to those facing Microsoft in China at the time.

As I met with more and more customers, I realized that it the issues facing these companies were super consistent across a lot of different industries. I found the same problems in retail and in logistics and distribution, even banking and financial services customers were struggling to understand their customers.

What they all needed was customer loyalty. These businesses needed customers that would come back and think of them as their first choice when they had a need that these businesses could meet.

Does customer loyalty differ in China compared to North America?

I usually segment countries or markets in the world into two categories: building markets and refining markets.

A building market is a market that lacks a specific product or service. For example, maybe there’s a market that doesn’t have access to denim jeans. Well, someone might then create a company that brings jeans to that market and can manufacture them. Essentially, you’re creating something that wasn’t there before.

As a business leader, that’s a lot of work and really hard to do.

The other side of that equation is the refining market. A refining market is a market where all of the factors of production are in place, but there are improvements you can make. Maybe slightly tweaking the way something is sold or tweaking the packaging or improving the customer sales experience in a retail store.

You’re not bringing anything new to market, you’re simply improving on what already exists.

When we often think of emerging or developing markets, sometimes just getting access to a new good or product is really amazing. But if you go to a more developed market, you may say, “Oh, there are tons of people that provide this, but how can I make the experience better?”

To me, branding and brand loyalty really kick in when you enter that refining stage.

China, in many industries, is entering that refining stage where there’s plenty of availability for so many kinds of products, but they’re only just starting to realize the importance of branding and that’s why customer loyalty is typically much lower in China than in North America.

How did employee loyalty come into the picture? 

My second primary objective in China was to train and develop Microsoft’s Millennial workforce.

We have a principle that diversity strengthens our company so we have people from a variety of different backgrounds. Of course, we hired a lot of industry and experienced senior people, but we also wanted a lot of fresh talent and fresh graduates from undergraduate and MBA programs who could bring different perspectives and different levels of energy.

We could then teach our team a little bit about the Microsoft way and best practices for the things we do. We also wanted to learn new ways of doing things from them that might make our business in China more successful. At the time we were hiring a lot of people because we were growing so fast.

Microsoft has a long history of being led by people that have solved some really big problems early on in their lives. Bill Gates arguably left college to found the company and Steve Balmer, our previous CEO, dropped out of business school to work in the real world. So, we’ve always had this corporate culture of bringing together people who are really experienced and people that are much earlier in their career.

The challenge we were having in China was that the Millennials we were hiring weren’t sticking around. We had a very high employee attrition rate compared to our offices in other countries.

So the issue of employee loyalty became my mission. I set out on my first afternoon to figure out why our early-career hires weren’t staying with us.

How can organizations cultivate loyalty?

Let me tell you my personal story of how I discovered the secret to loyalty.

I had spent a number of years living and working in Brazil. At the time, I was working for Microsoft as a general manager, but I was the first foreigner they had in Brazil. I didn’t speak any Portuguese and not a lot of people there, including many in the office, spoke much English.

I had to find a way to do my job.

Fortunately, Brazilians tend to be very expressive and they use their hands a lot. So I would just sit there and listen, and even though I didn’t speak a word of the language, I could often understand the intent behind what the people were saying.

A woman uses hand gestures during a meeting with colleagues.

I learned a lot from the nonverbal cues and their expressions. More importantly, what I realized going through that experience was that the people I was meeting with and listening to felt incredibly respected because even when they sat down with another Portuguese speaker, that other person was often jumping in and offering their own commentary.

They weren’t really listening like I was.

I was able to develop really strong relationships with customers and with my team members in Brazil simply because I adopted this practice of listening.

So, when I got to China I wanted to test this hypothesis:

Perhaps the act of listening could be the key to institute a culture of loyalty.

Can anyone become a better listener?

Absolutely. There are several things that lead to better listening. To me, it really begins with the concept of passive hearing and active listening.

When you hear something—whether it’s street sounds, the phone ringing, or the TV in the background—it’s a completely passive experience.

On the other hand, listening is active by nature.

When you’re listening to someone, not just hearing them but actively listening to them, that means that your attention and your focus is completely centered around what they’re saying and doing.

Listening means you’ve put your phone away and you aren’t looking at your computer screen.

But the other deeper side is really about wanting to listen with a sense of curiosity and having a desire to understand someone. Being curious about what someone is saying is at the core of active listening.

How does listening impact the employee–manager relationship?

Let me give you a really practical example of listening versus hearing as manager. A scenario many of us are familiar with.

Many years ago I hosted a meeting where one of the key members of the team was absent. We were about halfway through when this team member eventually shows up. As the manager, I jumped in and said, “Oh, I’m really disappointed that you’re late. Please be on time next time.”

Later on, I reflected on how I handled that situation. I had a long talk with that employee and I learned that there was probably a better way to handle that situation and one that was centered around curiosity and listening.

Now, when someone is late for a meeting, I say, “Welcome. Glad you could join us.” Then I talk to them discretely after the meeting is over.

I might sit down and say, “Hey, I observed that you came in 15 minutes late for the meeting today. It was kind of disruptive because you’re a really important part of the team and you weren’t able to hear the updates from some of your colleagues who shared earlier in the meeting.”

Then I ask the question, “Can you help me understand?” and I pause. It’s a bit of a scary moment because you’re not quite sure how the person is going to react. But I listen to whatever they have to say.

I never know what I’m going to get back, but often times there’s a reason or a perspective that I might not have considered if I had jumped in to chastise them or to embarrass them for being late in front of their colleagues.

By listening to them, I create an opportunity not only to coach and help them learn but also a chance to build a relationship and build a sense of trust with them. In the end, the employee feels incredibly respected that I’m sitting there and trying to listen.

Finally, we usually close on a resolution. I can then say, “Okay. Well, I totally understand, but for the next meeting, if you think you’re going to be late, maybe you could email the team in advance and let them know? Or maybe we could move the time of the meeting to something that’s more convenient so that you wouldn’t have to be challenged by it each week?”

We move to a mutual resolution that’s based on what I’ve heard.

I firmly believe that the building of any relationship begins with respect because when someone feels respected you can start to build trust.

Conversations like the one I outlined above help not only the employee to feel respected, but they also help managers to understand the needs of their employees better.

Can you give us an example of a company that’s doing a good job of listening to both their employees and their customers?

There’s one that immediately comes to mind in the U.S. and that’s Warby Parker.

Warby, as some of you might know, is a young startup eyewear company. They’re based in New York, and over the past decade they’ve developed a reputation for challenging the status quo and taking an innovative approach to how they do business, both with their customers and with their employees.

They have a culture inside the company that makes it okay for their employees to be quirky. The result is that Warby Parker is a fun company to do business with.

Staff members share a laugh at a meeting.

For example, in weekly staff meetings, new employees are asked to stand up and to share a fun fact or funny story about themselves. It’s a really vulnerable moment, deliberately so, because the company wants to foster the perception that being a bit odd and a bit quirky is acceptable and encouraged.

The expression of vulnerability is really an incredible way to build trust amongst a team, and it’s something that Warby Parker encourages in their workforce.

But of course it’s not just about expressing vulnerability, it’s also about employees listening to each other and listening to customers.

For example, I recently heard this story from a Warby Parker employee in the U.S. One of their call center representatives was talking to a customer who was using a lot of references to Game of Thrones, the television show. It was very clear from the conversation that the caller was a very big fan of the show.

So, this telesales rep got up and went to one of his colleagues and asked, “Hey, aren’t you a big Game of Thrones fan? I have a customer I think you should talk to.”

That second rep then got on the phone had a conversation with the customer about this common interest.

Talk about exceeding expectations. That customer had an incredible experience because they felt it was fun, they felt it was quirky, and they felt like Warby Parker understood them.

None of that would have happened if that first rep hadn’t listened to the customer and his colleagues.

What is the #1 takeaway from your new book?

I really want people to remember that loyalty is an incredibly powerful way to build a sustainable business.

And you build loyalty by cultivating a culture of listening within a company.

When employees feel listened to and when employees listen to each other, that’s when your organization has a culture that attracts loyal customers.

Loyal employees attract loyal customers.

People, at the end of the day, have that in common. Whether you’re an employee or whether your customer, you feel respected when you’re listened to.

And customers or employees who feel respected are often the ones that are going to come back.

If they’re loyal then you have a business that’s sustainable because you have this resource of customers and employees that are going to give you feedback on how to stay relevant and innovate in times of rapid change.

Tell us about a transformation at Microsoft that you’re proud of. 

In China, I’ve had the chance to develop a lot of the local corporate culture in the last few years, essentially shaping the way we do business here. The result of that work has been elevating Microsoft’s position in China, not only for employees but also in terms of business results. For example, our employee attrition rates have dropped while employee satisfaction scores have risen dramatically.

We’ve created one of the top performing businesses that Microsoft has globally in just the last few years by implementing some of the practices I talk about in my book.

I still remember living in Hong Kong for a while before moving to China. I was leading a large team and it was a huge learning opportunity for me in terms of learning to work within an Asian culture.

Traffic waits to go through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong.

We often think of Hong Kong as a kind of an east-meets-west place, and in many ways it is, but our employees and our customers there were local customers. They were certainly Chinese in their approach to doing business.

When I first arrived my team members all thought, “Oh, I have this foreign manager who maybe is not going to understand me.” They were often very surprised at first when all I really wanted to do was sit and listen to them.

As they felt more comfortable sharing thoughts with me without being judged, they felt more willing to share ideas and to open up. Perhaps they had always had some great ideas or innovations and people just weren’t asking them about them or really sitting down and listening to them. So in many ways, it was also a bit of a learning experience for my team as well.

But very quickly the office dynamic changed. Our staff meetings became really exciting, whether they were my leadership team meetings or our all-hand meetings, because people were constantly offering innovations and ideas.

There’s also big debate in the Chinese language centered around the word for “question.” The word for “question” is sort of the same word as “problem.”

Well, I would often wonder why my team members weren’t asking as many questions as perhaps my other teams in Brazil or North America did, and often it was because of the language.

By asking a question, you’re kind of raising a problem, so people don’t do it culturally. So, I was trying to develop a culture where it was okay, even if you didn’t do it in public, to ask, “Hey, is this the best way to do something? Are there other ways we could do this?”

The impact was profound within the company. For one, our employees came to meetings with way more energy and excitement because they felt like they were really contributing to the growth of the business and surprisingly, it also helped us attract more employees because people really wanted to work for us.

People wanted to work on our teams because they saw what kind of culture we were building.

Finally, our customers started to feel a change with how we were doing business as well. Working with Microsoft was starting to be different because we were an organization that wanted to listen to them and listen to their ideas and not just tell them how we did things or enforce policies or rules.

Businesses that may have at one time seen us as a necessary evil now saw that we’re there to form partnerships with them to help them grow. And none of that transformation in Hong Kong could have happened if we hadn’t started listening to our employees and our customers.

How can you challenge our audience to be better listeners the next time they step into the office?

Just sit and try to listen. It sounds easy but it’s actually very difficult. Put down your phone. It’s going to take practice. Even when you’re with your kids or family members, put your phone down. Maybe close your computer if you’re working on your laptop. Then truly sit there and listen and engage in what the other person is saying.

Regardless of what they’re saying, they will immediately feel a much higher level of engagement on your part, even before you start to ask questions or express any kind of curiosity.

Just being there to listen is an incredible starting point to build or to rebuild a relationship of any kind in your life.

 

Get LOYAL on Amazon.

And find out more at AaronPainter.com. 

Want to learn more about cultivating a happy workforce?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

Bob Bethel is a living legend. Over the span of 52 years, Bob has brought 77 businesses back from the brink of bankruptcy using the principles he outlines in his new book, Strengthen Your Business.

If you are a business owner, then this episode is definitely for you. Bob Bethel offers his battle-tested solutions for how you can avoid running your company into the ground, and how to keep your creditors happy.

Listen in as Bob Bethel uncovers: 

  • Why your greatest business strength may also be your biggest weakness
  • How using last month’s financials to chart your course could spell disaster
  • What it takes take a business from near-bankruptcy to soaring profits in any industry

Get Strengthen Your Business on Amazon.

Learn more at RobertThomasBethel.com. 

What’s the #1 takeaway from Strengthen Your Business?

