Michael Bungay Stainer is founder and CEO of Box of Crayons and author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. He’s also written Do More Great Work: Stop the Busy Work, Start the Work that Matters.
Box of Crayons is a company that helps organizations do less good work and more great work. Michael is a teacher of 10 minute coaching, to help busy managers and leaders build stronger teams and get better results. Michael is someone that I’ve met through Marshall Goldsmith’s MG 100 and his book is a kind of book that when I learned of it, I started to see it and hear it about it everywhere. I picked it up and I found that it’s an extraordinarily useful little book. Michael says in this interview that he was his aim to write the shortest book possible that was still useful. He also talks about the best question in the world, which he shares in this interview and how to use it, and why you would want to.
Michael was the first Canadian coach of the year in 2006, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and he has written for all kinds of publications. Michael is a very smart, thoughtful, engaging thought leader who can help you become a better whatever you already are. Enjoy.
02:47 – What’s life about?
10:36 – Creating books as an experience.
13:52 – Two ways of using stories.
18:06 – A great opening question.
22:46 – Finishing a conversation.
32:57 – Lightning round.
44:34 – Lessons learned.
Bryan: 00:54 Today my guest is Michael Bungay Stainer, founder and CEO of Box of Crayons and author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. He’s also written Do More Great Work, Stop the Busy Work, Start the Work that Matters. Box of Crayons is a company that helps organizations do less good work and more great work. Michael is a teacher of 10 minute coaching to help busy managers and leaders build stronger teams and get better results. Michael is someone that I’ve met through Marshall Goldsmith’s MG 100 and his book is a kind of book that when I learn of it I started to see it and hear it about it everywhere. I picked it up and I found that it’s an extraordinarily useful little book. You could read it on a short flight. Michael says in this interview that he was his aim to write the shortest book possible that was still useful and he also talks about the best question in the world, which he shares in this interview and how to use it, why you would want to. Michael was the first Canadian coach of the year in 2006, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and he has written for all kinds of publications. We don’t get into this in the interview, but he says in his bio that he was sued by one of his law school lecturers for defamation and he was banned from his high school graduation for the balloon incident. So Michael is definitely a contrarian with a very useful point of view. Michael is a very smart, thoughtful, engaging thought leader who can help you become a better whatever you already are. Enjoy.
Bryan: 02:29 Michael, welcome to the school for good living podcast.
Michael: 02:34 Bryan, I’m excited to be here.
Bryan: 02:34 Thank you for having me. Yes, it’s a pleasure. We’ve been through a lot just to get to this moment. I’m so, so grateful.
Michael: 02:41 If only people knew the adventures we’ve been on just to get to this moment. They’d be listening even more intently.
Bryan: 02:47 Yes. So Michael, I want to start with my favorite question for Uber drivers. What’s life about?
Michael: 02:57 Oh man, do your interviews go off the rails immediately when you ask that question, as people run into a philosophical challenge about what’s the point of this life? Well, here’s what I think life is about. So to start off with, I’m an atheist. So I’m like, you’re here once you’re making a good life of it, you squeeze the lemon as much as you can while you’re here on earth. You make it a better place for people and then you’re done. And our life is wonderfully inconsequential. You know, there’s like vast amount of blackness stretching out one way, vast amount of blackness, stretching it the other way. And when tiny pinprick of light in the middle, that’s my life. So I’m like, on the one hand, everything I do matters not a jot. In the big scheme of things, I’m entirely irrelevant. On the other hand, this is my one kick of the can, so I’d better squeeze the most of it that I can enjoy it the best that I can feel as joyful as I can and try and contribute to a better world. So, the way that that gets articulated for me personally, there’s been kind of, my individual mission is to infect a billion people with the possibility virus. So that’s the, the mission, if you like I came up with some years ago, which still speaks to me. And what I like about it, you know, infect a billion people with the possibility virus. It’s an unusual metaphor, but what I think makes for a better life, and this comes from one of my mentors, Peter Block, he said, look, it’s about giving people responsibility for their own freedom. Because it’s such a powerful loaded phrase that, cause I think what that means is you say to people, kind of an existential philosophy here. Hey, this is your life. You take responsibility for the choices you make for the way you show up in this world. And for me, I would love to contribute to allowing as many people as possible to make the boldest, bravest, most courageous, most elegant choices. Because my assumption is if I allow people to do that, then they too make the world a better place. Yeah. There’s my philosophy around the, it’s all pointless, but it’s wonderfully pointless.
