Is It Time for a New Brand Marketing Strategy?

      Is It Time for a New Brand Marketing Strategy?

      Your personal, team, and business brand changes over time and will require periodic adjustments. But how do you know when it’s time to invest the time, effort, and resources it takes to create a new brand marketing strategy? Your decision to embark on a rebrand is most often precipitated by one of the following scenarios:

      Building Brand Marketing Strategy | Sterling Marketing Group

      • Your message has moved on, and your focus has changed. The way you used to describe who you are, what you do, or what you offer has shifted. Old language no longer conveys the new you. Your audience has moved on, and their focus has changed. Markets shift, trends come and go, technologies have made your brand old and obsolete. If your brand is speaking to an old way of working, it’s time to take on an update of your strategy by building a personal brand or rebranding your business.

      • You are preemptively apologizing for your brand collateral. I often meet people who, within the first few seconds of discussing their brand, say, “Oh, please don’t look at my website. It’s horribly out of date. It’s embarrassing.” Websites and other collateral materials (including logos, colors, and fonts) that at best don’t accurately reflect who you are today and at worst are a source of shame scream out for a new brand marketing strategy.

      • You have identified a new niche, audience, or opportunity. Whether building a personal brand or updating a business brand, if the market you are going after has shifted, the way you express your visual, intellectual, and emotional capital may need to be adjusted to come into alignment with your desired audience or opportunity.

      • Your audience is not responding to your offers. Even if you think your personal brand is being clearly communicated, if your desired audience just does not seem to be responding, you either have an outdated, unclear, weakened, or undifferentiated brand. Regardless of the reason, you’re in need of a rebrand.

      • Your brand reputation has been damaged beyond repair. Whether due to your own actions or circumstances beyond your control, a brand that has been linked by association to a highly negative event or attribute may not be recoverable in its current state. For example, an entrepreneur whose consulting business bore the same name as a group that had just carried out a major terrorist attack contacted me to help her create a new nomenclature. Despite the fact that her organization clearly had nothing to do with the terrorists, the association was always going to be there in the public’s mind, so that was that. A rebrand was the only way out.

      • You have undergone a personal transformation. Often when an individual goes through an “eye of the needle” experience (such as a divorce, illness, or death), they find that they’re simply not the same person. Newly informed by their recent ordeal, building a personal brand redo is almost a rite of passage.

      People who refuse to update their personal, team, or business brand when appropriate and get stuck presenting themselves exactly the same way decade after decade run the risk of becoming obsolete and disconnected. Your brand marketing strategy is an organic process—not a fixed entity. Allowing room for growth, change, adjustments, and even transformations is the stuff that relevancy is made of.

      The Growing Trend Of Adding Legal CBD/Hemp To Health And Beauty Products

      The Growing Trend Of Adding Legal CBD/Hemp To Health And Beauty Products

      TTP 30 | CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty Products

      Having discovered the use of CBD and hemp when she had to take in her sister who was having ovarian cancer three years ago, Tea guru Miriam Novalle is now utilizing CBD/Hemp in her business. Miriam is the CEO and founder of the world-renowned T Salon in New York City and the founder of High Tea Today. She discusses her new tea line which contains legal CBD/hemp buds and the growing trending of adding CBD/hemp to beauty and health products. She shares that hemp under 3% of THC is legal in every state of the union and it works amazingly for people with sleeping issues, for purification, for detox, and does wonders for the immunity before and after chemo treatment. She adds that it has no psychoactive ingredients so it doesn’t get you high. Miriam talks a little bit about how she got into the business, how she made it successful, and shares some insights on what she thinks are some of the lessons for entrepreneurs from the journey that she’s been through.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      The Growing Trend Of Adding Legal CBD/Hemp To Health And Beauty Products

      My guest is Miriam Novalle. She is the CEO and Founder of the world-renowned T Salon in New York City. She’s also the Founder of High Tea Today. She was dubbed the Tea Guru by The New York Times and she was also featured on the reality show, The Mentor. Miriam, welcome to the program.

      Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

      Give me the bottom line of what is High Tea? How did you come up with the idea?

      Miriam Novalle’s been in the tea business since 1992. Being in the tea business, being serial entrepreneurs, we have to put that into the focus of it. My sister, Hannah, got ovarian cancer. She was in a point that she needed support and lived in my home at the moment. I would come in and I say, “What are you doing?” She goes, “I’m taking CBD.” I go, “What is CBD?” I hear that all the time now that I’m a spokesperson on it. She says, “It takes away the angst. It takes away my anxiety, takes away my depression. It relieves my body into a state of relaxation before my chemo and after my chemo.” I said, “I do a whole line of wellness teas for people with sleeping issues, purification, detox, immunity before and after chemo treatment. Let me find out about the CBD.” I did my research and I realized that Colorado is the legal state of cannabis and hemp.

      I found out a lot in my research because I did my amazing due diligence after I went to Colorado, that hemp is legal in every state of the union. Under 3% of THC, once you go above 3% of THC, you’re now in the cannabis world or even the hemp world. I don’t play in the world of cannabis. Yes, they look alike, they smell alike, but it has no psychoactive ingredients. You do not get high, you get chilled. There is CBD in hemp and there is THC. I’m a vertical business. I got involved in the growing period of it and it has hybrid it out. In all this period of time, it’s now hybrid it out. There’s no THC at all in any of these plants. They are chemically lab tested. They are organic and certified. They’re spectrum one. There’s so little THC in it, it’s not there.

      Your company, High Tea Today, do all of your products have CBD in them from that company? All your teas?

      High Tea Today is completely about hemp/CBD. I have a tea company and I have 650 blends. That tea company is called T Salon, TSalon.com. You go on the website and it sells all my teas in two-ounce, four-ounce, eight-ounce, iced teas, 100-count for restaurants, hotels, spas, yoga centers. On the site HighTea.Today, we sell teas and cold beverages that are completely made and blended with hemp/CBD.

      Do you have different teams for different conditions or experiences?

      I’m not sure if I call it an experience as more of I call it a wellness. You’re               looking to make a shift of what’s going on in your body, your mind, your cleanse, your juice cleanse, your yoga. You’re doing before and after yoga. You’re doing chemo. You’ve got leukemia, you’ve got sleeping issues. Good Night Irene has been a great, amazing help for so many.

      Good Night Irene helps people sleep?

      Absolutely. One of my dearest friends is one of the vice presidents of Whole Foods. For years, I’ve been begging her to put my teas on their shelf. I went to Miami and I was at her house and I gave her a Good Night Irene. I’ve been telling this woman, this is good for you. All of a sudden, I get a text and she goes, “What is it that you gave me?” I said, “It’s one of my High Teas with hemp/CBD and it’s Good Night Irene.” She goes, “I haven’t slept in five years. This is the first time that I have slept.” I say, “Mazel tov. I’ve been telling you this for years.” She goes, “We’ve got to put it on the shelves.”

      There is a huge explosion of CBD products, everything. It’s interesting because it’s a competitive market. Are there other teas that you know of that are starting to do that? Were you the first one to do it? Are there other people doing it?

      I’ve been doing it for the last year and a half. We’ve got Cheech & Chong and we do their private license for CBD. They took three of my blends and they put it into a box. They took my tea bags and they put their own name on it. I do private labeling. In the last few months, I get emails. Everybody wants to come play an $11-billion-industry right now.

      You’ve been a successful entrepreneur for a long time. I wouldn’t think tea would be the easiest business to be in, whether it’s the High Tea you’re doing or TSalon.com. A lot of our audience is entrepreneurs and business people. Can you talk a little bit about how you even got into that business and how you made it successful? What do you think some of the lessons for entrepreneurs are that they can learn from the journey that you’ve been through?

      I started the business in 1992 because my sister married a Liverpudlian in Liverpool, England. In 1990, I was in Italy and I went to visit her family that she was about to marry and we had afternoon tea. I know this is going to sound a little weird, but Jews don’t sit for afternoon tea. I’m in this house with this woman with beautiful family and beautiful home. The woman comes out with one of her ladies who takes care of the home with this black, beautiful, crisp black skirt and this crisp white apron and they’re serving scones, Devon cream jam, tea sandwiches, and afternoon tea. I sat with them and I said, “I just sold a perfume.” I used to be Herb Alpert’s partner at A&M. He and I launched a fragrance called Listen. I was lucky, privileged, and honored to have made that fragrance with him. I was lucky we sold it and I moved to Italy.

      At this point, my sister announced she was getting married and I go there for afternoon tea. I go to my sister’s about to be mother-in-law, Esther, and I said, “Everything is lovely. Thank you so much. I don’t get it. How come the tea tastes terrible?” She said, “I heard you’re such an entrepreneur. I bet you couldn’t make a good cup of tea,” so I did. I went and traveled with my daughter for about four months. The entire world, at that point, when you go to visit anybody, they sit and serve you a cup of tea. China, Japan, Turkey, Russia, anywhere you go except Americans. The only thing you did in the 1990s if you were sick, your mother would say, “Would you like a cup of tea?” I said, “I’m going to bring tea back to United States.”

      I was going to build this cutest, littlest tea room with 50 teas. People would walk in and smell them, buy them and don’t ask me where it went. It went from that to a 5,000 square foot tea room below the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo. Being a serial entrepreneur, God forbid you should think little. A 5,000-square foot, 267 seats, 350 teas. Foods wrapped around teas mixology with teas in their drinks and people were lining up. They’ve never seen anything like it. I was like a three-ring circus. There I was, I was ignited by Florence Fabricant as the Guru of Tea. Nobody at that point ever in history has built a 5,000-square foot tea room. Instant recognition, instant global word went out and I became this amazing creature of life, of learning what the world wanted in a great cup of tea. I sold them, I blended them, and I created them. It was so much fun that I continued to open up other locations around New York. I built one Lebanese 20th, Chelsea Market, Melrose, and La Brea. I kept popping them up and I loved it.

      TTP 30 | CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty Products

      CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty Products: Listen to your intuitive. Always listen to your gut. Always hear the heartbeat in your stomach. It will always guide you the right way.

      One day, somebody came to me from Bloomberg News. They said they were doing a reality television show, “Would you like to be on it?” I said, “Reality television show? No.” It’s called The Mentor and the guy from 1-800-Flowers who’s going to mentor me and he did. In the middle of the show, he talked me into closing all my stores. This is great for entrepreneurs. Listen to your intuitive. Always listen to your gut. Always hear the heartbeat in your stomach. It will always guide you the right way. If you’re really listening, it will always tell you which way to go. I believed that and I got involved in this reality of watching myself on television. Millions of Americans watching me say, “I’ll close them,” which I did and I went wholesale. Do I regret it? 50% regrets it because I didn’t listen to my gut. It was the biggest lesson of my life.

      I went wholesale, so I went on websites, sold to hotels and it was hard. I had to start all over. It was a big lesson. I learned a lot. You have to be fearless. You have to stick to your guns and understand. If you have a great idea, stay with it, believe in it, trust it, sleep with it, talk about it. Stay in a line of passion and belief. Now I’ve been doing wholesale for the last five years and it’s fabulous but it’s like having a baby at 50.

      It’s a different game. Has it been successful?

      Very much so.

      Still a little sorry you closed the salon.

      As you can tell, I’m a shoes-er. I love the shoes. I love when they walked in. “Hi, how are you?” To this day I still get people that go, “I miss your tea salon. I used to come down. I wrote books there. I transgendered there.” I’ve had everybody do everything in my tea salons. It was a great place for fun, meeting people, sitting with them, and having tea. It was beautiful. Tea is a liquid communication. Coffee is for the masses and tea is for the masters. You would feel that energy in the room when they sat down and had a great cup of tea. They never experienced anything like it. To see their faces, it was like, “At last, somebody knew how to make a proper cup of tea,” and that’s what I gave them.

      We talk about this all the time when I talk about branding on this show. You took something that was seemingly ordinary thing, which is tea. By bringing that passion to do it the best, to have it be the most excellent, to bring back those rituals, you turned it into a successful business. That’s one of the secrets with entrepreneurs is it’s not much about having something super out of the box and exciting. It’s about taking something and doing it with excellence.

      Doing it with passion, doing it with a belief system, doing it like you know it, you feel it, you eat it, you sleep it, you live it, you walk the talk. You just don’t go home afterwards, sit back, and have a decaf cappuccino. Either you’re in it and you’re in a deep and you believe in it, you trust it, and you just go for it. You have to go for it. That’s the bottom line.

      Where are you with the new business? How is the new business doing and what state are you in with the new business? What are some of the entrepreneurial challenges you’re facing?

      First of all, everybody in the hemp/CBD, and cannabis business is millennials. They’re all fabulous, brilliant, and young. There are a few elders. I spoke in Las Vegas about being an entrepreneur in the CBD business, “What is the mixology? What are you doing with it? What are the drinks that you’re making with it? What are the products you’re making with it?” Here’s a guy on my left at 34 years old, already made his first $10 million. Here’s a guy on my right already did his first $20 million. My friend from Whole Foods said, “I need you to get a compliance lawyer.” I didn’t even know what that was. A compliance lawyer is someone that makes sure that your labels comply with the law. He’s a lawyer from Whole Foods. He’s one of the consultants to Whole Foods to tell you what you comply to, what you can’t, what you can put on a label, what you can, the whole nine yards. Here I am with a new product.

      Whole Foods is owned by Amazon. Amazon does not put CBD on their site. I had to make sure all the dots were dotted, the Ts were teed and lined, and wording was right. He said to me, “All those millennials that are doing hemp/CBD, none of them comply with the laws. Not one label.” I said, “How are they getting away with it?” They said, “They don’t care because at the end of the day, they made their $10 million. The government comes, closes them down, they’re happy at 32. They’ve done it.” You, however, have to comply. I am a true believer in following the rules because I’m not here for the weekend. I’m not here that hemp/CBD and High Teas here for a year.

      You talked about the Good Night Irene. As a branding strategist, I have to say thumbs up, fabulous name. What are some of the other names of some of the other teas in the High Tea line besides Good Night Irene?

      I have Queen Of Earl.

      What is that one for?

      Some folks like a fabulous, black tea and they would like a little twist to it. I have Queen Of Earl, which is bergamot, molasses and 15 milligrams of organic CBD. I have Green Tea With Coconut And Pineapple. I didn’t realize it would be such a hit. It got so popular that I bottled it. They wanted it in bottles in the cold fridge. I had Purification after a juice cleanse or after you’ve eaten too much. You’d come home at night, instead of taking whatever people used to take for eating too much, an upset stomach, you sit back and have a cup of Purification. You have a cup of Detox. I have Immunity. I have Balance which is a great tea with peppermint, chamomiles, cinnamon, roses and it feels like your whole day has been equalized. You come home from work, you take off your shoes, in the ‘50s you made a martini, in the ‘80s you rolled a joint, and in 2018 you came back and had a cup of CBD High Tea.

      CBD and hemp are legal in all the states in the US. The teas are legal in all the states, correct?

      That is correct.

      It’s interesting because it’s a wellness line. It’s a wellness product. Are you selling it online? Are you retailing at? Where are you selling it currently?

      I’m selling it online, in spas, in yoga centers, to therapists. I sell it to people that have clinics, cancer clinics. I sell it to water centers that have machines that you filtrate your water. You walk in and you want your water great, but you also would like a fabulous drink with your fabulous water. I sell it to hotels. You go into some of the hotels, you have traveled. There is CBD High Tea in your mini fridge.

      We’re heading to a point where we’re going to start to see that in in an unimaginable variety of products, health and wellness products.

      I left a hemp show in Las Vegas and here in Milan, they had hemp/CBD in dog food, shampoos, bath salts, gummy bears, puddings, cupcakes, breads, ice creams, name it. They had it in everything. I was walking around the show. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it was in everything.

      What were some of the highlights of the hemp show in Las Vegas you went to?

      It was a mixology show and it was all about bartenders and what do they want to serve and how would they want to make. What’s 2018 got to do with CBD? First of all, I brought in two mixologists and she made these extracts and combined extracts and CBD. The show was all about what’s new at the bars. What’s new at mixing? They wanted new ideas and it was phenomenal. They were having a blast. I would talk about combining my green tea with coconut, vodka and CBD. They were all over the place doing in tequila, vodka and sake. There’s a whole line of sake. They’re sitting and having it bottled with CBD and different of my teas and they let it sit for 24 hours, cold brew it and they pour it over ice.

      Do you think we’re going to see in the next year or two that there are going to be cocktails appearing with CBD in them?

      They’re appearing already. We are in New York. We’re one year behind. You go into Colorado into Denver and Aspen. You name a city in Colorado, you go to a bar, they’re cooking with it. They’re bartending with it. They’re making puddings with it. They’re making desserts with it. They’re making ice creams. The end of the meal, you don’t know if you’re coming or going. When I went first time to Colorado to Denver, I walked in and they’re smoking. It’s hysterical. I go in and I go to this restaurant and she goes, “Would you like a menu?” I go, “Yes.” She goes, “Would you like a seat?” I go, “It’s a concept, yes.” She sits me down and she goes, “Would you like a cocktail with cannabis or CBD?” This was two years ago.

      Because it’s legal in Colorado?

      It’s legal in Colorado. The dogs are drinking it in their water. In New York, when I showed it two years ago and I told everybody what I was doing, they go, “CB who? CB what?” The last show I did at the Coffee And Tea Show, there were 50 people lined up at the Brooklyn Expo waiting to have and purchase High Tea. When I did it two years before that, they didn’t even know what I was talking about. There were 50 people lining up to buy and drink samples of my CBD, sold out in three hours.

      TTP 30 | CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty Products

      CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty Products: If you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t live in your own bubble. You have to make sure that your team is your friends.

      It shows that you saw something that was coming in a crest and you got in on it. You got in on it before it started to hit and that’s one of the things that entrepreneurs are always looking to do. Do you think that’s a function of that you’re just smart? Is that a function of that you pay attention, that you know your field? What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs about being able to get in on the game on something before it hit its crest?

      First of all, you have to do your due diligence. You have to have good Angel investors that believe in you. You have to have a team of friends that are smart, that will take your idea. They will listen to it and they need to give you honest feedback. You can’t be in your own bubble. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t live in your own bubble. You have to make sure that your team is your friends that are smart, that are traveled, that are there for you, that will listen to your ideas and then put it in front of a group that you don’t know from them. You have to do not only your friends and family tasting. They’re right on the money, they’ll tell you if they don’t like it. You’ve got to do it in front of a group that’s blind tasting. You’ve got to make sure that they know nothing of it and then hear the truth. When the truth hits, you be prepared and open to change. If you’re not open to change it, then you’re stuck in your own belief, your own product. You’ll be sitting on the shelf with thousands of your own product.

      Whether it’s a product, a food product, a beverage product, a technological product or a service, part of what you’re saying is you have to get outside of your own ideas about how it’s working to hear what other people have to say and then adjust based on that feedback. Did you find that as you were testing teas, both in the original company and in the High Tea line, did you find that you’ve got a lot of feedback from people that helped you to shape the line?

      My art went through many transitions. My warehouse is eight miles out of Woodstock, New York. Here I am thinking I’m in the ‘60s, I was going to this flowerily, psychedelic label, which would work great in Colorado because that’s what they all look like. I did this Woodstockian label with flowers, botanicals and things. It was like something you would’ve seen in the ‘60s. In the middle of the night, true entrepreneurial spirit, you wake up in a sweat. It’s 4:00 AM, you’re in a sweat. You know that something’s not right. What are you going to do? How am I going to change this?

