“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” So says David Burkus today’s guest on the School for Good Living podcast. David was named one of the world’s top business thought leaders by Thinkers 50, he’s a regular contributor to Harvard business review, his work has been featured in Fast Company, the Financial Times, Ink magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, and has a Ted Talk that’s been viewed about 2 million times.
I liked David from the moment I met him. He’s an interesting guy, very charismatic, he’s got a great message, and he knows how to entertain. We talk about weak ties, dormant ties, how most of us allow our networks to grow organically, but says David, we shouldn’t. He talks about the idea of super connectors, people who have a disproportionately high level of connections with the network and how we can be one.
David shares about the idea that networking is not necessarily about making new connections, but it’s about understanding the network you’re already in and making new connections as part of that and also serving rule. And then finally, as we get into the writing and the creativity section, the two things I love, you’ll hear him talk about work writing as a journeyman, just showing up and putting in the miles, so to speak, a perspective he’s learned from Dan Pink. And then also how writing professionally can be the inverse of earning a master’s degree, where instead of dropping tens of thousands of dollars writing some kind of a thesis that very few people read, publishers pay you. My friend, a fascinating individual and academic, but also a really practical guy, David Burkus.
00:02:24 – What’s life about?
00:05:47 – How do you introduce yourself?
00:08:19 – Who is Friend of a Friend written to?
00:24:40 – Facebook or Gmail roulette.
00:29:14 – Lack of connection through social media.
00:40:42 – Curiosity Conversations.
00:47:34 – Lightning round.
00:52:19 – $20 rule.
01:06:25 – TEDx comment.
01:13:21 – Phase 0 and first time authors.
BOOKS by David Burkus
Bryan: 00:02:18 David, welcome to The School For Good Living Podcast.
David: 00:02:20 Thank you so much for having me.
Bryan: 00:02:24 What is life about?
David: 00:02:27 Yeah, we’ll just start there. Well that’s an easy one to knock off. Ah, I mean, I could, I could give you like a sort of a, a broader kind of Westminster Catechism, right? That the meaning of life is to, uh, to know God and enjoy him type of thing. But, um, I think it’s something that kind of everybody on the enjoy him. Even if you are a person of faith, even enjoying him, gets complicated. So I think it’s the kind of thing that a lot of people have to define individually. Right? Um, and I think that, I think it’s sadly at what was the Kierkegaard quote that it’s something that can’t be, life has to be lived forwards but under can only be understood backwards or something like that. Um, and so I think it’s the kind of thing it probably takes two or three decades to get into. Um, for me there’s a couple of different things on it. So one is this idea that about a seven or eight years ago, my wife and I decided to have kids. And so the new purpose of life is to get them through the first two decades so they can answer the question. Um, and that’s really, it’s, it’s kinda funny cause I don’t come from a family that was as tight knit as hers. And so learning this kind of importance of family has been really actually kind of fun for me. Um, and then in terms of professional life, I, I define that the purpose of my professional life, just to sort of bridge the gap between academic research and practice. There’s a lot of great ideas that still, even now, like we’re in a golden age of social science writing and podcasts and all this stuff, but they still linger in the ivory tower. And I’m trying to drag them out and get them to the corner office or the coffee shop or a co-working space, like where wherever work gets done because that’s how we, that’s how we have it. I heard one person say that, uh, he could summarize all my work as trying to make work not suck, which is a little crude. So now I like to say the opposite of it, which is I try and help people do their best work ever.
Bryan: 00:04:13 Just just that.
David: 00:04:14 Yeah. Just that, just their best work ever. Just that, just that. And if they, uh, usually it helps if they’ve got a better answer to what the purpose of the work is then my rambling answer on what’s the purpose of life.
Bryan: 00:04:25 Well, thank you for sharing that and being a parent definitely has the tendency to change one’s outlook on life.
David: 00:04:32 Oh totally, I mean it’s, it’s uh, I’m sure, I’m sure you’ve run into this to you, you sort of like, you have that you have ten, nine to ten months of expectation on what is, or shorter I guess. But you know, that’s the, that’s the range of expectation on what this little thing coming to you is going to be all about. And then they sort of hand it to you in a couple of days later. They let you leave the hospital and you’re like, oh shoot, this is like. At first it’s almost a crushing weight of responsibility, but then you realize that like this, I mean it’s almost something kind of primal right from, for humans in general, our whole one of the main purposes, right, of humanity as a species has been to pass it down to the next generation. And we gradually make all sorts of social project progress by fixing what past generations did and planning that sort of next generation. So it’s sort of like, oh man, that’s not to get overwhelmed with the crushing weight of it, but it’s also kind of exhilarating. Right. And you know, this is the most frustrating but also joyous thing you could ever do.
Bryan: 00:05:30 Yeah. I still remember when.
David: 00:05:32 I have it easy. I’m the dad.
Bryan: 00:05:34 Yeah, you’re the fun one.
David: 00:05:36 Right!
Bryan: 00:05:36 That I remember when I, when I took my first daughter home from the hospital and I thought like shouldn’t someone be stopping me or like.
David: 00:05:44 Like a manual or a test or something, something.
Bryan: 00:05:47 But no. Amazing. Well tell me when people ask, and I realize this will probably change from situation to situation or maybe depending on who’s asking or where, where. But when people ask you who you are and what you do, or when you have the chance to talk about yourself in front of a group of people, how do you usually answer that question?
David: 00:06:05 Yeah. Well so, um, if, if I’m like on a plane and it’s one of the polite chit chat, but you know, they don’t really care, I usually say that I write books and then I travel around and talk about the ideas and those books. If it’s more of a professional context then I’ve started using that best work ever line. I literally started saying that I write books that help people do their best work ever, um, in a, in a couple of different contexts, but always through that lens of trying to get social science research applied to real life. Because I think it’s what, I mean, we have people that study the workplace. It kind of makes sense to listen to them about how we should change the workplace.
Bryan: 00:06:37 Yeah. Well then the fact that we spend more time there than at home or doing pretty much anything else. Right?
David: 00:06:43 Yeah. I was just thinking about this. Yeah, it was, just think about this the other day. It’s at a minimum, it’s one third of your waking hours every week. Right? And you only do it, most of us only do it five out of the seven days. So it’s kind of crazy that if you look at just those five of the seven days, it’s even larger, right? You spend, depending on where on where you work, you may end up spending more time with those people who you did not choose to be around right then, then members of your family and that’s sort of a, we might as well make it not suck, right?
Bryan: 00:07:11 Yeah, absolutely. If we’re going to do it, we might as well do it as well as we can and do the best work we can. So you’ve written a few books, as you said, you write books and travel around and talk about the ideas and those books. You do that through TED Talks. You do that inside companies. Um, you do that around the world and your latest book, Friend of a Friend, understanding the hidden networks that can transform your life and your career. This is just your most recent, but you’ve written a few more before that, right? Like Under New Management, how leading organizations are upending business as usual. The Myths of Creativity, the truth about how innovative companies and people generate great ideas. So you’ve got that.
David: 00:07:47 You even got the subtitle in there. That’s awesome.
Bryan: 00:07:49 The subtitle is so important.
David: 00:07:50 Your pretty good at this podcasting thing.
Bryan: 00:07:53 Well, tell me a little bit about these books. I mean, that’s a broad question. So I do want to focus most on Friend of a Friend, although I’m happy to go anywhere you want to lead the conversation. But if I look at those three titles that I just mentioned, if, if there’s an answer and again, I realize this answer might change some, but who did you write, who do you write for? Who did you write these for? And what do you hope these books do? Would you be willing to kind of break that down a little?
David: 00:08:19 Yeah. Um, I would say there’s usually two audiences, right? So there’s usually the middle manager up to senior leader in the organization and I realized that actually you don’t, you don’t write the book for them. You just hope that the idea is get to their office because they don’t have time to read full books. I mean, some of them do, but a lot of them are reading the executive summary or the article that you wrote in HBR to promote the book or something like that. But the goal is still that because that’s how we make, you know, fundamental changes to organizations. Uh, it can, it can be grassroots, but usually it’s a whole lot easier if it starts at the top. But a lot of, a lot of the actual sort of readership are people that are in an individual contributor to frontline manager role. They’ve got, they’re the ones that are sort of still reading that. And if you look at, depending on the book, the percentage, if you look at those two audiences, the percentage is shift a little bit. So Myths of Creativity is very individual contributor focus because it’s about a lot of the myths and misconceptions that we have about how the creative process is supposed to work and it, and it flows from individuals to teams but it only at the very end kind of moves into senior leadership implications. Under New Management kind of swings the other way. It’s if you’re an individual contributor or a frontline manager, it will probably just explain to you why you don’t like certain things about your company. But if you’re higher than that, that it’s full of sort of ideas about this is what leading companies are doing. You might want to rethink how you’re doing things based on it. I tried very hard not to make it do this, etc. Cause I kind of hate those. You get the kind of consultant authors that come in with four boxes and a chart, right? And it’s going to solve everything about it. This is not that this is more like here are the ideas that have been floating around for the last 10 years in um, management theory, but also in organizations. And then here’s why they might work and how you could apply them if you want to. So it skews the other way. And then Friend of a Friend is probably hitting it right in the middle between those two audiences. So the, the book opens with a lot of chapters that are focused on anybody, whether you’re an individual contributor all the way up to senior leader, what do you need to know about the network that you’re already in? And then towards right towards the middle it pivots to the network of the organization. And what do we need to know about how we handle things like diversity issues? What do we need to know about how we handle, um, uh, relationships in the workplace? You know, do we try and keep it always professional or personal what have you. So there’s a lot that flows, um, on that, on that half side. So that one hits kind of right in the middle. And then, you know, I, I kick around what that means. I go from here because we think about the fourth book. I’m sort of like who do I, between those two audiences, what percentage is it ended up having, so we’ll see.
Bryan: 00:10:52 Well I love Friend of a Friend.
David: 00:10:54 Oh thank you.
Bryan: 00:10:55 Yeah, I, I love what you talk about about these latent, you know like these latent connections that we have a weak ties. I think you had a specific term, but basically the friends that we’ve kind of lost touch with, they have the benefits of having, you know, information that we don’t have access to but they also have this, this double benefit of being somebody that we already have a deep history with. And when we reconnect with those as an alternative to doing the thing that we all dread, you know, going into some kind of a networking event and pretending like we care about, you know, what somebody does for a living before, you know, we hang out with the people that we already knew and then we go home. Right. But will you talk a little bit about about that and what people who are listening to this that might not be familiar with that concept. Like a little bit about what that concept is. And how we can benefit from that if we consciously use that in our interpersonal or our professional lives.
David: 00:11:45 Yeah, I mean that, I mean that was a great summary. So I’ll see what improvements I can do to that. But that was pretty solid. So, you know, I begin from the place that most of us, when we hear a word like networking, we think about those events that you were talking about. We think about the cocktail hour at the end of a conference. We think about that meetup that somebody invited us to and what have you and most of us, um. And I get it a little bit of pushback from like 4% of the population, but that’s because the other 96% of the population has a sort of uncomfortable feeling at those events.
Bryan: 00:12:16 The whole, the 4% just love these and eat it up?