Bryan: 05:16 Yeah. Now it’s, it’s beautiful. I love that perspective. And what you said about helping people to take responsibility for their own freedom. That’s an interesting, that’s an interesting view because my experience is many people, they don’t like responsibility. I mean I love freedom, but they don’t want the responsibility. How, how’s it going with that?
Michael: 05:37 Yeah, well it’s difficult because um, it is in many ways more comfortable to not take responsibility for your own freedom. I mean, Peter Block again, he says, look, how does the nature of showing up as an adult in your own life. So taking responsibility for your own freedom means taking responsibility for the choices you make. And he says, look, when you do that, two things show up. Guilt and anxiety. Guilt because it’s like what about the choices that I’m not making? What about the things I’m saying no to? And then anxiety around, have I said right? Yes to the right thing as well. So it is uncomfortable and it also opens up a way of being in this world that is more powerful. But when you think that there’s lots of people who go just better if I didn’t have to make my choices, though, I blamed others for that. And there are lots of institutions that say, why do we infantilize you to kind of put it really bluntly so that we’ve got this collusion going on, which is we’ll tell you what to do. You don’t have to take responsibility for your choices. And that if that kind of work, it works at institution, it works enough for the people. But I wonder if it’s working well enough for the planet and for the earth and for life. So, um, so it’s, infect a billion people with possibility virus. It’s partly, it’s a great challenge because it’s damn near impossible. But it allows me to also think part of what I like about the metaphor of infection is that it also means that it can be just about me trying to do stuff to people. It’s more about what can I release into the world that’s useful and provocative and encourages and challenges people to seek the best of themselves.
Bryan: 07:33 Well and I love what the way you’re going about it, or at least the part of it I can see with the coaching and with your, with your book, The Coaching Habit. Um, this is a book for me. That was one of those where, you know, I’d never heard of the book, I didn’t know who you were and then all of a sudden was everywhere.
Michael: 07:50 How is that even possible! I’m kidding.
Bryan: 07:51 Well, once, yeah, once you crossed the threshold of my awareness, it really was one of those that was like, wow. It showed up in an entrepreneur’s organization training I was a part of, I saw it in the airport. It was, you know, the thing people were talking about online. And I’ve loved this, I loved this book because of its simplicity and because of its power. And I’m wondering if you would talk a little bit about this book, who you wrote it for and what you want it to do for them.
Michael: 08:18 Yeah. The book’s been an amazing, delightful success. I mean where, we’re recording this on the 26th of February and we launched it the 29th of February, 2016. So a leap year day because at the time of his life, so he’s what’s troubling about this, it will take four years to get to it’s first birthday. So I’ve got four years to claim. I sold X number in its first birthday.
Bryan: 08:41 Yeah. Tony Robbins was born on leap day. Did you know that?
Michael: 08:44 I didn’t know any of that.
Bryan: 08:46 So your book shares the birthday with Tony Robbins?
Michael: 08:48 Well that’s a, that’s a fine thing. Um, and you know, sold over half a million copies and that after it was turned down by the publishing house and I self published it. So it’s a bunch of success. It’s delightful and surprising and wonderful. I wrote it for a very specific person, I think that’s part of why it was successful. I mean there’s a degree to which you just get a bit of fairy dust sprinkling over if you’re selling as many copies. So there’s luck involved, but it’s not all luck. And I wrote it. First of all, I did try and write it and go, I hope this is universal. I hope it speaks to anybody who interacts with other human beings because showing up just they curious a little bit longer and rush to action and advice. Giving a little bit more slowly, which is how I talk about coaching. Is it useful still for everybody and anybody. But for this book I’m like, okay, here’s the question I’m aiming for. She is a director or a VP in an organization. She has a team. She’s committed to the work. She likes her team. She likes her job. She’s busy. She’s probably a bit overwhelmed. She’s going, how do I get to that next level of enabling my people to fulfill their potential and have the impact that they want to have and feel engaged and fulfilled and how do I get that for myself. And she walks and she travels for business. She sees the book in the airport. You know, this could be interesting. She picks it up. When you flip it open, it’s designed to have quite a lot of white space and to look inviting. Too many books look a bit intimidating when you open them up its like a dense block of text and you’re like, oh, it’s hard to read.
Bryan: 10:32 Yeah, I love, it’s colorful. It’s friendly, right? It’s, it’s open.
