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Career Management

386: How to Earn More, Spend Less, and Build Wealth with Mindy Jensen

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Podcaster and real estate investor Mindy Jensen shares strategies for building wealth.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one tip for earning more at your job
  2. The power of tracking your spending
  3. Tips for optimizing big expenses

About Mindy

Mindy Jensen is the Community Manager for BiggerPockets.com, and the co-host of BiggerPockets Money, a podcast for anyone who has money or wants to have more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Mindy Jensen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Mindy, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Mindy Jensen
Pete, thank you for asking me to be on How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast. I’m super excited.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well me too. It was so fun to meet you at Podcast Movement. I’ve been a Bigger Pockets fan for a while. It was a bit of a celebrity sighting, like, “ooh!”

Mindy Jensen
Well, I am glad we could get together.

Pete Mockaitis
Me too, me too. I have huge thanks and appreciation for what you’ve done in my world of accumulating money and wealth in terms of did my first house hack, is a term I learned from you guys, which refers to buying a multi-unit property and renting out some units and living in one of them. It’s awesome to have tenants pay your mortgage for you. It’s a treat.

Mindy Jensen
You know what, who wants to pay their own mortgage when somebody else can pay it for you? If anybody wants to pay my mortgage, feel free.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an open invitation. Well, I want to go back into time a little bit and hear a fun story about you took a distance bike ride from Seattle to DC. What’s the story here?

Mindy Jensen
I used to work at a gym and I was flipping through some magazine and on the back cover was this advertisement that had a picture of the United States and it had a drawing from Seattle to DC. It said some people would do this on an airplane. Then I started reading and I’m like, “Well, yeah, how else would you get from Seattle to DC?” I’m looking and I’m like “This is a bike ride? That sounds awesome.”

I did a little more research. It was a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. And I just thought, “I’m young, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids. This would be a super fun thing for me to do.” I called them up and they said, “Oh, that ride started yesterday, but we have another one next year.” I’m like, “Okay, good because I’m not in any sort of shape to actually be doing a cross country bike ride.”

I mean I didn’t spend a lot of time getting in shape before the next year. I just hopped on my bike and did it. Not the recommended route. But it was an amazing experience to be – I didn’t really have anything to do all day long except get to the next camp. I met a ton of really great people. I raised a lot of money for the American Lung Association. It was a really great experience. I’m super glad I did it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. That’s great. Was there a big old group of you all? How many were making the trek?

Mindy Jensen
I think there were 140 of us that year.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. So there was like support vans and camping and that?

Mindy Jensen
Yes. There were support vans. There was breakfast provided and dinner provided. Then everything else was – like, souvenirs and drinks and everything else was on your own.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool, very cool. Well, kudos for that achievement and discipline and advance planning and some of those topics and themes come up on Bigger Pockets. Could you orient listeners who are not familiar with Bigger Pockets? What’s it all about?

Mindy Jensen
Bigger Pockets is a website where basically you can learn how to invest in real estate. There’s a right way and there’s a thousand wrong ways to do it. If you do it the right way, you can most likely make money, definitely not break any laws.

You really don’t know what you don’t know. Something might sound really easy and then you start diving into it, you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t think of that. I didn’t think of that.” Our site exists to help you think of that and think of that. We have a blog and a forum and now two podcasts, the real estate investing podcast and the money podcast because not everybody is in a financial position to just start investing right away.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true. When you say financial position, I’m reminded—my wife and I, we watched all the videos on buying your first property. I believe it was Scott Trench was the man on camera. He kept saying strong financial position with hand gestures. My wife and I, we kept alluding to that. “Do we have a strong financial position?” It’s wise advice as opposed to no money down stuff, which can up your level of risk.

Mindy Jensen
It can. Although, we do have a book called How to Invest with Low and No Money Down. No money down means none of your own money down, not no money down. Nobody’s going to give you a house without anything in it, except – actually there’s two.

If you can qualify for a USDA loan, which is more for a rural area or a VA loan if you are a veteran. Those are the only two loan programs that I know of that come with 0% down. But for the most part, you should have money to put into the property or at least have a cushion in case something goes wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. We ended up going with a Freddie Mac Home Possible program in a neighborhood that I guess they thought they wanted to encourage people to invest and move into from the last census track, but I’m sure when they update the census track it will probably no longer qualify. It was good timing.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, that’s really good timing. They do lag – the government is the government. It is a huge slow-moving beast, so a lot of times what they think is rural, is no longer rural. I have a friend who got a USDA loan in one of the hottest areas in Northern Colorado, which is still considered technically rural, but they’ve got subdivision after subdivision popping up all over the place.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Well, we’re starting to get into the tactical and that’s fine because I wanted to hear just one to orient folks. I think one cool, innovative thing that you do, which I had never even heard of is you purchase a home, you live in it for a while, while you’re renovating and then you resell it. What’s the story? How does it work?

Mindy Jensen
This is called a live in flip. I have done this eight times. I buy a house that is cosmetically ugly, but structurally sound so that I’m not moving into something that’s going to crumble around me. You’re not looking at something like a meth house or something with mold or something with significant issues.

I buy it. I move into it. It is my primary residence, so I get a lower mortgage rate because owner occupants have the lowest mortgage rates – owner occupants with the best credit have the lowest mortgage rates.

I fix it up for two years. Two is the magic number because if I sell it after two years, I pay no capital gains taxes on the increase – the difference in the value between what I bought it at and what I sold it for minus repairs. I pay no capital gains up to $500,000 because I’m married and up to $250,000 if I were single.

The house that I’m in now, I bought it for $176,000. I put roughly $100,000 into it. Currently I could put it on the market and sell it in a hot second for $500 or $525. There’s a significant amount of capital gains that I have realized in this home and I will pay no taxes on it when I sell it.

Pete Mockaitis
That is brilliant. That’s the kind of stuff that you pick up over at Bigger Pockets. I think that’s so cool. I just wanted to get that out there, so we can learn a little bit about you and sort of how you do your thing. But maybe let’s kind of get a broader perspective in terms of when we talk about financial freedom, how do you think about that and define it and what does that mean in real lived terms?

Mindy Jensen
I consider myself financially free, which to me means I don’t need to work in order to pay my bills, in order to feed my children, in order to put food on the table and have a roof over my head. I have enough money that I have saved up and invested so that I would never have to work again. That means that I can choose to work in a passion project, in a thing that doesn’t make me much money because the money is now out of the equation and now I can just do what I love.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. What are you doing then?

Mindy Jensen
Well, I work at Bigger Pockets. I talk about real estate all day long. You alluded earlier, we’re kind of getting into the weeds, please reign me in because I can literally talk about this all day. And I do, that’s my job. I really love doing that. While I am well compensated, I could work there for free, just don’t tell my boss.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. You hear that sort of enthusiasm for real estate on the podcast in terms of folks that they just eat, sleep, breathe and live it and love it.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I think that real estate is a really great investment. There’s a quote – I can’t remember who said it, “Buy land, they’re not making any more of it.” Real estate is – it’s not a totally finite amount or what am I trying to say here? Real estate isn’t a finite – there isn’t a finite amount of real estate in the world, but it’s still almost always rising in price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right and we have population growing. That’s another reason I’m a fan of farmland as investments go because we continue to eat year after year and there are more people doing it.

Mindy Jensen
That is absolutely true. Farmland is not something I really know all that much about.

Pete Mockaitis
Anyway, so we talked about the two-year strategy, the house hacking. I’d love to get your take both on the earning more and the saving more sides of things. You’ve learned a ton from your work and your research and your enthusiasm and reading and talking to people. What have you discovered to be some of the most effective approaches, we’ll start with earning more, that you think would be applicable for professionals working in a job right now?

Mindy Jensen
You want to make yourself invaluable. You want to be the go-to person for fill in the blank. Whatever it is, you want your boss to think, “Oh, I’ve got a project. I’m going to give it to Pete because I know Pete’s going to do it. He’s not going to give me excuses. He’s not going to be late.”

There’s kind of a shortage of people who do a good job. There’s a lot of people who do an average job, who do a mediocre job. There’s no shortage of people who do a bad job. But the people who are really, really awesome at their jobs, that’s not all that common. If you can stand out, you can be so much more valuable.

Then when you are invaluable to your boss, you go in and you ask for a raise. This is something that so many people struggle with. They don’t want to ask for a raise. What’s the worst that can happen? Is your boss going to fire you because you asked for a raise? He’s not the right person to work – he or she – sorry, I don’t want to be sexist – isn’t the right person to work for anyway.

If you go in and you have solid data to back up why you deserve this raise and what you’ve done in the past year, in the past six months, how your job has changed or whatever, the worst that can happen is they say no or they no not right now. If they say not right now, ask them when. But I think so many people leave so much money on the table simply because they don’t ask for a raise.

Pete Mockaitis
I like a lot of what you’re saying here and to dig into some more. But that point about it’s kind of rare that people are awesome at their jobs, I second that. In doing the research for, “Hm, would anyone listen to this podcast?” I collected three different survey tools, which is pretty cool, and I got a sense that between 4 and 18% of people in the US were highly interested in listening to a podcast that would help them be awesome at their jobs.

It’s funny because sometimes I have guests who say, “Who wouldn’t want to be awesome at their jobs?” It’s like, well, it’s kind of the majority. We are a minority, so thank you listeners. It’s great to have you and be in a cool kids club.

And I was chatting with my buddy, Carl. Carl, he was working for actually it was a mortgage company. Carl was getting promoted quickly. I was like, “Carl, what’s your trick. What are you doing?” He just said, “I’m doing my job. I’m supposed to follow up on these leads so that’s sort of what I do all day. Then other people they do that for maybe half of the day.”

The other half they’re kind of – well they’re sort of chilling out in whatever way with chitchatting with people or Facebook or their phones or sort of whatever distractions enter their world. Yeah, awesomeness is rare and valuable and can get you paid.

I want to hear a little bit about the data point. What are some of your favorite resources or kind of pieces of information and numbers you would point to when you’re armed to have that ‘please give me a raise’ conversation well?

Mindy Jensen
This isn’t a conversation you can plan for in five minutes. If you are going to ask for a raise, you need to plan that out because you want to start keeping track of what you’re doing every day. I’ve got a couple stories. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds.

But I had a friend whose boss came up to her one day and said, “I don’t think you’re doing what you say you’re doing.” She went home that day and called me up and she got all mad. She’s like, “I can’t believe she would ask me this.” A couple of month later she got fired because her boss kind of gave her a head up, “Look, I think you’re not doing what you say you’re doing,” and she never proved her boss wrong.

At almost the exact same time, my husband’s boss said the same thing to him, but my husband’s boss said this because my husband was working – living in Colorado, the boss was in Chicago. He was working from home. My husband started keeping track of absolutely everything he did every single day. He turned it in every week to his boss. His boss didn’t ask him to do this. He just did this on his own.

After 18 months – he worked for the government, so it’s kind of a long, drawn out process – but after 18 months, the boss came to him and he said, “You don’t need to send me these anymore. I totally believe you’re doing what you say you’re doing.”

Your boss gives you money in exchange for the job. You should be keeping track daily or weekly what you’re doing. Your boss doesn’t want to see a list of 365 days’ worth of stuff you did, but you can kind of keep track every day. “Oh, today I did this. Today I did that. I worked on this project,” so when it comes time to ask your boss for a raise, you can show them your log.

They’re not going to read it. They’re just going to like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe you did this.” Then show them some bullet points. “I got that big contract that you were looking for,” “I increased my sales by this,” “I did that,” or whatever it is. Having proof that you did it goes a long way to getting the raise.

Your boss is going to see how dedicated you are to the job just by showing him all the things that you have – all the things you’ve been doing. Another place to start looking is Glassdoor. It’s a good place to get a comparison of what people in your area are making for doing the same job that you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Mindy Jensen
If you’re making $50,000 and everybody else in your area is making 55, you can ask for 60. I would always overshoot. Ask for 60 and say, “Look, everybody is making this, but here’s all the things that I’ve been doing and here’s why I deserve it.” Just going in and asking for a raise is not necessarily going to get you anything.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. That practice associated with keeping track of what you’re doing I think would be so helpful on numerous dimensions. So many guests have said sort of their top habit for being awesome at their job is just having a simple list of okay, these are the one, two, three, limited number of things I’m going to do today, so they have that focus before emails or distractions sort of suck them into other agendas.

That practice one, gets you focused day by day and two, let’s you capture those bullets of achievement, whether that goes into a resume when it’s time to update it or for the annual review. You just have that ready to go and repurpose any which way to serve your needs.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I have one more quote that I’m going to butcher. It’s from George Carlin. Obviously he’s a comedian. He says, “Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that half of them are stupider than that.” Take out stupid and replace it with lazy. Think of how lazy the average worker is and realize that half of them are lazier than that. A very small amount of work will yield so many results just because you’re so much better than your peers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, nice perspectives on the earning side. Any other favorite approaches you’d like to mention?

Mindy Jensen
No. There’s side hustles. If there’s no way to make more money at your current job, a side hustle is a great way to bring in extra income without committing to a totally second job. There’s – that, the sky’s the limit. What are your passions? What are you excited about? What do you want to do? Some side hustles pay more than others. Some are not so exciting. It depends.

I really think that at your main job, you’re most likely leaving a lot of money on the table simply by not asking for a raise, a specific dollar amount. “I’m making 50. I want to make 60, so I’m going to ask for 65. They win by giving me 61 and then I win because I only wanted 60,” or however that works.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh perfect. Let’s talk about the savings side of the equation. What are some of your favorite approaches there?

Mindy Jensen
My absolute favorite approach to saving money is to know where your money is going. You can’t know where to cut back, if you don’t know where it’s going right now. I used to say that your step number one is to check your spending, but really your number one step to having money should be to write down what your life goals are. What are your goals with money? What do you want to do with what you have?

After you’ve written that out, thought about what you really, really want, then start tracking your spending. You will be probably surprised at how you’re spending that you haven’t been tracking doesn’t really align with your goals. It might a little bit, but there’s always room for improvement.

One of the easiest ways to track spending is my friends over at WafflesOnWednesdays.com wrote up this amazing article. It is called How to Make Your Own Mobile Expense Tracking App in 30 Minutes. It’s free. They give you step-by-step instructions on basically how to take a Google form and create it to – customize it to your spending needs and put it on your phone. Every time you spend a dime, you track it in the spender – in the tracking app.

And what you will discover is “I do this too many times a month. I want to cut that back,” or “Wow, I didn’t know that about my spending. I’m glad I had this look at what’s going on.”

The first time I tracked my spending, I discovered that I went to the grocery store literally every single day. I was just picking up one thing. I was just picking up one other thing. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t just buy one thing. You buy one thing plus two others. But if you do that every day, that adds up to so much money spent. I was just going in, “Oh, I could use this or I could use that.”

It was between my house and the gym. I would go to the gym every morning, so I would just stop by on the way home. Once I started tracking my spending, I realized that’s not really what I want to be doing is throwing all of my money at the grocery store. I cut that back and my spending was cut – I’m not sure exactly how much I cut out of my spending, but it was significant and it was noticeable the next month.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d also love to get your take – so that mobile tracking app, that’s very clever. I’ve made something like that once to track my energy levels to sort of see, “Hm, are there some patterns associated with when I should do creative work versus focused detailed work.” That’s been very helpful. And so zippy, just push a button on the phone and boom, there’s a Google form and five seconds later you’ve got the data collected.

But for the lazy listener, who will say, “Mindy, can’t I just see what I’ve got on Mint.com. Won’t that sort of transaction log be sufficient for me when I use my credit cards?”

Mindy Jensen
You can if you like. When we first started tracking our spending, we had a spiral notebook with a pen and it was right by the door as I walked in, so I would see it and remember to mark down my spending. Whatever you can do to track your spending, whatever tactic works for you is the best option.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. We mentioned Mint.com. What about, any other sort of software or solutions that are helpful for folks. We’ve got the Google form approach on your phone, we’ve got the notebook, we’ve got Mint.com. I’ve heard of YNAB, You Need a Budget. Do you know people who love that? Are there any other solutions you’d point to?

Mindy Jensen
I know people who love YNAB. I believe it has a bit of a learning curve, but I know they’ve got really great tech support that can help you through that. I haven’t personally used it, so I don’t – I can’t say that it’s great or it’s terrible or whatever. I’ve never used it.

What worked for me the most was that notebook on the counter because it was in my face as I walked in the door. Whenever I walked in, I walked in through one door, so having it there – whatever you can use to remind yourself.

Now that I have this on the phone, it’s kind of fun to have it on the phone and I don’t even leave the grocery store or the parking lot, wherever I’m at, before I track my spending just so I don’t forget it. Having it on my phone makes it really easy to – it’s in my head all the time and it’s a game. Now it’s a game, “Oh, how little can I spend?”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m also intrigued by you’re keeping this practice alive and well, though you mentioned earlier, you’ve done eight houses worth of these living in flips and you are currently at financial freedom. It kind of reminds me of Warren Buffet, who continues to live modestly and thoughtfully about his expenses even though he’s got massive wealth.

Can you give me a view into that mindset of you’ve got more than enough money and you continue these practices? Some might say that’s unnecessary, what’s your take?

Mindy Jensen
When I was doing a little bit of research for your podcast, I heard you ask people about their favorite quote. My favorite quote for decades has been from Coco Chanel. She said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” She’s really sassy.

But I don’t care what other people think of me. If you don’t like my car, I don’t care. If you don’t like my clothes, I don’t care. I don’t have the latest phone. I have the phone that I have figured out. I don’t want a new phone because I don’t want to have to figure it out. I’m not the biggest techie person on the planet.

I have a house that looks nice, but it’s also – it looks nice because I’m getting ready to sell it to somebody who cares what their house looks like. I don’t care that you think I live in a dump when I move from here to the next place, which will be a dump when I move in, because it doesn’t affect me  what you or what other people think of me.

I think that’s a really big part of financial freedom. I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones’s. I don’t even know who the Jones’s are. It’s just a mindset. It’s a confidence thing. I would rather spend time with my children than have the latest phone. I’ve got a really good bicycle that I’ve had for something like 17 years. It still gets me where I need to go, so why do I need a new one just because they came out with a new version of it. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I think a large part of that is you’re really clear on what you want, what you value and the priority and thusly, the other stuff falls away.

Mindy Jensen
It kind of does. I buy what I want to buy and it’s because I want – I buy for quality when I’m buying something where quality means something to me. Like coffee, that’s a big one in the financial freedom world. “Oh, don’t go to Starbucks.” I don’t go to Starbucks. I don’t particularly love the taste of their coffee, but I buy good coffee and I make it at home. It’s good and I don’t care that I don’t have a green cup in my hand or I don’t have the red holiday cup or whatever they’re doing now.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talked about buying for quality, that reminds me of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, which is so great and full of research.

They mentioned that the average price of shoes for millionaires, like what do they spend on their dress shoes, I will not remember the number and it probably needs to be adjusted for inflation, but it was something like 200 bucks. It was not like 600-dollar crazy luxury brand, but it was also not the cheapos. It was a shoe that they hoped to resole it and wear for a decade or two or three.


Mindy Jensen
I will say that if you’re a man, you can get away with that. Lady’s styles go in and out. But again, if you don’t care – I’m trying to think what – I don’t even know if I have any dress shoes right now because I don’t dress up and go anywhere. That’s not something that I enjoy. I don’t go to the opera, the cinema – not the cinema, the theatre.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the theatre.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I don’t do any of that. I don’t – that’s not something I enjoy. I really loathe the opera. I’m not a fan. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m sure it’s beautiful and whatever. It’s just not something that I want to go to. But I do go to the symphony, the local symphony, which is held in the high school auditorium. You could – as long as you have on clothes, that’s all they need you to be wearing. That’s more my speed.

Pete Mockaitis
The dress code is clothes.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, having a good quality item that – you spend on what is important to you. You save money on things that don’t matter, so you can spend on what’s important to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Let’s hear about some other approaches for the saving. Once you’ve got a clear picture on where your money’s going and some of the mismatches, you make some adjustments. What have you found to be some common recurring opportunities for lots of people overspend on this and there’s an easy way to stop doing that?

Mindy Jensen
A lot of people overspend on their phone plan, on their insurance, on recurring charges that they don’t really think about.