David: 00:12:19 You know I mean I, I get, I get emails from time to time from people that are like, well, I think people should just suck it up and smile and go meet as many new people as they can. I’m like that. Yes, that’s, sure. But that’s not what most people do. Yeah. So let’s work, I kind of described it as like, it’s a bit like surfing, right? If you think you can power through the wave like great 4% of you are strong enough to do the rest, like are going to go with the flow, right? So why don’t we do that? So, so yeah. So most of us feel uncomfortable, whether it’s an introversion, extroversion thing or what I find a lot of times happens is, is you go with the best of intentions for making new connections and what have you. And then you end up talking to a lot of people you already know, even if it’s not intentional, even if it’s just other people sort of sucking you into the conversation. And we know from a couple of different studies that at these unstructured events, which is a very unique, so we’re not talking about anytime people meet up, but specifically where it’s just unstructured. Everybody’s supposed to just mingle. We know that people spend a disproportionate amount of time with people they already know. So in terms of making new connections, these events don’t work. Doesn’t mean they’re worthless. But I think it’s a go back to the idea that if we justify networking is that, no wonder sort of everybody hates it, but understand it’s important for their career. So I begin from the place where I’m trying to redefine this and talk about the idea that it is not about making new connections, it’s about understanding the network that you’re already in and making new connections as part of that. But when you, when you take that definition, you start finding much more valuable or much more significant return on effort. Um, activities that you can do the first of which is exactly what you were talking about earlier, reaching out to those weak in dormant ties. If you think about if you were to graph you in the center of this larger network of your industry, your city, your community, whatever it is, then use space as kind of a metric for how often you interact with this person or how close your relationship is with this person. Some of us have, you know, six to a dozen really, really close relationships. People that we don’t even let a week go by without seeing them. Then we have, um, we might have people we see more frequently, but we don’t know much about them. Those are called those weak ties. We may see them once a week or so, but we don’t really know them. I actually described these as that person at the gym that you say hi to and you know, like his name or her name, but you don’t really remember anything else about, about them. Maybe you remember like their job or if they have kids, but you know, like they never had a real conversation.
Bryan: 00:14:40 Like you know, they drive a Four Runner.
David: 00:14:42 Right, right. Because you parked next to it occasionally and that’s it. Right. Or like in the workplace, a lot of these weak ties are the people that you see when there’s cake in the break room. But pretty much no other time, you know, like, oh, it’s Bob’s birthday. Oh, that means I’m going to see these four people again and I’m not going to see them again until another birthday. Um, those are, those are your, your weak ties and I’ll come back to them in a minute, but there’s another specific kind of a form of tie we call it dormant tie, which is, you know, what you were getting at with this late tie. These are people that you know and you would say, you know, well, but for some reason other, you don’t talk to them as frequently as you’d like or they like. These are the people that when a six months to a year go by and you don’t talk to him, but then when you finally reach out, you could pick it up right where it left off. Right. My, my wife, it’s funny, I, the perfect example I’ve ever thought of, of a dormant tie is my wife’s best friend. She calls her best friend. They call each other best friends. They talk on the phone maybe once a month. They see each other in person maybe once every six months. Right, they’re very dormant ties, but they can pick up that conversation like no time has passed and that’s, that’s kind of that signal. And between weak ties and dormant ties, these are usually your best source of new information, new ideas, new introductions, whatever you’re looking for, it’s, it’s more likely to come from those people than it is those close contacts, that dozen or half a dozen people that are close to you. The reason is really simple. When you get those close contacts, usually everybody knows everybody. I mean, think about it. If you spend every other day with them than anyone else that you see, you’re probably also spending time with, right? So A knows B, B knows C there’s a really good chance that A and C also know each other. So you all think alike, you all know the same people, you, you all kind of act alike. There’s not a lot different there. Instead that can come from your weak and dormant ties or it can come from strangers. That’s why we go to these networking events. But we know that we ended up just talking to people we already know. So maybe before we spend all that time standing in the corner at a networking event, maybe let’s take five and 10 minutes a day and make it a point to reach back out to those weak and dormant ties and see where that conversation goes because they are usually just as potent of source of new information, new ideas and introductions as are those total strangers. But you don’t have to go through the whole rapport building and getting to know each other stage. You already know them, they’re literally your friends, you just haven’t talked to them in a while.
Bryan: 00:16:59 This had never even occurred to me about these weak ties. First of all I didn’t even know the term. So you know, it helps when we have words for a concept and then it provides some kind of access to something that we might not have consciously been aware. I know that all sounds really conceptual, but the thing is where I didn’t even have a word for this or a thought for this. And then I started to see it like, well, if these weak ties, these people that I don’t interact with every day, they’re moving in their own circles. They have their own set of relationships and interests and things like this. And if I consciously tap into that from time to time, whether I’m working on a research project or I’m looking to hire someone or I just want to find some kind of an experience or a restaurant or a vacation spot, you know, or, or something like that. Um, that’s something that, that I’ve, I’m actually looking to hire an event planner right now and this is, that one idea has changed, you know. Okay, I’m not just going to call, you know, the people who are already in my favorites list in my phone to try to find someone. And I’ve already, I know from experience that posting on a job board is a hit and miss. But now going and consciously looking at who are the people that I haven’t talked to in six months or 18 months and call them and have a conversation about it. But yeah.
David: 00:18:12 Sorry, go ahead.
Bryan: 00:18:13 I was just gonna ask like maybe you could share it. How else have you seen that people can use this concept to good effect?
David: 00:18:19 Yeah. Yeah. So, so I mean a couple of things that you not, not only is it sort of, you go back through those same 12, 18 people that you talk to all the time, the odds are you already know who they’re gonna refer you to, right. Like if you get to a point so often where you’re so close to that, like how did he know who their guy for that is, are the girl for that is so there’s not anything new there. You already sort of already know each other in terms of, of reaching back out to weak and dormant ties. There’s, there’s, there’s, I want to stress too that this isn’t just about, um, you getting value from them. This is also about making yourself available to them, right? If you’ve ever been, if you ever thought of a certain person that you would want to reach back out to ask you and then you realize, ah, you know, it’s been like two years since I talked to them. Maybe I need to find a new person that could like loop me back to them and introduce again to warm up that what I let go cold, etc. Often just pinging these people for for no reason, not no reason. But for the, for the sake of reconnecting alone, that not only gives you an ability to reach back out to them when you need something like a referral for an event planner, but it also gives them a comfort and a familiarity with you where they feel fine reaching back out to you as well. So this isn’t about just the sort of transactional, how do you get the most out of yours? It’s about serving that network that you’re a part of. So there’s a couple of things that I have a couple of exercises or habits that I like to encourage people to get used to. The, the first is, um, it’s, it’s a game that has taken, it’s been called everything from Facebook roulette to Gmail roulette and it really doesn’t matter. It just matters where your contact list is on your phone. Right. A lot of times, whether it be Gmail or Facebook or Linkedin or, or I don’t think Twitter has the ability to do this, but a lot of different of these social networks that we use now because we have so many different tools available to us, have an option to sort by least frequently or most frequent to least frequently contacted. Right. I think about like your text messages on almost every smartphone will do this, right? The most recent texts floats to the top. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom at which none of us ever bothered to do. Right. And we never bothered to clean it out or like our inbox, right? We just, we just let it all sit there. You scroll all the way down to the bottom. Odds are, there’s somebody that you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Bryan: 00:20:27 I’m going to start to feel guilty if I do that. I’ll be like, oh yeah, I meant to get back to that person.
David: 00:20:32 And well that’s fine because you’re about to get a hold of them. Now you probably can’t just text back and go, “Oh yeah, sorry, I let I let this drop 18 months ago.”
Bryan: 00:20:41 Would though you know? He would, you know.
David: 00:20:44 You know that’s true. Certain, certain personalities can pull that off, but yeah, the rest of us, you may have to find something else. So the reason I liked social media in particular, and this is actually the only thing I like social media for in terms of networking and making connections. Is that you can then go over to their profile, or if you’re doing this via text or via email, you can, you know, search that out. And what is that? But it’s, I mean, Facebook is literally a website where people post updates about what’s going on in their life. Same thing with Linkedin, same thing with Twitter, etc. And so if you realize you need to reconnect with this person and you go over to their, um, which whatever profile on whatever platform it is, you’ll see information they’re posting. That’s, that happened more recently than the last time you talked to them, right? So, so what is that? I mean you can go through it and you can find something to connect. Maybe they just said, oh we’re going to a vacation to Chicago. And so you can say, oh great, like go to Lou Malnati’s cause the rest of the places aren’t as good. And Gino’s is fun but the waits too long and it’s a little dirty, but skip any other place, right. And whatever you do, don’t go to Pizzeria Uno. Right. You can see, you can then literally send that message to them and all it is is just a little ping, hey, I saw this. It’s not creepy stalker thing because it’s publicly available information, right. That they chose to broadcast. And you can use that as the, the reason to reach back out and be helpful. The other thing that I, that I encourage a lot of people do and if you do this honestly, I mean there’s, there’s literally software and email programs you can use. It will track and send you like, hey, it’s been six months since you talked to Bryan. I have subscriptions to two of them and I never need to use them cause I got in the habit of doing this, which is when someone pops into my mind either because I’m thinking about something and I think of that person or I’m in a conversation and we say, hey, remember such and such, I will take the 30 seconds to send that person a text message or an email and it’s a really simple email. It just says, Hey, I was thinking about you today because whatever reason just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you. I hope you’re well, no reply needed DB, which is how I sign every email. Right?
Bryan: 00:22:44 Yeah. That’s a really nice message by the way.
David: 00:22:46 I know people get uncomfortable sending something that vague, but the truth is like, who doesn’t like to receive a message that says, hey, I was thinking about you today and I hope you’re well, that’s all. And remember the goal isn’t, isn’t necessarily to try and get something out of this message. It’s just to be pinging certain contact, certain people so that you’re not letting too much time go by before you reach out to them again. Now, now we fast forward 18 months and you’re saying, oh, I need to find an event planner will now if you’re, if you keep this up, you’ve got people that in the old scenario would have been two years since you talked to them. Now you, you talked to them every three or four months, right? So it’s a much different conversation when you need something and if they need, if we were in the opposite, if they needed something from you, it’s much easier to make that connection because you’re checking in with them every once in a while. This is, this is a skill and a habit that is far more powerful than hitting up a networking event once a quarter or something like that. Yes, you’ll make a couple of new connections in a year, but the odds are between the, those, the information that those weak and dormant ties have and the potential people they could introduce you to, if you keep those relationships warm instead of letting them go cold, that’s far more useful than anybody you’re going to meet at a random event.
Bryan: 00:24:01 I can see that. And I don’t think that’s something that I’ve would have occurred to me before. You know, I started learning about your work and I think that’s really cool.
David: 00:24:09 I did my job. Yes.
Bryan: 00:24:11 No, I, I love that. And I think too about, um, and you know, honestly, I think it probably has influenced me in ways that I wasn’t consciously aware of because just on my way to lunch, um, I had a lunch appointment today and on my way there I called a friend that I just called him. I said, hey, it’s a 90 second phone call just to tell you I’m thinking about you. You know, and, and it was really nice. Then I realized, you know, I don’t get many of those phone calls, but it’s, it’s nice the few, you know, the few times I do.
