Charles Schwab is the founder and chairman of The Charles Schwab Corporation. What began as a small discount brokerage company in the 70’s has evolved to become the nation’s largest publicly traded investment services firm, with close to $4 trillion in client assets. He is also the chairman of The Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, a private foundation focused on education, poverty prevention, human services, and health.  He is the author of several bestselling books with his latest memoir titled Invested.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He had to work extra hard to build his self-confidence to overcome his dyslexia and to keep up in class.
  • People with dyslexia are conceptual thinkers who tend to not get lost in the weeds. Some people are very literal in learning and need to go from step 1 to 2 to 3 while dyslexics can go from step 1 to step 10.
  • Seeing an inherent conflict of interest between commissioned stock brokers and the customers, he invented a new contrarian business model by paying salaries to people placing trades with a bonus tied to the overall success of the company.
  • After the tech meldtown of the early 2000’s, Charles had to come out of retirement to run the company again. He had to lay off thousands of employees and get the company turned around.  Sometimes founders are the only ones who can make the tough calls and drive huge fundamental changes to the business.
  • He was a consummate innovator who continually pivoted, redefined the business, and opened up new markets. He knew it was important to disrupt yourself before someone else did it for you.
  • When hiring, beyond skills and experience, he looks at their character and ethics and their responsibility to the customer.
  • “Excellence is an ongoing pursuit. You are always striving for it but you never achieve it.”

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.”

Jon Dorenbos is a former professional football player and magician.  He played for 14 seasons in the NFL as a long snapper with the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles.  He had a parallel career as a magician and was a finalist on America’s Got Talent, placing third overall amongst tens of thousands of competitors. He is a regular guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and his new book is called “Life is Magic: My Inspiring Journey from Tragedy to Self-Discovery.”

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Don’t listen to that negative inner voice which is constantly doubting yourself. Rather, you should talk to yourself out loud and say where you plan to go in life. The narrative you tell yourself is going to ultimately become your own reality.
  • Magic was more that tricks. It was a form of meditation that helped him heal his emotional wounds.  Magic allowed him to quiet all the negativity and just be lost in the moment.
  • On his path to becoming an NFL star, he had to first get picked up by a division I school and to do so, he doctored up some long snapping footage of other players to look like it was his own. He knew in his heart he was really good enough and was willing to do whatever it took to give himself a chance.
  • Being a long snapper requires extreme mental toughness. You might only play 10 plays the entire game so you have to be able to have closure quickly, you have to be able to forgive, and you have to be able to move on.
  • Things are easy or difficult based on how we perceive them in our mind. If you think it’s easy, it is, and vice versa.
  • The key ingredients to success for both magic and football are discipline, hard work, passion, and a drive to want to be great and change the world.
  • You need to decide which story you choose to hold onto. Focusing on the negative or positive stories in your life will dictate the kind of life you’re going to live.
  • “Excellence is about showing up. Showing up every day, showing up on time, and showing up ready to work.”

Steve Schwarzman is the co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, one of the world’s largest and most successful investment funds with over a half trillion dollars under management. Steve is an active philanthropist with a history of supporting education, culture, and the arts.  He holds a BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  His new book is called What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He has always been very competitive. When he graduated from Yale, he insisted upon an extra $500 a year in his offer from a prestigious investment bank so he could be the highest paid graduate from his class.
  • “What I lacked in basic economics, I made up for with my ability to see patterns and develop new solutions and paradigms, and with the sheer will to turn my ideas into reality.”
  • He single-handedly advised Tropicana on getting acquired, which was the second largest transaction in the world that year, even though he had absolutely no M&A experience up until that point.
  • “To be successful you have to put yourself in situations and places you have no right being in. You shake your head and learn from your own stupidity. But through sheer will, you wear the world down, and it gives you what you want.”
  • They closed on their first fund of $1 billion the morning of October 19th, 1987, aka Black Monday, the largest one day drop in stock market history. Just one day later and Blackstone might not have ever gotten off the ground.
  • After losing some money on a deal, he re-architected the entire investment decision making process to be much more rigorous with the goal of engineering out the risk so as to never lose money again
  • He has a philosophy to only hire “10’s”. Those people tend to be intelligent, articulate, calm, energetic, curious, and can envision the future.
  • “Excellence is being the best that you can be at whatever you choose to do.”

