The Magic of Connecting with Your People:
Interview with Brian Sowards
Content and Community Podcast
The guest: Brian Sowards, startup nurturer, advocate for human-to-human connection in business and CEO of Supersynchronous.
The topic: Ep. 2: Brian and I chat about the role of human connection in business.
Obviously Awesome by April Dunford, a fabulous book on product positioning in marketing (I loved it)
Ashley: We've been talking a lot about how to network in a way that's really meaningful and really has a good workflow for someone's particular goal. And this podcast basically is all about how to make that as efficient as possible, so you can ensure you're getting an actual return on your networking and your marketing and how those two things intersect.
So thanks so much for joining me. It's really -- your expertise and interests are really right up in gear with what the podcast is all about. So welcome and thank you.
Brian: My pleasure. It's an honour to be here.
Ashley: Nice. So I am -- I call myself a workflow dork and I've been experimenting a lot with how to network in a way that's not terribly disruptive, but also allows for a lot of testing and I'm interested in how you test your own networking and how you decide what works. And what doesn't.
Brian: I also am a word for flow dork. So now we are workflow dork group. I guess, just a awkward.
Ashley: Yeah, I've been, I've been thinking of turning that into a hashtag. Like, I can't tell you how many times I describe myself though.
Brian: It's a strong title. And it's a thread that runs through my whole career. I just get obsessed with friction. That happens in the way workflows are set up and the Intended consequences of the assumptions we make about the way the world should work, or the way people should behave, instead of the way, it actually does happen. So it's definitely a fun area to explore when it comes to networking.
I think there's a few things that I've noticed, you know, I've been fortunate to build up a few thousand followers on Twitter. Got to the point on LinkedIn where I was getting 10,000 views on my posts. And now I'm having a great time playing around and Clubhouse where you know gathering a few hundred followers a week and it's really an interesting new space to experiment and I was just synthesizing for a startup team today.
My philosophy on networking and I think one of the first things that I would say that I've learned is not to put pressure on yourself. I think this is generally good advice when you're going into a new area, but a lot of times because we both have a lot of fears and nerves around doing something we can sort of need to hypercycle ourselves out to actually do things.
And when you look at sort of the biological nature of fear the way that it plays out in our body, one of the real signatures is one that's afraid an animal that's afraid is freeze. So a lot of the advice that I see tries to contextualize networking or producing content as a performance exercise, right? You're going to go to the gym or you're going to do your morning meditation. And I think when we put that kind of pressure on an activity like this, we end up trying to motivate ourselves with external sources of motivation, what psychologists refer to as extrinsic. And what I've noticed for myself is that it's really all about finding my connection to my own voice to what the community wants to talk about and the people who are inclined to be part of the conversation. So I've been through a lot of different careers in my life, meaning that I was jumping into entirely new.
New communities with their own culture and context and power brokers. And I think one of the things that I'm grateful to myself, for giving myself that lesson through my life is, I've actually found that the way that people try to build walls up around community or be powerbrokers of community is this is actually pretty predictable. It's pretty common wherever you go.
And so, the first question that I always encourage anyone that I'm working with to ask is, where does your permission come from? Where does your sense of permission come from? Is it something that you need to get from someone else? Or is it something you're willing to give yourself?
And I think if we're all being honest, we probably need a little bit of both, but it's really important. Finding your place in a network that's healthy for you, where your relationship with the network is working for you.
There's that positive feedback loop. You're excited to be a part of community, respond, excited to meet new people, you're excited to have new conversations, all of that really speak ins with the willingness to be brave to have courage to feel the fear that you're feeling and give yourself permission to try something. Anyway.
Ashley: Yeah, that really speaks, I think, to the tendency a lot of people have to fixate on vanity metrics. Because that's a way to measure validation. Not a way to measure, like a proof you're on the right path. And I'm wondering if maybe that fear is partly what drives that tendency to focus on things that measure or what we perceive any way to measure outside validation instead of something that actually shows, if you're on the right track, you know, a lot of startups. I found, or companies in general.
