Well, hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs domestic. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Fair show, where it is my job to deconstruct world class performers of all different types from all different industries, areas of expertise. My guest today is back by popular request is Jim Collins. Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick and a Socratic adviser. We'll explain what that means to leaders throughout the business and social sectors.
His first appearance on this podcast was easily one of the most popular of all of twenty. Nineteen people went bananas. So the hope is that we bottle some of that lightning again in this round, too, and we cover a lot of new ground for those who don't know Jim. Jim has invested more than 25 years in rigorous research and has authored or co-authored six books that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In total, they include Good to Great, the number one bestseller that examines why some companies make the leap to superior results and its companion work good to great and the social sectors, the enduring classic built to last.
Many of you will know that, which explores how some leaders built companies that remain visionary for generations. How the mighty fall just in some ways the exact opposite, which delves into how once great companies can self-destruct and great by choice, which is about thriving in chaos, why some do and others don't. And now he's updated his debut book, Beyond Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century. Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 is the title. Subtitle, Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company is.
The subtitle is available Now Everywhere books are sold, lesser known and as a teaser for those who didn't pick this up in the first episode. Jim has been an avid rock climber for more than 40 years and has completed single day a sense of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. Those of you in rock climbing will know just how serious those accomplishments are. And he has many other interests, many other skills, and is an all around fascinating character.
So without further ado, Jim Collins, Jim Collins dotcoms where you can find all things. Jim, please enjoy this return of the reclusive polymath Jim Collins.
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I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a question? Now it is. What's it like to be a cybernetic organism living tissue over metal and the skull in Paris so. Jim, welcome back to the show. It is such a pleasure to have you again. It is really a joy to be back with you. And for all of those people who may not have heard the first session we did together, you did such a marvelous job of extracting my particular approaches to self-management that I hope some people will go back and find that previous one and that we can build upon it from here.
And in the spirit of conversation, you and I love conversation. We love ideas. I'd love to begin with maybe turning the tables a little and just asking you some questions. And I was rereading the four hour workweek and and just kind of getting myself into your head about what you wrote that about 15 years ago, is that right? Approximately, yeah.
Yeah. Twenty seven. Yeah. So about that. About 15 years ago. About 15 years ago. So the first thing that just struck me, as I noted in there, that you had really been affected by airshow. And I'm curious if you're still in touch. And also what you really learned from him.
It's yes, we're still in touch. Professor Ed Hsiao spelled Zencey Ague for people interested. He's also appeared on the podcast not too long ago. I would say a year and a half or two years ago, and we're still in touch.
And Ed had a tremendous impact on me on multiple levels.
And I was first exposed to him when I was a student in his class called High Tech Entrepreneurship Eyerly 491. So it was a cross disciplinary class that spanned a few different departments electrical engineering, operations, research, finance. And Ed appealed to me and I think appealed to a lot of people because for those who don't have any context, he is a true polymath and a very curious character.
So he had been a competitive figure skater. He'd taken a few companies public. He was one of the first computer science instructors at Stanford. And if my memory serves me correctly, he became that because the person who had been appointed to teach didn't show up and he just raised his hand and so became one of the first computer science teachers.
He was a congressman and is really the consummate teacher in my mind and encourages all of his students to do it their own way to live life, their own way to not depend on a predetermined path. And we are still in touch. We're still in touch. And I'm still in touch with most of the most impactful mentors from my life story.
And he's getting up there in years in chronological age, but sure strikes me as quite intensely young. And what do you think his arc teaches about, you know, really accelerating after sixty?
Well, I think that not to invoke the cliche, but some things are cliches for good reasons that youth is in the heart or youth is in the mind. I think that Ed has made a life of exposing himself to new ideas, new technologies, young blood in the form of vibrant, young, energized students and entrepreneurs, founders full of piss and vinegar.
So I think that has a and osmotic carryover effect into his own life, which I believe he is extremely aware of. Those would be a few of the things that come to mind. He he is constantly challenging his own. Understanding of the world and possibilities via proactively exposing himself to new things and new people, so I'd love to bridge from that to a question that's been just really simmering in my head all weekend and.
So you have this this wonderful course and he has this kind of look, you really don't have to force yourself into a box of what a whole bunch of other people want you to do or how you should live or how you should spend your life and your your talents.
There's only one better use it. Well, it goes by really fast. And I sort of understand the story. You kind of went out and hit the the soul crushing day to day experience of this thing that you and I are both constitutionally incapable of enjoying called the job.
And I sort of feel there are those of us who, for better or worse, we are constitutionally unemployable.
And then sort of from there to if I understand the arc of the four hour work week argument, it was essentially, look, if you want to have a life of experiences and meaningful experiences and freedom of choices and how you live that by very creative and disciplined approaches, you could kind of squeeze down the amount of energy that's needed to earn the cash flow needed to be able to have the experiences and a great life, and that there was a lot of both tips and overall principles for doing that.
Have I got it kind of essentially right? You did.
I think that is essentially right. I would I would say that creative and disciplined could also just as easily be replaced with creative and experimental. I think the experimental component is is a large, large piece of the puzzle. But yes, you did you did nail the essence.
So so now here's here's the question that's been on my mind. And I'm really curious to hear how you've evolved on this. So at that time, you if I also heard it right, you didn't come from a wealthy family, did not you had something about your parents combined earning something like fifty thousand a year or something, but basically came from a look on a big safety net. It's not like, hey, I can just go do anything. People support it.
The reality of the world and and yet you weren't going to bow to the strictures of the way regular work would happen. And so you share a lot of your wisdom from your own experimentation with that. Now, what's interesting is that was really focused up to me anyways, as you were really focused at that point on I can get the work part down so I can really do this life thing.
Your life's different now. Mm hmm. Your life is different in that that question of what's my minimum monthly cash flow I need to be able to fund great experiences is actually no longer a relevant question for you. So my question for you at this stage is what keeps Tim Ferriss going? What is it that drives you in your work, because the option of just experience is. Is fully available, so what is it that's changed for you that's now the inner motor that keeps Tim Ferriss going and going?
That is an excellent question. I'll try to not give a terrible answer. A few things pop to mind for me. And the first is. And appreciation for in a search for beauty. I think that the search for beauty and elegance, which are similar in my mind, but not identical.
The fuel for the seeker, if that makes any sense, and I find that in my own personal experience, that when I search for beauty, which seems like it is absurdly too high on Maslow's hierarchy of needs to be relevant to anyone, perhaps it sounds very abstract that I tend to find more truth then when I purely try to deduce truth intellectually in a very prefrontal way, and that the to use a crass term, the return on investment of finding those examples of beauty far surpass a lot of what I had white knuckled to achieve through crunching numbers and digesting spreadsheets.
Not to say there isn't a value to that. I think it is necessary, but I have found it insufficient. If you want to experience what we might call some semblance of of grace, I know we're getting out into maybe the deep waters here a bit.
What's an example for you of. So it's interesting, actually, I really resonate with this idea of the exquisite right and and the word that I've often and I even when I'm engaged with profit making companies or whatever, at some point there's just something that's that making something exquisite, making something excellent because it can be is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself. And I always think about that wonderful parable of the thing it was when I learned heard from Drucker actually about the sculptor who made these statues that the city fathers had asked to make these statues.
And the statues were were to be up in the town square. And he made he put in all this extra effort and took this extra time to make the backs of the statues as beautiful as the front of the statues and the city fathers or. Well, why did you do that?
Nobody will ever see the backs of the statues. And his answer is, ah, but the gods can see it. And I know it's their. Right. And you know, that that notion of or making a sentence just just right or the simple cadence of where you place a comma are the person we both admire. And writing John McPhee, you know, his sense of the exquisite single sentence. I really relate to this. And I'm curious for you, like, what's an example?
Like how wide of a range does exquisite or beauty go for you? Is it exquisite experience, exquisite painting, the exquisite goosebumps of Beethoven's symphony number three, movement number two, when it goes into the funeral march, I mean, what is it?
It is all encompassing in a sense. And I would also rewind to a bit earlier when you asked me the question that has been on your mind over the weekend, and I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something like what drives you, what keeps him going right?
What keeps me going. So I think that if we look at keeping someone going, there are different ways to keep someone going. And you can feel driven. We use that word in English a lot.
I think that for some that if we were to unpack, it has some level of being whipped forward in terms of sentiment. There is some there's something we are running away from as opposed to running towards, if that makes any sense. There's some type of pain or dysfunction or wound next to our strength that is driving us forward.
And then there's a very distinct feeling, which is that of being pulled towards something. And I have found it more sustainable, enjoyable and ultimately more aligned in recent years to seek those things that pull me forward.
And beauty is one of those indicators. It's kind of the light at the lighthouse. Tim O'Reilly is is one of my favorite thinkers, fantastic person, a technologist, well-known publisher. And he and I have had a number of conversations. And one of his practices, at least at the time that we were speaking last, was to take a photograph of one flower each day. And that is a practice of recognizing beauty. It's not that beauty is hard to find, it's that it is easy to overlook.
So cultivating the eye and the awareness to spot beauty, whether that's in a flower or quite frankly, in something that would normally be found repulsive, like decay of some type. Is endlessly interesting to me, and I do find that when I am tuned to that, the simplicity of that in the same way that Mary Oliver might simplify the approach to prayer if someone were to want to explore that practice as an example, even in a very secular way, which might sound like an oxymoron, but I'll try not to drown us in the deep waters too much at this point in the conversation.
I do think that a lot of it is is driven to or not driven to, I would say, based in reactivating instincts that have been not forgotten, but just in some fashion laid dormant. Right. So there's a quote from D.H. Lawrence that I like a lot, which is very simple. Be a good animal, comma, true to your instincts. That's it. And I've operated very much from a, you know, metaphorically speaking, left brain analytical perspective for decades.
And there are tremendous benefits and applications for that. And I'm trying to. In recent years pay equal attention to the millions of years of evolution that preceded language that have as an end product in some fashion, a whole spectrum of what we might call instincts that I believe to be deeply intelligent and powerful is his guiding forces.
So I'm sure if that answers the question, it's very interesting. And I ask the question for for sort of two levels about what keeps you going. I mean, genuinely curious, because you were at a different stage in your life and you wrote that. And people who still resonate with it today very much may also be back where you were when you were doing that. They're facing different constraints in life and wanting to create their freedom with that. And and it gives them a toolkit for for that's a very useful tool kit.
And one observation and then just something that I found for myself is how I think about this, is that my sense in reading the four hour work week was that it was in many ways kind of reacting to the order in which you were placed, the sort of I reject this, I'm going to do a different and and get right. And it's kind of like moving away from I don't want that. And the way you describe it now is it's a moving toward.
That's right, right. It's a moving toward beauty, towards exquisite towards exploration, as opposed to reacting from and it's very striking in the tone difference I found as I thought about this for myself, because I have like you didn't have much of a safety net. We talked about that in our last episode and taking big entrepreneurial or the big bet that Joanne and I took. And it was very scary and and so forth, still wanting to go forward and do it and have these sort of different sort of drives early.
And I thought of it as kind of what's the point allocation. I always tend to go to point allocations and numbers and so forth. But what's the point? Allocation between dark force motivations and lifeforce motivations and dark force motivations for me have always been the things like anger, rage, channeled, channeled rage, insecurity, need for attention, just accomplishment to show others I'm capable. Those things that I felt very much when I was young.
And then there's like four points which are I just love the work. I just love the work or I love the people I'm doing it with or the sheer curiosity of the question, or I know I can make this better even if no one else notices. So therefore I want to make it better.
And the sheer joy of seeing something come out on the page is like, wow, that's a neat sentence or whatever.
And the drive for contribution being useful, as we talked about last time, versus being successful and so forth.
And so what I have found is that for me it's trying to be moving, decreasing the points out of one hundred that are dark motivations, which I would say when I was younger were 80, 20, and I was afraid to let go of those because I felt that if I let go of the emptiness in my stomach because my dad didn't pay attention to me, I'll lose my drive.
Right. Lose your lose your edge. Just lose my edge.
I need that. I need that. That's the fuel. That's the kindling. That's the that's the explosive power within. What if I lost that. Right. And the sense of fear that what if that went away and and and then gradually realizing that actually if I replace that with the others. Right. That point allocations go from 80, 20 dark force and they flip to and I don't think I'll ever get to one hundred zero. I really don't like to wait to human for that.