      My first graphic artist was Michael, who I brought in when he was 22 years old. This guy who started Honest Tea grabbed him up and brought him to Washington DC, worked for him and one day said, “Sold it to Coca-Cola.” I get a phone call from Michael that he’s back in New York and I texted Michael. Worse, that’s what they do. They’re crazy. They do it when they can. There is no time. There is no clock. There is no rhythm, you just go for it. At 4:00 AM, I texted Michael, “Michael, help. I need a fabulous artwork. I need amazing label. You listen, we all know you can turn a corner and see Starbucks. I can see the edge of a logo and you know it’s right.” He texted me back at 4:30 AM. He goes, “Funny enough, I was up. What do you need?” There we were texting each other at 4:00 AM, going back and forth. He transformed my entire vision and created a label. That’s why I got into Fairways. That’s why I’m approached by all these people that come at me with their hotels and restaurants and yoga centers because the artwork is beautiful.

      I would never ask a lady her age, you’re not a millennial. You’re older than 50, can we say that?

      I have a 44-year-old daughter.

      One of the things you’re doing as an entrepreneur is you’re doing something that works. It’s valuable for the people that listen to this podcast to hear about you recognize the value of having people of all different ages participate with you in building the business.

      I know that the millennials around me are brilliant. They are thinking ahead. They have amazing ideas. I’m not saying all of them, but I can’t say all of them because it doesn’t work that way. That’s like saying everybody my age is brilliant. They’re not. I will say that you have to be open and listen. I’m doing second round funding. I have an amazing young man who is an intuitive. He finished a program with Deepak Chopra. He’s this major, wonderful, intuitive that he does readings and he comes from his guts. He sees the vision. He’s working with my deck, as we all know, it’s not called a business plan anymore. It’s called the deck. I learned that immediately. I would say, “You can do busy.” “No, I’m going to do you a deck.” I says, “I don’t want a deck of cards.” He said, “No, a PowerPoint deck.” “A PowerPoint deck?” That’s what’s going to get to your second-round funding.

      The other thing I hear through this is that you’ve had an incredible willingness to learn what’s going on that’s new and shift with the times.

      You have to be able to shift your haircut, your hair color, your shoes, and your address. If it’s going to help you, then move with it. Open yourself up to it. Don’t be in this closed closet that this is the way it’s going to work. It’s not going to work that way. One of the reasons that I’m here in Italy is because my girlfriend, Maxi Cohen, is doing an art opening in the middle of this town in this house. The things that she had to go through to create an art opening in the middle of Italy, she had to shift everything around her. She had to bring her assistant all the way from New York to do the prints to make it happen. She knew she couldn’t do it in New York and she left it on plane and pay thousands of dollars. They had to come here and print here in Italy. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to create it. You keep it in your box and say, “No, this the way I do it. This is the way it’s got to happen.” No, that’s not the way. You want success? Listen, pay attention. Listen to your gut. Listen to the people around you and trust that they might be great voices for you to do that change.

      Miriam, thank you so much for joining us.

      Thank you. I love it. I love sharing it. I love being in the space of it. For serial entrepreneurs, I know they understand it because they sleep with it, they eat with it and they love it. I love being in the space of it so thank you for the opportunity.

      You’re welcome. My guest has been Miriam Novalle. She is the CEO and Founder of the world-renowned T Salon in New York City. She’s also the Founder of the new company, High Tea Today. She was dubbed a Tea Guru by The New York Times and she was featured on the reality show, The Mentor.


      Important Links:

      About Miriam Novalle

      TTP 30 | CBD/Hemp In Health And Beauty ProductsMiriam Novalle is the CEO and founder of the world-renowned T Salon in New York City and the founder of High Tea Today. Dubbed a “tea guru” by the New York Times, She was also featured on the realtiy show the Mentor.


      Why We All Need To Become Global Citizens

      Why We All Need To Become Global Citizens

      TTP 29 | Global Citizens

      Kunal Sood is the Founder of X Fellows, Novus and X-Impact Group. Sood is also a TED Speaker and Resident. He discusses: How an extraordinary experience can transform a person’s life; what is the difference between an ordinary conference and a curated event and why we all need to be global citizens. Sood works with Fortune 500 companies such as Facebook, Google, and SAP, as well as social enterprises like X Prize Foundation, Singularity University , TED and United Nations. He has won numerous awards at the UN for his work as a leader in social impact, innovation, and media.

      As an exponential entrepreneur, social impact strategist, and philanthropic leader, Sood is focused on promoting organizations that make a positive difference to humanity. his steadfast commitment to the field, Sood has received many honors that include the RoundGlass Samsara Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, and. He has five masters which include an MBA from Kellogg and an MA in Positive Psychology from Penn.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      Why We All Need To Become Global Citizens

      My guest is Kunal Sood. He is the Founder of X Fellows, Novus and X-Impact Group. Sood works with Fortune 500 companies such as Facebook, Google and SAP. He also works with social enterprises like XPRIZE Foundation, Singularity University, TED and United Nations. Kunal has won numerous awards at the UN for his work as a leader in social impact, innovation and in media. He is also a TEDx Speaker and a resident.

      Kunal, welcome to Thought Talk.

      Thank you. I love Thought Talk.

      You’re all about bringing thinkers together, so you’re a perfect person for this podcast.

      Thank you. I don’t know about perfect but hopefully a good fit.

      You are about experiences and giving people experiences. We were talking earlier, there’s a difference between being a conference producer and a curator. You’ve produced a lot of conferences, you’ve worked for TED at one point, you’ve done your own conferences, but you consider yourself to be more of a curator than a conference producer. Can you talk a little bit about how you see that distinction?

      Here’s the funny thing. I’ve never produced conferences ever in my life. I’ve done events. When I was younger I used to do very high-octane fashion shows that the New York Fashion Week 7th on Sixth. I have my own label, so I had a deep dive into the blue ocean effect in my ripe young age. What happened was I learned about TEDx in about 2009. I learned about TED because it came to India and then I learned about TEDx, which is their licensed version. I come off of a being a global health scientist in the slums of Mumbai. When I was there, I was very inspired by what extraordinary stories these unsung heroes on the ground have. Then I looked at TEDx, which was this democratized platform which TED had come up with, and so I was invited to be a guest curator on TEDx San Francisco. That was my first foray into the whole conference world.

      I decided to go to different conferences and to experience the different types of genres that exist in that space. That’s when I learned that there’s a massive distinction between TED and just a conference. The trade shows, the conferences of different types, the TEDs of the world, the XPRIZEs of the world, they truly are not conferences. They are experiences that galvanize an extraordinary group of people together to go beyond just business as usual or transaction. At least in my experience, TED is able to give the audience a gift through ideas. When I started dreaming huge, because then that’s how I am engineered, I took all my skill set as a fashion designer and creative director and brought it to this world of ideas worth spreading.

      I was very lucky to join forces with a dear friend of mine, Eiso Vaandrager, from Amsterdam and it was amazing. I was in San Francisco, he was in Amsterdam, and we curated to the first ever TedxUNPlaza at the United Nations in New York. That was my beginning into this world, which showed me the difference between a conference and an experience that can truly have a massive transformative impact and inspire purpose in people.

      How would you articulate the difference in that experience, between just a conference and then something that’s more of an experience that could be transformational for people’s lives and careers?

      I’d say that the things that come out of my formative experiences like TED or XPRIZE or Singularity University, the three that I’m thinking of and hopefully some might even say Novus because I started it, it’s a true story. When people come up to you and say, “You changed my life,” that’s not often what you hear people say at some of these conferences. You might hear that at a Tony Robbins event that is focused on that transformational aspect of humanity. We don’t focus on that draconity. We bring in the forces of nature, be it science, innovation, technology, entertainment, design, you name it, arts, humanity, courage, the Brené Browns and Simon Sineks of the world, the Peter Diamandises, the Martin Seligmans of the world. You bring them all into a room. Curators have a way of being activists in onstage, even though we’re not onstage, we’re behind the scenes.

      What we do is we create the conditions for those voices, whether it be a kid from the slums of Mumbai or someone who’s as extraordinary as Peter Diamandis who founded the XPRIZE, to be on the same stage and give them those conditions to fly and have their voices heard where they have never been heard before.

      For example, in Novus, when we did it at the General Assembly Hall at the UN, it was a magical space. To me the UN symbolizes something that we all yearn and strive for, most of us at least, which is one world and extraordinary global citizenship. That’s what I’ve made my life’s purpose. My life’s purpose is to create the conditions for anyone to become an extraordinary citizen. That’s what I believe possibly in my view differentiates a conference or a conference organizer from a curator. We strive towards excellence and being extraordinary both in our word and in the way we live and the people’s lives that we touch.

      Do you think that businesses can put on conferences that have that high impact and transformation?

      100%, especially today more than ever before because businesses have something that most conference organizers, at least the young and hungry and foolish ones don’t have, which is capital resource. The only thing they don’t have is the exponential mindset to go beyond, so they hire someone like TED and pay them to design that experience. I do believe that businesses more than ever before need to do it because it would help the internal ecosystem and thought leadership. I do believe that that’s not only possible but something that needs to happen.

      Can you talk a little bit about your current work that you’re doing at Novus and then X Fellows?

      Novus was an idea that was inspired by the United States. It was when Trump started his campaign before he became President and he proclaimed that the American dream was dead. That didn’t sit right with me but I didn’t want to be like the others, the naysaying or negative, and I wanted to start a process of deep inquiry. I started Novus with the idea of reimagining the American dream. I did that and I did a small conference in San Francisco at a really interesting space called The Battery, where I invited all of the people I felt had a vested interest in the American dream to share their ideas. It was a massive step for me because I was stepping out of TED. I was stepping out of working for others. I was stepping into my own territory and it was a big risk when you go from serving others to trying to serving something that you want to create yourself. That’s how Novus started. It started as a way to give back to this country for all of the opportunity it has given me. This country is truly extraordinary. To me personally and everything that I’ve done has been empowered and enabled by the virtues of the American dream. That’s how Novus started.

      TTP 29 | Global Citizens

      Global Citizens: The UN symbolizes something that we all yearn and strive for, which is one world and extraordinary global citizenship.

      Of course, the success of Novus propelled me again, like TEDx San Francisco to go to TEDx UN. I went to the UN and they were interested in this idea, but they said, “Kunal, if we reimagine the American dream at the UN, the member states will be very upset. We can’t do that.” We envisioned a new mission. Then I made the mission and the vision of Novus to transform the world and we do that by supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are the UN Global Goals, which is seventeen of the most important global grand challenges that we must solve in our lifetime. I’d say in our lifetime because it’s only sixteen years away. 2030 is the year that we’ve given ourselves a mandate to get it done.

      We want to serve as the catalyst and champions that not only spread ideas but take people that inspire, live, and achieve their dreams and embody one or several of these global goals and go out and inspire others, almost like a catalyst for transformation for people in our world to take on, own, and become the change you want not only to see but you want to transform into in our world and solve for. More than ever before because of technology, because of innovation, and especially because of the disruptive nature of how we can do things as a group more the globalized sense of community, we can do things that we never did before. We can solve for these global grand challenges that we have listed out like water and hunger.

      Women’s empowerment is one of them that I champion. Women are a tour de force for the future existence and humanity. I don’t believe that a woman deserves a seat at the table; she deserves more than a seat at the table, they deserve a new knight’s table. 50% of that table must belong to a woman. I would go so far as being bold to say not only just a seat at the table but have exact equal rights, because if you look at any research that’s been done about women’ approach towards human flourishing, you always see that they have a practical approach towards what’s best for the community.

      For me it is not about a seat at the table anymore. It’s about creating a new knight’s stable and that’s what Novus intends to become, as this new knight’s table where we empower men, women, and even the creatures on the planet to rebalance what is off balance, which is how we’ve treated Mother Earth. That’s what I believe. Novus’s job is to serve as that platform and that engagement space where we come together as one to form a super organism.

      I’d be curious to hear from you about some of that deep experiences you’ve had and how you feel that they’ve transformed you.

      That’s beyond the scope of this podcast. I’ll give you one example. The one thing that transforms people the most is human suffering and loss. I haven’t grown so much in my times of joy and winning an award or being honored. Those are all wonderful accolades that I feel almost appreciative, but the things that have transformed my life have been when I’ve hurt. One such moment was when I lost my late great mentor who was India’s first cardiologist, he committed suicide, and he was like a father to me. He was like a father to all of us in our families, he saved our lives, not just once but the whole country. He saved so many lives in India.

      I feel like I personally had failed him when I was not there to save his. I worked by his side. I was very much on a mission to become a cardiologist like him while of course, honoring my family business. When he left me, something cracked open. It wasn’t like these places where I had an epiphany or anything like that. It was a struggle. It was a difficult process of reimagining and relearning everything about my life’s work, journey, purpose and path. I broke open. Since then I’ve focused on living a life that’s about serving others and living a life of service. I miss him a lot and I feel like through his loss, I gained a purpose and vision that I would not have had had I not lost him.

      For me, transformation is about wrestling with those massively difficult moments in your life and this is one of them. There are so many, but this is one profound moment that I had to wrestle with and it’s not easy. It’s messy. You have to get by with the support you have within as well as around you. You have to have the courage to look within and ask yourself, “Who am I? Why am I here? What can I do to truly have purpose and meaning?” The question that I kept asking myself is “Do I matter? Why am I here?”

      Through that I learned how to find deeper meaning and purpose. My achievements have largely been about forming positive relationships and designing extraordinary experiences and trying to create the conditions to help others become extraordinary citizens of the world because I believe in that. It’s not enough to be just a global citizen anymore. Today you can get on Expedia and you’re a global citizen. I’m just saying. We used to pride ourselves on that one point, “I’m a global citizen.” We live here and now in a time where extraordinary citizenship is going to be the type of citizen in the world that’s going to truly shift the narrative, move the needle forward, and have a positive impact on humanity.

      Do you feel like that’s something that the ordinary person can do?

      100%. If you looked at my past, there was nothing extraordinary about me as a child, although I agree if you ask my mother that she would disagree. Her thinking I was extraordinary is because she loves me, but if you looked at metrics, I wasn’t a kid that grew up with nothing. I didn’t come from poverty. My poverty was of being ostracized, not being part of the community because I was different. I was obese, I was 350 pounds by the time I was sixteen years old. For me, I believe not only ordinary people, but even people that are down and out. In fact, people who are less than ordinary, people that are worse off than ordinary people, can become extraordinary. It’s a continuum and if you have the will, you will find a way. Yes, mentorship, people that love and believe in you always serve to inspire you at that young age, but the ordinary can become extraordinary, absolutely yes.

      A lot of the audience of this podcast are entrepreneurs, they’re business people or they work for a company. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about how you think in a practical way. Some of the ideas you’ve been talking about can be brought into companies in the way companies work.

      It depends on which company. It depends on the culture of the company. A lot of what I’m speaking to is about the idea of pour water, chop wood, but get bloody good at it. For me it’s about building grit, because it’s about the individual as well as the team. Within a business setting or an entrepreneurial setting, there are two things that you can control. One is the team dynamic, and so leadership. We have a leadership problem. We don’t have a resources problem, let’s be honest. Most companies, unless you’re a startup, which I respect and have a lot of empathy for, have massive amounts of resources. It’s more about utilizing those resources and effectualyzing teams to not only be effective as a team, but as individuals. You get rid of the free rider effect. That’s what I mean by an extraordinary citizen. You find that signature strength, you do strengths‑based finders tests or whatever, and you start to focus on each other as four wheels versus what’s wrong with the other person.

      We are very quick to criticize in today’s world. You go in, you have this experience where you don’t think someone’s pulling their weight on the team then you take the burden on and you do all the work, but then you start negating the relationship. What ends up happening is there’s this chasm of communication breach. There is a breach in communication. I feel that can be avoided through the strengths finders approach towards teambuilding and getting tasks done. Another thing you should do as an extraordinary citizen is always focus to nullify your weakness, not forget it. A lot of people say, “Ignore your weaknesses.” That in my opinion is very dangerous. If your weakness is necessary to the team, then you must strengthen it enough so that it becomes irrelevant, which is different from forgetting about it, and then you accentuate your strengths which would be invaluable to that team.

      TTP 29 | Global Citizens

      Global Citizens: There are so many permutations and combinations of how one can become an extraordinary citizen within the workplace.

      In a work sense, there are so many permutations and combinations of how one can become an extraordinary citizen within the workplace. We call it entrepreneurship now, but the most effective way is to truly identify your signature strengths and apply them effectively to the team or the role that you serve, and not nullify your weaknesses by forgetting about them but bringing them to a place where they do become irrelevant and don’t hurt the team. Never ever be a free rider.

      What do you mean by a free rider?

      The idea of the super organism is when all of the team members come into unison and find flow within that. If there’s a free rider, which is a person that’s not pulling their weight and didn’t do the work, it starts to show. That’s where you see the seams tear. They almost become like a parasite. A free rider is that person that didn’t pull its weight, ends up getting lazy because he believes the team is doing so well that, “I don’t need to do as much work.” That ability to always be conscientious and be conscious that you are part of the system and your reason why this system works so well is very important.

      The free rider effect is when someone’s there for the ride and not pulling their weight or putting in the effort necessary. That’s something that always has to be in check and that’s why we have a leadership problem today because we need leaders that are both guided by each other as well as themselves. That’s the best way to avoid the free rider effect.

      When you talk about being a good company citizen or a good corporate citizen, I don’t think most people think about work in terms of citizenry. That’s an interesting way to put it that you’re a citizen of this company that you are a part of.

      The best thing you can do in a company, at least in my view, is to democratize what you’re doing so you become a person that is of service. A lot of businesses are done on a transactional basis, but if you look at it as citizenship, then the transaction can become more of a reciprocity. A lot of businesses have done more harm than good to the large macroeconomic environment. We always talk about how we’re going to burst any minute now. Every economist says that we’re going to burst. Of course, we are living in a time that is way more extraordinary than ever before, disease is down, lifetime expectancy is up.

      Cell phones have the same computing power Bill Clinton had when he was President, but those are still only part of the 10% at the top. There is a 90% group of people that still suffer in the world. In fact, a billion of them still live in absolute poverty not knowing whether they will live or die tomorrow. I feel like until we vanquish that, we’ve not succeeded as citizens of our world. That’s why even corporations and people within corporations have to start behaving like citizens of the world and not intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs. It’s very like, “I’m in it to win it” mindset. We’ve thrived on that mindset for too long. We have to reframe those ideas otherwise, the idea of solving all these grand challenges becomes even more difficult.

      There are a couple of themes on this podcast. One of them I always like to ask people about is what I call the joy of missing out. Often people have a fear of missing out in regards to making a contribution. I’d love to know your opinion what shouldn’t people have a fear of missing out on in regards to making their contribution or being a citizen of the world? What should we have a joy of missing out on as it were in regards to that?

      That’s such a fascinating question because you don’t know until you’ve had it, meaning there are so many experiences in life that I’ve had that were unbelievable at the time. One of them was recently I was at this fashion event about fashion design in New York City. I was within the core of the so-called creme de la crème. All the fashionistas, the bitching, and the posing. I’m looking at this and I’m looking at myself and saying, “I have zero fear of missing out on this experience,” because I already have this experience, but at that time I would have had the most amount of FOMO when I was a 25‑year-old, or even a 50-year-old. There were some 50-year-olds over there that were excited and playing the game. I felt like, “What is it about this experience that I have zero attachment to any more?” It was because as you develop massive transformative purpose in your life, fashion starts to become a layer that is exciting and certainly important but not the core of what drives you.

      For me the joy of missing out would have been very different at 25 than it is now and I feel like I can miss out on all those things. I don’t have to be on the front cover of Vogue for example. It doesn’t drive my purpose. Putting you on the front cover of Vogue is different.

      I’m a little old for the front cover of Vogue.

