Safi Bahcall received his BA in physics from Harvard and his PhD from Stanford. He co-founded Synta Pharmaceuticals—a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer.  He led its IPO and served as its CEO for 13 years. In 2008, he was named E&Y New England Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he served on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. Safi is the author of Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries. The book was selected by Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Susan Cain, and Adam Grant for the Next Big Idea Club.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • “Very often people go on a path that the world expects them to without ever pausing to say ‘why am I doing this?’”
  • For an entrepreneur, the critical ingredient for success in building a company is surrounding yourself with talented executives and then bridging the divide between people who wouldn’t naturally interact with one another.
  • Culture are the patterns of behavior you see on the surface in an organization while structure is what’s underneath that’s driving those patterns of behavior. The activities being rewarded (i.e. incentive structures) will drive the culture.  So it’s the structure that’s ultimately most important in influencing behavior.
  • As companies mature, employees tend to shift from focusing on collective goals toward focusing more on careers and promotions. To reduce that behavioral shift, you want to minimize the growth in compensation that comes with each level in the organization.  In addition, you want to maximize span of control.  With fewer promotions and less of a financial incentive as you move up the organization, employees will focus more on their projects and less on corporate politics.
  • You want some employees focused on activities that reduce risk and another set of employees focused on maximizing intelligent risk taking. Effective leaders create a dynamic equilibrium between these two groups and are able to effectively balance the core with the new.
  • Most innovative products will have at least one or two false fails on their way to achieving significant market traction. The key to success is to get really good at investigating failure and not just accepting it on face value.
  • Companies need to create a new C-suite role called a Chief Incentives Officer whose job is to design customized incentive packages to motivate employees and optimize outcomes.
  • “Excellence is always striving to improve yourself and improve your performance.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History and Director of the Hayden Planetarium.  He is also the host of the hit radio and Emmy-nominated TV show StarTalk, and the New York Times best-selling author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and the author of a number of other notable books, the latest of which is titled Letters from an Astrophysicist.  He earned his BA in physics from Harvard and his PhD in astrophysics from Columbia.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He knew he wanted to become an astrophysicist since the age of nine when he visited his first planetarium.
  • His passion for discovering the universe enabled him to push past the racism and all the societal pressures holding him back. He would not allow anything to interfere with his ambitions.
  • He finished middle of his class in high school because he was valuing the joy of learning while others were valuing high grades. He had lots of interests outside of school and was never driven by grades.
  • “When I wonder what I am capable of as a human being, I don’t look to relatives, I look to all human beings. The genius of Isaac Newton, the courage of Joan of Arc and Gandhi, the athletic feats of Michael Jordan, the oratorical skills of Sir Winston Churchill, the compassion of Mother Teresa. I look to the entire human race for inspiration for what I can be – because I am human. My life is what I make of it.”
  • It’s highly likely that there is extra-terrestrial life. The top four ingredients of life on earth are the top four chemically active ingredients in the universe. In addition, the speed at which life formed on Earth, the age of the universe, and the number of planets and galaxies all suggest that there are life forms outside of the Earth.
  • He does not believe in a God. If there were such a divine force, it would manifest.  If there is something we don’t understand and can’t explain, his first thought if not whether it might be divine but rather, how can he experiment on it further to better understand it.
  • He has 14 million Twitter followers. He views his role on social media as enlightening the public to what is objectively true so people can have informed opinions.
  • Physicists recently detected gravitational waves originally predicted by Einstein over a century ago. These waves were produced in a collision between two black holes 1.3 billion light years away.
  • “Excellence is whether you’ve done the best you can given whatever the talents available to you.”

Jerry Colonna is the founder and CEO of Reboot.IO, an executive coaching and leadership development firm whose coaches are committed to the notion that better humans make better leaders. Previously he was a successful venture capitalist with JPMorgan Partners and Flatiron Partners focused on technology startups. His new book is titled Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up.  He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Growing up in a chaotic environment with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother drove his associating money with safety.
  • There was a dissonance between the way he felt internally and the way he was perceived in the world which led to a deep depression.
  • You can’t be a better leader without being a better human and you can’t be a better human without going through radical self-inquiry.
  • Radical self-inquiry is the process by which self-deception becomes so skillfully and compassionately exposed that no mask can hide us anymore.
  • We all have psychological baggage – our inner demons – which hold us back as leaders and we must confront those demons in order to grow.
  • It is a fallacy to think that leadership is all about having all the answers and not having any fear or any doubt. Authentic leadership is about accepting your imperfections.
  • Learn about the important difference between grit and stubbornness.
  • “We have to be willing to accept life as it is, not as we wish it might become. To live in the reality of what is today, not what might be in the future.”

 

Links:

Book: Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up

Reboot Website: www.reboot.io

Jerry Colonna Bio: www.reboot.io/team/jerry-colonna

Joe is the founder and CEO of Spartan, the largest obstacle racing series in the world. He is also a New York Times bestselling author of multiple books including Spartan Up, Spartan Fit, and most recently The Spartan Way.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • The most grueling endurance event he’s ever done is running a business.
  • “Death is the price we pay for life so make it worth it.”
  • Learn how he built the largest participatory endurance sport in the world with over a million annual participants and 275 events spread across 42 countries.
  • It took over a decade of losing money and tweaking the product until he finally figured out a formula that worked. He stuck with it for so long because he knew it was his true north.
  • Branding matters. They’re probably 10x more successful because of the name Spartan.
  • Intermittent fasting can make you feel better and it increases performance.
  • The best way to physically train is to focus on flexibility and mobility.
  • The ambitious mission of Spartan is to change 100 million lives.
  • “Excellence is giving it everything you’ve got. When you’re up against a wall and you refuse to give up, that’s excellence.”