They look at a lot of vanity metrics as a way to figure out if they're, you know, likely to scale their business. And that's just not way to measure that but because they're so fixated on this idea that it's a way to measure what people think of them. It's hard for them to get on the right track of what a true objective is.
Brian: Yeah, I think this is a part of the limitations of success culture.
So I was a part of an ed tech Founders conversation and someone made a point that I thought was very profound and very relevant in this age where we want to be able to measure what matters, but that's actually not possible. And we keep getting into an argument with ourselves about it.
And his story was that he's a very successful lawyer, graduated from Harvard and when he would go to his class reunions, you know, 10 or 20 years later, on paper everyone in the room was the same, right? They all made about the same amount of money. They all had very successful partners. They lived in fancy places and had access to a luxurious lifestyle around the world and yet some of them loved what they were doing and they love their partners.
They were happy in their life and some of them were absolutely miserable. They were trading their life for these external markers. And so they were a successful lawyer on paper, but they hated going into the office every day.
They had, you know, a beautiful partner, but they didn't enjoy their company and I think we're at an inflection point amongst those who are rising up in society now where that's becoming a very real and pertinent question there. We're all asking ourselves, which is what am I creating all this for ?
Ashley: Mmm. Why?
Brian: Yeah, and I think that we are leaving behind what has been couched as a traditional way of looking at things, but is really very new. This is an old old conversation, right? You can go back to the stoics and see this conversation, which is the idea that you make your money or you get your success first, and then everybody will listen to you and then you can do something meaningful.
I've been fortunate to meet several billionaires in my life. And that is not how they feel about their success. What they feel is they traded the rarest and most precious thing. They have their time to only find out where they are now that doing something that matters to themselves and humanity was all, that was worth pursuing in the first place.
So I think that when you come into the world of influencers thought leaders, networking founders, individuals who are really focused on growing their network or becoming more influential in it. You can see a stark difference between those who are seeking success and those who are intrinsically motivated to do it.
I'm going to go back to Clubhouse again because that's where I'm really finding the most interesting fresh conversation.
Mr. Beast was on Clubhouse. He's the most successful YouTuber in the world right now, and he talked about the fact that he goes to sleep and he wakes up every day. And his goal is to come up with a hundred concepts for a YouTube video every day, and his team was on the call. And they were talking about how awesome and overwhelming that was because he actually does it.
Brian: When you hang out with instagrammers or YouTubers, or twitch streamers, anyone who has a following of highly engaged members a million or more? These people are obsessed with creating content that's interesting to their community and they never approached the question as if they already know the answer. It's a grand experiment. So I think that's the difference between a craftsperson and someone who's chasing a success formula.
Ashley: Yeah. I think the people who are not really sure how to go about networking, I think that's a really good way for them to look at it. Look at it from a place of I'm not just coming here to talk about something and give a lecture on something, but I'm coming here to learn. I'm coming here to listen and be part of a community and be on a level playing field with other people. And I think that kind of humility inspires content, because you're not only learning things, you're identifying gaps and things, but you're meeting people who instill this wondering you, that, that part you just don't have if you're only here to talk about yourself or broadcast, an idea or you have to look at it as a way of listening and a way of community and that makes it easier to it's so much easier to create content when you're you know, focusing on just talking.
Brian: Yeah, you know as someone who's been a passionate advocate for many different communities, I've learned to accept, sort of a fundamental signal of health: is the community growing, or is it shrinking? Or stagnant?
If a community is shrinking or stagnant, it's not generally a good place for people who are looking to build relationships, because social capital has become a zero-sum game. And I also think there's just something that's fundamentally true about people, which is the more that we authentically connect, we create more value that we bring into the room with us.
And so it’s natural, in a healthy network, for it to grow and sometimes you know, the reason that a community is stagnant or blocked is because you have to go through a profound life experience to be a part of it.
