Francis Collins is the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world.  Francis is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project.  Francis is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. In 2020, he was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK) and was also named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He was able to act in his family’s community theater as a child which served as an important foundation for his exemplary ability to communicate.
  • He was an atheist early in life but a patient asking about his beliefs sent him down a path of exploration and meaning and he ended up becoming a devout Christian.
  • He developed a technique known as positional cloning for identifying genes. With this technique, he discovered the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s Disease.
  • He led the Human Genome Project, the global consortium which sequenced the entire human genome, one of the biggest most monumental scientific breakthroughs ever.
  • “Science can produce knowledge but the way you apply that knowledge is where ethics and morality kick in.”
  • The next frontier in science will be decoding the brain, the most complex part of the human body.
  • “Excellence is not just about being able to bring your best, your creative approach, your work ethic, and your dedication but also being in the service of something that matters.”

Robert Lefkowitz is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is best known for showing how adrenaline works via stimulation of specific receptors.  He was trained at Columbia, NIH, and Harvard before joining the faculty at Duke University and becoming an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  In addition to being a researcher, Bob is a cardiologist as well as a cardiac patient.  His book is titled: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline-Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist. 

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He started out as a physician but he preferred the creativity and experimentation needed in research over the disciplined approach of following standard operating procedures needed to succeed in medicine. He was much more motivated by trying to figure something out that had never been done before.
  • He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Many basic physiological processes depend on GPCRs and around half of all medications act through those receptors such as beta blockers and antihistamines. This has allowed the treatment of hypertension and coronary disease among many other conditions.
  • It was never his intention to cure a disease or create a drug but rather he was driven by raw curiosity to understand a particular biological phenomenon.
  • He had two deep-seated feelings in his 20s that he would die young and accomplish something of significance. These premonitions would motivate and propel him throughout his career.
  • Because of his passion, social nature and upbeat personality, the press in Stockholm gave him the moniker “The Happiest Laureate”.
  • Even for the most successful scientists, their experiments only work about 2% of the time. So you need to learn to live with failure and find a way to stay motivated.
  • “Excellence is marshalling whatever your powers are to the fullest extent to do things that are of some inherent value.”

 

Show Notes

Bio

Books:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm

Other links mentioned:

THE POZCAST by Adam Posner

NHP Talent Group

BJ Fogg is the founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University.  In addition to his research, BJ teaches industry innovators how human behavior really works. He created the Tiny Habits academy to help people around the world. His book is called Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • The Fogg Behavior Model suggests that a behavior is driven by three things: motivation, ability, and a prompt. Motivation is the desire to perform the behavior. Ability is your capacity to do so.  A prompt is a cue to perform the behavior.
  • If you’re trying to create a new habit, you should adopt a “golden behavior” which is a behavior which is effective, one that you’ve motivated to do, and one that you have the ability to do.
  • The next step is to make the habit tiny. Find the smallest, easiest way to start the new habit. The momentum will lead to bigger behaviors over time.
  • You have to use a prompt which is a reminder to do a behavior. The best kind of prompt is an anchor. An anchor is an existing behavior already ingrained in your life which serves as a reminder to do the new behavior.
  • You need to “celebrate” each time you perform a new desired behavior which causes a positive emotion inside yourself. It’s a mechanism to self-reinforce the positive behavior.
  • To set yourself up for the day ahead, when you wake up first thing in the morning, plant both feet on the floor and say out loud “It’s going to be a great day”.
  • The key to lasting change is to help people do what they already want to do and help people feel successful at it.
  • “Excellence is doing the very best job you can and helping others in ways that really moves the needle for them.”