Okay, one thing that I have heard – one recommendation that I have heard from a lot of different people is to go through your credit card statements every single month and make sure that the recurring charges are the least amount that you can spend for the level of service or quality that you want.

Let’s say you have a phone plan from your big name phone company and it’s $100 a month and it includes unlimited texting and unlimited data. I don’t even know what’s available because I don’t use any data on my phone. But I use Ting, T-I-N-G.com. They run over the Sprint network. There’s a couple of different ones. Republic Wireless is another one. I think Cricket Wireless is also a low cost, but don’t quote me on that.

Where my plan, my basic plan is $15 a month. That includes unlimited Wi-Fi, phone calls, and a few other things, and like a gig of data or something that I never go over because I hardly ever use it. But they have different levels of plans and you only pay for what you’re using.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating. You can just sort of take your existing phone once your contract is up and say, “Hey, Ting me up.”

Mindy Jensen
It depends. You would have to talk to Ting to make sure that your phone is compatible. I think that not all phones are compatible. This is something that I don’t do a lot of. I got on Ting and then I never look at it again. I have the same phone for a long time because I don’t want to learn a new phone. I just want to have Google maps and the ability to text and make a phone call.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Mindy Jensen
Then everything else is bonus.

Your insurance, your car insurance, your home insurance. One thing that I have noticed is that your premiums go up every year. If you shop around to other companies, you might get a teaser rate or you might get a lower rate simply because your insurance company is kind of banking on you to be lazy and not-

Pete Mockaitis
Like the cable companies do. Yeah.

Mindy Jensen
Kind of like the cable companies do, yeah. Do you need everything that’s in that list of insurance? When I first starting driving, I had full coverage. Now I have pretty basic coverage because I’m a good driver and I don’t hit people. I’m covered if somebody else hits me. I have enough money to cover the old car that I have, which I probably wouldn’t get anything for anyways.

I don’t have coverage if I hit somebody. I don’t coverage for my own vehicle. But I also haven’t been in an accident that was my fault since like 1992 or something like that.

Another thing to do is raise your deductible. My deductible when I was a kid was like $100 because I couldn’t scrape together anything more than that. Now I think it’s $2,000 because I can come together with $2,000 and have everything else covered.

Just review your recurring charges, ask for discounts everywhere you can. Again, what’s the worst that they’re going to do? They’re going to say no. Then you threaten to cancel the account or you cancel it and go someplace else that gives you a better price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice. I also like one takeaway I picked up from Bigger Pockets is to focus in on the big areas of spending and to not stress so much, like the latte, “Oh I love the latte. I don’t want to give up the latte.” Well, the latte matters less than what you’re spending on your home, your domicile, your living arrangement, your transportation or car, and your food, your groceries, what you’re consuming, whether it’s out or in. Do you have any pro tips on optimizing those big ones?

Mindy Jensen
I do have pro tips on optimizing those big ones. Let’s start with your car. Do you need your car? Do you need it all the time? Do you have an alternative way to get to wherever it is you’re going in the car? Most people use their car to get to work. How close do you live to work?  Could you walk? Could you bike? Could you get a ride with somebody?

We have a guy at bigger pockets named Craig who used to rent out his car on Turo and made a lot of money doing it. He would take his bike to work. He would get a ride with somebody if he needed to. He just rented his car out all the time. That’s a way to get rid of your expense when you don’t really need the item.


Housing, you can – Airbnb, you can rent out the unused portions of your home. You can have a roommate. How much space do you have that’s just vacant and not being used ever? You house hack.

There’s a lot of ways to cut down your expenses, eliminate them, even make money on your previous liability, now it’s an asset, simply by tweaking something. If you don’t want to move, you could just rent out a room in your house. Maybe you’re not having your entire mortgage paid, but any portion of your mortgage that you don’t have to pay is a win.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. How about on the food side of things?

Mindy Jensen
On the food side of things, I would absolutely recommend to plan your meals. Look at inexpensive food ingredients. Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and potatoes are inexpensive. Look for ways to build your meals around inexpensive staples with a pinch of something else.

If you are a meat eater, maybe you have a small amount of meat with your very vegetable heavy meal. I am a meat eater, so we do have a lot of meat. But I do have a daughter who saw this movie called Free Birds, which is a cartoon. That was the first time she equated turkey that you eat with turkey the bird and has never eaten a piece of meat since, so I have learned to do a lot of vegetarian meal planning.

Beans are cheap. Canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are even cheaper. You can buy in bulk. Plan your meals around these protein sources that aren’t meat, which is fairly expensive.

Pete Mockaitis
I love if you have dried beans, if you throw them in an Instapot, you can get them raring to go and eat pretty quickly without the whole soaking process, so there’s another one.

Mindy Jensen
That’s what I’ve heard. I don’t have an Instapot, so I can’t speak to that. But there’s – go to – excuse me – go to Pinterest.com and look up 50 billion recipes for insert ingredient here. “What I can do with canned beans?” or “What can I do with dried beans?” “Oh, here’s 47 recipes for you.” Chile is a super hearty meal that you can make and – you just throw in a bunch of stuff in that pot.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s wild just how far you can take this. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the FIRE movement, Financial Independence Retire Early. They profiled someone whose monthly grocery bill was $75 and that’s what does it for eating for one for a month, $75.

Mindy Jensen
That is not my budget. Good for her for being able to do it. She had tips like buy produce that isn’t optimal. I think there was this quote that was kind of bandied about in the FIRE community, “Oh, she eats brown bananas.” So what? That’s when they’re the best. The Chiquita banana song, “When they’re flecked with brown and have a golden hue, bananas taste the best and are the best for you.” I don’t know, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. Any musical number is welcome. We’ll take them all.

Mindy Jensen
Great. My grocery store has a dented aisle. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dent. It doesn’t matter that something – the can is – the box is crushed on the corner unless it’s taco shells. Those are always just disintegrated. Don’t buy those in the dented aisle. But everything else – like I have a box of cereal it’s got a dent in it, so instead of $4.99, it’s $0.99. I’ll take that every day.

Pete Mockaitis
This is handy in terms of earning more and saving more. What do you see are sort of the most common mistakes or difficult decisions that folks are really wrestling with when they’re trying to get their financial house in order?

Mindy Jensen
Personal finance is personal. It means it’s what happens to your finances. If you want to go to Starbucks every morning, then go. Put that into your budget and cut back on other things.

What I see people doing is reading – there’s a guy who’s been blogging since the beginning of time called Early Retirement Extreme. He lives on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He’s okay with that. I’m not okay with that. I don’t live on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I see people thinking that it’s got to be this extreme thing when it doesn’t really have to be this extreme thing.

One of the things that we hear a lot on our podcast is “What did you do when you first discovered financial independence?” “Oh, I cut out everything.” Then month two, they add things back in. It is a good exercise to cut out everything to see what you really, really, really want, what means more to you than you thought it did and then add that back in.

But another way to do it is just cut out one thing at a time. Do you watch a lot of TV? We actually don’t watch a lot of TV, so we don’t have a TV plan. We just have Netflix. If you watch a lot of sports and it’s a big part of your life, then cut out something else that doesn’t mean so much to you. But don’t try to live my life because my life isn’t your life. You need to live your life. It all goes back to writing down your goals. What do you enjoy? What do you want out of this life?

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, Mindy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Mindy Jensen
No, you’re pretty thorough, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh shucks. Thank you. All right, well, we heard your favorite quote, so how about a favorite book?

Mindy Jensen

My favorite book is called The Richest Man in Babylon. It was written in 1920 by George S. Clason. As you read it – it’s written in like King James Bible language, Shakespeare language. It’s – I love Shakespeare and I love that language, so it was fun for me to read. You don’t get a lot of books like that anymore, but it can be a little bit difficult to digest just based on the language.

But he talks about don’t spend every dime that you make. Don’t invest with people who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Pay yourself first. What’s really telling about this book is it was written almost 100 years ago and it’s all still true. There isn’t any bit of this advice that isn’t still valid.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s a good one. I remember I listened to an audio version of the book. I don’t know why, I’ll just remember it forever, the way the narrator did, it’s like, “The Richest Man in Babylon. Pay thyself first.” It was a good memory. Thank you.

Mindy Jensen

That is hilarious. Yeah, he probably sounds just like that. That’s a great-

Pete Mockaitis

It was very regal. It was like Patrick Stewart doing a Shakespeare thing.

Mindy Jensen

But it’s a really great book.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Mindy Jensen

A favorite tool. I’m going to go back to that Waffles on Wednesday spending tracker, just because I don’t have a lot of tools that I use and I use that one all the time.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite habit?

Mindy Jensen

Favorite habit. Write down what you did that day. It’s really easy for Monday to turn into Friday and you get to the next Monday and you’re like, “Oh, what did I work on last week. I don’t remember.”

But get in the habit of writing down what you have accomplished, what you have worked on, even some failures, what you tried and didn’t work so that you can learn from that too so that you can represent yourself when you go to make a request for a raise, so you can represent yourself when you change jobs.

Do you remember what you did four jobs ago? I don’t. Four jobs ago was a really long time ago. But I don’t remember what I did four jobs ago, at least not day to day. “Oh, I entered products into the system.” That’s not exciting. What else did you do?

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. How about is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get retweeted?

Mindy Jensen

Save on the things that don’t matter so you can spend on the things that do.

Pete Mockaitis

If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Mindy Jensen

I am all over BiggerPockets.com. You can find me on Twitter at MindyAtBP, M-I-N-D-Y-A-T-B-P, for Bigger Pockets. My email is Mindy@BiggerPockets.com. I am slow to respond. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m inundated, but if somebody has a question about anything I love talking about everything I just talked to you about.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh cool. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Mindy Jensen

I would just challenge everybody to start tracking what they’re doing with their life, what they’re doing in their job, what they’re doing with their spending. Just start keeping track of stuff. It doesn’t have to be some detailed minute-by-minute account of what you did at your job that day or penny-by-penny accounting of your spending, just a general overall picture will give you a lot of insight into how you are living.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Mindy, this has been so much fun. Thank you for the good work you do at Bigger Pockets and sharing the good word. I wish you lots of luck in all you’re up to, the next house sale and purchase and all the rest.

Mindy Jensen

Pete, thank you for having me. I had a really, really fun time.

378: How to Tackle Uncertainty–and Enjoy It with Josh Kaufman

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Josh Kaufman shares his research regarding tackling uncertainty, the value of persistence in new skill acquisition, and best practices for self-directed learning.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The PICS formula for assessing your goals
  2. The five parts of every business mental model
  3. How and Why to pre-commit to learning a new skill

About Josh

Josh’s research focuses on business, skill acquisition, productivity, creativity, applied psychology, and practical wisdom. His unique, multidisciplinary approach to business mastery and rapid skill acquisition has helped millions of readers around the world learn essential concepts and skills on their own terms.

Josh’s research has been featured by The New York Times, The BBC, The Wall Street Journal, Time, BusinessWeek, Wired, Fast Company, Financial Times, Lifehacker, CNN, and many others.

Josh has been a featured speaker at Stanford University, World Domination Summit, Pioneer Google, and many others. JoshKaufman.net was named one of the “Top 100 Websites for Entrepreneurs” and his TEDx talk was viewed over 12 million times.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Josh Kaufman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Josh, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Josh Kaufman
Pete, it’s a pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to get into this discussion. One fun thing I learned about you as I was stalking you in preparation for this discussion is it still active that you have a monthly Dungeons and Dragons group going? What’s the story here?

Josh Kaufman
That is absolutely accurate. Actually, we just had I think it’s our one-year group anniversary this past Saturday.

Pete Mockaitis
Congratulations.

Josh Kaufman
It’s fun.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell me, what’s the – Dungeons and Dragons, it’s so funny. It has all sorts of connotations, but I want to hear straight from the horse’s mouth, what is it for you that drew you in and keeps you coming back?

Josh Kaufman
Oh, it is the most fun game that has ever been invented. It’s this really wonderful combination. When I try to explain it to people who have never played, it’s like imagine a game where literally anything is possible and people can do crazy things that you have not prepared for and don’t expect and there’s some way of figuring out if a character who tries to do something crazy in a story, if they can actually do that thing.

I love it in two ways. It’s this wonderful combination of group storytelling and improv. The storyteller kind of knows where it’s going to go, but doesn’t know for sure. The players have agency and latitude to do whatever they want.

Then the players can explore a world where they can and try and pull off things that are just really fun to think about and come up with creative solutions that the person w ho’s telling the story just never anticipated. It’s this wonderful combination of story and surprise and creativity. It’s the best.

Pete Mockaitis
Not to get too deep into the weeds, but I’m intrigued. How do you make the call on whether something that someone invents out of their head – I guess I just saw matches like “You are locked behind a dungeon door.” It’s like, “I’m going to pull out some – a bazooka and blast it away.”

I guess how do we determine whether or not they in fact can or cannot pull out a bazooka and blast it away? That’s always kind of been my sticking point looking out from afar, having not experienced it first-hand.

Josh Kaufman
Sure. There’s actually very active conversations in RPG circles about how you deal with this. I think the term is verisimilitude, so how much do you want to try to emulate real life in this fantastical story that you’re all telling together.

Every system has different ways of doing it. At least in Dungeons and Dragons, all of the player characters are playing an individual who has certain goals and desires and also, very important, a list of equipment that they have on them at their disposal, so pulling out a bazooka from nowhere is totally not kosher as far as the rules of the game.

Pete Mockaitis
It would be on the equipment list in advance is what you’re telling me.

Josh Kaufman
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Josh Kaufman
Imagine somebody like Conan the Barbarian fighting a dragon at the top of a mountain. The dragon is hurt and tries to flee and Conan flings himself off of a cliff and tries to grab the dragon in midair. Most games don’t really have a good system for figuring out what happens next.

The whole point of a rule system in a role-playing game is essentially giving you the tools to figure out just that. What is the situation? How difficult is it? What is this player? What are they good at and what are they not good at?

There’s a way to essentially reduce it to statistics of you don’t know for sure, you’re going to roll some dice to figure out what happens next, but how great are the chances that Conan will be able to leap far enough to get to the dragon and then hold on if they’re able to make contact. Things like that. It’s really fun.

Pete Mockaitis
I see, so you’re kind of jointly deciding that as a group.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, and the really interesting parts are when the players figure out a solution to a challenge that you didn’t anticipate. At risk of going too deep, my players were fighting ice demons that exploded when they died this past Saturday.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve all been there, Josh.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, as you do. It was really interesting to see the group brainstorm and come up with solutions of how to isolate and then put these monsters in a position where they could be defeated without doing damage to the party.

There were five or six different solutions. Every player came up with their own take on it. But it was just really interesting to see with all of the different personalities and the different sets of skills at the table, everybody came up with their own little solution to figure out this thorny problem.

I was telling the story and I had no idea what they were going to do. The fun of it for me was putting a whole bunch of people in a situation and seeing how they tackled it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s nifty. You’ve compiled some wisdom when it comes to fighting fantastical and mythological beasts in your book, How to Fight a Hydra, but there’s more to it than just a fun fantasy fiction romp. Can you unpack what’s this book all about?

Josh Kaufman
Sure, so How to Fight a Hydra is compiling a lot of research into a universal problem that all of us have that’s we may have a big ambitious goal or pursuit, something that we want for ourselves and we’re not quite sure if we’re going to be able to pull it off. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of risk. There might be fear of the unknown or uncertainty that we have the skills that we’re going to need in order to get what we want.

A huge tradition both in ancient and modern philosophy about how to deal with topics like uncertainty and risk, but also a lot of new cognitive psychology or behavioral psychology. How do you get yourself to do something that you know in advance is going to be challenging or is going to be difficult?

I started researching this and started doing it the way that I did my previous two books, which were research based non-fiction. The funny thing about writing about uncertainty and risk and fear is that if you treat it that way, you start writing a book that nobody wants to read because those topics are inherently uncomfortable to think about too long.

That’s where the idea of instead of explaining how to do this, approaching it from the perspective of a story. Let’s take a person who is deciding to pursue something genuinely difficult, something that they don’t know if they’re going to be able to do and let’s follow them as they go through the process of accomplishing this very big goal and experiencing all of the normal challenges along the way.

Then watch them skillfully apply these things that we know from research works in these sorts of situations. It’s fiction. It’s a story, but it’s a story with an underlying logic and purpose that is very firmly rooted in this universal challenge that we all face.

Pete Mockaitis
I hear you. We won’t spoil the story elements, but within it, there are some components associated with sort of physical training and getting tougher as well as acquiring or crafting a sword in order to pull it off. Could you – at the risk of us entering into the boring territory for the book that nobody wanted to read – what are some of the fundamental steps and scientific insights associated with flourishing when you’re tackling a big project like this?

Josh Kaufman
There are a bunch of insights around – let’s group it around expectations going into something – a new big project, something you’ve never done before, something that is at the limit of your capability. And there are a few common patterns or denominators in how you approach that, and how you approach it makes an enormous difference.

Let’s say you want to enter a new career. You want to start a new business, pursue a creative project. Whatever it happens to be, there’s this undercurrent of, like, “I don’t know if this is a good idea. I don’t know if this is going to work. I don’t know if I invest my time and energy in this way I’m going to get the results that I want. I may have a vague idea of what I’m trying to do, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.”

Those are all very common things that I hear from lots of different people and experience myself. One of the things that’s very useful to know from the beginning is that that is completely normal. It doesn’t mean that you are not up to the task. It doesn’t mean that this is a bad idea or there’s something wrong with you. It’s just a fundamental feature of the world.

These big things that we want to achieve, there’s an inherent element of uncertainty, complexity, variability, ambiguity and risk. Those things are never going to go away. If you understand that from the beginning, you can shift your mindset more from “How do I get this uncertainty to go away? How can I make it stop?” to more of a you are pursuing an adventure. You’re exploring something interesting. You are challenging yourself in important ways.

One of the things that makes an adventure interesting, or exploration valuable, is you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. That’s part of the fun. That’s part of the challenge. Just thinking about these things that we want to do more along the lines of adventures or exploration is a very useful way to think about the process of pursuing something in general.

Pete Mockaitis
That is really cool in terms of just reframing it as an adventure because we pay good money to experience adventure, whether you’re going to REI and buying some outdoor backpacking-type stuff and going out on a trail or a mountain or a campsite or whether it’s more indoorsy, a room escape adventure, you know?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, definitely.

Pete Mockaitis
Paying money for that kind of experience or just a trip to the movies or a novel or whatever. Yet, elsewhere in life, we want that uncertainty gone. We would like to just sort of know how it’s going to unfold. That’s a pretty clever move in terms of by reframing the uncertainty into adventure, now it’s no longer terrifying and doubt-producing, but rather it’s fun and interesting.

Josh Kaufman
That’s absolutely the case.

Pete Mockaitis
Nifty. I imagine some ways that may be easier said than done, but let’s say you’re in the heat of it. Someone’s looking to change their career wildly from we’ll just say one field of accounting to another field of pinball machine design.

Josh Kaufman
Fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
We’ve always loved pinball and this is kind of a crazy switch, but they think they’ve got some special skills and abilities and things to contribute there.

Let’s think about it. One person may very well be freaking out in this situation, like, “Oh my gosh, where would I even start? Why would anyone want to hire me? Should I quit my job? Should I not? That’s pretty crazy. How am I going to support my family, pay the mortgage?” Here we are in the midst of uncertainty and big dream and fear. Where do we go?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, the first bit is exploring more fully what the new thing looks like. I’m guessing that our fictional example may have some experience doing this but may not have completed an entire project start to finish.

One useful thing about thinking about all of these transitions as adventures is there’s a certain amount of exploration that’s always going to happen, particularly at the beginning. There’s actually – I did a full essay about this on my website, JoshKaufman.net, about exploration versus exploitation.

There’s a lot of research about it in computer science, but it’s one of those generalizable things that’s useful in a lot of circumstances. When you’re doing something new, it is in your best interest to spend the vast majority of your time exploring all of your different options.

Maybe in this case, the individual is still working their day job, so there’s some risk mitigation going on there, but then most of the time and energy devoted toward this new activity is spent exploring.

What types of pinball things sound good? What are some of the different industries or businesses that you could work with? What do they tend to specialize in? What do they need? Are you going to build your own pinball machines or are you going to outsource it to a contract manufacturer? Are you selling it yourself or are you selling it through somebody else? There are all sorts of unanswered questions around this topic.