So it's not necessarily a rule that a community that isn't growing is a bad place to be, but if you're new to networking and you want to learn how to do it, finding communities that are growing is probably the first friendly thing you can do for yourself.
Because not only will there be lots of permission for you to contribute and make mistakes, but people will be thrilled that you're there. I remember someone first year out of college who got a LinkedIn and started just imitating what they saw other successful LinkedIn. People were doing and creating conversations and she got tons of comments of people just saying. Wow, you're really doing great. I can't believe this is your first LinkedIn.
And the reason they knew that if she told them. So I think there's this wild dynamic. That when you're new to a network, you feel really shy about admitting that you don't know what you don't know.
And if it's a community of craftspeople, if it's a community of people who really are invested in the intrinsic motivations for being there, they will celebrate you. You are like an achievement for the community. That there's one more person whose come on board. So, your vulnerability is incredibly powerful.
And if you want to learn more about that, you know, Brene Brown has done a Ted Talk on vulnerability. It is one thing of course to watch it and believe it. It's another thing to live it. I feel vulnerable all the time. I feel like maybe I probably shouldn't be saying what I'm saying all the time and that's part of the beauty of being willing to say something new.
Ashley: Yeah. I've heard a lot about Brene Brown. I'm going to look up that talk. That sounds really interesting. But yeah, I think that's, so valuable for people to know. I mean, a lot of times people are times, people come to me and you know, to work with me on something and they're skeptical of community because they it hasn't worked for them. And then I do some digging with them to figure out like what their involvement was or a largest, look it up and they were coming at it as a way to push whatever they're promoting and show off how uperior they are about -- And of course, I would never say this to a client, “You're acting superior.”
But it's when you come at it, from that angle, when you're not humble, when you're not there to contribute when you're not identifying that the people there are interested on a level playing field as you, it's not going to work. Doesn't matter what cool things you have to say doesn't matter if it's in demand, that type of information is in demand.
People will not be receptive to it and it will either be dead air or you'll actually make people angry. So it's a waste of your time and you can actually hurt yourself if you approach it that way.
It's also just more work because then you have to basically write a PR release and put it in a group somewhere. That's a lot of work and it doesn't do anything.
Brian: So I think it's important to know whether or not you're part of the learning organization or you have a client that has a learning mindset. If you're bringing the learning mindset. And I completely agree. And the real question is, are you willing to learn from those experiences? Because if you are, you will learn that your place at the table is the same for everyone. That's what community is.
It's a voluntary act to congregate with others. And so people don't have to have you in the group. They don't have to listen to you. They don't have to engage with you. That's a choice on their part and when we respect everyone, that's when we get a chance to really say something and have it be received.
Ashley: Yeah, for sure. So it's a great takeaway for anyone who's listening that if you are struggling about what communities to participate in or if you're looking for a way to vet which ones you should invest your time and to get the most benefit and also just to feel better about your work and learn about yourself and your business, look for something that's growing and look for something that has people who are participating on a level playing field and welcoming and it's yeah, and those are the best, too. I mean he wants to talk to someone who's just bragging or not saying anything. I mean, it's just in person you wouldn't want to do that. It's not fun. So I think approach it as, if you were going into a room full of people, you know, you don't want to behave differently online that you would in person.
Brian: I think that's part of the, you know, inflection point where at is, I think that people used to think of themselves as only offline as who they are and they were communicating through the computer, through text messaging, through Zoom with each other.
And you can really tell the difference between people who are approaching it that way and you know the way we're having this conversation, you and I could be having tea right now on the couch and just having a conversation back and forth and it would be just as comfortable, right?
Ashley: I knew I was, I knew I was going to forget to put the kettle on the devil. I actually like to have a cup when I'm doing a podcast or any kind of thing, it just for the same reason, you're saying, it creates a sense of warmth and that's that's what I want. You know, that's why I'm talking to people because I want it to be human. I wanted to be warm.
