“So you were how old when all this happened?”
In a cozy coffee shop in the heart of downtown Nashville, I stared at my new friend in disbelief. He’d tricked me. When I got his email, the request was “will you teach me what you know about _____”
That didn’t happen much. I was the one being taken to school.
We bounced around topic to topic:
- the future of Snapchat (he’s bullish)
- to Transhumanism (“If Elon Musk is on board, so am I”),
- to the billion-dollar salesman (which is apparently a thing).
I knew he was young, but when we dove into his previous work, I had to wonder if the two of us were existing in entirely different universes. At 21(!), he has already experienced nearly 100,000 people giving him attention online, invitations to speak at prestigious events, and massive traditional media attention.
What I should have done was ask him the secret. Instead, I sucked down my now-lukewarm cappuccino and soaked in the sweet bliss of being the dumbest person in the room.
This headline may be confusing if you are keeping score, since last week I wrote the opposite headline.
The problem with age is its ambiguity. I have met 85-year-olds and 19-year old with very similar skills and outlooks on life. Age does matter. Maybe. Sometimes. Or it doesn’t. Maybe. In the right context.
Here is what definitely matters:
Gusto — enjoyment or vigor in doing something; zest
This word is my second-favorite gift from the Italians (pizza is first). Talent is fine, but gusto is a multiplier. If success is a formula, it probably looks something like this:
Success = (Talent * Gusto ) — Emotional Baggage.
You remember in elementary school where they taught you what happens to things multiplied by zero?
Nobody in the coffee shop would have been able to guess my friend’s age. Why? His image was immaculate.
A black suit framed a black V neck t shirt. He had a tech wearable on his wrist. When he walked in the door, he apologized to me while he finished up a call on the bluetooth headset sticking out of an ear.
He was fashionable, but not stiff. Every article of clothing or accessory on his body spelled out who he was: impressive, bold, hip, smart. He was the living embodiment of success.
You don’t have to look like this. But it helps to look the way you want to be perceived. Looks matter.
Or at the very least, conversational competence.
It’s okay if you don’t feel you are charismatic. Here is how to fake it:
- Buy the coffee/lunch/drink**
- Show appreciation***
- Practice all these things
/*Loneliness is an epidemic. Especially in America. Charisma is rarely more than making other people feel important.
/**As often as possible. Even if they fight you on it. This is the easiest way to tangibly say “thank you for spending time with me”
/*** i.e. this:
d) Encyclopedia Brown
is a fictional child detective.
One time, he defended a young classmate from a bully (whose name was probably Roger or Butch or something) by pointing out the case of the missing watch could easily be solved by the fact our Bully had a tan line on his wrist.
At age 10, I remember thinking “who could possibly notice that?”
Encyclopedia Brown noticed it because that is what Encylopedia Brown does best. Encyclopedia would often be given unsolvable police cases by his father (which seems illegal now that I’m writing it), and he would crack them in a matter of pages.
Here’s what matters — doing what only you can do. Finding other people to do what you can’t.
My successful young friend brought a colleague to coffee. His name was Hugs. Hugs produces video for my friend because despite his deep knowledge on the revenue of Salesforce (a lot), he does not find much pleasure in editing video.
So he doesn’t do it.
e) Domain Knowledge
Memorizing the names and dates when your favorite companies were created makes you look good in conversation. Being able to recall the formulas or studies which defined your industry is also nice.
But regurgitating facts is a relic of the industrial area, right? What is the point of knowing a lot?
Here’s the point — everything is an analogy. When you can connect the past and present. It’s much easier to see the future.
“Knowledge is not a side effect of doing important work for a generation. It is the important foundation that makes it possible to do important work. ”
— Seth Godin (emphasis added)
Not: “quit doing all the dumb stuff.”
Instead: “quit doing some of the okay stuff to get to the best stuff.”
If we all have the same amount of time in every day, what makes the difference between those who are deeply entrenched in a life they love and those who are less than satisfied?
The answer — Relentless prioritization.
Today, do 30 seconds more of the work you enjoy. Try to do this every day — adding 30 seconds of work each day. If you keep this up for 2 weeks, you will be doing seven more minutes of meaningful activity.
Eventually your 30 seconds will interfere with another part of life.
At this point, you have to make the toughest decisions. That’s okay though. You’re up for the challenge.
g) A support system
On Tuesday night, I meet with 3 other guys. We wear grungy T-shirts and sit around in poor lighting talking with each other on a video call.
Sometimes, we all solve a particular business problem. Sometimes, we laugh about terrible jokes. Sometimes, we sympathize because one of our girlfriends is being removed from the country. Sometimes, we mourn because one of us lost a baby.
All times, we are there for each other.
As soon as the red light turns on, I can see her knees lock.
Her jaw gets a little bit flushed, her eyes bulge out just a touch, and her kind expression turns wooden as she stares down the camera.
She says to me: “I just can’t get comfortable.”
First of all, don’t say the word can’t . Either that, or add the word “yet” to the end of that sentence.
Second, you don’t have to know how old this woman is to understand she lacks confidence on camera. She does not have a domain knowledge problem. She does not have a charisma problem. She has a lack of confidence.
Here’s the excellent news about confidence. It is always specific. If you are confident and excellent in one area, that’s enough. (see point D again).
Not exactly your support system.
If I need a UX design, I know exactly who I would call. When my bookkeeping gets out of hand, I could send an email to someone and have an answer in 3 hours. The website is down? Let me message Ben.
The more you can say “I have a guy for that,” the stronger your network.
Pro tip: Get a guy for knowing a guy for that.
Not exactly gusto.
Gusto is a way of moving through life. Desire is focused gusto. You can live with gusto whether you are eating ice cream or posting on Instagram or attending a meeting. Desire is I need pistachio ice cream right now or I will gain followers or I must make efficient use of time.
k) Singleness of Purpose
At any given moment, you know exactly where you are moving in a certain direction. That’s how you know what to do with those 30 seconds you are rescuing.
Singleness of purpose reduces the decision time needed for any new activity. It’s the difference between “I am hungry” and “I am ready to eat lunch at Chili’s and I will have the double bacon burger with cheese.”
In practical terms, “I want to be famous,” vs. “I will dominate YouTube with 2 new videos a week.”
l) Creating new things
Anyone can be a critic. If you don’t believe me, check what you do the next time you’re watching previews before the film starts.
It takes a much different approach to learn, to adapt, to absorb, to implement.
Most of us encourage the inner critic because we would rather not face the fact we might fail. Failure might mean the worst things we think about ourselves might be true.
They are. And that’s okay.
How to create new things
At some point, I decided new ideas were the key to better health, more money, more growth, and more happiness.
I was right.
That’s why I wrote the book — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas — which you can get for the price of an email address.
Much love as always,