But if I could get to 80, 20 light force, it's constantly generating, it doesn't ever have an end and and you can let the others sort of go and it is a moving toward versus a reacting to. Very interesting to hear that. Let me just ask you, just in terms of beauty, I just one other thing and then I'll put myself in your heads.
I know somebody said to me, are you ever going to do a podcast? I said, Well, I'll sometimes be on one, but if I get a marvelous podcast, then I can just be the question or so.
So the same game. I think you and Joanne and I all share something in common. Which is we are all Dean, Fred Hargadine and admits, is that right? That's right. OK, we are.
And we were both admitted by Dean Fred at Stanford. You were admitted by Dean Fred at Princeton. And I noticed in your book you said, and I'm not sure why they let me in because, like, I was sort of off the sort of normal mode. Like when you think of all the straight a double sixteen hundred satti with brain, you could fill the whole class and still have like two hundred percent left over with people like that. Why they let me in.
And so I got to share with you this story. Did you ever meet Dean, Fred.
I did. I did. OK, so I got to share with you this story, but it ties into the idea of creating something beautiful. So for my twenty fifth college reunion, I was asked to go and be on our class panel and after the class panel was the presentation and an interaction with us by Dean Fred, who'd come back. He was at Princeton then as dean of admissions, came back to talk to a bunch of us who he'd admitted.
We got to chatting afterwards, he came over and found you and me, it turns out that he was a real fan of good to Great and he also had a framed picture of Joanne in his house, I think, at the bottom of the stairs in her cycling outfit from the years that she was one, the Ironman, her back then, one of her sports endorsement posters. And so it's kind of like sort of fun sort of coming full circle that that he was still following us in some way.
But in that conversation, when I asked him, how long does it take you to make a great admissions decision, he said. Thirty years and 30 minutes. It's just a great example of cumulative pattern recognition, right?
And then he had shared with the member it was just us personally or the whole group, but he said, you know, what I've really learned is that you have to put the extra little splash in things that isn't just every kid looks like every other kid. So let me tell you the story about this young woman who applied. She came from a school in like eastern Oregon and or like eight kids in the school or something. And her avocation of choice was demolition derby.
And I decided Princeton needs her, right? Yeah.
So, so great. Princeton needs her. So she gets to go to Princeton. Princeton needs her. Right. So when I heard your story about that, I thought maybe you had one of these moments. Right. This is a Princeton leads him. But anyways, but here's the the the end of the story.
I was thinking afterwards, though, because it really went into my head about creation's of things. And how you could look at it is that, well, if you're dean of admissions at Princeton. You could just take a whole bunch of the kids that look the best and throw a dart and you're going to have a really good class. You might not get the demolition derby, you might not get the tim right, but you'd have a really good class and I thought there's something artistic about that.
And so I I had this note to myself. Send a letter to Dean Fred, send a letter to Dean, Fred, send a letter in and and that was kind of sad. They're like these things like I should get around to doing.
And so I decided to I decided to send in this letter. In this letter, I wrote a little paragraph that essentially says as follows. And this gets to the notion of exquisite. And then I want to put one coda on it. Some would say that the dean of admissions at Stanford and Princeton cannot fail, given that the ratio of talented applicants to seats that may be true for creating a good class, it seems to me. That a great undergraduate class requires the hand of a master sculptor.
The details at the margins, the choices about what not to include, the stroke of genius, to include something just awful enough to be perfect, like a demolition derby player from a small town in eastern Oregon. If each class is a work of art, then you have sculpted a series of masterpieces and so I sent him this letter. And shortly after this is 2008, shortly after a few months later, I got a letter back from him and I think this is something that I'm going to try to remember for the rest of my life.
He's has a very nice letter, very, very thoughtfully composed, he says this thing he says you're taking the time to send such a thoughtful note happens to be a perfect example of what I had in mind of my baccalaureate address of the class of two thousand three. I encourage them not to underestimate the value of small gestures and provided examples from my own experience when asked to summarize my comments in a few words, enough to be inscribed on a carved plaque for a new dorm classroom building dedicated last fall is Hakkinen Hall.
I wrote, quote, The most treasured gifts in the world are kind words spontaneously tendered. And now. I mean, I'm sure many people have wonderful words to him, I'm not trying to take extra credit for words to him. But what if I never got around to sending the letter? Before he passed away. And I try to remember that because we have these people in our lives. And in a time like this, like that, we're living through with the pandemic.
I mean, you never know when the people you might want to say something to. Might disappear, any number of things can happen, accident, disease, life just expires and. I hope that I take in this idea that if you have it to say. Don't wait too long. I second that I have been personally too late in a number of cases and, you know, truthfully passing the midpoint on average of life spans on my paternal and maternal sides.
So on the. On the on the male side of the ledger, if we look at the average age of death across both sides in my family, it's 85. I turned 43 last time I had a birthday. And I was like, OK, I've passed the 50 percent point. Assuming that we don't have some singularity that allows me to become an cyborg with immortality. I've kind of passed to the outer edge and I'm on the return path with the boomerangs, so.
That reminder to me, at least, that stark reminder of mortality led me just in the last, I would say three to five years, especially the last three years, to reach out to many of my mentors who are older.
And that has been what has galvanized the rediscovery and the reaching out that you mentioned, having done yourself.
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So I would like to ask you, because we're talking about influences and mentors and we're going to spend quite a bit of time, I think, discussing this. I want to discuss father figures, but I want to do it in a somewhat roundabout fashion or an oblique fashion and. Going back to our first conversation and I have to just as a slice of life for people listening, tell you, tell you meaning the listeners and also you, Jim, why I love you so much.
Just as one example and I'm going to read since you read a paragraph, I'm going to read a paragraph which is from you for Tim. Greetings from the Creative Monk Mode Cave. This is a letter that I'm holding in front of me that I printed out. I'm really looking forward to our conversation. I went back to the transcript of our previous conversation and systematically analyzed it to cull out what we did not talk about. I thought that might help us to create a path to conversation that is distinct from our first.
Here are some topics we did not discuss in our last conversation or that we only briefly mentioned there might be possibilities to consider for this conversation. Most important, Tim, let's have fun. And you provided me with the most immaculate and diverse and tantalizing outline a producer could ever want. So thank you first and foremost for that. And as far as luck would have, it did a bit of prep myself also. And what I do at the end of my interviews and I did this at the end of hours, is I circled certain things we didn't get to or notes I took with highlighter and put two next to them, which meant in the case that we ever have around to these are some of the things I would like to explore.
And from that first interview, there's a quote in the transcript, which is, of course, from spoken word. So it's not intended for publication, but here's the line. And so I kind of decided I would create my own father by reading biographies of people I really looked up to. And some wondering if there are any particular biographies that have impacted or influenced you along those lines in seeking to sort of create your own father by reading these biographies.
When I set out on that, that was if there were sort of two parts of creating my own father. One was biographies and the other was mentors. And the biographies were relatively wide ranging. And they kind of fall into both the memoir autobiography category and then the full biography by someone else category. And I'm still a voracious learner from biographies. I think the arc of entire lives is one of the greatest sources of of wisdom to really understand the arc of a life.
And one of things you find when you do that is that I don't care how remarkable the person is, they all have their their mistakes, their setbacks, their wandering periods, their whatever. And it's kind of encouraging. This is going to sound like a strange one, but it had an utterly profound impact on how I view the world. And that was early on. One of the early ones I read was Winston Churchill's four thousand nine hundred and ninety six page memoirs of the Second World War.
And I read it in all six volumes, including I'll still never forget your reading these tables, your shipping tonnage loss, North Sea, March nineteen forty two. I mean, it is really detailed stuff, but you get a map and you follow the war.
But here's the thing. You're going through the Second World War in Winston Churchill's head. There's no better way of sort of thinking about what coming at the world is and crisis and leadership and everything else than just go through all those years in his head. And that was one that I still feel that it had massive shaping impact on me. And then, of course, the later Churchill biographies by William Manchester, who I think is one of the great biographers, the last line series one and series two.
And then, of course, his his own memoir, Goodbye Darkness, which had a real impact on me. It was where he turned his own lens upon himself as one of the great biographers. And he said, What I'm going to do is I'm going to unravel the mystery. And that mystery is why I, as a Marine, went back to my unit in Okinawa when I already had a million dollar home to go home and nearly get killed and had this recurring nightmare of himself arguing with a younger self about this decision and trying to understand.
And he went back and wrote a memoir of his years as a young Marine, a memoir in the South, as a middle aged man going over the same terrain right in all the islands. And then the story of the Pacific War all wrapped into one. And it had a huge impact on me because it's really ultimately about love. And you do whether one ever does anything heroic. It's an act of love. But not all the biographies are ones that sometimes are what I would describe as negative and or just instructive.
So, for example, I think Robert Caro's work is extraordinary. I love his I mean, I, I relate to his desire to spend months and months just immersed in information and detail and getting everything and make sure you read all the files and so forth. I personally relate to that. But his book, The Power Broker, which I think you know, I do, is one of the great biographies. Now, what's great about it is that it shows actually the reverse.
We were talking earlier about light for a start, us I think his dark force motivations increased over time. And that old adage, you know, power corrupts from Lord Acton, right? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And then I think the last part of that is very few great men are good men.
What Carroll does so unbelievably well in that is he takes one person and shows that happening.
Could you give a little more context on perhaps Robert Moses?
Not that we have to get too deep into it, but just so people know who the subject is, it's another one of those things where it's a it's a it's a book that somewhere along the way it's really worth getting to. Because if I remember right, it was quite a number of years ago when I read it, if I remember it right. The essence of it is you had this person who had a really peculiar genius in his peculiar genius was the ability to find sources of power, to be able to get things done that were often unseen by other people.
And he started out as somebody who in New York, who didn't have any obvious, formalized sources of power. Then he went Parkes originally, and he ended up playing this massive role over the course of his life of the shaping of New York. And it's almost impossible to look at the way New York works without thinking about the imprint of Robert Moses upon that, for for better and worse and how we got that done and how we got the beaches done when there were lots of powerful forces allied against and his ability to find pockets and pools of power to be able to harness, to get these things done without any formal power to do it.
And then what, Carol, if I recall correctly, does so, so well as he shows how it gradually grows from power to get things done to power, because you can and he does it in twelve hundred pages or something. It's sort of a counterbalance. It's really fascinating to talk about a bug, but this was the ultimate bug book on On Power and Robert Moses. The examples of what you don't want to be are also important in your biographies, his biography of Lyndon Johnson.
Extraordinary. The one that just still stuns me to this day. And actually a great take away from it is master of the Senate. You can watch Caro start off almost like I don't like Johnson and he sort of doesn't, but he rose to appreciate his skill. And when he becomes master of the Senate, his ability to get things done in politics is the art of the possible. Like this was Michelangelo at work, whether you agreed or disagreed, his ability to do it.
And again, I always distrust my own memory. But if I got it right right at the end of the book, as he's leaving the Senate to go become vice president. You're right, something along the lines of you did not know it at the time. But in leaving the Senate, he was leaving the only home you ever really had, at least that's the way I remember it. And the take away I got from that was. Never let your ambition confuse you about what you really are.
So he always wanted to be president. But what he was made for was master of the Senate, and, of course, his presidency ends, doesn't seek a second term. And so he achieved his ambition. But lost his home. Mhm, yeah, I think that's easy to do. We could have the Tim and Jim conversation for biography after biography. Well, maybe that's maybe that's the easy way for you to do a podcast yourself. Tim and Jim.
Tim and Jim. Now, I know you are a fan.
If if I'm getting my homework done properly of Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington and George Washington is fascinating on so many levels, in part because he has this Cincinnatus like quality of being the reluctant ideal leader. Right. The perfect candidate is very seldom the one who wants to run for office.
And so I know you've publicly discussed the impact of that biography and you brought it up of your own volition. I was going to lead from that to the question of what you can learn from not the Jedi, not the white knights of the leadership canon, so to speak, but from the Sith Lords, those who have not to push the Sith used too far, but who are masters of power, but with some shadow elements.
