272: How to Learn New Skills with Treehouse’s Ryan Carson

By March 12, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Treehouse founder and CDO Ryan Carson shares lessons learned from helping thousands of professionals pick up new skills. We talk about the proper mental state, being realistic about your calendar, and how new confidence emerges.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one thing that stops people from learning
  2. How to embrace the discomfort that comes from learning
  3. Just how long it takes to learn coding, anyhow

About Ryan 

Ryan Carson is the CEO and Founder of Treehouse, where their mission is to bring effective, valuable and accessible technology education to everyone so they can change their lives and change the world.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ryan Carson Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ryan, thanks so much for joining us here on the How To Be Awesome At Your Job podcast.

Ryan Carson
It’s an honor. I cannot wait to chat.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, me, too. So I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. And I see in your fun fact you mentioned that you are an Eagle Scout. I’d love to know, is that something that comes in handy frequently, or any interesting stories or significance here?

Ryan Carson
It’s funny because I had kind of forgotten I was an Eagle Scout for a large part of my life. I moved to England for 12 years, and people don’t even start campfires in England, so my Boy Scout skills are not really needed. And then I came back to America, and I have two amazing boys, and I thought, “You know, we should maybe try to get into Boy Scout and we’ll see.”

And so we went, and I went to the meeting, and I said, “You know, I was an Eagle Scout,” I kind of whispered it. And the Scout Master looked at me and he kind of stood up straight, and he said, “Ryan, you are an Eagle Scout.” And it just made me smile, you know, I just thought that was great. So it’s just fun knowing, “Gosh, I know how to start fires and survive.”

I don’t love kind of the sad part of how Boy Scouts are kind of ended up on the side of some political issues. It makes me a little sad, but I love the organization, an idea of integrity and hard work and being kind, and all those kind of things. So I’m glad I did it. My dad made me finish to be an Eagle Scout really. He kind of said, “Ryan, you’re going to finish this whether you want to or not.” So I’m thankful to my dad.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I had my brother’s dog for a little while with the project, but all is well that ends well.

Ryan Carson
Oh, well. You know, a good hustle.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember if he finished it or…I’m pretty sure he did. I think he is an Eagle Scout, present tense.

Ryan Carson
That’s just, to me, that’s just sad. I feel sad for him.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s a lot of thing on your brother. I wasn’t keeping tabs as much.

Ryan Carson
That’s okay. I won’t blame you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so now, speaking of outdoor things, or maybe not at all, so you are the CEO and co-founder of a business called Treehouse. Now, do you make treehouses or what are you about there?

Ryan Carson
Sometimes I wish we did. But, no, we’re an online school, and our students are adults who are looking to change their lives by learning how to code. So we have 80,000 enrolled students, so we’ve gotten kind of big. I’ve been working on it for eight years, and I love my job. I kind of skip to work every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s cool. Well, so now, I want to dig deep into this learn to code business as well as kind of learning and skill acquisition even more broadly. But, first, I’m little curious, when it comes to sort of educational opportunities or where learning happens, you have a point of view which I find very intriguing, in that you say that you call the question, “Where do you go to school?” a cruel and dangerous one. What’s the story here?

Ryan Carson
Yeah, this really struck me a couple of weeks ago. So the whole premise of Treehouse is founded upon my experience, which was I was very privileged, I had this amazing family that encouraged me to go to college. When I was in college I studied computer science which is an amazing pick because there’s just a million jobs. And I did that.

And then I left college and I got my first job, and I realized, “I did not need my computer science degree to do that job.” It was like getting an electrical engineering degree to be an electrician. It’s just not needed. Coding and making apps is not computer science. For the most part it’s a trade skill. And it just struck me, “Something is really wrong here.”

All these people are going to college and spending a huge amount of money and getting a job that you don’t need the degree, something is not right, and it bugged me. So, fast-forward about five years later, I decided, “I want to try to solve that problem and see if I can give people the skills to get a job without all the expense of a college degree.” And I’m not anti-college, I’m just pro person, right? You know, I want someone to be able to get a job so they can support their family without student debts. So, began this journey.