Michael: 10:36 I want people to look at it and go, you know we’re going to two hour flight. I could probably read most of this and the two hour flight, which is true. It’s my goal was to write the shortest book I could that would still be useful. So I cut out a lot to lean book and that’s who I write for. So I had a really specific person, not just a person who is reading it, but I was imagining the buying process because for me the design and the experience of the book is as important as what goes into it as well. And I think it’s something that people miss in terms of the book experience that they might be creating, which is this book has to feel awesome because you are competing with social media, which is just a lot more exciting. You know, its had social media had $8 trillion invested into to make it entertaining and addictive and the thing people want to do all the time. What book is competing with that. So it better be a pretty good book. Not just the words in it, but the experience of it.
Bryan: 11:37 You’re the first person I’ve talked to in nearly 30 interviews, who’s talked about creating a book as an experience, like the, the act of having the book, reading the book, maybe even buying the book, being an experience. Tell me, has it worked?
Michael: 11:52 Well, I mean we’ve sold over half a million copies. The feedback we get from people is typically, this book made me laugh out loud, which was important for me because so many business books just take themselves way too seriously and there were a bit tedious and they’re a bit dry. Um, this book felt super practical. This book was a delight to read. You know I remember sitting in one meeting and for a big sports apparel company and the guy going, you know, you sent us these books. I don’t read books and I just, but I know I picked this up and it just started because I just did and I accidentally finished reading it. And I’m like, that’s what I love to hear. And they’re like, you could have it, it kept you engrossed enough that you couldn’t find the reason to put it down. There wasn’t a moment where you went and were boring, theoretical and tedious cause too many books. I mean you can see it ruin my, on my floor down, there’s piles and piles of books that people send me and I buy, and too many of them, I started reading a chapter and I’m like, uh, I kinda, I don’t know if I can go on. So you go to, you’re going to find that experience to pull people through the book.
Bryan: 13:13 Yeah, the humor in the book does that. Um, I’ve actually read your book twice once before I knew you and then I finished it again last night and I am grateful that you made it a short book and a funny book and a useful book. And one of the things I want to ask you about is tell me about the decision to not use a lot of stories in the book, right? Like that’s a, that’s obviously a staple of a lot of business literature is there’s either a composite figure, you know who’s meant to teach you something or there are actual people that you draw something from, but you didn’t do that. Tell me about that.
Michael: 13:52 Well, there’s, there’s two ways of, of using stories. The first is when you fableize a book. So classic Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. And I have a master’s degree in literature. So I know what a really good story with really great characters and a really great art to it looks like. And most fable books drive me crazy. Really. Patrick Lencioni’s are pretty good and there’s still pretty terrible as a story. It was a piece of fiction and his are way better than most. So I was like, I can’t write a fable because I couldn’t do it without parody and just disintegrating into some miserable experience. And I know I’m a good writer. I’m a great reader of fiction, I’m not a great writer of fiction. And then the other is the style of story, um, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell and it just feels like it’s been done to death. I mean, if I have to read yet another chapter opening where he goes, Bryan Miller was a good looking man who strode into the room, put his paper down on the desk, setback on is creaky old chair, adjusted the paper on his desk, leaned across and said, what’s up with this? It’s just that whole, ah, that’s seen settings. It has been done to death. Now you’re all bad parodies of Malcolm Gladwell. And so I’m like okay, for me, there’s a driver to, to, I just have a weird wiring and partly it’s like I wanted to be different from what’s out there. If this is the way people are doing it, how do I not do it that way? And I also just thought that, um, I wasn’t sure is the stories truly we’re going to contribute to the experience because it’s, um, as soon as you. When we do our training, we teach people these coaching skills. We don’t do case studies and we don’t do, um, kind of what do you call it, uh, where you’re pretending to be somebody who’s pretending to coach you. We, we get people to coach on real stuff about themselves. So it’s a real experience. So not role plays, but real play as they say. It didn’t feel right to put kind of role plays in the book. Now I’m just in the dark valley of self loathing and despair, trying to write the next book, which is a kind of a deeper dive around the practicalities of coaching. Um,
Bryan: 16:21 What’s your, what’s your working title for this book?
Michael: 16:24 The working title is How to Tame Your Advice Monster because people, they, advice is a metaphor that we used in the book and uh, it’s one of the things that seems to have really struck a chord for people. And we are playing around with visualizing a script or visualizing a flow for people so that they can see how somebody might roll out. So quite a story, but it says little bit bringing the experience to life.