If you’re an engineer, you may come up with a great idea for a product or a service, that’s going to be your strength, but as is often the case, a person’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness because they are not familiar with all of the other pieces and parts that are needed to run a business, things like sales, marketing, and accounting.

Then day one, suddenly that great engineer can’t be an engineer all the time because he’s going to have to be involved in other parts of the business, in accounting, banking, and finance.

It’s something that I’ve seen now for 52 years of doing this. That one strength, that one uniqueness that drives a person to start their business, can very well become their downfall.

That’s the key idea in my book and I think it applies equally to all businesses.

How can we ensure our businesses succeed?

Typically if someone excels in one area, say marketing, they’re going to avoid having to deal with accounting and finance at all costs. They’re not going to like these other aspects of running a business because they’re not familiar with them, they have no previous experience with them.

But the reality is that you must be familiar with all of the pieces and parts of your company.

Here’s a quick example:

Let’s say you go out and cut a deal with some huge company to handle their marketing. You’re going to have to hire people, you’re going to require services that are external to your company’s core service, and you’re going to have to pay those people, well where’s that money coming from?

If you haven’t negotiated partial payments or payments every 15 days with your client, you’re going to come up short. Suddenly you’re going to be in front of your banker saying “Gosh, we’re doing all this work for this huge company and I don’t have the money to fund it.”

Everything comes to a stop.

My point is that in order to be profitable and in order to stay in business, no matter what industry you’re in, you must become a general manager.

A manager sits at his desk.

I don’t mean that you have to manage every aspect of your business yourself, but you must be familiar with all the aspects of your business and have an understanding of all of the processes that are going on in each department.

I go so far as to have key people in each department explain their systems to me so I can measure them.

Because if I can’t measure it, I don’t know if we’re being effective.

Where do most businesses run into trouble?

For all of the businesses that I’ve taken over and saved from potential bankruptcy, I always start by askingthe owner, “Do your employees know the condition of the company?” Every single time, I’ve been told, “Oh God no, If they knew, they would quit.”

Employers hide information, and not just in failing businesses but in most small and medium sized companies too. The employees simply don’t know what’s going on.

So the first thing I do when I take a company over is I call a meeting with every employee in the company and I tell them everything that I know, the good, the bad, the ugly.

I’ve never had any employee quit.

Most of the time, what I’m told by the employees is that first, they really appreciate me telling them where the company is, and second, that they already knew that the company was in trouble. And that’s a scary position to be in. Fear without knowledge is a horrible thing for anyone.

People aren’t stupid, so if you think you can hide information from your employees, they’re going to find out regardless.

The next thing I do is say, “We’re going to come together and we’re going to create a plan” and you immediately see a rolling of the eyes and everyone thinks Harvard Business plan.

I then explain to them, “No, this is like a football game plan, we’re going to lay out who is going to do what, to whom, when, and for how long, for the next 90 days. Then we’re going to break that into 30-day day increments, and then we’re going to break it into weekly increments so that we can measure where we are.”

Not once have I gone into a failing business that had a plan that was created by employees and managers together.

But here’s the thing, the employee is the best person to ask what is needed in their individual department or their particular job. I keep the hurdles out of the way so they can focus on what they do best and I teach them how we’re going to measure their impact.

In essence, businesses run into problems when they don’t have a plan that’s shared by every single person in the organization.

What types of businesses have you helped in the past?

I’ve taken over automobile dealerships, truck dealerships, electronic manufacturers, research and development companies, a chain of restaurants, manufacturing firms that have manufactured plastic products, welding robots, oil and gas transmission equipment, marine pipeline equipment, the list goes on.

There have been a number of companies that have been in excess of $300 million a year in sales.

It doesn’t really matter what the business model is or what industry it is because the company team knows the business.

All I need to do is measure the processes and put together a plan that we can measure and monitor on a daily basis. I call it headlight accounting and I teach that.

Can you tell us more about headlight accounting?

A calculator sits on top of financial statements. Most companies operate on a monthly profit and loss basis, meaning that they plan business activities around how well the business performed the previous month. The problem with that is that it can take a week or more before you have your end-of-month financials in order.

What if someone in your company started making a huge mistake on January 1st and you only came to realize that 40 days later on February the 10th

I refer to that as tail light accounting.

If it’s important to your business, you shouldn’t be looking into the past to get an idea of where you need to go.

That’s what my plan addresses using headlight accounting. It tells us where we are today so that we can see where we’re going. It’s as simple as that.

The most important thing I can stress about the turnarounds I’ve been involved with is that I have never brought in new people and I have never brought in new money. Everything that was needed to fix these companies was already in place.

How can the principles in Strengthen Your Business help healthy businesses? 

Just because your business is healthy now doesn’t mean that it’s immune to failure. Many of the business I’ve been involved with were really successful companies before hitting a rough patch. Strengthen Your Business, as the name suggests, is about implementing the strategies and procedures I use to save companies at the edge of bankruptcy as a form of failure insurance.

This book isn’t for failing businesses, it’s for those that are perfectly healthy.

But it’s also for anyone just thinking about starting a business.

It’s my hope that someone about to start their own company reads this book and thinks, “My god, I didn’t realize there were all these pieces and parts to running a successful business. Maybe I’ve got to wait and learn.”

Here’s an example to really illustrate why the principles in my book are so important:

Two ladies had worked at a bakery for 20 years and they told me they had always wanted to have their own bakery. I said to them, “If I can be of any help, please let me know, I’d be glad to help you with your business plan.” They thanked me and that was the end of that.

They then went to the bank, took out their personal savings and a loan, opened up their bakery, and found themselves broke in less than 12 months. Why?

Because the only thing they knew how to do was bake.

People need to understand the components of running a business before they jump in.

How do you get into the business of helping to fix failing companies?

I grew up in the automobile industry in Nashville where my father ran a dealership, so by the time I started my own automobile business at the age of 21 I thought I knew it all. I was gung ho and aggressive and the business just did super. I also had farms and raised cattle with my father which had done well, so I was making really good money.

One day when I came into the bank to pay off a loan the banker said, “You know, I’d like to work with you on some of this, be your partner, I’ll provide the money.”

We split the business 50/50, but I could literally write a check for any amount and he’d cover it.

Well, this went on for a couple of years and my businesses were doing great, but then we had a recession. I was 23 years old and I quickly realized how ignorant and lacking in overall general management experience I was.

To make things worse, about the time this was happening, my partner fell over dead with a heart attack.

Here I had massive loans for real estate and not enough cash to cover the payments.

I crashed and burned.

At age 23, I went from having a very decent three-quarters of a million dollars to zero net worth.

This was in 1970, so that would probably be around three or four million dollars today.

I fell on my flat on my face, but a friend of my parents who was a very wealthy business man in middle Tennessee had recently retired, so he came to me and said, “I’m going to make you my partner and let you take over all of my businesses and clean them up because I think you learned a very valuable lesson.”

So, for the next three years I lived on a shoestring budget while turning around this family friend’s businesses and when I was done, and after I had repaid all of my debts from my previous failed company, I started getting calls from banks, “Would you like to take a look at this business?”

They called me because if a business borrowed three million dollars and was close to filing for bankruptcy the bank realized that they were only going to get a million dollars if they moved against the collateral. They were going to have to write off two million dollars.

Well, I offered them a better option in that I would try to turn the business around and pay back all of the debt in the process.

How did you find the resilience to keep going after losing $750,000?

I was raised by depression-era parents that were very optimistic, very aggressive, and my mother used to tell the story about a man and his son walking down a dirt road on their way to church and the little boy slips and falls into a mud puddle and his dad looked down at him and said, “Now what are you going to do?” The little boy said, “First thing I’m going to do is get up.”

I think that has always stuck with me.

You know, I never have had time to be a pessimist. Anybody can be a pessimist, it takes guts to be an optimist.

But I also have more practical strategies. Even in today’s world of wonderful computers and all of the tools that they provide, on my desk for 52 years has been a day planner, and each afternoon before I leave the office I write down what I am going to do tomorrow so that I can measure my progress.

I was very, very fortunate early on to realize that I wasn’t as smart as Barron Woods going through school, getting my MBA. But I also realized that I have a lot of endurance, and if I used that endurance to plan, I could pass a lot of the people who I knew to be a lot smarter than me.

So you’ve got to have a plan, you’ve got to know your limitations, and you’ve got to have optimism.

What business are you most proud of saving?

I took over an international engineering company working in deep water pipelines worldwide as well as being a primary subcontractor for Weston House Nuclear Corporation. In addition to that, this company was on the brink of an invention for robotic welding technology, but the company owed a group of banks several million dollars.

These bankers came to me and told me they would give me 30 days to go in and see if I thought that I could turn it around. When I first looked at it, I thought there was just no way on earth this would work.

I started looking at the contracts that they were working on and it turned out the previous owner had lied to everyone, the employees, customers, suppliers and vendors. It was a mess.

But I thought I would at least try. So the very first day after having looked at the contracts, I told the employees that they were going to have to create a 90-day plan in the next 24 hours for how they would run a profitable company.

I then called three major customers, one in Italy, one in France, and one in Saudi Arabia and I told them I was coming to see each of them.

I flew to Italy first and sat down with the managing director and showed him my plan, showed him a list of bankers that I had worked with on turnarounds in the past, and told him I needed him to advance us a million dollars on his contract. He sat there and stared at me for a few minutes and replied, “I hope to God you can pull this off.”

Five minutes later, I had the money.

I went to France and Saudi Arabia and did the same thing.

Next, I went to the companies we owed money to and told them that all incoming cash would be used for operations while any amount above that would go directly to our payables accounts. So if we pulled in $100,000 and your company was 10% of our payables, then we’d write you a check for $10,000.

Now that’s a hell of a lot better than they would have gotten in bankruptcy court and all of them agreed.

The point of this story, and the reason that I’m most proud of having turned around this company, is that if you’re going to run a successful business you have got to get rid of the ego.

I don’t have any problem at all going to suppliers and vendors and saying, “Look I know that our terms are net 30 days but for the next few months, could you give us net 60 days to help us improve our cash flow?”

You have to be comfortable asking for help and you have to rely on your team.

I take maybe 5% of the credit for my success. The other 95% is the team.

What parting advice would Bob Bethel give to aspiring authors?

Anyone writing a non-fiction book should address their own experiences more than anything else. You won’t find any ratios or concepts or theories in this book, it’s all practical application of my own life experiences.

You are the only one who can write about your own life events as you experienced them. So stick to what you know and what you’re knowledgeable about.

Get Strengthen Your Business on Amazon.

Learn more at RobertThomasBethel.com. 

Want to learn more about building a failure-proof business?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

Are drones just a hobby, or could they be an investment in your future?

Paul Aitken, author of Livin’ the Drone Lifebelieves anyone can make a living flying drones, and he has thousands of students-turned-drone-professionals to back up his claims.

So, how exactly can you make money flying from the safety of the ground? By Paul’s count, there are over 1,000 different applications for commercial drones today, and that number increases every year.

By the end of this episode, you’ll have the insider’s playbook to flying drones for fun and for profit.

Listen in to Paul Aitken to learn: 

  • The equipment you need (and don’t need) to start your drone business today
  • What laws you need to know about as a commercial drone pilot in the USA
  • Why real estate is the fastest way to financial freedom for aspiring drone pilots

Get Livin’ the Drone Life on Amazon.

Find out more at TheDroneU.com. 

How did Paul Aitken become interested in drones?

The reason I got into drones was actually quite simple.

I had been seeing a lot of areal pictures crop up and I was looking for a way to showcase the physical location of the company I worked for back in 2012.

I worked for a security firm in Albuquerque and they were really focused on showing the proximity of their location to the city center because one of the biggest problems in Albuquerque is crime.

The police force here has an abominable response time, it’s something like 17 minutes, so the security firm I worked for wanted a visual way to show how fast they could respond to calls. And that’s where aerial photography came in.

A drone pilot readies his drone for flight.

I talked to the owner of the company who later became a partner in Drone U, and he offered to send me to drone school to learn everything I would need to to take the photos for him. In return, I’d get him his aerial imagery for free.

So, I ended up at a full-blown university in Arizona studying unmanned aerial systems engineering (UAS) from an old Predator drone pilot. I didn’t realize it then, but it was the furthest thing from what I would actually be doing as a drone pilot taking aerial images.