Now, fast-forward to 2018, we’ve got tens of thousands of students, and we’ve made a lot of progress in giving people the skills to get a job. And I was having a conversation with a woman at an event, and she said, “You know what, I was an executive assistant, I don’t have a college degree, and it was really hard to get above the administrative role. Every time I try to get out of that job and do an operational role, they would ask me what my degree was or where I went to school.”

And she said, “It’s worse than that. Everyone that I run into at work, when they’re kind of looking for something to say to make small talk, they say, ‘Hey, so where did you go to school?’” And she’s like, “I didn’t go to school. I don’t have a degree.” And this would happen once a day.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you.

Ryan Carson
And I just thought, “You know, that is a brutal kind of statement that none of us even realize was hurting people.” And I think we need to unwind this idea that you need to go to college to be successful and that you’re less of a person if you haven’t done that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, thank you. That’s a great perspective in terms of, “Hey, what’s the person, on the receiving end of that question, think and feel if they didn’t go to school?” Or if they went to a school that maybe has less, I don’t know, prestige or selectivity, then the predominant school in the room, you know.

Ryan Carson
Right. Right. Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“Hey, I went to Notre Dame. Where did you go?” “Oh, I went to Northeastern something state, something.” It’s like, “Oh.”

Ryan Carson
“Oh.”

Pete Mockaitis
You know?

Ryan Carson
Right. Or a community college, “Oh.” And none of it is fair, and none of it maps to reality. I mean, we’re doing this interview, I haven’t asked you what your degree is. It doesn’t matter. And I’ve had very few conversations in my professional life where it’s at all relevant. It’s all about, “What is your work?” You know, I wanted to be on this podcast because of your work. And I think we need to change the conversation. We should just care about what people have done and if their behaviors are correct. So I’m excited to help unlock that.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s cool and it’s great that you’re out there and you are creating opportunity for folks to do the advancement in that realm by acquiring the trade skill of coding. So I’d love to get your take, then. I imagine with 80,000 students, you’ve learned a thing or two about what makes people successful when they are setting out to learn something or acquire some new skills. So I’d love it if you could share some of the most actionable takeaway tidbits that would be helpful for listeners who are trying to learn some new stuff or pick up some extra skills. What are some do’s and don’ts?

Ryan Carson
You bet. The very first one is a mental exercise. So the number one thing that stops people from learning how to code is not math skill, it’s not analytical skill; it is mental state of mind. And what I mean by that is most people will say, “Okay, I’ve heard coding is exciting. I’ve heard there’s 1.3 million jobs. I’ve heard that these jobs pay $90,000 or more. I want in.”

And so they try it. And then they get a little bit of way in, and then they think, “Gosh, I don’t know if I can do this. All these people in the industry are, they seem really advanced and they all seem like they know what they’re doing. And I just can’t see myself doing that.” And so, they quit. And it has nothing to do with their capability, the amount of time they have, or their financial ability to pay for school. It’s everything to do with whether their mind says they can.

So what you need to do is envision yourself actually in that job. And it sounds kind of hokey but it’s important to write it down and say, “I am going to be a web developer, a mobile developer, a coder in 12 months’ time. And I’m going to be sitting on a desk, in a beautiful tech company, earning $70,000, $80,000, $90,000, and I’m going to be successful,” and plant that flag mentally.

I really believe in our mind’s ability to either unlock or close doors. So that’s where you start, actually envision yourself doing it.

Pete Mockaitis
So doing it. Now maybe it’s acquiring the role, maybe it’s doing the thing that you feel like you maybe can’t do right now, but, “Hey, I will be communicating confidently to groups of senior executives,” or, “I will be at a cool tech company and do my thing.” So, all right. So you envision it and your write it down, you stake it with a flag in your mind, so that’s sort of step one to give you a bit of resilience against the, “Oh, I don’t know if I could do this.” So, then, what else?