Bryan: 16:48 One thing that worked well for me about the book was how the seven questions that you present, you know, they really do have a power individually and then using them together. I mean, I think it’s probably like anything like questions or tools right into the hands of a craftsman as a different result than in the hands of a hack. But even still the way you point this out, busy people can use these tools effectively in a very short period of time. Will you talk a little bit about both, what was your decision, how did you arrive at those seven and what could a busy manager, busy, busy leader, if there was even just one insight that you could share from those that they could apply, you know, when they park their car from listening to this podcast and walk into the building or whatever.
Michael: 17:34 Yeah. So, um, the process of getting the seven questions just was a period of time. I mean I wrote a bunch of bad versions of this book before I wrote the version that ended up in the world. The first version was my favor and 167 questions around coaching. Cause there’s a lot of great questions out there, a lot of those like, this would be great. I would write, I’ll write two pages on every question about why it works and then they will have this compendium of awesome questions.
Bryan: 18:01 Sounds pretty good. Sounds okay. I’d, I’d read that blog post. I mean at least look.
Michael: 18:06 What actually happened is no one can remember anything. It’s overwhelming. It’s like, it’s good in theory, but in practice I can’t use it. I mean I’ve got Warren Berger’s book, A Beautiful Question on my shelf and it’s a lovely book and it’s articulate about the power of curiosity and specific questions and unlocking innovation. And they’re like, but can I tell you a single question that he champions? No I can’t really, cause he’s got too many and my brain can’t hold that much data. So then I was like, maybe i’ll make it four question. Four isn’t enough. Maybe it’s the nine questions. And I wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote this list until it got down to the seven. And I’m like this feels like simplicity on the other side of complexity. So I got to that thing by trial and error and just whittling around and playing with it until it felt robust and as variety and as elegant as I could make it. And then you asked about, so somebody listening to this, what should they, what should you know, the beginning of the car that was like, that was an interesting conversation. But here’s the one thing I want to remember. So behind the book, The Coaching Habit is the invitation to shift your behavior because that’s how we measure success. Are you going to do something different? And what I would suggest that almost every single person listening to this conversation, even the people who would self identify as coaches, uh, still advice giving maniacs. I mean we are just wired to move into the, I want to tell people what to do. I’ve been trained all my life that I get rewarded for having the answer to, to the conversation we were having before about the responsibility for our own freedom. People look to me for the answer. I’ve been promoted and rewarded and encouraged all my life to have the answer. The way I feel like I add value best in the role, whatever roll I have be it manager or a leader, an entrepreneur, a parent is to have the answer. We love having the answer. So the behavior change that we invite people to consider is can you stay curious a little bit longer? Can you rush to action and advice giving a little bit more slowly. So not saying never give advice. It’s just saying can you stay curious a little bit longer and that’s hard. It is actually sounds easier than it is and what I would encourage people to experiment with is perhaps first of all, just see if you can notice how quickly you default to giving advice, how quickly the advice works in your brain starts going to tell them what to do. It’s about, most people it’s about 15 seconds into a conversation and you’re like, I already know you’re telling me about a complex human situation. I don’t know the context. I don’t know the people. I don’t know what’s really going on, but I’ve got some ideas on how you should behave in this. And then perhaps there’s a question around if you, if you want to try some stuff out, pick a question and see if you can ask it once or twice more than you would otherwise ask it today. You know, I, I’ll give you three questions that are easy to build into any conversation. The first is a question to start a conversation. What’s on your mind? It’s the kickstart question in the book. And rather than starting a meeting with somebody who was an agenda, always chit chat, just your, hey, okay, let’s jump into it. What’s on your mind?
Bryan: 21:42 It is a powerful question and I’ve realized, you know, I do a lot of work now where I invite people to do a one word open. Right? And I love because you get a sense of, I mean sometimes I wish we could have a little thought bubble above our head that just said like grumpy or elated. Right. And so this question does effectively the same thing, but it invites people to elaborate. It gives them control, you know, this kind of thing. So yeah, I love that. What’s on your mind
Michael: 22:08 I’ll tell you another uh, opening if, if, is it kind of as a facilitator to a facilitator? I actually like postcards and I have a postcards all over the place and I try and collect ones that are quirky or different or interesting or spark a reaction in some way. And I’ll sometimes do is I’ll just spray a bunch of postcards on the table or on the floor. I say pick up the postcard that summarizes how you’re feeling right now. And then they hold it up and then the whole picture is worth a thousand words. Like, let me tell you why I’ve picked the rooster on top of that barn blah blah blah blah. They are on their away. It was just something like that.
Bryan: 22:44 I love that you were giving me three questions and I.