Spending a lot of time and energy in the exploration phase makes a lot of sense. You’re gathering information. You’re trying new things. You are testing to see what are the parts of the business or the venture or project that you really like and what are some of the things that you would rather avoid.

All of that exploration is extremely useful later when it comes to the second phase, which is called exploitation. Exploitation is when you’re spending most of your time doing the things that you know are rewarding.

Imagine you move to a new town and you don’t know which restaurants are good. You spend maybe the first couple years that you live there, you never eat at the same place twice. You explore lots of different options to see what you like and what you don’t like.

But the longer you live there, the more you know what’s going to hit the spot at any particular moment, so you spend more and more time doing the things that you know work and doing less and less of the time with things you don’t.

So for our aspiring pinball designer, after that period of exploration, they’re going to have a much better sense of what works and what doesn’t. Then the more and more things that work, the easier it’s going to be to make a transition from accounting to pinball.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing example there when it comes to the food. It’s so dead on because I found myself, particularly when I’m at a restaurant that I’ve been to several times, it’s like I’m torn. It’s like, okay, there’s one thing I know that will be delicious and wonderful, so I’m naturally drawn to that and yet, I’m also intrigued by the new and seeing what could be there.

I’ve had it go both ways. I try something new and it’s like, “Wow, that was even better than the thing I loved. I’m so glad I did that,” versus “Oh, this is kind of lame. I could have just stuck with the thing I knew was good and then been feeling more delighted post meal.”

I like that you’ve provided a particular rule of thumb here, which is in the early phases, you’re going to get a better bang for your buck by doing more of the exploration versus once you know the lay of the land, you’ll have a better return by doing the exploitation.

Josh Kaufman
Absolutely. And the additional wrinkle to this, so this is often in the research literature called the bandit problem because the classical mathematical formulation is you’re playing slot machines, which I do not recommend by the way, but for the sake of understanding, it’s a good example.

Imagine you go into a casino and you can play any slot machine you want. You don’t even have to spend money. It’s just the time that it takes to pull the lever and see the result. If you’re given this opportunity and you want to maximize your return from this experience, what do you do? Well, that’s where the exploration and the exploitation phase comes it.

You spend quite a bit of time testing different machines gathering data. Then after a while you start shifting to the machines that you know provide a much better pay off.

The interesting thing is you would think at a certain point that exploitation is the way to go. You just do the thing you know works over and over and over again. When you look at the studies and you look at the math, that’s actually not the case. There’s always a certain amount of your energy and attention that is going to be devoted to exploration because you don’t have perfect information about what is going to be the most rewarding thing you possibly could do.

The more time you spend, the more confident you can be that you’re on the right track, but it’s always beneficial to you to reserve at least some percentage of your capacity for trying new things and seeing if they work out.

Pete Mockaitis
Indeed. I guess it’s just my personality or strengths or whatever, it’s just like I find that exploration of the new is so much more exciting and interesting.

Josh Kaufman
I’m right there with you.

Pete Mockaitis
And sometimes to my detriment. It’s like, “No, no, Pete, just continue doing the thing that’s really working for you instead of gallivanting off to some crazy thing,” but the gallivanting is fun. I guess when you talk about the context of slot machines, which is gaming is for the purpose of fun, then that may be all the more true.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, I think a lot of it comes down to – in the personal context, why are you doing this thing in the first place? There may very well be situations or decisions that you might make from a career standpoint that might get you a lower financial return than other options, but if you have a payoff in another dimension, so maybe it’s personal interest and engagement maybe it’s exploring an area that you really love and you’re willing to make tradeoffs in order to work in that area.

There are all sorts of things to optimize for that aren’t necessarily financial return. I think the more broadly you think about what’s the reward for this thing that I’m trying to do and how can I get more of the things that I care about, the easier it is to make those sorts of tradeoffs.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Okay, when it comes to the hydra fighting, any other kind of key takeaways that you think are particularly on point for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, I think the understanding that it’s going to be difficult and that’s okay, is a really great mental framework to begin and that most of these sorts of challenges are met by both improving your skills, so getting better at doing the things that are critical to achieve the results that you want, and persistence and specifically persistence in the face of frustration and difficulty.

And so it’s very easy, particularly early on – this is actually a theme in my second book, The First 20 Hours. When you’re doing something new or something you’re not familiar with or something you’re not very good at yet, that early experience of trying to make progress and not getting the results you want is extremely frustrating.

Understanding that persistence is the thing that allows you to push through those early barriers and solve the challenges and get what you want, the more you can understand that that is the path to victory. It’s not being naturally skilled. It’s not having some sort of magic problem-solving device. It is consistent effort, attention and energy over a long period of time.

That is setting you up for success in a way that a lot of messages in broader culture, just don’t really help you with.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us a couple, quotables or articulations of the counter message that’s suboptimal?

Josh Kaufman
Well, I think the best way to frame it—that I’ve seen in various forms is don’t compare your inside versus somebody else’s outside. social media does not do us many favors here because you tend to see the highlight reel of other people’s lives. You see the promotions. You see the vacations. You see the raises. You see the major status-oriented achievements. You don’t necessarily see, the struggle or the fear or the anxiety or the work that goes into a lot of  the achievements that other people have.

Understanding that everyone deals with the same challenges of not knowing what’s going to happen next, not knowing if an investment is going to pay off not knowing if something is a really great idea that’s going to change their life or career or a terrible idea that is going to blow up their life or career. It’s a universal problem.

Giving yourself a bit of grace and being comfortable saying “I may not be where I want to be yet, but I am on a path and I am working towards getting there,” that goes a very long way.

Pete Mockaitis
Not to kill dreams prematurely, but I guess the counter side of persistence is knowing when is it appropriate to shut down a plan that is not going to cut the mustard. Any pro tips on that side of things?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, the biggest advice I can give in that regard is be very, very clear about what you want upfront. The way that I like to think about this most people’s goals or dreams if they’ve articulated them to themselves are very broad and very general. Broad and general to the point where it doesn’t really give your brain anything to work with in figuring out how to get there.

The acronym or approach that works really well for me is PICS, P-I-C-S. That’s positive, immediate, concrete, and specific. Those are the qualities that should apply. When you write down what you want, try to make it as concrete, specific, vivid and something that you can look into the world and figure out, “have I achieved this thing or not. Am I there?”

“I want to climb a mountain,” is very not specific. “I want to climb Mt. Everest by next year,” is much more specific. You can do something with that.

Pete Mockaitis
I like the acronym PICS just because that’s kind of what you’re getting at is we’re trying to paint a picture that’s super clear, that we know if we’ve hit it or have not hit it.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, the more vividly you can imagine what your life looks like and what this thing you want to achieve looks like when it has been accomplished, the more useful it is going to be in terms of figuring out what to do next to get there.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s excellent. Then it’s easier to make that call. It’s like, “This is what I was going for and what I’m experiencing is in no way, close to that nor getting closer to it, over time,” so there you go as opposed to if it were fuzzy, it would be tougher to know that we’re not where we’re headed or where we wanted to be.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, I think a lot of people experience that particularly early on in their career, where they have this image before they enter the workforce or in a new role about what it’s going to look like and what it’s going to feel like and what their life is going to be. And a lot of times, the early experiences don’t match up very well with that. it helps to be able to really articulate what am I trying to get out of this, what is the benefit for me, what do I care about and what do I not care about so much? And then be able to figure out, okay, on a day-to-day basis, is this thing taking you closer in the direction of where you want to be or is it actually taking you farther away?

In my corporate career, I was actually in product development in marketing at Proctor & Gamble, which a huge consumer goods company. I was really excited. I loved creating new things. That part was really great. I decided to move on from the company when I was in a meeting to prepare for a meeting to prepare for a meeting to prepare for a meeting.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you unpack that?

Josh Kaufman
Four levels of ….

Pete Mockaitis
The layers of the meetings. I’ve got to hear this.

Josh Kaufman
A lot of how product development works was we’re individual teams who are working on things and they would essentially pitch it to the vice president/president level in order to get funding.

I was having a meeting with my manager to prepare for a meeting with the brand manager of the product that this would be under to prepare for a meeting with the marketing director, and then to prepare for a the final pitch to the vice president and president to get funding.

And all of those meetings were important. And then I just looked at my life. I’m like, “I don’t want to exist in meetings for the rest of my career. There are other things I want to do.”

Pete Mockaitis
What’s intriguing is that the final, final meeting was still an internal one as opposed to say a venture capitalist or Wal-Mart, Amazon. Are they going to carry your product? It was still an internal one.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, absolutely. I actually had quite a few meetings with Wal-Mart and Target and Costco and all the big retailers and somehow those were more straightforward than the internal meetings about how to allocate funding. It’s kind of funny.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Okay, well, so that’s a little bit about the hydra story. I cannot help myself if I’m talking to Josh Kaufman, I’ve got to get some of your wisdom when it comes to self-directed learning. I first heard about you when you came up with the notion of the personal MBA which sounds great. What’s your take here in terms of should nobody pay for a traditional MBA and how do you view this world?

Josh Kaufman
I think that if you’re already working at a company you like, you know you want to move up in that company internally there’s a requirement to have an MBA, uh, to have the position that you desire and the company is willing to pay for it, then that’s probably a pretty good reason to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, some stringent criteria.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah. Anything else aside from that it’s probably going to be more expensive, both in terms of financial time and opportunity cost than you expect and the value of the credential in and of itself is just not really great. In a financial sense, it’s almost always a negative ROI.

If the goal is to understand what businesses are, how they work, and either how to start a new business or make any existing business better, you can learn how to do that on your own. You don’t necessarily have to spend years and tens, hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn business skills. Business skills are very learnable on your own.

The goal with The Personal MBA was to create the best possible introduction, that I could make to the world of business. So assuming you know absolutely nothing about how businesses work, how can you understand all of the parts, that go into making a business work in a way that allows you to do important stuff, whether that’s making a new product, new company or just doing better in your existing job?

Pete Mockaitis
All right. You did a nice job of unpacking the key sub skills that are associated with the MBA and then you’ve got an infamous – maybe just famous, I don’t know about infamous – reading list associated with when it comes to strategy and these marketing and all these things that are handy to know to comprise what an MBA knows and getting there.

I’d love to get your take then when it comes to doing this learning on your own as opposed to in a classroom or a group environment, what are some of your pro tips for pulling that off successfully outside those supports?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah. I think the biggest thing is aside from the basics of setting aside time to read and research and think and apply, that’s going to be necessary in any case. There’s a particular type of thing that when you’re self-studying you should, look for.

A lot of traditional academic book learning is all about memorizing terms and techniques, so specific things that apply in specific situations. I think a much better way to approach learning for application in general is to look for things that are called mental models.

A mental model is basically a conceptual understanding about how a thing in the world works, what it looks like, how different parts of a system interact with each other. It’s essentially one level of abstraction higher.

It’s being able to see the same principles at work in, businesses in different industries, different markets, different products, products to services, understanding how things work at a deeper level and that gives you the ability to look at a situation you’re not familiar with and that you have no context about and have a place to start and have a place to figure out how you would go about getting more information or make decisions in this particular area.

And so, The Personal MBA is really designed around that idea. Let’s learn the most important mental models about business, about people because businesses are created by, run by, and run for the benefit of people, so let’s understand psychology and communication and how that works.

And then systems because most successful businesses are essentially comprised of systems, processes that can be repeated in order to produce a predictable result. The more you understand about systems in general, the more you’re going to be able to take that back to a functioning business or a new business and say these are the things that would probably make the biggest difference right now.

Pete Mockaitis
Could you give us an example of a mental model? It’s like, “Oh, because I understand this one thing, I can now take that with me and apply it to having a starting point for this other thing.”

Josh Kaufman
Sure. So one of my favorites, which is, early in the book for a reason is what I call the five parts of every business. And it’s uh, this very universal way of deconstructing a system or deconstructing a business into, universal parts that help you understand how it functions at a very fundamental level. The five parts are value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, and finance.

Every business creates something of value to other people, could be it products, could be it service, could be a shared resource like a museum. There are all sorts of different ways businesses create value, but it always makes something that other people want or need. So it’s important to understand what that is and why people want or need it, how that value is created to the people who ultimately pay the business’s bills.

Marketing is all about attracting attention for this valuable thing that you’ve created. So how do you make sure that people know that you have something valuable to offer them?

And then from there, you can attract all the attention you want, but if nobody ever pulls out their check book or credit card and says, “Yes, please. I’ll take one,” you don’t have a business. You have something else. And so sales is the process of taking someone who is interested in what you have to offer and then encouraging them to become a paying customer of the business. It’s the part where, money flows into the business instead of running out.

It turns out, if you take people’s money and you don’t deliver what you promised, you’re not running a business; you’re running a scam.

Pete Mockaitis
You find yourself in prison.

Josh Kaufman
Exactly. So value delivery is the part where you have a paying customer. This is great. You have something valuable that you’ve promised to deliver them. Let’s deliver this thing in a way that makes the customer deliriously happy. This is everything from the construction of physical products, the, service, delivery, follow-up calls, and all of those things that turns a paying customer into a happy customer. That’s all in value delivery.

And then finance is essentially the analytical step. So, in, value creation, you’re usually spending money to make this thing. You’re investing. Same with marketing. You may be spending on advertising. You may be spending on any form of outreach to attract more attention to this thing you’ve made.

Sales is the wonderful part where money comes in. Then value delivery, when you are making your customer happy delivering what you’ve promised, you’re usually spending money there too.

And so finance is the process of analyzing all the money that you’re spending and all the money that you’re bringing in and answering two very fundamental questions. One, is more money coming in than is going out, because if not, you have a problem. And then, number two, is it enough. Is it what we’re bringing in from this system worth the time and energy that it’s taking to run the whole thing?

And no matter how large or small the business is, whether you’re one of the largest companies in the world or you are a company of one starting something new for the first time, if you’re bringing in money and it’s enough and it’s worthwhile to keep going, congratulations, you have a successful business. That’s all it takes.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so then that mental model there is you just said, hey, we’ve got these five components, so even if I know, know jack diddly squat about, real estate investing and, buying homes and renovating them and renting them out, by applying this model of the five key areas, I can sort of quickly get an understanding in terms of saying, “Okay, what is it that customers, people who rent apartments want?” and then away you go.

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, that’s exactly it. I was doing consulting and advising related to personal MBA for many years. It was really fun talking to people who worked in wildly different industries and markets, being able to come back to the same core process of okay, I may be speaking to someone who is implementing electronic health care records for midsized doctor’s offices with 10 to 20 doctors practicing.

That’s not an area that I had any direct expertise or experience in, but coming back to this framework, it was very easy to understand what was going on, what was important, where the opportunities were just based on a conversation around, “okay, these are the areas of this particular business that I need to know before we can dig in on here’s what’s going to be most beneficial and what you should focus on.”

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Thank you.

Josh Kaufman
Sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, well so then I’d love to go a little bit deeper when it comes to the how associated with, developing these skills. You’ve laid out kind of a four-step approach for learning a new skill within a mere 20 hours, not 10,000. How does this go?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah. This is part of my research for I did for my second book, The First 20 Hours. The goal for that one was to understand how to go from knowing absolutely nothing about something you’re trying to do to being reasonably good in a very short period of time. Usually that early learning is slow and frustrating, so anything that we can do to make it a little bit faster and way less frustrating is going to beneficial for us long term.

That goes back to the PICS acronym we discussed earlier. Like, getting very clear, very specific about what you want to do, how you want to be able to perform, and what that looks like when you’re done.

And so from there you’re able to take that image of what you want and, do what’s called deconstructing it into smaller parts. usually the skills that we want to learn, aren’t single skills in isolation. They’re actually bundles of different skills.

So a good way to visualize this is imagine a complex game like golf. So playing golf actually involves lots of different things. I don’t play myself, so apologies if the terminology is wrong. But driving the ball off of a tee and putting it into the hole, on the green, are two very different things.

And so the more you can understand what those isolated sub skills look like and which ones are most important to get what you want, the easier it is to practice the things that are going to, to give you the best return for your invested time and energy. You practice those things first.

Learning just enough to go out and be able to correct yourself as you’re practicing gives you the biggest return.

Too much research can be a subtle form of procrastination. That’s actually something that I, struggled with quite a bit. I want to know everything about what I’m trying to do before I do it. Spending just a little bit of time and energy researching just enough to go out and try to do it and to be able to notice when you’re doing something wrong and then try, go back again and self-correct. That’s really important.

There are two other things that are particularly important, so removing barriers to practice, some of those barriers can by physical, mental or emotional. Make it as easy as possible for you to sit down and spend some dedicated time getting better at this thing that you want to do. Then pre-commit to learning the most important sub skills first for at least 20 hours.

The pre-commitment is a very powerful tool from a psychological standpoint that makes it much more likely you’re going to practice long enough to start seeing benefits. So the early hours, super frustrating, so you need to have some type of method, some way of getting past that early frustration.

And the best tool that I found is pre-committing to a relatively short period of time and I recommend 20 hours as a nice happy medium for most of the skills that we would learn either in a personal or professional context.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s handy with the pre-commitment upfront. “Hey, this is what it’s going to be and I’m ready for it. I’m strapped in and we’re kind of pushing past it,” as opposed to, “Hey, it turns out I’m not good at this and I hate it, so we’re done.” That’s nice there.

When it comes to the sub skills, could you – I imagine it varies quite a bit skill to skill – but could you give us a further example of, what’s the approximate breakdown in terms of when it comes to sub skills, I think I might make it a bit too granular in terms of “There are 83 sub skills.” What do you think is kind of the right level of detail when defining the sub skills that we’re going to tackle?

Let’s say I want to be handy. I’m a homeowner now. I want to be handy around the house. It’s like, okay, well, we can talk about screwing screws. We can talk about drilling holes. We can talk about drywall. We can talk about furniture assembly, etcetera.

I think that it might be possible to subdivide it into a huge number of things and maybe, well, hey, being handy is a very broad thing that warrants that. But could you give me a sense for what’s roughly the right size of the piece when we think about a sub skill that we’re going to get our arms around?

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, so in an instance like that, I’m really glad you brought it up because you’re right, being handy is like a state of being that you develop over time. It’s hard to look at your day-to-day life and experience a moment where you think to yourself, “Wow, I have really accomplished being handy.”

Pete Mockaitis
I have arrived at handiness.

Josh Kaufman
Yes, like I’m here. But one thing that’s really useful in situations like these is to think in terms of discrete projects. So look around your house for all of things that you would want to change or improve.

So I think the drywall example is a really interesting one. Let’s say there’s a section of your house where for whatever reason the drywall needs to be replaced. Maybe it has dents in it. Maybe it wasn’t done well the first time, who knows. But there’s some section of wall where you want to do that.

That is breaking down this very meta ‘I want to be handy’ into ‘I want this particular section of my house to look good and having it look good requires drywall work.’ That gives you the context to figure out, “Okay, if I’m going to work on this piece of the house, here are all of the things that I’m going to need to learn how to do and here are some of the tools I need and here’s how I’m going to have to figure out how to get the drywall down.” You can start breaking it into smaller and smaller parts.

And then the practice of it might look like saying, “Okay, I’m going to try to replace this myself. And I’ve never done it before. I’m a little hesitant to do it, but it’s either going to be done or I’m going to put 20 hours into the doing of it.”

If you’re terrible and everything looks horrible and you need to hire somebody to fix all of your problems after the 20-hour-mark, great, but in the meantime you’re going to focus on solving this specific problem with the time you have allotted to it.

Pete Mockaitis
What I love about the 20 hours, to jump in there, is that it’s – on the one hand that seems like a crazy big amount of time if you think about someone who already knows what they’re doing. It’s like, this could be a one-, two-, three-hour job max for, uh, someone who’s uh, experienced with drywall. But you have laid it out that I’ve pre-committed to the 20 hours. The goal is to learn the thing such that I can deliver on this one project.

I think that does a huge service in terms of short-circuiting that frustration because if—if you find yourself in hour 16 like “This is insane. It’s taken me over five times as long as somebody who knows what they’re doing would take them,” you’d be like, “Ah yes, but I’m almost done and according to my 20-hour commitment, therefore I’m winning.”