Ryan Carson
And then the idea is you have to accept that there’s going to be a consistent level of daily work involved, and you’re not going to want to do it all the time. It’s very similar to working out. So to go through any sort of learning transformation it’ll feel like going to the gym where it’s kind of exciting and fun for about seven days, and then you realize, “Gosh, this is hard work. And, you know, my kids are having trouble right now in school. I’m just going to set this aside and focus on that,” or, “Gosh, work is kind of crazy. I’ll come back to this.” And you have to tell yourself, at a time, “I’m going to want to quit.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Ryan Carson
And so when I say that to myself, “I want to quit,” you say, “I knew I was going to say that, and I’m not going to do it. And I’m going to commit to just doing another day. So I’m going to spend another hour tomorrow, and that’s all I’m going to commit to. And then I spend an hour tomorrow, and then I’m going to commit to another hour the next day.”

So it really is a marathon that you run kind of a step at a time and commit to taking the next step and that’s it. I think those are two of the keys to actually transform your life whether it comes to learning coding, or becoming an executive, or selling something, or transforming your body. It really is astonishing what we can do if we get over our mind’s roadblocks.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. I really like that. Thank you. So those are some sort of foundational cornerstones with regard to setting the groundwork for persistence and making it happen. So I’d like to get your thoughts for, then, in the moment when you’re trying to learn something, to build a skill you don’t have yet, are there any great perspectives in terms of doing the learning best?

Ryan Carson
Yes, so I would say you need to take your calendar and block it off. So what you want to do is be very realistic about the time you can spend. So look at the next seven days and actually schedule in little blocks for learning. And you have to be really realistic about it. Don’t do it at the end of the day when you’re going to be exhausted. Don’t do it when you’re supposed to be making the kids’ lunches. You have be really realistic.

And the first thing I’d suggest is getting up earlier. I have been waking up at 4:30 a.m. now for over a year, and it’s been transformational in my ability to deliver. And so if you can’t find time the rest of the day, just try getting up half an hour earlier, and you’ll be surprised you can do it. And then use that time and focus. And then when you’re done, say, “I did it for today. I’m just going to commit to doing it tomorrow.” So it’s a really tactical thing.

The other tactical thing is you have to recall what you’ve learned and then use it to build something. So if you’re watching a video about something, you have to take notes and kind of engage. But then the immediate next thing you need to do is stop watching the video and actually take that knowledge and then reform it in a new way.

So think about it like Lego. So you get a bunch of Lego and you pick up a piece of Lego, that’s like learning, and then you pick up another piece. You feel like you’re learning but you’re just kind of picking up pieces. What you need to do is actually take those things and build something with it. And there’s an actual chemical process in your brain where synapses are formed when you take that knowledge and you use it to build something new.

And it’s really uncomfortable. It actually feels like working out. It’s not nice, like, “I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I thought I learned something but I’m trying to use what I learned but I feel like I don’t know what to do.” That’s where you’re actually learning, and you want to embrace that uncomfortable feeling because that is actually learning and that means you’re making progress.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m intrigued. I guess, now, if it’s a coding situation, you know, oh, man, I’m thinking back to my youth. I did a few BASIC, just a smidge.

Ryan Carson
Nice. Nice. Impressive.

Pete Mockaitis
And so I’m thinking, “Okay, I learned like what an “if” statement does.”

Ryan Carson
Nice.

Pete Mockaitis
So, “Okay, I learned that but I read it from a book or something,” and then you’re saying recall it like use it in some format. And so I would just maybe try to put that in there. So, I guess I’m curious, if we’re talking about sort of non-tech skills like, let’s say, I learned, well, hey, on this podcast we had a guest who said you can calm your nerves before speaking by holding a cold bottle of water or something. That’s something I learned.

Ryan Carson
Right. Piece of knowledge.

Pete Mockaitis
So you’re saying I should go for it and do that right away. Or what do I do?

Ryan Carson
Sort of. So I think another skill that I learned is selling. So I didn’t think I was good at selling things, it made me uncomfortable, I didn’t like it. And then I thought, “You know what, I bet I can learn how to do this.” And so I watched a couple of videos for how to sell things. Okay, you have to identify a target, you have to write a pitch, you have to be consistent, etc. etc.