      I’m serious. That’s the perception and that needs to be reframed as well, but my point is I get more joy out of making sure that you get on the front cover because that’s my purpose. I found my purpose. I respect fashion and I love that world of beauty and style, but for me personally, I have no fear of missing out on being seen or in the so-called nexus of the most happening spaces in New York City. I would much rather be at a meeting with people that are planning to solve for hunger or solve for X around a round table that drives the conversation forward around saving our world or changing it for the better at least. I see a lot of joy in doing that versus being in the popular world.

      One of the other themes of this podcast, besides the joy of missing out, is what I call living beyond the script. There are a lot of prevailing scripts about what it is to be a woman, about what is to be a man, about what it is to be an entrepreneur, about what it is to be an artist, about what it is to be an American, and about what is to be a human. There are lots of prevailing scripts that we live with. I’d love to hear your opinion on what you think the prevailing script is as it relates to being a citizen of the world and how do we go beyond that script?

      Today’s script is truly magnificent because for the first time you can write your own script and you don’t need to be handheld in doing it. You can feel forward, you can be messy, you can show up on YouTube. You have so many mediums of writing the scripts. If you’re not a good writer, you don’t need to sit down with pen and paper. You can do it digitally; you can do it any which way you want to. The scripture for me personally is about being extraordinary, not only being extraordinary within but with each other. That means living in a place of gratitude, living with integrity, being loyal to one another, building and finding ways to be expansively compassionate, leading with a lot of love and respect for others and yourself, and being value-based in how you do things in life.

      The script can be written through technology, through media, through pen and paper, but the most important thing is stewardship and leadership, so how we become exponential leaders of our lives and of the work we do in our lives so that we can write a script that matters and is worth sharing with others, that others would be inspired of by and take into their own lives and help them write their own scripts. We live in the age where everyone can write their own script. That is one of the most extraordinary things about going beyond scripts as they used to be seen as scripts in the past.

      TTP 29 | Global Citizens

      Global Citizens: The most important thing is stewardship and leadership.

      The last theme of this podcast is what I call the everyday artist. There’s a part of what everyone does regardless of their job title that’s part art and part science. I’d love to know in what way do you consider yourself an artist in your work?

      I used to loathe being called an artist in design school. I went to Parsons School of Design, the best art school in the world according to legend, especially in fashion. As I’ve grown to mature, I embraced that word, because art is truly when you go beyond science. In some ways you cannot measure art the same way you do science. There’s a saying when I was a global head scientist, which was, “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.” That’s a very scientific belief but when it’s good art, you don’t give a crap about measurement. You are just in a place of awe and wonder when you witness it and that’s why we cry at the movies or we see the idea of something like Wakanda and dream for the African-American people.

      Artistry is about that self-mastery, and mastery of not just the self but mastery of the vision and the dream we all have individually and collectively. That’s what true artistry is about, when visions become real possibility. I personally in recent past embraced and almost feel deeply honored when people say, “You’re an artist,” because that’s probably one of the best things a person can tell you and truly mean it. Being an artist is no joke. It’s hard work. It’s a gift not only to yourself, but to humanity if you can be a true artist of life. Da Vinci, we can name them, the greats of the past, they’ve done something right, so I embrace the artist within.

      Kunal Sood, thank you so much.

      Thank you.

      My guest has been Kunal Sood. He is the Founder of X fellows, Novus, and X-Impact Group. You can find out more about him at www.NOV.us and it www.XFellows.com.

      Important Links

      About Kunal Sood

      TTP 29 | Global CitizensKunal Sood is the Founder of X Fellows, Novus and X-Impact Group, Sood works with Fortune 500 companies such as Facebook, Google, and SAP, as well as social enterprises like X Prize Foundation, Singularity University , TED and United Nations. He has won numerous awards at the UN for his work as a leader in social impact, innovation, and media. Sood is also a TED Speaker and Resident. www.nov.us, www.xfellows.com

      As an exponential entrepreneur, social impact strategist, and philanthropic leader, Sood is focused on promoting organizations that make a positive difference to humanity. his steadfast commitment to the field, Sood has received many honors that include the RoundGlass Samsara Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, and. He has five masters which include an MBA from Kellogg and an MA in Positive Psychology from Penn.


      How 3 College Friends Started A Jerky Company

      How 3 College Friends Started A Jerky Company

      TTP 28 | True Jerky

      Jess Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of True Jerky, a consumer brand of protein snacks. Thomas discusses the challenges and rewards of a start up in the food space including: What it’s like to start a business with friends; how to survive in a competitive market with a few large incumbents and a lot of local boutique brands and how to stand out. True Jerky, which was founded by college friends in 2015 and based in San Francisco. makes bold & delicious protein snacks inspired by regional or global flavors, made with 100% domestic meats. Their products can be found in over 2000 stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon and the True website.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      How 3 College Friends Started A Jerky Company

      My guest is Jess Thomas. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of True Jerky. It’s a consumer brand of protein snacks based in the San Francisco Bay area. Jess, welcome to Thought Talk.

      Thank you so much for having me, Karen. It is great to be here.

      We met through Ken LaGrande, who’s my friend and client. He’s your uncle, yes?

      He’s my cousin actually. Because of the age gap, that makes sense. He is my first cousin.

      You’re both in the food business, which is what’s interesting.

      Our families collectively have been in the food business. His for four generations, mine for three, and so there’s a lot of history there for sure.

      Did you feel more comfortable going into the food business? Did you choose the food business because you’ve got some family history in it?

      When I was growing up, my dad was in the cattle business. I spent most of my summers on a cattle ranch in Oregon. As I was growing up and going through high school and college, part of the youthful rebellion, I said consciously, “I’m not going to get into food rag.” I was going to be in finance and that’s what I studied in college. Life has a way of turning you in certain directions. It felt inevitable after three or four years out of college that I was going to end up in food. It’s an industry that I love, the idea of making tangible or tactile goods that people can enjoy all over the world. It’s fun and interesting. When I graduated college, the option was a huge employment driver in California and it was never something that appealed to me. I was much more passionate about the process of bringing food. “Farm to table” is the catchphrase du jour but it is a neat process to see that unfold and to reach consumers all over the world. I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be in food, but if I was honest with myself, it was always where I was headed.

      How did you get the idea for True Jerky? Were you a huge fan of protein snacks? Was it one day you went, “There is not one that I enjoy. I’m going to make it?” How did you end up with that as a product?

      A lot of origin stories for companies are very neat and tidy and ours is decidedly not neat and tidy. It was not so much of an a-ha moment, but a series of fortunate events. What I wanted to do was start a brand in the snacking space. I didn’t know where that was going to be, but I had been working in the food business for a few years and had watched. We were selling rice and so I would go to these conferences and I would see all these fun, exciting snacking brands. I watched the growth of healthy snacking as a subcategory. What I wanted to do was get into snacking and I got very fortunate in that some good friends of mine from college had started a little boutique jerky business down in San Diego. They had a couple of good products and we were close, so there was this a-ha moment at a bachelor party, of all places, where they had this boutique business. I wanted to get into the business and I had a background in food, and so that’s how the business started. Jerky was an entry point. The vision for the brand has always been to broaden out and stay within the heading of healthy snacks or protein snacks, but to do things beyond just beef jerky.

      TTP 28 | True Jerky

      True Jerky: The vision for the brand has always been to broaden out and stay within the heading of healthy snacks or protein snacks, but to do things beyond just beef jerky.

      You started the business with friends, but in your family, a lot of your agricultural business, it’s a family business. How do you think it’s different or better or worse than starting a business with friends versus starting a business with family or with co-workers?

      Like anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to all of them. Friends, family, co-workers, you can find dozens of examples, hundreds probably of businesses with friends that have gone south and businesses with friends that have done well. Same thing with family businesses. It all comes down to the people involved at the end of the day. Specifically, in my experience, starting a business with friends, the biggest thing is the trust factor, particularly if you are a startup or you’re at risk every day for the first however many years that you’re doing it. You’ve got some moments where it’s pretty touch and go and you’re wondering, “Are we going to make payroll?” or “Is this going to last another two months?” In those moments, trust is what you have to fall back on and the idea that you want to do well for these people because you care about them outside of the business.

      Kevin, James, and I have, since 2015, run the day-to-day. I’ve known James for ten years. He has been one of my best friends since my sophomore year in high school. Kevin and I go all the way back to my sophomore year in college. It’s motivating to want to succeed together and for them. The biggest thing is the trust factor. You know that at the end of the day that these guys have your back. I know that they’re not going to cut and run because they got a better job offer or whatever. Then the other thing is celebrating the wins. When you get good news and when you have a win, doing it with people that you like and that you have fun with, it makes it all the sweeter.

      You started with jerky. Gourmet beef and turkey jerky are two of your main staples. We’ll talk about the new jerky trail mix and biltong, which I’ve eaten because I used to have a client that was a South African restaurant, so I know what that is. Jerky is a pretty competitive market with a few large incumbents and lots of local boutique brands. I was thinking about EPIC and I’ve written about EPIC when I’ve done food stories and things. Was it hard to stand out? How did you figure out how to stand out in terms of the branding of this?

      It is a competitive market. The advantage that we had going into it was twofold. One, market tailwinds. Consumers want more protein. They’re snacking more often, and so those macro forces, they enabled jerky as a category to grow pretty quickly. High growth categories tend to allow for more niche brands to enter because if you have increasing shelf space, then mathematically, there’re more opportunities for new brands to come in. That was one dynamic that helped us. It had nothing to do with us. It was just the market in general. Then the other component is that we’re in an era, particularly with consumer products, where there’s a movement by consumers away from the Proctor & Gambles, Kraft Foods of the world, and towards more niche brands. It’s not just in food. You see it in beer, you see it in wine, you see it in mattresses. It’s all over the place. Consumers want to connect with brands and they know they want to try something new.

      We had those two things working in our favor, but in terms of what we did, we knew that we couldn’t outspend our competitors. We knew that we couldn’t outmarket them probably early. We knew what we could control, which was that to consumer, at the end of the day, health is important, nutrition is important. Consumers want healthy, nutritious products but taste is still the number one purchase driver in food. If we can make products that not only had enticing flavor profiles that we would grab attention but deliver on the taste, we had a reasonable chance at getting some traction, and that was what we focused on early.

      We did think of the package design and our visual brand was going to be important, but where we knew we needed to deliver was on the taste of the product. As a retail business or as a brand selling to retail, your first barrier to entry is always going to be the buyer. If the buyer doesn’t like your products or if it tastes like something he had yesterday, then it’s up to chance, but if you can deliver a product that has an enticing flavor profile and tastes great, you have a chance to succeed. That’s where we focused on early. We wanted to create flavors that were unique and innovative but delicious.

      Did you go to things like the Fancy Food Show? Did you go to the traditional food shows to get seen by the retail stores and the places that buy?

      We’ve been to every one of them, you name them. Expos is always our biggest one and we go to three or four a year and it’s both an efficient and an inefficient way to meet grocery store buyers. We don’t rely on it solely to build our business. We have a fairly robust sales organization that it’s their job to get the attention of those buyers, but it is helpful particularly for younger companies. When we were young, you go in on a wing and a prayer and hope that the buyer from Kroger or wherever happens to stop by your booth. Once or twice a week, you do get lucky but it’s a lot of dead time and a lot of money.

      Early on, what did you do that helped you grow? For example, what role did social media play then? What role is it playing now?

      We did two things early that helped us grow. Number one was the composition of our team. There were and still are only three of us and the makeup of our skills and our personalities allowed us to get a lot done. We could cover a lot of bases with just the three of us. In terms of advice, making sure that you can do and you can maximize people’s abilities is helpful. That was a big thing that we did. My partner, James, has handled all of our sales since day one and that was very important for us early because you’re trying to do a lot of different things and sales is something that you can’t afford to take a back seat even for a day. Strategically, the way we organized our team was important for us. The other thing was finding some white space in the market. We’re located in San Francisco. All of our friends, for the most part, work in tech and what we knew from living and spending time with our buddies was that all these tech companies have these fairly, robust food programs and stacking program.

      It’s like the bins in Whole Foods in those high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. You would think I’m in Whole Foods. I work a lot with high-tech companies and whenever I’m in there working, I invariably will meet someone who’s been in the company, like they just joined, and they’d been there a couple of months and I say, “How are you liking the job?” They’ll go “It’s great, but I’ve gained ten pounds.” That is the standard answer when I’m asking people.

      I hope that we’re not a part of those ten pounds. Situationally being located in San Francisco, we’re right next to all these companies. We knew people who worked there and so we would go to them and say, “Can we sample at your office?” We were able to find a little bit of white space that wasn’t completely saturated with other brands and exploited it. We started with one office and then two offices and then four offices and then we found a distributor and then two distributors. After a year and a half to two years later, we’re now among the probably most widely distributed jerky brands in the Bay Area through those tech companies. That was important for us early on because number one, it showed investors in the market and everything that we were able to think a little bit outside the box in terms of routes to market. Number two, revenue. Having a steady source of recurring revenue is a huge advantage for a young company. Number three, and this is unique to tech, tech employees are very product-focused and very engaged consumers. We’ve got a lot of product feedback that has helped us reformulate and redesign products on the fly as we go. It’s been a great source of feedback for us. It’s a little bit like having a paid trial and so that was another thing that we did early that was helpful for us.

      How did you get that feedback from people? Did you actively seek it? Did you just listen when people wrote you or emailed to you? Did you use social for it?

      All of the above. We actively encourage people to reach out to us. If and when consumers do email us, it’s priority number one to respond to them as quickly as possible because we want people to reach out to us and tell us what they think, particularly when it’s negative. I’d say the overwhelming majority of emails that we get are positive, but when a consumer does send us an email that says, “I don’t like your jerky,” we take that to heart. Speaking one-on-one, doing demos, things like that, they feel like they’re a waste of time, but having the chance to see how a consumer interacts with your product up close and personal is the best form of feedback that you can get. Particularly early when we were, as a matter of necessity, doing all the demos ourselves. That was a great way for us to get feedback. We do some of that through social media comments. They’re usually fairly positive and are less detailed than an email, but it’s all of the above.

      You’ve had some innovations. You have a product line called Turkey Jerky Trail Mix, which is where you have both the jerky, one’s bacon, one’s turkey, one’s beef, and then you have different trail mixes in one package, but they’re in separate sections of the package, so they maintain their freshness. Then the consumer combines them, and they basically get a jerky trail mix. I am a branding strategist. I have not seen that anywhere else. Is that a new category in the food market?

      It’s pretty new. The interesting part is when we first started the company, that was the original product idea that we wanted to execute. We had a couple of jerky products and we thought that the next line that we should do is a jerky trail mix. We were so small and so young and so undercapitalized that we quickly realized, “It’s going to be a lot cheaper and easier for us to create some more jerky flavors than it is going to be to do an entirely new product line.” One of the reasons for that is that we learned the hard way about what you alluded to, which is the freshness issues that you encounter if you mix jerky in trail mix. There’s the technical side behind it, but the moisture of jerky gets absorbed by the dryness of nuts and seeds and everything and you end up with this homogenous taste and texture and it doesn’t work out that well.

      That was a huge problem that we had to address in the designing of the product. That’s part of the reason it took us almost two full years to get the product launched. There are a couple of companies including ours that do have a version of jerky trail mix. It’s a fairly new category and emerging. We hope it’s something that is high growth and that more brands and more consumers develop an awareness of because it’s delicious. Honestly, it’s a unique product.

      The two packages, was that something that you created and invented as a way to solve that problem?

      Yes and no. We knew that we needed to solve the problem. We had found a brand. You mentioned EPIC. EPIC does a version of that package, but we did have to get the package engineered. One of the challenges that we encountered was finding packaging engineers to design the package for us because you can go to a packaging company and say, “Can you make me this?” More often than not, they’ll tell, “No.” That was a big challenge for us. It was essentially engineering this package or having somebody engineer the package from scratch, but we had seen a version of it that was the inspiration.

      TTP 28 | True Jerky

      True Jerky: Having the chance to see how a consumer interacts with your product up close and personal is the best form of feedback that you can get.

      One of your brand-new things that you’ve created also is called biltong, which is a South African dried cured meat stack, which I’ve had because I had a client that was a South African restaurant. Anyone who has been there, has had it. It’s a pretty common food in South Africa, but you’re trying to introduce a new kind of food into the US and a new kind of meat. How challenging is that?

      It’s very challenging. There are a lot of success stories. You look at something like Greek yogurt for instance. The food aisles are riddled with the next big things that never took off. It’s challenging. It can be done when it’s done correctly. It can be a great thing for a brand. You can see that Greek yogurt is same for Chobani or Chobani is same for Greek yogurt, however you want to look at that, but it certainly is challenging.

      Biltong is an incredible product. You mentioned South Africa and it’s placed within South African food culture. We struggled to find appropriate analogy, but it’s so ubiquitous there. Not only is it everywhere, it’s their bar snack, it’s an appetizer. People shave it and put it on burgers. There’s so much passion and pride around it. We learned about this product and we traveled through South Africa and spent a lot of time talking with anybody who would take a meeting, consumers, butchers, beef processors, cattle raisers, anybody who had an interest or a stake in biltong. What we found is that every single person has the best recipe in South Africa. They all have a secret family recipe and it’s all variations on the same five ingredients. It’s beef, salt, vinegar, pepper, and coriander, that’s it.

      We fell in love with the product. People there are so passionate and so eager to spread the word about biltong and talk about it. We came home, and we said, “We need to bring this to the States.” We’re hopeful for how biltong will be received in America. Number one, the taste is awesome. It’s a very fresh, very flavorful snack and it’s different than jerky even though it has the same component ingredients. It’s just meat and spices, but the taste and texture are different enough that even for those people who say, “I don’t like jerky. It’s too tough or it’s too chewy,” or whatever, we think that there’s a big group of consumers who may not like jerky but would like biltong. The nutritional profile is what stuck with us.

      Very high protein, right?

      It’s sixteen to seventeen grams of protein versus jerky, which is in the ten to twelve range and no sugar. No one in the food business and nutrition industry can agree on virtually anything except for the fact that sugar is bad, and smoking is bad. Those are the only two public enemies number one. Having no sugar, high-protein count, and a product that tastes great, we think we’re on the right track and we are optimistic about a biltong’s place in food culture.

      You’re sourcing your biltong, I would assume from South Africa. I know all the rest of your meats are 100% domestic.

      We are still sourcing and producing biltong in the United States. We looked into the South African importation, but as a matter of circumstance, we can’t import beef from South Africa. We are able to make it here in the States. We have producers for it, which is good. Our big concern initially was we weren’t sure that there was enough awareness in the States to have a processor for it, but what we did find is there’s a small cohort of brands, including ours, who are trying to bring this product to the States, which we think is a great thing. We wouldn’t pretend to think that we can be the only ones doing this or that we could frankly do it by ourselves. There are a few brands who are right there with us and a couple of processor. We are able to make it here in the States. We are able to still maintain our internal commitment as a brand to using 100% domestically sourced beef. That’s important for us and we were very happy to be able to.

      Your decision to source all your beef 100% domestic, was that a branding decision? Was that a values decision? Was that a practical decision? Logistical decision? A bit of all of it? Why did you choose to do that?

      It’s a little bit of a values decision, about 75% value, 25% branding. I spent a lot of time on a cattle ranch and still do. I’m in the cattle business with my dad. That part of the business, that part of the jerky supply chain or the value chain has always been near and dear to my heart. One of the things that was a little bit depressing was when we were first starting this business, I called a lot of companies. I would call a jerky brand and say, “Where do you source your beef? I’m a student looking to do a research project on beef jerky.” The response that I got almost every time was, “We don’t source it. Our manufacturer does.” I would call manufacturers and the manufacturer would say “I don’t source it. Our broker does.” Then you go to a beef broker and the beef broker says, “Sometimes it comes from the US, sometimes it’s from Australia.” It depends on where you can find that cheapest products. To me, that felt such a transactional process that had no connection between the brand and the meat supply.