David: 00:24:40 Well and I think so much it’s so often we’re afraid like the first exercise, the Facebook roulette or Gmail Roulette, that’s an exercise for people who are afraid to just reach out to somebody randomly. Right? Yeah. Um, and then for those people who aren’t, go with the, hey, I was thinking about you today. The biggest thing, remember the most powerful thing on the second exercise by the way, is the no reply needed, which is a signal that like, I’m not trying to recruit you to my new home based business. I’m not trying to beg you for an introduction to somebody that I need to connect to, to get a new job from. There’s no agenda here. I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you, which is the kind of message I think we’d all love to get. So send them more often. But I’m, to your point, I’m, I’m actually, I’m going to do it today. We mentioned, we’ve mentioned two names so far offline. One we brought into the show, James, we also mentioned, uh, uh, a mutual friend of ours that I haven’t talked to and maybe, maybe a month, maybe two. And so I’ll send him a text and said, hey, Bryan says hi, by the way, Bryan, I hope you say hi to Michael because I’m going to text them and say that.
Bryan: 00:25:36 Yeah, absolutely. No, that’s great. You know, I have a friend, I’m thinking of one friend in particular who I, I, I’ve, I don’t have any other friends who’ve ever done this, but he sent me a voice memo, like not, I don’t know what they were even called, like the voice text. Where it shows up in your text and then it plays and then if you don’t, yeah.
David: 00:25:59 Yeah, I hate those because they self destruct.
Bryan: 00:26:01 Yeah. His was, it was actually a video. It was almost like a 35 second video and he sends it and it was it, it was almost bizarre. Because on the one hand I’m sitting there going, I really appreciate that he thought about me, you know, and he took the time and made the effort to send me a little video and then, and then I’m like, but I was available. Like, why didn’t you just call me? You know?
David: 00:26:24 Well I think, I mean, so I do something similar to that, but there’s certain times that I do it. It’s not, it’s not like, I mean, I guess you could have texted him back, but you know, was he one of the people that you lead 18 months go by and they drifted to the bottom of your texts?
Bryan: 00:26:36 No, he wasn’t.
David: 00:26:38 But there’s also times where like, you know, I mean off to use social media, for example, Linkedin or Facebook or Twitter or what have you. People make those big announcements and then if you’ve ever done that, you get inundated with stuff.
Bryan: 00:26:52 Yeah, right. For sure.
David: 00:26:53 And a lot of it is, is sort of conversational. Like, I hate having a birthday on Facebook because it means I have to reply to 270 messages in like a 24 hour period of time.
Bryan: 00:27:04 To people who probably wouldn’t have acknowledged your birthday if Facebook didn’t prompted them. And then all they did was hit the say happy birthday.
David: 00:27:11 Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s better communication through artificial intelligence. Right? Facebook gave them three buttons to pick on how you want to say happy birthday and they picked one. And thanks, It’s the thought that counts. It’s the micro thought. But anyway, that’s a whole other rant in a whole other monologue and maybe one day a whole other book, who knows. But there are certain times where people get like super busy. Like I did something similar video message, the same thing. Um, from uh, a friend of mine about, I think it was probably three weeks ago now, released his, it was his first book, but his first book, and I know that like, he’s just crazy. It’s because I’ve done it before. It’s a crazy media time and you’re just. So I did the same thing I sent him and it was a video message and I said, “Hey, I know today’s the launch your book. I hope it’s going to be awesome. If thanks for sending me a copy, I know that this is going to be long term impact, so regardless of how today works save, you’re like, savor the moment because it’s going to be awesome. Congratulations. Don’t bother to send me a text back. I know you’ve got other stuff to do. Congrats.” And that was all right. Again, one of the the sort of no reply needed thing, but I think you do. I think you should do that and I have no data for this. I should also preferences that this is my own personal opinion. I think you’d do that when you know you’re in an event where people are going to be inundated with texts and emails and what have you, and so you just say, hey, I also wanted to say congratulations, but like that’s it. Just congrats and we’ll catch up later type of thing. I think that’s the time for those messages when you’re sending it like it’s a random Wednesday and nothing’s significance going on. Then like, yeah, that’s when replies not needed. But yeah, it would, it would be, that’s a great opportunity to start a conversation and you know, he missed it.
Bryan: 00:28:45 Yeah. Well it is amazing to me the ways that we, you know, what technology makes possible and the ways we connect or don’t. Right? That we’re in some very real ways we’re more connected than we’ve ever been yet the reported incidents of loneliness, like people’s experience of lonely. It’s just, and it’s kind of a mind twist for me. I mean, I know this is maybe skipping tracks a little bit on that, the thread of our conversation, but I look at that for mixed metaphors. But um, what do you think that’s.
David: 00:29:14 It’s a podcast. There are tracks. It’s cool. It’s cool. That’s right. So this is actually something that we, it, my editor and I, when I was writing from her friend went back and forth on because he wanted at one point he kind of wanted a manual for how to use Linkedin. Right? And I kept telling him like, no, I refuse to do that for two reasons. I have no ability to predict what platforms are going to be around in a year. So like if I write a manifesto on how to use Twitter and then Twitter goes bankrupt, which like every quarter it looks like they’re about to do. Right. Um, what’s the point of that? But the other thing is exactly what you said. The evidence is pretty clear and pretty robust that, you know, these sites are not all that useful for feeling connected. There’s a broader trend. Robert Putnam started writing about it in the 80s in North America there’s a broader trend towards, um, reclusivity for lack of a better term, a lot of our, the normal institutions that we would have things like faith communities, bowling leagues, right? A Rotary Club. I mean, I don’t know anybody that’s in Rotary Club. That’s probably to my fault, right? But in, but 30 years ago, everybody was involved in at least one, probably three or four of these, right? Yeah. I mean even even to some extent, like the decline of unions in, in American corporate America, which I’m not, you know, I’m not the greatest fan of nor the greatest enemy of, I’m ambivalent about, but you actually do see a decrease in social connection because those are less prominent, right? Those guilds, those tribes, those things are less prominent. So you see that and then you have the social media element where people can pretend to be connected, but we, there’s something in our brains that is not, there’s an itch that is not scratched by those tools. And so what we compromised on was there’s a diatribe in the opening introduction where I try and state kind of explicitly that social media is a supplement to, not a replacement, for your networking efforts. It’s a great way to know what’s going on in the lives of your weak and dormant ties at, at kind of any given moment. But it does not substitute for a phone call. A longer email thread back and forth. Even a text thread is sort of more valuable than just clicking like on their comment that they just had, you know, that they just had a new baby and that’s not, you know, like you still have to send a gift, you still got to bake a casserole if they live in your city. Right? Like there’s certain things that we as humans still need from each other and pixels are not a good replacement for those things. So there’s great, they’re great tools that can help you amplify that, but they cannot replace it. And that’s been really, really clear.
Bryan: 00:31:43 Yeah. One of the things I loved about Friend of a Friend is well as the examples you use, the stories you told. About, you know, that that may, there were a lot of things like people that I’d heard of or even had met but didn’t really know the backstory. Like, you know, the team up at summit who’s right here in my backyard, you know, who bought the mountain or with.
David: 00:32:04 Literally in your backyard. I just realized that it’s 40 minutes away or what have you.
Bryan: 00:32:08 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So hearing, hearing about that and how, you know, they Elliot and, and, and, and his team, you know, consciously cultivated a network and we’re very thoughtful and deliberate about it. And, you know, whether it was mastermind talks or it was with the dinners that Levy does, you know, or what Scott Harrison did with Charity Water. It was like every one of these was, I mean, when you look at any of these organizations or, or any of these individuals and it’s like, Oh yeah, I wish I had built that or something similar. And then you look at it and it’s like, well, they didn’t happen by accident. You know, every one of these people was very thoughtful. They were very deliberate. They were playing a long game. Um, will you just share a little bit about like what, as you did this research and as you did this kind of synthesis of these different ideas, what surprised you? Like what, what really stood out to you from the time you decided you were going to write the book to the time, you know, the book rolled off the press?
David: 00:33:02 Yeah. Um, and I, and I’m first of all totally with you. There’s, although there’s a couple stories where I think, I don’t, I, I don’t wish I would’ve started that. Like you mentioned Scott Harrison, who’s become a friend and I’ve, I’m so grateful for that as an organization. But man, I don’t know that I could have started that. I don’t know that I want to go through what he went through over the last 10 years. Yeah, I mean, part of it as you go on, you go on a hunt for stories, and we could probably circle back to this in a little bit later given your sort of plan for the interview, but you hunt for stories either about people that everybody knows, but they don’t know that story. Or you hunt for stories about people that nobody knows, but they definitely should, right? Yeah. And, and when you do that, like you can’t start from on a book like this. You can’t start from a place of like, I need an example of someone who totally understands Robert Putnam’s theory of social capital and it like, it just doesn’t work like that. Right. So you have to find examples of people that were intentional, that sort of followed their, their hunch who just happened to be in align with, uh, with network science. And so I think the thing that surprised me the most was not any given story, but people’s reactions when I would tell them. Right. John Levy’s the exception, by the way, John and John’s in, uh, well he’s in the book because he plans these amazing dinner parties where everybody’s cooking their own meals. So they’re actively engaged, but they’re also not allowed to talk about what they do until they eat so that they are not following the normal little elevator pitch of stuff. John knows the research. And so John’s sort of very particular students on that dinner, but everybody else, um, what I loved was that, to your point about being deliberate. As I was interviewing them and taught and going back and forth about how, where they would appear in the book and what it would be an example of, they were all sort of learners too, right? They were, they were all like, oh, really? Like I wouldn’t think about that way. And maybe we should do this. And that speaks to that level of, of sort of deliberate list. And, and why I point that out as it shouldn’t have been surprising because one of the grand thesis of the book is that most of us allow our networks to grow organically and we shouldn’t, right? Most of us just let proximity and current friends and friends of friends become current friends and just let serendipity happen for how we meet people. And we shouldn’t, I mean literally even going to those networking events we were talking about earlier is chasing serendipity. It’s going to that thing and hoping when in reality there is a way that you can be deliberate about it. So it just makes sense that all of those people would then want to know more about this world because they’re being that deliberate. And I think it really underscores that idea that you can’t. The people that you are around, the people that you’re connected to and the future people who you’ll be connected to has a huge impact on your life. And you can’t just let that happen randomly. I mean, you can, but you’re not going to get that optimal life. Right. Which is what the show’s about. You know, you know, in the end.
Bryan: 00:35:49 Yeah, no, I, I love that. I’d actually never heard the advice until I heard it in your, in your TED talk about show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Yeah. Like that’s, that really is amazing. And it’s funny too because I, my um, I have a 12 year old son and he’s got this friend who is in school with him and this kid, you know, he comes over and he solves a Rubik Cube, a Rubik’s cube, and like literally 40 seconds, you know, this little 12 year olds. And he just dictated to, and I said to Zach, I said, stay friends with that kid. Like he’s a good student, he’s, he’s really kind and all that. But yeah, and what you’re saying about most of us, you know, just let our networks grow organically, but there’s an alternative and you talk about that. The term, again, I’d never heard this term and never really thought of this concept about, I think you call it super connectors. Would you talk a little bit about that and how any of us might do that without like exhausting ourselves or feeling like we’re trying to be somebody we’re not.