And then the video stopped and said, “Okay, now you actually have to go write your own pitch for your own product and try to pick some people to sell it to.” So you go from like imagining the work to actually doing the work, and you’ll feel really terrible at it because you don’t know what you’re doing. And most people quit at that moment because they say, “I’m terrible at this.” And that’s the whole point, you are terrible at it and that’s why you’re learning, and that’s why you’re practicing. And you can’t get good at it unless you get through that terrible part.

I’m a fan of a guy named Ryan Holiday who wrote a book called Ego Is the Enemy. And one of the phrases he says all the time is, “The obstacle is the way.” And so getting through that uncomfortable period where you’re writing that pitch, and it seems terrible, and you think someone is going to laugh at you if you send it to them, that’s the most important. That is the way. The obstacle is the way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So you write a terrible pitch, and what do you do next?

Ryan Carson
Then you send it and you’ll probably get laughed at.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Carson
And knowing that that’s going to happen, again, is part of the process. So coding is another good example. So you’re going to learn a bit of code, and you’re going to make a very simple website, and then you’re going to put it on the internet, and you’re going to be ashamed of it. And that is the process. Then you do it again, and you do it again, and you do it again until eventually you realize, “Actually, I kind of know what I’m doing here.”

And then what we actually encourage people to do to get in the tech industry is not to learn everything and then go apply for a job. We say, “Learn and build, and learn and build, and then build for a friend for free.” So go to a local butcher shop and say, “Can I make your website for free?” and that’ll be uncomfortable and scary but it’s free, so, hey, what’s the worst that can happen?

You do it and they go, “Oh, it’s okay. Thanks.” And then you go to another shop, the florist, and you say, “Can I build a website for you for $100?” And they’re like, “Meh, it’s still pretty cheap. Sure.” And you do it and then you realize, “Oh, I just got paid to this.” So you’re building up your confidence slowly. And then you just keep doing that and raising your prices and raising your prices, and eventually you are a web designer, a web developer, and it was through that uncomfortable process. So I think that’s applicable to almost anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, it’s so funny. I’m thinking, I’d love a free developer right about now.

Ryan Carson
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
If anyone is listening.

Ryan Carson
Hit us up. I mean, but that is the door. If you’re willing to do a little bit of work and look a little bit dumb, there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Pete Mockaitis
Ooh, there you go. That feels like a pulled quote, Ryan.

Ryan Carson
It’s true, right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Ryan Carson
It’s one of the essences of life. I mean, I have two boys, and I say this over and over to them. You know, they’ll say something like, “Dad, I can’t shoot a basket. I can’t make it.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s because you haven’t practiced. No one gets good at anything unless they practice.” And it’s the same with getting a job, getting a speaking gig, getting a raise. It’s amazing what we can do if we’re willing to do the work and look a little dumb during the process.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I like that. Well, so, Ryan, this is a tricky point here in the midst of this. Now, at the same time, I think we, as varied human beings, have kind of different levels of aptitude or the levels to which this stuff come, a given thing comes naturally to one versus another, you know, multiple intelligences and all that. So, in a way, that’s kind of a dangerous idea because it can lull you into maybe some fixed mindset territory or you say, “Oh, well, I’m just not good at that.”

So, I guess, I hear that it’s dangerous to give too much credence to that belief but, nonetheless, there are some variations in our aptitude for stuff where there’s a lot of good research suggesting that you’ll get great results to the extent that you focus in on your strengths. So how do you navigate some of that tricky water?

Ryan Carson
Yeah, that is hard. I think that sphere of what we’re talking about here, there is kind of general skills that relate to getting a job, or being successful at work, or becoming well-known in your hobby. I think, in general, aptitude is a very small indicator of success. I believe it’s mostly about hard work and discipline. I think we way overcount natural skill or aptitude.

Now, there’s a certain reality here, right? So, as a skinny white guy, am I going to be successful in the NBA? No, my genetics just are not going to allow me to be very successful there. I should probably not try to spend 10,000 hours becoming the best basketball player in the world. But I could. I could try. But I think, though, with knowledge work, there really isn’t a limit.