Anyway, the first day of school I’m outside and I’m thinking, “We just sat in class for eight hours, I want to fly, this is what this is all about.” So I pull out my drone and attempt one of the challenges where we have to find a person on the top of the school building.

Well, I found him in 30 seconds and the owner of the school comes over and says, “You have a natural talent at flying, I want you to train for me.”

I trained for him for a year and a half and then flew for the National Association of Broadcasters where I taught people from CNN, Fox News, BBC, and ITN.

Finally, I went back to Albuquerque and shot photos for the security firm guy. After he saw me flying he said, “Paul, you don’t fly like any other person I’ve ever seen, I’ve seen a lot of people fly drones and they fly in linear movements, they fly in straight lines. Every time I see you fly, you’re in some organic natural motion. The drone never actually sits in one place, you’re always telling a story.”

That’s when I realized that while there are a lot of good drone schools out there, all of them are very focused on the technical information but they’ve got no one to show other people how to fly.

So I continued to teach people how to fly for five years and with all of that experience I decided to write a practical training manual for anyone who wants to get into flying.

I love to fly. I want to teach other people how to fly so that they can enjoy flight more, they can lower their learning curve.

When did you decide it was time to write a book?

I always thought that books brought credibility but in all honesty, it was my business partner who brought it up when he said, “You know, I think a book is going to give you and this company what we need.”

I already had tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and Facebook but we really needed older people to look at this in a more traditional way to bring about more credibility and authority to my current business, Drone U.

I never thought I would write book but then when I started doing more and more research about the behavioral psychology and behavioral economics behind the whole thing, I was like, “Wow, this is a really good idea” Then I listened to Tucker Max on the Mike Dillard podcast and I learnt about Book in a Box, the company that helped me write and publish my book, and the rest is history.

Why should anyone read your book, Livin’ the Drone Life?

Well, if you love to fly, if you’ve ever taken a passion to the skies, or if you just love the feeling of being up in the air, even if it’s just a passenger jet and you want to experience more of that. Maybe you want to dive deep into the emotional powerhouse of unabridged curiosity and unabridged exploration and adventure, via flight. Then I can show you how to do that in a way that doesn’t endanger your life.

My book not only teaches you how to fly, but how to fly while limiting liability, limiting risk, and going from employee to an employer by turning your passion for flight into profit.

If you love to fly or if you’ve ever even thought about flying and you want to take to the skies, make sure you don’t take to the skies and crash, take to the skies and take flight.

What legal issues do aspiring drone pilots need to know about?

Up until 2016, there really wasn’t any law that covered drones specifically. In 2007 the FAA created a legal definition for a drone, but it was based on the 128-foot wingspan killing machines the military uses, not a 350-millimeter sized quadcopter.

So people flying drones commercially were in a bit of a legal grey area. The FAA would occasionally go after someone flying commercially because they didn’t have a license. Well, that was struck down by the NTSB who said, currently, the FAA doesn’t have any authority.

That all changed in 2016 when the FAA came out with Part 107 and a whole new definition of drones, which effectively lays out all the can and can’t dos for drone pilots.

For instance, you can fly in any airspace commercially except for controlled airspace, which you need to get authorization for. You can fly up to 400 feet, you can’t fly over 100 mph, and you can absolutely never fly directly over people.

If you’re using a drone to advance your business, you’re a commercial drone operator and if you don’t have a license, you can be fined $1,100 every single time you put a battery in that drone.

Actually, right now is a very interesting time for the drone community.

There’s a guy named Casey Neistat on YouTube and he has a huge following from the daily vlogs he puts out. Over the last while he’s slowly got into drones. But the guy flies in restricted airspace and breaks just about every rule you could ever think of. He’s flying over people, flying in New York City, the most restricted and controlled airspace in the world, and he’s doing it like it’s no big deal.

Well, recently he announced on his YouTube channel that he’s being investigated by the FAA. So everyone in the drone community was like, “Finally, this guy is going to get slapped on the wrist.”

We didn’t really want to see him wind up in serious trouble, we just want to say, “Look, this isn’t okay. What about all these 30,000 drone pilots that have done the right thing, followed the rules, and got the licensed to fly?” Effectively, we don’t want him to give all drone pilots a bad reputation because it’s hard enough as it is to get airspace authorizations from regulators as a drone pilot.

You know, people all over the country are trying to do this legitimately and Casey Neistat’s out there doing it because he feels like it.

Anyway, the FAA finally came back and said it wasn’t conclusive that he was flying in restricted airspace.

Hundreds of millions of people would disagree, but he’s got seven million followers or something on YouTube, so now I tell commercial drone pilots that unless they hit someone, they’re not going to get in trouble for flying over anyone. Of course, you’ll still have to get your Part 107 drone certification and follow the rules listed under Part 107.

Just use common sense. Don’t do anything that would get the attention of local media for the wrong reasons.

I’m probably not helping book sales, but I want people to know that I’m about honesty and integrity. I love to fly and whatever happens with upcoming Senate bills and Congressional bills, if I can help educate more people on how to fly safely, ultimately, we’re going to skies for everyone.

What are some unusual uses for drones?

There are endless jobs that you can do with a drone. In fact, every single day it seems there are new uses for drones. When I first started Drone U, we isolated 300 separate businesses that would use drones to solve problems. Right now, we’ve counted well over a thousand.

Let me give you a couple of really weird examples that most people wouldn’t think of.

First, let’s say I want to find a specific object but I have no idea where it is. I’m looking for a needle in a haystack. Well, what if I knew what the needle was made of? Let’s say it’s tin. I can then go to a chart and look up the absorbance and reflectivity of light for tin.

Then, I can set my hyperspectral camera to look for nothing but that set of reflectivity and absorbency values. Essentially, I’m looking at a black screen and the only object that comes up as while is going to be that needle because it’s tin. Effectively, the haystack doesn’t even exist anymore.

So that’s one really powerful use for drones, finding objects that people would otherwise assume are lost.

Next, people value convenience more and more, and the drone is the perfect delivery vehicle for any number of products.

Imagine sitting on a beach on vacation and thinking, “Man this trip would be just perfect if I had a Coca-Cola right now,” then all of a sudden you see a hexacopter fly overhead and drop a Coca-Cola next to you. It will happen.

Amazon is really pushing to be able to utilize the skies for delivery and fulfillment, but the way that the law is written right now, no drone pilot and no drone can carry anything for hire.

The Trump Administration has said that they are pro-drones, but actions speak louder than words. So we’ll have to wait and see what actually happens.

How can anyone start a business with a drone?

If you have $2,000 in your pocket then you can start a drone business. There are a couple of things you can do right away.

Number one, you could fly real estate all day long. That’s one thing that I’ve done and it can be done cheaply.

An aerial image of sea-side houses.

Once you have a specific skill or niche you’ll need to figure out who your target client is because there are four types of clients: low maintenance low-profit, high-maintenance high-profit, high-maintenance low-profit, and low-maintenance high-profit.

Obviously, you want to go for the last category of client because these are the people that pay you a premium because they see the value in what you do.

So you can go from entry-level real estate to luxury real estate quite quickly. You can fly golf courses really quickly. You can do live streaming at events. There are a lot of different niches in the drone industry.

What I found in my experience is that the best way to raise your rates without getting pushback from clients is to offer packages.

So going back to the real estate example, not only are you taking aerial photos and video of the house and property but you’re also doing the interior and exterior photos. Then you can fly right into the house to give people a nice stabilized look into the house. It’s essentially a virtual tour.

If you’re taking shots of golf courses, maybe you can also offer marketing services to complement that footage. You just have to be creative.

What are some other things that people can do with drones?

With drones we can also map things, so instead of using surveyors to map areas, we can use drones to take thousands of pictures and stitch them together to create three-dimensional models that we can measure distances off of.

Right now I’m competing for a bid with MLB to map stadiums so that they can measure points and distances inside of the stadium. This will allow them to measure the margin of error associated with the radar guns they use to measure the speed of the ball.

Once you scratch the surface you start to see that you can really deep dive here with the number of things you can do with a drone.

I could literally give you thousands of uses for drones.

For example, electronics heat up before they fail. So if I fly a thermal camera around a wind farm, I can figure out which windmill or which turbine has a higher propensity to fail over the other ones based on its heat signature.

Let’s take it even further. Let’s say I want to buy a house, but first I want to know if the house is sturdy and structurally sound as the realtor says it is. Well, I can fly a drone with a thermal camera around the house at a certain time of day with a certain temperature deviation and I can actually see cracks in the foundation, mold in the corners, water leaks, roof leaks, and significant structural damage all from the sky.

Like I said every single day there is a new use for drones.

Here’s one more that will really blow your mind. Cancer is a big problem in this country.

Well, there is now a new camera that was developed in Albuquerque which can actually see through your skin and tell you if you have growing cancer cells. So we’re talking about life-altering technology here.

Imagine that instead of walking into the hospital through those two sets of double doors, you walk through an arch and in that arch there are multiple mid-infrared cameras and that can immediately notify the nurse if you have cancer or not, if you’re on drugs or not, and what your heart rate is. The future is now.

The uses, the problems that can be solved by drones, are endless. It’s all up to the creativity of the operator.

Can you tell us about some of the ways your book has impacted your readers?

I’ve gotten a couple of emails that have brought me to tears because they were from people who were literary on their last limb in life and working a job they hated until they slowly got into drones. Most of them have gone the real estate route and really found a job that they love doing every day. But there’s this one reader who really stands out to me.

His name is Chris Gannon and he lives in Tennessee and he was one of the first Drone U members. Anyway, he read the book, went through everything, and then called me one day to say, “You know Paul, I’m really trying to figure out when to quit my job and start full-time with my drone business.”

His business was growing fast, but he didn’t know what to do. He was a bit overwhelmed with all the work he was taking on. He was editing photos, editing videos, planning shoots, and he just wasn’t sure when he should go full-time and start delegating some of that stuff. So I told him, “There is no right time. It doesn’t exist.”

And that’s the truth. There is no right time to launch your business.

You could have 18 months of revenue built up before you start your business and you could still have a catastrophic event and lose everything.

You really have to play every card right. And that’s what Chris did, so now he has a successful drone business.

What equipment do I need to start my own drone business?

For someone just starting out, I only recommend one drone: the Syma X5C. It’s the cheapest of cheap drones and a total piece of garbage, but you know what? For your first drone, that’s what you need.

Why?

Because you can crash into a wall a hundred times and it’s not going to break. You crash a DJI Phantom, Spark, Mavic, or Inspire one time you’re going to lose the whole thing and you’re going to be out thousands of dollars.

The Syma X5C is $50 bucks and it has no hover control, it has no altitude control and it has no gyroscopes. It really tests you in your flying ability. You have to learn the intricacies of pitch, roll, and yaw.

Once you do that, you move up into a DJI Phantom. Fifty bucks for your first drone, a thousand for your second drone.

A DJI Phantom in flight.

But that first drone is going to teach you how to be a much better pilot than most people out there because most people learn to fly with all these extra internal systems that help them control the drone.

This little tiny X5C is not going to do that, it’s going to force you to learn the hard way, and in the drone world, that’s the only way anyone should learn.

Remember, so many things can go wrong and if you’re a commercial drone pilot and you lose control of your drone over a crowd of people, your business is over forever.

So buy a cheap drone, play around with it, and learn how to fly. Take on a few real-estate jobs for free and see if you can work with realtors, but keep your day job.

If you still wake up looking forward to flying every day, then keep going. Remember, it’s right at the point where you feel like giving up, right when you want to quit. It’s when you’ve been running your business for years and you still haven’t been able to quit your day job. That’s the point that will determine whether your business is successful or not.

Because most people quit and if you can stay the course, if you can stay steadfast and believe in yourself, then your business will succeed. I guarantee it.

Get Livin’ the Drone Life on Amazon.

Find out more at TheDroneU.com.

Still looking for alternative career paths? 

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

What happens when your company’s reputation is severely damaged? Who do you call when your business is making negative headlines and the public no longer trusts you? The answer is Bill Coletti.

Bill is a crisis communications and reputation management expert and now, the author of Critical Momentsa corporate guide to 21st-century crisis management.

With more than 25 years of experience working in high stakes crisis and media relations challenges, Bill has provided senior counsel in reputation management to Fortune 500 clients like AT&T, Target, American Express, American Airlines, Home Depot, Xerox and many others.