Josh Kaufman
Yeah, totally. I really like um – there’s just something about making the commitment that short circuits all sorts of very detrimental things. The First 20 Hours, the first edition of the book was published in 2013.

And now like, five years later, having lived with this for a long time, every time I pick up a new skill, I have to think to myself, “Okay, I’m going to do this. If I’m terrible, I’m going to be terrible for 20 hours. If I don’t like it, if I’m having a miserable time, then I only am going to be miserable for 20 hours and then I can stop.”

But just making that mental shift of it’s okay if I’m not good at the beginning. It’s okay if it’s frustrating. I’m just going to push through that because I know that if I stick with it long enough at minimum I’m going to be a lot better than I was when I started.

Um so, there’s just a whole lot of excellent goodness in both letting it be hard, like not expecting it to not be because it very often is. It usually is. But then also helping to really shift into the mode of, um, not comparing your skills or abilities versus other people who have probably been doing it for a lot longer than you have.

Like, that’s a huge trap, both in skill acquisition, but also in business and creative endeavors in general. Like looking at somebody else and their level of development and expecting ourselves to have those skills and that level of development from hour zero.

This—this approach really helps you to hone in on, “Okay, where am I right now? Where do I want to be?” And then as you’re putting in the time, you can see yourself getting better and better and better.

It’s called the Power Law of Practice. It’s one of the most reliable, effects or studies in cognitive psychology. The first few hours that you practice something new, you will get dramatically better very, very quickly. It’s just a matter of sitting down to do the work in the first place and then persisting long enough to actually see that improvement happen.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that. I also really appreciate the notion of the comparisons and how, I guess, silly and futile and unproductive that is in the sense of I can imagine, it’s like well, you can think about something that you’re amazing at and then say, “Well, what if my contractor tried to start a podcast or deliver a keynote speech or write a book?” It’s like, things that I’m good at.

It’s like, “Well, he’d probably not so graceful and elegant, kind of the way I do right now as I’m hacking through this drywall and doing a comically poor job.”

Josh Kaufman
Absolutely. That’s exactly the way to think about it. Like, there are things that you have become amazing at because you have learned and practiced consistently over a very long period of time. That—that’s just how humans fundamentally improve at everything.

And so you can take that general insight is if you approach the early part of the process in a skillful way, so knowing it’s going to feel hard and it’s going to feel frustrating. And that’s okay. That’s expected. If you can get through that early part, then you can become better at anything that you put your mind to. It’s mostly a decision of what to work on and of all of the things that you could work on or improve at, what are the things that are going to give you most of the results that you want.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, Josh, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Josh Kaufman
This has been really great. I think the um, underlying theme of my work in general, and I have some new books that are in various stages of, of research right now, but I really try to focus on, on the, uh, straightforward, practical wisdom if that makes sense, just trying to understand important areas of life, figure out how to get really good results in that area, and describe it in a straightforward way.

If anyone decides to explore my work, I really hope that’s what they take away, whether it’s business or learning a new skill or tacking this big ambitious project you’ve always wanted to do, I hope you’ll take away some, um, very straightforward, very practical approaches and techniques that will help you get what you want.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Awesome. Well now then could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Josh Kaufman
I love quotes. I collect them. It’s hard to pick a favorite. So there’s one attributed to Andy Rooney that I think about a lot, which is, “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all of the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Josh Kaufman
Well, all of my books are my collected research,so that’s kind of an ongoing uh, uh project. Part of how the personal MBA came to be, was reading a bunch of business books and—and pointing folks to the ones that I—I found most useful.

A book that I’m in the process of reading now, by Mo Bunnell called The Snowball System, which the best way I can describe it is like, sales and business development for normal people, who may approach the sales or business development process with a little bit of trepidation or not wanting to be a salesy person. Mo does a really, really great job of making sales and relationships very practical and very accessible. I’m about halfway through it and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. How about a favorite tool?

Josh Kaufman
Favorite tool. Well, we were talking about this a little earlier. I’m doing a lot of podcasts and audio book recording.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes, you sound amazing.

Josh Kaufman
Thanks, yeah. So, so the microphone I’m talking into right now is the Mohave Audio MA-200. No joke I ordered I think it was 12 different microphones from various manufacturers. I spent—I spent like three solid days recording the same thing into each microphone and trying to compare how they sounded. This one is a really good one. If you do any sort of recording of any sort, I would highly recommend it.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite habit?

Josh Kaufman
Favorite habit, so I am,  in the process of really firmly establishing a strength training routine. I have been exercising with kettle bells, which I love for all sorts of different reasons. They are inexpensive and compact. I used to live in New York City, so I could imagine myself having this in my former 340 square foot apartment. You can get a really excellent workout in about 25 minutes. In terms of return for your time and effort invested, it’s really high. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym every day.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks? They keep retweeting it and quoting you back to you.

Josh Kaufman
I think that one of the recent ones, which was related to Hydra, is about the idea of exploration. By virtue of doing it, you’re kind of committing to wandering lost in the woods for a while if that makes sense. So many of us feel really bad when it’s not immediately obvious where we should go next or what we should do next.

Part of understanding that this is an adventure and that adventure requires exploration and exploration involves being lost for a while. That’s something that a lot of people have seemed to find very useful recently.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Josh Kaufman
Best place to go is my website, JoshKaufman.net. From there you can find links to the various websites for The Personal MBA, The First 20 Hours, and How to Fight a Hydra.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge for folks seeking to be awesome at their job?

Josh Kaufman
Sure. We’ll go back to our conversation about defining very clearly what you want, what that looks like, what your day-to-day life looks like when you get it, what you’re going to be able to do when you reach the level of skill or development that you’re looking for.

The more clearly you’re able to articulate to yourself what you want, what that looks like, and very importantly, what you’re not willing to do in order to get it – so are there lines you won’t cross, are there tradeoffs that you’re not willing to make? The more you are able to understand the full details, the full scope of what you’re trying to get, the easier it’s going to be for you to figure out how to get it and figure out what you should do next.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Josh, this has been a load of fun. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us and you’re lovely sound over on the microphone.

Josh Kaufman
Thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
I wish you tons of luck with the hydra fighting and all you’re up to.

Josh Kaufman
Pete, this has been great. Thanks so much for inviting me.

369: Avoiding The Perils of Workplace Technology with Dan Schawbel

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New York Times bestselling author Dan Schawbel discusses appropriate uses of technology and how to find fulfillment in your career.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to set career expectations
  2. Three tips for increasing productivity and improving work relationships
  3. How (and when!) to use technology to improve relationships

About Dan

Dan Schawbel is a New York Times bestselling author, Partner and Research Director at Future Workplace, and the Founder of both Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com. Through his companies, he’s conducted dozens of research studies and worked with major brands including American Express, GE, Microsoft, Virgin, IBM, Coca Cola and Oracle. Dan has interviewed over 2,000 of the world’s most successful people, including Warren Buffett, Anthony Bourdain, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and me! He is the host of “5 Questions with Dan Schawbel”, a podcast where he interviews a variety of world-class humans by asking them 5 questions in less than 15 minutes. In addition, he has written countless articles for Forbes, Fortune, TIME, The Economist, The Harvard Business Review, and others that have combined generated over 15 million views. Schawbel has been profiled or quoted in over 2,000 media outlets. He has been recognized on several lists including Inc. & Forbes Magazines “30 Under 30.”

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Dan Schawbel Interview Transcript

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

Dan Schawbel
I’m very excited to be here, my friend.

Pete Mockaitis
I want to hear the story you recently conquered your fear of heights in Costa Rica. What’s the back story there?

Dan Schawbel
I was really anxious going to Costa Rica. I was watching all of these videos on YouTube of people canyoning and zip lining and I had so much fear. I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life.

My friends that I went with, they’ve done some crazy things in their life. My friend, Pete, he has zip lined in … places in the world. My other friend, we call him the crazy Russian, Slava, he’s bungee jumped, he’s jumped out of a helicopter, he’s done some crazy stuff.

And so, just going with them and knowing that I would be really pushed out of my comfort zone, gave me a lot of anxiety. And I have a lot of anxiety as is, so it just … up a notch.

I finally just gained the courage. I’m like, “Let’s do this. When am I going to go to Costa Rica again?” So we land, the next morning we go canyoning first. It was really intense because when you go in this canyon, you have to propel down these massive waterfalls. The first waterfall is like eight feet, but the second one is almost directly after that and that’s 150 feet. And I’ve never done this before.

And what I did was I went first because I knew the more I would wait, the higher my anxiety would be, more … I would be. I would always go first and that’s how I got around that fear is, “Hey, I’m just going to get this over with.” In many ways that’s how I’ve handled a lot of situations in life. I just replicated it in terms of to beat the fear.

A few days later we went zip lining and that was … the biggest and tallest zip lines in all of Costa Rica. I think one of the zip lines was a mile long. They would tell us that if you get stuck on the zip line, because you’re not going fast enough, then you have to crawl yourself back. maybe it happens a few times a year, but to me that builds up so much fear because what if I’m the person. What if I’m stuck and I’m looking down and you see the rainforest and the jungle and you’re like, “Oh my God, let me live through this.”

What really helped with the anxiety was going before my friends, but because it was a 75-year-old woman and five little kids who were zip lining with us. I was like, “Oh, if they can do it, I can do it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, that’s encouraging when the elderly pull it off. Great to hear. You did it. How do you feel?

Dan Schawbel
I feel good, but I’m also not ready to sign up for it again either.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it also sounds like you’ve got your hands kind of full. You’ve got multiple roles going on, founder of Millennial Branding and WorkplaceTrends.com and partner and research director at Future Workplace. Can you orient us a little bit, what is your job, your thing, what do you do?

Dan Schawbel
For the past month, I’ve really come to the conclusion that I’m just a curious person who asks a lot of questions. I’d start there, because since 2012 I’ve conducted over 40 research studies, including this new one for Back to Human, the new book with Virgin Pulse.

I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve surveyed over 90,000 people in over 20 countries, and I do all the questionnaires, so I’ve had to think of many, many, many, many questions through that.

Then I’ve also interviewed over 2,000 people one-on-one. These are anywhere from professors to authors, to astronauts, to Warren Buffett, Donald Trump, a wide variety of people and each of those interviews is five questions …. It’s really about learning as much as I can from people and through data and create and … those stories through the media, through books, and through everything else I do.

So that’s the core of what I do is ask questions. I’m also you could say an entrepreneur. I’m partner … Future Workplace. I do all the research through them, but we also put on four events every year, two on the east coast of America, two on the west coast. These events are for heads of HR companies that we serve. We also have an AI course and we do workshops as well.

Aside from that, I’m … Millennial Branding, so that’s where I do a lot of speaking, and books, and spokesperson, deals with working with companies to get their message across to people my age. I’ve done a lot of media. I’ve written over 2,000 articles.

I’m somebody who has worked since I was 13. My first business was sophomore year of college. I had eight internships between high school and when I graduated college.

I worked for three and a half years at a company called EMC Corporation, which is now EMC Dell. Dell purchased them. I created the first ever social media position there that’s because outside of work I was really early into blogging. I started my own …, everything around personal branding.

Fast Company profiled me and through that EMC hired me internally for the social media position. If you go Twitter.com/EMC and Facebook.com and all those, I did all the original social media accounts back in 2007, so it was really early on in all of this. I’ve watched the whole thing play out.

Then over time, I’ve continued to write. My really true love is I like to focus on organizational behavior, how robots and humans collide in the workplace. I’m very interested in work culture and the labor market at a high level.

I like to see from a macro level what’s … in the economy, what’s happening in the world, are more people being hired, are people losing jobs because of technology, what do retentions rates look like, what – who’s hiring what?

I love all of that because from a high level I know what the market is, so I can give better advice from an individual level … invest their time, what they should major in, what skills they need to develop. But also more corporate standpoint, I understand what skills people have and what they’re looking for in their employers.

For instance, people my age, 34, or younger, they’re looking for flexibility in the workplace. Through the research, through conversations I have I’m able to make those recommendations.

The goal really, my mission is to help my generation through their whole career path from student to CEO. The first book, Me 2.0, helped them get from college to first job. The second book, Promote Yourself, is first job to management.

Then Back to Human is a leadership book for the generation because over … percent of people my age have a management title and above and about 5% have a director title and above, so to me this is the best time to help engage the next generation of …. And you know, for me, myself, I consider myself a leader in this space. I’ve been supporting this generation since the early days, the early 20s.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right, that’s plenty. What’s your book, Back to Human, all about here?

Dan Schawbel
The thesis is that technology has created the illusion of connection when in reality, … using or misusing it, we are isolating ourselves to a more lonely, less engaged, and less committed to our teams and organizations.

People can all relate to this. The average person checks their phone every 15 minutes. We tap our devices over 2,600 times a day. We’re constantly using the technology. We’re not even thinking about using it. You see this everywhere we go.

Now, even though the book hits technology really bad, it does it to make bigger points about how we’re using it and when we’re using it.

For instance, you could use technology in order to discover people who might live in your neighborhood or your city so you can connect with them, but when you connect with them try and do it in a meaningful way on the phone or in person so you get to really know someone and form a stronger bond.

This happens in the workplace too. If we’re constantly using and abusing technology and thinking it’s going to solve all of our problems, it’s really not. It’s going to actually isolate us and bring us further apart.

You cannot solve an argument between two employers by texting. That’s just not going to cut it. It creates misunderstanding. One, face-to-face interaction is more successful … 34 emails back and forth. Instead of emailing someone constantly, hoping they understand you and know what to do next, all you have to do is walk four feet and actually talk to that person.

Because of the overuse and misuse of technology in our society and in the workplace, people are using it as a crutch and avoiding face-to-face conversations that are necessary in order to establish relationships that are required for long-term success and happiness.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you point to I guess a little bit of the mechanism or the line of causality or the evidence that says, that hey, this technology is in fact causing isolation and disengagement?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, it’s actually in the study I did with Virgin Pulse of over 2000 managers and employees in 10 countries. We found that almost 50% of an employee’s day is spent using technology to communicate over in person. What’s happening with those employees is that they feel lonely … very often as a result of overusing that technology.

This is a big issue, especially in a world where … is much more dispersed. You have more people working from home than ever before. A third of the workforce works from home, but two-thirds of those people are disengaged because if you’re always working from home the whole time – and I work from home, it’s been almost eight years working from home you can become isolated and lonely because you’re not … human contact.

What’s really fascinating is we focused on all the benefits of working from home and … tons of research around the benefits that you get, the freedom of flexibility, you save commuting cost, but not enough people are talking about the drawbacks. The big drawback is that you feel isolated, lonely, and potentially disengaged.

We have bigger conversations around the full picture of this because sometimes people lie to themselves. They’re not consciously thinking about how working from home isolates them and impacts their health and wellbeing, which impacts productivity.

It’s like everyone talks about the glory of loving what you do and being passionate about what you do for work, but if you’re really passionate about what you do, it could become an addiction and actually isolate you from others because all you’re doing is work.

There’s the good and bad for everything. Part of what I want to do with this book is to reveal and make people more conscious of how and where they’re using technology and to try and make better decisions about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I guess what I’m wondering is the extent to which the working remotely thing is causality versus correlation in so far as some people who want to work from home are already, aren’t super attached to their coworkers. They won’t miss like, “Oh, I’m so sad that I will not see these people on a regular basis,” as opposed to it’s causing it like, “Oh man, I’m out of the loop.”

Are you talking about people who are working entirely remotely or sort of the once or twice a week work from home crowd?

Dan Schawbel
I’m talking about entirely working remote.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
If you work remote, you’re much less likely to want to long-term career at your company because you don’t have emotional attachment to the people you work with. You’re never there. You’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, which actually limits your career prospects.

It’s like Jack Welch used to always say when he was the CEO of GE, “Face time matters.” If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. You’re less likely to get a promotion.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you, so these are fully remote workers.

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, so I’m talking about a fully remote worker. A third of the population works remote always or very often. It’s happening. Look at a company like Aetna. Over half the workforce works remote full time.

Other companies fall into this as well. That’s why you see this big backlash too. You have Yahoo, BestBuy, Reddit and various other companies like Honeywell that have forced employees to come back into the office. Now, they’ve forced employees to come back to the office full time, whereas Aetna says, “Hey, you can work remote fulltime.”

What I’m saying is more or less what you’re … to get to is let’s … extremes here. Let’s kind of meet in the middle and let’s customize work based on your individual needs.

It’s crazy. I interviewed 100 young leaders for my book, at least … of them are having kids this year. There’s a million new Millennial moms per year. If you’re having kids, you need some degree of flexibility. As if someone’s single or someone’s older, the benefits they need and the work they want is going to be a little bit different.

You’re going to care much more about retirement benefits if you’re 60 than 23. You’re going to care about flexibility in some regard regardless of age, but if you’re younger maybe you want flexible hours or telecommunicating, where as if you’re older, you want some other degree of flexibility. Like if you have kids, you want parental/maternal leave. That’s becoming a really hot benefit for many. Netflix gives unlimited.

I think it depends where you are in your career lifecycle, what you’re looking for at that time, and what your needs are, and then having a company and a manger step up and really lead by exhibiting empathy and understanding your situation, trying to create a good situation for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Then digging into some of the content of the book, you sort of suggest starting off by focusing in on fulfillment. What does that mean and look like in practice and what are some of the alternatives that people focus on instead?

Dan Schawbel
Great question. Life is too short and … work too many hours not to be fulfilled at work. The average work week is 47 hours for a fulltime salaried employee and 43 for an hourly worker. We’re spending so much time at work.

Anytime I stand in front of an audience of 50 to 6,000 recently, I always say, “How many of you respond to work emails on vacation?” It’s like 99% say they do. We’re always kind of working now. There’s an expectation, especially in the United States, that we’re working 24/7, which can be unhealthy and lead to burnout.

But the reality is if you do not like your work or you have a toxic work environment, where you don’t get along with your colleagues and manager, it’s going to affect your personal life.

This is why I put such an emphasis on improving the workplace, making people have healthier work environments because if you don’t have a good employee experience, it’s bad for the company, and it could be bad for your relationship with the people you’re closest with because you’re going to be complaining about work outside of work all the time.

Pete Mockaitis
Right, yeah.

Dan Schawbel
I put a huge emphasis on this. What I said in the book is you really have to focus on your fulfillment first. It’s like if you’re on a plane, they always say take care of yourself before you – if there’s going to be a crash, take care of yourself before your fellow passengers.

Same thing with fulfillment, you’ve got to get your stuff right because then you’ll be optimistic, you’ll be happy, you’ll be able to inspire and support people at a higher level. You’ve got to get your stuff right first before you help others.

The best way to start doing this is defining what makes you fulfilled. Think about what you’ve enjoyed in the past, what you think you’re good at, your values, what your previous accomplishments and experiments tell you. Really zone in on what you’re supposed to be ….

By the way, this doesn’t happen in one day. It’s not like you wake up and magically you know what makes you fulfilled. It’s being thoughtful. Taking notes. A lot of people keep journals now. I think that’s really smart, to write down how you feel when you do certain activities. Really narrowing that down is so important.

Then I think what happens in our society is people get distracted by technology. They get derailed from their own fulfillment. They try and live up to the expectations of others when we really have to take a step back and focus on ourselves and then our team second.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, a couple things I want to dig into there. One, I’m a sucker for data. That 47-hour figure, so this is in the United States, those who are full-time salaried position.

Dan Schawbel
Yup.

Pete Mockaitis
So that does not include the commute. That is just straight up work time.

Dan Schawbel
Straight up work time.

Pete Mockaitis
… further.

Dan Schawbel
That’s by Gallup. That’s a Gallup study from 2014.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. I’m wondering if it’s the mean or the median, but I’ll look it up on my own. Either way, it’s striking. 47 is a lot more than 40.

Dan Schawbel
Oh here’s another one for you. A third of people work on weekends.

I’m a data nerd, by the way. I’ve reviewed – I’m getting closer to over 8,000 research reports since I was a recent college graduate, so I’m really invested in this.

I have catalogued all the research over the years because I’ll tell you why I like research so much because when I was younger, there was so much ageism because I had a career blog. People were like, “What do you know about having a great career? You’re 22!” I stated early. I learned how to – internships, get a job, sell myself, build my personal brand. I knew that all early on.