If you’re blessed and lucky to have normal cognitive ability and just a normal IQ, I think you can do almost anything. I really do. And I think that’s very empowering so I just want to encourage people. Everyone who has done something amazing started off knowing nothing, and they didn’t know what they were doing. So take heart, it’s possible. And I don’t want to be cheesy about it. It’s not easy but it is possible.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I’m thinking a little bit in the realm of, you know, if let’s say we have a hundred folks go to town trying to learn JavaScript with your world-class learning tool somewhere in Treehouse, you know.

Ryan Carson
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
Or I assume, I haven’t checked it out myself in great detail firstly, but in due time maybe. And so, now, it seems like folks are going to get a different level of distance or relative mastery than one another, and in some ways, hey, comparisons are odious, you know, compare and despair, I’ve heard it said. But in other ways, I don’t know, is there an indicator maybe, or do you have any kind of rules of thumb for, “Hey, you know, we gave this a great effort, you’ve learned some things, you’ve been sharpened and developed in some cool ways yet it seems though, pursuing another avenue of learning is going to be a bigger bang for your buck”? Are there any sort of rules of thumb or guidance you use there?

Ryan Carson
Yes. So the major indicator is something called grit. Angela Duckworth actually wrote a book on this and it’s worth reading. And it really is the ability to continue when you get discouraged. I think that ability will be a large indicator if you could be successful but that’s not a cognitive talent, right? It’s not, “Hey, I’m great at math.”

So this is people’s largest misconception about coding is that it is computer science. It’s just not. So most of coding is adding, is multiplication, is writing text, I mean, it’s not even geometry, it’s not even algebra. It’s actually more like writing a screenplay. It’s very creative. You use words. There are some rules, you know, you’ve got to put a period here and a semicolon there. But that’s it.

So, yeah, I think grit, it’s all about grit. And there’s some interesting tests, Angela has one in her book, which is kind of useful as a starting point.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. So it sounds like that you don’t have much of a comment on the…you’re saying, “Hey, maybe they do get farther than 100 hours but whatever. It’s the grit and persistence that’s going to ultimately carry the day long term.” Is that kind of what I’m hearing from you?

Ryan Carson
It is. And it’s sort of similar to carpentry. And actually there are I think 10,000 open carpentry jobs in Portland, Oregon right now. So this belief that, you know, the trades are somehow not the place to get a job is false, number one. But, let’s take carpenters. So, we don’t think of carpentry this way where we say, “Gosh, we’re going to have a hundred people try to learn carpentry. Isn’t it really only the top 10 that are going to be good? I mean, come on, right? It’s hard.”

Like, no. If you put in the hard work, you can be a great carpenter, right? So much of what we do at work now, in the information age, has much more in common with carpentry than it does with science, right? So I want to put that out there.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I appreciate that analogy and metaphor there. As a recent homeowner, you know, looking at a lot of…and just having great respect for the different intelligences of these craftsmen who are doing stuff. It’s like, wow, I don’t much at all about plumbing or electrical or about carpentry.

Ryan Carson
Right. I wish I did. I wish I did.

Pete Mockaitis
And so it’s very impressive. And so it sounds like you’re saying, “Well, Pete, it’s not so much that they all have grand aptitude toward plumbing and electrical of which you do not possess, but rather they just dug in and spent the time learning and developing the skillset.”

Ryan Carson
Yeah, they put in the work and they developed mastery, and you can too if you really want. And this is the beauty, and this is why I’m so passionate about my job at Treehouse it’s because I’m alive at the right time in human history where there’s an explosion of jobs, right?

So if I was teaching some sort of skill where there’s just a couple of jobs here and there, I wouldn’t be as passionate. But there’s going to be 1.3 million new developer jobs in America in the next 10 years, only 400,000 are going to be filled by college grads, so we have 900,000 jobs that are available. And anyone listening can get one. They just have to learn a skill like carpentry, it just happens to be at a computer. That’s all.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Okay. Well, let me dig in a little bit more in terms of what that can look like in practice. So, hey, there’s many programming languages out there. What’s your assessment of which ones are sort of the most in demand right now?