Listen in to Bill Coletti to learn: 

  • Why preparing for a public relations nightmare starts long before the crisis even begins
  • How to use technology to gain more social awareness
  • What seperates reputation building from branding

Get Critical Moments on Amazon.

Learn more at Kith.co. 

What made you want to write a book on crisis management?

It started on a flight from New York to Dallas. We were with a client in the debrief phase of our engagement, working with them post-crisis. We had this conversation around the question, “What can do we do to make sure that that never happens to us again?”

I began the conversation by talking about reputation management.

In essence, companies need to begin to think about reputation management long before a crisis hits.

But I was using vocabulary and talking about concepts that just didn’t seem to make sense to this particular CEO. He just didn’t get it.

We had both been through this really challenging crisis and had spent the last couple of weeks working closely together, but there was still this disconnect with my vocabulary, particularly around reputation management, and his background in marketing.

As I talked about reputation and public perception, he was thinking about marketing, branding, and customers.

So, flying home that evening, I thought, “When people coming from a marketing background listen to me talking about reputation, what do they hear?”

That sent me on this journey to better understand the four Ps of marketing: Price, Product, Place, and Promotion.

Despite being coined in the 1960s, it’s still a durable concept all these years later, and so that’s where I decided to base my model of reputation management off of because it’s something that a lot of business executives are familiar with, particularly marketers.

And that’s how I came up with the four A’s of reputation management.

It’s often been said that reputation, or goodwill, is one of the most important corporate assets. Yet it can be one of the most difficult things to manage.

Well, people used to say the exact same thing about marketing, and now marketing is almost a science thanks, in part, to the four Ps.

What I’m trying to do for reputation management with the four As is exactly what the four Ps did to marketing because, despite its critical importance, it’s not a high enough priority for many organizations.

How does reputation management differ from branding?

Your company has a reputation that is very closely related but different than its brand.

The brand is all about the customer experience, the user experience. Branding is about your customers and their affinity for your product or service and their affinity for how that product or that service makes them feel. In essence, it’s, “What does this product for service mean to me as a consumer?”

For example, I feel very strongly about the Apple brand and what Apple products mean to me but there is another side of that coin which is this notion of reputation.

The Apple logo is clearly visible on a Mac Book

A company owns its brand and can manage that brand, that’s what marketers do. But a company doesn’t own its reputation. It’s up to consumers to determine a company’s reputation.

For example, we all remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Well, BP’s marketers worked really hard to talk about “Beyond Petroleum” and to try to brand BP in such a way that you, as a consumer, would choose to buy your gas at BP and not Shell or Texaco. Then the oil spill occurred, and while the brand didn’t change, the company’s reputation did.

That’s the difference between branding and reputation management.

Unfortunately, most companies don’t start taking reputation management seriously until a disaster of that scale happens, and then it’s almost too late, serious damage has been done.

What are the four As of reputation management?

The four As that I talk about are Awareness, Assessment, Authority, and Action.

Awareness is the first step to reputation management. Being aware of your marketplace, aware of your competitors, and aware of the kind of the issues that could impact your business.

The second A is Assessment. Assessment occurs both internally and externally. Assessment is different than Awareness in that you’re asking questions in a research context. These questions should allow you to fundamentally understand where people stand, what they expect of you, and what your reputation is.

Third in the series is Authority. Authority is all about bringing experience on board based on what you, as an organization, learned from the Awareness and Assessment stages of reputation management. It’s experience at the highest level being brought in to help you meet your reputation goals.

Finally, Action is where you begin to deploy reputational programs which typically involve public relations and other disciplines of communications.

But here’s the really important part, you can’t start acting until you’ve already done the other three As. It just doesn’t work. You need to have Awareness, you need to have completed a thorough Assessment, and you need to have the Authority to act, otherwise you’re actions won’t be guided by a fundamental understanding of your organization’s position.

How can an organization begin to get a better awareness of their reputation?

At a minimum, Awareness is about situational intelligence. It’s about having really good social listening tools that not only focus on customer experience but also slightly more intangible topics that relate to your company or your industry.

There’s one tool that performs quite well at this called Dunami. It’s a great social listening tool primarily driven off of Twitter. Other tools like TrendKite and Meltwater are really built more for brands and branding.

Social media icons on an iPhone screen.

Unfortunately, right now, there are very few tools out there that are primarily built around this notion of reputation management.

Who should be practicing reputation management?

Primarily large enterprises. The whole concept of reputational management and the four As are really built for sophisticated companies, and those are generally going to be large organizations.

Now, you could make an argument that a regional bank in central Texas is pretty sensitive and needs to be proactive about their reputation. But I put them in a different category than I do a regional lumber yard or another type of small business. But primarily what I talk about in my book are enterprise level organizations.

What would Bill Coletti’s advice be to an enterprise that has a pretty good reputation already?

Certainly, all organizations interested in reputation management should be continually assessing and doing research, both internally and externally.

There are seven key aspects of reputational management that I talk about in the book. They are transparency, responsible citizenship, leadership, privilege, employee endorsement, products and services, financial strength, and innovation.

No companies are doing that well in each of those seven areas. There are always going to be areas for improvement and what my model allows companies to do is focus on one or more of those seven key aspects in a systematic way.

Can you give us some examples of companies that have strong reputations? 

Certainly Starbucks, Apple, Google, BMW, Mercedes and to a certain extent, Kellogg’s and Lego, are all great companies that are generally regarded as having strong reputations.

A company that I like to use as a benchmark is Starbucks. Starbucks is on the right track with their employee experience, their corporate transparency, their commitment to sustainability, and the fact that they offer innovative products.

Google, or Alphabet, is there as well with their mantra to do no harm.

So, those are a couple of examples of companies that I think are getting there. And although we’ve seen Apple ranked highly in terms of reputation, it’s lost a bit of its luster more recently.

How do you see the reputational challenges facing Uber playing out?

Uber has kind of a multi-front challenge.

The Uber app.

As many are aware, there was a blog post written by a female engineer at Uber detailing the horribly sexist culture that exists within the company. Then, we’ve all seen news articles on issues relating to how they treat their drivers. Third, their public affairs or regulatory approach has really incensed opinion leaders and elected officials in the way they seem to disrespect the lawmaking process in the countries that they operate in. Finally, there’s the leadership from the top.

Their DNA from the beginning has been very much go-go entrepreneur or, “Screw you and get out of the way or I am going to run you over.”

There are a lot of people in early stage startups who take that approach, you almost have to be that aggressive to make it as a startup, but that only works for so long. It’s a bit like the transition from angsty teenager to adult. When you become an adult you can’t really take that same approach and continue to grow as an individual.

So the problem with Uber is one of self-awareness. They just don’t have very good situational intelligence. They didn’t really know what was going on in the marketplace because they were so focused on deploying to new markets as fast as they could.

To correct course they’re going to have to first focus on Assessment and Authority, but it’s going to be very difficult for them to resist the urge to jump right to the Action stage of reputational management.

It’s easy and tempting to say, “We are going to hire a diversity officer. We are going to hire a female CEO. We are going to do a round table on this.” But that doesn’t actually fix the root of the problem of how you got into this situation in the first place.

So the journey for Uber is to fight the instinct to launch programs and instead seek to understand the problem better. Because the public can tell the difference between something a company does because they’ve thought long and hard about an issue, and something a company does on a more superficial level in an attempt to influence public opinion.

How long does it take to reverse a negative reputation?

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build your reputation and five seconds to lose it.” And that’s so true.

But it’s a really difficult question because there have been no studies on how much reputation building you have to do in order to build a reservoir of good will. That’s one of the great challenges with investing and reputation, is that you can measure that stuff in marketing. You know I think that a year of committed intentional repetitive over the long term, constructs is a really good way to go about doing this. I think people will have – the American public is incredibly forgiving.

That’s one of the great challenges with reputation management. Unlike in marketing, you can’t directly measure your reputation or how each of your actions impacts your reputation.

But companies in a bad state reputationally do have a couple things working in their favor. First, the American public is very forgiving, and second, we have short attention spans.

A year from now if Uber does some things that are truly meaningful and does some things that are smart, meaning they’ve done a thorough assessment, they’re aware, and they have the authority of the entire organization, they’ll be able to bounce back.

What can we do as individuals to strengthen their own personal reputations?

Well, it all starts with the four As. First, be self-aware. Self-awareness is a really important part of your personal reputation and excellence. If you’re not fully self-aware, and most people aren’t, you can ask friends, colleagues, clients, or even a coach, “Where do you think I stand? Could you give me some feedback on how you perceive me?” And then you want to give yourself the authority to say, “I’m okay with who I am. These are my blind spots” Because we all have them.

And then you want to give yourself the authority to say, “I’m okay with who I am. These are my blind spots” Because we all have them.

Admitting to yourself that you have areas in your life you need to improve on is not admitting to failure, it’s having the courage to take action to strengthen who you are, and that in turn will strengthen your reputation.

Get Critical Moments on Amazon.

Learn more at Kith.co. 

Want to learn more secrets of the world’s most successful corporations?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

How many entrepreneurs have experienced an embarrassing failure? All of them. How many talk about those failures? Basically, no one. Well, Jonathan Siegel is here to change that.

As the author of The San Francisco Fallacy, Jonathan shares his most devastating losses and the biggest mistakes he’s made over his long career as a serial entrepreneur. But he also outlines the 10 biggest fallacies that he uncovered through his many failures; fallacies that many in the startup community still believe in.

Jonathan believes that many startup founders set themselves up for failure, simply because of these mistaken beliefs.

So keep reading or tune in to learn about some of the most common fallacies that cause founders to fail and how you can avoid those traps.

Listen in to Jonathan Siegel to learn: 

  • How to recognize when you or your team may be falling prey to the “San Francisco fallacies”
  • Why following your passion doesn’t always lead to startup success
  • What to do when you’re feeling trapped between your own interests and those of your investors

Get The San Francisco Fallacy on Amazon.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter. 

If you had to pick the perfect meal or drink to go with your book, what would it be?

The perfect meal to go with my book is ramen. It’s inexpensive, it’s filling and it’s really tasty.

I actually found an incredible ramen shop in Las Vegas, it’s comparable to what I can get in Tokyo.

A bowl of ramen.

The making of a ramen starts the day before and it was originally a way to get rid of leftovers.

It’s a lot of leftover meat that is put into the soup, that’s what ramen is, it’s bone broth. And each ramen shop has their own recipe and take on it. Some are chicken based, some are pork based, some use more vegetables. There’s really an incredible variety to the soup.

Some shops even make their own noodles so you can imagine the number of different meals that you can get from just a bowl of ramen soup.

If you had to pick one song to capture the feeling behind your new book, The San Francisco Fallacy, what would it be?

I Want To Be Free by Queen.

When I was just starting out as an entrepreneur, I did things because they were a creative outlet for me.

I wanted to program. It was something I enjoyed, it was something I was good at and I actually got a huge amount of creative energy just from programming.

I never intended to create companies when I first started out, I really just enjoyed creating things.

A laptop with a code viewer open.

But here’s the thing, the industry that has grown up around people that start companies for the purpose of making returns for investors. So, you have these two competing interests: the investors’ interests and the founder’s interests.

And I got stuck in between those two interests.

I was pulled into the world of an investor without intending to, and it was really difficult to keep my perspective. Only after 20 years of being a technology professional do I finally have the perspective to see what I want to focus on and what I’m being pushed to focus on by the venture community that startups live in.

But now I feel free. I have a better understanding of myself and what drives me personally. So I Want To Be Free by Queen makes a pretty good soundtrack to The San Francisco Fallacy.

What prompted you to write about “the San Franciso fallacies?”

It was around the year 2000. I had my own startup but it didn’t fare well.

I ended up in a position where my investors were really upset with me, yet here I was, someone who had always done well in school and who was committed to doing a good job in whatever I happened to be doing.

So finding out that I didn’t do a good job in the one thing that I wanted to be good at depressed me.

I felt like I was alone, like I was the only entrepreneur that had ever failed.

What happened was that I had started developing a 2D video game right when the industry switched to 3D.

Myself and my other teammates were faced with a choice: continue as planned and release a 2D game that was bound to flop in a 3D market, or pivot and work like hell to release our game in a 3D version.

We chose the later and burnt-out one of our teammates pretty quickly.