It’s still a lot of ageism. I used data in order to combat ageism. “Hey, you don’t believe me? I’m going to point to data that you trust, so you now … be more seriously.” I always use data as a way to deflect ageism.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah.

Dan Schawbel
And then … 2012 I had a great opportunity to analyze four million Millennial Facebook profiles. That campaign went well. Then I’ve just been addicted to data ever since because it’s … almost like you’re an archeologist and you’re digging up the next dinosaur bone. For me it’s I want to find something new, discover it, and bring it into the world, and distribute it to others so it benefits them.

From a corporate standpoint, from an individual standpoint, I think data is extremely valuable in today’s society when everyone’s thinking about the ROI of everything and also just to really identify what’s really happening in the pulse of the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. I’m right with you there. I don’t remember who said it. I think it was when I was learning to become a consultant at Bain. They said, “The only thing you can really rely on to be heard and credible and persuasive when you look so young and don’t know diddly yet about the industry is a fact.”

It was like, “Yup,” sure enough, a fact is a fact. They go, “Huh, okay. Well then that’s something that we’re going to work with a little bit.” As opposed to your opinion and you’re pontificating on how things should be when you’re not yet trusted for your pontifications. So I’m right with you there on the data.

Tell me when it comes to focusing on fulfillment, could you maybe set a little bit of an expectation on the grand scheme of fulfillment, I think it’s fair to say that no job will fulfill your every wish, want, desire, and need for that to bring about fulfillment and happiness in your life.

At the same time, I think there’s plenty of room to keep the bar higher than, “Well, you know, it’s a job. It’s a job and they pay me.” What do you think is sort of acceptable and to expect from a career versus asking for too much or too little?

Dan Schawbel
What I would say is it’s trial and error. What’s really interesting that I’ve been thinking about over the past year is no one has this all figured out. We’re all tweaking our careers. We’re pivoting. We’re learning more about ourselves as we experience new jobs and new projects.

For me, it took me a while to figure out what my mission was. I started young, of course, that helped, but I didn’t really put all the pieces together in my head until maybe three years ago when I came up with my mission statement that I put on my website. I now say I love research more than anything else. That’s why I’m like the chief question officer in a way because that’s a really key part of research in many ways.

I think you identify what makes you fulfilled based on self-reflection, based on feedback from others, and just being around people who give candid feedback, not ones who are yes men or yes women, people who are going to be real honest with you.

When I interact with pretty successful people in my network, a lot of them don’t get the best advice and get the best feedback because they’re getting complimented all the time because they have leverage in their careers. I stand out because I’m willing to give them criticism in the most genuine way possible and because of my track record, they take it seriously. Then they’ll take some of that advice to heart ….

I think you just need the right people around you who are going to be honest and if they see you doing something wrong or they see you unhappy, to just have them be honest and be like, “Oh, I see that you’re unhappy. This is not exactly what you should be doing or how you’re doing it.” Sometimes you might be in the right position, but doing the work in the wrong way, which will turn you off from doing the work and make you feel unfulfilled.

A lot of people give up quick, especially in today’s society. Everyone wants instant gratification. They build up all of it in their head that this job is going to be perfect and they’re going to be so happy. They’re unwilling to work to ensure that they have maximized their day … fulfills their personal and professional needs and are fulfilled overall.

I think that you can’t just rely on the company to … fulfilled. You need to be responsible for doing that and working within your company to make that happen. That could mean doing projects outside of what you’re hired to do. It could mean that you change the nature of your work and working in a lounge versus a cubicle because maybe that gives you more inspiration.

It could be you changing how you get work done or who you work with. Maybe your group is not the right team for you at work as a leader. Maybe you need to manage a different team.

And things change too. What if your employee quits? Then you’ve got to hire someone else. Or what if you get laid off? Then you’re looking for another job and you’ve got to maybe reinvent yourself because people aren’t hiring those with your skillset that was valuable three years ago, but it’s not now.

It’s a constant work in progress. I think people should do their best. I think people should reflect often and surround themselves with people who will be candid with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, lovely. Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about some of your perspectives on how you’re doing the work. Let’s talk about the work/life balance. You say it’s a myth and we should look at work/life integration instead. What’s the full story here?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, just based on how work is being done these days. It’s happening in the office. It’s happening remote. It’s happening in co-working spaces, at coffee shops. It’s all over the place. It’s very decentralized. It’s hard to know when to cut off work and when to do personal things. It’s becoming ever more blurred. But our personal and professional lives are very blurred because of technology.

Again, what I was saying before. It’s like you’re kind of always working even if you’re not at a physical office. Because of that we have to – we need a new solution because … is no longer effective like it was for our parents and our grandparents.

What we need to think of is work/life integration. Jeff Bezos calls this work/life harmony. The now former CEO of … when I interviewed her, she called this work/life integration as well and so has several other people in my network that I talked to because it’s all about taking the responsibility and accountability to say, “Okay, these are the five personal and professional things I need to do this day.”

Then carve out your schedule so you’re able to do those two, three, four, five things. It’s on you to figure out how to integrate the things that you need to do … fulfill you personally and professionally, not anyone else because only you know this. I think that’s really important.

Like for me, I’ll be doing this podcast and then in two hours I’m going to an event. I’m meeting friends there. Even though I’m going there for professional reasons, it’s also to be with my friends. Almost like as an excuse to see them. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to parley my personal and professional life together.

Like I’m going to LA and when I’m there I going to be doing some media for the book, but at the same time, I’ve already contacted some of my close friends who live there … dinners and lunches and get-togethers. So, it’s constantly figuring out how to make it work on a regular basis and blocking off times so that you’re fulfilled in both areas.

Pete Mockaitis
Any pro tips on any sort of powerful requests to make bosses or boundaries to set that for many people can make a world of difference?

Dan Schawbel
This needs to almost happen when you’re being interviewed. Just asking questions about from the employer’s standpoint, what are they looking for in work/life balance.

Then from the individual standpoint, just talking about the type of environment you work best in. If you really work well remote and then the hiring manager is like, “Well, we don’t let anyone work remote even for an hour here,” it’s probably not the company you want to work for.

It’s really having the conversations before you can start work so that once you know what you’re able to do and you accept that job, the expectations will hopefully be met. Rather than hoping it all works out when you already have a job, try and do it as early as possible in the hiring conversation.

If you already have a job and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to have this conversation,” it’s really about blocking off time with your manager and just seeing what the possibilities are and what the comfort level is. Because at Aetna for instance, they let employees work remote full-time, but they have to be at the office for the first six months to prove themselves.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Dan Schawbel
You’ve got to earn the right to work remote full-time by showing that you can take the responsibility and do the work and deliver results.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got you. I also want to get some of your takes on productivity, shared learning, optimal collaboration. Can you give us some of your favorite tips and do’s and don’ts in this world?

Dan Schawbel
Oh boy, this is a big one. The shared learning chapter is become very popular because I think there’s so much learning that needs to happen now. You look at the way skills are now, the average relevancy of a skill is only five years. In order to keep up with the fast-paced business world we live in, we have to rely and support each other by sharing what we know openly.

Being a hog of information is going to lead to a shorter-term career that’s not going to be as fulfilling. If you’re more open to share, and you’re more open to accept the knowledge that other people have and train them, but also ask for help, you’re more likely to succeed because everything is in real time right now.

Information is moving fast. Things are changing. Companies are being acquired, merged. There’s layoffs. There’s new skills that are entering the arena, like artificial intelligence skills. If you’re able to work as a team collectively and lead a team where people are just helping each other, that team is going to hold strong. They’ll have stronger relationships, which will lead to higher performance.

The other thing I’ll say is for optimizing your productivity, again, technology can be good or bad, but when it comes to optimization, you can do a lot of things that save time, like use conference room booking systems or even your own calendar to block off time on people’s schedules so that you have time to meet people, be prepared for meetings so that you can facilitate or catch up with your colleagues. I think that’s really important.

Like I was saying before with work/life integration, use your calendar to block off time for meals, time for breaks. For every 45 minutes or so of work, you should take a 10- to 15-minute break. That’s what the research shows. I think that you need to do what’s right for you, but there are certain best practices that can help you, like having … environment that’s optimized so that you avoid distractions and you can concentrate on the work at hand.

But then also getting out. A lot of people have lunch at their desk and they should be having lunch with their colleagues so they can form stronger relationships.

Again, this really has to do with the pressure that employees are being put on right now because people are working harder than ever before for no additional money, so there’s this constant anxiety that people have that they have to always be working. But that leads to burnout and lower productivity. So I would avoid that.

Instead, I would really think about how you can at least one or two times a week have lunch with your colleagues, just so they’re seeing you, they’re hearing you. You can bounce ideas off them. The best ideas that I always get are when I’m talking with other people. I literally get my best ideas in conversations.

If you’re staring at your computer all day, you’re probably not going to be as creative. But if you are in new surroundings with new, diverse people, it’s going to inspire you.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely.

Dan Schawbel
I would say training people is really important. Sharing articles among your teammates. Anytime I see an article that would benefit my team with the artificial intelligence, I see it and I share it. I don’t even think twice because I know what my … want and I just keep delivering because then they’re going to be more prepared for their meetings.

Every morning I’ve had the same habit, which I think is extremely effective in what some of your listeners could take advantage of is I review all the latest research and trends in my own space every day. Then when I have meetings during the day or I’m speaking or I’m doing something, I’m or I’m … at things that I learned about four hours before.

I become extremely relevant because I’m always looking at these trends regularly. Things are changing so fast, so I almost can’t avoid doing that now. But by learning a lot, by sharing that knowledge and keeping up to the pace with things that are changing, you’re able to offer more, be more relevant, and smarter in your field.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, cool. Well, Dan, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah. I think what I’m trying to really do is make people more conscious of how they’re using technology, not disregard human interactions.

The biggest thing that gets in the way of person-to-person human interactions is email. We’re sending way too many emails. Many times it just doesn’t make sense. You see a lot of my friends, they have hundreds of emails they haven’t even answered, which many could have been avoided by just one phone call to be honest.

We’ve dropped phone calls. We’ve dropped voice mails all for texting. We’re sending so many texts every day and it’s not getting us anywhere. Not all progress is true progress in my opinion.

That’s not to say technology can’t be good. Early in my career, I used technology to forge an incredibly big, vast great network, but it wasn’t until I started to meet those individuals in person where the real relationships prospered and became something more noteworthy.

For this book, when I was interviewing … leaders, it started off as me interviewing them, then us having a Facebook group to just share updates, but then what I did was I used the Facebook group to meet them in person all across the country. They came on a book tour with me.

I think that is a good case of going back to human, where the technology was used in the right way. It’s used for initial contact and used in order to get everyone on the same page with … and same vision, and then using in-person conversations and phone calls to really get to know people … and go with them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Got you. Thank you. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Dan Schawbel
I think the best quote in the book is “When you replace emotional connections with digital ones, you lose the sensation of being present and the feeling of being alive.” Other quotes that I really love that I said over the years are, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, and build your own future,” and “Invest in yourself before expecting others to invest in you.”

In terms of books, I’d recommend books that my friends … Dream Teams by Shane Snow, The Creative Curve by Alan Gannett, Superconnector by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. These are all people I know personally, so it’s easy to recommend books because you trust them and what they’ve written.

I would say for the biggest challenge is the next time you’re in a meeting, have you and your teammates all put their phone in the middle of the table for the entire session and see what happens when you do that. You’re going to see what conversations take place, see what ideas are brought to the – brought up. Take notes. Then compare that to a meeting where phones were accessible and people were using them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, great. Thank you. If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Dan Schawbel
Yeah, you could go take the self-assessment that’s in the book. It’s called WorkConnectivityIndex.com. It measures the strength of your team relationships. You can also listen to my podcast, Five Questions with Dan Schawbel, where I interview all sorts of people from Condoleezza Rice to Ann Jones, Richard Branson and five questions in under ten minutes, so quick, but you learn a lot by listening.

For everything else you can buy Back to Human on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore. Go to DanScawbel.com to follow all my research and articles.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. Well, Dan, thanks so much for taking this time and good luck with Back to Human and all that you’re up to here.

Dan Schawbel
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

363: Three Ways to Increase Your Pay (and Make it Go Farther) with Andy Hill

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Andy Hill shares how he got his pay bumped in three different ways…and how to keep that money from flowing out.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to figure out when you should change companies
  2. Tips to boost the trait that helps you get a pay bump
  3. The best mental trick for saving money

About Andy

Andy Hill is award-winning corporate event marketing professional that has managed programs for luxury brands such as Gulfstream, Bentley and Audi of America. During his 15-year career, he’s grown from entry level to Director level by exceeding his client’s and his management’s expectations each year.

Andy also hosts a podcast called Marriage, Kids and Money that helps young families grow their wealth. The podcast was nominated by Plutus as “Best New Personal Finance Podcast” in 2017. He has partnered with brands such as Quicken Loans, Credit Sesame and Tomorrow to spread a message of financial wellness and security. 

His podcast and blog can be found at MarriageKidsandMoney.com and you can connect with Andy professionally on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewrussellhill  

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Andy Hill Interview Transcript

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

Andy Hill
Pete, thank you so much for having me, man. This is awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. Well, I’ve been looking forward to having this chat for a while, and I think I want to start where the conversation really needs to start, which is your role in an ‘80s cover band.

Andy Hill
Oh, you did dig deep, didn’t you now? Okay. So, in my 20s…

Pete Mockaitis
Aren’t you still in your 20s? You look so youthful and handsome.

Andy Hill
That’s just the picture I still have on there. It’s totally 10 years ago. Overall I just like to try random things every five or six years just to kind of shake things up a little bit. So, I had an opportunity to go into an ‘80s cover band with a few of my friends. I was out at the bar, drinking and having fun and doing karaoke with one of my buddies, and maybe he was drinking too much, but after we finished our little set there, he goes, “Hey, you’re not too bad. We should start an ‘80s cover band.” And I was three sheets to the wind or five sheets to the wind, “Whatever you say.” And I said, “Oh yeah, let’s do it.”

So, he could play the guitar, I could sing, kind of. Then we found a random dude on Craigslist that could play the drums, and we were all set, man. So we started booking the local dive bars, after we practiced for about six months learning all the great ‘80s songs, ‘90s songs. And honestly, Pete, it was probably one of the most fun things that I’ve ever done in my life. Getting up there, making a fool of yourself, having some fun with your friends. And we blew some of these dive bars away, because we’d get a slot booked at like 1:00 am on a Wednesday night, and we would pack the place – something like 45 people there that’d be like, “You could come back whenever you want.” They don’t even care how we sounded, but no, it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, honestly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is excellent. There really is just a thrill associated with performing and being in that groove. So, that’s really fun. So what was the name of the band?

Andy Hill
It was called Vermont Response. The street that we lived on was called Vermont, and it was sort of our response from living there. It was kind of lame, but it was fun.

Pete Mockaitis
And how would you characterize the message of that response?

Andy Hill
It was epic, I would say, mind-blowing and transformative. Talk about those for some career awards for you.

Pete Mockaitis
Those are nice. Speaking of things that are epic, mind-blowing and transformative, you’ve got a podcast that checks those boxes, called Marriage, Kids and Money. What’s the show all about?

Andy Hill
So again, in the spirit of trying random new things every so often, I started a podcast a couple of years ago because I wanted to start a conversation with young parents who want to build their wealth and give their families the best life possible.

Pete Mockaitis
Hey, that’s me.

Andy Hill
Exactly, exactly. You’re a young father, you’ve got a nine-month-old and you’re married and you’re looking at building your wealth, so you’re my exact demographic, my friend. I wanted to start that conversation and gather some like-minded individuals who want to figure out how to grow their wealth. But also it’s an opportunity for me to interview some really smart people who are millionaires, entrepreneurs that are doing so great by their family, and I get to share all those incredible nuggets with everybody who’s listening. So, it’s been a real treat for me, and the podcast has had some good growth over the past couple of years.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Well, kudos and congratulations, and thank you for inviting me on the show. That was a good time. What really caught my eye about you and the show is when we met back in Podcast Movement over in Philadelphia. You had a few specific things you did that bumped up your income in the course of doing some smart career planning and maneuvering. And so I thought, “This is perfect”, because that’s one of the things my listeners are into, is making some more money from being awesome at their jobs. So, could you lay it out for us? What’s your story, and how did you do it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so I’ve been in the experiential marketing world for about 15 years. So experiential marketing, just so you know, it’s anything that’s in-person manifested marketing for a brand. So instead of a TV commercial or an online ad, this is the stuff you’d see in-person, and call it like a conference or a trade show or a business meeting. That’s the type of stuff that I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. So, within that industry, I’ve had an opportunity to grow my salary in three key moments throughout my career. And I thought that would be kind of fun to share with your listeners today.

Pete Mockaitis
Please do.

Andy Hill
So a time, again, in my late 20s – and I’m very glad that you think I’m still in my 20s, thank you for that – I had the opportunity to go from manager to director. So this was a promotion opportunity within the company that I was in. And there was a position that was open. It had been vacated by somebody who was not on the team anymore. And I was in a more junior role, but I had developed a good reputation, working, going above and beyond my expectations both with my clients, as well as my management.

So, when that opportunity arose, I jumped at it. I expressed my interest, I set aside a time to speak with the president of the company and tell them why I would be a good fit, all the things that I had done up until that point, my experience with the client. And this was a coveted position at the time, so I wanted to do my best and put my best foot forward for it. So, I applied, I went through a review process, an interview process, and I got the job.

And with that, since I was a young whippersnapper, I didn’t think that they were going to probably give me the dollars that I thought were required for the position, because I had an idea of what the person who was in the position before was making. So, I made a suggestion on salary and they met me in the middle. But it was essentially a 46% increase in my salary, which when you’re not making a lot, that, call it a 3% increase can be very little.

So, if you get the opportunity to go from a manager to a director position, what I did is I tried to understand the landscape of what a director was making in that position, and I made the request for that salary increase, knowing the responsibilities that were going to be associated with it, the hours that were going to be associated with it, that travel that was going to be associated with it. And I was able to get that increase. So, that was the first bump up that I had within my first company at the same company.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. So let’s dig into the magic behind it then. I guess you already had some good foundational points to work with, in terms of you had already been proactively overdelivering for clients and for management. And then when you saw the opportunity, you didn’t just click, click, apply. You went after it with some gusto, in terms of talking to the president of the company, saying that you’re very interested in it and making your case. And then you also did some proactive research, in terms of getting after what is the number, so that you can proactively suggest it and do some anchoring, as opposed to letting them just do what they cared to do with that number.

Andy Hill
Absolutely. And I think that since I was my best cheerleader… I know that sometimes the companies are doing their best to make as much money as possible, and yes, give fair raises or fair increases in salary, but you have to be your own advocate. So I was in that case, and that really helped.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent, cool. Alright, so that was one good move. And you had a couple more.

Andy Hill
Yeah, a couple of years later. So that was 2010 when that happened, and 2013, about three years later, I had the opportunity to go from one company to another. So this is another opportunity when you can make more money in your career. So, I was very active on LinkedIn. When I say “active”, I mean I consistently shared information about my industry, information about my company, I constantly updated my profile based on experience that I had, awards that we were able to win as a company, and my volunteer efforts, things like that. So I wanted to be out there and create conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
So when you’re talking sharing – like every day, or what kind of frequency are we talking about here?

Andy Hill
I typically do about two times per week, and I’ve read some articles, I think HubSpot recommends no more than five times per week, just because it gets a little bit overdone, and also based on LinkedIn’s algorithm it touches quite a bit of your network between that two to five number per week. So, usually I take an opportunity to talk about my company’s services or my business accomplishments, things like that, that are relevant to keep people in the know about what’s going on, what’s going on with Andy, what’s going on with my company. And that helps keep the information going.

Pete Mockaitis
And in your world of experiential marketing, you are in a sales or business development function?

Andy Hill
Correct, yeah. So, another reason for me to put ourselves out there. I’m going put my company out there because we are constantly trying to earn new business. So that’s a big part of my role.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. So, you rocked at the LinkedIn, and what happened?