And I'd be very curious to know, we spoke of of one Robert Moses, who also is portrayed, I think, very well in the film adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn by Edward Norton, played by Alec Baldwin. Robert Moses was perfectly cast.
What are some of the lessons that you have been able to retain from some of these darker leadership icons or icons of power? And have you been able to use or absorb these things without being infected by some of the other components of their personas? Because it strikes me as very difficult to emulate only a tiny percentage of someone.
If you're not careful, at least you know, it's an interesting question because it is interesting how I went to Moses and to the Johnson biographies, the Carroll books, because they they really do. They are there are things there that I'm not sure I would want I would want to be. And as you know, I'm a big consumer of this and called the Great Courses series where you basically go out and they found the best university professors for the quality of their teaching, like I'm doing a whole course right now on how the brain works.
Right. And the professors from Vanderbilt, she's wonderful. Just for sheer joy. I like and this is how light comes in. And actually your brain then creates an image and isn't that wonderful? Just leave you with this incredible sense of awe and how everything works. There was a course on philosophy and I feel bad that I don't remember the name of the professor. I probably might come to me towards the end of our conversation, but it's called a I think it's called question of value, a question of values.
And in that course, the professor makes this wonderful distinction. He says, you know, you might want to think about whether you want a life to envy or a life to admire. Well, that's great. Isn't that so? You take Lincoln. It is not a life to envy. He struggled with depression. He had a tumultuous set of relationships. He had personal tragedy in his life. And then the hand he gets dealt as president to imagine sitting there getting the battle reports from Antietam, I mean.
And then he finally gets to it and then he gets his life taken away. I mean it not a life you would choose. But it's absolutely a life to admire. Said Professor Patrick Grim, as I said, yeah, yeah, yeah, it's called question or questions of values or questions of value. Yeah.
And I just I was so struck and I think what I'm really interested in is the people who maybe ultimately they transition, they don't become one or the other. They grow over the course of their lives. And I'm almost more interested in the growth cases than in kind of the static cases. And what's fascinating with Moses, as he sort of grew and the other direction, what kind of the arc of change of people's lives I find really, really interesting.
And even even Washington, an example of that early in Washington's Journal. By the way, if you had Sean Allen, I have no idea that be wonderful church now would be able to speak to this far better than I could.
But now early in Washington's life, very, very, you know, really just incredibly ambitious. Right. And he has some setbacks. And and then you see over the course of his life how his ambition gets increasingly channeled out then into the intersection of history and how that intersection of history then brings further a sense of almost historical service out of him. But the Washington of his later years is a much more evolved Washington than the Washington of early years. And I think that's what's interesting, because I think there's this question of we are not fixed.
We're not static.
Right. There isn't we chat a little bit later about there wasn't Steve Jobs there, Steve Jobs 1.0 and Steve Jobs 2.0. Right. I mean, it's the arc. It's the growth. That's what's interesting to me.
Well, let me give you just a map of the territory actually just leading to the horizon. I'd like to give people an idea of what's coming. So we are going to talk not just about books, but we're going to talk about mentors, since that was the second component that you mentioned. And we're going to talk about Bill Year specifically. But before we get to Bill this year, because you brought up questions of value, I would like to ask you a question about questions, because I think many people consider you a provider of answers.
I would agree with that to some extent, but I view you more as a craftsman of questions and the description of questions of value, just as a leaping off point is, of course, for anyone who has ever felt the tug of such questions or who wants to fine tune their ability to see how deeper questions of ethics and values apply to the choices that make up their lives. OK, so let's take that and jump to a New York Times piece about you, which was published in 2009.
And I'm going to read this paragraph. Mr. Collins also is quite practiced at saying no requests for an every week for him to give speeches to corporations and trade associations. It could be a bustling sideline given that he commands a top tier fee of sixty five thousand dollars to dispenses wisdom. Side note from Tim, I would say at this point in time I wouldn't be surprised if it were twice that amount. Back to the New York Times paragraph. But he will give only 18 speeches this year and about a third of them will be pro bono for nonprofit groups.
Companies also ask him to consult, but he mostly declines, agreeing only if a company intrigues him and if its executives come to Boulder to meet him over two 1/2 day sessions for sixty thousand dollars, he will ask pointed questions and provide very few answers. Quote, I am completely Socratic, he said, and I challenge and push. They come up with their own answers. I couldn't come up with people's answers. Book tours, no splurging. With the millions he's earned from his books.
No, to the part that I underlined was the over to half day sessions. He will ask pointed questions and provide very few answers. What types of questions or could you give any examples of questions that you have found over the years of experimentation and refinement to really more than pull their weight?
And as a side note, I will say I know some people who have flown out with their leadership teams to meet with you, and two or three years later, they're still talking about some of these conversations. So could you give any examples of questions that you like to use?
Yeah, so so first of all, I I'm so pleased that you see me as more about the questions than about the answers. And I, I really I am genuinely, just deeply thrive on questions. And that's why I think I again is so they go back to that course. I didn't really take away like these are the answers on value. I took away a question. Let me just describe a little bit how I prepare for really anything, but particularly prepare for a Socratic lab.
And first of all, it starts with probably something very similar to what you do, because your Socratic is you kind of have this big funnel of trying to gain understanding before you even enter a conversation. You read. You learn. You try to get your thoughts around what are the really critical things. And then the next thing is to start asking the question, what are the questions? And if you can identify the questions and I think of the questions, I think of it this way, I think of it is like preparing for if I were an NFL coach.
And. You are going to go into the game with game and you've prepared really well, you're going in with a game plan and when you get the ball, you're going to know your first few plays in all likelihood, unless something weird happened early. And so I'll come in with some questions that I know a little bit like Green Bay Packers always have their first set of plays and you always knew what they were then the game it unfold. And so you have to be really clear.
What are the two or three really essential things if they don't walk away? Having wrestled with this, I have failed them. Not these are the things I need to tell them. These are the three things they've got to really wrestle with, and your task is to get to those. Now you walk in, but then it's like the game starts. And what you have to do is, OK, we were we were planning on throwing long on third down, but their defenses and allowing for that, they're leaving the whole middle open.
So we're going to run to place. Right. And so you prepare obsessively, but then you have your questions or your plays. And so I have opening questions, and the first one is always the same for inside organization, or at least historically has been, I know it's not a core value. This could change, but it works like this. It's got a picture. Everybody's in the room. They've done homework ahead of time. They've had to answer a bunch of questions ahead of time, which I've digested all their answers.
I walk into the room, I'm in that room right now, is set up in covid time to use that room as kind of our our little studio. Here is a table we had custom made just for this room. It's a totally secure room. There's no if you look at the four walls on either side, there's no way that information could escape into the outside world. But for some people, we've had people up security sweeps and things like that.
I mean, it's very important that things remain, in some cases very confidential. And then the session started at 8:00 a.m.. Now, there's a rule with that a.T.M doesn't mean eight a.m. in four seconds. Eight a.m. is eight zero zero zero zero, because you have to set the tone. Bang, we are we are going to engage here now, people have often wondered, why do I require people to come to Boulder? Very simple, it's not because I don't like to travel, although I don't.
It's when you're dealing with people who can buy anything. And you want to have an impact on them with the limited number of chances that maybe they'll only be able to come ones where you might only have them cummerbunds. What's the one thing they can't get more of? Their tight time. So by requiring that they all have to come here and there in this space. In these rules, I've set the conditions for full commitment, so those people still talking about it years later, it isn't just because I ask good questions is in part because the conditions were created of you have to make a commitment to come.
You have to make a commitment to be really present when it happens. I wait until exactly eight o'clock. And on day one, I walk in the room at eight zero zero zero and I go to my chair and I say. Good morning. Take out a blank sheet of paper. It's not like how is your flight, how what do you think of Boulder? Hope you had a good meal last night. Good morning. Take out a blank sheet of paper.
We have a tremendous responsibility. We have a lot to do. Right down the top, five brutal facts that you face today. And we are now at eight o'clock and, what, 12 seconds? And they're quiet, blank sheet of paper, brutal facts right out of the front and one on one thing that I have found is that if you start there and then that's the very beginning, they go sheet of paper, little facts. Then we have six corners in the room, six cornered room, and there's a random process by which then they're put into small and then they have to come back to the large table and I'll randomly pick someone and I say, OK, what are the top five brutal facts that you face?
And then each of those becomes something to start pulling on. Why is that a brutal fact, is that really a fat rule? No opinions allowed? VEZZOLI You can't say I think we're growing too fast. That's an opinion. Facts, facts, facts.
And if you begin right at the start. The conversation gets very rich very quickly because everybody knows what those facts are, but you put them on the table that quickly, you are already setting the conditions for tremendous momentum in the setting of conditions.
Yet how underestimated.
Yeah, and then from there you have a number of them we do a lot with. Sometimes it's the flywheel, sometimes it's the hedgehog. Almost always something on people. And what makes for the right people. There's almost always something on danger signs. I really like to ask people to take the five stages of decline from how the mighty fall and self diagnose.
Where where are we vulnerable here. And why and what would we need to be worried about and those sorts of things and zooming out 20 years and those types of things, but once you get into it, then there's no script that is the same for everyone at that point. It's all very conditional upon who they are, but it's always going back to the principles from our research.
Well, people go to Boulder to learn to be interrogated.
I think as the challenged, challenged, challenged, let's introduce Bill dizziEr. Who is Bill Zeer? Why is he worth having a conversation about?
So the spark for us doing this again is I'm rereleasing this my very, very first book, which is called Beyond Entrepreneurship. Bringing it out is beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 with some upgraded material and it new chapters and so forth. But a big part of the reason is because I wanted to honor and extend the legacy of my co-author on that book, Bilharzia. And first, sort of how that intersects Bill passed away in 2004. And when I was in the memorial service, I think there's about a thousand people there.
I just had this overwhelming. Need to write something about them. And I thought, well, I could write an obit, I could write an article. I could write something for the alumni group and then Joanne, as is often the case in my life, had this really great idea. She said, Why don't you? Create something permanent, which would be to take this book that was your first book that you and Bill did together and bring it back to the world, but really shining a light on Bill and what he did to change your life and the role he played and what a great mentor is all about.
And then it's by Bill and Jim. And it brings him out permanently and I can share him with the world. And so that's kind of the impetus of all of this and just something that was very meaningful to me. I got my first copies the last week because either last week or the week before. Copy zero zero one, I went to Bill's widow, Dorothy, and so, like, no matter whatever happens from here, like that's the everything else from here is gravy.
So why why why was he why was he such an important or perhaps arguably the greatest mentor, his greatest mentor in my life?
I think the best way is to just. Tell a story we talked earlier about this notion of dark force and light force motivations and so forth and. And that bill, when I was. I think I was just on the verge of turning twenty five. And it was complete luck in the last episode you and I did together, we talked about who like a lot, who love Peter Drucker, The Who luck of four days to a marriage with Joanne, to engagement with Joanne.
And here we are 40 years later and so forth. But this was like luck in a real sense, I had wanted to be in a different section of a course. And it so happened that I didn't get into that one and I got assigned to a different course and there was an unknown first time teacher of that course named Losier. And I said, anybody know anything about this? This guy Lizzio, nobody knew. And so I just went and I figured I would just find find out what he was like or what the course was about.
At that sort of chance. Interaction. Led to bills somehow taking an interest in me and the image I have is that I have that I was like this propulsion machine driven, creative, energetic propulsion machine, but I had nowhere up, no direction to it, if you will. And and Bill took this interest in me, and he started inviting me over to his house now. He'd been a very successful he was an accountant then, a very successful entrepreneur.
And in his 50s, he returned to Stanford to really begin teaching kind of a renewal phase in his life. And I became like this project for him. And he just kept working on me just just he would ask questions and he would be and he he was never judgmental. He was just believing and supportive. But the key was he believed in me. It just believed in me and then when I was 30, just I think I just turned 30 years there about.
There was this moment when all of a sudden, kind of like the house where you were describing earlier, where there was this unexpected vacancy in the entrepreneurship and small business course at the Stanford Business School, top one of the other sections, which was, of course, I had taken from him years before. The deans needed somebody to fill in for this other professor who was a star professor, and they went to the deans and suggested me. And then put himself on the line.