Finally, we accepted that we weren’t going to give our investors a return, but our investors were incredibly surprised to hear it because we had done such a poor job of communicating with them as we worked and worked on our game.

When you don’t communicate, investors think things are going well.

Because we had failed to disclose to them the problems we were facing, our ability to meet their expectations decreased rapidly.

Part of the problem was that when you start a company, no one really gives you basic advice, like when you take money from people, you need to communicate with those people.

There’s no requirement when you take investor money that you must attend any training session or any education on how do you communicate with your investors or how often should you call them.

So we had no idea when we should have communicated when things were going badly.

In fact, a lot of startup founders are encouraged to walk around with rose colored glasses and to communicate that everything is fantastic even if things are not going so well because you’re never going to be able to raise more money if you don’t present your company in a positive light.

Even if you have no idea how you’re going to do it, your job as a startup founder is to create that optimistic perspective.

That investment fallacy plagued me.

Why was I the only person that had to go through this experience, to have unhappy investors and not be able to meet their expectations?

I carried that question with me a long time. It wasn’t until years and years later that I started to come in contact with other founders much more regularly, and I saw that I wasn’t alone in my experience.

It’s not like my startup was a rare case.

The percentage of startups that take VC money and then fail to meet their investors’ expectations, meaning they either liquidate or don’t go on to another round of financing, is 80%.

I certainly wasn’t an outlier or the unlikely outcome. I was actually the expected outcome.

Seeing that problem go unaddressed for years and years made me motivated to capture that and put it into the book where it could be digested and shared with my peers.

Because here’s the truth, getting investment isn’t going to increase your likelihood of success, taking investment actually decreases your likelihood of success.

That was the first fallacy and it opened the door to all the other fallacies that I carried with me and that the startup community shares.

Through thinking about that one experience, I was able to gain a different perspective on a number of ideas that the tech community takes for granted, and in my experience, they’re often very wrong.

If you could pick only one fallacy to warn startup founders about, what would it be?

The passion fallacy.

The passion fallacy is the idea that passion is the key ingredient to success as an entrepreneur. It’s the fallacy that without passion you won’t be able to turn your idea into a product and that product won’t become the basis for a thriving and successful company.

Passion to me is a wonderful thing.

Passion is a great driver and motivator, it can unleash creativity, but it can also be blinding and it often causes creators to avoid looking at the market and the realities of their industry early on.

What startup founders need to do is ask themselves, “Am I doing something because I have a passion for it? Or am I doing something because I want it to be profitable and successful?”

Knowing your motivations early on will help you understand what your path should be.

A light-bulb moment.

If you’re motivated entirely by passion, then raising a lot of venture financing from people who expect a profit probably isn’t a great idea.

I found this out when I became a small-scale angel investor. I would see passionate startup founders pitch their idea or the progress on their idea, but after a while, all of their businesses started to look the same.

The truth was I almost didn’t need to know what the actual product was or what the service they were selling was because all the other numbers around their business gave me most of the insights I needed to make a financing decision.

The most unproductive conversations were when an entrepreneur would spend all of the time talking about how passionate they were about their idea. The problem for me was that my focus would always be, “Hey, have you talked to customers? Have you seen whether a customer would actually validate your idea? Would they give money for your service? Would they give money for your product?”

Passionate founders seem to repel this type of feedback because they don’t really care what the market thinks about their idea. It’s their passion after all.

If a founder is that excited about their service or product then they just assume that the market will be there for them. And that’s the passion fallacy.

Is there a way to prevent yourself from falling prey to the fallacies outlined in your book?

For some fallacies, it’s really easy because the words we use to describe our startups and our motivations give us clues to what fallacy we might hold as being truth.

For example, with the passion fallacy, I’ll often hear someone say “I’m very passionate about this or that.” Well that right there should be a warning sign. Either the founder is exaggerating his or her drive or they really do think that they’ve found their passion.

In that case, let’s make sure we sprinkle enough market validation in early so we avoid being driven by this passion only. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing either.

It doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. Maybe profit isn’t the only motivating force behind this business; well great, you’re going to need a lot of passion. But let’s make sure everyone is on the same page from day one.

Other fallacies are a little bit more subtle and it just takes more time to recognize when they might be at play.

Of course, the first step to recognizing any fallacy is to become aware that it exists.

What do you think the result would be if every startup founder read your book?

The biggest thing that would happen is that entrepreneurs would start to feel that it’s okay to fail because throughout most of my book I chronicle my own failures and how those failures led be to the fallacies I talk about.

We tend to only promote and hear about success stories within the entrepreneur community, but everyone from Elon Musk to Soichiro Honda credits their ability to fail quickly and to get back up for their ultimate success.

But when you find yourself in a period of failure, when you have to call up a family friend or an investor that you respect or a partner or teammate and tell them that you’ve failed, that your business is going under, that you cannot make payroll next month, those are all really tough emotional places to be.

If you feel like you are all alone and that you’ve done something wrong, well that’s just not the truth. And because I’ve been there, I feel like I can do something to get entrepreneurs past that pain point.

And because I’ve been there, I feel like I can do something to get entrepreneurs past that pain point.

So the biggest take away from my book would be knowing that as a startup founder, you are not alone and that failure is actually the majority outcome. There’s no reason to be delighted about failure, but you shouldn’t let it weigh on you as heavily as it often does.

I think the saying “failure is not an option” leads to terrible decision making.

If you don’t accept that failure is an option, then you’re going to hold yourself to a standard that’s unrealistic and unhealthy.

If you could print off only one copy of your book who would you give it to?

I actually have six boys and two girls and I will be amazed if my kids don’t end up at some point in their life looking for a startup to join or starting one themselves. So if I had only one copy of my book I would share it with them.

It warms my heart that I have the opportunity to share with them, not that I was successful, but that I tried so many dumb ideas and I had all these learning moments on my path to success.

What would Jonathan Siegel’s advice be for aspiring authors?

Well, the first thing is if writing is not your strength, and it was such a struggle for me, find a good partner to help you get your thoughts out and down on paper, that’s critical.

You don’t have to write alone.

For me, that partner happened to be Book in a Box. I struggled with my book for seven years before I was able to work with Book in a Box to get me across the finish line in a way that I just couldn’t do myself.

If you are like me, you may have incredible information to impart, but your days might be busy or maybe writing isn’t your strength, well then you might need that helping hand to guide you through those next steps.

If that’s your blocker, go find that partner and you’ll be amazed that the difference it makes, because it certainly did for me.

Get The San Francisco Fallacy on Amazon.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter.

Want to learn more about how to succeed as a startup founder?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

 UFC Hall of Famer @forrestgriffin is today’s guest. He’s the author of Got Fight? The 50 Zen Principles of Hand-to-Face Combat.

Forrest is known for winning the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter, a show that chronicled the lives of MMA fighters as they lived, trained, and fought together for a chance to compete in the UFC.

Forrest has since gone on to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and was recently inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

In this episode, Forrest shares his thoughts on what it takes to be a fighter, and life after UFC.

Listen in to Forrest Griffin to learn: 

  • How to use nervousness to become a better fighter
  • Why fighting isn’t for everyone
  • What it takes to nurture a lasting, loving marriage

Get Got Fight? on Amazon.

To learn more, follow Forrest on Twitter. 

How did you first become interested in fighting?

It’s funny, I never even liked boxing as a kid. I tried taekwondo for two weeks but that was it.

But I’m tough. I played football and basketball and I would get into a lot of fights. Not because I was mean or aggressive but because I was kind of big.

When you’re known as being big and tough as a kid and an argument breaks out, you’re sort of required to get involved in it.

And fighting is kind of fun. There’s this moment that occurs when you’re in a fight where you’re not thinking about anything else, where all of your other problems are put on mute, at least for a short amount of time.

Anyone who’s ever had to fight somebody at 3:00 pm in the schoolyard knows this; you’re not thinking about any of your other life problems. They become very pale in comparison to somebody punching and kicking you in the face, that immediateness.

Is there a fight from your childhood that really stands out to you?

I was in third grade and I had just lost a fight with a fourth grader—I still have no idea how I lost it so badly—but I remember being in the principal’s office. At the time I was kind of a big goofy kid, a lot like now. I wasn’t mean or malicious or anything, but the principal started lecturing me and I just started giggling. I couldn’t help myself. I guess that’s when I first discovered that fighting could be fun. 

But again, I didn’t set out to get in a fight. I didn’t know that was going to happen. It was beyond my control. 

At the end of the day, you don’t let people push you around and sometimes it becomes physical, these things happen.

Who was Forrest Griffin before UFC and the fame and celebrity that came with it?

I grew up in Augusta, Georgia. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger but my mom remarried and was able to get a decent job, so that helped.

I was very fortunate in a way because I believe you need to be poor when you’re young in order to acquire that hunger to lift yourself out of poverty. It also taught me the importance of having a strong social support group because I honestly would have been homeless without the help of my friends and family.

Then in my twenties, I ended up with no money and no ability to get a decent job, so I applied to some jobs through a temp agency and ended up putting penis pumps in boxes all day.

Not exactly a fun job. They were medical grade ones, not the bright purple ones.

Medical grade penis pumps, in boxes, all day.

After that, I worked doing security gigs but I broke my arm in a fight, and you can’t work security in a cast.

At the time I was going to college part-time, and looking back, I don’t know if I would have ever finished college if I hadn’t shattered my right hand. I had nothing else to do so I took out student loans to pay for my medical bills, bought myself a new hand, and then got to work finishing college.

You’re not supposed to use student loan money for anything but tuition and textbooks—things related to your education. Technically what I did was a felony, but I really had no other choice, so I did it.

What was your plan after you finished college?

I wanted to work in law enforcement, specifically for the DEA. I was young and they were the agents that got to kick down the most doors. I basically wanted to be a SWAT guy. That didn’t happen, but I did become a cop. 

SWAT officers stand under a hovering SWAT helicopter.

I didn’t really enjoy getting up at 4:15 am every day to get to shifts on time but it was okay. I was still finding my feet and didn’t really know what I was doing. 

I lasted a little over three years doing that before I left to be on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. And at that time you had to work a certain amount of time or else you’d owe money for the police academy. I gave them 17 days notice and that was it. 

But you have to take chances.

I’d rather take a chance and regret something I did than regret the things I didn’t do.

I think back and try to imagine what it would have been like if I didn’t get on that plane. I would never have found out that I had a decent shot at being the first Ultimate Fighter. I’d probably still be at home thinking, “Those guys on that show aren’t that great, I could have probably have beaten most of those guys.”

My life would be really incomplete.

With that said, I cannot tell you how many grown men with children or wives I meet out in Vegas and they say, “Hey Forrest, I saved up three months, I quit my job, I moved to Vegas, I want to become an Ultimate Fighter.” But they’re mediocre at best, they’ll never be great.

The time to get out and live life and make mistakes is in your 20s. I forget who it was but someone said, “You make your story in your 20s, then you talk in your 30s, and then you write about it in your 40s. If you’re in your 20s, you should be out there making those stories.

How do you find the time to be a husband with all your other time commitments? 

You have to just keep putting in the work, but it’s tough. I work a lot, and frankly, when I get home I’m tired, so my primary concern is let’s deal with the bills, let’s schedule time with your parents, let’s cook dinner. It’s all stressful stuff, not the fun stuff like when we were dating.

We have a weekly date night, but I don’t know if that’s enough. You have to have rules. For instance, on date nights, we don’t talk about real life. We pretend we’re on the first date again and we talk about ourselves. Not like, “Hey, I’m sorry but did we renew the auto insurance?”

Nobody wants to talk about that.

My wife and I have a rule that we don’t talk about life or work after 9:00 pm.

I don’t want to hear about it. If we have something important to tell each other, we literally text it to each other for the next morning, just so we don’t forget.

You have to have a couple of hours to chill and not worry about the fact that life is harsh.

My wife and I also have marriage meetings every Sunday where for at least a couple of hours we talk about life. The harder stressful stuff. It’s nice because we have a list going throughout the week where we write down all the stressful conversations we’re saving for our weekly marriage meeting and then we don’t bring any of this stuff up to each other on the spot. We just add it to the list. Then when Sunday comes around we have a full agenda of all the things that we want to discuss.