Michael: 22:46 First one an opening one, what’s on your mind? The second is a closing one which is how you might choose to finish a conversation. Cause loose this one particularly in businesses but in general as well. Mostly we kind of rush away from a conversation. We don’t nail the learning. We don’t celebrate the moment. The question that I think is really great at the end of a conversation as what was most useful or most valuable here for you? We call that the learning question in the book. And if you take on your role as a teacher, and I think being a teacher you’re formally for sure, but informally is a role that all of us to play and you think to yourself, my job is to help people learn so they’re better and smarter after having interacted with me. It’s useful to understand how people learn. They don’t learn when you tell them stuff and they don’t learn when they really do stuff. They learn when they have a moment to reflect on what just happened. And when you finish a chat with somebody that when you finish this podcast with Bryan and me, you might ask yourself what was most useful and most valuable about this podcast for you? And you can see how immediately it turns this from being a interesting conversation between two very good looking guys to you actually go, hey, I’m extracting what’s most useful and it engages you in a different way in this podcast. And then the third question is what we would call the best coaching question in the world the AWE question, A W E and AWE stands for And What Else? And it just carries the insight that the person’s first answer to a question is never their only answer and it’s rarely their best answer. So when you ask a question, follow it up by saying, great, what else? Know what’s on your mind. Great. What else is on your mind? What’s the challenge here for you? Okay. What’s the other challenge here? What else is a challenge here for you? What do you want, okay, what else do you want? Doesn’t really matter what the question is you can add And What Else afterwards. And it’s a great tool to help you stay curious a little bit longer. Which remember is what we’re trying to get in terms of a behavior shift.
Bryan: 24:56 Yeah. And what you’ve said there about the, and you know what’s most important here for you. Like I, I love that the power of that being, you know, because it’s never about really what it’s about, right? It’s never about this situation is never about the other person. And you actually make a statement in the book to that effect about when you’re talking about other people, what you’re really talking about is relationship. And more specifically your role in that relationship. So to be able to ask that question, that and what else, or what’s most important here for you. That’s such one of those simple things that so powerful, so profound.
Michael: 25:31 Yeah. I just, I mean I knew I looked remarkably young but somehow I’m actually older than. I’m surprised to be 50 something at the moment. So I’ve been doing this coaching thing on and off for a while and just, I’ve just seen that you don’t need many questions, but if you can ask good questions and ask them really specifically you know, and that art of adding for you onto the end of questions often is a way of deepening and personalizing your conversation. Cause now you know the, the, the jargon of that is saying is you stop coaching the task, you start coaching the person. And for you is a way that the spotlight and the conversation turns from the challenge, whatever the topic is, to the person dealing with the challenge and that’s much more powerful for them and honestly more interesting for you.
Bryan: 26:22 Yeah. And I think you mentioned that, I think you refer to that as coaching for growth versus coaching for performance. Right. And what a difference it is. I mean, ultimately at some level we know that every organization, every team is made of individuals, but sometimes we forget that. And I think the most effective leaders, the most effective coaches, which by the way you talk about this, I think you mentioned something that was written in, in HBR about the six leadership styles?
Michael: 26:49 Daniel Goldman, his article is called Leadership That Gets Results. And he says there are six leadership styles. Great leaders use all six of them. Most leaders use two to three of them. Coaching is one of the six, it’s the least utilized of the, of the leadership skills.
Bryan: 27:07 Yeah, no, I think there’s, I think there’s a lot of truth in that and the power of, you know, these relatively simple questions asked with care, you know, at the right time, you know, in some case the right sequence. Um, I think, I think it’s really profound and you’ve done, I think just a masterful job. Not only, you know, laying those out, but also explaining why, including one of the things I think you did really well was where you did, although you didn’t include a lot of stories, you did include research, which I think Lindsey, right, was your researcher. And would you talk a little bit about how that came about and, and what, like why that worked so well.