Jill Heinerth is a cave diver, underwater explorer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker.  She has starred on TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel, and the BBC, and has consulted on movies for directors, including James Cameron. Her new book is titled: Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Fighting off a burglar during college taught her how to deal with challenges in life. Having had this harrowing dance with fear probably saved her life in the long run.
  • Despite having enormous success as an entrepreneur in the advertising business, she knew in her heart that it wasn’t what she was meant to do so she built up the courage to quit and begin her life of adventure under the water.
  • There’s very little margin for error in cave diving. More people die while diving underwater caves than climbing Mt Everest.
  • Most accidents happen before someone even steps foot in the water. It is the lack of planning and preparation that causes most issues.  They are entirely preventable.
  • There is significant mental preparation. Before each dive, she closes her eyes and walks through all the worst case scenarios and rehearses all of the solutions.
  • She has the 7R gene which explains much of her risk seeking behavior. She is always seeking new challenges, new adventures.
  • “Excellence is your willingness to nurture and support the next generation. To ensure that if something’s important to you, the people below you eventually move beyond you.”

Rich Karlgaard is a bestselling author, award-winning entrepreneur, and speaker.  He is the publisher of Forbes magazine and is based in Silicon Valley.  He is a renowned lecturer on technology, innovation, corporate culture, and a number of other important business issues and the author of three books, his latest one titled: Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • His time at Stanford poring over Sports Illustrated in the library would later become the genesis for starting up what would become a highly popular technology business magazine.
  • Starting up Upside Magazine which had a unique style and voice ultimately led to a coveted role with Forbes despite the magazine not being a financial success.
  • Our cultural obsession with early achievement is detrimental to society.
  • Some people are successful because they’re competitive and set goals for themselves. Others achieve success because they are explorers chasing their curiosity without an end in mind.
  • Between the ages of 18 and 25, our prefrontal cortex is still growing and our executive function skills are still developing. Yet, this is the exact time when we’re supposed to be laser focused on launching our future careers.
  • One of the most important traits CEOs of high performance companies look for in new recruits is curiosity because without curiosity there’s no growth.
  • Notable strengths of late bloomers include curiosity, compassion, resilience, insight, and calmness.
  • “Resilience isn’t just the ability to be tough but the ability to have enough built in flexibility so an unexpected failure doesn’t shatter you.”
  • At any given time, there’s an optimal use of your time, your talent, and your effort.
  • “Excellence is the intersection between your perfect native gifts and your sense of purpose that is so deep you’re willing to sacrifice for it.”

 

Links:

Find Rich Karlgaard’s book Late Bloomers here.

Find Rich Karlgaard’s personal website here.

At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life for murder.  He turned his life around while in prison and was released after 16 years.  Today he is the owner of Barclay Investment Corporation, a social enterprise specializing in residential and commercial contracting work and employing out of work Baltimore residents.  His other business ventures include the House of DaVinci, a high-end furniture restoration and design company, and Master Plan Productions, a social impact content development company. His book is called: The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

 

  • At the age of 17, Chris Wilson was sentenced to life in prison for murder.
  • Despite being sentenced to life, Chris believed that if he focused on turning his life around, he would get his sentence reduced and be set free after 7 years. He called this kind of thinking a “positive delusion”.
  • While in prison, he created a “Master Plan” which was a list of goals he wanted to accomplish in his life. He shared the list with his grandmother and the judge because he felt it was important to have others hold him accountable.
  • It was also important to include a number of shorter term goals on the Master Plan which were easier and quicker to accomplish to boost his confidence and create momentum.
  • He went to therapy to learn how to stop making excuses and take full responsibility for his past actions in order to move forward.
  • Instead of chasing money and living an easy life, he chose to give back to the community by starting a company which employed out of work residents including recently released prisoners.
  • It’s important to surround yourself with a support system of people you can turn to in order to stay on track and not revert back to bad habits.
  • “Excellence is pushing yourself to achieve high standards and doing so in a way that’s humble and considerate.”

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