We can just lay it all out and deal with it in one go. That way stuff doesn’t pile up, it just gets put out in the open. And a lot of the time issues kind of go away by themselves. That big problem that was going to take up a lot of time at the Sunday meeting has worked itself out. You’d be surprised how often that’s the case.

You’re a father now. What’s your approach to parenting?

I have a five-year-old daughter. She’s naturally active; she’s definitely got my energy. She loves to play and she’s physically very tough but emotionally very sensitive. I do jiu-jitsu with her, and when she can’t do the moves she gets upset, especially when she sees six-year-olds doing them that have been practicing longer than her.

But we really try to mind everything. We did the vaccinations, we did the Dr. Sears method, we try to make sure she gets lots of sleep, and we try to watch what she eats.

The thing you got to remember is that there’s stuff in the food we eat that no one really knows much about. The FDA says it doesn’t kill you but they don’t actually know what it does. So, we try to stay away from those, things like aspartame or other synthetic foods. Plus, I’m a hippie at heart.

We stick to organically raised meat and organic vegetables as much as possible. I’m a big fan of eggs, too.

But it’s hard when other kids are eating McDonald’s and you have to say, “No baby, we bought you this granola for a treat.”

What’s your favorite story from Got Fight?

It’s a story about the world’s toughest nerd and in it, I paint myself as the villain because I am. I’m the bad guy.

So a couple of big football players from the University of Georgia and I decided to take a road trip from Georgia to Stanford. I was about 240 pounds then and I’m the smallest guy there. Anyway, we see this really skinny kid with glasses on and we decide to pick on him.

He walks in front of our Jeep at an intersection but he’s taking his sweet time. So my friend gets out and starts messing with him. I don’t really remember the details, but it ends with my friends throwing him down this hill. We all think, “Well that’s the end of that.”

But then he gets up and screams, “I’m ready to die!” before charging at my friend flailing.

He had no idea how to throw a punch but he’s trying.  Then my friend throws him against the Jeep before rolling him down the hill again with the help of another one of my buddies.

We drive away as this beat up kid is still walking toward us all Walking Dead style.

All of us in the Jeep are all thinking the same thing which is, a) what the hell is this kid made of? and b) we’re all huge douche bags.

Then, just as he was about to disappear from view, I turned quietly and see him put his glasses back on and wipe the grass off himself. He tucks his shirt in, picks up his books, and walks off.

All I remember thinking was, “That is the coolest guy in the world.”

The way he walked off, he was just like, “All right, cool. I should go put my glasses on, fix my hair, brush myself off, and get on with my day.” It was like it hadn’t even happened. 

It was obvious that he had never been in a fight in his life. But he fought back, he was ready to do whatever he could to stand up for himself. 

What can we learn about human nature from fighting?

What I tell people is that before a fight you should be nervous but never afraid. I’m always nervous before a fight and that nervousness helps me perform at my peak. It forces me to train hard, to not drink, go to bed on time, to not be out and about. I was living a pretty regimented lifestyle because of that nervousness. I wanted to be able to fight.

I was living a pretty regimented lifestyle because of that nervousness. I wanted to be able to fight.

I would use that nervousness as motivation to train hard.

What I don’t understand is people that don’t really train hard and work hard and then the day of the fight comes around and they’re nervous. Well, you probably should be nervous because you didn’t do any of the work!

You have to embrace that nervousness and that feeling of fright you get before a fight. That’s your body getting ready to fight. It’s the adrenaline. Not only is your body on the same page as you, but if you don’t feel butterflies, you’re not ready to fight. That adrenaline, that feeling of being scared, is what allows you do extraordinary things that maybe you couldn’t do without that.

But I don’t think everyone is made to fight. Not everybody is going to like fighting.

I love fighting, I think it’s the epitome of human confrontation. It’s the first sport there ever was, but at the end of the day, there’s a limited demographic of people that like fighting, and I’m fine with that.

There are a million other ways to prove your own self-worth to yourself. You can certainly find out what makes you, you without fighting. That was just my path.

How has your success in MMA gone on to impact your fans?

People look at guys like me and Jeremy Horn and say, “Man if they can do it, I could do it too,” and then they dedicate themselves to following in our footsteps. But here’s the problem:

Fighting is unlike dancing or sex, because it’s not fun if you are not good at it. 

If you’re not winning, you’re not having fun.

So no, not everyone is capable of becoming the next Forrest Griffin or the next Jeremy Horn, you have to have natural ability.

Don’t quit your job or leave your family to become a professional fighter.

Who has been your biggest influence as an author?

The most inspirational book and the only book I’ve ever read on writing: Stephen King’s On Writing.

It’s how to write a book for dummies. It’s really a powerful book. Never mind my stupid books, if you’re listening, read that book.

There’s nobody who can beat Stephen King.

I am not a good writer, but I’ve always been a decent storyteller.

When I first started writing, I tried to find my voice by asking, “What makes me special? Who am I?” and I didn’t have a really good answer for either of those questions.

I’m not a good athlete, I’m not really that smart, but you know what I am? I’m the every man. I’m the guy next door. I’m the kid that mowed your grass growing up, that’s who I am. I’m every man.I found my persona and I just use that as my writing force as well.

I’m not a good athlete, I’m not really that smart, but you know what I am? I’m the every man. I’m the guy next door. I’m the kid that mowed your grass growing up, that’s who I am. I’m every man.I found my persona and I just use that as my writing force as well.

After that writing become so much easier because I had found my persona, the every man, and that’s the voice I use when I write.

What is Forrest Griffin’s parting advice for aspiring authors?

I’ve said this earlier, but your 20s are for living and reading, your 30s are for reading and writing, and your 40s are for writing and being written about.

But as far as practical writing advice goes, just get your thoughts on paper. It doesn’t matter how horrible your ideas are as long as you get them out of your head.

I’ve actually written two horrible movie scripts. They’re so bad that it’s awful and they will never see the light of day because they are that horrible, but I’m still glad I wrote them down.

My other piece of advice would be to read. Read a lot of different things until you’ve found your own voice.

Get Got Fight? on Amazon.

To learn more, follow Forrest on Twitter. 

Interested in upping your health and fitness game even more?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

Every company talks about the importance of the customer experience, but what about the employee experience?

In this episode, Lance Gibbs, author of Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys and founder of BP3 Global, shares what he learned after transforming the employee experience at his own company.

Whether you’re the head of a global conglomerate or you manage one employee, you don’t want to miss Lance’s advice for making your employees your greatest asset.

Listen in to Lance Gibbs to learn: 

  • How a simple conversation can completely transform the employee experience at any company
  • What you can learn about the future of business from Alibaba and Airbnb
  • Why the digital era is set to be one of decentralization and what that means for traditional business models

Get Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys on Amazon.

Learn more at BP-3.com.

How did you start transforming the employee experience at BP3?

First, we got a handful of folks together from around the company—no more than what two large pizzas could feed—and we asked them the two biggest questions, which are, “Who are we?” and “What do we value as an organization?”

I’m not talking about the mission and value statements you see posted in the cafeterias, or on the walls, or in people’s cubes, that’s not what we were after.

What we wanted them to do is have a conversation about what they value, about the “why” of what they do. Not the “how” or the “what,” but why they do what they do.

Three employees having a conversation around a table.

It’s amazing what that will start to unlock. You get people starting to think more broadly about the bigger picture.

After that, it was just about having a conversation around what the company means and what each of our employees means to one another, and that’s very healthy and it’s very effectual.

If you think about it, that exact process is how companies are launched, so it was a bit like hitting reset.

Can you give us an example of how this approach to the employee experience has helped your business?

We have a client we work with that’s in the business of site activations. Think of it as a huge drug trial costing between five to seven billion dollars and taking 10 years to complete; each activation is a major job.

Our task was to help the client figure out how to shrink those 10 years down; to speed up the process.

One of the problems they were facing was to do with data aggregation, but they had always seen their data in one particular way. They had been using the same systems and the same processes for a very long time. So when our sales guys got them on the phone and they asked us, “Can you do data aggregation our way?” Our sales guys said what sales guys do: “Yes.”

That was the end of the conversation.

Then our folks came in and said, “Wait, what if we did the data aggregation this way? What if we pulled it from there instead of here? Wouldn’t that save us tons of time, tons of money?”

The customer didn’t know.

So we dug deeper.

Our teams put together this proposal and sent it back to the client, they flipped out, they were in love.

Their response?

“That’s a hell of a lot better than the way we were thinking about doing it.”

I know this sounds a little esoteric, but it was a big change.

And if we hadn’t engaged folks from across our own teams into a dialogue and brought them into this conversation, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere. We would have missed that major opportunity.

Getting people to talk to each other was the key to us winning that contract, and it all started by asking those two simple but profound questions I talked about earlier.

What do you hope to achieve with your book?

Certainly, it would be great if the book is able to bring in leads for my company, BP3, but let me be honest, I really just want to get the message out to other organizations that there’s a better way to manage employees.

If companies can get serious about the employee experience and start engaging with employees in more creative ways compared to in traditional organizational design, then things will really start to change for everyone.

I actually sent a few early manuscripts to friends from a diverse set of industries, and I’ve had quite a few come back to me and say, “You know what? This really made me stop to think about my own organization. It made me really think about what I am doing and what I’m not doing.”

And that’s a great feeling.

At the end of the day, this isn’t rocket science, we’re not putting people on the moon, we’re not splitting atoms with a butter knife, this is simple stuff. But it’s practical, and it’s something that any organization in any industry can pick up and implement.

If Lance Gibbs were to write a follow up to Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys, what would it be?

There is one area that I’m really interested in right now, and that’s quantitative psychology. I know that the IT geeks out there would love this stuff, but I think others could learn a lot from it as well.

For example, it’s common practice for companies to undertake an annual survey of their employees, say on December 1st, but all that really is is a snap shot of how someone felt on December 1st when they filled out their survey. This kind of data isn’t really all that useful.

In order to gain better insights on employees, companies need much higher fidelity data. Things like what actions and activities do employees undertake? When do they undertake them,? And how is the result of that action impacted by how the employee was feeling when they undertook it?

But here’s the hard part, the survey cannot be intrusive.

So what I’ve been interested in is using some very basic artificial intelligence to gain some additional insights on employees. And I’ve thought about writing a book about using those techniques and the technology around doing that because what I see in the future are companies consisting of 250,000 people decentralized all around the world, instead of say, 10,000 people located in a central location.

In the future, it’s going to be a handful of key folks at the top and then a complete ecosystem around them of people that deliver the services, products, systems, applications that they need.

People will have their own individual brand.

In fact, extreme individualism is already here, and that’s only going to increase.

Companies are going to need to get much better at engaging “employees,” or communities of folks that aren’t necessarily under their four walls or under their domain as a company. And that’s why having data on how employees behave is important.

So that might be the follow-up; if it’s not that, it’s going to be a fiction book.

What companies today are well-positioned for a decentralized workforce? 

Take a look at Alibaba. It’s the largest retailer in the world, yet they don’t actually make anything.

You can look at Airbnb, the largest hotel chain in the world, yet they actually don’t own any real estate.

Both of these companies have huge communities of engaged people.

You can also look at some of the digital disruptors or B2B companies who doing less and less in-house and bringing in external specialists when they need them.

The truth is that companies like Macy’s, Disney, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, or any Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 company, can’t hire people with the talent and skills that they need in order to compete in our highly interconnected world.

We live in a society that’s becoming more and more decentralized, with higher expectations of customer experience, and that’s a very difficult place for a traditional Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 company to be.

Companies will need to rely on communities to fill the gaps that are already out there today; there is not a single large company around now that is not talking about human capital acquisition and human capital skills growth as being one of their top three or four priorities.

So the question is, how do you engage? How do you leverage these digital ecosystems or communities that are growing up, and what do they mean for your organization?

What’s the #1 takeaway from your book?

There are a lot of books out there on digital strategy, digital innovation, digital transformation, customer experience, but there’s really no one talking about the employee experience.

Two employees looking at a computer monitor.

It’s a blind spot that largely been ignored by everyone.

But it’s really a ticking time-bomb, a liability. If companies don’t start paying attention to the employee experience, and to the larger community experience, then they won’t survive the changing ecosystem.

Why did you choose to write your book using the Book in A Box method?

I asked Book in A Box to help a friend of mine write a book. He’s at the last stage of terminal cancer after being diagnosed 18 months ago, and since then he’s been writing blog posts every week about his journey with cancer and how that’s affected his life.