David: 00:36:49 Yeah, so there’s an interesting thing about super connectors is, and I probably didn’t do a good enough job distinguishing this in the book because they, they come into be like, I had to explain what they were, and then we talked about preferential attachment and then we talked about. Earlier we had talked about the six degrees of separation thing. So let me, I should have, I look back on my own book and I go, maybe I should rearrange those chapters. So let’s start with just pure definition of the super connector is someone who has a disproportionately high number of connections inside a given network, right? So we tend to think, we tend to think about everything. I blame like the SAT and the ACT, we tend to think about everything is evenly distributed, right? The inverted u curve, there’s a 99th percentile that has a certain percentage of the population. One. And then there’s, you know, everything goes down and it follows this sort of view. We’re right around 68% is that upper and then below that and right at 50 you should have half the population, right? All of that sort of fanciness. And if you were to try and graph the number of connections that anybody in an industry, a city, a community, etc, have it, will not follow that normative distribution. It’ll follow what’s known as a power law or what’s often expressed as the parade oh principle or the 80 20 rule, right? Where 20% of the people have a sum total of 80% of the connections. So it follows a very different shape. And those people that are in that 20% we refer to them as super connectors. Now, the interesting thing isn’t it, that they exist. I mean, that’s a little depressing, right? Because it can make you think, oh, well, you know, I’m not one of those people. The interesting thing is not that they exist, but how they got there and that’s the phenomenon of preferential attachment was is which is this idea that in a network, in a community, in an industry, in a company, what have you, the people who are well connected are more likely to get more connections organically or serendipitously and what have you, which makes sense. New person joins the company yeah they’re getting get introduced to their boss. They’re also going to get introduced to Debbie who just knows everyone, right? It’s just going to happen or you think about a city, that person who sort of knows everybody in new person moves in that city and wants to engage in the business community there within the first couple of months they’re going to meet that person. Um, it doesn’t matter what network is, it just sort of happens, right? It’s the same thing with like the one of the studies actually tracked websites, right? Highly trafficked websites. Wikipedia, for example, is going to get more inbound links than Davidburkus.com which is depressing at first until you realize that over time what’s actually happening is it’s a sort of snowball effect that it actually happens for everybody. But the fact that because you know more people, you have more potential introductions, you get more introductions over a short period of time, but everybody gets, meets new people through their friend or friend network, which means there’s this sort of the snowball effect. So if you’re being deliberate and if you’re going to kind of, I picture it as like literally just run up behind the snowball and try and push it. If you do that by exploring the fringes of your network, by reaching out to weak and dormant ties, if you do all of the things that we would call sort of good deliberate networking, you’ll you’ll gather more of those connections faster. And then eventually preferential attachment we’ll take over. Right? And we see this in a lot of these different people. John Levy is a great example, the guys at Summit, etc, they didn’t start out well connected. They deliberately sort of move that way. So yes, we don’t, we don’t follow a normal distribution. We follow a power law, but who becomes part of that power law is not random. There’s this phenomenon, almost like gravitational pull of preferential attachment at work, which means if you’re not one of those super connectors, that’s okay. You’ve got a little bit of uphill work to do, but eventually you’ll hit the downslide and things will come easier. It means when you look at those people who, oh, it just seems like new connections, new business opportunities, new everything. Just come to them sort of naturally. They’re so lucky. No, they’re not lucky. They’ve got preferential attachment on their side and you can too. You just gotta put the work in on the front end.
Bryan: 00:40:35 I think the gentleman’s name, is it Brian Grazer that you.
David: 00:40:40 Brian Grazer, yeah, yeah, yeah, the producer.
Bryan: 00:40:42 Yeah. I love that story. And that what he did by scheduling what he called curiosity conversations. Yup. Yup. And just making time. Will you talk a little bit about that? Because to me, this ties in with this idea of being a super connector are benefiting preferential attachment, which is again, it’s not coincidental. It doesn’t happen by chance or by luck. It’s something that if people want, they can make a decision and then support that decision with some very doable things like Brian did. Will you talk about that.
David: 00:41:13 Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And Brian, you know, Brian’s, Brian now is this amazingly powerful producer. Um, often collaborates with Ron Howard. So if you’ve ever seen a movie directed by Ron Howard, odds are Brian’s the money behind it. Imagine Entertainment, lots of shows, 24 being one of my personal favorites. Um, all sorts of, of movies and TV shows that Brian’s been a part of and ideas now come to him, right. He is that super connector in Hollywood, but it didn’t start out that way. In fact, he had no intention of going to Hollywood. He was a law student and he heard about this cushy internship thing where you work in the legal department of, of a movie studio and basically your whole job is like once a day you’ve got to deliver a contract to somebody and get them to sign it, right? And so he gets this cushy job because he makes a random phone call pretending to know about said cushy job. And so they interview him and very quickly he realizes that like he’s delivering contracts to movie stars. So he could use that as an excuse to talk to them. Right. Which is sort of the first, we’ll call that part lucky, right? He has that real estate, but then he gets really bold and he starts chasing out these, what he calls curiosity conversations. He’ll call, he would call people and say, “Hey, my name is Brian Grazer. I’m with Warner Brothers legal. I’d like to talk to Mr so and so. This is not an official studio business. I just love the opportunity to talk to them, etc.” And people respond. And so he starts to get conversations with a lot of different people. About his career and where it can go and what have you. He gets, he will, we’ll call lucky break number two that he gets extra bold and asking for an open office that’s like down the hall from the CEO of the organization. But, but beyond those two things, the rest was about spending decades deliberately pursuing conversation with people. And even now when he reads about someone in the paper that just strikes him as interesting, he reaches out and tries to have an hour long conversation with that person just to learn about them. So it’s a great example of again, somebody that was not born into connections that was not blessed by the networking gods. If there were such a thing. Brian was not lucky when it comes to his network, but just spent decades deliberately seeking out, trying to have one conversation a week or one a month, just trying to keep that chain going. And eventually you acquire enough connections to where that preferential attachment idea takes over. And now, now people pitch their movie ideas to Brian. All he has to do is filter through all of them. And, and you actually, this is something you hear a lot of different super connectors say. Jayson Gaignard who a friend of mine who’s also in the book says now that to him the key to keeping a good network is now subtraction, not addition. Which is the kind of thing you hear when you’re like, eh, well it’s great to be you. It’s still addition for most of us. But it proves the point that that eventually this sort of takes over and your job becomes screening out potential opportunities, not chasing them down. But most of us don’t put the work in on the front end to get to that point.
Bryan: 00:43:58 I think what Tony Robbins would call a quality problem. When you’re a.
David: 00:44:03 When you have too many people, it’s a good, it’s a good problem to have for sure.
Bryan: 00:44:06 But again, and I, and I think is what you’re saying is that what’s common to both of those situations is that the deliberateness with which, uh, you know, a contact list is cultivated or list of friends. Maybe more easily thought of that way because, um, I think it can be one of these things that that does feel kind of icky and you talk a little bit about that, right? But when we think of it as, hey, it’s just friendship building, you know, if that’s what, if there’s an authenticity to it based on a real interest we have. And it’s not that we’re trying to, you know, get something from others, but it’s, it’s something that we enjoy or you know, that we, we think we can maybe contribute to others in some way. I think that probably changes the way it feels for us. What do you think?
David: 00:44:49 No, I mean it’s a huge shift in the, in the last chapter of the book we talk about this phenomenon called multiplexity, which is this idea that about 10, maybe a little bit, maybe 15 years ago, network science researchers realized that they needed to start accounting for how people knew each other and not just that they were connected. So before that most of the research was just, you know, David do you know Bryan? Yeah. And then that’s a connection and now we would call it, there’s the only, if that’s the only connection, then it’s a uniplex tie. Um, but if we know each other in multiple different contexts of we’re both part of this community when we both work at this organization or in this industry and we both also have kids that go to the same school or whatever it is, you build up multiple different contexts for connection. You know it’s those multiplex ties that you actually get to see people as, yeah. You’re a friend and a colleague and a this and a that. And the research is actually really clear that not only are these more beneficial, like not only is thinking about people as all part of one big bucket and having multiple different connections, more beneficial career wise um, then separating them out into these are work friends and real friends and what have you. Um, that not only does it open up a path of opportunity and like business history is full of friends who then went into business to each other. It also, even on just like an employee level, we know that when you have the people that you work with, those people that you spend a third or more hours of your, your life with, when you start to get to know them in multiple contexts, you perform better in the organization and your employees perform better when they get to know each other from those multiple different angles. That the one study actually suggests that you also experience a little bit more stress because now like you could bring outside drama into the workplace, cause your friends in that capacity, but that that stress is offset by these massive productivity gains because you have backup. You have people you can go to for social support or because you’re friends with that person in legal and you need to get something figured out, like you have that available to you. That’s not an official communication channel. So things work better for you in that capacity. And that’s at the core. I mean it’s, it, again, it’s at that core of the idea that it’s better to look at all of your contacts as just friends. That’s why the book is called Friend of a Friend rather than something else than it is to just look at, oh, these are work people. These are colleagues, these are friends, these are um, you know, parishioners. These are PTA members. These are what, it doesn’t, our network, when we as, as kind of social creatures, we’re not designed to work that way and it just happens to turn out that it doesn’t work well that way. So you know, it’s one of those, it’s one of those theories that we, you’re researching it. You’re like, I call these the the theories of duh, because you read it all and you finally break down what the science is saying in real language and the only thing you have left to do is like, oh, well duh. That makes perfect sense.
Bryan: 00:47:34 Yeah. Okay, so I want to transition us if you are ready and willing. I want to go now into the lightning round.
David: 00:47:43 The halftime show, lightning round. Let’s do this.
Bryan: 00:47:45 All right, let’s do it. First question, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Okay. Life is like a
David: 00:47:59 Slot machine you can hack. Because it can be random, but there’s a way to figure out the pattern and work at deliberately for you too.
Bryan: 00:48:06 I like that. Number two, what’s something at which you wish you were better?
David: 00:48:13 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve done it for 13 years. I have a black belt, but you always want to get better in that sport. It’s a beautiful addiction in that capacity. And so I, I have teachers and mentors that have been doing it for like 40 years and they blow my mind. And so it’s, it’s something that I already fancied myself fairly good at, but I will never want to not be better at it.
Bryan: 00:48:33 I’m gonna, I’m gonna remember that. Never going to sneak up on you. Okay. Number three, if you were required every day 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?
David: 00:48:48 So my buddy Tom Bilyeu, at Impact Theory actually already made this shirt. You can buy it right now. It’s a t-shirt that says Everything Is My Fault. And what’s weird is I wear it. And most people assume that like, oh, you must be married or say something like that. But actually it’s a beautiful, potent demonstrator of what’s known as internal locus of control. People process the world in two different ways. Either they process it as happening to them or they process it as in control of what of it. At least how you react, let possibly even what happens to you. And it doesn’t matter which one’s right. We know that people with a strong internal locus of control do better in life. Jury’s out on which one is the accurate way to look at the world? Doesn’t matter. People with an internal locus of control, people who think everything is my fault, they do better. And so that would probably be it.
Bryan: 00:49:36 I like it. All right, number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
David: 00:49:44 So two books depending on the person. Uh, the first is CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Um, whether you’re a person of faith or not, it is an, and even, especially now, it is an amazing book. The premise of it is that it, these, there are these two temperatures, these two demons of a senior one and a young new apprentice. And it’s a series of letters from the senior one about how to mislead a human. And again, whether or not you are a faith person or not, it is a beautiful book about human psychology and the ways in which we sabotage ourselves, seen through that picture of the temperatures and what have you. But even even an atheist can can read it and go, yeah, this is exactly how humans screw up their own lives. Um, so that one and then the other would be in a business context, a is usually Roger Martins, The Opposable Mind, which is all about, you know, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote about the sort of genius of the, and instead of the either or. But Roger Martin actually wrote about how you do that. How do you take two seemingly opposing mental models, put them in your mind at the same time, turn them over and get them to fit in each other and pursue the end. And so that book came out maybe 15 years ago is, and it’s, it’s a, it reads like a series of interviews with CEOs and senior leaders of nonprofits and government organizations that have done just that. And so it’s a great read because it’s case study heavy. But it teaches you the how of how to do that, what he calls integrative thinking.