Michael: 27:46 Well, you know, I, um, I love making models up. I love making, I love designing process and tools. And there’s a degree to which in these days get kind of just made stuff up. You have to have a little bit of science behind it to say there’s something here beyond the fact that I am, you know, I, I come from a place of privilege. I am a six foot two overeducated straight white middle class man. I’m like born to have authority. And I think leadership and men and the rising in leadership and management is dominated by people like me and people like you Bryan. Like we are the, you know, you look for women’s voices in writing on leadership and management and they’re there, but they’re vastly outnumbered. You look for people of color, they’re barely there, that you have to look really hard for them. Um, so part of what I want to insure is it’s not just another white dude pontificating on, hey, I made this worked for me. I’m just going to proclaim it as some sort of universal truth because I said so. There’s a degree to which a lot of, I experience a lot of business books that say that. This is my experience. It’s true. And I’m like, obviously my experiences are true because I’m Michael. But I thought it was also useful to go, let me find the science behind that. So, uh, you know, Lindsey was, I found Lindsay because she was Adam Brauns researcher and it was Adam Braun writes a good book and his stuff is rigorous and its research. So I was like, I’ll find the guy that helped the woman helps Adam Braun to help me. So she and I worked together and she would take the question and I go, is there any, any, is there any here, here. She’d go out and look around and find some research. And then we try and make it condensed and useful because some people want it and some people don’t. So it’s a little section at the end of each chapter. It’s from our little lab.
Bryan: 30:01 Yeah. And I do think it was a nice balance of both kind of validating the content but also adding, you know, the best learning is when you don’t know you’re learning. And so the kind of part about where research showed that when, again, going back to the words for you, showed that people solve mathematical questions more accurately,
Michael: 30:23 Blows your mind around some of this stuff. I mean, and it speaks to how, how influenceable we are in terms of human beings. You the whole science of behavioral economics and you know, the book nudge and the life and just how tiny little acts of priming people gives them a completely different experience in a situation. So, uh, people going in, I’m going to get this slightly wrong, but bear with me. There’s this test where people are going in to be tested on something and half the people walk down the corridor and they sit down and they do the test. The other half will walk out in the same corridor but they walk by an old person, when using a walker frame moving really slowly. And those people do worse on the test because that experience has depleted something in them. I was like wow, that happens. And then there’s this wine tasting experience. So they’re tasting, these in a nice room. There’s music playing, there’s people taste these different wines. One tasted, they’re like, oh, it’s light and fruity and vivacious. Then two, it’s this. And then three and it’s that and for it’s kind of rich and dark and stormy. And uh, and what they did is for wine number one. And why number four, they were the same wine, but they played different music as the background. For the wine number one, they played for valley. You know, it’s like, did you do light spring light music when they were taking the same wine the second time they’re playing Vagner. So it’s big and they, the wines different. Oh my God. If we are that easily influenced by the experience we have and then we put it through this filter that goes, I’m a rational human being, nothing like that would influence me. It just says you can do so much with precision in language and the way you show up.
Bryan: 32:27 Yeah, no, no question. Well then that was the point you made too about that, um, what’s most valuable here for you? Right, about formulating. I mean there were a lot of ways you could have written that question, but the one you ended up with, that version being so powerful because of all of the implications it has, that there was something valuable that, you know, you were, that you wanted to remember it, you know, like all of this. That’s it’s uh, it worries me sometimes about the influences of the unscrupulous folks. I might be, you know.
Michael: 32:54 With great power comes great responsibility, etc, etc.
Bryan: 32:57 Yeah, no doubt. Okay. I want to switch gears and, um, and ask you the lightning round. I think we’ll probably end with this. And before I do, just to make sure I get this in here, I want to, I want to do two things. First, I want to express my gratitude to you for being a guest on The School For Food Living Podcast.
Michael: 33:17 My pleasure.
Bryan: 33:18 And one way I’ve, I’m a small token of my appreciation. I’ve gone online to kiva.org the micro lending side and I’ve made $100 microloan to an entrepreneur in India named [inaudible]. She’s a 47 year old married woman living in Manipur. She has a small weeding business. He’s got a family with five members. She earns about 157 US dollars a month, the equivalent of that. But she’s gonna use this money to purchase thread and needles and other weaving supplies to help her expand her business.
Michael: 33:46 Awesome. Thank you. So, fantastic, I appreciate that.
Bryan: 33:51 Now it’s my, it’s my pleasure. And then the other thing I want to do, I want to make sure to get in here and not just leave until the very end, but people want to learn more from you where they want to connect with you. What should they do?
Michael: 34:02 Yeah, that’s a really good question. Easiest place to go to his boxofcrayons.com. That we’ll see that that’s turned over the years into a kind of a, we sell our corporate programs through boxofcrayons.com if you go to MichaelBungayStanier.com, it’s not much of that website. There is a page to sign up and get a book on tactics to do great work. I think. I’m not sure on some sort of giveaway, but it’s an opportunity to jump onto my mailing list. I put out a newsletter every six weeks or thereabouts, nothing too serious. Then if you want to connect with me, if you Google Michael Bungay Stanier, you’ll find social media and Linkedin and the like.