      We wanted to correct that and having a product that’s 100% sourced domestically in the US, while it may cost us a little bit on the supply side, being able to do that and knowing to a certainty where our beef comes from, has been important for us. I don’t know whether or not it’s created a lot of advantages for us in the marketplace or how consumers view it. What we found generally is that consumers assume that all the beef jerky that they eat comes from the US, when in fact almost all of it does not. That’s mostly a values decision for us.

      A lot of our audiences are entrepreneurs and business people and one of the things that’s tough to do as an entrepreneur and that you’re always struggling with is, “What’s the next thing? How do you innovate in the market? How do you find what’s next?” For you, how did you find these ideas for some of these new growing areas?

      Part of that comes down to philosophy. Our product philosophy has always been to lead with the heart rather than the head, finding things that resonate with us personally and that are exciting for us. We’ve looked at a lot of different product opportunities and thought about a lot of them. If it doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up with excitement, then it’s probably not worth doing. If you look at some of the stagnancy of the big CPG firms and the big food companies, some of the issues that you can spend millions of dollars in product R&D, designing a technically perfect product, but it doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as something that’s a random person develops in their kitchen.

      We start with the philosophy that if it’s not very exciting to us, then we won’t do it. The minimum criteria. If and when we find products that do, then that’s where we start our exploration. We’re working on another one beyond biltong now that fits that description as well. Once you get there, then designing and building and testing is that lean startup model. You keep iterating and reiterating products until you find something that is, “Yes, it’s met our internal need that it’s exciting as a concept,” but it also has to be a great product. It also has to hold up to the smell test and the taste test of consumers. Designing the products with consumers in mind, but then going and asking them what they think about it before you spend precious dollars launching and promoting the products. Take the jerky trail mix, the expression that we always use is that that product line is the product of a million calories worth of research probably. We would go to the bulk bins at whole foods and buy every single trail mix sample that we could. I don’t know if we tapped out every possible combination of trail mix ingredients but I’d say we got close. We’re happy with how it turned out. We didn’t just take a trail mix off the shelf and put jerky with it and said, “We’re good to go.” We had been very thoughtful about taste and textures.

      TTP 28 | True Jerky

      True Jerky: The only definition of an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business.

      Were you the tasters? Were the three of you the ones who did the tasting?

      Yes, the initial tasters. Once we thought we had some recipes that worked pretty, then we started sending them out to our salespeople and our other co-founders and our friends and basically anybody who we thought would be interested and give good feedback. That’s how we reached where we did with the products that we have and we’re happy with them now. It’s a process for sure.

      You’re the third person I interviewed that said, “You have to come up with the idea, but then you not only have to test it, but you have to listen to the feedback you’re getting,” which sounds incredibly obvious, but I can tell you how many companies have failed not doing that.

      I fully believe it. As an entrepreneur, you have to have a lot of confidence in your abilities. You have to be a little bit vain and be able to ignore criticism to some degree that can lead you in the wrong direction in some cases, particularly with products or with your brand. We’re very passionate about our products and very passionate about our brand. If somebody does send an email, a critical email, it hurts. It stings a little bit. The nice notes are very nice. They’re very flowery, long sentences and paragraphs and extolling how amazing we are as product developers, but then the bad emails are just like subject line, “Your jerky is shit.” The body of email, “I hate your product. It doesn’t taste good.” It cuts deep.

      You have to have tough skin to be an entrepreneur.

      For sure, but if you don’t listen to that and if you don’t take it to heart, you can be blinded by your own pride in your product. You have to have the humility to say, “Something’s not working. We need to change it.”

      There are some themes that I always talk about and one of them is what I call the joy of missing out. People have a huge fear of missing out in regard to entrepreneurship. I’d love to know from your perspective, what is something that people have a fear of missing out on in regard to entrepreneurship that they shouldn’t? What should we have a joy of missing out on in regard to the larger entrepreneurship conversation?

      This is a JOMO instead of FOMO. One of the questions people ask a lot is, “Is being an entrepreneur or running a startup, is it a better job, is it a worse job or is it a more fun or less fun?” There’s a lot of misconception or lack of understanding about entrepreneurship in general. There are good jobs and there are bad jobs and there are good startups and there are bad startups. It comes down to the startup itself. There are days where it’s a job and there’re boring days and there are fun days. What I would tell people in terms of what’s good about what they’re missing out on is that most of the time it’s a regular job. The only difference is that, if you work for a big company or a local business or something that’s stable, there is always that lack of clarity about what the future holds if it’s your business.

      Most of the time, being an entrepreneur, having a startup is having a job and it’s not any more or less exciting, but in terms of what would I not miss about being an entrepreneur is the lack of certainty about what the future holds. You never know because we don’t have the ability to weather a storm like an insurance agency who’s been around for 60 years and has an amazing client base. We’re not in a recession proof business. If the markets collapse again, companies like ours who are funded primarily through venture capital, those dollars are going to be harder to come by, and so the lack of 100% confidence in the future and in the stability of our business is definitely daunting.

      One of the other things I talk about is what I call living beyond the script because there are these scripts about how we’re supposed to do things and the way we’re supposed to do them. I’d love to hear your take on what you think the prevailing script is that relates to entrepreneurship and how do you think people can go beyond that and around it?

      One of the things that I’ve noticed or observed over the last four or five years is partly because of social media, partly because of TV. There seems to be this mythology around startups, around entrepreneurship like, “What does it take to be an entrepreneur?” or “The five qualities every entrepreneur must have” like being an entrepreneur is like being a Jedi. You have to have some preordained set of skills. There’s a Peter Drucker quote that says, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” The only definition of an entrepreneur is someone who starts a business. The script on entrepreneurship is way to centered around the qualities and skills that you have to have or if you do have these, then you can be an entrepreneur and that all it takes to start a business is an idea, some effort, and, if possible, a little bit of luck. I encourage people all the time, if you have an idea that you think is sound and you’ve run it by enough people to poke holes in it and it’s a good idea, do it. What’s the worst that can happen?

      People get very caught up in analysis paralysis and you can read eleven books about starting businesses and is it now the right time or not the right time and a little bit to the access to information that we all have and the mythology around startup culture and entrepreneurship, it’s gotten tougher for people to be willing to make the leap ironically at a time when the culture at large is a lot more supportive of startups and new businesses.

      The other thing that I always talk about is the theme of the everyday artist because there’s a part of what everyone does that’s art and science. In what way do you consider yourself an artist in the work that you do?

      I don’t know that I’ve ever considered myself an artist per se. As my mom would tell you, I was probably the least artistic child in history of Heritage Elementary School, but you’re absolutely right. There are parts of running a business that are more art than science or a blend of art and science. For us, product development is a lot of art and some science and the lines between the two are blurred. Products and brands are a creative expression. You can design a product in a laboratory using 100% technical thinking based on research that you’ve done about macro trends in the market and it can be a tactically sound and technically precise product and it could fall flat, and so the art comes in where you have to create, you have to design a product from scratch, and you have to use what you know about consumer behavior or just what you know about people, and so I think products and brands in particular are certainly creative expressions and there’s a lot of art and some science to them.

      I would say strategy as well. Strategy can and should in my opinion be a very creative process. It’s not so linear as it is winding. It’s not just because A, therefore B. You have to be creative in your strategy, particularly as a young company. We had to do that early and it’s still a big part of what we do that is solving problems creatively. It’s probably not very traditional to think about strategy as a creative process, but it absolutely is. Creativity is one of the most important skills to have on a young team, first time entrepreneurs, because you’re going to get into a lot of jams and you’re going to have to figure your way out of them. If all you’re relying on is intellect, you can’t just do it and you’ve got to be creative with it.

      Thank you so much for joining us.

      Karen, thank you so much.

      Thank you for joining us. My guest has been Jess Thomas. He is the Co-founder and CEO of True Jerky. It’s a consumer brand of protein snacks based in San Francisco. You can find out more at www.MadeByTrue.com.


      Important Links


      About Jess Thomas

      TTP 28 | True JerkyJess Thomas is the Co-Founder and CEO of True Jerky, a consumer brand of protein snacks founded by college friends in 2015 and based in San Francisco. True makes bold & delicious protein snacks inspired by regional or global flavors, made with 100% domestic meats. Their products can be found in over 2000 stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon and the True website.



      How Social and Emotional Intelligence Makes Kids Better Citizens

      How Social and Emotional Intelligence Makes Kids Better Citizens

      TTP 27 | Social and Emotional Intelligence

      Leslee Udwin is the founder of “Think Equal” a non profit whose mission is to create a global system change in education. Udwin discusses the powerful impact teaching young children emotional and social intelligence has on their role as citizens – in the country, world and their careers. She was voted by the NY Times the No 2 Most Impactful Woman of 2015 (second to Hillary Clinton), and has been awarded the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Human Rights Prize (previously won by Madeleine Albright). She has also been named Safe’s Global Hero of 2015, Global Thinker by Foreign Policy.

      A British Oscar winning filmmaker Leslee is now a Social Entrepreneur. Her documentary “India’s Daughter”, has been critically acclaimed around the globe, won 32 awards (including the Peabody Award) and sparked a global movement to end violence against women and girls. The searing insights yielded by the 2½ journey making “India’s Daughter”, led Leslee to found “Think Equal” which calls for a global system change in education.

      My guest is Leslee Udwin. She is the Founder of Think Equal, a non-profit that has developed a curriculum to teach social and emotional intelligence to young children in school. Leslee was voted by the New York Times the number two Most Impactful Woman of 2015, second only to Hillary Clinton. She has been awarded the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Human Rights Prize, which was previously won by Madeleine Albright. She has also been named Safe Global Hero of 2015 and a Global Thinker by Foreign Policy. Leslee, welcome to the program.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      How Social and Emotional Intelligence Makes Kids Better Citizens

      Leslee, thank you so much for joining me.

      It’s my pleasure and it’s my honor, Karen. Thank you.

      You’re welcome. I’d like to start by having you tell the audience a little bit about Think Equal and what Think Equal is.

      Think Equal is a global education demand for a system change in education as we know it. It asks education ministers, parents, teachers to consider the fact that there is a missing subject when it comes to preparing and nurturing our children for the rest of their lives. That subject, we believe, is social and emotional learning. You can call it other things. Sometimes it’s called 21st century skills. I find that ludicrous because did we not need these competencies and skills in another century? We have always needed children who are prepared for life in a way that enables them to lead a life that is empowered and dignified and respectful of the dignity of others, that values others and enables them to lead healthy relationships. That, in a nutshell, is what the Think Equal program and movement is.

      For social-emotional learning, is this a need in developed nations and developing nations? Is it needed more in one than the other in your experience?

      In my experience and certainty, it is needed in every single country in the world. There was not one part of this globe that is immune from some form of discrimination. The violence that abounds in our world, be it gender-based violence, be it racial hatred or religious intolerance or based on cost or greed, all forms of violence, I believe with all my heart, are predicated upon one root cause and that is discrimination. You cannot have violence without discrimination. The bottom line is that in order to disrupt this cycle of discrimination and its committed violence in the world, in order to change mindset and make the kind of difference we need to see if we want a free, peaceful, prosperous, and equal world, we have to prepare our children and teach them social-emotional learning experientially. This isn’t some theoretical information that can be slopped into children’s heads. Their hearts have to be engaged.

      You’ve developed a curriculum that teachers use to teach the social and emotional learning, haven’t you?

      That’s correct, and more than a curriculum because in the two years of research where I had an education director whom I had hired and upward of twenty extraordinary thought leaders and visionaries in education, each one whom I approached and said, “Yes, we will join you,” I almost fainted every time because I was being so ambitious. I was approaching literally the thought leaders in social-emotional learning. People like Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Marc Brackett, Dr. Robin Stern, Professor Richard Davidson, extraordinary people. That’s just four names out of twenty, all of whom are thrilling minds. While we researched what existed, we did find that there were curricula around the world, but what is the curriculum? A curriculum is an eloquent and wise theoretical framework and academic paper. It lists outcomes and objectives.

      Here’s the problem. In this field of early years, which is particularly where we target this learning, and we do so for a very important reason, neuroscientists tell us loud and clear that by the age of six, the hard wiring of attitudinal and behavioral character is set in the child’s brain. If we want to make a difference and modify behavior, modify attitudes, disrupt discrimination, make children empathetic and value each other, be inclusive, be able to solve problems peacefully, etc., if we want to achieve all that, we have to do it between the ages of zero to five. We focus on the early years starting with preschools at the age of three because we can’t get into the homes. We can get hold of the system of education and shake that up and ensure that this subject is implemented with as much respect, seriousness, gravitas, and intentionality as we teach maths. We ask heads of state and education ministers how on earth can you deem it to be compulsory to teach a child mathematics in an age in which we have calculators and computers and where we are about to have robots who can do all of this much better than human beings? How can you deem that to be compulsory and yet you deem it optional for a child to learn how to value another human being or how to lead healthy relationships?

      There’s a real mismatch in these early years because up to now, we have treated those early years as some added extra, as the babysitting years or the years in which we are taking care of the kids while the parents can go out to work. We haven’t trained the teachers. We haven’t paid them enough or respected them enough in these early years. We often leave it to just practitioners, and so effectively, how can we give them these academic papers which list objectives and outcomes and say, “By the end of this year, I want your three and four and five-year-olds to be emotionally sentient and gender sensitive, empathetic, critical thinkers.” They look at us and say, “What on earth do you mean? We don’t even understand that language, let alone know how to mediate this learning.” What we’ve done is made a very tangible, prescriptive program, as well as a curriculum. The curriculum explains the objectives and our sources and pedagogy, but the program is the day-to-day actual roadmap that we asked teachers to follow step-by-step. We provide them with the books, 30 of them in each year, each level of this learning. We have four levels from the ages of three until seven. We give them the 30 narrative books which we’ve created.

      Can you give me an example of some of the titles of the books, so the audience have a sense of what they are?

      We have a book called Passing Clouds. This is a book that deals with emotions and ensures that children understand and accept that emotions are all okay, all valid, but they do pass like passing clouds. We have a book called The Girl Who Climbed the Tallest Mountain. That is a book that mediates empowerment and ensures that girls feel and understand that they can do anything they want to do. If they want to be a mountaineer and climb Everest, of course they can do that. Then we have a book called The Color of Your Skin. It’s a book which visually practically proves to us that none of us are black or white or anything in between that is not a shade of brown. We proved that when you put something black against the darkest skin imaginable, and we have the resources which teach this, that skin is not black. If we’re thinking positive factual language, that skin is dark brown. If you look at the palest child on the portrait of six faces that we show to the learners, the palest child is not white because when you put a piece of white paper against pale skin, it’s very clear that skin isn’t white. That skin is light brown.

      We’re all shades of brown.

      That is scientifically true. We prove it to the kids. After that, how on earth would a kid grow up and have a sense that someone dark skinned is unattractive or different to the degree that they need to be regarded as different or feared? We’ve had transformations reported to us from the pilot program that we’ve been running for a year now.

      What are some of the skills that you’re teaching kids in terms of emotional and social learning?

      We teach them empathy. Empathy is a very tricky thing to teach. You can’t wag a finger at a child and say, “Put yourself in that person’s shoes,” because that’s a theoretical exercise. Empathy is the business of the heart. Empathy is precisely what Aristotle meant two and a half millennia ago when he said, “Education of the head without education of the heart is no educational at all.” In order to teach them empathy, we have to do this experientially. We have to grab their little hearts and involve them in the story and the journey of a character that makes them see the world through the eyes of whoever that is. We have one book called Diego’s Great Idea. It’s is about a young boy in a wheelchair who keeps being excluded from the football game because he’s in a wheelchair and Diego feels incredibly empathetic with this guy. You can see that he loves the game of football. You can see that in his eyes. He comes up with a great idea, which is that we can include the young boy in the game and make him the referee, his wheels give him speed.

      TTP 27 | Social and Emotional Intelligence

      Social and Emotional Intelligence: Empathy is the business of the heart.

      It’s learning of that nature that put children on an emotional journey. That is how you practice the empathy muscles. We also teach them problem solving. We teach them peaceful conflict resolution, emotional literacy, and we teach this through a magnificent program called the RULER Program which Dr. Marc Brackett and Dr. Robin Stern from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence have cofounded. They’re both on our committee and this program is just stunning. It literally teaches emotional literacy and intelligence as well as self-regulation. There are two legs to this program.

      Leslee, where are some of the places in the world where you’ve put this curriculum in and run it as a pilot?

      We’ve done this so far in seven countries. They are Kenya, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Argentina, India, Singapore and Canada, so quite a wide variety. Some of those, as you’ll have noted, are low-income countries, some are middle income, and some are high income countries. We did this purposefully because we want to prove that this is not a problem of those people in less developed countries. This is a problem in every single country in the world. If I may focus on one statistic from Canada, which is so frightening and shocking. Canada is a country that is a developed nation that has high income, that is supposedly incredibly sophisticated, even feminist. It has a Prime Minister who is a self-avowed feminist. It has at least 50% women in Parliament. On so many levels, if you’re looking at gender equality in Canada, we should be assuming a healthy nation, shouldn’t we?

      The shocking thing is this. In terms of rape reporting statistics, we know that in developing countries where dishonor, and shame are associated with rape victims, the report on statistics are abysmal and we can’t trust them because mostly girls and women don’t report. In Canada, you would expect that girls and women who are raped feel confident and free to report. The latest rape statistic reporting figure from Canada that I read showed that only 3% of rapes in Canada are reported. Of that 3%, only half or prosecuted. Of that half, only half again are convicted. What that means is that in a so-called sophisticated developed nation, if you are a man and you rape, you have a 99.25% chance of simply getting away with it. That is the moral crisis we are in as a world.

      Is that statistic higher or lower than, let’s say, other developed nations such as the US or Italy or France? Is that common?

      It’s not common. It is very much on the low side and it may well have to do with the fact that in Canada, there have been particular infamous cases where girls have been torn apart in terms of judge’s pointing to their behavior and character.

      This emotional and social learning and intelligence is impacting and is lacking regardless of what part of the world we’re in and regardless of whether it’s a developed or undeveloped nation or regardless how socially progressive the nation may seem or not, that this is a worldwide crisis and problem.

      100% and I believe it with every fiber of my being. I’ve seen evidence of it.

      What inspired you to create Think Equal?

      I came at this from a very unusual angle. Until two and a half years ago, I was a filmmaker. I was successful. I was happy. I didn’t dream that I would be turning my attention to anything else. What happened was that the last film I made, which I shot between 2013 and 2015 when it was shown, happened to be a documentary. In fact, the first documentary I’d ever made. I made that film out of a compulsion when I saw extraordinary sites on the streets of Indian cities. Those sites were unprecedented numbers of men and women protesting for over a month about a very brutal gang rape of a young medical student who had been gang raped by six men on a moving bus in Delhi.

      That was all over the news. That was a very famous case.

      Very few people didn’t recognize that case. The interesting thing is that right now, the only other massive protest that we’ve seen in India is raging on the streets and they’ve come out in protest against the gang rape of a young eight-year old girl who was held in a Hindu temple for eight days, gang raped then killed with a stone and had her body thrown in some field. This has become a major scandal because the perpetrators were Hindus and the little child, Asifa, is Muslim. Peace members of Parliament, lawyers have all rushed to the aid of the rapists and said that they must not be tried because there’ll be judgments against them or inclinations against them because they are Hindus and the girl was Muslim. They want this rape to be forgotten and hidden for political or religious reasons. We are in such a state of crisis as a world now. I don’t lose my optimism because I know what the solution is and I know that we’re getting there, so I do feel incredibly optimistic. Thank heavens I have this understanding to hang on to because I would be in utter despair. Nothing has changed in India since that case when I went out in 2013. It’s almost six years when she was gang raped and murdered in December 2012.