I mean, he put his sense of his own reputation on the line. He said, I'll try to make sure he doesn't mess up too badly. And because of the clock, I think more than anything else, the dean's. Let this happen. And then Bill essentially kind of got me to see that this is like that thing in Hamilton, you don't throw away your shot, this is the shot. And the idea of being the image I've always had in my head is imagine you're a pitcher way down in the minor leagues and you happen to be in Yankee Stadium.
And for whatever reason, all the pictures on the bus don't make it to Yankee Stadium. The game's about to start and somebody says, why don't you go out there? Somebody's got to pitch. You just grab a glove, go out there and pitch. And Bill's message was there come these times in life? Well, not all time in life is equal. And the quality of your performance in that moment will have outsize effect on the rest of your life.
If you throw a perfect game, you'll get to throw again. Go trouble. And that was the start of everything and had had I not had built class, had I not had Bill believing in me, and then from there till the end of his life, shaping me, guiding me, challenging me, modeling for me, you and I wouldn't be having this conversation. The degree wouldn't exist, built to last, wouldn't exist, how the mighty fall wouldn't exist beyond entrepreneurship, wouldn't exist great by choice wouldn't exist, none of that would have happened.
I have some thoughts about what I might have ended up doing, but this is a whole lot better. And that was Bill, and it was his caring and investment. This is what I think made him such a great mentor. He so believed in me that it created a sense of responsibility to him. To that standard, you don't want to you don't want to fail that you don't want to let that down. That it acted like a magnet and it just pulled me up.
What are some of the life lessons that you gained from Bill and that have remained highly important to you?
So I put some of these in in the book. In the notes, yeah. And in the book.
Yeah, exactly. Because I got this whole chapter on sort of the lessons I want to share with the world from Bill. And I could pick any number of them. Maybe we'll pick one or two.
Is there anything like that one just because I'd left some some clarity on it. So I'll give people just a teaser of a few. Never stifle a generous impulse. Great life, karma, great relationships, trust wager, which is the one I would love to hear you expand on values is the hard stuff and then put the butter on your waffles, which I also love. But maybe you could expand on just since I'm following my own curiosity here. Trust wager.
And then. And then maybe a little bit on butter in the waffles because I think it's something that you may relate to.
But the even though I think you're probably more fanatic about diet than I am.
But anyways, The Morphin had a copout, consuming copious amounts of butter than just about anything else.
OK, this is this is in my strike zone. Yeah.
So so the trust wager after I had left Stanford and in the previous episode we talked about that what Joanne and I called our Thelma and Louise moment of launching out over the chasm and betting on my own entrepreneurial path to try to be an entrepreneurial professor rather than a professor of entrepreneurship. And when I left the very protective walls of where I was, I started hitting other sorts of experiences, including and I won't go into specifically who and what they were, but situations where people I trusted had abused my trust and it really stung.
I hadn't really experienced that in life before. And just realizing, you know, not not everybody is trustworthy and some people are really not trustworthy. And so I went to Bill. And I said, Bill, have people ever abused your trust? How do you deal with this? And he said, yeah, they have, but this is one of the big decisions you have to make in life. You have to decide as a basic stance, are you is your opening basic assumption about people that they are trustworthy?
You always start there, your opening bid is trust and trusting them always. And they can lose that trust if there's incontrovertible evidence that they have abused your trust, but they always have to be clear, never attribute to malice what could simply be explained by incompetence. And the other path is to start with, you have to earn my trust. I'm not necessarily going to trust you, but through evidence and experience, you'll earn your trust. He said this is one of those big choices in life, just a basic stand.
What is your stance? And I said, well, you seem to trust people. He said, yes, that's my bit. So what? But how do you deal with the fact that people are not always trustworthy? Said, well, so long as you don't leave yourself open to catastrophic loss. And he was always very clear, always pay attention to the cash flow. And he described a situation where he'd lost enough money from somebody he trusted that it hurt, didn't crush him, but it hurt.
And he said, but I still come back to I would rather live with that. I said, well, help me understand, though, the the pain you have to deal with that and the fact that people are not always trustworthy. He said, look and think of it as upside and downside. There's the wager and what's the upside? If you two taking the bit of mistrust, well, you'll maybe prevent yourself from having one of those hurtful experiences.
And what's the downside? Downside is trustworthy people, you will lose them. And the upside to trusting people is when you find the trustworthy people, they will rise to it. And if instead, this was the critical thing you said to me, said, if you ever considered the possibility that not everybody is one or the other, but because you trust them at the outset. They are more likely to become trustworthy because you trust them. And ever since then that I try to live to that, the idea that that's the opening bid and just make sure you protect your flank so it can't be catastrophic.
But that was Bill HARD-HEADED realistic, but you always start with the opening bid of trust.
Were there any footnotes on that trust? And I guess I would love an example of what trust means in this context if that if that makes sense, because, you know, the expression that comes to mind is trust but verify. Right. So if I get an email that says I am the the widow of a Nigerian prince and can you please wire 10 million dollars to this fulling bank account and here's how we'll split the hundred million dollars proceeds, I assume that he does not mean you wire the 10 million in a circumstance like that.
Right? That would be an extreme example. But you much like and we may get to this a bit later also, but I've read of how you think about Luckies asymmetric as a causal force. Right. So bad luck can kill you, but good luck cannot make you great. It may be necessary in some circumstances, but not sufficient. Similarly, there are certain downsides that are survivable. There are certain downside risks that are easily manageable and then there are sort of existential or catastrophic downside risks.
So how did he trust from an informed or a smart place as opposed to a reckless place? Does that make sense?
Well, when it came to business dealings, Bill. Always, I guess I sort of describe it, and if I understand this one situation that he referred to, he always had a good awareness of the cash flow in his environment like he used to. He was just fanatic about always understand your cash flow. Very practical person on that. I remember one day he was teaching a class on. It was for the entrepreneurship and small business and he was pushing the students.
What are the really key issues in the case? And they're all going off of that. You know, our strategic positioning and where sort of market share growth and whatever. And finally, Bill just sort of walks over to the whiteboard and puts in about four foot high letters with the side of the chalk all the way across the board. One giant word, cash. And it is and he always tried it, particularly for people who come from an earnings world, you don't pay your bills with earnings.
I mean, you pay your bills with cash.
And so bills practice always was to be very aware of where the flanks were and to ensure that he would never leave himself exposed to, say, having something where you would wake up and find that something had been taken that left you completely crushed, if you will, completely embezzle or anything like that, where the cash flow. But when you bring somebody in, do you not trust that they're going to do a great job? Do you not trust that they're going to steward the resources of the company as if they owned it?
Or are you going to basically trust that they will? He basically would always just start with I trust you. I trust you and the idea of like locking a supply cabinet or anything like that just I trust you, you could lose that trust, but it's just no where the flanks are. And we'll probably get to that when we get to the lock part, because I think that has a lot to do with this sort of notion of managing what's catastrophic versus managing what's not.
And in the end, here's the key thing. Bill was all about relationships. And Bill believed that the only way to have a great life is two approaches to life. To seek transactions and sea life is a series of transactions. Or to take life as building relationships and the only way to have a great life, in Bill's view, was relationships and the cornerstone of relationships is trust. And then you can put butter on your waffles together, presumably.
OK, so let's talk about that, because I'm thinking about eating waffles ever since you mentioned it.
OK, so butter on the waffles is something that this is still something I really struggle with. But I learned from Bill, we're working on piano entrepreneurship. I didn't know what I was doing as a writer. And I'm sure back when you were writing your first book, there's this incredible sense of inadequacy. Right.
Does that ever go away, as one of actually learned is that writing is like running? If you're going to run your best, let's say you can run a six minute mile and then now you're a better runner and you can run a five minute mile if you're going to run your best, whatever your PR is, it is always going to hurt. Writing never gets easier. You only get better. So I was going through, but I was I was running maybe nine minute miles, I mean, I was throwing all kinds of stuff in the wastebasket.
I felt completely overwhelmed. There was I truly felt inadequate and I was suffering. And so I go to Bill and we're working on this together. And I'm doing most of the trying to get the text working. And I sit down with Bill and he can tell I'm just sort of really suffering and describe to him how I spent the entire day, the day before.
And it's all in the wastebasket, wine, wine, wine.
And I expected Bill to give me this maybe this lecture on this is the time to push through. And you have to do something. You have to double down. It's like the last six miles of the marathon. You're only halfway at mile twenty in the last six sector where everything happens and that's when you really have to grit it out.
And that's what I expected to hear. And instead, what I got was a lecture on fun. And Bill says to me, he says, OK. So if you're not having fun and we're not having fun doing this, we should just stop. And he said, if we can't find a way to make this fun. We shouldn't be doing this. So the day after we turned in the manuscript. Bill had a heart attack and had a quintuple bypass surgery.
And we used to have these waffle fests at the Peninsula Creamery. And we would we would meet on Saturday mornings and we would have waffles and a few weeks or months, I can't remember the exact time length we're having one of our waffle fests after Bill had at his heart attack. We sit down and just like before he pulls out all this butter and he starts putting butter on his waffles and putting syrup all over the the the butter is creating that marvelous mixture of like syrup and butter, creating that marvelous mixture of of some stuff on your waffles.
I said, Bill, Bill, what are you doing? You had a quintuple bypass surgery. You were putting all this butter on your waffles. And Bill, just continue to pour the butter on his waffles. And then he looked up at me and he had this most marvelous expression. It's like sort of a smile, but it was this. It's hard to explain what it is. It reminds me of that line. And Senecas right on the shortness of life as a wise, is a wise person who knows how to meet death with a firm step.
And and Bill told me the story of going into the operating room. He said, I bet they saw a smile on my face. Because I'm going into the operating room and I have the sudden new I mean, I knew. Without question. That if this was the end. I'm OK with that. Dorothy and I have had a great run. I have lived my life the way I wanted to live in. I have so many people in my life who I have loved and I love.
I have already had. A great life. And nothing can take that away. And so I decided coming out of it, everything from here is gravy, and I'm going to lead my life and I'm putting the butter on my waffles. Bill never confused a long life with a great wife. And he died a number of years after that, not that many years after that, if you a decade must have been maybe 12 years later. He woke up and was walking across the room and he fell dead of congestive heart failure.
And Dorothy later told me that he had a smile on his face and. When I was in the Stanford Chapel. I saw all these people in their. And it was such a different crime because when my dad died. I cried for what I never had. When Bill died, I cried for what I had lost. And then I look out in that Stanford chapel. And I see. All these people in there, and I realize I'm not the only person.
Whose life he had altered. Or hundreds of them. And I had this image of them is like Vector's going out in time and space. And that if you can affect the trajectory of a vector even a few degrees when they're relatively young, it's a huge sweep. As their life unfolds. And imagine you did that for not just one vector, not just one Jim Collins, but a whole bunch of other people. And you have hundreds of those vectors going out into time and space.
Then you've lived a really great life. And you had butter on your waffles. And so, you know, it's interesting, you notice I put here most important, Tim, let's have fun. On my memo to you, I am really trying this is for me, the hardest of the lessons I learned from Bill.
Just putting a premium. On if you can't find a way to make it fun, you shouldn't do it. Well, it seems like Bill was not only having fun, he was fulfilled. And bit of fun, at least temporarily, can be bought with a bottle of wine, but fullfillment, not quite as transactionally available. And I'm going to jump around here just a little bit, but this is the next topic that popped to mind for me, which is related to this.
And that's contrasting your time with West Point cadets, having spent time at the United States Military Academy at West Point with your time with MBA students at Stanford, because it seems that the cadets seemed happier. And I would like to know. In your mind, why do you think that is perhaps what you know to be true about what separates those two groups?
Because you, I think in the minds of many, are a you are a researcher and a student of success. But you and I can both point out examples of people who are extolled or put on a pedestal as these pinnacles of success. And yet they have these Pyrrhic victories. They go home, they have terrible relationships with their kids, with their spouses, cetera. So this is deeply interesting to me. The contrast cadets versus MBA students.
So back in 2012 and 2013, I had this real honor to serve a two year appointment as the class of nineteen fifty one chair for the study of leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
And first of all, just personally, it was a incredible experience to go and be invited in, and especially in a special role like that, to really get a feel for how does a place like West Point, one of the great leadership development institutions.