Bryan: 34:44 Awesome.
Michael: 34:45 Thanks for asking. I should say look, um, the coachinghabit.com so that’s the website of the book. There’s a ton of the book downloadable for free and videos and podcast interviews and the like. So whether or not you want to connect with me, there’s a lot you can just pillage off their website. So feel free to do that.
Bryan: 35:04 Well and that reminds me, and even just hearing the name boxofcrayons.com about the, there’s a little piece you did on Youtube about fun. The eight indispensable
Michael: 35:14 Irresistible principles of fun.
Bryan: 35:16 That’s right. The eight irresistible principles of fun. Will you just say a few sentences about, I might think this was self evident, but um, I’m going to invite you to articulate something. But would you be willing to just say a few sentences about why fun is so important?
Michael: 35:31 Well, the, the, the, it’s an important, the origin story for me. So after I, I was fired from my last job and started Box of Crayons, wasn’t called box of crayons that I was like, okay, I’m giving a talk on branding to my local coaching chapter cause I’d just arrived in Toronto. I didn’t know anybody. I’m trying to build a network. And I came up with Michael’s three amazing lessons about branding and then discovered my company named failed all three of those lessons. Um, so I said, okay, so I’m going to come up with a better company name. And in brainstorming I went through all the bad names, but, uh, I kind of clicked onto something that was important at the time for sure, which was I love working with people who are seeking more fun in their life. And that insight was what made box of crowns appear in my head and I went, that’s a great company name. And, and the rest is history. And then at the same time as talking about branding, when the importance of creating intellectual property, it was like, oh, I don’t even have any intellectual property. So I’ve always had been to come up with some intellectual property. So I came up quickly with the eight irresistible principles of fun, which then we turned it into a movie. I mean the movies 12 years old now. So it’s a little slow. It a little clunky compared to what we’re used to now. But at the time, you know, got seen by millions of people.
Bryan: 36:55 I watched it and I love it that it was there. It wasn’t narrated. You have to pay attention. No, that was fun.
Michael: 37:01 It runs a, it’s like a six minute movie or something. It’s a little slow, but it’s still worth of good watch I think.
Bryan: 37:06 Yeah. Now I want to know those three principles of branding.
Michael: 37:09 I do too cause I forgotten. Okay. They were genius at the time though.
Bryan: 37:15 And you knew that your own, your own business name didn’t meet your, your own criteria. That’s great. Well that’s true. Maybe we teach what we need to learn. Right. And then I heard once that that sign is posted on the wall at Eselin, you know, at the right and it says, not only we teach what we need to learn, we are our own worst students.
Michael: 37:38 Well, less than 20 teach people in the world of L and D who are actually L and D professionals, learning and development professionals. They’re terrible. So I get that.
Bryan: 37:44 Yeah. Okay. So the lightning round. Please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a..
Michael: 37:56 Swirling chaotic experience of joy.
Bryan: 38:01 Okay. Number two, what something at which you wish you were better?
Michael: 38:06 I, not much because partly I just enjoy being bad at a whole bunch of stuff. Like I’m a terrible singer, but I love seeing. I’m not a very good Ukulele player, but I play Ukulele. And part of it is just going to look that good at this stuff. I’m still going to get something out of it. So, um, I think there’s something just from my experience today, I wish I was a little better at conflict and stepping up to manage conflict in a, in appropriate way.
Bryan: 38:36 Hmm. Me Too. Not You, me.
Michael: 38:40 I never liked you, Bryan!
Bryan: 38:46 If you required everyday for the rest of your life to wear a t-shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase or a saying or a quote or equip, what would the shirt say?
Michael: 38:54 Uh, Gosh. Um, I think it just might be blank. I know that’s a terrible answer but I have a bunch of quotes and things that I keep on my desk to kind of promote me to think of things like, here’s one, “if you’re going to try go all the way otherwise don’t even start,” Charles Bukowski. Or this one, which I took from Pema Chodron, who’s a Tibetan monk, “Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what’s the most important thing?” All of these are great, but in terms of, um, wearing a slogan for somebody else to see, it’s like, you gotta find your own path, man, my slogan is not going to work for you.
Bryan: 39:36 Okay. Fair enough. All right. Next question. What book other than your own have you gifted or recommended most often?