      When you made a film of this whole thing, and I know you’ve had some insights that led you to create your foundation, tell us about some of the insights that you had in doing that film.

      The entire journey was a series of one reversal of expectation after the other. I interviewed the rapists. I managed to get permission. I went into this maximum-security prison hard jail in Delhi where they were incarcerated. I interviewed the rapists in this particular case and also a few others. I practiced on some others. I know that sounds bizarre, but the reason I did that was that I was raped when I was eighteen. I’m one in five women across the world who was raped. I was so fearful that I would physically assault one of these men that the anger from way back when I was eighteen would emerge and suffocate me that I decided to practice on others.

      One of the others I practiced on had raped a five-year-old girl. What I anticipated, what the media told me to expect was that I would be meeting with monsters who are psychopaths, etc. Not one of the seven men I interviewed over 31 hours was a monster, not one. Two of them presented as sensitive human beings. All of them were polite. All of them were normal. This was a major insight and a major shock. I also felt absolutely no anger, not for one second, despite having been raped myself. The reason I did it was because it wasn’t appropriate. It’s the only way I can explain it. These men had been absolutely robotically programmed to think of girls in a certain way, and I would go further and say they were encouraged by society to do what they did.

      The media, when they described them as monsters, what they’re trying to do is separate them, distance them from us. They’re trying to persuade us that we’re okay. We can be reassured. It’s only a few rotten apples in the barrel. These guys have a death sentence hanging over them. Once they are removed, we’ll be okay. The truth is these are not rotten apples in the barrel. It’s the barrel that’s rotten and the barrel is sociocultural thinking. It’s what teaches them how to view a girl, how to see that a girl has to have completely other ways of behaving than boys. They not only felt that this girl had it coming to her because she was out at night. She had gone to see Life of Pi at a mall and it was an evening screening which ended at 9:00 PM when it was dark. Not only what did she expect when she was out in the dark with a young man who wasn’t her husband or her brother, but they told me they had a duty to teach her a lesson. It’s mind-blowing, but we’ve taught them to think this way. Why are we surprised when they then go out and act on it?

      What I think is interesting is that part of what happened for you in doing that film was that it’s not that the apples are rotten, it’s the barrels rotten. We’re teaching, or a lack of teaching, people in society in a way that’s having them grow up with these ideas that that’s acceptable or all right. That’s a profound insight.

      You’ve expressed exactly what I do believe is the case. I know that until and unless we start dealing with the root cause of this violence, until we stop thinking that dealing with the fallout and putting plasters on the wounds is meaningful, it’s necessary, but it doesn’t deal with prevention. That’s what we have to do. We have to prevent, and the only way to prevent is to change mindset. One final insight that was perhaps the most important one from the film was this. At a certain point, I was trying to discover what the common thread was between all seven rapists who I had interviewed. It occurred to me that of the seven of them, only one had finished secondary school. I immediately leapt to the complacent conclusion that it was lack of education that had a great deal to do with their brutal actions.

      Within two weeks of filming that thought, I then interviewed their lawyers. Their lawyers are far worse than they are. The rapists sound like coming from angels compared to what the lawyers say. I have to immediately reappraise this quite naive thought that it was to do with lack of education or lack of access to education and understand that it may have been to do with contents of education, but it certainly wasn’t to do with access to education because the lawyers had the highest possible access that you can get and they were worse. That is precisely what then led me on this investigative journey of discovering what is education.

      If we know we have to change the mindset, we know we can only do this with education. Nelson Mandela, who said, “Education is the most powerful tool we have to change the world,” had me reaching further into his work and his writing to try and understand what he meant by education. When I found this quote, I knew exactly what the answer is and where it lies. He said, “No child is born hating another human being because of the color of his skin, his gender, other circumstance. A child has to be taught to hate. If a child can be taught to hate, it can be taught to love.” That is precisely what led me to understanding that we need the missing subject to be brought in compulsorily into the early years’ education of children. That will change the mindset and we will create a new generation of people who don’t shoot up classrooms, who don’t go and plant bombs in clubs that have people who they don’t agree with. It’s the only way we can do it.

      The name of your documentary, the one you’re speaking of is called India’s Daughter.

      It’s on Netflix, so anyone can go and find it if you are in certain countries, but certainly the US and the UK and a number of other countries, it is on Netflix.

      TTP 27 | Social and Emotional Intelligence

      Social and Emotional Intelligence: The only thing that separates us from artificial intelligent robots is our social and emotional intelligence.

      One of the things that you and I have talked about is this social and emotional learning isn’t just important to prepare children to be better citizens. It’s important to prepare them for their careers and for working in companies. Can you talk a little bit about that?

      We know now, as a world, what is coming our way and that is an influx of artificial intelligence and robots who are far more capable of doing certain types of jobs than we are. The numeracy and literacy that we’ve been teaching our children almost exclusively and in the early years, that’s all we teach them, but that is precisely what artificial intelligence can do so much better than we can. Those jobs are going to be fulfilled by AI. The only thing that separates us from artificial intelligent robots is our social and emotional intelligence. That is what we’re neglecting. There was a time when we assumed that parents were doing this for their children. That was grossly naive for several centuries because suddenly since the industrial revolution, we have been teaching parents that the purpose of life is accumulation of wealth.

      Whatever you happen to think about that, the fact is that has had the parents and parents going out working extraordinary hours, working more than one job and they’re not even present for their children in terms of that learning that we’ve been leaving it up to the parents. I would go further and say that the parents are incapable, even if they have the time and were present for the children, they were incapable of teaching it to them because they themselves are mired in discrimination. They haven’t been taught it themselves, how are they going to teach it? It can only come, I believe, from the school system and there’ve been extraordinary tests done. There are three aspects of our program which have in their own fear and in their own right being tested. Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is our partner evaluating our entire program where the effect of learning is going to be multiplied at least by a factor of 30 because we’re teaching so many other things than just these three programs.

      All of the results of the impact evaluation and the scientific testing have shown that number one, academic results shoot up when children are taught social and emotional learning. Number two, they are 88% less likely to get addicted to substances when they are grown up because there have even been longer studies. They are 90% more likely to be in employment. 86% less likely to be reliant on some type of national support, etc.

      When they’re taught emotional and social skills?

      That’s right. We know already what the effect of this is even before we get our results. We know because we’ve had teachers across 147 schools in seven countries feeding back to us the stories that would make your heart stop withdrawing.

      Leslee, those statistics you were quoting, are they from Yale or are they from somewhere else or they just a combination of places?

      A combination of places. There have been many studies, so there’s one, the Perry High School longitudinal study. Then there’s a James Heckman study. I don’t have the details all in my head to be 100% accurate with which studies they were that I’ve quoted from about, but I have a document which I’d be happy to show anyone who wants to see it.

      I’m curious because it seems like it would be in corporation’s best interest to see this social and emotional learning put in place. Have you had much response from corporations in terms of this in sponsoring this and supporting it?

      We have had a few very generous individuals, people who I will never ever be able to thank enough. Indrani Goradia, an extraordinary woman, amazing human being who has supported this work. We’ve also had the Ford Foundation support us and Open Society and UBS Optimus without whom, we would never have survived in this work. We haven’t yet had corporations, but it makes a whole load of sense for them to do this and we would be more than happy to have them bring the learning to their city or district or country. It is so cheap to implement this. I’m going to give you one example of how the cost beneficiary ratio works and how cheap this is. If a corporation came to us and said, “We are a bank, or we are an organization. We make cereal bars for health. We care about this. We care about the children of New York State or we care about the children in America and we wanted to be the sponsors of this work in x location,” we would have them be the ones who bring it. We would have them on our books. We own the books, we own the materials and we give all these materials away for free. We not charge for this so that governments will take it and they only have the printing costs and be able to scale it up almost immediately. We would then have them be the ones who are seen on the books, covers, on the lesson plans on all our resources. They would deserve to be seen as the ones who have revolutionized the health of the next generation in that particular part of the world.

      In 3% of Sri Lanka, which is one of our big success countries, we’ve been working with Sri Lanka on this for two years and we were piloting the whole of last year and this year again, piloting levels one and two. Sri Lanka changed its laws in response to this plea of ours and has now mandated this program of social-emotional learning from the age of three. Next year, we are rolling out to Sri Lanka’s 19,000 preschools with this program. It’s very easy to train in because it’s incredibly clear, simple and prescriptive and it’s very easy to roll out. 90% of Sri Lanka’s three-year-olds go to preschool. That means that from next year, we will literally be educating a new generation of Sri Lankan citizens.

      Let’s look at another statistic in Sri Lanka. 54% of women experience domestic violence. What is the cost of bringing Think Equal to Sri Lanka? Take the government cost of one victim of domestic violence over the course of one year. That figure that the government itself says that it costs the government to deal that violence gives Think Equal with all its materials, all of the training, every aspect of what is required to 6,000, three-year-old children. It’s not on over one year because those materials last for a decade or more. They’re brought out once a week each book and each lesson plan, and as long as they are looked after they can last for years. It’s a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we spend a pittance on preventing violence and instead spend a fortune on dealing with it?

      You have some very famous people advocating for Think Equal. I know you said Meryl Streep has supported you and Helen Mirren. You’ve got some people who have heard this message. Can you talk a little bit about some of the people that have come on board to support this?

      In the case of extraordinarily committed impassioned planet-sized hearts like Meryl and Helen, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, they’ve all dived in here as a result of the film somehow because the film was a prominent spark in the conversation to end violence against women and all of these extraordinary people. Each one of those has been exceptionally committed to the film and has come and opened a screening for me or a premier. Because India’s daughter segued into Think Equal, they were understandably as committed to this proposed solution as they were to creating awareness about the problem. It’s been a very natural segue from one into the other. We have extraordinary politicians. We have education ministers. We have ex-president of Malawi, President Joyce Banda, and Lord Rumi Verjee who is one of the Lords in the House of Lords in the UK, an extremely brilliant and the liberal peer. The fact that this program is quite unique and it is the first time that this is being proposed as a cure, to some degree, there has of course been a program here and there, but this is a comprehensive new way of basically saying there’s a missing dimension in education. We need to do our duty of care to our children and bring it in because nobody else is capable of doing this to the extent needed to create a peaceful and equal world.

      How can people support this?

      They can advocate, they can help us to lobby, they can ask their education departments and authorities. In the states, education has evolved and you have a State Education Ministry as well as the federal one. They can advocate with parents. This needs to be demanded because it is the right of every child to be prepared for life. When you look at those rapists I interviewed, you have to ask the question, “Who should have intervened in their early years to ensure that they didn’t see girls in that way?” They may not have raped if that had happened, I would say they would not have raped. It’s not just on one side. When we talk about gender equality in our program, we also take great care and emphasis on boys and ensuring that they don’t grow up to commit suicide.

      There’s a massive epidemic of young male suicide in the world and it’s rising every year. The reason is because we have also not done our duty of care by our boys in terms of saying, “You’re allowed to feel stress, you’re allowed to be emotional. It’s okay to feel.” We’ve almost done the opposite and put such stress on them. They can advocate. They can lobby. They can donate. I have to say that because we have got 22 countries wanting to take this program and start it. We can’t give it to them because we have limited capacity. We have to be responsible and disciplined and only do what we have bandwidth to do.

      You had 22 countries who have said they would like this curriculum but they’re on hold because of lack of funds?

      100%, absolutely.

      TTP 27 | Social and Emotional Intelligence

      Social and Emotional Intelligence: The one thing we must never do is compromise the quality of what we’re doing because we’re overstretched.

      I’m curious if you have approached the US at all and what the structure is in the US for putting in a program like this.

      It is highly possible to put this program in anywhere because the majority of this work gets done between the ages of three and five. Generally speaking, children don’t start public school until the age of five. It’s not like in certain countries, there’s not going to be room for it in the curriculum. There’s always room for it. Where the will is there, it can be taught. I have been having discussions with the Mayor’s Office in New York because Bill de Blasio has announced 3-K Program. The discussions are going well but they’re going slowly. I have been on a trip to California and we have potential partners in Oakland, in San Francisco. We also have potential partners in Detroit. We can’t move forward. I’ve brought on a CEO to put systems in place for us and ensure that we can scale with absolute responsibility and health.

      As the Founder, I’m very hungry. I wanted to go everywhere but we have to be very disciplined because the one thing we must never do is compromise the quality of what we’re doing because we’re overstretched. The interest is there. The understanding is even there. In the last few years, Jim Kim, Head of the World Bank, Tony Lake, Head of UNICEF, have both announced that the key to human development is the ages of zero to five. They’ve announced that, people have got it now. What they haven’t yet got is the tools. They are getting very excited when they see these brilliant tools that I can call them brilliant because I haven’t created them. They have been created with the input of these world visionaries so they are utterly brilliant. They are very excited about that. When we come into a country and do a pilot, we need to get these books printed. It’s not very costly at all, but we do need capacity of people who will look after that pilot from our quality control point of view to ensure. You can’t just hand material over and hope for the best. That is where we need funding and that is where we need support.

      Leslee, thank you so much for joining us.

      Thank you so much, Karen.

      My guest has been Leslee Udwin. She is the Founder of Think Equal. Leslee is also a British Oscar-winning filmmaker and a social entrepreneur. Her documentary, India’s Daughter, was critically acclaimed around the globe and won 32 awards including a Peabody Award and sparked a global movement to end violence against women and girls. You can find out more about Leslee and Think Equal at www.ThinkEqual.com.

      Important Links

      About Leslee Udwin

      TTP 27 | Social and Emotional IntelligenceLeslee Udwin was voted by the NY Times the No 2 Most Impactful Woman of 2015 (second to Hillary Clinton), and has been awarded the prestigious Swedish Anna Lindh Human Rights Prize (previously won by Madeleine Albright). She has also been named Safe’s Global Hero of 2015, Global Thinker by Foreign Policy.

      A British Oscar winning filmmaker Leslee is now a Social Entrepreneur. Her documentary “India’s Daughter”, has been critically acclaimed around the globe, won 32 awards (including the Peabody Award) and sparked a global movement to end violence against women and girls. The searing insights yielded by the 2½ journey making “India’s Daughter”, led Leslee to found “Think Equal” which calls for a global system change in education.


      Want to Give a TEDx Talk? Here’s What You Need to Know.

      Want to Give a TEDx Talk? Here’s What You Need to Know.

      TTP 26 | TEDx Talk Guide

      Ajit Mathew George is the Organizer & Executive Producer for TEDx Wilmington. In this episode he discusses why and when to share your one, great idea through a TEDx Talk; elements of a sucessful TEDx talk; how to apply and what a TEDx talk can do to shape your personal brand. He has organized 29 different TEDxWilmington events between 2012 and February 9, 2018 showcasing 397 speakers from all around the world who gave 375 TEDx talks. These talks have collectively had 7,449,846 views on the TEDxYouTube Channel.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      Want to Give a TEDx Talk? Here’s What You Need to Know.

      My guest is Ajit Mathew George. He is the Organizer of TEDx Wilmington in Delaware. Over the last seven years, he has had 29 different TEDx events.

      Ajit, welcome. I’m so happy to talk to you.

      It’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

      We’re going to talk about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, which is TEDx Talks. One of the first things I want to ask you is TEDx promotes themselves as ideas worth spreading. I want to ask you why are ideas worth spreading important today?

      Today, more than at anytime, ideas matter because there is so much unfiltered opinion in this world. People share opinions as if they’re facts when in fact it is purely a judgment call on their part. For that purpose to be able to listen to an idea worth spreading in five minutes, ten minutes, twelve minutes, and no more than eighteen minutes using a TEDx curated format, it makes a world of a difference. What we need is more sources of information and knowledge. In a world where there are less newspapers, less curated news, these kinds of ideas give hope and potentiality for people to have useful information to make some decisions.

      People often say to me they want to do a TEDx talk. When I asked them why, a lot of people tell me it’s because they want it on their resume. Do you think that’s a good reason to do a TEDx talk?

      That’s a horrible reason, and if people say that to me, that’s almost a guarantee that I would never pick them to give a TEDx talk. It’s okay to put it on a resume, but that’s not the reason to do it. The reason to give a TEDx talk is because you have come up with an idea, a created an idea or are able to share an idea that potentially could be transformational. It doesn’t have to cure cancer, but it needs to have some impact to some people around the world and it needs to be interesting and thought‑provoking.

      One of the things that you and I have talked about is the importance of TEDx Talk is really one idea. I have done a TEDx Talk and it was fine. Looking back on it, the next time I do a TEDx Talk, I would narrow it even further because I realized in hindsight, I had three or four ideas. Can you talk a little bit about the power of having one idea in a TEDx Talk?

      We often ask people who are particularly smart and well educated, “What are the different things that you would like to talk about?” and people will list four or five ideas. Then what I would say is “If there was only one idea you could share in the world today, what would that be?” People struggled with that one idea. What I say to people is “You can come back and give additional TEDX Talks.” Learn how to have the focus of having one message that you can leave behind. If you left no other message in this world, what would that be? That requires a disciplined approach of making sure people can prioritize which one idea do they want to be associated with first and then if they get another opportunity, they can give a second talk. One of the greatest challenges of training, coaching, advising, and curating speakers is making sure that it is only one idea and not more than one idea.

      Why does that matter? Why does having only one idea matter in a TEDx Talk?

      For people to listen to the talks, one of the great challenges of listening is that if you have multiple ideas and given the fact that no TEDx Talk can be over eighteen minutes, you ended up not having enough time to go into depth into more than one idea, and so what you get is fragments of ideas. Fragments, like anything, never can be put into a puzzle. A good puzzle needs to be completed. I would say that having a short talk of that is what a TEDx Talk is, requires you to be able to complete the jigsaw puzzle of that one idea in one talk.

      How important is storytelling to TEDx Talks?

      A great storyteller with a great idea is the best TEDx Talk. Because storytelling in many ways is our classic way of communicating. Before there was a written word, when they were just campfires, how we shared information was storytelling. We have lost the art of storytelling because we don’t need it to communicate or share stories or leave our legacy behind. We are now learning, again, partially through TEDx, but the other kinds of mediums to learn how to tell stories. Stories need to be entertaining. They need to be interesting. They need to be informational and they need to be hopefully factual because then it can stand on its own.

      Not everyone is a natural storyteller, so how does someone who’s not a natural storyteller but they might have a great idea. How do you help people bridge that gap between not necessarily being a great storyteller but having a great idea to do a TEDx Talk?

      Chris Anderson, who is the Head of TED, wrote a on how to give a good TED Talk. It’s TED Talks. This book, because he is the Head of TED and curates all of the TED global events, is a required reading if you get chosen as a speaker, but there is a section called Throughline, a whole chapter on throughline, a word that perhaps I wasn’t as familiar until I read the book. He specifically makes the point that there needs to be a throughline to your story from beginning to end. That’s number one.

      TTP 26 | TEDx Talk Guide

      TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

      Number two is rehearsing. For most people who don’t give talks all the time, particularly at TEDx Talk, the rehearsal is what surprised them because there are no notes and there is not a podium and there’s not a teleprompter. Learning how to give that talk without notes requires repetition and focus and being sure that you have gotten the message right. Generally most speakers would not dispute this. After they give a TEDx Talk, they say they will agree with my statement that a good TEDx Talk requires 50 hours of rehearsal. That’s a lot of rehearsal time. That’s a lot of repetition and you got to find dogs, cats, friends, family, and others to listen to your talk in the process.