Andy Hill
So, I get contacted by a recruiter. And I really wasn’t actually looking to make a shift at that point, because I was pretty happy with my role. I was doing pretty well in it, and growing the business. But I took the call anyway, because I was interested in understanding what am I worth out there, what other opportunities are there out there, because it’s not bad to make a change every once in a while. So I got an offer from a competing company. I was at maybe a 30 or 40-person company, and then the company that was offering me the job was essentially the largest experiential company in the world. So I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll take that conversation. I’ll take that call.”

And through that conversation and the negotiations that went forward, I had the opportunity to make about 25% more than what I was making at that point. And luckily, at that same time I got two other offers on LinkedIn, at the same time. So, I essentially had three offers in front of me at one point, on one weekend, when I could review them with my family and make a decision that would obviously impact where we would go as a family, but also our income level. So, based on reviewing those three offers, I decided to go with the original offer because I was very excited about that company, working with the industry leader.

And at that point I let the other two companies know; one of them said, “Congratulations, good luck. We could never pay you that.” And the other said, “We’ll match it. Come over with us.” And at that point I had a decision to make, but I again stayed with the original offer because I was excited about working with that company. So, I would like to say that being active on LinkedIn and spending a lot of time on there and making my profile well known helped me to get those three offers at one time, because those were all not me seeking them; they were inbound offers from recruiters. So, that really helped me to jump up another 25%.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. So, in the LinkedIn game, do you have any tips, in terms of when it comes to the content that you’re sharing? You could do that well, you could do that poorly. Any pro tips on how do you find and determine, “Yes, this is worthy of my imprimatur, my sharing of this broadly”?

Andy Hill
I try to make it industry-specific, specific to my company or specific to the industry that I’m in, to start to create conversations around that area. I might not be an influencer in experiential marketing, but I at least want to start some conversations that create that type of environment there. And with that, I’ve started some conversations, I’ve asked some probing questions: “What are your thoughts around this area?” And it starts to get engagement from people who are at least partners in the industry or potential clients.

And there’s a lot more people that are engaged on social media than ever before, so you’d be surprised at how much engagement you can actually get from those types of connections. So, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of connections on there; I’ve got maybe 2,500, but over the years that’s really helped me to expand my network, expand conversations, and then really do outreach both on a sales platform, as well as just opportunities like this to get a new job.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. And could you share an example of a probing question? I’m wondering what the hottest, most controversial topic might be, or if that’s something that you shy away from, or something that you go for, like, “Yeah, this’ll get them lathered up!”

Andy Hill
Well, I still feel like LinkedIn is like being in the office. You might not say things that you would say on Twitter or on Facebook that you’d say on LinkedIn. I like to think of LinkedIn like I’m having conversations within the office, so I steer clear of political conversations, religious conversations, anything that might steer people in the wrong directions.

But as far as a probing question, one of our clients is Ally Bank, and I just posted something today about… They had a celebration yesterday for Online Savings Day as essentially a holiday that they created on Monday. So I threw out a probing question based on one of the articles that they had been a part of: “Do you think that you could go all online and not have a brick and mortar bank?” So having conversations like that not only helps to promote my client, but it also starts to create conversations. And a little conversation started to happen out of it. So, people understand who my client is, what we’re talking about within our industry, and then discussions start to happen. So, that’s just a little example.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. When I mentioned controversy, certainly we’re not going to go, “Do you think Trump sucks? Why or why not?”

Andy Hill
Exactly. There’s some of that happening on there, unfortunately.

Pete Mockaitis
That would be ill advised, I think, as a career pointer, I’d suggest, because you’re going to infuriate half of the people that you’re engaging with. So there’s that. But that is a nice example, because I guess that could be a little bit, I don’t know if “touchy” is the right word, but if it’s a purely online only bank, then they’re hoping the answer for everybody is “Yes.” But not everyone does have that opinion. So, in a way that makes it kind of spicy, kind of interesting. It’s more, I guess, real instead of the polished branded advertisement messaging, in terms of, “We’re going to have a real conversation, in terms of there are some pros and cons about moving in this direction, and let’s hear what people think.”

Andy Hill
Absolutely. It’s fun to see the conversations being facilitated. Sometimes it’s just like a video or an article saying, “Here’s something that our company wrote”, or you just post the article. And that doesn’t really start any conversation or facilitate any conversation. So, I like to ask some questions like that, that are a little bit more engaging.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very cool. And so in so doing, you meet some new people and they think, “This Andy guy is pretty sharp. He seems to be plugged in to the right stuff.” And then over time that just makes people think of you when they’ve got an opportunity to dole out.

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. And I’ve even had people reach out to me that asked me to post something on our company’s behalf, as opposed to our company, just based on the engagement that I’ve had on LinkedIn too. So, it pays, it shows, and that gives the opportunity to continue to expand conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. Do you have any other quick do’s and don’ts for LinkedIn?

Andy Hill
Yeah, let’s see. No, I think we covered it.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, very good. So then there’s a third step in your rise to wealth, and what was it?

Andy Hill
Yeah, so we touched on the opportunity to get a promotion within your current role, and then moving from one company to another. And then the last one is getting a salary increase in your same role at your current company. And that’s what I was able to do recently as well. So, the steps that I took to make this happen, especially when you get up to a director role and you continue to have more responsibility and expect more out of you for the increased pay – I wanted to not only request the additional salary increase, but I had to show that I was worth it. So for the couple of years prior to that, I worked on exceeding all of my goals and making sure that they were measurable, because sometimes it’s hard to go in and ask for more money if you can’t show how you measurably made change within the organization.

So, with that armed information, I had that actually written down, specifically what accomplishments or what expectations were asked of me, how I exceeded those, and how I did that consistently year over a year. So, I included that not only in an email, but also in a written letter that I in-person supplied to my supervisor, and then also verbally shared those expectations and accomplishments, and had that meeting face-to-face, and did it with confidence, because I was proud of what I had done. And when you’re able to sit down there and share what you feel like you deserve, based on some research that you could do maybe on Glassdoor or some conversations with people who are in your position, maybe at other companies or maybe some people you’re really close with at your company to get an understanding of what the going rate is for your role, so you’re not asking for something ridiculous.

I was able to go in there and have a good conversation, supervisor to subordinate, on what was fair for my role. And based on that conversation and the detail, I had asked for 10%, I got 8%, which was totally fine because I was happy with 8%. So, as you can see, as the roles continue, the percentage decreases just based on where you are and as your salary level increases. At least it has in my case. I’m very happy with that increase though recently. So, those are the three ways that I’ve increased my salary over the years, originally being in the five-figure range to now the six-figure range – from moving internally with promotion, from going one company to another, and then just asking for a straight up salary increase in the same role.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. And so then, for the request of the salary increase in the same role, it seems like it was very clear what you were doing, in terms of there was some advance notice in terms of, “Hey, here’s the letter, and I want to set up this meeting.” And then away you went. Is that right?

Andy Hill
Right, exactly. Catching the supervisor off-guard maybe is something I didn’t want to do. So I had sent the email beforehand, had a phone call with the person just saying, “Hey, this is a meeting that I’d like to set up with you and discuss further”, so that they had time to think about it. And then obviously after the meeting concluded, it wasn’t like, “Yes, here you go!” There’s some time for the supervisor to consider it and think about it, and then speak to their senior management about it and then go from there. So, having some patience with the process and understanding that it might take a little bit of time is definitely suggested.

Pete Mockaitis
I like your point about the patience with the process, and I’m thinking about a listener who shared a story in which she’s asked a few times for a raise or a title shift because of generating some outstanding results, with regard to acquiring funds for the organization. And it’s really weird, because the response seems to be like, “Yeah, we really appreciate all your contributions. These are really great results. And yeah, we’re very excited and it’s important. But because of this upcoming reorganization or the way the budget is established…” There seems to be a force outside of strictly meritocracy and results generated that seems to slow it down. And I don’t know if you’ve got any pro tips for how do you handle that one and when do you say “Enough is enough” and you start looking elsewhere?

Andy Hill
I don’t know. I think for that person, if it were me, I would really analyze how much do I really like where I’m working. If I really like where I’m working and a raise would make me feel much better about where I’m working – that’s okay. But making a jump to a new company, you’ve got to think about a lot of other things besides just salary. You’ve got to think about your commute – is it shorter, is it longer? What are the benefits are associated with my role? Is there a flexibility with my schedule right now in the company that I’m in, and then the one I have to go to I have to kind of go crazy 10 to 12-hour days just to prove my worth in the beginning? Who’s my supervisor going to be? What’s the work environment like?

There’s lots of other factors besides salary if you were to move to another company. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, but I would say do it for the right reasons. If you feel like you are kicking major butt and then you are not getting the money that you feel like you deserve and comparing that to some stuff on Glassdoor, maybe some conversations with other people who are in your role – then it can’t hurt to look. We’re in a good economy. Start some conversations.

A great thing to do is even just take some calls from recruiters or have some conversations to build up your confidence being like, “You know what? I am worth this. I’m marketable out there for this rate, and my company is not giving it to me.” So, I don’t know, maybe it’s some internal conversations to say, “How much do I really like working here?” And if you really like working there, outside of some of the salary type situation, salary conversations, it’s something to consider.

Pete Mockaitis
Alright, excellent. So Andy, you shared a number of cool fundamentals, associated with your three steps to higher compensation at work. Are there additional principles and tactics that you recommend, you’ve heard, you’ve seen effective for others in practice, that folks should tackle if they’re looking to bump up their pay at work?

Andy Hill
I think a lot of it before you ask for that money or before you take that next jump is, a couple of things. I think you just have to establish credibility. You’ve got to be somebody that people can rely on. Your reputation really matters in the workplace. If you’ve developed a reputation for somebody who says they’re going to get something done and they do it well and they do it above and beyond – that’s a great place to be as an employee, because people are going to have that…

Especially whatever industry you are, sometimes it’s smaller than you think it is. People know who you are at different companies. People are aware of who you are within your larger organization for being a leader. So, going above and beyond your job description, being reliable – I think those are great ways not only just to live personally, but also just to set yourself up for those raises and salary bumps.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. So, we talked about the “earning more money” side of things. I’d love to get some of your pro tips on the savings side.

Andy Hill
Sure, absolutely. With regard to being an employee, there are so many great opportunities to save for your future at your workplace. So, a great place to start, and it’s something that I ignored immediately when I was in my 20s is your office place 401(k). So, taking advantage of any match that might exist from your employer with 401(k), and also taking advantage of compound interest as early as possible. So, for those folks that haven’t signed up for their 401(k), you’ve got to start as early as possible and take advantage of that growth, because over time the more you put in it, the more it grows. So, taking advantage of the 401(k) is a great way to go.

Some companies have an HSA program – Health Savings Account – and this is also sort of a stealth way to save for your retirement as well, but it also is a great savings vehicle to help protect you in case of any health emergencies as sort of a savings backup as well. Outside of those two routes, an IRA – Roth IRA or traditional IRA, depending on your income level – are great ways to save for retirement. And then outside of that, if you need to trick yourself to save a little bit of money just in a savings account, you can also work with your employer to divert some of your salary straight into a savings account so you’re building up an emergency fund, so emergencies turn into inconveniences.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. And it’s amazing how that works, in terms of your mindset: “Okay, this is the money I have available, because it’s the money that I see in the account that’s in front of me or that I’m logged into it.” And I remember at Bain, where I was working previously, it was so funny how this would happen again and again. You had the option to divert a portion of your paycheck into the travel fund. So, you could have pretax dollars funding your, here in Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority CTA card, to ride the “L” – elevated line, or the bus.

So that’s kind of cool. It’s like, if we’re commuting with the train into work, why not use pretax dollars, save 30% plus. That sounds like a good move. But what was so funny was, because it was so easy to forget about, and people often for one reason or another didn’t use it, because they were traveling, out of town for a week here or there, or they ended up taking a taxi – that was back in the day – or something into work, given certain circumstances, or working from home, whatever.

It would just pile up such that two years, three years later when these employees are headed off to business school, they would have these epic transit account balances, and they would sell it at a discount. Like, “Hey, I’m off to Harvard Business School. Anybody want $800 of credit for the CTA? I’m selling it at a discount. Let the bidding begin, the auctioning.” And it just kind of cracked me up. I was like, that is the power of money quietly just being siphoned away that you don’t even see or think about until you open up the account a couple of days before you’ve got to move.

Andy Hill
Well, think about that CTA example with a 401(k) then – so it’s quietly going in there, but it’s going to build compound interest. So that $800 is going to be, I don’t know, it’s going to be a lot more than what you had. So, CTA example – that’s probably not the best, but definitely do your 401(k).

Pete Mockaitis
I guess what was so kicking – or I don’t know if that’s the word – it was so striking and surprising was how again and again and again, folks were surprised that this happened. They’re like, “Whoa, there’s a lot of money in there. Oh geez.”

Andy Hill
There needs to be an eBay store for the CTA cards.

Pete Mockaitis
I did buy one, but then go figure. I didn’t manage to use it all.

Andy Hill
That’s so funny.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Any other sort of ninja tactics or tricks when it comes to saving the money? One way – great, out of sight, out of mind. That’s a good one. Anything else come to mind?

Andy Hill
I love the automation side of things. If you can trick yourself into thinking that you don’t actually have that money coming into your account, you can’t spend it. I think that’s just a great way to trick yourself into saving money, both for your retirement, as well as for an emergency. And I think a lot of times if you have that money built up in your retirement, you have that money built up in your emergency fund, or just general savings, it gives you more confidence at work, it gives you a little bit more pride walking around. You don’t feel as timid to maybe ask for a raise, or ask for what you feel like you’re worth. So, I think there’s sort of an intrinsic pride that comes in there with having your money situation set. It also allows you to ask for some things you need, for some things you think you deserve, and gives you that confidence to walk around the office like you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s really powerful. And I’ve been reflecting on the work of Chase Hughes, who I hope to have on the show shortly. He’s talking about those very things, like when you’ve got control over your environment, your time, your appearance, your finances, you just naturally have this extra confidence and status, and just ready-to-go-ness with you everywhere you go, whether you’re asking for more money or for a date, or for whatever you’re seeking.

Andy Hill
I agree, and I think your employer sees that too. They want to work with confident people, especially if you’re in front of clients. They want to put their best people forward. So, have that confidence and yeah, take care of your money.

Pete Mockaitis
I also want to get your take on – so, your podcast is called Marriage, Kids and Money. We’ve talked only about money, but I want to hit the marriage and kids part there for a bit. Boy, this is a tricky one. I don’t know if anyone has the foolproof answer, but the challenge associated with what some call work-life balance and others call work-life integration, can be that folks feel this guilt associated with, “Boy, when I leave work, maybe it’s at a reasonable hour, maybe it’s early, maybe it’s late – I feel guilty, like I’m letting down my boss or my colleagues. But I need to be there for my family. But when I have to work more at the office and I’m away from family, then I feel like I’m letting them down.” And so it’s like we’re committed to two important things, and some people are plagued by guilt they’re abandoning one of them. What’s your take on navigating this beast?

Andy Hill
Oh yeah, that’s a tough one. I think a couple of things. One thing that pops into my mind is just setting expectations, both for your family, as well as your workplace. So there are times that my wife understands that work is going to be nuts this week – I’m going to be traveling out of town, I’m going to be traveling globally, I’m going to be working until midnight. If I set those expectations up beforehand, there’s less family strife at home. Now, if you work until midnight every night with a regular salary job, that’s a different scenario. That’s maybe a conversation with your supervisor, or a lifestyle change, or a job change. But I think if you set expectations with your family, when those tough times happen, the conversations can be a bit easier.

The same thing can happen with your employer – setting expectations with them about when you’re available, how you’re going to be able to work. And yes, maybe this is more how you roll, but some things that I’ve done, when I get home on Friday at 5:00 pm, I’ve tried to do this as a practice for the past couple of years – I turn my phone off, I turn my email off, because I want to focus on my family. That can be different for everybody else, but the place that I’ve chosen to work is good with that, they’re okay with that. And yes, sometimes there are things that happen that require my attention over the weekend, but 90%-95% of the time it’s a practice that’s appreciated from other people that I work with, my supervisors.

I’m actually very proud to work for a company, to work for a supervisor that is a family man, that understands the things that I’m going through. I’ve worked in the past, and there’s nothing wrong with people in different situations, but I’ve worked with people in the past that are single and they live for their work. They work 80 hours a week and that’s all they can think about and they can’t understand why people need anything else. I don’t strive well in work environments like that. I like working with people who have a family, that have hobbies, that have things outside of their work life in order to be a fulfilling individual, to have something else. That’s where thrive.

And I think that’s actually a good thing for offices. That’s where creativity comes from, if you’re not just on email all the time, or your nose in work. If you go out, you spend time with your family, you experience culture, you experience music, different types of things that you can bring into your work life that actually excite clients or excite the individual projects that you’re working on – I think that’s a good thing. So I think setting expectations with your family, setting expectations with your workplace is a great place to start.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, very well said. And that’s good to note, in terms of, I remember one listener mentioned, “My boss and my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss – none of them have kids. And I do.” And I can kind of see that there’s a disconnect. Not to say that of course you must have the same life priorities and station in life in order to connect and resonate and understand and be flexible, but it does make you think in terms of, “Okay, are we aligned on this point? And if not, are you cool with this being a priority for me when it’s not for you?”

Andy Hill
Right, exactly, especially I understand you have a good female contingent that listens to your show. There’s going to be some time where if you want to have children, that your life is not going to be very close to somebody that doesn’t decide to have kids. Having a baby, going through the three months after having a baby, all the things that go through your life physically and emotionally – I feel like it’s a great opportunity to work at a place where you have people that understand your situation. And yes, it can’t be a quick change to switch jobs, but thinking about that and then putting yourself in the shoes of your employer – are they somebody that understands your situation? Did they have a wife in that situation? Did they have kids? I think it’s something to note for sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool. Well, Andy, tell me – anything else you want to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Andy Hill
I think you did a great job, man.

Pete Mockaitis
Aw shucks, thank you. Cool. Now, could you tell us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Andy Hill
Absolutely, yeah. One that I like is from Benjamin Franklin. It’s, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” And I think that kind of talks about a little bit of what we talked about today. I think we can hope and pray for good things, we can hope and pray for good fortune to come our way, but we have to put the work into it, we’ve got to put the action into it. We have to fail. We’ve got to do some trial and error to get where we need to go, but you have to put action to it. So, I like that quote a lot. I end a lot of my shows with the quote “Carpe Diem” too. It’s all about action. What can we do to take action today to have our best life? So, that’s one of my favorite quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
And can you share a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?

Andy Hill
Yeah. I don’t have a lot of experiments, studies or pieces of research that fit into a lot of what I’ve done at work, but one thing that I read about from Scientific American, which is a cool article that got me jacked up about fatherhood. There’s this magic moment when expectant fathers see that mid-pregnancy ultrasound for the first time, and instead of thinking of cuddling or feeding the baby, the dads’ brains go straight to, “What can I do to provide the future needs of this child?”

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Andy Hill
“What can I do to save for their college? What can I do to help them with their future wedding?” And this is a research study by the University of Wisconsin. I thought that was super interesting, because that’s what happened to me. A lot of this drive to increase my salary, or to take care of my money, all happened around the time that I found out I was going to be a father. And I kind of went nuts on it. I kind of went, “Okay, wow, I need to protect my family. I need to go into Papa Bear protection mode.” And I guess there’s some science around it. So, I kind of thought that was interesting to share.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that really is interesting. And I remember the very day my wife told me that we’re pregnant, and it’s on video. I sort of figured something was up when she was videotaping me opening a little gift bag with the pregnancy test in it. At first it was like, “Oh wow”, tears and joy and excitement and gratitude and “Wow.” And then, just moments afterwards, it I was like, “We’ve got to buy this house.” [laugh] I’m on video saying this, so it’s dead on. It was like, “We can’t keep frittering away $2,000 a month on this absurd rent. We’re going to buy a multifamily home and get our tenants to pay the mortgage for us”, which we pulled off, and it’s been quite pleasant. I recommend that strategy as one option for folks.

Andy Hill
That’s awesome. So you went into straight, “What can I do to protect my family? I want to give them the best.” That’s awesome.

Pete Mockaitis
We were kind of going to some showings here and there. And it was like, “No, this isn’t a hobby anymore.”

Andy Hill
“We need the nest.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And how about a favorite book?