In the world, probably in history. Do its thing with young people who come in and what's their approach to things, and it had a profound impact on me in many ways, and I went there theoretically to teach something to the cadets.
But really, I ended up, as is often the case, being the student. And I used to have these marvelous dinners where I had this big round table and I would invite about 12 cadets. And you just start off with a simple question, beginning to ask them questions about their lives.
But how did you end up here? Where did you grow up?
Why did you choose this versus something else? And just getting to know each cadet and why they would choose this path. Marvelous journey.
Well, anyways, the more I got to know the cadets and the more I engaged with them, the more I was struck at, by and large, how happy they seemed. Now, you got to try to understand what life as a West Point cadet is like. I didn't go to West Point, I. I went and studied math on the West Coast.
They have not just their hefty academic load. We've got history and philosophy and engineering and all of these things.
You also have your leadership training, you have your physical training, you have your military training, and you don't have a whole lot of free time. This is an intense place. And I'm finding myself thinking, what is it? And there's this sense of them being on the balls of their feet in the sense of energy. And and I'll never forget when I had the the joy. That's the only word I can use. The sheer joy of being able to close out my session with the West Point cadets with a one hour presentation to five thousand cadets, all in their it in Eisenhower Hall for an hour.
And at the end of it, the eruption, the roar from them, that just sort of conveyed the sense of sharing joy, if you will. I was like, wow, this is really an interesting place. The energy. Wow.
If you could just bottle that. What is that? How does that happen? What what's working here? And so I puzzled a lot, because what really struck me is they did seem happier if I can't measure that, I can't prove that they're happier, but they sure felt happier to me than my students when I taught in the business school. And so I I came away with a couple of key thoughts on maybe three that go together. The first begins with just have to lead into a little bit of a story.
I always like to do something physically demanding or challenging in some form for my fives, so for my fifty fifth birthday, which was when I was there, I decided that I wanted to do this thing called the IOC the indoor obstacle course test, because I kept asking the kids what's hard about being here, and they kept talking about this thing called the IOC. What was the IOC? So you don't want to know. We all we all hate the IOC.
Well, what is it? It's the indoor obstacle course test. And this is a place called Hajja. And the idea being that, you know, you have to leap over things and Nantel up on a shelf and go across sideways bars and across a balance beam and over walls and hand over hand across bars and then up a rope and then run around the track with medicine ball.
But here's the key. There's a graduation time. You actually have to hit a time. And I said, well, I think I'm going to try to do the IOC in twenty two year old cadet graduation time's a fifty five year old. And I was having trouble with this because it was actually quite high. It's not a good idea, by the way.
And I was over there training and and the cadets were wonderful because they'd be coming along.
This is sort don't do it like that. You look like an old man, sir. I'm like, well, I am an old man. So anyways, I'm working on the IOC and I'm training. And then all of a sudden I stand back and I look around. And I noticed something. There are groups of cadets who are clearly not having any trouble accomplishing the effect, they'll hit their time easy. We're in there taking our time out of a life where they don't have extra time.
Their classmates who are struggling with the IOC to ensure that they get through. And all of a sudden, it just part of we realize what's happening here. Is the entire culture is built on the idea that you are not alone. And that your response to this sucks is how can I help you? And the idea being that you the thing you have to learn is we will take care of each other and I began to think about this notion of success is communal.
It's never alone. It's never solo. And there are people there that are going to help you. And then your responsibility is to help someone else if you have trouble. With the IOC and somebody helps you, but you might be good at math and you're going to help them. And that was very different than what I saw in other environments. It's very different from what I see often in corporate America. And if you could grab that idea. That you are never alone and your first responsibility is to help someone else.
Versus advance yourself. And you make that systemic, built in cultural. The other part is the ethic of service. We talk a lot about service and kids should do things for services. There's another thing when every kid that there goes. Either they. Or somebody close to them or somebody in their unit may well die. In the rendering of that service. Creates a context of meaning that is, I think, very hard to find other places, so you have the service.
But you are in service to what you are willing to sacrifice for what you might even die for. And those around you and take care of each other and the acts of love. That is, I think, a very special and very powerful concoction. And I think it explains a lot of why, at least I don't know if it was happier or more meaningful more, but it was this extra X factor that is palpable.
So I want to make a military leap, too. And I am making a bit of a guess, but I think I am I think I am maybe right here.
So after 30 years of work and research, you have a single map of concepts and a framework now. And if you die tomorrow, that is what you would want people to have and follow. One of the bullets in this consolidated map of concepts is the Stockdale paradox. Is this Stockdale the W yeah, or is this the difference? Doctor, could you. We don't have to necessarily start with Stockdale, but because you mentioned Sinica earlier, my stoic reading and leanings fascinated by by Stockdale.
So let's approach this any way you like. We could dive into Stockdale paradox or we could begin just by taking a step back and looking at the macro of of what is meant by having a single map of concepts after 30 years of work and research.
So here's what I'd love to do with that temas. I actually would love to pick up on just the previous part of our conversation and go into Stockdale. It's one of the key principles in the map. And I feel in today's world, by the time people hear this, we're really in the Stockdale moment. And so I would love for people to hear from me. The Stockdale paradox, if that's all right with you. It involves the story. Yeah.
So for people who don't know, Admiral James Stockdale was the highest ranking naval officer, military officer in the Hanoi Hilton prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam. He was shot down in the late 1960s and he spent seven years in the camp. And I had the great privilege to be able to get to know Admiral Stockdale a bit when he was studying philosophy across the street at the Hoover Institute when I was teaching my small business and entrepreneurship class over at the Stanford Business School.
And in preparation for this walk across campus and lunch that we were going to have, I sat down and read his book In Love and War, which is written in alternating chapters by himself and his wife about his years in the camp. And now I want you to picture I'm sitting there in a really nice paneled, warm Stanford faculty office looking out at the fog kind of coming in over the hills and this beautiful setting. And I'm I'm comfortable. I'm safe.
I'm reading a book. And I found myself starting to feel the sense of despair and feeling depression. Because as I read the book, I really began to realize the bleakness of a situation, but what really struck me about it is not only could they pull them out and tortured him at any time and they did that, they could keep him in leg irons for extended periods of time. And they did. Right. What really struck me was the sense of he had no idea when or how it would end.
So. It's not like you walk into the Hanoi Hilton and they give you a slip of paper and say, is your release date is December thirty one, nineteen seventy two, you have no idea.
You don't know how long you'll be there, you don't know what it's going to be like all the way through it, you don't know if you will reunite with your family again. There's no sense of when this might come to an end or if it will come to an end. And it was that never ending since this just struck me as that was hard and then dawned on me. I'm feeling this reading pages in a book. And I know the end of the story.
I know he gets out. I know he reunites with his family. I know we're going to go for a really nice walk on this beautiful campus. In just a few days. How on earth did he live it? Not knowing the end of the story. How did he not capitulate to despair? So I asked him and he said, oh, I never, never capitulated to despair because I never, ever wavered in my faith. Not only that I would get out, but I would turn it into the defining event of my life.
That in retrospect, I would not trade. So we didn't say anything for a while, we just walked. He was very comfortable with silence. And we walked and we walked. Finally, I said, Admiral Stockdale, who didn't make it out as strong as you. Oh, that's easy. It was the Optimus. I'm kind of confused here, and he said, oh, by optimist's, I mean those who said we're going to be out by Christmas.
And Christmas would come and it would go. We're going to be out by by Easter and it's going to come and it would go and we're going to be out by Christmas and it would come. And it would go. And they suffered from a broken heart. And this is when I learned from Admiral Stockdale this idea, you must never, ever confuse the need, on the one hand, for unwavering faith.
That you can and you will prevail in the end. With at the same time and at the same time, the discipline to confront the most brutal facts. As they actually are today. I always have this image of Admiral Stockdale saying we're not going to be out of here by Christmas, deal with it. Years later. I was working on the research for what became good to great, and I kept noticing the level five leaders we talked about in the last episode.
They to leave their companies through often. Be years of desperate experiences to get to the other side, and they all seem to have that strange duality, the sort of unwavering faith they would get there in this incredible stoicism to confront the brutal facts. And one day I shared the Stockdale's story with the research team and everybody jumped in saying essentially, that's it. It's that's exactly what we're seeing with these people. And we ended up calling it the Stockdale paradox.
I find whether it's this covid time, people hopefully maybe listening to this after covid time, because I certainly anticipate there will be one, but we go through Stockdale moments, whether it be like we're doing on a global basis. Right now, we are in a Stockdale moment. Companies and leaders and entrepreneurs go through Stockdale moments, times in our lives that you go through Stockdale moments. Over the last time we talked about the spreadsheet I keep when I do the plus one plus two zero minus one minus two calculation of the days and how you get a minus two day, you can feel like you're in a really dark hole.
Everything is colored by that. Well, part of coming up with that is the idea to basically lend faith that when you look at the data, you see a lot of ones and twos that you can't see clearly when you're in the minus to. It sort of an actualization of living the Stockdale paradox. You've got to confront the fact that they sucked or this is hard or I am feeling really down or whatever. And this unwavering faith that the plus tools will return.
May I ask you a question about your scoring book? Yeah, your spreadsheet, because I don't think I asked this last time and that is well as a lead in there are there are many different ways to get to the same average. And one approach, let's just say and I'm not saying this is the objective, but your goal were to hit a certain average. One way to get there would be to have consistently plus one negative one plus one negative one zero zero plus one negative one.
Another way to get there would be plus two negative two plus two negative to zero and so on.
Which of those. Do you prefer if either more or less, more or less volatility, if you choose less volatility, you're getting lower amplitude on the positive days?
Yeah, that's that's a great question. Let me think about that for a minute, because, you know, I find they come in strings. So so there's a couple of things that are just so for those who didn't hear that episode, the essence of it is I score this. I track two numbers every day. I track the number of creative hours I got for the day. And they have to sum up over three hundred and sixty five day period.
I always have to be above a thousand creative hours. And my my self-imposed march is that it has to stay above a thousand creative hours every three hundred and sixty five days every day of the year for 50 years. So that's, that's the march on the creative side.
Then there's this other part which is tracking. How do they feel? Was it a plus to day plus one zero minus one or two? And the reason that it's very important to put it at the end of the day is the next day you might feel different. So you got to put it down that day and then start looking for correlations about what correlates with twos and ones and minuses and so forth. And I do this every single day. And but as I begin to go back and look at patterns, I find I find a couple of things.
The first is some names that are strings. You might go through two or three weeks that are a lot of plus one plus twos. And the averages are starting to be above one, which is really good. By the way, to be above one means to have one, not a lot of negatives, and then you might get a string of a week. That's just for whatever reason.
And often it's just you wake up in the morning and you have that sense of dread and anxiety and you can't shake it.
And it's sort of colors everything. I've learned how to deal with it by basically preparing for the things in the future. But you begin to see those and you begin to see that they come in strings. And so what do I prefer? I just prefer a lot of ones and twos accepting the brutal fact that there are minus ones and minus twos. But in terms of the amplitude, so the reality of life is not a lot of plus twos and not a ton of minus twos, which is why the averages sort of is a little more consistent.
But I really love the plus twos. And so if you gave me a choice, what I'd rather have minus twos and plus as well. That's really hard to answer.
That's really hard to answer.
One thing I have noticed, though, does just myself, I mean, my own weird idiosyncratic case. So in studying myself, one of the things I've noticed is and this is part of what is great about life and self observation. I can find that I can have minus two, plus two is right next to each other. It is astounding. Some it's their strength, right. But some of it is just astounding how you can go have one day where you just like, man, if my life was going to be all these minus two is just not a life I want.
And then the very next day, something changes and it's a plus two and you try to figure out what that is. I can't always explain it, but it's incredible. And it's that notion also, sometimes I've even noticed that something starts off feeling like it's going to be a minus two. And you observe that like it's going to be a minus to day. Know the day's not done, the day's not written. The day's not over. I have choices I can make.
So can I turn this what's looking like a minus two day into at least a plus one or plus two, the day is not written and I found that you can begin to start changing them. I think that I've learned some of the triggers that caused the negatives. I think comparison. What am I? One of my mentors, Michael Ray, had a wonderful line, which is comparison is the primary sin of modern life. And I find that any time I find myself in comparison as opposed to others as opposed to, hey, we're making backs of the statues as beautiful as I can, that tends to correlate with minus twos much more.