Collating all these posts together and getting them published is important to him, it’s something that he feels passionate and strongly about. So going through the Book in A Box method and answering questions like, “What’s it’s like to have terminal cancer?” “How has it changed you, your family, your life?” “How do you cope, what do you do?” and uncovering all the other stories and connections that come from this process has been amazing.

This book is going to be a huge part of his legacy and it was all possible with the help of Book in A Box.

So because of that, the affection I have for Book in A Box is unparalleled, it’s greater than with any other company that I have ever done business with, bar none.

That’s the main reason I chose to work with Book in A Box to publish my book.

Of course that was before I even knew what it was like to work with the company.

The approach that Book in A Box takes to help anyone take an idea and get it out of his or her head and onto paper is unparalleled. Your average Joe who has lived some remarkable experiences in his or her life and who now has an opportunity to get those experiences out of their head and into the world, well, that’s extremely gratifying.

Book in A box is making, what has historically been an inaccessible process, accessible and they’re doing it in the most professional way with expertise and skills and experience. And nobody else is doing that right now.

Get Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys on Amazon.

Learn more at BP-3.com.

Want to learn more about how to build a successful 21st-century company?

Check out these other Author Hour episodes:

Let’s pretend you’re selling your home. You live in a good neighborhood, your house is in great condition, and you decide to price it competitively at $200,000.

Would you be willing to pay someone $12,000 to give tours of your house to interested buyers and facilitate the selling process?

If you think that’s too much, you’re not alone. Jarred Kessler, author of Death of a Real Estate Salesmanbelieves that there’s a better way for homeowners to sell their homes and keep more of their hard-earned money.

Listen to this week’s episode to learn: 

  • How Jarred plans to disrupt the real estate industry by empowering homeowners using technology
  • Why fewer people are turning to sale-by-owner to sell their homes
  • How to negotiate with your real estate agent to get a better deal

Get Death of a Real Estate Salesman on Amazon.

Learn more at EasyKnock.com. 

Why did you decide to write Death of a Real Estate Salesman?

I didn’t understand why, in 2017, there wasn’t a better process to buy and sell a home.

A home for sale.

The active housing market in the United States is made up of approximately 110 million homes and of that, 2% is actively listed for sale at any given time. Yet almost all of those 2.2 million listings are controlled by the real estate brokerage community.

If, as a home buyer, you want to connect directly with a home owner trying to sell, there’s no easy way to do that right now. Yet 73% of the respondents we surveyed said they wanted an online portal that would allow home buyers and sellers to connect directly.

So I knew there was a mismatch between what the market was offering and what the consumer wanted, but I needed to define what was actually wrong with the current process and define what the future of home buying and selling will look like.

My book is the result of thinking through that process.

For example, many people don’t realize that the incentives for real estate brokers in the housing industry aren’t aligned with their client’s best interests. The buyer’s broker wants them to pay the highest price while the owner’s broker wants the buyer to pay the lowest price. Both of them want the deal to happen as quickly as possible and don’t necessarily care about getting the best price for their clients.

I talk a lot in the book about the current dynamics in the housing industry, as well as how homeowners are going to be empowered through technology in the future.

Why are you so passionate about the housing industry?

I’m an outsider — I’ve never been a real estate broker, but I am a homeowner. I care about other homeowners because they deserve to have more money in their pocket when they decide to buy or sell a home. They deserve a better way to do that. It’s their home, after all.

The real estate market shouldn’t be controlled by the residential real estate brokers. When a homeowner pays 6% to their broker to sell their home, they aren’t in control the process, they don’t have access to information the broker has and there’s no real transparency. That’s just not fair.

There are 110 million homes in the United States. Think about how much money 6% of the sale price of those homes is. That’s a lot of cash that could, and should, go back into homeowners’ pockets.

The average home seller could buy 4,500 lattes at Starbucks, a diamond ring, or a dream car with 6% of the sale price of their home.

People deserve that in this country, and the process right now is not fair. That’s why I want to see this happen.

Is this issue personal for you?

I came from the world of financial services. I’ve worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse. From the time I entered the industry, there were rooms full of brokers and not just real estate brokers, but equity brokers, fixed income brokers, and so on. People in the industry at that time thought the business was never going to change and this is the way we would always do business.

But over that 17-year period, I watched as technology slowly took over more and more jobs.

Rooms that were once filled with people were replaced with servers and computers. I saw what was happening first hand and understood that technology represented a huge opportunity to change how real estate transactions were carried out.

At the same time, I kept hearing people that I was friends with or family members say things like:

“I want to put my house on the market, but I’m embarrassed because my nosy neighbors are going to ask questions.”

Or they’d say “I want to put my house on the market, but there are 20 houses that have been on the market for 100 days, so what’s the point?”

I realized that there was a gap for people who wanted to sell their homes but just didn’t have faith in the current system. They needed a better process, so that really inspired me to take my unique perspective from financial services and apply it to the housing industry.

Helping my friends and neighbors, that’s what made me so passionate about this opportunity.

What do think the future of home buying and selling will look like?

Right now is a very interesting time.

We have these emerging reselling companies, like Opendoor or OfferPad, that go in, buy your home at a small discount, and then turn around and sell them. Essentially, they’ll guarantee a price if you’re willing to sell quickly.

Then we have companies that offer some sort of derivative of what the traditional broker offers. Things like a flat feet broker, a discount broker, or a technology company that matches a broker with an agent and a consumer.

My company, Easy Knock, connects owners and buyers directly but the difference is that it’s not for-sale-by-owner. A lot of people run into trouble when they try to sell their own homes because you tend to attract bargain hunters who want to undercut you yet at the same time you repel brokers because they know that you don’t want to pay a brokerage fee.

At Easy Knock, we start by asking homeowners how motivated they are to sell their home, how fast they’d like to sell their home, and what price they’re willing to sell their home for. We have all the information on their home and their selling preferences in our system so that we can then match them with a buyer. Buyers come in and then place a bid on the house and it’s up to the homeowner to decide if they want to engage with that buyer or not.

Easy Knock isn’t as invasive as sell-by-owner and we give the homeowner an opportunity to do price discovery and the home doesn’t have the stigma of being on the market for months at a time. Our homes have no days on the market because they’re always on the market.

Finally, we don’t charge the 6% or more that the brokerage community charges. We take somewhere between 1 to 1.5% which is a lot of money back in the homeowner’s pocket. But the #1 reason our customers have said they’d keep using us is that is that we’re bringing control back to both the buyers and homeowners by allowing them to connect directly.

Coins sit stacked next to a calculator.

Airbnb is the biggest hotel company in the world, yet they don’t own a single hotel. Uber is the biggest taxi company, but they don’t own a single taxi.

We see the future of home buying and selling going the same way.

We aim to be the biggest brokerage company in the world without having a single broker because we’re directly connecting people who already have a shared purpose.

Do you feel people have become jaded about the home selling and buying process?

You hit the nail on the head. But it’s not entirely a coincidence.

The National Association of Realtors is the second biggest lobby group in the United States and they pay an awful lot for messaging. Just recently, from 2015 to 2016, the NAR increased their advertising budget from $37 million to $65 million.

This is part of the reason that homes for sale by owner have decreased from 25% of the market in 1985 to 7% in 2016. The fact is that the NAR is trying to scare people away from selling their own homes, and it’s working.

It’s about time we had an open discussion about the brokerage industry in this country, and that’s something I hope to start with my book.

What are some other insights readers will gain from your book?

First, readers learn about the competing agenda between the real estate broker and you as the home buyer or home seller. I lay out why commission rates are so high and give readers some perspective on how broken the brokerage industry is through some of the horror stories I’ve come across in my research.

One of the more fun things in the book is the misconceptions people have about the brokerage industry and the for-sale-by-owner process.

For example, in reality, lawyers do most of the work involved with the actual transaction, yet the misconception is that the agent holds your hand during the entire process.

I also detail all the different types of brokers and I explain what SFBO is and how the SFBO failed.

How was the book received by both consumers and the real estate community?

There’s been a really amazing cross-section of people that have read it and given me feedback. To be honest, I was expecting a lot of the reviews to be pretty negative because of what I talked about.

I knew I was going to rub real estate agents the wrong way.

But I put the book out anyway and in the first day, I already had 19 reviews—all of them overwhelmingly positive.

These people felt a sense of excitement and empowerment that the industry needs to change and I really seemed to hit all sorts points of what’s wrong with the brokerage industry and what the future of home selling is going to be like. People find those themes very encouraging and that was pretty much consistent with most of the reviews.

I have heard from the occasional real estate agent who argues you can’t cheap out on selling your house and that they just don’t understand what we’re trying to do with the book. But the book is all facts.

Even for someone who is set on selling their house with a real estate agent or through a traditional brokerage, there is immense value in this book. No matter how you decide to sell your home, you deserve to know how you should approach your agent and be aware of what to look for. People don’t understand that agents want you to get the deal done quickly. They don’t really care about getting you the best price.

If Jarred Kessler was going to write a follow-up to Death of a Real Estate Salesman, what would it be?

Death of the Financial Adviser. It could be in the same sort of theme as what I did for the real estate agent, but highlight the value and the pain points involved in using a financial adviser. It would be fun to write about how technology is set to disrupt so many traditional industries.

What would be your advice to any aspiring authors listening?

If you want to write a book, don’t talk about doing it. Do it.

Get Death of a Real Estate Salesman on Amazon.

Learn more at EasyKnock.com. 

Today’s guest used to suffer from crippling shyness that left him unable to have even basic conversations with strangers.

Today, he’s an expert in social theory and the author of Superhuman Social Skillsa practical guide for anyone looking to increase their social circle and get comfortable socializing in any context — whether with friends, business partners, or complete strangers.

This episode isn’t just for those who suffer from social anxiety; it’s for anyone who wants to get more out of life by establishing deeper connections with the people around them.

Listen in as Tynan teaches us: 

  • How anyone can overcome crippling social anxiety
  • A simple method for winning over new friends and becoming a social superstar
  • How to tell better stories

Get Superhuman Social Skills on Amazon.

Learn more at Tynan.com. 

How did you get superhuman social skills?

I was very shy and had social anxiety all the way from my early childhood to college. If one of my friends brought over one of their friends who I didn’t know, that would be a pretty uncomfortable situation for me, especially if that friend happened to be a woman, and especially if she was single.

I just had nothing to say, so that was very difficult for me.

As you can imagine, my dating life sort of followed suit which eventually led me to get involved in Pickup because I realized that if I didn’t fix my social skills, particularly around dating, my life wasn’t going to end up where I wanted it to be.

So, when I was first exposed to this whole Pickup thing, it was the first time I realized that social skills were a learnable skill.

Before that, I thought you were born with whatever social skills you had and that was that.

But I went really deep into Pickup (which you can read about in the book The Game) and it totally transformed my dating life but it also transformed my relationships with my friends, with my family members, and especially with new people.

My fear of talking to strangers was gone.

It’s funny because I now meet people and they find it hard to believe I was ever shy, but it’s true! I really started off pretty bad.

Can you give us an example of how your lack of social skills affected your life early on?

I have tons of those moments. That was my entire high school experience basically.

One that really stands out was the tipping point for me actually, and the reason that I eventually got into Pickup.

There was this girl the summer after my last year in high school, and for whatever reason we started hanging out. Almost every day that summer she would come pick me up in her car and we would drive around and basically just do nothing. I had a massive crush on this girl, but I had no idea what to do about it.

It wasn’t even that I was thinking about what to do. I knew that I had no idea what to do, so why even think about it?

Finally, the end of the summer is approaching and we’re at this party with all her friends, so I’m feeling very awkward. I’m not talking to anybody. But then this girl takes me into this hallway and she says, “You know Tynan, I have something to confess to you.”

I thought, “Oh my god, what could this be.”

She says, “Well, I have a huge crush on you” and I said, “Wow, that’s great, I have a huge crush on you, this is amazing” and we kissed.

A couple stands affectionately together.

Wow, what a high point for me and I remember thinking, “This is great, this is my new girlfriend, I have this great girlfriend now, we’re going to date, and it’s going to be just like the summer.”

The next day she went off to school in Chicago while I lived in Austin.