      When you come to us, among the many requirements is that you have to share your talk twice at the minimum in video format with us before you come on our stage, so we get to know your talk well beforehand and we have a curating committee that’ll give feedback to the people who are giving the talk so they get the benefit of feedback. We get to see. They write an outline upfront so that we see that before they give the first video. The combination of repetition, combination of getting feedback, combination of practicing, and also the distillation process of that idea and so people often start with thinking they know what they want to say, they know what the title of the talk is, invariably two weeks before the event when we are ready to go to print on a program guide, that title will change because the talk has evolved. What we encourage people to do is to have the talk evolve as their ideas evolve.

      I can so relate to what you’re saying again, because I had done a TEDx Talk. It is far harder than people think it is. It is not like giving another speech.

      It surely isn’t in part because you have to rehearse, you have to video it in our case and send it to us. You have to get the feedback. We can tell by the second video, which is generally due three weeks or two weeks before the event if they are ready for a talk. Our invitations always are conditional that we can withdraw the invitation at anytime. That’s done deliberately because we want to make sure people have the ability to know that they will not go automatically on the stage just because they got invited. They got to go through the pieces and prove to us they made significant progress from when they applied to the time they give the talk.

      I would think that that’s one of the reasons you’re highly successful in your TEDx.

      Success is a function of showcasing the speaker to bring the best out of them. We are only as good as our speakers. It’s like going to a restaurant. You want the chef to be the very best at that night that you are at that restaurant. The idea is to bring the best out of the speakers, so we are orchestrating behind the scenes to get the speaker to deliver the very best talk they are possibly able to give. That’s what we try to do with each one of our speakers.

      Do you ever recommend that people have a speech coach for a TEDx Talk?

      If it were up to me, everyone would have a speech coach of their choice because some people work with men, some work with women, some work with people who are top-notch professionals, others work with people who are life coaches. It doesn’t matter to me because if you don’t have a coach, the best example to this is professional athletes are always telling us that even though they are the best in their field, they always have a coach. If you are a professional and you get paid millions of dollars in the professional team and you have a coach, why should somebody who gave a TEDx Talk need a coach? They absolutely need it. People often don’t want to spend the money because it’s not cheap if you get a good coach. They also don’t think they need it until it’s too late.

      Our first acknowledgement now in 2018, we send to them to say “Thank you for applying. We strongly recommend that you hire a speaker coach of your choice. Here are three coaches that other TEDx Wilmington speakers have recommended, but feel free to use anybody you want.” We do that intentionally so that the crafting of the message and particularly the storytelling that is an art form. You cannot go draw a portrait if you haven’t practiced. Storytelling requires a coach to help you to put the story in context.

      You were talking about a throughline. Can you talk a little bit more that? A throughline is one of the most important things to have in a speech.

      A throughline at the end of the day is the single most important thing that you can talk about. You have to think about why something matters, what’s the question you’re trying to answer, the problem you’re trying to solve, the experience you’re trying to share. Through a throughline, you flesh out each point you make with real examples, stories, and facts. This is why a throughline is thinking about that single underlying message that runs through your entire talk because you want to begin and end, you want to connect it. You’re not repeating words for the sake of repetition. It is that you want to make sure that you want to be clear, so at the end of the talk, people say “Ha-ha, that’s what she or he meant to say,” and that’s the message I’m getting for it. That’s a real discipline. I always tell people that if you don’t have time to read any other chapter in Chris Anderson’s book, read Chapter Four, which is the throughline. It’s the subheading on that chapter, ironically which is “What’s your point?” If you don’t know what a throughline is, the question that you must answer is “What is your point?” People are amazingly surprised how hard it is to answer if you have haven’t thought it out well.

      Besides the not having a throughline or not telling the story well or not having a single point, what are some of the other biggest mistakes you’ve seen people make in TEDx Talks? Not in your TEDx because you make sure they don’t make those mistakes, but in other TEDx’s.

      We have literally sometimes major battles with speakers on PowerPoints. People think a PowerPoint is a Word document when it’s not. A PowerPoint is not meant to be everything that you said in your talk written in words. They should have images, maybe some words, but you should never have a PowerPoint where the viewer or the audience is so busy reading what’s on your PowerPoint that they are not listening to you. The less is more theory applies in that point. Graphically interesting to stress or to underline your talk is important, but we have people who have tried to do 60 PowerPoints in a talk. It literally is my mind-numbing the speed by which it goes by and you feel dizzy by the time you watch it on the first step. We get to see all of the PowerPoints beforehand. There’re at least two versions of it, and again we refused to approve it unless it makes sense.

      It’s funny, when I did my TEDx Talk, one of the things I did was almost 100% photographs and it was mostly photographs that I had taken. It was satisfying to not have text but to have images.

      As we all know, one image can say what a thousand words cannot say. It’s making sure those are stated clearly and the images have also connect to the story. Sometimes people put very beautiful images or interesting images, but they don’t tie to the actual talk. There’s the cutesy part where people try to be cute, and the problem with that is if people said “How does that image connect to the talk?” It’s always interesting how this happens. It is the need to make sure that your talk and your PowerPoint are always connected and that there is a link between the two.

      That’s an important point. What are some of the other biggest things that you end up battling over potential TEDx speakers with?

      A part is people think that they can pull anything off the internet and it is legal to do so and use it. We are very clear about copyright requirements. We are clear that they got to get rights from people. There is this common mistake that people make that if it’s available on the Internet, it must be free and you don’t need legal rights. These are from intelligent people. We have gotten so used to getting stuff off the Internet without having to pay for it that when we require people and say, “Show me the permission to use this video clip, show me the permission to use this picture.” People say, “What do you mean?” Even though we explained it upfront in writing in the agreements, it is always a question mark. Because we now require two drafts, the PowerPoints before they ever get to the talk. We are now able to short circuit some of this early on so that every talk, every image has to have a written consent or a source which is royalty-free, so there’s no confusion as they get towards the event.

      Those are some of the things that people do and then just paying attention to what you’re wearing and to make sure that if you’re a female, not to wear jewelry that clangs if you have a lavalier mic, so that it doesn’t bang with the microphone because that stuff can be exceptionally distracting. This is not a fashion statement that you should look very good, but making sure whatever you are wearing works with the microphone. Long earrings for example sometimes clash and it sounds inappropriate on a video.

      TTP 26 | TEDx Talk Guide

      TEDx Talk Guide: One image can say what a thousand words cannot say.

      You’ve done your TEDx Talk and it’s gone well, and you’ve got a throughline and you’ve done all that, once the TED Talk is done and it’s up on YouTube, is your job over as a speaker in your opinion?

      Absolutely not. We used to not pay much attention to this because we frankly thought our job was done, but what we now know is the amount of time and energy, time, talent, and resources speakers invested in the talk, we try to nurture them and say, “Here are some things that you should think about doing once this talk has been approved and on YouTube.” By editing your TEDx Talk and having a professional do it where you take 30 seconds of your talk, which is the maximum allowed by TED to do a promotional part of your talk. You can then promote it on social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, on your website, and elsewhere so that you encourage others to watch the talk. This is how you can increase your viewership significantly.

      You said that it’s not about putting it on your resume and I couldn’t agree more. That’s not the reason to do it, but it does shape people’s brands to do a TEDx Talk. How do you think it shapes someone’s brand to do a TEDx Talk?

      If you do a good TEDx Talk, it shapes your brand and it’s very quick to know. If somebody watches your TEDx Talk and says they loved it, and often people, if they’re applying for a job, they’re applying for a promotion, or they’re applying to become a speaker somewhere else and they have given a TEDx Talk, the person on the other side will watch the talk. If the talk is compelling, it will give them a head start in more ways than you can imagine because people get to see you in a professionally produced video of your TEDx Talk how you came across. If you don’t do a great job, it doesn’t matter how much you put it on a resume, you’re going to appear not as professional as you’d like and it hurts you. Unfortunately, whatever your talk is, that’s what will remain on YouTube forever and ever and we don’t have the capacity to delete it. One of the interesting challenges is to make sure you have a good talk. It doesn’t have to be great, but if you don’t have a good talk, it’ll come back to haunt you.

      I wanted to ask you about that because I was going to say there is no way to get those talks off. Once you do a TED talk and it’s on, that’s it, right?

      Once you do at TEDx Talk and TED approves your talk and posts this on YouTube, it is forever there as long as it exists. The other part of it is I also remind people because Google owns YouTube, often when they search your name, your TEDx Talk will show up high on the algorithms, and so it becomes essentially your calling card, so make sure if you’re going to give a talk, you would take it seriously and do the very best that you can, but if you don’t do it, you’ll come back to regret it and it’s unfortunate that there’s nothing I can do to delete it out from the system.

      Good for people to know that. Let’s say an audience thinks “I have a great idea and I can do this work and I’m willing to do the homework” and they want to do a TEDx Talk, how do people locate places where they can give TEDx Talks? Not just yours, but how do people locate where they can give a TEDx Talk and then how do they apply to give a TEDx talk?

      You can go to TED.com, which is the parents’ site. TED licenses all the talks. There’s a global map of old TEDx events that have been approved and have a date. There are 3.000 communities in 170 countries that have TEDx Talks. .If you go there, you then can connect to the website of that TEDx event, and in some instances they invite openly speakers to apply, and others they’d say it’s by invitation only. That’s a very personal decision of each organizer. I believe in a very open process because otherwise I’m limited to who I know or who I know who knows somebody I know, so we invite anybody to anywhere in the world to apply, no guarantee that you’ll get selected. It’s a very rigorous questionnaire application form, an online application form, so we fall in the group that welcomes online applications from anywhere and as long as you have a great idea, we’ll connect to see whether we can connect with you, but you can basically look at this map which shows all the TEDx communities that are having TEDx Talks on TED.com.

      How many people apply to TEDx Wilmington?

      Last year we had over 400 applications and we selected about 165 people to give their talks, so that means that 235 people did not get selected. That’s not because necessarily they were bad or that they didn’t have good idea. Sometimes we get four people who want to talk about a particular subject during the course of a year and we obviously cannot choose everybody who wants to talk about a particular subject, so that’s one reason. The other reason is we may not have a right event to place them in. We also look for diversity in women, in gender, diversity in race, diversity in age, so all that matters.

      It is a hard thing to reject essentially what is almost three applications for everyone we pick. We hate to disappoint people. We don’t go into a long explanation why they didn’t get. We simply say “We’re sorry.” Invariably we disappoint people and people are not happy that they didn’t get selected, but the reality is it’s a very subjective process, so investing time in a good application makes a huge difference. In our case, I take some time to fill the application, but more importantly, there is one to two-minute video where we ask you to produce for this application which outlines your idea worth spreading. We want to hear you summarize and distill your idea worth spreading in one to two minutes. If we didn’t look at your application and just looked at the video, are you compelling enough that your idea is worth spreading?

      You got a TED license to organize TEDx Wilmington in 2011 and you’ve done 29 different TEDx Wilmington events since then. Is that correct?

      That is absolutely true. It is hard to believe I have done that many, but that is the factual truth.

      It was 397 speakers from all over the world and they’ve given 375 TEDx talks at TEDx Wilmington. That’s quite a lot of people. You’ve had over 7 million views, right?

      That is correct. We are at 7.4 million plus views. That’s a function because it’s not a one-person operation. TEDx Wilmington is a large group of volunteers. We are very blessed to have a good team that does it. There’s no way any one human being could do all that, so I’m very blessed to be the conductor of a great orchestra or a great team. We call it the TEDx Wilmington tribe. I get the credit often, but in reality it’s a team effort. Our ability to pull off the number of events and great speakers is a function and we give personalized attention to every speaker. Every speaker gets personalized attention.

      One of the things that I do on this podcast, because there’s some themes that I’m very committed to exploring and one of these days, I might even turn these into a TEDx Talk. There’s a couple of themes that I explore. It’s a question I ask everyone because it’s something in my own life I found to be valuable and it’s something that’s useful in the world we live in. One of them is something I call the joy of missing out. People have this huge fear of missing out today. What is it that we have a fear of missing out on in terms of speaking and public speaking and giving speeches and TEDx that we shouldn’t? What should we have a joy of missing out on in regards to this subject we’ve been discussing?

      I would say the greatest challenge is speakers wanting to be perfect. I tell everyone that you will never be perfect until you keep doing it over and over again, so start and have fun. People forget to have fun. Those who have fun and those who are willing to be imperfect give the best TEDx Talks.

      The other thing I like to talk about is what I call living beyond the script. There’re a lot of scripts that we have today, prevailing scripts about how we’re supposed to do things and how we’re supposed to live our lives, and what we’re supposed to do. There is a prevailing script as it relates to TEDx and I’d love to know from your point of view what do you think that script is and how do you think we should go beyond it?

      The opportunity to have your talk or your message heard in 170 countries, and I tell speakers when I go to rehearsal, is to remember that the audience that is listening to your talk, while very important and critical because without them there wouldn’t be a TEDx event, the real audiences is those who go and watch on YouTube around the world and then I remind them that most of them, for them English is perhaps the second language, so we have perhaps viewers in South Sudan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and of course at places like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and elsewhere. My point is that recognizing that you have a global audience requires you not to use acronyms and to be able to make an impact globally.

      TTP 26 | TEDx Talk Guide

      TEDx Talk Guide: Those who have fun and those who are willing to be imperfect give the best TEDx Talks.

      You want to impact a young woman who’s listening in South Sudan for whom your message might resonate or somebody sitting in a place in Brazil feeling hopeless and here’s the message you have and say “That matters.” It’s that incredibly ability that has made TEDx possible is to be able to share the message at no costs worldwide using YouTube channel. That is what makes giving a TEDx Talk different than if you spoke in front of 10,000 people in the stadium and auditorium because that’s a one-time event, you spoke to them, that message rarely gets beyond that group.

      The other theme that I talk about on this show is what I call the everyday artists because I think everyone in their own way is an artist. What part of what you do do you consider art versus science? How do you consider yourself an artist in the work that you do?

      I’m an artist because I tried to bring out of people what they have, but they didn’t realize that they had, which is the ability to give a talk on the red carpet with three cameras running and to be engaging. That requires people to often come out of their comfort zone. Some people are professional speakers and speak all the time, most people aren’t. I enjoy working with somebody who is terrified of public speaking, getting them in there after rehearsal onto the stage, because I do the introductions myself, make them feel comfortable and let them be transformed and transform others in the process.

      That’s wonderful. Where can people find out more about TEDx Wilmington?

      Our website is fairly simple, www.TEDxWilmington.com. We’re halfway between New York and Washington. On our website, we have a place where you can nominate yourself as a speaker, which is the application process. A play list of all of our talks are there. I would strongly recommend anyone considering applying to any TEDx Talk to look at the blogs. One of the things that makes us different is we require every speaker to do three blogs. One early in the process, one about two weeks prior to the event, and one at two weeks after the event. They share their experience. I wanted to create a book out of the blogs because it’s the best way to learn the journeys of the speakers as they went through the process. If they are truthful and honest, which most of them are, you will get a remarkable insight into what may they experienced going through the talk. All the blogs are also on our website, and it’s fun to read. It’s emotionally, sometimes gut wrenching, what they went through to get to the talk or why it is important, why it is inspiring, why it is transformational.

      That’s wonderful. Ajit Mathew George, thank you so much for joining us.

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for having me.

      My guest has been Ajit Matthew George. He is the Organizer and Executive Producer of TEDx Wilmington where for the past seven years, he has organized 29 different TEDx events with over 397 speakers from all over the world.

      Thank you so much for joining us.

      Thank you, Karen.

      My guest today has been Nilofer Merchant. She is the author of The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World.

      Important Links


      The Power of Classical Music to Transform Our Lives

      The Power of Classical Music to Transform Our Lives

      TTP 25 | Classical Music Healing

      Yelena Dudochkin has captivated audiences across the world with her expressive stage presence, rich soprano voice, and powerful interpretations. Her operatic roles include Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Violetta in La Traviata, Snow Maiden in Snow Maiden, Iolanta and Brigitta in Iolanta, Gilda in Rigoletto, Chernyafka in Magic Mirror, and Marfa in Tsar’s Bride, with Opera Boston, New Opera NYC, Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Opera Classica Europa, The Mariinsky Opera Young Artists, and others.

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      The Power of Classical Music to Transform Our Lives

      My guest is Yelena Dudochkin. She is a world renowned soprano who has had major roles and performances in such operas as Eugene Onegin, La Traviata and Rigoletto, among others. Yelena, welcome.

      Thank you so much, Karen.

      I was at a conference and I was there before it got started. I saw this woman go up to the front of the room and there was musicians behind her and she opened her mouth and started singing. I was in a conversation with someone. My head immediately whipped to the side and I was like, “Who is that?” It was you.

      Everything had been a little bit pushed back as always. We were warming up as people were coming. We were trying to do it all halfway.

      You were warming up and I thought, “That’s her warm-up?” I found out you were in it and it made sense to me. What made you choose to become a classical opera singer?

      It’s the most powerful way to make music and the most all-encompassing way to perform. It takes skill, mastery, emotional sensitivity, and intelligence to be able to give people that gift of a transformative experience. It’s the intensity to performing classical music because it takes so much skill, concentration, and giving your whole energy that makes it rewarding. Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you insist on singing and continuing in classical music?” Selfishly, it’s the most intense performance experience that you can have as a performer that you can give to someone who’s listening.

      TTP 25 | Classical Music Healing

      Classical Music Healing: Being a classical opera singer is the most powerful way to make music and the most all-encompassing way to perform.

      Knowing that you’ve helped someone experienced the heightened emotional and spiritual states or taking them out of the ordinary and help them to experience something truly extraordinary is rewarding. Sometimes people tell me I took them back to their childhood or helped them heal from a loss. It’s amazing the power that music can have on people. It’s also a spiritual experience as well. I’d like to think that I’m bringing people closer to their humanity and making them believe there’s something better and greater than their current state or their current life. Contributing to people’s lives like that is truly a gift to me. It makes me feel that I’m doing something meaningful.

      How did you end up being an opera singer? What’s the path you took to being an opera singer? They asked some kids, “What do you want to be?” and they say, “I want to be a lawyer.” Did you say, “I want to be an opera singer?”

      I grew up in a music household. My mom’s a concert pianist and I was always doing my homework at the Kiev Conservatory back in Ukraine. I started off with a piano when I was three years old and maybe even a little younger. There are some pictures of me when I was baby there sitting up. I always sang but piano is something that was a serious instrument that I studied and won competitions in and everything. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. It was until college that I decided to switch instruments and become an opera singer. The reason why I truly love it is because it’s such an all-encompassing experience. Your body is your instrument. You can be truly expressive and become a different character and deliver a message that you can’t do in any other instrument. It’s the power of the human voice that’s engaging and captivating.

      You grew up in Kiev in the Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, correct?

      Yes, that’s right.

      When did you immigrate to the US?

      It was after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was a refugee going through the process. It was one of those interesting moments in life where everything changes radically and you come for the American dream and you’ll end up living and fulfilling that dream by being the best that you can be. In my case, I was driven to engage with the country, with everything that I could do in gratitude for my parents too for bringing me here. I ended up getting into the best university that I could, Columbia and Juilliard School, and I did my studies there, piano, political science, voice. I went on from there to all these great internships that I was lucky to receive at the United Nations, the Soros Foundation, and embraced the possibilities and see the American dream that ultimately ended up making me into who I am today.

      How old were you when you immigrated to the US?

      I was nine.

      You obviously studied here because you went to Juilliard and Columbia. Did you study classical music in Kiev as well?