Ryan Carson
You bet. So JavaScript is really, really hot right now.

Pete Mockaitis
So hot right now – JavaScript.

Ryan Carson
It’s the thing. But that probably means nothing to most people that are listening. So what I would suggest instead is that you start by learning how to build a simple website. Very simple, very approachable. You know, everybody understands what a website is, so start there. If you enjoy that process, then you can dig in, and say, “You know what, I kind of like using technology to create. Now I’m going to take a JavaScript basics course and build a really simple app.”

It’s really fun because when you learn how to code it almost feels God-like because you sit down at a computer with a blank screen, and then in the end you build something that actually does something really amazing, and you’ve sort of willed it out of nothing. And it’s fun. It’s really creative.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, I like the way you phrased that, and I felt similarly with my minor modest, you know, tiny programming accomplishments.

Ryan Carson
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Or even creating something else whether it’s a logo, or a work of art through Photoshop, or an assessment, you know, even a questionnaire that it has power to yield insights for folks that are having used it. It’s cool. It’s a thrill. Cool. Well, so then, could you give us maybe a rough sense for, okay, if someone did want to pursue that and to have, you know, to know enough JavaScript such that a company would say, “Hey, hiring you would be valuable to us and not a pain in our rear because you’re holding us all back.” Roughly how many kind of learning hours are we talking about here?

Ryan Carson
So what we usually suggest is people think of it as a nine- to 12-month journey where they’re spending about one to two hours a day. So in that time you cannot interrupt your life and stop everything but yet still make progress. So what we usually tell people do is try something free. Treehouse has a free trial or Codecademy is an option. There’s a number of free things you can try.

If something strikes you about it, “Oh, I think I like this,” then dive in. We’ve got a really affordable option to start with if you want, but there’s plenty of choices. And then do what I talked about earlier. Put on your calendar, commit to the daily work one step at a time, and enjoy the progress as you go. And you can become a full-pledged web developer in nine to 12 months.

And then, salary expectations-wise, we usually tell folks, you know, without previous paid experience, you can expect to earn about 55K to start in that first job, and that’s a very much kind of an apprentice level, junior level job. And then within five years you’ll be making between $70,000 to $90,000 a year, sometimes even more. I mean, depending on where you live, you could be making easily $100,000, or if you’re in crazy Silicon Valley you could make $200,000 to $300,000 a year, so the sky is really the limit.

Pete Mockaitis
And is this $200 to $300 like, you know, legendary super developer, I think, what is it, Marco Arment. I think he’s the ultimate. I love Overcast so much by a podcast.

Ryan Carson
He’s great. Oh, my gosh, he’s great. He’s like the grouchy old man of the internet. I think, no. If you live in Silicon Valley, the kind of crazy thing is you can be a good solid developer with five years of experience to be making hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s just so much demand. Now, personally, I would not recommend going to Silicon Valley.

You know, we’re located in Portland, Oregon, a lot of our developers work from home, literally from home like Denver, Colorado and various places like that because it’s much more affordable, so the cost of living is way lower. So you can get a great job as a developer from almost anywhere. We have a lot of moms who are returning to work this way, “Hey, my kids are done with school now, or they’re in school. I want a job but I still want to be able to pick them up from school.” Becoming a developer is a great way to do that too.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Nifty. Well, tell us, any other pro tips on the learning, skill acquisition, focus, motivation, the goods here?

Ryan Carson
You bet. I really think it’s important to find your why, the deep, deep reason that you want to do something. I’ve come back to this over and over again over the past year. I have a very deep why in Treehouse. I feel like it’s the most important thing I’ll ever do. So if you can find that, that will be the reason that you wake up at 4:30 or you do that hour of work even though you’re tired.