Michael: 39:44 I, I love Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson is best known as a travel writer. He stuff is hilarious, but the book that I’ve gifted and recommended most is called A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s a book on science and his inside is so many of us get science killed in high school by a bad science teacher lesson. So many of us, too many of us dismiss science and don’t think it’s important. And what he does in this book is he in a very secular way, makes the world miraculous by explaining science. So he goes, look, I’m just, I’m just telling you some of the cool, cool things that science knows and there’s discovered. And it just makes you go, it is nothing short of incredible that I am here on this planet today talking to you on this podcast.
Bryan: 40:36 It really is a miracle, isn’t it? Okay. Next question. You travel a ton. What’s one travel hack? Something you do or maybe something you take with you when you travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Michael: 40:48 Yeah, I wear natural fibers. I have this nice t-shirt that is kind of a blend of Merino and Kashmir honestly it’s a little bit luxurious every time I put it on and that is my travel t-shirt, travel comfortable t-shirt and that makes a difference for me.
Bryan: 41:10 In what ways? Like temperature, comfort, style.
Michael: 41:14 Just feels like it’s, um smart enough to travel but comfortable enough to hang out and not kind of be overly constricted like other clothes might be.
Bryan: 41:25 Right on. Okay, thank you. What’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Michael: 41:32 Well I, I mean recently my wife and I have become pescetarian again. So we pescetarian mean you eat fish and vegetables. Um, we were a vegetarians when we met and we started eating fish, then we started eating a little bit of bacon and then that means you start eating a lot of bacon and stake and stake everything. We’re like, why are we actually eating quite a lot of meat now? And one of the ways that you are better for yourself and better for the planet is you eat a whole lot less meat, less meat. So I’m currently pescatore and actually enjoying it and not really missing meat at all.
Bryan: 42:12 Oh, good for you. And good for the planet. That’s great. What’s, what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Michael: 42:18 Hmm, that’s a really interesting question. Um, well, partly I’m a Canadian, so I’m not even sure I get to kind of. Canadian slash Australian, so I’m not sure I get to pretend that around all Americans, but I would love science to be respected and appreciated as a way of making decisions about how we work on this planet. And the fact that it’s not just in America, but it gets a lot of press in America about how many people don’t believe in science, don’t believe in evolution. Believe in flat earth. It’s in Canada as well as in Australia as well. It’s an America as well. And I would love, I would love it if that wasn’t the case and it wasn’t fake science or no science around no vaccination, just like get vaccinated.
Bryan: 43:05 For sure. What advice, and maybe the advice monster is, uh, not something you’re willing to indulge in. If not, that’s fine. Or maybe you can help redirect my question, but what advice do you have for those who are, what I will call in the belly of the snake. There in the creative process. They may have maybe been there for a long time. They feel stuck. They don’t know where to go to get their book or their other creative project to the finish line and to see the light of day and share it with other people. What do you say to people in that situation?
Michael: 43:36 Well, I think reading somebody like Steven Pressfield’s book on, on battling the resistance. So the war, the war of art is useful just to go. So welcome to being doing creative work. It is always a battle. Is there, you’re always in the belly of the snake. I mean, I’m currently right there in the moment just going just written a terrible first draft of this thing and it’s taking me three times as long and it’s half as bad. If it’s half as good as I thought it would be. It’s just part of the process. So get support, find accountability, invest in or go on a writing retreat, find a coach. My first book I hired a coach and her only job was to stop me doing other stuff as a way of avoiding writing. You just need to check in on how I, my writing is going and hold me accountable for that. So get the support in your life to get you across the finish line.
Bryan: 44:34 No, that’s great. So what was most useful for you here today?
Michael: 44:40 So I can’t, what I appreciated most about this conversation. I mean I liked, I liked the questions. Um, I love the fact that you gave the, the Kiva loan. I think that’s a wonderful gesture, but I also felt that you have a real heart felt interest in the questions and the answers and the caliber of presence you have as somebody interviewing with something that I could really feel.
Bryan: 45:09 Oh well thank you. Well, what was useful for me was connecting with you personally. I love your book. I love reading your book, knowing I would have the opportunity to talk to you. So thank you so much for making time to talk with me and with everyone who’s listening. Um, I think this is something that will, it really will be. It’s already been one of my favorite interviews and, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with many people. So thank you. Thank you. Okay, well with that, to everybody listening, thank you for your time. I hope you have found this useful and enjoyable. If you haven’t already picked up your copy of the coaching habit, I encourage you to do so today. It has the potential to improve pretty much every area of your life, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a leader, a manager, whether you, uh, just talk to people sometimes. So with that, thanks again for listening and we’ll talk to you again real soon. Take care.