      Yes, I did. I followed the then Soviet protocol of have your kids audition for everything that they can. Being a ballerina as well when I was three, I remember going to the ballet studio and they decided my body type was not the ballet body type, a little too shapely even as a three year old. When I came hereto United States I could take ballet classes. I did the Boston Ballet School and I did Broadway Dance and all these great things that you then make you good performing artist. In the Soviet style, it was determined that I was a good musician. I was able to enter the Kiev Music School, the Center of Kiev Music School which was attached to the conservatory. I started my studies young and my mom taught me since I was a little girl.

      You also sing jazz. How did you make that transition from classical music or how did you get interested in singing jazz?

      It’s not a transition. It’s something I do in addition to classical and opera and I always take opera and classical music as my central core practice. The jazz singing is something that I’ve always, since college, done on the side but also now more and more central side. While I love to sing opera, I love the freedom of Jazz. It requires skills and knowledge of harmony as a background. It’s the music I can sing after I have a glass of wine, relax, and play with my friends. It’s the freedom to improvise and to make any kinds of sounds that you want. It’s liberating and it’s a great thing to be able to do in addition to classical. It informs the classical and even early classical music where singers had to improvise in a different style.

      As a classical singer, it’s especially fun because there’s a lot that I can do with my voice and there are few rules to follow except harmony and etiquette. When I sing Summertime by Gershwin, who’s a classical American composer, I always love blending the classical sound with jazz improvisation. It’s fun blending the jazz technique and the classical ability and do something different each time, depending on the moment and what inspires. I’ve been planning on recording an album of collaborating with some of my wonderful colleagues at Berklee College of Music, who are also both classically trained and jazz trained where we can find a combination that’s particularly powerful. We draw on both techniques, allowing us to adapt to whatever mood strikes and the style and the dynamic of the moments and the environment.

      How do you feel that your role as a singer has translated into your vision for transformation, and what is your vision for transformation?

      As a singer, I can help people experience the power of music anytime and anywhere. I love incorporating performing arias into my talks and being able to demonstrate the power of music to get people excited, to move them, and for them to feel the transformation taking place. You probably remember the famous scene from Pretty Woman that I mentioned in my talk, with Julia Roberts where she’s a hooker and she gets picked up by a business tycoon and they start to develop relationship. He flies her to the opera and dresses her in this gorgeous red dress and necklace and tells her that the opera is very powerful, that people’s first reactions to it are very strong, and that it affects people’s soul. They play the scene from Act II of La Traviata where Violetta sings Amami Alfredo or Love Me, Alfredo. This is an aria that I sing in my talk.

      TTP 25 | Classical Music Healing

      Classical Music Healing: As the world progresses through the fourth industrial revolution, culture has emerged as an exceptionally important but sensitive aspect of our society.

      After doing that, it’s a really interesting experience for me to see the audience reaction because it’s very similar to Julia Roberts’ reaction because the character is moved. In her case, she’s moved to tears. Hopefully, I can move people to tears as well even for 30 seconds. She realizes her hopes and dreams vividly expressed in this music in La Traviata. Even though she doesn’t understand Italian or the context, she can’t even compare a story to a situation, but the emotion carried by the music transcends everything and goes directly to her core.

      Talk a little bit about the talks that you give, where you give them and what they’re about, etc.?

      What I like to do is raise awareness everywhere, especially among the world and industry leaders and to build mind share. It’s one of my most important initiatives. I was fortunate this year to perform at the World Economic Forum at Davos where world leaders gather and contemplate the state of the world and set goals for the future. As the world progresses through the fourth industrial revolution, culture has emerged as an exceptionally important but sensitive aspect of our society. What I seek to do is build and foster the growth of culture, particularly music, as we continue to evolve our society. Engaging globally in important discussions following my performance is a great way to make people aware, to make great leaders and all of the audience aware of what we need to do to make sure we ensure enrichment and preservation of culture and in turn, humanity. I’ll be giving a series of these performance talks, some podcasts and discussions on the subject, not just to raise awareness but to truly drive change. I’m excited to have the opportunity to reach abroad audience this way, of tens of thousands of people who might otherwise not hear classical music or live classical music in particular. Hopefully, they will then appreciate the importance of classical music in our society.

      What do you think is the role of music today?

      The role of music today is not very different than it always has been, an international language that unites everyone. It transcends cultural differences, gender differences, age and economic differences. It’s for everyone. The role of music today can be even more amazing because music is available to everyone and everywhere. It’s a question of making people aware and bringing them into the fold of classical music and dispelling it’s elitist attitude which has emerged as such in the last 40 years because of the industry, the way that it’s run and the way that it’s structured.

      You’re talking about the role of music but a lot of our audiences, business owners, entrepreneurs or people that work in corporations, do you think there’s a place for music in corporate America and in business today? What do you think that place or that role is?

      I talked to a lot of people who are in different industries, including the technology industry and people who are in leadership roles there. They say that when they are gathering together for large events and conferences, when they take a moment to pause and listen to classical music, their mind is cleansed, their head is clear, and their thoughts are crystallized. They can think in a different plane than they were thinking previously. We have so much information thrown at us. We have many directions that we’re pulled into, so many distractions. Hearing a brief classical music performance, particularly when it’s live, if it’s in a conference setting but also when it’s playing as part of a presentation, it’s almost like a meditation. It has a reset button on people.

      There was also a medical reason why music has amazing power to get people to be more productive. There’s a book called Scales to Scalpels that was written by Lisa Wong from Longwood Symphony Orchestra. She talks about the recovery of stroke victims and their ability to speak by singing, dementia patients regaining some of their memories through hearing music, and how they hope to one day be able to prescribe Bach or Haydn the way they prescribe amoxicillin or Ambien. Classical music has the power to heal, but also has the power to develop brain activity and increase productivity. Maybe you’ve heard of the Mozart Effect or the studies about that?

      No, I’d love to hear it.

      There are studies that show that even cows produce more milk when they’re listening to Mozart. There are a lot of studies about playing Mozart in particular, because the study was done with the music of Mozart. I’m sure Bach and other similar classical Viennese composers fit into the sound as well. Playing music to an unborn child during pregnancy and early on in the nursery stimulates the brain development and help to have neurological pathways form in the brain. It’s extremely positive and enhancing to humans and animals and also recovering crime victims and people who have committed crimes. There are some programs that help rehabilitate people who’ve gone through prison and help them to find themselves again, help them to quiet their mind, and help them to not only quiet their mind but engage with a better mental state into their everyday lives. It’s a powerful effect that can help everyone from cows to babies to corporate America.

      I know you have a big mission about saving classical music and I have to say I didn’t realize classical music was in danger. What are you doing or how do you think we need to save it?

      The danger is in the current environment we have, there is a diminished funding, but that’s not the biggest problem that classical music is facing. There is a perception that classical music and opera are for the 1% and that’s simply not true. It’s always been for the people and by the people. It’s always been as popular and rambunctious concert experience for everyone in the times of Beethoven leading up to Verity. It wasn’t until recently that people or the industry have started to make it elitist founding. There’s a lot of change in the music industry that needs to take place to help shift this perception and also to reengage with the audience. There are a lot of choices being made by major orchestras, major opera houses and smaller opera houses out of confusion of what to do. How do they win back the audience? How do they get new audience? These productions unfortunately become more alienating to the audience rather than reengaging. It’s a situation that needs to be addressed.

      How do you see music as being transformative?

      The magic of classical music and opera cuts across all differences and all language barriers. Classical music and opera are just essential to all people, countries, communities, not just for the elite 1%.Music can heal on a clinical level better than medicine. Today, we’re experiencing a rapid shift in our society with the emergence of this fourth industrial revolution which has many benefits but also brings a virtual and digital lifestyle that challenges our society. We risk losing touch with ourselves. Music can help us to connect with ourselves and connect with each other. When we experience classical music together in a live performance environment, we engage in our deepest self. We connect to each other in this experience and we reengage with the world.

      We need to shape how this culture, how our humanity, how our core, will be defined in our modern era and how it will evolve going forward. We need to bring classical music back into the fabric of our society to do this effectively. My work is to bring together innovation across industries and to reinvigorate classical music and opera the way it’s presented, the way it’s performed and marketed. I’m leading an effort to restore classical music to where it should be and to eliminate this elitist reputation, to expand this appreciation and engagement, and to make available all of its benefits for all.

      TTP 25 | Classical Music Healing

      Classical Music Healing: Music can help us to connect with ourselves and connect with each other


      Do you think one of the barriers to that has been cost? I’m a huge fan of opera but it is not inexpensive to go to the opera or a symphony.

      Having gone to school in New York City where everything is expensive, the Philharmonic is expensive and the opera, there actually are really cheap tickets always available. It’s a question of what you’re looking for. There are a lot of programs that help bring people into the fold, whether it’s free performances in the afternoon or whether it’s even opera in HD which is the cost of a movie ticket. You can get standing room seats for something like $25 or less at the Met. The big secret to those is you get to sit down if somebody doesn’t show up. It’s not as cost prohibitive as all that and beyond the level A houses like this. The community theaters of which there are so many make opera much more accessible than people think. There is a perception that it is expensive.

      There is a need to create free large scale concert place. In Boston we had Carmen on the Common where there was a live Carmen performance that was sold out. There is not a word you can say when you’re not selling seats, but it was completely full. There was no apple to drop. There was no room. In Europe, they do this a lot where they have large-scale performances where the front half of the auditorium is paying the ticket prices, and then there is a huge outdoor area where people can gather and have picnics and have their wine, their cheese, their tea, and enjoy all the performances and even talk during the performance. Changing the performance experience and the accessibility is key to bringing this back to the people and to where it should be.

      There are some themes that we talk about in this podcast with every guest who’s on. One of the themes is what I call the joy of missing out. People have a huge fear of missing out in the world today. I always say that it’s about the joy of missing out rather than the fear of missing out. What is something that you think people have a fear of missing out on in regards to music and culture, particularly music, that in your opinion they shouldn’t? What should we have a joy of missing out on as it relates to music and classical music?

      I’m thinking about it from the point of view of someone in the music industry and the simple answer is that people never start the conversation. There’s always something else going on. There’s always some other excuse and some distraction. The clarity of purposes exceptionally important. We owe it to ourselves to figure out what drives us and that which focuses and energizes you, what motivates you and what provides this particular sense of motivation. We have to clear our path as best as we can to pursue it. This is more complicated in the creative fields because people are inundated with reports of how hard it is to succeed, how difficult it is to produce beautiful music.It is hard, but it creates a fear in people about needing to do everything, which means they get distracted, their goal shifts, and in some cases, they never figure out what their goals are.

      In the creative community, people are also told what they should and shouldn’t do. This is something that is an epidemic. We, as performing artists, are in many ways dependent on the director and dependent on their direction. We don’t have the opportunity to say, “This is not what we believe is the best way or the right thing to do.” This is a field that needs to evolve and allow for the real creative collaboration between artists, directors, and management, to deliver an amazing experience to the world. To bring people back, to bring people closer, and to work together on this is what we need to do.

      One of the other themes on this is living beyond the script, that there’s this prevailing script of how you’re supposed to do things. There’s a prevailing script to creativity and artistic expression. For artists it’s one thing, but how do you see it in the work that every day people need to go beyond this script of what it is to be creative or to express yourself artistically?

      The script today is the underfunding for the arts, whether it’s the reduction in revenue sources, the major changes in the recording industry, the contemporary composition styles of nice, positive or atonal debate, the structure of performances or the new production style. The mantra of the day is how hard it is to have impact. We need to change the model that exists because classical music is important to our humanity. This starts with outreach and appreciation, a startup with dialogue, a rebuilding of the audience and reminding people of its power. In an ideal world, we would also create new distribution model and the new financing model that would make this sustainable into the future. This is something I’m starting to work on.

      Music is a fascinating combination of art and science. There’s some music that no matter what you do to it, no matter how you perform it, it’s going to impact people, it’s going to be great. That’s not always the case, and you can certainly learn a piece of music. They real artists are figuring out how to make the piece your own as an artist and how to figure out what this piece should be in the act of making it your own, simultaneously also making it everyone else’s, giving it to the world. Real artistic expression is born when we are ignited by strong emotion, a gut reaction to something that’s overwhelming. To be able to make someone else experience music or the experience of a character that’s being portrayed, first we have to, as performers, experience the depth of that emotion ourselves and it’s every aspect. Then we can become the sound that embodies this emotion and deliver that experience to the audience, to take them on a journey of that experience and have them be healed by having gone through this in a safe and beautiful space.

      Creativity is a natural process by which we can achieve this artistic expression. When I work on a new piece of music, I always find the technical work is discovery work, deciphering and learning the pieces, what I would call the science of performing. This is the method to the madness. Once you’ve done all that work and layering each step of what you should do and be historically informed and all of that, we can tap into our personal and emotional world, where we can develop a valid interpretation of the piece, make it our own expression. That’s where we become real artists. It’s creating an incredibly smooth soft piano like Montserrat Caballé or Jessye Norman or having an unconventional human expressions like Maria Callas. These are all dimensions that great artists in the past have given us the tools that we can stand on as artists and strive for the ultimate expression of that piece that is current and real in its expression.

      You have an album coming out.

      Yes. I’m in the process of recording an album of vocally, which is a unique set of vocal music both from classical romantic and contemporary composers. One of which includes the Gliere Concerto for Coloratura, an orchestra which I just sang at Boston Premiere which is an extremely amazing piece and very difficult, which is why it’s not that performed often. It’s exciting to put together and pull together some of these pieces that are vocal leads for soprano in orchestra.

      TTP 25 | Classical Music Healing

      Classical Music Healing: Creativity is a natural process by which we can achieve this artistic expression.

      Where can people find out more about your singing, your work, your speaking and your mission for classical music?

      I do have a website, YelenaDudochkin.com, which should be a good place for most of that information about the upcoming concerts, talks, Carnegie Hall and at Cannes Festival and more and more being added every day. I also have a little space where I talk about some of the impact I’m trying to make in the world as well. Certainly when the album is ready for release, that information will also be up on the website.

      Thank you so much.

      Thank you so much, Karen. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and going into all these great topics of our creativity and the power of music to impact our life.

      My guest has been Yelena Dudochkin. She is a soprano who has had major roles in such performances as Eugene Onegin, La Traviata and Rigoletto, among others. She has a new recording coming out, and she spends her time traveling around the world speaking, singing and talking about classical music.


      Important Links


      About Yelena Dudochkin

      TTP 25 | Classical Music HealingYelena Dudochkin has captivated audiences across the world with her expressive stage presence, rich soprano voice, and powerful interpretations. Her operatic roles include Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Violetta in La Traviata, Snow Maiden in Snow Maiden, Iolanta and Brigitta in Iolanta, Gilda in Rigoletto, Chernyafka in Magic Mirror, and Marfa in Tsar’s Bride, with Opera Boston, New Opera NYC, Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Opera Classica Europa, The Mariinsky Opera Young Artists, and others.

      A recipient of over 20 awards and honors, Yelena has been touted for her “gorgeous, expressive and rich voice” (Voice of America) and her “dramatic intelligence” (Boston Globe) that has repeatedly “amazed the audience” (Kontact). She is equally sought after to as a soloist with symphony orchestras, jazz and other ensembles. Yelena performed extensively internationally.

      Radio and television appearances include the Russian Radio, Russian Television RTVI and Rai Italian television. In addition to her performance career, Yelena launched a series of initiatives to improve and shape humanity focusing on saving classical music and culture.


      Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

      Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

      TTP 24 | Superbosses Book

      Professor Sydney Finkelstein discusses his latest book Superbosses and what superbosses do that’s so special including how they manage millennials, and where to find them in your organization. Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Professor Finkelstein has published 22 books and 85 articles, including the #1 bestseller Why Smart Executives Fail. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management and a top 25 on the global Thinkers 50 list of top management gurus. His latest bestselling book is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, which LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls the “leadership guide for the Networked Age.”

      Listen to the Podcast here:

      Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

      My guest is Sydney Finkelstein. He is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is also the author of the book Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. Sydney, thanks so much for joining me.

      It’s great to be on with you, Karen.

      When I met you in Thinkers 50 in London, I knew who you were. Your reputation proceeds you in a good way. I was delighted to talk with you and have a conversation with you there. I was thrilled you were going to come on the podcast here. You are the author of the bestseller, Superbosses.

      I am. It came out about a year ago. It’s been a real whirlwind with the book. It touched a nerve.

      What exactly is a superboss?

      A superboss is a leader that creates other leaders. A superboss is someone who sees the potential in other people often before they see it themselves. A superboss is also someone that has track record of generating and regenerating talent on a continuous basis. They’re the types of people, types of leaders, that build organizations around other great talent. Unsurprisingly, they end up leading teams and organizations that have very superior performance.

      What you’re saying sounds so obvious, not in a negative way, but it sounds obvious and it sounds simple. It sounds logical, and you know and I know from having been a management consultant for a long time before I was a branding strategist, what you just said sounds so easy to do, but in practice, isn’t so easy to do. Has that been your experience in researching and writing the book?

      I can’t tell you how many people have told me this is the years, even before I started researching the book, “I don’t have time to take care of anyone else. I got to hit my numbers.” What they miss is so transparent. It’s so obvious, but yet so many people are missing it. If you surround yourself with great talent, the people that are good and getting better and better, how is it that you, yourself, would not get better and not accomplish more? It’s an equation that’s hard not to follow.

      Do you think you have to hire people with great talent or do you think it’s possible to have people who have great potential talent and mentor them to that point? Which did you find in your research was more important, the hiring or the mentoring?

      Superbosses do both and do both very well. I spend a lot of time trying to understand who they hire and how they think about that hiring process, the searching for talent process. Once people are on board and even if you inherit a team where you haven’t hired them, there’s so many things you can do to help develop them. The answer is both are critical components of what Superbosses ended up doing.

      You’ve done 22 books, is that correct?

      Yes, it is.

      That is a first for this podcast. Congratulations. You’re making me feel like a slacker at only nine. One of your books was the bestseller, Why Smart Executives Fail. I know you found correlation to executive superbosses who succeeded by doing that. Did you find any correlation to executives who failed by not doing what you talk about?

      TTP 24 | Superbosses Book

      Superbosses Book: Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes

      The Why Smart Executive Fail leaders were tough people, but they were also very smart. They had a great track record until things started to go a little bit haywire. The truth is there were some Superboss leaders that also were very tough. Larry Ellison from Oracle, very tough guy. He doesn’t fool around, but, has a tremendous success than someone who also generated so many great people around him. They’ve gone on to tremendous success. The big differentiator that I came to realize was that while both of these Why Smart Executive Fail leaders and some of the Superboss leaders are very tough and difficult and challenging, the Superboss leaders understand that to be successful, you want the world’s best talent and the best team around you. The Why Smart Executive Fail leaders, they never got that. The purpose of a team was to make you look better, was to have someone to blame if things didn’t go right, to have that musical chairs revolving doors to try to bring people in when something wasn’t going right. They didn’t appreciate the value of other people and they thought that their success, Why Smart Executive Fail leaders was due to themselves. For superbosses, while they didn’t lack from ego, they understood that winning is all about having the world’s best talent around you.

      That’s an interesting distinction because often, we think of it as like if you have a big ego or you’re a strong person, that it is in a way counter to empowering other people around you to be great. What you’re saying is that the differentiator is not whether you have a big ego or you’re a strong person. It’s that knowledge that your team is what’s what is going to make this happen and empowering them is key.