If you can’t find that why, and I didn’t really find my why until I was about 32, I think you have to try to hold on to the faith that you can find it, that it’s a process, it’s a journey, and you’re on the journey to finding that why, and just to hang on a little bit longer. Hit me up on Twitter, I’m @ryancarson and say, “I’m looking for my why. I need some encouragement,” and I’ll give you a high five emoji back, and say, “Keep going. You can do it.” It really is so important to dig in and try to find that why.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. Well, any other thoughts before we shift gears and hear about a few of your favorite things?

Ryan Carson
No, I think that daily discipline to commit to a why is really what I’m all about right now, so let’s kick in the next section.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Let’s do it. Can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ryan Carson
“The obstacle is the way,” which is we talked about Ryan Holiday said that, that’s been so key for me.

Pete Mockaitis
And is he quoting a philosopher?

Ryan Carson
I think so.

Pete Mockaitis
Is that Marcus Aurelius or it’s one of the others?

Ryan Carson
I think so. I’m pretty sure he stole it but it’s still great.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Ryan Carson
I really love Angela’s work around grit. The idea of grit, understanding it, realizing it really can change the trajectory of your life is fascinating. So would highly recommend her book.

Pete Mockaitis
Any other books you’d highly recommend?

Ryan Carson
I always say this, and people laugh, but How to Win Friends & Influence People. My mom made me read it when I was in high school, and I just thought, “Oh, mom, what is this? This sounds like some sort of cheesy sales book.” And it fundamentally changed my life because I realized, “Oh, I need to think about what’s in it for other people.” That’s really the foundational principle in life.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Ryan Carson
So I highly recommend that. If I can get a bonus one in there.

Pete Mockaitis
Sure.

Ryan Carson
We just went through some training from Franklin Covey called Speed of Trust. And I’ve done a lot of training in my life, and this was I think the most valuable, and that’s from an organizational perspective. So if anyone is listening, is working inside a company or an organization, please check it out. I have no financial reason to say that other than it was really, really helpful.

Pete Mockaitis
And, well, can you give us a taste?

Ryan Carson
A little hint?

Pete Mockaitis
What was the transformation or result that unlocked for you and how?

Ryan Carson
You bet. So the foundation of the idea is trust is a multiplier for results. So you can imagine it this way. As you listen to this podcast, close your eyes, think about a project that you worked on with someone that you didn’t trust, and think about how that project went. Well, I’m sure it went badly. Now why is that? Why was trust so important?

So the training digs in that. Okay, so obviously trust is going to be a hidden variable in your success. So how do you build trust with people? What if you don’t trust someone and you want to build that. So it walks you through the foundations of what trust is. So I’ll give you a little hint. So in order to trust somebody you have to believe someone is credible. So what is credibility? Well, they’ve broken it down into four concepts, and it’s a tree.

So imagine a tree in the ground and it’s got roots, it’s got a trunk, it’s got branches and leaves. So to be credible, you have to have four things. The roots of the tree is integrity. So someone has to believe deep down that you have integrity, that you will do what you say you’d do, that you are a good person. If you don’t have that root you’ll never build trust.

Okay. So, say, you believe someone has integrity. The stem of the tree, the trunk of the tree, is the intent. You have to understand the intent of that person. So why are they doing this project? What’s their real motive? What are they trying to get done? Do you feel like you can know it and understand it? It’s about intent.

Pete Mockaitis
And so it doesn’t have to be like good or bad, it’s just that you know it and understand it instead of it’s a hidden subversive thing. Is that the idea?

Ryan Carson
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Carson
Yup. Just got to know it and believe it.

Pete Mockaitis
“Trying to get a fat bonus, that’s what I’m trying to do.” Good enough.

Ryan Carson
Yup, now I know, right? And then the branches are capability. So you have to believe that person actually has the ability to deliver results, that they have the capability of doing so, you know. They have the skills, they have the time, etc. And then the final are the leaves which are results. Ultimately, you have to deliver results, right?

You could have integrity, you could have clear intent, you could have the capabilities, but in the end if you never actually deliver results then you’re not credible. And those four things, the tree, makes up credibility and you have to have credibility to have trust. So that’s like the edge of the training. The rest is amazing because, then they’d say, “Well, that’s great. But how do you establish those things if you don’t have them?”