I thought “Well, okay, that’s a problem, but it’s not insurmountable obviously, we’re going to end up together eventually.” But we didn’t really talk. We’d email once in a while. She got another boyfriend and I thought, “Well, you know, it’s natural, she’s at college, of course she’s going to have a boyfriend. She’ll break up with him and then we’ll start dating.”

In my mind it was like this: “Hey, this girl likes me, I like this girl, this doesn’t happen, this is such a rare event, it obviously means something.” I genuinely thought we were going to be together in the end, no matter what.

I didn’t have that much awareness of how the world worked or what was actually going on. I think it was easy for me to blind myself to reality, and it became increasingly difficult for me as time when on. I found out she moved in with this guy, which is obviously a warning sign, but it wasn’t until she was engaged to this guy that I finally thought, “Wait a minute, this isn’t going to happen is it?”

It all just kind of clicked at once and I thought, “Man, this whole thing lasted three years. If my life continues on like this, it’s really going to be bad.”

The interesting thing about Pickup is you get into it and you try to get all your friends to do it and nobody does it because it’s hard to do unless you really hit that low point where you can admit, “Hey, this thing that’s very core to my identity is a real weakness for me and I’ve got to get better at it.” I hit that low point because of this girl.

What was it like when you first got into the Pickup scene?

I would read all this Pickup stuff online. I was so naïve back then. It really didn’t occur to me that people were exaggerating and lying. People wrote stories like “Hey, I’m this nerd, I like computers, I met this model and now she’s my girlfriend.” And I believed it.

So I knew I wanted to try this Pickup stuff myself, but I was way too shy, too nervous, to actually talk to girls myself.

Eventually, I found a local group of guys in Austin who would go out regularly to practice talking to girls.

Since I knew that there was no way I was going to face my fears alone, I signed up for this group even though I was actually terrified to just meet these other guys. I remember I almost didn’t go. But I forced myself despite my fear.

I remember walking into an apartment and there are eight guys sitting around telling their own version of the story I just told you.

When it came time to tell my story about why I was there, my face became so red that I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye. I was just so nervous talking to these strangers, and we hadn’t even gone out to talk to girls yet.

So we finish going through everyone’s story and there’s a knock at the door. Somebody comes in late and it turns out to be my best friend. We stare at each other like, “What are you doing here?” It turns out that he had gotten into Pickup before I had, but we were both much too embarrassed to talk to each other about it.

But I think having him there really helped. I was glad he was there because I could say, “This is somebody I know, who I trust, who I relate to and maybe this will be something of a shared journey.”

So finally we get to this club, Spill in Austin, and I’m terrified. I’ve never been to a club or even a bar before. I’ve never even talked to a girl I didn’t know before. I mean, my heart rate is at 200 bpm.

I literally thought I was going to pass out.

Then my friend who’s actually been talking to girls for a month or so previously says, “All right, let’s talk to some girls.” and that’s when the panic really set in.

My brain was trying to come up with any excuse to not do it.

So my friend goes first, which is a great relief to me, and talks to these four girls at a high-top table. I’d never seen him talk to a girl before. He and I became friends because we were first in line for Star Wars together, it blew my mind. But I was happy because I was off the hook until three minutes later, he says, “Actually, my friend Tynan is here too, come over here, Tynan.”

It was terrifying, but I had no choice, so I go over I talk to these girls. I immediately forget everything I’ve read online and learnt about Pickup. I think I did everything wrong. But after a while the guy who was hosting the meeting comes up and whispers in a very loud voice, “Hey dude, she’s into you, ask for her number.”

She hears this, my face is bright red but I go for it, “Hey, do you want to give me your number? Maybe we could hang out sometime” and she did.

And in that moment, I thought, “Oh my god, this really works, this could work for me.”

I was actually talking to that friend a couple of nights ago and I told him if it wasn’t for that moment, I don’t think I would have ever gotten it. I would still be that shy, embarrassed nerd that I was in high school.

How did you build on your early social success?

I don’t drink, I hate bars and clubs, it’s not an environment I enjoy, so I’d go to Whole Foods and I’d go to malls and just talk to people. At the end of the day when you’re practicing social skills, you just need to talk to a lot of people.

I guess I learned the skills early on in bars and clubs but it was immediately obvious that it was a universal skill. People often think of Pickup as, “What’s the line?” and all these deceptive tactics.

But Pickup is really about being proud of yourself as an individual, and if you’re not proud of yourself for legitimate reasons, it’s about becoming someone you can be proud of.

Once you’re proud of yourself and you’re happy with who you are, the next step is being able to express that to people in a positive way.

How can you tell stories that explain who you are in a way that is entertaining to the other person at the same time?

How can you focus on the positives and reveal the weaknesses but not dwell in them in a way that makes you seem insecure?

Then there’s the whole other half of learning about the other person. You have to ask yourself, “What do they want out of this conversation, what do they want out of this relationship, and how do I get them that?”

Those skills are obviously very valuable in dating, but they’re also totally universal. I do the exact same thing with my friends, my family, people I’m doing business with, everybody.

How can we become proud of ourselves?

There are two sides to that question.

One is asking yourself, “Am I living my life by my standards? Am I happy with what I’m doing with my life? Do I spend time in a way that I’m proud of? Am I learning the things I want to learn? Do I treat people the way that I would like people to be treated and I want to be known for treating people?”

It’s a big topic and it’s something that takes people years and years to change. A lot of people are proud of most of these things but then they say, “You know, I’ve got these bad habits, I cut people off, I have a bad temper.” Whatever it may be, you almost always have something you can work on.

The other half of becoming proud of yourself is understanding that what people really want is to know who you are as an individual.

Part of the reason I was so shy when I was younger is because I grew up watching movies and TV shows where girls always went for the guys who drove pickup trucks, go to bars, party, and watch sports. Well I didn’t do any of these things, so I wasn’t really proud of who I was, or at least I didn’t think I had anything to share with girls.

Subconsciously I thought, “Well these are the things girls are in to, I don’t have any of them, I guess I better just stay quiet.”

I mean, I was conscious of the fact that movies and TV are totally fake, but subconsciously maybe I wasn’t?

So it’s a two-step process of:

1) making your life a life that you’re proud of, and

2) giving yourself credit for what you’ve got.

I’ve always been a nerd, and maybe before I would try to hide that but now I’m proud of it, I think it’s really cool.

What was the transition from shy nerd to social butterfly like?

Well, it certainly wasn’t an overnight thing where you tell a story, someone responds positively and you say, “Hey, I’m cured, I’m just going to talk about myself all the time now.”

Growing up I wasn’t the most positive person in the world.

I wasn’t super negative but somewhere in the middle, and I think that held me back. So I started doing this exercise with myself where I would always try to see the positive side of everything for one month. Just for practice.

After the first month I thought, “Hey, I think this is kind of helping,” So I did it for another month, and another, until it was almost second nature. After that it was automatic.

What I’ve found with my coaching clients is that everybody has a natural set point along this continuum of negativity to positivity. And a slight shift to one side or the other side makes a world of difference. So, if you can go from slightly negative to slightly positive, that’s huge.

Here’s something anyone can do right now to start shifting their set point from the negative side to positive.

At the end of each day, write down every time that people around you appreciate you for who you are. It doesn’t even matter that you’re writing it down, you can never look at it again. The point of it is that if you know that you have to write that at the end of the day, it’s training your brain to think of those times throughout the day and to be looking out for them.

Because it’s not that people don’t get positive feedback throughout the day, it’s that they don’t see the feedback.

I know people want quick fixes but if you can do this for a month or two, you’ll be fixed for life. I can’t remember the last time I had a negative thought because I do this practice every day and this one thing had a huge impact on my transformation from being too shy or embarrassed to talk about myself to being comfortable putting myself out there.

What’s the biggest takeaway from your book, Superhuman Social Skills?

The most important piece of advice in my book is that you have to be proactive in your social life.

Your social life is so important, it has such a big bearing on everything you do. Even if you are super successful financially, you are not going to fully enjoy that unless you have friends and families to share that success with. It’s such a crucial part and yet a lot of people aren’t proactive about it.

So in general, be proactive, take responsibility for your social life. One simple way to do this is to have a weekly event that you host and invite all of your friends to. It doesn’t have to be fancy or involve a lot of effort.Friends sitting around a table.

When I lived in in Austin and Sopranos was on TV, I’d cook Italian food and I’d invite all my friends over to watch Sopranos. It was like this big weekly thing. More recently when I lived in San Francisco, we just went out for burgers every Sunday at the same place. It really doesn’t have to be a big deal.

It seems like everybody wants to be invited to stuff, yet nobody wants to be the one to put themselves on the line to host even simple events.

But here’s the thing, there’s no way you can lose by inviting all of your friends to do one weekly thing. And what’s more, you now have this anchor in your life that you can use when you meet someone new.

It’s no longer, “Oh God, how do I invite this guy I just met out to do something, I don’t want him to think that I am asking him on a date.”

It’s now, “Hey my friends and I have burgers every Sunday why don’t you come along this week?”

So easy.

So just be proactive and be willing to be the one who does the work.

How can I start telling better stories today?

The basic structure of a story starts with the setting of the story. This should be as short as humanly possible.

For example: “I was with my friend and my uncle at a lake.”

Stop.

I don’t need to know what your uncle’s hobbies are, what his job is, or how long you’ve known your friend for. All irrelevant. I just need to know the basics of how we arrived at the beginning of the story.

Too many people flood their stories with details that we just don’t need to know. They don’t add anything to the story, and most of the time they detract from the core message.

Then the next phase is the lead-up. This is the part where you get to the point of why you’re telling the story.

So, for example: “There I was, I’m standing in this restaurant and all the way across the room I see this guy that I knew from high school.” Note that I’m building suspense here by leaving out irrelevant details.

But this part of the story should also be the longest part. As long as you have the listener’s attention, you want to build attention and leave them wondering. It’s like when you watch a movie and you think the main character is about to get killed but you still have to watch moment-by-moment because you don’t exactly know when or how it’s going to happen.

Even if the person already knows the end of the story, you can really draw this part out to make it emotionally interesting. A story is not about facts, it’s about an emotional experience. So this is the part where every single thing you say should make the listener more emotionally invested in the story.

Then you get to the point of the story, the drop, the hook, or whatever you want to call it. The key here is to give your listener the hook and then stop.

A lot of people screw this up by rambling at the end after the listener already knows the point of the story.

It’s much better to keep the beginning short, the tension long, and end right after the hook. You don’t have to explain every detail because you can let people ask you about details they want to know more about.

You can give people opportunities to direct the conversation by leaving out details rather than you monopolizing it.

How can someone be vulnerable in conversation without appearing weak? 

Two people in conversation.

The difficulty in being vulnerable is that it’s about sharing something that’s unique to you. So it’s going to be different for every person, but I think a fairly common area you can start with is your family.

You have such an emotional connection to your family, so if you talk about a family struggle or even a relationship that you have with like a younger person that you mentor in your family, that can go along way to establishing a deeper connection with your listener without making you appear weak.

There’s a big difference between, “Hey we are trying to impress each other by telling grand stories” and, “I am telling you something real about my life, about people who are close to me.” I think most people can probably find something in that second realm to share.

What advice would Tynan give to aspiring authors?

I think everybody has a different writing style, but I prefer to write more practical books and to get them writing-quality wise up to about 90%. People really like my books because they are super practical and actionable: “Do this, do that, here’s how things actually work” and they get results.

One piece of advice I would give other aspiring authors is to give yourself a deadline. Write every single day until that deadline is done and then spend a short time editing before putting your book out.

My more recent books are good because I’ve written some books that weren’t quite as good as those books, and those books were okay because I wrote some pretty bad books at first. Don’t worry about being perfect, just get your work out there on Amazon or wherever.

What’s your next book going to be about?

The first book I wrote was called Make Her Chase You. It was about Pickup and I wrote it more to make money than anything else, but since then I don’t really care so much about money. Obviously, I like money and making money, but it’s not my number one priority.

What I really want to do is to write books about stuff that I am in to and excited about that will help people. That’s my motivation.

It’s funny because I go really deep into a certain topic because that’s my personality, so every time I write a book I think, “Well I guess that’s it. I probably have nothing else to write about,” and then I get super into something else.

For the past while I’ve been super interested in social skills, but to answer your question, I don’t know. I’ll just write about what I’m excited about.

Get Superhuman Social Skills on Amazon.

Learn more at Tynan.com.