So I find that if. I'm also very sensitive to how other people around me are feeling, and if other people are having minus twos, I might be more likely to have a minus two, if you don't mind me digging into the comparison, because I think this a lot of people will resonate with comparison, if not as the primary sin of modern life.
And that was Michael. A statement was a good one. Right. Right. As a predictor or a harbinger of negative two days. How did that. Well, let me let me ask you first. I mean, the question that I have is, would you be willing to give some examples of how that shows up for you? How are you comparing yourself to other people?
Because you strike me as such a such a unique snowflake made. I don't know who you would compare yourself to.
Exactly. I mean, I'm sure we can always find people. Maybe it's some incredible 514 rock climber. I don't know. But how did how does it most often show up for you comparison, this seduction, this kind of moth to the flame of comparison? And how did it show up for Michael Ray, if you have any idea?
Yeah, well, Michael Michael Ray is was a very evolved specimen. And the way he was an academic professor, a professor of marketing, then taught the creativity in business class. And I think that in the world of academia, with peer review and with kind of the tenure ladder and all of that is kind of breeds a sense of comparison. And and I think that totally. Yeah. And and where your office is and a whole bunch of other things, in a way, it's kind of a it's a and then Silicon Valley.
I mean, if there is Sin City. In Silicon Valley, in terms of comparison, is the primary scent of modern life, right? And so Michael dealt with it by very, very deep spiritual practice that that was the way he he dealt with it, but was his spiritual practice.
He just he did he was involved very deeply in a very extensive meditation and studying under, I believe, maybe more than one guru. And he he dedicated his life to his own evolution to find what he always described as the get in touch with his real inner essence as opposed to his external forms. And his life was very guided in that direction. I think that for me, sometimes it's changed over the years. I think when I was younger, it would be sort of more surface level comparisons.
It's never been like, gee, how am I comparing financially or how am I comparing this? Might I actually would rather compare with people being maybe surprised? Oh, you don't have X, Y and Z kind of like that. You don't have windows in your office. Like, I kind of like those sorts of comparisons of being like different. But the why don't you have the corner office with all the windows? Exactly. Because there would be windows.
I'll be distracting. We were talking earlier in our earlier one about John McAfee, can you can read a John McAfee paragraph ago. I don't know if I could ever do that paragraph. That's really optimistic stance. I just said, God damn, I can't even imagine ever producing a parent. Exactly, exactly.
You know, but it's it's sort of I think sometimes it's it's just these standards that and then I see people who embody them and you feel inadequate to those. And that's where some of the comparison comes in and claiming it's great if you get to be sixty two or sixty three, you know, you're going to lose a comparison with anybody who's twenty five. So.
Right. Right. Not on the table. Yeah. What do you do if Michael Ray had his spiritual practice to act as a countervailing force, a counterbalance to the very human, I should say, instinct, reflex, evolutionary preprogram tendency to compare?
Woody, what do you have? What is your what is your pattern interrupt or sort of method for mitigating the tailspin or possibility of negative to do the comparison?
Yeah, I've learned some very specific things that, again, I'm idiosyncratic to myself. Everybody probably has to find their own patterns and I certainly am not one to prescribe that other people, although after our last session, I guess a bunch of people started spreadsheets and good. I hope they're helpful to them, but people have to sort of find their own recipe. And that's what the bug books about, right. To begin to observe for yourself as you study yourself like a bug.
What really works. And for me, I've learned a couple of things that that the critical thing is to find something very tangible that pivots me to the future and what's coming next. And and so, for example, I've learned that if I wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning and I know I'm hitting the 20 minute rule and I'm not going to get back to sleep and I can feel those. What is the 20 minute rule? 20 minute rule basically says if you wake up in the middle of the night, then you're not back to sleep.
By 20 minutes, you get up and get going. And and so I followed the 20 minute rule and I hit the 20 minute rule I like. There's no way I'm getting back to sleep, so get up and going. But in that 20 minute, you can there's something weird about laying there in bed in the darkness that you can. It's almost like feeling the you can feel those. It's like a black mist sort of coming in and you can begin to all of a sudden you're thinking about something.
That's whether it's comparison or comparison to something to a standard you could have done better or whatever. Here's what I've learned. Just even this last weekend as I was preparing for our conversation, I have found that one of the best things to do is to throw myself into creative preparation for something that's coming up and to go into the preparation bubble. And the reason for that is simple. There's nothing to compare to at all. There's nothing to be like judgemental of.
There's nothing none of those things then never. They haven't happened yet, but they're all in the future. And all your energy goes from, you know, looking backward or looking to the side or any of that and all that just all of a sudden becomes this energy roll out of bed, go right, right to the desk, and then immediately pop up and say, what have I got coming up I need to prepare for. So, hey, I'm going to be talking with Tim, I'd better be thinking about what do we talk about last time or what could be different this time?
Like what? Me, I should probably go back and revisit the the four. I think we can all of a sudden this generation of I'm preparing, I'm preparing, I'm looking forward. I'm on the balls of my feet, I'm creating and it all goes away. And so and I have a little thing on my my iPhone, which because I might to do is like everybody else. And I also have my subdues on mine. But there's I have a thing called prep and prep is always in bold.
And so whenever I'm in that point, I immediately go to the bold line. It's called prep.
And I say, what can I prepare for? And then or I can be preparing for that, that also applies if I go into my research, but again, that's for ideas that have yet to happen. I can't judge the ideas. They're not there yet.
What do you use to to contain your to do stop do's and prep your notes? Do you use a different application?
Where do those things live? I am a of and the people in our little system here know this. I'm a fanatic for simplicity. I'm not always so good at it, but I'm a fanatic for simplicity. I don't like really complicated. I'm sorry to app makers and all that. I apologize to you. So how do I keep my mind to do? I use the notes app on my iPhone and which also then carries over to my iPad and I have two two versions of it.
There's the beginning of every year you sit down and you do your sets of threes. Right. Top three things to get done this year. Write them down. Top three things to stop doing or reduce significantly this year it has to balance three, four, three. If you have more than three in your top set, you don't have any priorities.
Then write truly and then and then go down to top three, what I call of supporting objectives. So, for example, I might have a top objective redesign the democratic process. I might have a supporting objective, which is create a new table for the space. Right. I mean, a supportive but again, only three.
And they are supporting the big ones, but they have to be in support of and then and then there'll be other theories like, you know, I actually have one top three fund. I'm not really trying it on that. Right. That's still one of the hard ones for me. So you do that. And so I have those over there on one thing and you go back and you constantly and at the end of the year, you grade yourself, right.
And you don't grade yourself. You don't get to change it. You have to grade yourself at the end of every one of those at the end of the year. ABCDE f you can do minuses and pluses if you want and you grade yourself relative to exactly what you said you are going to focus on for the year. Now, something may happen, you might get sick or and have to deal with that or whatever, but you grade yourself and you go to that and it's on a simple note, it's just a simple little memo pad.
Right. And then you have your what's sort of going on? Which is the long list, every time you think of something you need to do, you just add it to it's a memo, that's all it is. But the critical step and you wrote about this, you're really good at this, Tim. When you sit down, you do the very thing that you wrote about, I think, in the four hour work week. And I found it very, very helpful to sit down.
And you just look at that list and you say, OK, what are those two, maybe three things today? That like and if only maybe one of them, right, this is today, and sometimes it can be simply as today is a day that if I didn't have fun, it's a failure. Right, because it's going to be a fun day or whatever. But then here's the little trick I've learned. There's all the other to DOS and they might go on for hundreds of things just so some day.
You don't always forget about them. I'd like to hit return enough times that when you open the memo, would you always have keys or can open up instantaneously when you open the memo? All the ones below those top three are off the screen. And they're they're. Right, but they're purposely hidden. And it's simple, it's just simple, and I use for date things, I use the thing on the iPhone, which is there are simple reminders thing, but like around here, we could have all these.
You can have like all these powerful apps for tracking contacts and stuff like that, like know or things that we have to prepare for. I'm like, why don't we just use an Excel spreadsheet or a word document? I just think the critical thing is if you don't have the discipline, no app that's going to make you disciplined.
Speaking of discipline, what are some examples of things on your stop do list?
Well, I think one of the biggest ones on my stop do list and I give myself so far used to be a major a rising one is don't hit send. What does that mean? So one of the things I learned from another wonderful mentor, a fellow named Irv Grousbeck.
You can always say something you haven't said, you can never unsee something you've said, and it's a very simple thing, but I never draft an email response in an email am. I never draft an important text in the text at. Because you might hit send. And sometimes it's a matter of when you hit send. So, you know, I thought about the shock to my system. If I'm up at 4:00 in the morning and something occurs to me and I text and email people on my team at 4:00 in the morning, first of all, they don't need to know about it at 4:00 in the morning at 8:00.
I might not even think it's that important because it just was occurring to me at 4:00 in the morning. And and I'm shocked. They're like, this is completely unhelpful. So I put it in. I don't put it in the map. I just type it out. And I would say about somewhere between a half and two thirds of my correspondence, I never said wow.
That's amazing, partly because I like a conversation, if I can have that, and one thing I've really observed with really effective people, I'll never forget every once in a while in a couple of the conversations that I've actually had this with multiple people, really remarkable people. I've noticed that they often see the purpose of email is to is to. Trigger a conversation by voice, Dear Jim, can we chat, how do you feel about that, about oh about Dear Jim, can we chat?
Well, I'm reclusive so often that's but if it's if it's the right person, I mean, there are things that can happen in a in a bye voice and conversation that can never happen. Imagine having this conversation by email. Right. It'd be really it'd be really, really hard to do so another thing is I have travel is at least on a scooter right now to stop doing, but I would love it to be almost permanently stop doing travel for other than fun.
And those are some that are really I'm still very much working on. But when in doubt don't it's end.
If we return to the consolidated map of concepts, this this map of concepts and framework after 30 years, there are many that we could talk about and you can feel free to to go off menu with what I'm going to mention. But I would love to hear more about the genius of the end or clock building. Not time telling. OK, great. But you can you can choose option C. If there's another one you think would be more, more fun to explore.
Right. Let me zoom out for a moment about this map and then I'll I'll pop into a couple of comments about that. So first of all, what is the map starting way back when I first started teaching the entrepreneurship and small business class. And just as an aside, by the way, a lot of people think that my work has been about big companies because the companies that were in the research were huge companies by the time we picked them up to study them.
And that's where the data was because they were a publicly traded company. So that's that's but but we always study them back to when they were startups. So I was interested in Disney when Disney was doing a first cartoon. I was interested in how Amgen went from a startup into finally stumbling upon what would become Epel. I was interested in Intel when it had three people in Southwest Airlines, when it had three airplanes. And for me, I've always had my main interest and passion has been ultimately for the entrepreneur and the entrepreneur who I would like to challenge with the beyond part of the entrepreneurship part, which is to basically take the idea of, OK, now that you have a successful business, can you make the journey from there to build turn it into a truly enduring great company?
I mean, if you're going to do it, why don't you try to create one of the companies that can last that's worthy of lasting, that can change the world, that can go on and continue to do that for generations and can serve as a role model for others. Like, if you can do that, why don't you do that? Or at least why don't you think about doing that? That was always sort of the frame. You get companies when they're young and when they're small because it's like getting them when they're really, really still in the early parenting stage.
And it's easier to turn a small business or an entrepreneurial company into a great company than it is to try to change a giant mediocrity down the road into a great company. So get it right early. That's kind of where all this work began. And I started thinking about how would we do that? And that's what led to the research. And that's when we talked about the research, about the comparative analysis and historical analysis and all the things that we do that go back to how I learned how to do this research with Jerry Portis.
And we played it first and built to last. It wasn't about big. It was about how the small became the lasting and visionary. The others did not. And each study. Was I kind of think of it as it wasn't a series of four books, it wasn't like built to last and then go to grade and then how the mighty fall and the great by choice. It was actually one giant study that came out in installments. And each study was looking at the question of what it takes to build a truly great company, superior results, distinctive impact, lasting endurance, a truly great company.