And there’s 13 behaviors of trust, and you learn how to use them at the right times. It’s just great. It was shockingly valuable.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. And so you saw in your own organization that trust increase and results multiplied?

Ryan Carson
It seems so. So we did this training two weeks ago. At Treehouse, we have 70-ish employees. We got together for a company meetup in person because we’re a remote team so we’re spread in the United States. And as soon as we finished the training, the first thing we did is we all went back and did our one-on-ones with the people that we manage, and we asked them, “Hey, what behaviors of trust do you need from me to help build trust?”

And we literally wrote them down, and it was really interesting to say, “Oh, wow, this person needs straight talk from me. That’s one thing they said. It’s a behavior they need from me so I need to do that.” So we’re already seeing an uptick in trust, and it’s just so exciting. It’s great.

Pete Mockaitis
Great, yes. Cool. Well, thanks for going deep there.

Ryan Carson
No problem. That sounds like a big commercial for Franklin Covey but, honestly, it was a really good training. I really, really appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued by trust myself these days, and how is that for cryptic?

Ryan Carson
That’s great.

Pete Mockaitis
Everything is okay, everybody. No need to worry. All right. And then how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ryan Carson
Oh, boy, I love my Bullet Journal. Do you know what Bullet Journals are?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s like a style of journal that helps you with like to-do list or tracking things, but sort of back and forth.

Ryan Carson
Yes. Okay. So here’s my method and it really works for me. It’s not a silver bullet. But what I do is in December I plan my year using a GANTT chart, and they’re really high-level things. Say, I want to get three things done in 2018, what buckets are they? So the first one is the Treehouse two-year vision. All right, I’ve got to move that forward. And then the second is family and friends, and the third is health. Okay. Great. All right.

And then I’ll break that down eventually into these large rocks and roughly when I need to work on them. And then every day when I wake up at 4:30, I immediately open that GANTT chart and I take what I need to be doing that day and I transfer it to written bullet points in my Bullet Journal, and it takes this large yearly planning and distills it down into, “Hey, what do I actually have to do today?”

And then the thing I love about it is I’m such a digital person. My phone is always on, I’m always on a computer. Using a written piece of paper and to check off my to-do list, for me, is just so satisfying. And it’s really focusing. I can turn off all screens and I just open my journal and I know what I got to do. So that’s one of my favorite tools. Love it.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And any favorite habits in addition?

Ryan Carson
Habits. Waking up at 4:30. I know I keep saying it but waking up early, I really believe, is the beginning of success.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget that you share that really seems to resonate, connect with folks, gets them re-tweeting and note-taking and head-nodding?

Ryan Carson
I think it’s the theme I’ve been kind of banging on about which is you don’t need a college degree to succeed in life anymore. You really don’t. You don’t need the debt. You don’t need the outdated knowledge. You just need to go out and start stacking skills and build things, and then show people what you build. That’s the future.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Ryan Carson
Please go to either Twitter or Instagram, I am @ryancarson, nice and simple, R-Y-A-N C-A-R-S-O-N, or Google Treehouse, and I think we’re number one and you’ll find us there.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. And do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Ryan Carson
Yes, hit pause as soon as we stop talking on this podcast, and start thinking about your why. Dig into that really hard. And if you think you know it, tweet at me and Pete, and tell us what it is. It’d be fun to hear that.

Pete Mockaitis
And any pro tips for when you’re doing that digging, prompts, questions to get the wheels turning all the more?

Ryan Carson
Yes. What have I’ve been consistently coming back to in my life? Where do I keep kind of being drawn to? What is that thing? Is it a person? Is it a cause? Is it an idea? Is it a dream? Go back to that. For me, it was I just really want to help people. I really do. And I’m passionate about tech, so if I could help people learn tech, okay, yeah, that’s my why. So dig into that, dig into what do you do when you have free time and you kind of pick something to do. What is that about? And start unpacking that.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for taking this time to share the goods. I wish you and Treehouse tons of luck and keep on living the why there.

Ryan Carson
Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be on the show. It’s been fun.

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