      That’s right, and sometimes people underestimate the importance of self-confidence. You can’t do anything without tremendous self-confidence. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone very successful in whatever endeavor that didn’t have that powerful confidence in themselves. What that allows you to do, and this is what I saw the Superboss leaders, is that you’re not insecure. You’re not threatened by other people. As a result, you could step aside at times and make room for other people to be the center of attention, to give, to delegate, and to give people a chance to shine. That’s how you get better when you’re thrown into the ring. If you’re not self-confident, you’re a little bit worried about that because maybe that person will outshine you. Confidence is a critical component for successful leadership.

      We’re talking about this in the context of work and business and corporations, but my whole life, I’ve done acting just for fun. I’ve done a lot of theater acting. I was thinking of the best actors I’ve worked with and I know are actors that allow their fellow actors to shine, that they give them their moment, that it’s not always about them. Some of the most difficult and unpleasant people I’ve worked with people are people were it’s always about them all the time, where they have to be the star all the time. I don’t think this is limited to bosses in the workplace. This is in some ways true even if you’re a person on a team.

      You’re right about that. We’re talking about people. These are people that happened to be leaders of organizations and are mostly in the corporate world, although on Superbosses, I looked at a lot of people that were in all walks of life. It’s not surprising because it really is about people. What you’re also talking about something I’ve seen especially in my coaching and consulting work, which is confidence is so critical, but there’s another side to the coin, which is humility. The best leaders can do both. Someone who’s always humble, we might revere that, we might like that, but sometimes you got to step up and take charge. You have to be able to do that.

      I remember reading an article in the New York Times about Stephen Curry, the great basketball player for the Golden State Warriors. His coach described him as someone who had this incredible humility about him, but he also had this rock-solid confidence that he could step up and take over a situation without any questions or any doubts about that. At the same time, apropos to your example of a great actors helping other people and letting other people shine, he was able to help that. He was able to help other people raise their game. That’s a powerful combination.

      What do Superbosses do that is so special and how does it affect not only their own success but the performance of their business? Is there a particular set of skills that you found that are specific?

      Superbosses do a bunch of things that are either more than your typical good leader will do and then some that are quite different. I call all of that the superboss playbook. To give you a little bit of a flavor for that, one thing that superbosses do is they have an uncompromising vision. Vision is not a new idea, but they have a compelling vision. Someone like Alice Waters, the restaurateur and chef. Her restaurant has been a pioneer in America with a farm to table local sourcing, sustainable organic food, and now it is very common. She was the pioneer in that area. She has a vision about what it means to eat and to eat well and the nature of the relationship between farmers and suppliers, the food that they create, the chefs that convert that food, and the people like us that are eating that food. You’re not going to compromise on that. At the same time, she and every other superboss have this track record and ability to unleash the creativity of the people around them.

      That’s a little bit counterintuitive when you have a strong point of view and you’re not compromising, but at the same time, you’re completely open to any types of ideas that can help you fulfill that vision. The reason why that works is because you have superboss leaders that understand that they don’t have all the answers to all the problems, but they want to have all those people around them that keep coming up with new ways of approaching things. This unleashing creativity, and unsurprisingly perhaps, is one of the most compelling stories you hear from millennials. I speak to a lot of different groups. I was speaking to a group high-power millennials and they were all over this idea. They want to make a difference. They want to have an impact. When you work for a superboss leader, that’s exactly what you get. You get that opportunity, but at the same time, you’ve got to buy into this overarching vision. That’s one key element of what I call the superboss playbook, the things that they do that are different than most other leaders and most other bosses.

      We have people in the audience who are solo entrepreneurs and C-Suite executives in Fortune 500 companies. We have CEOs of mid-cap companies. If I’m an entrepreneur and I don’t have a team, maybe I use people virtually or I scale up when I need to, is there a way that a solo practitioner can be a superboss?

      I’ve come to realize that one of my initial focus was on a manager or a leader or an executive. The truth is that a lot of the techniques and approaches that superbosses do can be applied in almost any situation, whether it’s at work or not. Then with the colleagues, people that you might be in a cross-functional team with or in the case of entrepreneurs, people that are in your ecosystem as you start to build your company. It’s a mindset. It starts with this mindset that says, “We don’t have to do things the way things have always been done before. We are able to treat people in a way that is going to help them help them shine and fly and accelerate.”

      All that stuff helps you. It could be from strong vision and then unleashing creativity. It could relate to how you develop the people around you and the opportunities that you want to give to those people, how you manage them on a one-to-one basis, and how you even teach people. Any one of us could be great teachers. All of those things are completely amenable to all sorts of situations, including an entrepreneurial one.

      In an organization, where did you find the superbosses?

      I focused a lot on people at the very top of organizations. That was a research strategy because they were interesting, and they would lead me down the path of learning a lot about these people. As I got into the work a little bit more, especially as I’ve done workshops and consulting around Superboss ideas, I’m finding superbosses everywhere. The problem is so two things. Number one, superbosses exists up and down an organization. I know it for my research, but I also know it because I do a book signing and people ask you to sign the book to somebody, their boss. Someone I never heard of in a company I barely knew existed, they’re just people all over the place.

      That’s the first thing. The second thing is, do we know who they are? What happens if we don’t? These are tremendous assets. These are diamonds in the rough that hold the key to developing some of the strongest teams around. We don’t always know who they are because we’re either not trying to measure that or assess that. I spent a fair amount of time trying to help organizations answer that very question, “Where are superbosses? How do we find them?” Once you know who they are, you can learn from them, but you could also have them as teachers internally where you can have them be role models for other people who want to adopt some of the Superboss ideas.

      TTP 24 | Superbosses Book

      Superbosses Book: Superboss leaders are very comfortable with high aspiration people. They expect that.

      You’re talking about the superbosses, empowering people, and making them great. One of the groups that I have found as challenging for a lot of the people that I consult with are millennials, because they seem to work on a completely different basis than people in our age group work in. How do superboss leaders manage millennials? Do they manage them differently? If they do, how so?

      Superboss leaders are very comfortable with high aspiration people. They expect that. They have a high-performance expectation. People that have high aspirations, people that want to make a difference, people that are willing to work hard and can contribute in a variety of different ways, superboss leaders seek out people like that. There’s a very big audience of millennials. If you think about it, there’s 70 million in America. It’s a crazy number.

      They’re not homogenous.

      They’re all over the map. If you are a millennial, I’ve heard this many times, you want to work for a superboss. The audience of millennials I was speaking to, they were asking, “How do I find one for myself? That’s exactly what I want because these leaders, they open the door for us. They give me a chance to have a seat at the table.” Having said that, the expectation for making stuff happen for performance is so high that if you can’t keep up, if you can’t do it, you can’t perform, millennial or otherwise, you’re not going to stick around for a very long time. I love that idea because you hear from a lot of CEOs and senior executives, they get a little fed up with millennials. They’re entitled. They want this, they want that. Then I talk to millennials and I see the energy and I see the capability.

      With superbosses, you have a seat at the table. You’re given it even before you might in some other types of companies, but then you got to do something with that seat and you’re not going to keep that seat if you can make stuff happen. That’s fair. That’s a two-way street. You have the opportunity, but now blow through that opportunity and show me that you can do it. That’s the game that the best millennials will rise up to. The ones that can’t, that’s fine because no organization’s going to be successful with second-tier players, millennial or otherwise.

      You’re going to get that seat at the table, but then you have to keep it is really key.

      You got to produce. Superbosses create these high-performance cultures, and they have that expectation. You have to produce. That’s fair.

      My guest is Sydney Finkelstein. He is the author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. LinkedIn Chairman, Reid Hoffman, calls that “The leadership guide for the networked age.” That is high praise indeed.

      I had a great conversation with Reid about these ideas and it resonated with him, which was very affirming.

      What do you think are the biggest disruptions going on in business today from your point of view?

      Everybody talks about digital disruptions and we’ve got to start with that. What Amazon is doing in retail, affecting retail in particular, the rise of artificial intelligence, AI-enabled businesses, that’s going to change everything. It’ll lead to a necessity rescaling. McKinsey has a whole series of great studies that are being completed on what that means, what industries are going to be affected, and in what way. That’s clearly a gigantic disruption. The gig economy and how people are much more freelance than ever before changes the job of a manager. How do you manage people when you don’t necessarily have people that are your direct employees that happen to be your direct reports for periods of time? The fact that they’re all over the place and not in the same location requires all sorts of virtual techniques of management and leadership.

      All those things are going on. In the context of our conversation, perhaps the biggest disruption of them all is how people think about work and their jobs and their careers. There’s no question that millennials are spearheading that approach, but I have seen time and again how other generations, I’m part of the baby boom generation which is a very big generation in and of itself, many of us watch what millennials are doing and what they’re demanding and saying, “Why am I paying my dues for fifteen years before I get that opportunity? Why did I do that in the past?” We’re seeing a disruption now in how people think about their jobs. It leads to a much more fluid job market. It leads to having most talented people move and not necessarily stay with you in the same job or in the same team or even in the same organization. That requires a different approach to management and a different approach to leadership. You can’t just be fighting it.

      The most pointed way I could describe this is so many CEOs that I talk to and have talked to emphasize talent retention. Many companies have metrics on talent retention. I love great talent, I love to keep talent, but the truth is, that train has left the station. Talent retention is a very difficult thing to be trying to optimize even if we like it. Anyone who works in an organizational setting, even at a lower level, you have to realize that people are not going to be staying forever. As a result, you have to change how you manage those people. That’s a big part of what I ended up living in as well from Superboss. I consider that maybe the biggest disruption in them all.

      If you think of it as a funnel, the funnel was always get good people in and then put 90% of your effort into keeping it, talent retention. One of the shifts that’s happened is the whole funnel has opened up. You need to put a lot more of your efforts and attention in having a continuing stream of good people and then a lot more of your focus and attention in developing good people because good people aren’t going to stay as long. They’re going to leave just by the nature of the way work is changing.

      There’s a really important implication which is if I know that I’ve got some great woman or man on my team, and then they’re going to stay maybe two or three years, but I wouldn’t mind keeping five or six years, how am I going to do that? Yes, developing them, but also coming up with a game plan on what they want and how they think about their own career. What are their aspirations? Then you can reverse engineer that and say, “Here’s how I can help you fulfill those career aspirations. You’re going to do this job and that job, but I’m going to be open to moving you here. At some point, I may even be willing to help you get another job somewhere else,” which is ultra-radical thinking in traditional organizations. That’s what you got to do. That’s going to require a different mindset among a lot of managers and leaders.

      It is literally one of the biggest challenges companies and leaders are going to face in the next decade.

      Think about what happens if you don’t do that. You’re going to lose people anyways because you cannot force people to work for you. When I was describing this type of idea to a CEO, he said to me, “Why would I want to let my best people go? Why would I want to do that?” It’s so telling, those words, “Let my best people go.” As if any one of us have a controller over those who work for us. It doesn’t work that way. Especially today when you have a mindset of a freelance and gig economy and the type of movement we’re talking about, you can’t force people to work for you. As soon as you realize that, it’s time to wake up and say, “How can I be strategic about that? How can I think about that? How can I manage the flow of talent into, through and often out of my organization?” It turns out when you’re good at that, you’re going to have a value proposition for incoming talent that’s going to make you become a talent magnet. People are going to want to work for you because they know that if they spent two, four, five, eight years working for Karen, working for Sydney, working for whomever, that’s going to accelerate their careers. That’s what you got to do.

      There’s a scene in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, where one of the actresses is saying about Meryl Streep, who’s paying this famous head of a fashion magazine, “If work for her for two years as her assistant, I can go out and get a job in any publication.” They’re literally talking about that’s the reason people come to work for this woman. If you do it for two year and you tough it out, you can then make your career. It’s going to be a little bit like that. It’s going to be seen as a stepping stone and a place to go to your next place, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We have to get into that mindset rather than in the mindset that we’re habituated to, which is people stay for 30 or 40 years.

      I’ve also observed an interesting positive side effect of this, which is when you do all the things that these superboss leaders do to develop talents, to support people, and to unleash creativity, you create this incredible loyalty. It’s paradoxical because they intent of people is to move on and keep advancing their career, but they often end up staying longer than they otherwise would have because of all the great things that their boss is doing for them and with them.

      There are three themes that are very important to me that I like to ask each guest about. The first theme is what I call the joy of missing out. You know how everybody has a fear of missing out? We ought to practice the joy of missing out. One of the things I want to know is what is it that you think people have a fear of missing out on regarding leadership that in your opinion they shouldn’t? What should we have a joy of missing out on in regard to the larger leadership conversation?

      A lot of leaders want to advance because they like the power and they like the stuff that comes with their position. In the old days, it was very common to think about it in terms of corner office, a private parking spot, access to the executive dining room, and things like that. I say the old days facetiously, because it still exists today in many companies, which is a little bit crazy when you think about the power of breaking down boundaries. You’re much better off without any of that. You’re much better off doing what some of the superboss leaders did, which is sit down in the cafeteria with people that are two or three rugs below you in the hierarchy and just chat with them.

      Michael Miles was the CEO of Kraft in their hay day in the ‘80s. Under his leadership, many people and many of his protégés ended up becoming CEO of companies like Mattel and Gillette and CBS, Marks & Spencer, really incredible. He used to park in the distant parking lot to take the shuttle bus every day, even though he didn’t have to. He’d take the shuttle bus to talk to people casually as he was coming in. He looked for every opportunity to talk to people. The joy of missing out or the fear of missing out is you don’t want to isolate yourself. The higher up you go, very often organizations do this because of prestige or money or because of who knows what. The more you isolate yourself, the less you get to know what’s going on and the less fun it is.

      Another theme of this podcast is what I call living beyond the script. There’s this prevailing script as it relates to leadership. I’d love to know your point of view on how do you think we can go beyond the prevailing script that exists today about what leadership is and what effective leadership is.

      The view of leadership has changed over time and it’s very diverse. There are a lot of different approaches. There’s the vestiges of the Jack Welsh School, which is all about performance and pushing people hard, but there’s also a humanistic school. It maybe not quite as big as I personally like, but it’s still there. Helping other people improve their lives and their careers is one part of it. The second part of it is something that I’m seeing a trend towards that is different than in the past, which is in terms of public policy and speaking out about issues of the day. More and more CEOs are doing exactly that and part of it might be a reflection of the presidential administration in the US.

      Tim Cook of Apple is one of the most prestigious CEOs in the country, speaking out on things like gay rights, speaking out on things like immigration, and the need for open immigration. Previously, a lot of these conversations happen behind closed doors, but now there’s more open conversation and openly speaking out about this. That’s a big change and that’s a next generation type of leadership approach that I suspect will become more and more common. The reason I say that is millennials think this way and as a teacher of MBA students, average age is 28, I’ve seen over time how that mindset of these young people has shifted towards genuinely caring much more about not just the bottom line. They’re caring about that to be sure. They want to advance their careers, they want to be successful, but they’re caring about social issues, environmental issues, and human rights issues much more than ever before and that’s going to become part and parcel of what leaders are going to need to spend time doing, thinking about, and acting on.

      There has been for a long time a script that if you were a CEO, you stayed out of that and you handled it privately. One of the big changes in that script is people are starting to be way more public about it. The last thing I’d like to ask everyone about is I call this the everyday artist. Every person who works, some of what they do is art and some of what they do is science. In what way do you consider yourself to be an artist in your work?

      I think of myself as an entrepreneur and I haven’t used the word artist in general, but it is quite a apropos. As a researcher, I am a social scientist, and so I do very careful research where I collect a lot of data and I go through multiple stages of research with a big research team. In some ways, a lot of the research I do is all about science or social science. The differentiator for me for successful or best or most impactful research, the stuff I’ve always found to be the most interesting and most fun is around creativity and asking the right questions. It’s one of my litmus test before I started working on a big project that may become a book. I talk to people that are not in my field, they are not professors, they are not necessarily CEOs or senior executives. I tell them what I’m thinking about doing and we talk about it. I want to know whether they think it’s interesting and I try to get that feedback.

      Even in that regard, I’m collecting data on a creative idea. There’s the teaching side, which I use the Socratic method. It’s very much of a choreography in each class and there is an absolute art to it. I teach sometimes multiple sections of the same material, the same course, and each class starts the same way and ends the same way but through the 90 or the 88 minutes in between, it goes through a very different path. Being able to be flexible and adaptable and really immerse yourself in that process of creation is one of the most fun things about what I do. I don’t know if that’s being the artist or not, but it’s certainly a much more organic way of thinking about doing what I do.

      TTP 24 | Superbosses Book

      Superbosses Book: Always do more than what other people expect of you. Create things differently, do your job, always look to extend and stretch.

      You were designated one of the top 25 global thinkers on management gurus by Thinkers 50. How does that feel? How do you think you get to a place like that? What’s your secret sauce of getting to a place like that?

      It’s always good to be recognized by peers and others, so you can’t pretend otherwise. There’s a reason why people show up at the Academy Awards and the Emmy’s and the Golden Globes. We are people, we all have egos. I plead guilty, I liked it. There are a lot of paths to being recognized in whatever your field is. I never mind being recognized but there are a lot of paths to being one of the best in your field. What is common is number one, always doing more than what other people expect of you. That might mean creating things differently, doing your job, whatever it happens to be, but always looking to extend and stretch and stretch that.

      Number two, good old fashioned hard work. There is no replacement for that. I don’t consider what I do work, so that’s a beautiful thing. I love it that much, so maybe that’s the first thing I should say, find a field of endeavor or job or career track where Sunday night feels just as good as Friday night because you just love it, you love what you’re doing. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Then I would say, and this is critical, you have to want to do something or say something or create something that is different than what anyone else has done. Just following best practices and just doing what others have done and doing it more efficiently can lead to a very successful career and that’s okay. Maybe there are a bunch of CEOs that have done that and that’s moved up step-by-step.

      If you want to be noted, if you want to have that long-term impact in your field, you want to be able to create. You have to be interested in and have the ability to create something brand new, whether that’s a new way of thinking, in my field, whether that’s a book with new ideas, whether it’s something more artistic, or even in a traditional business setting, whether it’s coming up with an innovative, new approach to competing in your marketplace. Finally, if you’re an entrepreneur, that’s what you do. You’re creating something. Just doing what everyone else has done is boring. If you don’t have that mindset, it would be very difficult to end up getting to the top of any of any field that you’re in.

      It’s the art, not the science.

      In most fields, most good people have the toolbox. They all know how to do the basic stuff and maybe more than just the basic stuff. The people that differentiate are the ones that are able to think creatively, think entrepreneurially, and have this skill set that I would say is one part being analytical and being able to drill down to understand what are the most important concerns. At the same time, have this creative or entrepreneurial side that allows you to come up with a novel approach to whatever that critical issue is. Those jewels skills are not evenly distributed in the world.

      I was talking with Melissa Schilling, who came out with a book, Quirky, about innovators. What she found when she looked at Steve Jobs and all of these various innovators was very similar to what you’re saying, which is these people not only have a vision, but they absolutely think and are willing to do things differently. They are not just following that standard script, and that was consistent with every innovator she found.

      I’m not surprised by that. Melissa’s book is great, by the way. That’s exactly right. It’s very consistent with my own experiences as well.

      Sydney, thank you so much for the time to be on the podcast.

      Karen, what a great conversation. You put me on my toes.

      Thank you. My guest has been Steve Finkelstein. He is the Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is also the author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent.

      Important Links


      About Sydney Finkelstein

      TTP 24 | Superbosses BookSydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Professor Finkelstein has published 22 books and 85 articles, including the #1 bestseller Why Smart Executives Fail. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management and a top 25 on the global Thinkers 50 list of top management gurus. His latest bestselling book is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, which LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls the “leadership guide for the Networked Age.”


      Listen | Download | View

      Hear the episode of the Competitive Advantage Podcast by using the player above OR Click to Download any Episode

      This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

      Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, (Entrepreneur Press, 2016) is available online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and in bookstores now.