And after 30 years, I thought to myself, now that I'm moving on to new questions. So after we after this conversation, Tim, I'm going to be heading off. And do you know, the next time we talk, hopefully I'll be emerging from the cave with perspectives on these new questions. A midpoint of my career at sixty two, as I think of it. Moving on to new stuff, I wanted to consolidate all of our work into something that could fit on a single whiteboard, 30 years of research on a single whiteboard.
And so I thought, I'm going to give people a map. If you did 30 years of research rigorously figuring out what makes great companies tick and you wanted to hand it to an entrepreneur and say, follow this, here's here's the map, what would it look like? Hence the map in entrepreneurship to point out, I've written a whole chapter on what the map is, consolidates all that work. It unfolds in these stages of stage. One's about discipline people.
So your level five leaders, your right people on the bus, all those in stage twos about disciplined thought, the genius of the end and the Stockdale paradox, which we talked about earlier, the hedgehog concept, which we talked about in the previous session together, stage three is all about disciplined action, which begins with the flywheel, which we spent a lot of time on the last episode on, and then executing on the fly wheel with a fanatic 20 mile march minus my thousand creative hours.
But companies can have them too. And then renewing and extending that fly with firing bullets and cannonballs to get calibration and then placing very calibrated big bets that extend that flywheel leading to stage four, which is building greatness to last, which is productive paranoia. You got to stay alive and stay out of the stages of decline, shift from being a time teller to a clock builder, because if you're just a time teller, everything falls apart when you go away.
So you've got to build a clock. And then finally, the real deep secret to preserve the core, stimulate progress, allowing you to achieve big after big after big.
Those are all the inputs most big for people who don't know being big, hairy, audacious goals, big, hairy, audacious goals.
And it's funny, there's a long story about how that came about. We eventually embraced the big in the hairy and the audacious. It's a way to stimulate progress and great companies in history. Many of them have used bags very artfully to stimulate progress. And then there's finally in the map one principle that multiplies all the others, which is the principle of return on luck. And that was the piece of analysis that Morten Hansen and I did that I'm very, very proud of, because we're able to define and quantify the variable of luck and then to ask rigorously, systematically, what role does it play, what role does it not play and how should you think about it?
When you really look at the long course of things, you add all those principles up. They can fit on a single whiteboard. They're the inputs they follow unfold in those sequence. And that would one. If I disappear tomorrow, I would love to be able to say to anybody who's started a company or a business, and I want it to be a great company. Take the map, follow the map. I'm gone. But the map is here and that's that's what that's all about.
In terms of the genius at the end, one of the things we found is that those who really build enduring great companies, it may be great companies even that just for a period of time get these extraordinary things going. They reject the tyranny of the order and they embrace the genius of the end. And so that we found this real ability to live with both sides of hands all the time. When somebody says creativity or discipline, they say and innovation or execution, they say and they say values or results, they say.
And in one of the big ones is purpose and profit. We live in this time, whatever it's like, we discovered purpose again, as if this is a new discovery. But Jerry and I found in our research twenty five years ago, one of the main findings built to last was that the visionary companies have always been more driven by purpose. Then they're mediocre, also rans in our comparative analysis and. They were more successful as businesses, so this notion of purpose over profits isn't quite right.
Could you give an example of a paragon in your mind, a company that really exemplifies that combination?
Well, I think one that people would maybe really identify with is Patagonia and Yvonne Chenard so people would know it.
But the great story of how Yvonne Chenard grew up in rock climbing and mountaineering, and he had this belief that a company should be a tool for changing people's behavior that would have a positive impact. And I remember back in nineteen seventy two, I got the card catalog and it was a manifesto for clean climbing. And back then we used to bash pitons into the rock. And Yvonne comes along and says, you know, if we keep bashing pitons into the rock, more and more people climb, we're going to just leave these ugly scars.
And you had a picture in there, if I remember right, of a thing called Serenity Crack and Yosemite, which basically used to be this beautiful, thin scene that was just marred and mangled with piton holes. And Yvonne said, this is wrong. But then so his purpose was he was going to change the climbing community to be that role model and tool for social change, which is really kind of the purpose, right? Change the climbing community, make it more sustainable of what we were doing.
And he was going to issue a manifesto to that effect in the catalog was a manifesto. I still have I still have that manifesto catalog. Oh, no kidding. And then he put that out of the world to educate us about what we were doing, trying to get us to change our behavior. You got to remember when a piton feels really secure and you're saying take this little tiny piece of aluminum that I've attached to this webbing and slide it in and it's dead and you're thinking, man, I don't want to hit a ledge.
It's like, no, we have to do this. This will be safe. Let me show you. He then provided the solution and basically said, I'm going to give you the answers. I'm going to give you the eccentrics and the stoppers and all the products that we could use and trust and then made that don't buy the old products, buy these new ones because they will be better and essentially let us through with his company as the catalyst for doing it into a revolution with other climbers who are calling for this to be provided.
This great solution to be a role model and a tool for social change in the climbing community, which then later has become larger for them in the way that they do all of the things that they do. And the power of it is Patagonia is an incredibly successful business. And it was purpose all the way along and profit, and this goes back decades and is alive today, and Christine McDivitt, who built the company with him, that was the whole thing.
We have to do the and we have to do that and we have to do that.
And I am so glad you brought up Patagonia. I have traveled with Yvonne Schoenaerts book Let My People Go Surfing since it was initially published. I've had a copy of that book that has traveled with me for however long. It's been 20 years, 20 plus years, and they just do a phenomenal job. I actually have literally a Spanish paprika mackerel from Patagonia provisions in front of me and I've become fascinated with the work that they're doing from a sort of biological ecological perspective on sustainability, sustainable agriculture, and utilizing what we might consider bait, utilizing what we might consider the precursors of food like seeds in a really thoughtful and intelligent way, which exemplifies the end, like you said.
And what I think is really the thing I really emphasize is there's nothing trendy about this. So Jerry and I found a way back and built to last, going way back to companies, some of them founded back in the eighteen hundreds, that this notion of we have a reason for existence. That is not defined in terms of maximizing wealth for the owners. And we have incredible discipline to be an incredibly profitable, successful, growing, sustainable business and that we found that in our research.
And then you see a company like Patagonia. You there's nothing about it that is new. There's new ways of doing it, but it's been there since the beginning.
And this idea that somehow companies should go out and you don't bolt on a purpose, you don't say, you know, I read we should have a purpose. So I guess let's go get one. It doesn't work like that. It's it has to be this inner. Purpose that you have always had, and it is it's far better to never say you have a purpose if you don't than to authentically proclaim one.
So I still have seven thousand pages of notes and prompts and questions that we could spend another seven hours on.
I think we should probably bring round two to a close and put a bow on it and about, say, 15 to 20 minutes. Sure. What would what do you think would be fun or important or fun and important to cover? I mean, I have questions about, of course, the clock building, not time telling. I have questions about other mentors of yours. Like I don't know if this is a single named person like Madonna. I'm probably missing one.
Rechelle, if you had 10 years to live, what would you stop doing? There's so many things that we could talk about. What would you like to talk about or what do you think would make sense?
Yeah, it's funny, Tim, I, I was really a little bit worried and hesitant about doing another conversation with you because you did such a great job last time and we covered so much material that I thought we're going to have nothing to talk about.
So as I if I think about might be really fun and or maybe useful to people, but fun, maybe if you and I have fun, that's where we'll have the best use of our time here. Let me ask you, what would you what would you go to for fun? I have a couple of thoughts, Will.
I'm being pulled to, particularly given some experiences in the last few weeks, is a tremendous pull towards simplification. And I think that is why the thought exercise of asking the question, if you had 10 years to live, what would you stop doing? Is pulling my eye. My eye keeps getting pulled to that. Maybe that's my version of fun.
I'm not sure if you're also curious about the clock building and time telling. And I am. Yeah. Yeah. So I think we could easily do both of those if you if you'd like.
Let's do it. Yeah, let's tackle it.
So we talked earlier about you've got the map, you know, the stages and then you get to the fourth stage by building greatness to last. And in that it's one of a key idea that again it was very porous and myself together working on what became built to last, where this idea came out. And it's a first of all, just kind of picture that there's a town square and there's this there's this amazing time teller. Right. That could come in at any time of day or night and look up at the stars and the moon in the sky and go tell you exactly what time it is.
They could tell you it's twelve, thirteen and and twenty two seconds in the morning on such and such a date of their incredible time. Teller And you don't need a clock because you got the time teller. And one day that until it goes away or dies or the time teller decides to move to another town or whatever. Now no one knows what time it is. And what we found is when we go back to the early stages now, this is very much about the entrepreneurial side of things.
Go back to the very early stages of companies that became the enduring great companies. So Disney as an entrepreneur. David Packard is an entrepreneur. Tom Watson, senior as an entrepreneur. George Rathmann is an entrepreneur. Herb Kelleher is an entrepreneur. You go back to we just go through the long list of them. R.W. Johnson Jr., Willard Marriott, Paul Galván, they were all entrepreneurs, right? At some point, what happens? Well, at some point they they very early in their journey are relatively early in the journey.
They said, I don't want to be a time teller on that. Everything depends upon me to tell the time. I don't want to be that visionary founder that everything depends upon me. I want to build a clock. I could tell the time, even if I'm not here, and I'm going to start the process of thinking about that relatively early, whether that be. And there's a whole bunch of different things that want to put in the clock.
But I think that it was a temperament that they had, that they understood that they had to make a shift away from doing more time telling. And most entrepreneurs are good time tellers. They recognize it's time for X. But to shift to building a company means I've got to become the clock builder, I've got it. That involves all the things we write about, about picking your people and building your systems and nurturing your culture and and building great mechanisms and a whole bunch of other things like that.
You build the clock and sometimes that can be better to start clock building when it's relatively early. And Baker, who's just one of the great leaders I've gotten to know what care when she took over her father's company, he had died of an adverse medical event and she all of a sudden had the company on her shoulders. One of the first things she did was to sit down and say, what are the basic things we're going to build this on so that instead of really relying upon my father anymore to be here, we as a company can carry on what he was all about.
And that means I have to really build the clock. And of course, that's when the company really began to take off and for the next 30 years has been an incredible run. So I encourage all entrepreneurs as one thing I want to highlight here. There's this maybe it's not as much of a myth today. I don't know, you would know better than I do. But there's this myth that there are these things called entrepreneurs that have kind of an entrepreneurial temperament.
And they're really good for starting companies. And they're really good at like they're kind of these crazy people, they can be very disciplined people, but they are the starters. And their natural temperament is that they should be starting things and then you have a different temperament, almost like a different species.
Which are those who built the company? And at some times for some of these entrepreneurs and some of you might be listening to this right now, people around you like your board or folks around you say, you know, it's kind of the companies are growing you.
It's now time for you to sort of think about maybe you should really hand this off to somebody who could take it to a different level.
And I encourage in the strongest possible terms that any entrepreneur that faces that conversation to look in the mirror and ask yourself the question, what choice do I want to make? Because what you find in the research is that almost all of the great entrepreneurs we studied became the great builders of their companies. Disney built Disney, David Packard and Bill Hewlett built HP, Jeff Bezos, his building Amazon. Bill Gates built Microsoft. Right. They the entrepreneur becomes the builder.
The average tenure in harness of the founding shapers of the companies that became the great companies is about thirty six years from now. You might choose that. You just want to go start something else.
That's fine. But don't ever let anybody tell you you can't choose to be the other. So. Rachelle. Who is Rochelle, I got to share with you this story and this image of Rochelle, I met Rochelle in nineteen eighty two and Michael Re's we talked about him earlier, Michael Ray's course on creativity in business. And she Kotov the course with him.
Now, you got to imagine you could meet somebody that is a cross between Socrates and yoga, handsome, good looking in Rochelle Rochelle was just she was just this really wise and she was all of about five foot.
And so we all come into the class the first day or sitting there or buzzing after the summer and what we did or whatever. And there was this. Five foot tall, very serene looking woman in this kind of flowing muumuu thing, standing front of the class. You just stood there and just waited for us to quiet down. And eventually we sort of realized we should be quiet and all of a sudden Michele says. This very quiet voice. You are about to embark.