Andy Hill
For my career, I would say one book that I read early on that I refer back to every once in a while is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a 100-year-old book, and I love the advice. It’s still super applicable to everyday life and my work life. It just has some very simple nuggets that can help you get by with everything that you do, especially in an office environment.

I try to do my best to smile, I try to do my best to remember people’s names. Even just at the local store, if you see somebody’s name tag, just saying their name. Everybody loves hearing their name, right? So you can do that at work – makes people feel good. Going out of my way to give thanks and appreciation to people. We have an opportunity at our office where we can essentially do a shout out for somebody who’s done something really great at our office. And we get the opportunity to fill out this form, and they get an award for it.

I love being somebody that goes super detailed in that form, and then hoping one of my colleagues gets the award. And luckily, I’ve been a part of, I think, three awards that have been given out because of the responses that I’ve given, and I love that. I love being able to give thanks and appreciation for people that I work with and that work really hard. A lot of those principals that came from that book, I still apply in my everyday life.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Andy Hill
Favorite tool. So, there’s a couple of them right now. I’m big into apps lately, so I like this one called Forest. It’s essentially a productivity app. So, I get a little bit cell phone crazy sometimes, where I’ll go on Twitter or Facebook or something like that. And if I really need to focus, I put on Forest, and it essentially gives you a timer on there. And if you say, “I need to focus for two hours”, you set the two-hour timer, and then the app will not let you do anything else on your phone. Essentially it’s growing a tree over those two hours. So if you decide to go outside of the app, then you kill the tree. So, don’t kill the tree. You’ve got to keep being productive and get your work done. So that’s helped me to sort of stay focused and not look at other things outside of work.

Some other things – I set some daily reminders in my Outlook. This is not really super techy, but I use Outlook like crazy. So, all the things that I need to do during the week, I set some daily reminders to get them done. So, those are dictating my day instead of email dictating my day, because sometimes you go super deep into email and then you don’t leave email hell until whatever, 7:00 pm, and you’re like, “I didn’t get any of the things that I was supposed to get done today.” So I use those Outlook reminders as sort of my reminder of what I need to do every single day.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite habit?

Andy Hill
Favorite habit. So, I guess I would say just generally effective time management. So, my colleagues and my superiors know that they can always rely on me, because I manage my time well. I think that I’ve gained their trust and their partnership because I can manage my time well. So I guess short and simple – time management.

Pete Mockaitis
And what are some of your practices in time management that make the difference?

Andy Hill
I would say getting a clear understanding of what I need to do each day in order to get it done right. So one practice that I’ve been doing that I actually got from Curt Steinhorst, who wrote the book Can I Have Your Attention? – he said at the beginning of each day, write down three things on a board or on a piece of paper that you have to get done today. Three things. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with all of the distractions that we have at work – the pop-in meetings, somebody opening your door: “Hey, do you have a second”, or all the emails that come by – as long as you know, “I need to get these three important things done today, because people are relying on me” – that’s just one simple practice that I do daily that helps me have a complete day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks and gets them quoting it back to you?

Andy Hill
With the podcast, again, I end each show with the same “Carpe Diem”. And that is something that the listeners of the show and also some people in my life have enjoyed from me. So I guess that would be something that I share, because without action we’re not moving forward, right? Seize the day and take advantage of it.

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

Andy Hill
Check me out at MarriageKidsAndMoney.com. I’ve got a website there, as well as a podcast you can find on any major podcast player by the same name – Marriage, Kids and Money.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks who are seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Andy Hill
Well, I guess it would come from some of our conversations today, Pete. I would say if you for a fact know that you’re exceeding expectations, you can prove it and you feel like you deserve a raise or a promotion – go for it. Yes, definitely look up the comparable salary on Glassdoor.com, have some conversations with colleagues that are in a similar area, find that fair number that you feel you deserve, and outline your accomplishments. Sit down with your manager and discuss it, but do it with confidence, because if you feel like you deserve it and you’ve earned it, you should be able to do it with confidence and pride, because you deserve it.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Well, Andy, this has been a whole lot of fun. I wish you all the best, rock and rolling with experience marketing and all you’re up to!

Andy Hill
Thank you very much, Pete. This was a lot of fun.

360: Five Principles for Accelerating Your Career with G2 Crowd’s Ryan Bonnici

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G2 Crowd Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bonnici shares his five steps for figuring out and advancing along your career path.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Two core principles for mastering your craft
  2. How to get good at giving and receiving feedback
  3. Two LinkedIn tricks that make all the difference

About Ryan

Ryan Bonnici is the Chief Marketing Officer of G2 Crowd, where he’s driving growth of the world’s leading B2B technology review platform that’s helping more than 1.5 million business professionals make informed purchasing decisions every single month. Prior to G2 Crowd, Ryan held several leadership roles in some of the most well-recognized companies in the tech industry. He served as the senior director of global marketing at HubSpot, where his efforts led to triple-digit growth for the company’s marketing related sales.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ryan Bonnici Interview Transcript

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

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much for having me, Pete. It’s great to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m looking forward to getting into both your story and your tactics. Maybe you could orient us a little bit to your career journey as it started as a flight attendant and then how that kind of progressed to a really cool trajectory.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, absolutely. Look, I was kind of one of those kids going through school that was just always told that “He has real potential. He just needs to work harder.” For some reason, I’m not sure what it was exactly, but in kind of year nine, back in Australia, something just flicked in my head and so years ten, eleven and twelve I worked really, really hard, got a really good GPA, a 4.0, worked my ass off.

Then I started doing university in Sydney, Australia and I was just super not interested in it. I, over the holidays, applied for a job at Qantas Airways because they were taking on international flight attendants. There’s huge interviews. It’s a really long process. Long story short, I got the job.

I did that for a couple years. It was always a short term thing for me because I ultimately just wanted to travel. I wanted to save up money, which allowed me to buy my first investment property when I was like 19. I was kind of really focused on traveling and just starting to make savings.

Always knew I’d get back to university and get back to my marketing degree. I had always kind of known weirdly from the age of maybe 18 that I wanted to be a CMO before the age of 30. Just after my 29th birthday, I actually joined G2 Crowd as the CMO, so it was really timely. I’ve been really lucky. Everything has gone to plan fortunately.

But, yeah, that’s kind of the background really on the flight attendant thing, bit of an odd job. Then I then went back to university and did flying on the weekends and did university throughout the week. It was kind of hard to juggle it, but it was fun. I learnt a lot. I’m someone that gets bored easily, so I need to be doing lots of different things, so it worked well.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. While working as a flight attendant, did you form some connections or some skills or some insights that helped lay some good ground work for your future success?

Ryan Bonnici
I think I did. Qantas – for anyone listening – Qantas is actually the world’s oldest and most experienced airline. They had the first kind of commercial airline up and running. It was set in Queensland in the Northern Territory, which is what Qantas stands for.

I think one thing I learned that Qantas does incredibly well is customer service and just how your customers are the life blood of your business. Qantas did a really amazing job at training their staff and their flight attendants because at the end of the day, they’re really the main people that the consumers are interacting with.

I think I learned a lot about customer services and I learned a lot about word-of-mouth marketing and just the importance of having a cohesive message. That was one thing I think I learned from that early experience.

But then I also was able to eventually start to move and work more in our business class and first class cabins. I just started having fascinating conversations with different executives that were travelling different places for work. I had the CEO of Qantas on at one point in time. I had different celebrities on. I just had different executives and learned a lot from them.

Actually, I moved then from Qantas to Microsoft into my first kind of marketing role offer, kind of the insight from a marketing executive at Microsoft that mentioned to me that they were hiring. I learnt about that and then went through the hiring process and stuff and started my marketing career at Microsoft. It all worked out really, really well.

I’m just one of those business geeks that just loves to chat with executives and business people and learn ultimately about what gets them up in the morning, what they love about their business, what are they doing. I’m just innately fascinated by it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s really cool. I’m imagining when you say you picked up some insights from these executives, during the course of those interviews, you probably had some real smart things to say, like, “Whoa, we weren’t expecting that level of strategic insight from this kid.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, maybe. I’ve kind of always been one of those kids that I’m an only child. I think I was always around adults from a really young age. I’m not afraid kind of I guess to share my opinion. I have lots of opinions on different things and I’m really passionate about those opinions and those thoughts. I equally love to discourse and learn about other people’s opinions and kind of argue about our opinions.

I think that’s a little bit of an Australian cultural paradigm. That’s just something that’s kind of been in me from the get go. I think that’s probably helped me throughout my career, but definitely back then I was quite a bit younger and as I was getting to know these people.

I think it kind of made me a little bit more memorable and also it allowed me to stand out from everyone else because most other maybe flight attendants that were speaking to these executives probably felt like it was too personal maybe to ask them about their work or what they were doing for business, whereas I was just genuinely interested.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s really cool. That’s cool. Well, so one of your other passions beyond business and strategy and marketing is helping young professionals figure out their path and move forward and progress. You did a real nice job as I reviewed your slides of crystallizing some key principles and perspectives on that at the Drift HYPERGROWTH 2018 event.

I’d love it if you could kind of just walk us through some of the greatest hits with regard to the five steps you shared there.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, sure thing Pete. The five kind of I guess high-level things that I talked through at Drift conference – I’ll just run you through them quickly first. The first one was mastering your craft. The second was solving big problems. The third was building your brand. The fourth was getting good at feedback. The fifth was just some advance hacks that I have kind of learned throughout the years that I wanted to kind of give folks as takeaways.

I think it’s worth maybe mentioning that I’m a big believer and I think you and your audience are fans of this too, but I’m just a big believer in really practical advice, so things that are really tactical that someone can immediately go and do themselves straight after listening to this.

That’s how I guess I built out my presentation for Drift conference, that’s how I build out all my presentations regardless of what the topic is because I think there’s so many people that can talk about the fluffy strategy. I really like to kind of marry that with really tactical things that anyone can do right now.

If we get to jump into a few of those, I think some of the things that I try and teach my team at G2 Crowd, and I have a team of about 30 marketers at G2, is that every single person on my team really needs to own a number and it needs to be an important number for the business.

It’s really my job and my leadership team’s job to help those team members actually know what their numbers are and to help them understand how those numbers actually roll out to the bigger business.

An example here might be if you’re a social media marketer and you might have been given a number of “Grow our followers from 10,000 followers to 20,000 followers a year.” A lot of social media marketers will be given a target like that.

It’s a pretty normal kind of thing, “Grow your followers,” and they will never ask for understanding of “Okay, cool. Yeah, I can grow my followers from 10,000 to 20,000, but how is this going to help the business?” A lot of people just do what they’re told and they never kind of stop and question why.

In an ideal world if they asked their boss, their boss would say, “Hey, look, we find for every 10 followers we have, every time we post that increases the number of likes that we get on those posts by 10% and that increases the number of people clicking through then to our site, which helps us drive more leads and MQL. By doubling the followers, we’re doubling the amount of traffic we’re going to get from social referral traffic over the course of the year, which will help us.”

Now, that’s just an example. But that’s, again, helping that social media marketer understand how their follower count ties into traffic count and that traffic count ties into leads and leads ties into MQLs and MQLs ties into sales revenue. I think it’s just really, really crystal important that everyone actually be able to know what their number is and how it rolls out.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us some examples of some additional numbers? I’m thinking maybe outside the marketing function, particularly I think a lot of time we think about “Oh man, owning a number, that’s for directors and vice presidents,” in order to sort of own that sort of thing.

But I like it sort of the social media follower count is an example of a number that someone maybe in the first few years of their career might have ownership of. Can you give us some other examples of numbers that aren’t too senior and are different functions?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Everyone in every role can have these numbers. I think that’s the key is to work out what they are.

You might be a junior recruiter and you just joined a company as a recruiting associate and it’s your job to run into these for example, right? Or to maybe source candidates for roles that you’re hiring, whether you’re an intern or whatnot.

The company’s role or the recruiting team might have a goal of say, “We have 50 open roles that we need to get filled by the end of this quarter.” Then they might divvy out all of those jobs across say their recruiters. Regardless of how senior you are or how junior you are, you kind of need to chat with your boss and work out “Okay of that big team number, what portion am I responsible for.”

If you’re really junior maybe you’re not responsible for that high level number, but you might be responsible for a leading metric that ties into that. An example might be-

Pete Mockaitis
Number of applications.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. Number of applications or the number of calls that you run with people or the number of kind of approved candidates that you hand through to the recruiting manager or anything like that. If you’re a BDR, so business development rep, your numbers might be the number of calls you do a day, the number of meetings you set for sales.

I’m just trying to think on the fly what different roles are in our team. If you’re in accounting and you’re a junior in the team, the accounting team’s metric might be, “Hey, we need to close out all of our invoices by the end of the month and get payment on 90% of them.”

You might have a metric of “Okay, I’m going to send three emails over the course of four weeks before the accounting payments are due so that we increase the number of people that pay us.” I would be monitoring “Okay, last month 80% of people paid us on time. Let’s change it and do a few more activities to try and get 85% this month and then 90%.”

It doesn’t really matter. There’s a number that you can apply and connect to everything. I think that really connects in with kind of the second big kind of core thing that I talked about with regard to mastering their craft and that was reverse engineering your funnel.

We just talked through some funnels then, like the number of people that apply for a job, the number of people that then do interviews, the number of those interviews that make it through to stage one, two, and three, and then other people you hire. Everyone has a funnel in every element of the business.

What I think most people don’t do a good job of is actually knowing what are the average conversion rates for my funnel and then working backwards. Let’s say your boss says, “For next month, hey little Jesse who does recruiting or is our recruiting intern, next month you need to generate five times as many people into jobs.”

Then when you would say, “Okay, well if I need to generate five times as many job fillings, then I probably need to run through five times as many different LinkedIn profiles at the top of the funnel.”

I kind of gave a lot of different examples of how you can think about reverse engineering your funnel, whether you’re an email marketer or a PR person or a sales rep. Everything can be reverse engineered. That’s just one of those tactics that not enough people in business do.

It sets them up for failure by not doing that because you might be trying to achieve something, like that 50 different heads to fill in a month might be really unrealistic, but you’ll just accept it and go after it and then you’ll fail.

But if you would have reversed engineered from the get go, you might able to then say to your boss, “Hey, I just ran the numbers for this and if we want to hit that number, we’re going to do 5X the number of applications. How are we going to get that? We might need help.” Does that kind of make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely, yes. What’s really nifty is – I’m taking a look at your funnels right now, and, I’m curious, you’ve sort of laid them out in the world of the email and PR and social media. How would you recommend – what would be some good sources that we might go to in order to identify what are some appropriate benchmark ratios in other fields?

Ryan Bonnici
I’m a big believer in there’s no such thing accurate benchmarks

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
Just because I think every single business is different. Every single role is different. If you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to recruit C-level executives, that’s going to take a lot longer. The funnel is going to be very different to if you’re trying to recruit junior entry level positions. If we change industries and look at a finance executive versus a marketing exec, it might be different again.

Those funnels in my deck that I ran through are more so kind of the methodology for how someone should think about … this for their own business. They would need to input their own metrics and then look at what their conversion rates are for themselves because I think you really just can’t apply standards here because a lot of these funnels, they’re purpose built for very specific things.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I guess it’s interesting if we’re talking about solving big problems here, one big problem could be “Wait a second, we’re converting at half of the rate somewhere that we should. This is broken and it needs to get fixed.”

I’m wondering if you have any intuition on how you might get a sense for if – you can know the way sort of that the ratios have unfolded historically. That’s very helpful in terms of kind of planning out, “All right, well then just how much activity do we need at each of these phases to get our end goal,” so that’s really cool. But I’m wondering further, any pro tips for zeroing in on, “Hm, this part is broken and needs to get fixed.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I definitely think you can zero in once you’ve laid out the numbers for your funnel for whatever it is, whether it’s a recruiting funnel or an email marketing campaign funnel or it’s an anything funnel ultimately. It could even be literally a simple funnel of generating employees completing the monthly net promoter score.

Every month I send out a survey to my team. It asks them a really simple question from one to ten, how happy are you at work? I know if I send four reminder emails to them versus two, I’ll get probably double the amount of people that fill it out at the end of the month.

Regardless of whatever the funnel is that you’re building, I think you need to just map out what are the different activities throughout it and what are the conversion rates. Then you need to start to look at some of the drop-offs.

If it’s that employee net promoter score survey and you’re sending lots of emails and only five percent of people are opening, but then of those people struggling that open you have like 50% of people completing it, then you’d probably say, “Okay, well the message in the email obviously is engaging people because anyone that opens is completing it, but we’re to get people to open it in the first place.”

Then we have to look at is it the time of day that we’re sending it, is it the subject line? What factors could be affecting that? Are we sending it on a busy day when they’re doing other things? That’s really how you then start to work out “Okay, where is my funnel leaking?” is how I would think about it. Where is water falling out of the funnel?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. It’s just sort of the absolute number ratios can give you some hints. Then in some ways I guess you might think for like a cold email, you can be like, “Well, hey, we don’t really expect a whole lot of opens on a totally cold email to strangers.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
But, in the context you presented there, it is internal and that might get you thinking about having some sort of benchmark ratio in terms of “Well, hey, when you look at the other emails that get sent around our company, the open rates are triple this. What’s wrong?” It’s like, “Oh.” I think that’s where things get interesting.

Ryan Bonnici
100%, 100%. I think whenever you’re comparing funnels to marketing funnels, which there’s been lots of research done into them and you have a high volume of data that you can look at. Emails is a really easy example. Web traffic conversions is an easy example. Yes, you can definitely find some benchmarks. Again, I don’t know how important I would be leaning on those. I’d still be looking at your own data.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure.

Ryan Bonnici
But once you start to get – most people aren’t marketers. That’s just one role in a company. Once you get out of those roles, the methodology and what I’m trying to help teach people to understand is you should just be reverse engineering whatever it is that you’ve been asked to do to work out how you can most successfully do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. I think that within your own data, you can grab some good stuff. It’s like, “Hey, the other emails we sent internally, how do those compare here?” I think that gets really exciting when you discover, “Oh wait, this tiny little thing we’re doing is dumb. Let’s fix it. It turns out we’re using a tiny font that is really hard and obnoxious to look through. Let’s cut that out right away,” and boom, there you have it. It’s pretty thrilling, at least for me.

Ryan Bonnici
Absolutely. I think it’s when you actually stop and actually start to analyze the impact of the different things that you’re doing in a business that things get really interesting.

I find so often that businesses and employees never actually stop and properly analyze their activities to look at the impact. Everyone is running around. Everyone says they’re busy. No doubt they are, but being busy and working on unimportant things is very different than being busy and working on important, critical projects.

An example that I can think of that comes to mind from when I joined G2 Crowd is I noticed when I first joined that the company placed a lot of emphasis on having every employee do social sharing of content that we were creating as a company. Let’s say there was a news article about G2 Crowd or we created our own content, a lot of people would post it to Slack and everyone – every manager would say, “Hey, John, Jesse, everyone, please share this to your social channels. We want to get this news out there.”

I was doing some analysis when I joined and I basically was seeing that there was all of this activity being done. Everyone was taking out people’s time on their team to have them just share content on social. I understood why. Naturally you want to share happy news about your business. That makes your employees feel good. It’s an exciting thing.

But because most people at a company don’t really have many followers on Twitter or on LinkedIn, we were getting a very insignificant amount of net new traffic and engagement on this content purely because most employees are junior, most employees don’t have big networks. No one is clicking on their content.

It was just an interesting thing that I saw when I came in and I noticed wow, we spend so much time getting everyone to do this and no one has actually stopped and looked at how much traffic does it actually drive for us and it’s driving nothing, so let’s stop wasting everyone’s time. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. That’s great. All right, so you mastered the craft, solving big problems. How does one build a brand?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah. I think this is a really interesting one that a lot of people sort of don’t really think enough about. I think to build your own personal brand at work is really, really key because that personal brand that you build, it doesn’t just help you today and in the future, it helps the company that you’re working for.

I always try and preface this hack or this tip with people on the basis of there’s no point trying to build a strong personal brand if you don’t actually have a unique point of view because if you don’t have a unique point of view, you’re not going to develop a strong brand. You’re just going to be sharing your opinion.