 

Show Notes

BJ Fogg personal website

Stanford Behavior Design Lab

Books:

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything

Persuasive Technology

Other links mentioned:

THE POZCAST by Adam Posner

NHP Talent Group

Jim McKelvey is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, and artist.  He cofounded the mobile payments company Square and sits on the Board.  He also founded Invisibly, a digital content company, LaunchCode, a nonprofit that teaches technology literacy, and a glass art studio. His book is called The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He has never had a life plan and because of that, he’s become very comfortable with uncertainty.
  • He was a state debate champion and owed much of his success to the ability to read the judges and adjust his strategy accordingly.
  • “If you want to be successful and make some money, copy what works. But if you want to have a phenomenally successful company, you have to do something original.”
  • The big insight was rather than going after an existing market of merchants already using credit cards, Square decided to go after a market that didn’t even exist – the tiny mom and pop merchants without access to the credit card payment networks.
  • They designed a small card reader that looked really cool and got your attention but was flimsy and difficult to use. But the novelty of it turned every Square sale into a Square advertisement. This allowed the product to go viral without needing to spend one dollar on advertising.
  • What allowed Square to survive a competitive attack by Amazon and thrive as a standalone company was their innovation stack. An innovation stack is a series of innovations needed to provide a new product or service and that collectively work together to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Training as an artist was a big help in mentally preparing to be an entrepreneur.
  • “Excellence is something that’s above and beyond normal good. It’s something that’s surprisingly wonderful.”

 

Show Notes

Book: The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

Non-profit: LaunchCode

New startup: Invisibly

John Mackey is the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market and co-founder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism. He is a co-author of the book Conscious Capitalism as well as his latest book called Conscious Leadership: Elevating Humanity Through Business.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He had a food consciousness awakening when he moved into a vegetarian coop in his 20s. He learned that food could affect the way you feel, your health, vitality, and overall intelligence.
  • Early on, the conventional supermarkets didn’t take Whole Foods and the natural foods sector seriously since it was a relatively small industry. By the time they got to scale and supermarkets started to pay attention, Whole Foods was a formidable competitor.
  • John came close to being fired by the Board at Whole Foods. That’s when he turned inward and learned to be a more conscious, more emotionally intelligent, more spiritually awake leader.
  • There’s no better time to learn and grow than during challenging times. “Crisis is a tremendous opportunity to accelerate your own life growth, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually.”
  • The higher purpose of Whole Foods is to nourish people and the planet. As you scale an organization, you can’t take purpose for granted. If you want the purpose to stay alive, you have to put purpose first which means embodying it and teaching it.
  • Leading with integrity entails integrating one’s shadow which is the part of our being which we aren’t conscious of. Generally the things that we don’t like about ourselves are easier to repress from our consciousness and keep in the shadow.
  • “Excellence is doing something with all your attention and all your heart as best that you can do it.”

Show Notes

Whole Foods Market

Books:

Conscious Leadership

Conscious Capitalism

Jimmy Wales is the founder of the online non-profit encyclopedia Wikipedia and co-founder of the privately owned Wikia, Inc. including its entertainment media brand Fandom.  Wales serves on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit charitable organization he established to operate Wikipedia. In 2019, Jimmy launched WT Social – a news focused social network. In 2006 Jimmy was named in Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ for his role in creating Wikipedia.

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • Jimmy was an avid reader as a child and used to devour the World Book Encyclopedia.
  • He took a cautious and conservative approach to entrepreneurship, taking manageable risks, learning to fail fast, and always spending less money than what he took in.
  • “I like to get up and do the most interesting thing I can think of to do and I try to live my life like that every day.”
  • The core value of Wikipedia, which is to present high quality, neutral, factual information, is what allows the organization to maintain its integrity and consistency.
  • He set a very aspirational mission for Wikipedia which is to give every person on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
  • The success of Wikipedia is staggering. It’s now a top 5 website globally with over 54 million articles in 300 languages and 1.5 billion visitors each month and growing.
  • To be a successful leader, you have to have clear and consistent values that people can buy into.
  • “Excellence is about doing something interesting and having fun. It’s got to be interesting because otherwise what’s the point?”

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.”