Bryan: 00:51:03 Hmm. I actually have not, I will have to give you a copy of that and yeah, I’ve never, I’ve never even heard of that book. I’ve heard a lot of books, but I’ve never heard of it.
David: 00:51:13 But it’s, I mean, anything by Roger Martin is an amazing, it’s an amazing book. Um, he’s the, he was the dean at the University of Rotman and, or sorry, University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management, which is north of the border. So between you and me. Oh, that explains it for not knowing what a Canadian’s gone on too. Um, I don’t remember who published the opposable mind, but I mean it didn’t, I’ll be honest with you, it did not make a splash. It’s a very uncomfortable thing to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. And so did you know, I don’t, to my knowledge, it never made a single bestseller list or what have you, but it’s an idea that is powerful if you can get it, get your head around it.
Bryan: 00:51:49 Yeah. That’s one. I, I know I could benefit more from more fully cultivating, but also that’s why I do this podcast. It’s part of the reason is to learn about. So we got so thanks for sharing that. Okay. So the next question is about your travel. So you travel a ton.
David: 00:52:05 102,000 miles last year. Airline miles. I have no idea what I drove. Probably much less.
Bryan: 00:52:10 So what’s one travel hack? Maybe something you do when you travel or something you take with you that makes your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
David: 00:52:19 Yeah, so, um, I mean the first one that comes to mind is the $20 rule, which is, and you can adjust it down or up depending on your, you know, your income and your willingness to do this. But long ago my wife and I settled on a price and the way that it works is if, if I’m traveling and there is a problem or there is a discomfort, doesn’t even need to be like a huge problem, just a discomfort and it will cost less than $20 to solve that discomfort. We don’t even think about it. You just grab it, right? You get to you, you fly your first leg and now you’re sitting at the international giant airport and you’re waiting to fly to China and oh no, I forgot the neck pillow. Like no problem. There’s one for $17. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think, wow, maybe I can survive on this one. It just do it. Um, because $20 is not a, I mean again adjusted up or down depending on where you are, but there is a, there’s a certain amount of money that is actually not a lot of money when you think about it in the context of an entire year. And if it will solve that discomfort in the moment, it’s definitely worth doing it because you’re probably just going to spend it on like two lattes and a burger later anyway. So who cares? So yeah, $20 rule makes life so much simpler.
Bryan: 00:53:25 I like that. I’ve never, again, never again.
David: 00:53:27 The and the other longer term hack, by the way, if, if you don’t already have the app Loungebuddy, which will tell you, assuming you have airline status or a special credit card or what have you, it will tell you which airline lounges you have access to in any city in the world. I’ve been in Nanjing, China, which is a small industrial smalls, 8 million people. Small industrial city in mainland, you know, deepen the mainland China. And I had lounge access because of a credit card that I had. Right. So it’s an amazing app that will tell you and that’ll make travel a whole lot more comfortable.
Bryan: 00:53:58 Yeah. That’s great. What’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
David: 00:54:03 Interesting question. Um, I, we sleep way more so that’ll be started. Um, some of this came from, uh, are, we have a seven year old and five year olds, I said, and they. We moved from a really small house to a big house where the bedrooms are on two different floors of the house. And so they, when we first moved, they didn’t really want to be alone and be that far away from us. So they sleep on a mattress in the corner of our bedroom, right? Like there, we just drug a, a full size mattress over there and they sleep down next to each other over there. And I mean they, they still do on many a night and it’s, it’s actually great cause they don’t sneak into your room in the middle of the night because they’re already there. They just stay there and they just want to know that you’re, you’re there. But what that meant for us though is that they wanted an us asleep too. And so we started essentially trying to sort of match that. We don’t do the, let’s watch an hour of television and after they go to bed or what have you, we don’t really do that anymore. We just like, oh hey, it’s bedtime. Let’s all just go to bed. And we’ll, I mean they’ll fall asleep and we’ll still be reading or whatever, but we’re not like, I’m not trying to squeeze an extra 90 minutes of the day. I’m done when they’re ready for bed. And what that allows me to do, the reason I say all that is that now I get eight and a half to nine hours of sleep a night. And for the first couple months you feel ashamed about it. But then it’s awesome. That’s amazing. Cause so many of us are in that sort of like sleep debt because we’re trying to do the grownup thing of not sleeping a lot. And it’s just stupid. And you’re, you’re, I mean, your brain works so much better when you’re getting a lot of sleep and feel better. Right. You feel better. And I’m positive that there’s research about aging better too because it just makes sense. Um, and yeah, so for the first couple of months, like we felt bad about it and now like it’s, it’s awesome. So we go to bed. We are the most boring people to like go out on the town with because by like 8:30-9 PM we’re, we’re ready for bed. But I, you know, A, I know that there’s gonna be a seven year old jumping up and down at six in the morning. Like on the dot. But B, I’m just, I’m not ashamed of getting that much sleep anymore. I’m just not.
Bryan: 00:56:02 Now that, I think that’s really beautiful and it makes me think about, I spent a year in Japan as an exchange student and I lived with a, with a family and they all slept in the same room. And I think, you know, when I grew up, I was one of five kids and you know, then we had both parents at home. So there were seven of us under a roof. But we never, that kind of closeness. Yeah. I actually wished I had. So when I hear you describe, you know, your family arrangements, it seems to me like there are some cultures where that’s really a normal thing to do. It’s really beautiful.
David: 00:56:34 So most actually, so this is, I read a great Sebastian Younger who mostly writes about war, has this great book called Tribe. Which is about the bonds that are made mostly during war. But there was a reference in there and I had never thought of it, but basically the majority of humans in every continent other than North America, co-sleep. But define that and not the same bed but all in the same room. Some of it is economic, right? Like you said, if you just can’t afford more than that, then you also, but, but in Japan, in, in most of of Asia and lots of parts of Asia, even parts of of Europe, um, and certainly parts of Africa and South America, it’s just more, it’s culturally acceptable to sort of do that. We’re the weird country. There’s, there’s some European countries and then America and Canada where you’ll have friends that will say, oh, you got to break that habit. You got to get them. And why? Like I remember when our first one, our first, so we tried to do that and our first son as soon as he was old enough to climb out of the crib, didn’t really want to at the very least he wanted the door open and all that kind of stuff. And we used to be like, no, no, no, no. You’ve got to stay in that. Why? Like, who, who, what, what rule says that kids who sleep in a mattress in the corner of their bed with their parents like turn out to be serial killers, more likely than kids who don’t. I haven’t seen that data.
Bryan: 00:57:45 Individualized in America. Right.
David: 00:57:49 Right. But what I have seen is exactly what you’re talking about, the benefits of sort of that, that, that union and that connection and it’s, um, it’s definitely worth it. I mean, sure, it’s a little annoying because like, you know, but it’s, it’s totally worth it.
Bryan: 00:58:03 Your special alone time with your significant other. I mean, there’s that.
David: 00:58:07 Well, yeah, I mean, the good news is we will have very non traditional schedules. So we actually, now that they’re both in school, there’s like random Tuesdays where we’re at home watching movies because we’re like, I don’t, I mean, I don’t have to work right now and you don’t work til tomorrow. All right, let’s, let’s finally catch up on that television show or whatever. So, so yeah, we get that. I don’t, I don’t know how well it would all work if we both had the normal sort of like eight to five. Got to drop them off at school, then run to the office, then I don’t know how that would work, but luckily I don’t have to solve that problem.
Bryan: 00:58:37 Yeah, no, that’s nice. Okay. See what I would have missed if I didn’t ask the lightning round questions I’d have. I would never know this about you. Um, okay. Just a couple more questions in the lightning round that I want to transition to a few questions about your writing and creative creative process. Okay. So what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
David: 00:59:00 Didn’t I already say the locus of control thing? No. Um, I, I think, uh, without getting sort of overtly political. I think a lot of America doesn’t know how much they’re actually responsible for. An and then how much they’re not responsible for that should be, right. Like I think we’ve got, and I think we’re doing better than a lot of places, but I think we’ve got weird disconnects. Um, healthcare being one of them. For example, like we’re in this giant healthcare debate. And I think like a lot of Americans don’t realize that there’s certain things you can do right now that make your health more like. Like the, just going to make it cheaper to take care of you for the next 40 years. Right. And maybe just maybe if you had to pay for more of the things that are going, are involved in your medical care, like maybe you’d have to do that or I mean, and maybe not, maybe I’m totally wrong. But again, I feel like it would at least we’d be having a better conversation if we all understood it because we participated more in it. Right? Yeah. I think, I think, uh, investments and finances are sort of the same thing. And most Americans, I mean, myself included for a long time, have this idea of just like, here, take the money and then 30 years from now it’s less than what we thought it was. And we don’t understand why. And I think there’s definitely some things we need to fix in that system, just like there are in healthcare. But I think it’d be easier to fix them if everybody paid a little bit more attention to that. Right. But instead like we have to watch 22 men on a field fight over a ball. Not that I don’t love football and or soccer, depending on what sport you think I’m talking about. Uh, actually how many men are in a soccer match? I don’t think there are 22 so there you go.
Bryan: 01:00:39 I think it’s 11 isn’t that 11 per side?
David: 01:00:42 Is it? I’d have, I have no idea. That’s how little I watch football as opposed to hand egg the American one. But you know, we, we were in that sort of want to be entertained. There’s a, there’s a great book called Amusing Ourselves to Death that talks a bit about this. But the other one that I always throw out is that when America looks at its future and thinks the dystopian novel is 1984 they’re wrong. The dystopian novel is Brave New World, right? It’s a very different book where it’s not that there’s a massive system controlling us, it’s that we all just want to be entertained. And let other people handle things and that’s where the problem starts.
Bryan: 01:01:17 Yeah. I’ll never forget the feelies and Soma.
David: 01:01:22 Yep. Oh No. Exactly. That’s a, that’s a way bigger problem than like wrong think and what have you. Yeah. Yeah. Props to you for even reading that book, by the way.
Bryan: 01:01:33 That that book really it was very, is the word pressioned? Like it really was.
David: 01:01:37 No, I mean, so, so back me up. And again, not to get overly political, but people always make these references to like, oh, we’re living in 1984. No, we’re not. We’re living in Brave New World and we’ve been living in it for a long time.
Bryan: 01:01:49 Yeah. Okay. So I want to ask this to make sure that I get it in here and not try to squeeze it at the very end. Um, if people want to connect with you or learn more from you, what should they do? What would you like them to do?
David: 01:02:03 Well, the single best place would be the show notes for this episode, right? Because you guys do an awesome job in that and you’ll have links to all that. I mean, DavidBurkus.com um, I’ve got a weird last name, so it was available. B U R K U S. So DavidBurkus.com is a great place to, but you’re going to link there anyway. And like if you’re listening to this, then you already know how to get to the show notes for this episode. So go there and then we’ll just, we’ll keep the conversation going from there.