If your opinion isn’t unique or different or interesting or complex or has something unique about it, you’re just adding to the noise. No reason why you maybe shouldn’t do that if you want to and get that out there, but it’s probably not going to give you the effect that you’re hoping for.

I’d say that’s the key thing is to work out what is it that’s a unique angle that you have a unique perspective or insight into that you can share content of authentically. Once you know what that is, I think for people that are junior in their career or even more senior, the easiest place to start is with your company blog.

Most companies are doing content marketing or inbound marketing today, most of those content and inbound marketing teams don’t have enough time to create enough content, so they always welcome someone willing to create some content for the company blog.

My step one recommendation is reach out to your content team or your blogging team or your marketing team, if it’s a team of one, and literally say, “Hey, what’s a topic that you’ve been wanting to write content for on the blog that I maybe could create for you.”

Go ahead, do that, write it really well, have them edit it, and start to get some content up and live on the internet from your company because that’s automatically then starting to help you build your reputation and build a bit of an online footprint for who you are.

Then what I recommend people do is after they’ve done that a little bit, I’d suggest they start to reach out to maybe very kind of junior or small tier, low tier kind of press and media outlets in their city or in their industry and write a guest post for them.

In my slides – which if you head over to my Twitter account, it’s Twitter.com/RyanBonnici, just my name, you can download the slides that I’m running through because I have some templates … emails that I recommend sending to the editor of the different publications and what my follow-up emails look like.

But basically once you get a piece mentioned in one of those publications, then you reference that. Then you reach out to a tier two publication. Then once you get a few of those published, you mention those and then you reach out to a tier one publication.

I have done this myself over the last few years and worked my way up from small industry press in Sydney that no one in the US would probably know about to then being a regular contributor for Entrepreneur and now more recently I’m writing for The Telegraph and for Harvard Business Review and I think I have a post coming up for MIT’s journal tomorrow.

I’ve only done that through just working my way up and creating content. I wouldn’t have been able to work my way up if a) I didn’t start small, but b) most importantly, I had a unique opinion on different things. I think building your brand is key.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you give us a bit of an example in terms of what does it look, sound, feel like to have a unique point of view versus just to be everything else. Could you give us a couple examples of “Hey, not unique sounds like this, whereas unique sounds like that?”

Ryan Bonnici
Sure. I mean, look, I did an interview recently for The Telegraph. Basically it was all about how I kind of network on planes. An example of a boring article that The Telegraph wouldn’t have written is if I wrote them a piece of content that said “Here’s what you should do on a plane: go to sleep and watch a movie.” Everyone does that.

Instead I said to them, “Hey, I do something that’s different that no one else does on planes. I have a set of questions that I like to ask my neighbor. I’m good at gauging if they’re interested or not. I work out who they are. I research them on LinkedIn if I can see their name from their boarding pass,” blah, blah, blah, a little bit stalky. That’s different. That’s unique. Naturally now they want to write about that.

That was a flight example with regard to networking, but similarly I write a lot about marketing. A boring article that is not unique and no one would write would be an article for me saying digital marketing is important. No marketing industry press is going to publish that because obviously everyone that follows them knows that.

But if I wrote an article about how digital marketing is dying and here are some data points to back that up or digital marketing is transforming and here’s why, etcetera. Now we’re talking about something a little bit more interesting.

A unique angle really comes down to just building out what is the interest with the story and are you sharing something that’s new that people don’t know or is a different take on something.

If you look at the way Trump does media, he’s obviously very good at trying to have a unique angles for things that are very different, very I guess confrontational. That’s kind of a big part of what hooks press and gets them interested. You need to try and adapt that in the same way if that makes sense.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I think in many ways it’s almost like you know it when you see it at the onset. It’s almost sort of just refusing to write something just because you should, like, “Oh, I write a blog post every month,” as opposed to, “Oh, now that’s something. Okay.”

Ryan Bonnici
Totally. Exactly. I take – throughout – I didn’t have a regular cadence because just to exactly your point, these ideas come up throughout the day, throughout the week. I find the best way to start for people that are new to this that are still trying to get their heads around what’s their unique angle is I always say the best place to start is think about what frustrates you the most at work.

You might do a regular meeting – you might be in a meeting and you might just be frustrated because meetings are always unproductive. That could be a unique angle, like saying, “Hey, most meetings are horribly unproductive and these are the five reasons why they’re unproductive. Here are the three easiest things that you can do right now to make your meetings at work more productive and to help you be better at your job.

Those things are a) require that there’s always an agenda written into the meeting invite, 2) if it doesn’t need to be a brainstorm and they’re just sharing content, it doesn’t need to be a meeting, and 3) blah.” That could be one example of the way you kind of find an idea through that frustration at work.

Or you might just have a regular meeting where you’re told in that meeting, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. You have a good viewpoint on this topic.” Whatever that topic might be, you then need to kind of quantify and kind of build out what that view is outside of just an opinion and formalize it and share it with people.

If we use just my presentation form HYPERGROWTH last week, I’ve been told by lots of people that I’ve moved up in my career pretty quickly to become a CMO by 30. I just thought about what has made me successful. That was what I got to kind of these five kind of key things that work for me.

A lot of that came from me just reflecting and working out what actually was it. What are some things that I do that most people don’t do? I think everyone can do that for their own domain, their own part of the business or their own skillset.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig that that that when it comes to the frustration, it means it’s resonating for you in the sense that your frustration kind of equals something is happening and it’s wrong.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. If you’re getting frustrated, then other people probably are too in those similar situations. You know you’ve got a hook, an interesting topic that’s going to be relevant most likely.

Then I think the next step is – this actually ties funnily enough really nicely into my fourth tip that is like get good at feedback is one thing that I always try and teach my team is it’s one thing to get frustrated with something, but if you’re just getting frustrated and you’re complaining, you’re not doing your job. You’re failing and you should be fired.

Great employees and people that get good at their career and move up is they give very good constructive feedback.

Instead of someone being frustrated because the meeting is unproductive, a really amazing employee would say – they might send an email around to everyone after the meeting and say, “Hey gang, I’ve been thinking about the agenda for our regular weekly meetings and I wanted to put together a potential draft agenda that we can use moving forward that I used maybe with a previous team that worked really, really well. Here is the agenda that I was thinking. What do people thing? Should we try this? Would it be worth doing or not?”

I’ve been in those meetings before where someone on my team has stepped up and been a leader and actually created a new agenda. It’s been brilliant.

A) that’s kind of a little bit of a meta example, but being able to kind of pull yourself out of the frustration and work out what could be done to fix it and then to drive that change is really key to moving up in your career and being a leader and just key for life really.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so that’s part of the feedback equation is delivering it, stepping up, finding some actionable improvement nuggets and courageously putting it forth in a kind of an appropriate, diplomatic way. How about on the receiving feedback side of things?

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, I’d say this is probably where most people struggle. Everyone says they want feedback, but it’s like until they get it about something that they weren’t expecting it for that they really struggle to accept it and then they push back and then it defeats the purpose because the person giving you feedback now can see that you’re defensive and just breaks the relationship down.

The first thing that I like to try and help my team kind of be more aware of is that when someone’s giving you feedback, you need to remember that they’re taking a risk in giving you feedback because people typically don’t like to receive feedback, but feedback is the only way we grow. We need to kind of a) remember that, but b) just like stop the first reaction that you have.

The first reaction that 99.9% of people have is to disagree or to give an example for why you did that or just to start to rationalize what happened. I think what people don’t realize is whoever is often giving the feedback doesn’t really care for why you’re doing it. They probably already know why themselves, but they’re giving it to you just so that you can be clear that this is something that needs to be improved on.

Let’s say as an example you give someone – someone gives you feedback that “Hey, you talked to fast in that meeting and that made it hard for people to follow, which meant that people left the meeting without really understanding what the goal of the meeting was.” A typical person might say, “Well, I had to rush because we had limited time.”

That’s not the point. The point isn’t that you had limited time. The point is that “Well, because you rushed because there was limited time, now the message was lost. The people don’t know what it is.”

Instead of refuting the feedback and arguing with it, the lesson there is “Oh, great. Thanks so much for that feedback, boss. What I might do next time is that if I see that we’re running out of time, I might just say ‘Hey guys, let’s take the 20 minutes back in your day and I’m going to schedule a new meeting to run through what I was going to run you through because we need more time.’” That’s how you respond in a proactive way and you learn from something.

Anyway, back on track, first thing to do I guess is stop that reaction. The second thing I recommend people do is remember that you asked for feedback. Feedback is something that you want. Third or fourth thing is just to say thank you. Thank the person for the feedback.

If it’s complex feedback that you really need time to deconstruct, then I always recommend my team just say to the person, “Hey, I really appreciate your feedback. I’ve taken down notes,” and actually write them down, say, “Hey, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to get back to you maybe tomorrow because I would love to really digest this info and get back to you with a full response. I hope that’s okay.”

No one’s going to say to you, “No, it’s not okay. You need to respond to my feedback immediately right now.” That will give you time to cool down, to think about it more properly and to realize that actually this is helpful, this is good.

Once you start to get into the good habit of doing that, a few ways I recommend people get better at this and get better at getting more feedback so they grow faster in their careers is just telling them that they need to ask for feedback regularly.

Some of my best employees, after every single one of our one-on-ones, they’ll just say to me, “Hey Ryan, thanks for this. This is really helpful today. What’s one more thing that you would like to see me doing more or less of?” Notice the open ended question there.

I’d say, “I can’t think of anything this week. You’ve done a really good job.” Or I might say, “Hey, yeah, you did this thing really well this week, although I felt like when you did this thing it kind of slowed you down and maybe next time you can do this.” Just teaching team members to not be afraid to ask for feedback is key.

Even if you’re meeting with like an executive or you’re in the elevator with the boss or someone more senior, maybe don’t ask them for feedback on yourself because they probably don’t know who you are or they probably haven’t been working really closely with you and so they can’t give you really helpful feedback.

But for those sorts of people what I would recommend asking is saying something to them like, “Hey, you obviously have an amazing leadership team. I’m curious when you’re building that leadership team, what qualities do you look for in those leaders or what are your best direct reports, what do they differently than everyone else?” At least that way now you can get insight from an executive that maybe can’t give you specific feedback. Does that make sense Pete?

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. What you said about that – just note that the person who is give you feedback is taking a risk is excellent in terms of reframing the whole thing because your first reaction indeed can be like, “That jerk. Oh, spare me. Does this guy have a clue,” whatever, insert the defensive reaction or whatever as opposed to note that – unless of course, there’s a few sociopaths out there.

But for the most part, for the most part, when someone shares an observation about how you could improve, that is a kind act. I went to a leadership conference, it was called LeaderShape. They said feedback is love. I thought that was well said.

It’s a kind gesture. It does require risk because the person on the other end may very well think less of you for having provided it. If you start there, that just kind of puts you in I think a much more receptive place like, “This person cares enough about me to take the risk that I’m going to be mad at them. That’s pretty cool even if I don’t really like or agree with what they’re saying to me right now. I’m going to chew on it a little more.”

Ryan Bonnici
Exactly. Trying to think I think about the intentions behind the feedback is key. If it’s feedback that’s coming from your direct boss, out of everyone that gives you feedback, that’s the one person that you just shouldn’t push back on most likely because they know you intimately, they probably work with you very closely. If they’re giving you feedback, they’re only giving you feedback to try and help you, otherwise what’s the point?

But I’d say if you get feedback from someone else in the business and you disagree with it or something like that, maybe you chat with your boss about it. But also at the same time, I still don’t think you change the way you respond to it. I think the response is still, “Hey, thanks so much for that feedback. I really appreciate it. I’ll be sure to think about that and think about how I can respond differently next time.”

Whether or not you actually do it or not if you think it’s a load of crap, doesn’t matter. The way you respond is key. If you respond in a defensive way, you’re basically kind of voiding that relationship growth opportunity with that person.

If you respond in a really good way, regardless of whether you actually implement the feedback or not, you kind of by doing so showing and telling the person that you’re benefiting from the feedback and it was helpful. That will only help you in terms of your relationship with them and what’s the point in calling out to them that their feedback sucks or it’s inaccurate. Is it going to really help you? Sometimes you have to think about that.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. And just that notion that if you make it really difficult, they’re like, “All right, not worth it. I’ll just keep my mouth shut and not share any useful tips in the future.”

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, yeah, Exactly. Then that person might also think that you disagree with them or now you don’t like them because they took that risk and gave you that feedback or a bunch of different things. Yeah, I’d say that’s kind of how I think about that.

Then I think to wrap it up, I guess, Pete, with my presentation where I then went to kind of towards the end was really I wanted people to better understand what are some really small hacks that you can do really quickly. One of the things that I mentioned was helping people grow their network.

Something that I always do on LinkedIn and some people will probably disagree and don’t think this is the best strategy, but it works for me and I’m a big fan is whenever someone kind of looks at my profile on LinkedIn, I always add them to my network.

I just basically on my commute home or if I’m on the boss or if I’m doing – I’m bored and I’m somewhere, I’ll open up LinkedIn and I’ll just look at who has looked at my profile. Every single person that looked at my profile that I’m not connected with, I just tap the Connect button on them. All of those people always connect with you because they’re looked at you first.

Pete Mockaitis
They started it.

Ryan Bonnici
Yeah, exactly. They started it and they were interested in you.

The reason why that’s important is it helps you grow your network so the next time you change jobs or you share an article about yourself on LinkedIn or share anything, there’s more eyeballs that can potentially see your posts to then help like it and help perpetuate more people seeing it. That’s one thing I always recommend.

That’s worked well for me to the point where now I think I have something like 33,000 followers and connections on LinkedIn. …

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a particular message that you send them when you click, like “Hey, saw you looking at me,” or what is it?

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t send anything.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Ryan Bonnici
I don’t have time for that to be honest. Also, if that – yeah, some people do that and I think if you have the time to send a message, awesome, more power to you. I just haven’t gone down that path.

That would be the one thing I recommend. The other thing with regard to LinkedIn is what I’ve always done in my career is I always kind of work out what’s the company that I want to work for next. What I’ll do is I will basically do a search on the LinkedIn app and I’ll search maybe recruiter and then I’ll tag the companies that I want to work for.

Let’s say if you want to work at Facebook and Amazon and Snapchat, you would search for recruiter. Then you would search those companies in LinkedIn. Then I would then tap on the plus to all those people.

Now, what that’s doing is a) recruiters never say no to people that add them on LinkedIn because naturally their network is what makes them good at their job. The bigger the network, the better they are typically. They’ll always accept.

But the other great thing is not only have they accepted and you’ll probably get their email address and potentially their phone number through their LinkedIn profile, but they will now also be seeing your content.

As you do that tactic I mentioned about building your personal brand, where you’re creating that unique content for your company blog and for other articles, when you start to share that on LinkedIn, you’ll start to become more known as a thought-leader in whatever your space is.

Now recruiters that might in the future see you and recruit you for a job will start to recognize your name and know that you’re good at marketing or accounting or recruiting or whatever it is that you do. That’s just a very easy way to build your network.

That’s helped me now get to the point where I probably receive three to five different in-mails a day maybe on a good day from recruiters offering me board roles or interesting CMO roles at different companies. I don’t need to engage with them if I don’t want to, but it’s nice knowing that there’s options available if the time should ever arise where I need that.

There, yeah, I think it would be kind of broad set of really – some of those lessons that I think I’ve learned, Pete, over the last decade or so of my career. As you kind of mentioned as we’ve been talking about, I just think there’s so many things that you can do in your career to help you move faster and by doing so it helps your company move faster.

I think those two can always be aligned. That’s really the sweet spot. You shouldn’t be doing stuff that’s just good for your company and not good for you, like try and do stuff that’s good for both sides.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Ryan, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ryan Bonnici
Gosh, no, I think that’s good background. For anyone that wants to connect with me obviously, my details I’m sure are listed in the podcast. Feel free to just search my name online. I’m very accessible via any social network really.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Now can you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ryan Bonnici
I think something that I find really inspiring is just leaders that aren’t afraid to fill leadership voids. I don’t know if this is necessarily like a quote, but it could be.

I think of businesses as just being these organizations with holes within them kind of like Swiss cheese. I think a really strong leader starts to see those different deficits in a business and isn’t afraid sometimes to actually fill the gap and maybe step on someone’s toes that wasn’t filling the gap, which would have been filling the gap.

I think that’s been something that’s been an important thing that’s helped me grow in my career. It’s not easy to always do, but it’s worked for me. I’d say filling the leadership voids within the business is the fastest way to move up in a business and drive impact in the business would maybe by my self-created quote right now on the fly.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh sure thing. How about a favorite book?

Ryan Bonnici
The first one that I’d say probably, let’s focus on business, but I think there’s impacts that to me from a business perspective is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Absolutely love it. I think it’s a really good book. I try and reread it at least once a year if not more than that.

But it just kind of helps you really focus on what you can do right now and what’s important in the moment. Really good book I think for folks that sometimes suffer with feelings of depression or feelings of anxiety or feelings of trying to always achieve more and need more and not have enough. Really amazing book. Big fan of mindfulness and all of Eckhart Tolle’s work.

Maybe the other book that’s a bit more business focused is a book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott that I absolutely love. Kim published the book I want to say last year, maybe early 2017. It’s all about basically how to give you feedback to your employees so that you challenge them really directly, but while at the same time they know that you really care about them personally. That’s helped me I think become a better leader, but I’m always trying to improve.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. We had Kim on the show. It’s definitely powerful stuff.

Ryan Bonnici
Oh, fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite tool. There’s a ton. I’m a massive fan of HubSpot as a marketer, so HubSpot would probably be my favorite marketing tool. Then Asana would probably be my favorite productivity tool, like my whole team, our whole company actually at G2 Crowd, runs HubSpot for marketing and Asana for productivity and task management, so massive fan of Asana. Yeah, love that.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Ryan Bonnici
Favorite habit. It’s kind of this is like a semi-tool slash habit, but I’m a big fan of light therapy actually. I’m a geek when it comes to bio-hacking and neuro-hacking.

For anyone that’s interested in trying to have more energy in the daytime or to work better throughout the nighttime or better attention, I tell them – I use a device called the Joovv, J-O-O-V-V.com. It’s basically kind of like this wall unit that hangs from a door. It’s got red lights and infrared lights on it. I will literally every morning and every night stand in front of it for ten minutes.

It’s good for resetting circadian rhythms. It’s really good for your skin. It’s good for kind of inflammation in your bones. I’m obsessed with it. Red light therapy/infrared light therapy is my biggest favorite habit knack.

The technical term for what it is for anyone that really wants to geek out, it’s called photo-bio-modulation. There’s a lot of research now coming out of Harvard and MIT that shows the benefits of what near infrared light and red light therapy can do for your brain and for your cells and your mitochondria. That’s probably my big habit and favorite fun thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Thank you. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeing to be awesome at their jobs?

Ryan Bonnici
I would say, gosh, the one thing I never see enough of in business is people just really owning their outcomes and committing to their growth. I think I’ve always had to throughout my career, I’ve never been given a promotion just because.

I’ve always – I earned it, but be like earned it and then told my boss that I’ve earned it and said, “Hey, this is what I need. If you want to hold on to me and you want me to keep driving impact in this company, this is what I want.”

I think more people can do that because there’s so many amazing people in business that are driving impact. It’s not that their bosses or their businesses are trying to intentionally overlook them and not give them that raise or that promotion or that new business opportunity. A lot of the time it’s just everyone’s busy and no one sometimes realizes it.

I think my one big thing in addition to kind of what we’ve been talking about all about this is just speak up and if you’re unhappy, tell your boss. If you want a new challenge, tell your boss. If you think that you’re undervalued, tell your boss and frame it in a way in which that it’s not a complaint, but that it’s a constructive thing.

Explain to them how much you love the business and how you want to drive more impact, but you don’t feel like you’re valued. Here’s why and here’s what you need to change. That would be my one big challenge and … for people.

In addition to just follow me on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Snapchat, and all the channels. Feel free to connect with me and share your challenges or your thoughts and feelings with me on this. If you agree/disagree or anything, I really am super sociable and I respond to everyone that messages me assuming they message me with nice messages that are constructive.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. I wish you tons of luck at G Crowd and all you’re up to.

Ryan Bonnici
Thanks so much Pete, really appreciate your time. Thanks everyone for listening.