Some interesting insights from this episode:

Ben Saunders is one of the world’s leading polar explorers, and a record-breaking long-distance skier who has covered more than 4,300 miles on foot in the Polar Region. His accomplishments include skiing solo to both the North and South poles, and leading The Scott Expedition, the longest human-powered polar journey in history, a 105-day, 1,800 mile round-trip from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again.

  • Hear the remarkable story of how he traveled the equivalent of 69 marathons, the distance from Maine to Miami, in frigid temperatures in near whiteout conditions, over the course of 3.5 months. 
  • Preparation entailed both extreme endurance and extreme weight training.  He was able to run a 2:55 marathon and deadlift 485 lbs. 
  • The key to staying motivated was to shorten the focus from the ultimate goal to something that felt achievable whether the end of the day or even the end of an hour.
  • One of his proudest moments on the journey was to make the call to have food delivered during their return.  That moment calling for help was when he matured as a leader as he learned to get priorities straight.
  • In hindsight, he made the mistake of often living too much in the future, thinking that success was defined by a finish line.
  • The cliché holds true that the journey is way more important than the destination.
  • Learn how he evolved from needing external validation to having more of an internal compass driving his motivations. 
  • “Self-belief is a malleable human quality. The more time you spend outside your comfort zone, the stronger it becomes.”
  • “Excellence is having the internal drive to make tomorrow better than today.”

Mark Tercek is the CEO of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental organization. He is a former Managing Director and Partner at Goldman Sachs and is the author of the bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • We all have an inner environmentalist inside of us.
  • His executive coach taught him some valuable lessons early on including how to listen better and how to not sweat out the details.
  • In the nonprofit world, he had to learn how to understand employees’ psychic income and use that as motivation to drive behavior.
  • Saving nature isn’t just the morally right thing to do, it’s also the smartest investment we can make.
  • Learn how he pivoted his 4,000 employee organization from pure land conservation toward embracing climate change as a top priority.
  • “Excellence is matching ambition with a good dose of reality.”
  • We all have a tendency to overestimate risks in our lives. The returns are greater than perceived and the risks less that perceived.  More of us should just go for it.

Clint Harp and his wife Kelly own their own handmade furniture design business Harp Design in Waco Tx.  He was formerly a regularly recurring guest in the hit TV show Fixer Upper and currently stars in his own television series called Wood Work. His new book is called Handcrafted: A Woodworker’s Story

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • Sometimes we may hang on to a dream for too long. His original dream was to be a musician but eventually realized that he didn’t have the talent and had to accept that his life’s plan lay elsewhere.
  • He quit a lucrative job in medical sales without any safety net to pursue his passion of building furniture.
  • Only by being 100% honest with his wife and admitting that he was struggling with his new furniture design business was he able to earn her trust and respect which allowed their marriage to grow stronger as a result.
  • Learn how a fortuitous encounter at a gas station would change the trajectory of his career and his life.
  • He had a few lucky breaks along the way but everyone does. It’s what do you do with those lucky breaks that’s so critical to success.
  • Learn how he became known as the dumpster-diving, reclaimed wood-loving carpenter.
  • “Looking at a pile of wood on my shop floor might be one of my favorite things to do. What might appear to be a mess is really a beautiful creation just waiting to be put together.”
  • “What I am is a journeyman. A dreamer. A kid who once sat at the base of a tree and imagined what was possible. A guy who now stands at the foot of the mountain trying to claw my way to the top, knowing there’s another peak right around the corner.”

Beth Comstock spent over 25 years at GE where she was a vice chair, CEO of Business Innovations and Chief Marketing Officer among other roles. She has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and Fast Company and has been named to the Fortune and Forbes lists of the world’s most powerful women.  Her new book is titled Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Risk taking is a skill that can be learned.
  • “Most of us fear losing what we have more than we desire winning something we don’t have.”
  • Due to her risk taking mentality, Jeff promoted her to Chief Marketing Officer, a role that hadn’t existed at GE for over two decades.
  • She had to overcome a lack of self-confidence along with her introversion in order to speak up, challenge others and be effective in her role.
  • Success correlates as closely with confidence as it does with competence.
  • Much of the success of Hulu was attributed to hiring an entrepreneur from the outside and keeping him independent vs hiring someone from the inside.
  • She led GE’s disruptive green initiative called Ecomagination which pushed an aggressive clean energy agenda throughout GE’s multiple business lines.
  • GE executives often struggled to see parallels from developments happening in other industries due to a common cognitive bias called Functional Fixedness.
  • She pioneered a new program at GE called Fastworks which leveraged the lean methodology to experiment with new product ideas, increase innovation and accelerate time to market.
  • “Excellence is a never ending journey of learning and trying to get better.”