Bryan: 01:02:25 Awesome. And of course, while it’s always great to support your local bookseller. If people want to look for you and they’re local bookseller or online at amazon.com they can do that as that.
David: 01:02:35 Yeah. All the, all the books are on Amazon and or Indie Bound. Um, and actually there’s a, the, one of the blessings of my publisher as opposed to a lot of New York publishers is they’ve got a sales force that hits a lot of indie bookstores. So I’ve actually seen copies of it more often in indie stores than in the chains. So wow, go to them. Not only because you’re going to find it more, but like, you know, it’s the right thing to do.
Bryan: 01:02:56 Yeah. I keep waiting for the day that the Barnes and Noble by me closes because I know it’s coming. And I actually opened that store. I was a bookseller there back in 1995. I put the shelves together and the initial books and I’m just like, someday this thing is going away. But, but that is not.
David: 01:03:12 I mean, I have, I have no qualms with Barnes and Noble. They, they, um, don’t really know how to respond to being disrupted. But other than that, like I, if you sell books, you’re automatically a friend of mine. Right. So there’s that. Um, I just think, you know, you are a bookseller in 1995. How much did you know versus how much your local person that owns the store or has worked there for the, they just know more about this world and that’s, you know. It’s like, it’s like if you could buy a car from Amazon versus a mechanic that’s been doing it for 30 years, why wouldn’t you buy from the mechanic?
Bryan: 01:03:46 Yeah, totally. And then.
David: 01:03:49 Can you buy cars on Amazon? I don’t think you can buy cars on Amazon.
Bryan: 01:03:51 I don’t know if you can buy cars on Amazon.
David: 01:03:53 That day is coming though.
Bryan: 01:03:54 I mean, Musk just announced yesterday, right? The closure of a lot of Teslas, retail stores, and they’re going to be selling, I believe exclusively online now. Even though they’ll keeps galleries. Oh yeah. I think he calls them gallerias. There’ll be a few and some of the hype.
David: 01:04:08 Yeah, they’re not car stores. They’re not, they’re not car stores because that would be illegal. They are galleries, you are correct.
Bryan: 01:04:14 So he just, there was a email that he sent to everyone at Tesla that got of course released to the news as well and said they’re going to sell online. So I know you can buy a Tesla online.
David: 01:04:25 Yeah, there you go. But, okay.
Bryan: 01:04:27 So the last thing before we get into the creative questions, uh, I just want to share with you that as a, as an expression of gratitude to you for making time to talk with me and everyone who’s listening. Um, I went on kiva.org and I made a $100 micro loan in your honor to a woman named Sylvia in Ecuador that this is part of a $500 loan that she’s taking out. Um, this crowd sourced microloan that she will use to buy organic disinfectants and fertilizers. She’s 37 year old woman who’s raising a 12 year old on her own and she’s actually gonna use this to grow tomatoes and improve the quality of life for herself and her daughter.
David: 01:05:07 Oh, that’s awesome. No, I love Kiva. I’ve got, I’ve got a couple of different loans in, in repayment now. And you know what’s funny is I always get the emails to like, you know, you’re at 56 of the hundred paid back re, reloan it. I always like, I want to wait until it’s a hundred. Like that’s the weirdest part about this site is you want to help people right away, but you’re also like, I also kind of want to wait and then do another hundred. But anyway, but no thank you. That’s awesome.
Bryan: 01:05:30 Yeah, no, thank you for, for sharing so generously of your time and your expertise. Okay. So last, last few questions are about your creative process and advice that you would give to others who are doing what you’re doing or who want to do what you’re doing in in that they want to take their ideas, they want to take their experience, they want to put it in writing and they want to get it out into the world in a way that makes a difference. Let me ask you, this. It’s kind of a big question perhaps. Will you, so you’ve done this thing a few times now of having written a book and having gotten it published and then having got it read. I mean the reviews and I’m curious, do you read, cause there’s a lot of books, somebody told me that there are like 500 books a day published on Amazon and most of those like literally never get purchased, never get read because a lot of them are the self published books and stuff like that. Do you read your own reviews, like the reviews on your books?
David: 01:06:25 I try not to, but sometimes I do when it, when it first comes out. Um, and this is more like tactical marketing than anything else. Um, when it first comes out, I’m checking the reviews often because I’m wanting to make sure that like there’s four to five good ones for every critical one. Right. And actually my publisher used to, there’s this program called Amazon Vine where you can send the book to vetted reviewers ahead of time. And then even before it launches those people, those few people can post the reviews. Um, and we pulled out of it because it’s overtly negative. Um, some of them, those people, I mean there’s people on Amazon that make their name by just one and two star reviewing everything and it’s obnoxious. Um, and some of them got in that program and the whole thing is a little weird. So I pay, I pay attention then and then I usually, the only thing I pay attention to once we get maybe past like 20, 25 of them, the only thing I pay attention to is where they got it. Right. So, so Amazon lets you see, is it a review of physical, kindle or audible? And that’s really interesting to me because it’s changed over time. The first book, almost all of the reviews are off the print. Now there’s actually a huge amount of them that are audio, which I also didn’t narrate the audio book of mine, so that, you know, that tells me something. Right? And so, so I pay, I kind of pay attention to reviews for that. But in terms of the actual criticism, I mean, I’m not interested in that. I haven’t been interested in criticism for the longest time. I gave, I gave a talk right before my second book came out about pay transparency, which is a major idea in the, um, in under new management. I was expecting a lot of criticism. The, I, the, the talk actually got picked by TED was a TEDX talk, but then it got picked by TED to be re edited and debuted as a, an a legit, like TED talk and now has like 2 million views. But the very first comment on entry for the TED talk was he’s fat. Right, you’ll don’t get me in the, and I’m expecting criticism and my idea that in a company everybody should know what everybody gets paid. I’m, I’m ready for that. Like I chose to wait into that debate so I’m ready for that criticism. But when that’s, I had a moment like that, you basically, you have a choice, you can react. It literally, you can react to that criticism in two different ways. One, you can feel victimized, you can feel like the world is out to get you because this person called you out on the fact that like your, your pants didn’t fit well and you probably should have worked with a designer before you jumped on that stage because you know, you should have known that it was going to get picked and all that, all that sort of stuff. You can choose to do that or you can go, you know what, I just don’t care. And I went that second route and I haven’t looked back since. So I don’t, I don’t Google myself. I don’t read the substance of the reviews anymore. I certainly don’t look at the reviews of those, you know, of the TED talk anymore, I’m just not interested. If you want, if you want to email me, like if you want to take the time to tell me I’m a horrible person via email, I’ll read it and I’ll reply to you. But if you just want to do it on like a thing that’s prompting you to put a comment in there, it’s kind of like birthday wishes on Facebook like doesn’t count to me. It’s not real feedback.
Bryan: 01:09:32 Yeah. Hopefully you’ve seen enough of them to know that the reviews are, they’re pretty good.
David: 01:09:37 Oh, thank you. I mean I’ve, I’ve seen that there are a lot, but I haven’t seen what they said for that reason.
Bryan: 01:09:44 That’s pretty awesome man. I’m sorry to hear that about TED comment, but that is pretty freaking amazing to have a TED talk that’s been viewed about 2 million times and.
David: 01:09:53 Yeah, I choose to remember that and not, I mean obviously I remember the first comment, but I only because of what, like again to that everything is my fault. I got to pick my reaction to that moment. And uh, the reason I remember that is because I’m proud of the reaction that I picked.
Bryan: 01:10:06 Yeah. What’s the hardest part for you about completing a book project?
David: 01:10:11 So in an, in a non a non fict, being a nonfiction book writer is like the coolest thing in the world. Right? Um, you, it, so you would, I know you study abroad in Japan. Do you go to graduate school too?
Bryan: 01:10:23 Uh, I actually dropped out of my MBA program a year in.
David: 01:10:26 Okay. No, no worries. But you’re familiar with, so most masters programs, you have this thesis, right? You have this end project, so you’re familiar enough to know that. Um, and it’s, it’s the weirdest thing to me because when you’re doing a master of, and maybe this is why you were right to drop out, you pay a university tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege to write a 40,000 word paper that no one’s going to read, right? Yeah. I do it the opposite way. A publisher pays me money and then I go off and research and spend a year of my life almost like a year in graduate school researching a certain topic and putting together a 40 to 60,000 word document and then people get to read it, right? Like, and then I get to go talk about those ideas. And so there’s, there’s, it’s the coolest job ever, but there’s three phases in sort of the life cycle of the book, right? There’s that research phase, which has a lot of fun because it’s like being in Grad school again, but now I’m in Grad school getting a master’s in networking. Right? Which is what this last book was about. That phase is really fun. Eventually though, after you’re done with the research, you have to sit down and trudge through writing 500 to a thousand words a day for several months that parts awful. So that parts of the answer to your question, that’s the hardest part. Um, it’s just drudgery, right? It’s like, ah, my friend Dan Pink describes it as like, he thinks of it as being a bricklayer. You just have to show up and your job is to lay a certain number of bricks, can’t lay too many because then you hurt your back. Right. And you can’t lay too few cause then you’ll get fired. But that’s your job. Show up and lay bricks. And then when that phase is over, you go through editing, which is kind of fun cause you get to do some stylistic things and you think of, you think of little like jokes or better way to phrase stuff that you get to insert after you’ve done the drudgery of getting all the information out. Um, and then you get to go market the book, which is a lot of people struggle with. But I look at marketing the book as I get to talk about all that stuff that I just got to learn. That’s really cool and fun. So that part’s great to. That middle part though, that middle part’s pretty terrible and I haven’t found a way to make it not terrible yet. So the, you know, so that’s the, that’s a very long answer to the question that writing the book is the worst thing about being an author. But being an author is the coolest thing ever.
Bryan: 01:12:35 And, and that was the question that I was kind of trying to open this section of questions with, which was about kind of walking us through the process of, of writing a book. And you gave a kind of succinct framework there of the research, the writing, the editing. What I’m also interested to know is where does the process really began? You know, how do you know when you’ve got a subject that you’re willing to invest however many months or years in that you’re committed to? And then from there, how do you as a practical matter, like how do you, how do you conceive of this and how do you organize your time and your energy to get it done? So it’s just kind of a, again, a broad question, but like will you walk us through how you actually settle on something to how you pick your editor? Like how do you make a book a reality? I guess.