On a 10 week journey. To discover your deepest inner essence. At which point I began thinking about what corporate finance class I could take instead.
So I'm thinking, man, I don't know about this. Remember, I'm a math guy of the stats. I love quantifying things, all this stuff. So I go home and Joanne says to me, So how how how are your classes? And talk about this one, Jim Van Horn's finance class and whatever. I have this other thing, I think I'm going to drop it, I told her the story and she looks at me and she says, Oh, this would be really good for you.
So I stayed in the class and Rochelle became one of the great guides in my life. And she's the one who I think taught me about questions because I used to go and meet with Rochelle and she would she would sit and she would always begin. With the same question every time. She has a little whiteboard. And she would write on the whiteboard the date and she would say it is November twenty third, twenty twenty. What would you like to get clear about today?
And then she would, through a series of questions, you realize that she wasn't really you'd come in with you'd ask her a question to try to get. But what she was trying to do was to get you clear on you. Who you are, what you are, what's inside you, not like what you should do for a job choice, right? And and she she just knew how to ask the right questions, right? That was the power power of her questions.
Are is her last name Myers? Myers, Myers, Michelle Myers. And. At one point, she gave me a question. Which was I can't remember this five years or ten, I think ten is a little more useful than the number, but it could work with five essentially along the lines of if you woke up tomorrow morning and you discovered absolutely. You have only 10 years to live. What would you stop doing? First, I want all I wrote down to quit my job as Jesus before I was teaching at Stanford, I was like, I don't want to do this.
I'm not cut out to be in a regular job. And what, Rochelle? Taught me with that question is someday that 10 years or five years is going to be true, you just don't know when. I might already be in the 10. Hopefully not, I'm hoping I'm midway in my career, but you never know, and she seems to be asking yourself all the time. If you knew you only had 10 years or you knew you only had five years now, what would you do?
First, what would you stop doing? And I started using that as like a little guidance mechanism. She is also the one that taught me about like bug books and stuff like that. And you just start going through every day, like if I 10 years. What I do this. I had five years what I do this. Because the truth is, it's all short. That's one of the lessons of Bill's life, right? It's short, goes by an advantage.
Any sense of historical perspective, and it accelerates and I used to walk into my class at Stanford influenced by racial white students, and one day I would walk in, I would just say I got a blank sheet of paper. And I say, I want you to write down what would you do, what would you stop doing if you discovered you only have a short time to live? So everybody writing their notes down. Before I went to the numbers board, I love the numbers.
This was one day before the numbers bought. And then I didn't comment on it, other than to say one thing before I went into the numbers, they said, Oh. And now for all of us, that's true. All have only a short time to let. Do you personally still revisit that question or do you feel like you are already you've already called the herd of activities to the point where you're doing exactly what you would like to be doing?
Are there things that would still be on your stop doing list if you went through that exercise?
I continue to.
I'm pretty sure that my theme I usually do a theme for every year at the top of that list of the three is of three primaries, three stop hearings, etc. I'm pretty sure I set the theme for this year because it comes back periodically, only 10 years to live. And and I try to go back to it because the truth is you get pulled in lots of different directions, I can say with complete equanimity that if I knew I only had 10 years to live.
We would be having this conversation. I don't know, I think when you start getting into one to two years, things change because you've got a lot of life. But if you can basically get to the end of every week and say, if I had 10 years to live, it's still pretty good choices in my life. My my life is composed of things. There's not a lot on the stop doing list of.
There are some things that you can't stop doing because it's reality, flossing, flossing.
But flossing is better if you have a really, really good course on how the brain works to watch.
In fact, I was just going to say I was flossing while watching this course on how the brain works and I couldn't help myself thinking what my brain is doing with this.
Yeah, it's a really.
Really valuable prompt, and I think covid has has really brought that to the fore, the fragility, the fragility and impermanence of of life and I've had some people close to me. I've had relatives, close, immediate relatives of my girlfriend passed from code related complications. It's been a good reminder to.
Revisit mortality, or at least the awareness that time is limited and I, too, would be having this conversation. And you alluded to a question. Very early on that I like to ask, which was on my list of unasked for round two, which was the billboards. And so here we go. Metaphorically speaking, you have a billboard to get a message, a quote, a question, anything you like to billions of people. Let's just assume they all are able to speak the same language and understand the same language.
What might you put on that billboard? Doesn't have to be one thing, but what might you put on it?
How have you changed the lives of others? And I come back to Bill. You know, we could talk about all of his accomplishments and his board seats and how he became a tenured professor at the law school, and he was the first ever holder of the Charles A. Munger chair or study business law, a Stanford Law School, an incredibly accomplished career. But what what is really great about Bill? To change the lives of others. And I think that's a really good measure that have to be a lot of people.
It doesn't have to be that you change millions of lives, I don't I don't think of it that scale building change. A lot of lives, but there are some people's lives that are indifferent because you are here.
I think that is an excellent question. To let linger to end on, I think that is an excellent place to to stop. And Jim, people can find you. Jim Collins Dotcom, the new book, which I encourage people to check out, is Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0.
Subtitle Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company, which certainly expands upon a lot of the things that that we've discussed. I find you always to be a skilled and enjoyable conversational tennis partner or dance partner.
Jack Jazz, improv.
It's always so much fun.
And is there anything else that you would like to say suggest request put out into the ether for listeners, anything at all that you'd like to share before we come to a close by?
Just looking here at our our list and I just am so tickled at how we did have a lot on part one to converse about. And I was I mean, I truly was worried as like is like, what are we going to talk about that was so rich last that we have enough left to do around three easily.
So I know. I think as always, we we went through in a it seemed Securitas. But actually there's the linear line has been the curiosity and the and the and the conversation. And I love that there are some questions where I'm not I don't want to think about my answers. I'm not 100 percent like which do I prefer. That's a great question, actually. I'm going to be observing my spreadsheet. Which do I prefer a lot of plus two is I would really like that.
And and I you know, once I for me, I guess here's what I would leave for people is if I have a hope for all of her. A lot of you. Sure. I hope some of you start and build great companies. And that's a great use of a life. I think it's a very noble thing to build a great company. I think it's as noble as anything else you can do in life if it really contributes and adds not only economic wealth, but, you know, it changes people's lives and provides a great place for people and so forth.
I think that is noble. I hope some of you will take up on doing that. But whatever you do in your life. If I could wish something for all of you. It's that you would find people like Rochelle Myers. Bilharzia, Peter Drucker, Jim Stockdale on Xiaochuan, The People. Who can shape you and when you find those mentors? Make good on it. And and then do it for others, but I I feel such deep, deep gratitude for what they have done for me, and I truly wish everybody got the benefit of that abundance and generosity that a great mentor does for you.
It would be very impoverished to not have that.
And the mentors are out there.
They are constitutionally predisposed to look for that energetic exchange or the circulating of the gift, if that makes any sense.
Exactly. I mean, they are they are hard wired just. Just as is any any other organism might be for something to sort of serve that incredible function of mentor, so they are out there, they are out there.
But make sure that if you have the privilege of having a great mentor, it's a relationship. It's not a transaction. They're not there to open doors or any of that. They're there to mentor.
Yeah. And show up at eight o'clock, not eight o'clock and four seconds.
So, Jim, one one last cliffhanger request, if you would indulge me.
And we can keep this short. I know you don't yet have answers to share, but can you share the next big question that you're working on?
Yeah, boy. So, yeah, I'm really puzzling at how I want to share it exactly, I don't know the answers. I'm about five years into the research and the signature of it will be the research. And I because that's all I have to offer ultimately is, is this something that's research based if I do it right, John Gardner, what am I? Another one of my mentors? I didn't get to spend enough time with him, but he had this.
He's the one that had this marvelous belief that one ought not to try to be interesting, should seek to be interested. And John wrote a marvelous book in nineteen sixty two by the title of Self Renewal. And I went down the hall to John and I said, I'd like to do research on this because John believe one of the greatest cost to the world is the failure to self renew the failure of nations to self renew the failure of societies, failure of organizations and institutions and companies, and ultimately the failure of individuals to self renew.
And I want to do research on it. And he kindly gave me a lot of time. I still have all my notes from that. But he suggested I wait because it will take decades to do my great companies work. That's probably not old enough to understand it. And so I waited. And about five years ago I started a project and I finally figured out how to do it. And it asks a very simple question, which is what's going to ultimately be the map?
I just was going to take a long time to get to what the map is of what is the map to self renewal and not as episodes, but over the arc of an entire life. And why do some people remain so spectacularly renewed over the long course of a life? Maybe you and others might not, and and what are the real ingredients in that? And I'm taking a very research based approach to it. I can't show what the method is.
It's kind of like the Coke recipe. But but it's really so it's the most exciting stuff I've worked on in a really, really long time. I will share with you one question, though, and I'll leave you all of your listeners with this question, because I do know one question is I could so if I have questions more than answers, I know one of the questions.
One of the key questions about renewal is is ultimately going to be, are you going to be the kind of person who renews within a primary form, a primary art form in your life? Whether that be business or writing or music or theater or whatever it is that is your art form politics, or you're going to be somebody that is going to renew as your primary mechanism over the course of a life by changing your art forms. So if you take John McPhee, I just heard that wonderful interview with him, I think it was on NPR called The Old Man Project.
And he's in this race to get as many of his ideas out as he can is renewed as ever. But he is renewal within a single art form. And it's a spectacular path of renewal that started early and ran forever. But you could take other people who renew by changing their art forms, sometimes because it's imposed upon them. Katharine Graham, one of the great heroes in my mind, she she was not didn't want to what being a CEO wasn't her art form because of the way Post unfolded and the suicide of her husband.
She had it on her shoulders and she chose to renew into a different art form to become a great CEO. And and I think one of the great questions all of us have to wrestle with because we're different, you know, different Pug's, if you will. But one of the great wisdom questions is to remain renewed over the entire arc of your life. I mean, like like out and done is going to be are you going to be variations on a theme?
Are you going to be different themes and that is one of the crux questions I will have answers for how you think about that, I don't know yet and I can't wait. I have to go in the Cape once I get B 2.0 out so I can help Bill come to the world. I'm going to be in the cave. I think of me happily without Windows figuring this out. So how's that for list?
I love that question. I love that question. Variations on a theme or different games altogether. It makes me think of being Mario Andretti and Lane shifting or being a shape shifter. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
And it's one of the wisdom questions because it's not like it's not like they're smart answers to this. They're why his answers and and I am trying I'm going to really want to understand and this is the beauty of the of looking over the entire arc of people's lives done in a rigorously selected set to try to unpack this. And it is the most fun and interesting, engaging and exhausting piece of research I've been in for a long, long time. I really, really hope I if I have only 10 years, I hope I can get it done and I really hope I have enough time to do.
Well, you know, the power broker can get written, Lyndon Johnson volumes can be compiled.
I have great confidence in you and Jim. This is always so much fun. Perhaps we'll have around 3:00 at some point. We certainly have no lack of.
And that I might have something on renewal to say so.
But anyways, I'm just looking at the notes here and it says, most important, Tim, let's have fun. Have we accomplished that goal?
Yes, at least I can speak for myself. Absolutely. Me too.
And what a joy to be able to spend time together again. I really appreciate you taking the time.
And I really look forward to seeing what beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 does in the world and the extension of your mentor's legacy and to to see the ripple effects that that will have as it's transmitted in written form to probably millions more by extension.
And congratulations. Thank you.
It's very exciting. It's about in the end, it's about Bill. So that's what I am very excited about. I appreciate you helping me bring Bill to the world.
So, Tim, you go and put some butter on something, and I don't know if you like to do a lot of it. I will do the same.
That is that is on my my top three to dos for twenty, twenty one butter on everything. The theme, the theme is fun. Yeah. Self renewal. All right, Jim.
Well thank you so much for, for spending so much time today and for everyone listening as usual, you can find links to everything that has been mentioned from the Old Man project, which was dropped as a gem at the end, a little Easter egg to the new book, to everything in between. In the show notes, it teamed up log for such a podcast. Just search Jim Collins and it will pop right up. And until next time.
Until next time, my friend. Take care. It's a butter on some waffles. All right.
Thanks for listening. Hey, guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is five bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? And would you enjoy getting a short e-mail from me every Friday if that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend and five? Black Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered.
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