David: 01:13:21 Yeah. Yeah. So yes, I will do that. Before I do that, we should talk about the phase zero. If you’re a first time author or if you’re aspiring to be a first time author. And the phase zero can be everything from a year to a decade. And it’s the part in which you put lots of different ideas and content out into the world and you gradually build a following of people who know who you are. Right? So that for me started in 2010 and it took about three years, almost three years, probably two years and 10 months to get to the point where that turned into a book deal. And during that time, you’re testing out lots of different ideas. You’re writing little articles about it. You’re, you’re, I started a podcast at that point in time. You’re doing a bunch of different stuff. Eventually you find sort of your thing that there’s a group of people that resonate with and then you keep producing that piece of content, right? Um, but you start running all that and the fancy term in the industry as you build a platform, right? Which is really just a fancy term for a tribe of people that like what you’re talking about and want to stay updated on it. Then you get to the point where, okay, now you’ve got this platform. It’s time to, if it’s a traditional publisher or even if you decide to self publish, um, you start with a proposal, which is to me the way that you test your idea. So a book proposal is for a first time author, it’s going to be 50 to 60 pages. It gets shorter over time because a good number of those pages are going to be sample chapters, meaning the proof to a publisher that you can write or the, or if you’re self publishing the proof to yourself that you can write. But it’s a sketch. It’s almost like a business plan. It’s a sketch of here’s the idea, here’s why I think it will be useful. Here’s who I am and how we’re going to get this idea out into the world. Like here’s our whole plan. And the reason I say even if you self publish, is that’s a good thing to do is that you structure out here’s what’s going to be in each chapter and then you structure out a rough kind of marketing plan, which a lot of times to your point about the 8 million books that are on Amazon that most people aren’t buying. A lot of times people just write it, self publish it, and then they’re like, oh well it’d be great if I could like get on a show, right? As opposed to having it all planned out. Here’s what we’re going to do. So there’s that proposal. You take that proposal to, um, if you’re, again first time author, you actually want to chase down a literary agent and build a relationship with them. If you’ve got a big platform, they’ll probably respond to your emails and you’ll have a good conversation. If not, you’ve got to keep sending out lots of emails. I got really lucky in this life in that mine came to me. Um, lucky but also sort of networked in proof of concept. I was writing regularly for a website called 99U, which was about creative work, specifically sort of the business of creative work, not the other side. And several other of his authors were writing articles on that. And so he started seeing my work and reached out to me.
Bryan: 01:16:02 Was that Scott Belsky?
David: 01:16:03 Yeah, yeah. Scott, it was Scott Scott started the whole, it was originally called 99% or B Hands was the name of the social network and then the 99% taken from the Edison quote, not the people that occupied Wall Street. Um, that was a whole publication to serve the B Hands community of the sort of how of, of making ideas happen to use the Scott Belsky term. Um, so I was writing pretty regularly for them and so we’re a couple of other people, Scott Barry Kaufman, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Art Markman and lots of other folks that were represented by the same literary agent. And so he eventually reached out to me cause I’m swimming in this community. Why wouldn’t I eventually meet him? Right. Proof of concept. Um, so we went to work, we pitched the proposal, publishers bid on it. They offer you an advance. If you accept it, they say here’s a bunch of money, come back in nine months to a year with a book. If you don’t, you got to give the money back. Um, I then go spend the money, which is a really good way to guarantee that I will get the book done in time because when I don’t have it to give back to them, now I’ve got to write the book. Um, but that’s how we then get into that first phase that I was talking about. So that’s all of the sort of how to. There was a second part to your question and I already forgot it.
Bryan: 01:17:13 No, so that pretty much satisfied. Okay, cool. Yeah, because it was just this again, again where I think people listening, I think many people who’ve listened all the way through to this part and if they know the podcast well enough to know this is the part where we talk about the writing, the strategy and the tactics on the writing that they want to know. Like, how did you do it? How did you, how do you think about it? How do you, what are the steps and what order are they in? And you know, what advice do you have along that way? And you know, one of the things I find is with people who’ve, who’ve done this especially multiple times or they’ve had success, is that often it’s one of those that like, no, I don’t know. It just did it. You know? And, and I know sometimes when people know how to do something really well, it doesn’t mean they know how to explain it, you know? But I think what you’ve just, you’ve laid out, it explains it pretty well, but what I’m, what’s coming up for me, and I suspect what’s coming up for some people who are listening is that first of all, like having something to say makes such a big difference. Right. And you talked about early on when you were building your platform and you’re, you’re talking about a topic and then you’re finding people that is resonating with. That there’s really no substitute for that, right? Like, I think maybe a lot of people want to do this because it will give them significance or it might somehow help them earn more income or something. I don’t even know what they think it might do for them. But what I think a lot of people maybe overlook is like, oh yeah, I’ve got to have something worth saying.
David: 01:18:36 Yeah. So I, um, so I have a buddy that runs a company that helps mostly their market is helping business owners and entrepreneurs write the book that will become their business card. Right? And he’s a, he’s a good friend of mine. I hate that as business exists. Right. Because I hate exactly that. The idea of like, well this will help my, this will help generate business for me. So I’m going to make, I mean, the people that tell you, oh a book is a great business card. Like, I hate you. I really do. Not because that’s not true. But because you probably don’t have something to say. Right, right. Other than, I mean, the thing you have to say is, here I am, do business with me. And that’s not a big concept. I will sort of sorta, sorta clarify on one thing, which is that when you’re at the very beginning stages, do, you may not have a clue what you have to say, but yet you still have this, this thing in you, right? Um, I, I’ve started conceptualizing that thing is like there’s a crusade or like a battle to fight or a community that has already fighting that battle that you just want to be in, right? So for me, I became fascinated. So, so my like long stories, I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was 14 years old, right? I was English and literary magazine and newspaper where the things that I flock to in high school, right? I went to university to study English and creative writing. I thought it was gonna be a novelist. But in my junior and senior year of undergrad, I found the people that wrote about social science. I found the Gladwell’s and the, I don’t think a Heath Brothers book was out yet, but it was coming. And the Dan Pink’s of the world. And in my mind was two things was one, this is a masterful piece because it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling and it’s helpful. But in the other was that idea that like there’s a ton of research about how to work and live better and very little of it is getting out into the world, helping people. And so that became the crusade. I didn’t know what the heck. I mean I started, I started a podcast called Leader Lab until I got sued because I didn’t know the trademark for that name. Mental note on that one to anyone looking to start a community. Check with the trademark and patent office first. Um, but because I thought I was going to speak specifically to like senior leaders of organizations and then the first book was about creativity, which is not what you’re supposed to do when you’re focusing on leaders as the first couple of things that you say. But the through line through all of that was that piece about research getting into practice, right. That was the crusade that I chose to take up. And when you start with that and you figure out what that is, you find the things to say and you, you find lots of things to say. You don’t run out of things to say. I have four or five different book ideas for everyone that turns into a book, but that’s the through line throughout all of them. And so if you, I, I totally agree with you on the, something to say thing, but if you’re listening and you’re like, wow, I don’t know what my big idea yet is, that’s fine to go find a crusade, a community of battle to fight and you’ll as you participate in that, you will find what you want to say.
Bryan: 01:21:27 That’s great. Thank you for adding that because I think that’s a really valuable, you know, perspective to this and, and somebody, I mean what’s, there’s a, a poem about wanderer. There is no path. You lay the path by walking right kind of thing. And sometimes we don’t know what we want to say or we don’t maybe know what our voice is until we began to exercise it. And as we do in whatever way is available to us, whether it’s, you know, joining toastmasters and practicing, you know, our public speaking and using it as an opportunity to begin developing an idea or a community or you know, whatever, creating, joining a book club were a writer’s group or some kind of evening program at the local college or something that there is, there is. So I don’t mean to discourage anybody by any means from, you know, moving forward in some way of expressing, you know, ideas or serving others. You know, what I am interested in is what like what have you learned that can help shorten the learning curve or diminish, you know, the difficulty that somebody might face when they sit down and they’re like, yeah, I know I want to book. Maybe I even have an idea. But realistically, like I’m not a writer, I don’t have a book deal. I don’t even know where I would find an agent, you know, this kind of thing. Um, what, what kind of advice do you have to somebody who’s maybe in the, in the process of transitioning, you know, their, their work, but they don’t have, like, they don’t know how they’re going to support themselves. They don’t know how they’re going to earn money from, you know, their ideas or their words or whatever you say to somebody in that, in that situation. And they’re using that maybe even as an excuse from moving forward in a, in a bold way.
David: 01:23:07 Yeah. Yeah. So, so I mean, dear, dear God, don’t quit your job and go be a writer. Right. Um, so, so a couple different things. So on that, the best thing that I’ve found, and I did not know this when I started and it sort of trial and error is, um, if you’re in that phase zero, we were talking about where your goal is just to join that community, to start speaking to that, that fight, and to start building a platform. What you want to figure out is what, and you’re going to have to experiment, but you want to find out like what piece of content can I regularly produce? Um, that doesn’t burn me out. So like for the longest time for me, I thought it was writing more recently I’ve started doing these daily videos that we put out on youtube and Linkedin and Facebook and stuff. And I found because it’s easier for me to do those, and then right after the fact, more on that in a second, but it doesn’t matter for you. It’s a podcast right now, right for, so for some people it’s going to be that for some people it is going to be an 800 to a thousand word article, etc. But find something that you could produce at a minimum of once a week that is a piece of content like that and go start producing it, but produce it in such a way that you are, you’re starting with that piece of content you’re sharing out there. And then whatever you do, choose a way in which the people that then consume that piece of content can share it easily with other people. So text works great for this podcasting, you got it. You got to really sort of master. You can’t just have the show, you’ve got to figure out how are people going to share it, what have you, um, have that because then that those people sharing loops, new people back to that concept content who then subscribe or follow or do whatever. Um, and then the next time, next, you know, next week, new piece of content. Now it’s slightly more people that are running around sharing, right? And then some of those people are sharing. So new people are seeing it. A small percentage of them will stay for the next week, the next week. Now there’s more people and you build, my friend Tim Grahl actually calls this the connection system, right? There’s three phases. It starts with that content, but you’ve also got to take care of that shareability piece, which means you have to know what community you’re writing it too. But also you have to sort of optimize that content in a way that’s going to be shared. Now, me personally, my favorite way to do this is with a combination of social and email. So I put out, now I’m putting out a daily video and it’s on five different platforms and people go, why? Why don’t you just focus on one? Well, because I don’t care which way you want to share it. I want to put it out there in a way that you can then share it with other people. Believe it or not, I’m finding Linkedin is the most valuable place for it, but that’s a whole other thing. Um, it’s just out there because then people can share it. But in each and every piece of content, at the very end, there’s a call to subscribe and what I want is for people to actually arrive on my email newsletter where I will email you at the end of a week and send you out these links. Again, that’s sort of like the most intimate one and the people who are on that email list, they’re the ones that are more likely to share and what have you. And now the weird thing is is 2018 it was also have amazing tools and tactics out there, but the one that was invented in the 70s email still seems to be performing really, really well in that regard. And um, the reason I say a stumbled around all this and trial and error, I wish I hadn’t, I have a friend of mine, an author, James Clear, who writes about an 800 to 1000 word article every single week and he’s been. We started pretty much the exact same time, but his following, particularly on email is like half a million people because he found his piece of content early and then he just kept the system going, you know. To use fancy business speak, Jim Collins talks about the concept of the flywheel and this is exactly what we’re talking about, but what is that system where you push the content out? People who like it, share it, some percentage of those new people who had been shared with stay for the next piece. And then you keep building and that’s how you build a platform. The other thing is that that’s how you experiment and figure out what you want to say because that content, those are your experiments. Those are your lots of little bets that you throw out there. That’s a, that’s a term I got to give credit to my buddy Peter Sims for inventing. Um, but you throw out lots of those little bets. You find the ones that are sticking, which for me, again, I started in the leadership space, but it was the articles about creativity and innovation that we’re getting the best reaction. That’s what turned into, hey, maybe this is the book idea.
Bryan: 01:27:12 Yeah. Well. And then even from there you’ve continued to to evolve and.
David: 01:27:17 Yeah, so now, so now we do a thing where those daily, those daily videos, I watch the reactions and one of them becomes an essay which becomes a text piece to serve that that part of the audience will want in the whole kind of connection system moves through. So now I found that just speaking extemporaneously about different stuff lets me throw little ideas out there much more often and then see which ones resonate more.
Bryan: 01:27:39 What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?
David: 01:27:43 I spent $60 on a program called Scrivener. Scrivener is I, people say you can use it for more than this, but it is the perfect tool to draft a book in. Because a book, especially if it’s a tradition published one, it has a target word count. It’s in the contract. Most of the time for me it’s 60 to 70,000 words is in the contract what you’re going to hit. And so what Scrivener lets you do is, I mean and there’s a bunch of different things that make it awesome. More so than like Microsoft Word or, or Apple Pages. But the thing that I love the most is you tell it, hey, on this day I need to have 60,000 words and these are the days of the week that I write. And then it tells you, great, here’s how many words you have to write today. And then every day when you show up to, to lay bricks, right? To use that analogy, it tells you how many of you have to lay. It says right now, like I’m working on a project right now, it’s 249, right. And it adjusts. If you, if I skip a day, it’s going to be like 253 if I write a thousand words, it’ll tell me, oh, you know, now you’re down to like 235 a day. But it will tell you that. And then it has this really satisfying ding when you actually hit the word count for the day, which is a total like Pavlovian trick that we, you know, we’ve known about this sort of condition, but hey, it works. And so yeah. So I think that programs like 60 bucks, but it is the best tool for writing that first draft. For the life of me I can’t figure out how to edit well in it, but for getting through that middle part that I told you, it’s terrible. It’s a great tool for that.
Bryan: 01:29:09 Yeah. That’s awesome. What other technology have you found to be indispensable for you as a writer?
David: 01:29:16 The email list. I mean the, and I’ve used a couple of different, I don’t currently use like any of them that advertise on podcasts, so I don’t think I should, you know, they’d be mad if MailChimp is a huge fan of podcasting. I don’t use MailChimp. Um, but it’s, it’s probably because I speak mostly to a business audience. I don’t know. But it’s just a way better tool for getting updates, for getting new pieces of content out there than, than anything else. And so it cost a decent amount of money every month when you have a, um, a decent size list. But it’s, it’s worth it because those are, I look at those as like the inner circle, right? Like Kevin Kelly has this idea of you’ve got to find your thousand true fans. Will the people who are willing to give up some piece of personal information in exchange for like, I don’t want to go check your Linkedin every day or your Twitter every day. So you email me when you have a new piece of content. Yeah. Those are the people that are, that are going to be the most loyal to your content. And so that I launched the first book without any form of email list and it was a huge mistake. Um, but, but also just on that level of intimacy and in building a tribe of people around this crusade, that’s been the best tool. It really has. So we’ve got one for writing and one for marketing. How’s that?
Bryan: 01:30:26 Yeah, that’s great. What’s your writing Kryptonite?
David: 01:30:31 Um, probably my, my desk or my floor or my window shades or anything that’s not perfectly organized. Um, you know, anything you can use sort of distract yourself. Like, I really need to tidy this up right now. Or like, like right now it’s tax season, right? So it’s like, well I could write, but I also got to go find that 1099 from that thing. So little things like that, those little excuses you have to sort of put it off. When I, when I wrote Friend of a Friend, I got into this great rhythm where, um, we drop the kids off the school bus, the school bus would pick him up and I’d run right to my office and I had, I had a scheduled workout everyday at 11:00 AM so I had to get the words out before 10:30 so that I could drive to the place where my workout was. Um, and that, that works really well to counteract the, oh I’ve got all day, so let me go find that 1099 or what have you. Um, yeah. So yeah, that would any, anything is my kryptonite cause if I can use it as a distraction I’ll use it.
Bryan: 01:31:30 Yeah. Now is this, is this your experience, your experience is same as mine in that the act of writing it never gets easier. I mean the quality improves, but the act itself kind of like you were saying, the middle section, writing a book is the worst part of writing a book. But it does it, does it ever seem to get easier or more, more enjoyable or is it always.
David: 01:31:51 No and no. And so like I’m told, like the other day I was listening to an interview with Michael Lewis who wrote the Big Short and Moneyball and all those books and, and he was talking about how his family thinks he’s a lunatic because he liked, puts headphones on, listens to music and laughs at his own jokes while he’s writing. And so writing is this wonderful, pleasurable experience. And, and now I hate Michael Lewis and I’d probably never buy another, but no, I’m kidding. Um, but for me, it’s, for me, it’s, for me the first draft is just, it’s not enjoyable and it’s kind of like weightlifting. It doesn’t suddenly get enjoyable. You just, you get to the point where, you know, going in like, yes, this is going to be awful, but I’ll be better for it on the backend. Right. Yeah. And so your, your pain tolerance gets better. Right. So now, I mean I think nothing of like, I love that Scrivener has me at 250, cause I know I’ve been able to handle 630 a day for a solid month. Right. So I’m like, ah, this is fine. This is like being told, hey, you know what? We know you can bench two oh five but for the next week or so let’s just do 145. I’m like sweet, this will be, I mean it’s still bad but hey, it’s less so you get that. But for me it’s not, but, but, and now I’ve been through the whole process. Like I actually love the editing process when I can print it all up and make notes on it and find cooler ways to say certain ideas and what have you. Um, that’s a way more enjoyable phase. But I know I’ve got to get to it and I haven’t figured out a way to make that first part enjoyable yet, it’s just, it’s kind of like lifting. It just, it stinks, but eventually you get used to it.
Bryan: 01:33:16 Yeah. Who has made an impact on you, like who has a teacher has impacted you as a writer? And what advice or lesson did they impart to you?
David: 01:33:27 Uh, so I’ll give you, I’ll give you two. Um, Sarah Green Carmichael at, used to be at Harvard Business Review. She, I mean, she literally, until she left about a couple months ago, edited every single article I ever wrote for them. And, um, she was just an awesome editor. Her mind, like constantly reminded me about clarity. Like, I know, you know what you’re trying to say, but I have no idea right now. Right. So her second set of eyes, but also over time, it’s sort of taught me how to look at it from a reader’s eye and see what does that clarity piece, because again, we’re dealing with ideas, which is the like, it’s not entertainment. I, uh, not, not to throw like novelists under the bus, but like if I were writing thrillers where the, the important thing is the plot, that’d be way easier than trying to convey this complicated idea like multiplexity in a way that people understand it. Right. Um, so she was really, really good for that. And then I, um, I’ve never been shy of boasting about the influence of Daniel Pink’s had on my career. He’s a, he’s a colleague and a friend, not a, not a huge, he’s a, he’s a, he’s a slightly more than a weak tie, we should say. We’ve, we’ve hung out with each other at each other’s houses and what have you, but like, uh, he lives in DC and I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So we don’t see each other all that often. But when I, when my first book came out, um, a couple months after I did an interview with him for something that I was doing and we were talking a bit afterwards and I said, um, I was frustrated about something I didn’t remember what I was frustrated about. And I said, well, like, well, what do you do? Does it, how does it work for you? Because you’re obviously doing it right? And he just looks at me and he goes, well, you got to remember, I’ve been doing this for 17 years. You’ve been doing it for three. Give yourself a little bit longer time and that was sort of a hugely beneficial thing cause I’ve, I’ve just come to see that through, you know, and now I had three books and Dan has like five and none of my three have sold anywhere near any of his five. Right. But it was like permission, but I look at it as time, I’m still only eight years in. Right. Um, so was sort of permission to be okay with the results that I’m getting because there are some things like preferential attachment and networking. Some things are just a function of continuing to do it over time and he’s been doing a whole lot longer. Um, so A, it’s a bad idea to compare myself to him, but like, but B, I have that time and now, I mean I still, I still compare myself to him because I’m a glutton for punishment, but also because he’s, his style is very role model of my style. I very often will tell people that my career goal is to be referred to as the next Daniel Pink. So, or next. Next. I’m willing to, because I have a long time frame, I’m willing to let somebody else take the title and then I’ll take the title from her. Totally willing to do that too. Um, but yeah, that’s, so that would be, that would be on the, on the editing side. It’s definitely Sarah on the sort of thinking about this life of an author thing of definitely Dan.
Bryan: 01:36:15 I love that, that long view thing. It’s a very great perspective. What are the qualities of a great sentence, how can we write more of them?
David: 01:36:27 Brevity. Uh, which normally we don’t want to do like that. I truthfully, I have no idea. The, the, the thing that I try and do in when I’m editing, which is the fun stage, is I try and say what I just said shorter. Which usually means like there’s off somebody, some writer, I don’t remember if it was Hemingway or who it was, talked about never using adjectives because odds are there’s a noun that actually is the adjective plus the noun. Or the same thing with adverbs. Like you could just pick a different verb. Um, and so I try, I try and do that and I try and sort of keep it, keep it shorter. Um, I’m sure that’s the wrong answer if you’re trying to win awards for your literary pros. But in terms of like conveying an idea and getting it out there in the world, it’s probably, um, probably that, that brevity piece. So that’s, that’s what I’m going for an editing. I have no idea if that what’s, that’s what makes a good sentence. But that’s my goal is to say what I just said faster.
Bryan: 01:37:26 Ah, what advice or encouragement do you have for people who are in process? There may be stuck or they’re at the starting line. What advice or encouragement that you have for people to help them get their project done?
David: 01:37:41 Spend $60 on Scrivener. Uh, this is not as, it’s not a paid thing. I don’t have any sort of affiliate link to them or whatever, but you don’t have to use that. I didn’t know it existed when I wrote my first book and I was still obsessive about checking the word count at the end of every writing session. And obsessive about not writing too much. This one I know is, is Hemingway used to talk about how he, even if he knew how a scene was going to end, he would stop writing before he got to the end of that scene because it helped him to start the next day picking up right where he left off. So he can kind of get in that flow. And I think tracking your word count, knowing how many words I have to do a day, not only does it make it easier cause, to abuse the weightlifting analogy, you just know how many reps you have to do and use. It’s easier to do it when you know that. Um, but it also, the hardest part about it is actually saying, oh, I hit 500 stop. Yeah, we have, I know what I’m getting. No, no, no, stop pick up there tomorrow because you’ve got 500 bricks you gotta lay tomorrow too. Yup. So, um, that would be that biggest thing pick, whether you use a software to do it or not, but like figuring out what that word count is and write just to that word count and then stop. There’s a million other things. Hey, you can go find that 1099 or straighten up your desk after you hit that.
Bryan: 01:38:51 Get that inbox to zero.
David: 01:38:52 Right! Yeah, exactly.
Bryan: 01:38:55 The eternal struggle. Okay. Well this, I’ve really enjoyed this and I’ve learned a lot and I suspect that people listening have learned a lot and I hope they’ve enjoyed it and if they didn’t know you before or even if they did, um, I hope that we covered something new here that they might not have heard in any of the other interviews that they might have listened to with you. If you haven’t watched David’s TED talks, I strongly encourage you to do that. I watched the Pay Transparency Today. I thought it was very, very well done. I do think you’re really on stage by the way.
David: 01:39:24 Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you.
Bryan: 01:39:26 Yeah. So, so thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and your expertise and your wisdom with me and with everybody listening.
David: 01:39:33 No, thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.
Bryan: 01:39:36 Yeah. All right, well everybody, thank you for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this. I hope you benefit from it, that you take these ideas and you put them into action and that you make the difference that you can make. So thanks for listening. Until next time. Bye.
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