Brian: Yeah, I think that if we're willing to think of consciousness, the same way, we think of gravity, which is something we have a word for but we really have no idea. What it is you get to have a point of view that says we can be cautious together. We can be learning from each other and connecting with each other as full people, even though we don't necessarily have the cues or the rituals to which we've been accustomed.
And I think it is really important to say at this point that, you know, certainly my children and I and you, we've all grown up in a world where
The way in which people communicate changes so rapidly that we've actually adapted to that idea.
The fact that there's another network or another tool or another approach is just one more fun thing to try and you either wait for other people to try it. First. You try it first, right?
And I think that for some people coming into what has been, you know, an exponential century in terms of technology and communication that they maybe came late to the party at and felt that they've lost these rituals and it may be that it's not even possible for them to fully participate. In this digitally native world.
I feel really grateful in our current trials and tribulations as a globe, that I think a lot of people are beginning to realize, you know, you know, like if you get past that awkward Zoom call 10 or 20 times, eventually, he just got around to saying, you know, what, this is what I look like today. And I had to take my cat to the vet and I'm feeling a little frazzled.
You know, we've just started talking like real people again, and I really think that that's true. Anywhere you go any network that you're in that the being real and being relevant pay off.
So are you cut off for a sec? Can you repeat those that last little phrase?
Sure, you know, I really think that when it comes to networking being real and being relevant really pay off.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. I think a lot of people. You know, I find one of the ways that helps me network with people and getting sometimes, could I can be shy too and I sort of use that shyness to my advantage, not just for making it easier on myself, but for actually helping my business.
So I can be that person who welcomes you and breaks the ice. And That's not only making me feel comfortable and helping you open up a little more, maybe feel -- lose a little bit of that alienation you were talking about, but you're also going to remember me more and because we're having this open conversation that you might not have otherwise had because your bit closed off, for whatever reason -- and plenty of them are valid -- I learned so much about how I can best serve, the types of people that I want to serve or work better with people or, and the other person gets a lot of that too.
So, using shyness, as a way to open a door, I think has been the biggest game-changer for me and it's also helped me figure out -- I use it as a wedding tool. Because if I do that, and it doesn't work and the person is still closed off and everyone in that group is closed off. I mean, I can tell me One of two things.
It can tell me that group is not a good fit for me for reason doesn't mean they're me or anything. It's just, maybe it's not a good fit or it could mean that what I'm doing isn't working. So I might need to retool it a bit. So, overcoming shyness. There's so many different ways to learn about yourself and your approach to networking by just trying to just buy. Just be, literally, just being a human and being open and nice.
Brian: Yeah, I love how you include your shyness instead of making it something to overcome. That's a really amazing way to relate to yourself and it sounds like you've already made a difference in other people's lives because of that.
Ashley: Thank you. I think that's partly what attracted me to being a coach is I like that feedback. I like when people feel like They can be more open because they talk to me or or or because I talked to a specific person, I learned a lot about something that I've been meaning to learn about, like, in retooling, my whole business model. All I've been doing is talking to people.
I mean, I think that's how we met on LinkedIn. I literally just have conversations with people and it gives me incredible business intelligence so that I can create different revenue streams. And so it's not just this, like, fluffy stuff that doesn’t matter. If you do it well and you do it humanly, that's what pays off. That's what gives you the return.
Brian: Yeah, I think this is a maybe a fun opportunity to peel the onion on the network, a little bit. Shall we? So, we talked about when you approach a new network. Actually, the fastest way to kind of bond to it is to be welcoming to the other people who are joining, right?
And this is something sociologists and psychologists have been studied for a long time is that groups actually kind of form and bands the way like tree rings, do right? And some of the things that I've noticed in being a part of networks is that when you take that role, you capture the attention of the people who are at the center of the network, because their primary concern is reaching those who aren't in, sometimes some people might classify this servant leadership or they might classify it as being emotionally.
Collagen and so, I think that one of the things that you just highlighted is when you run into a pretentious Network that you should believe them. In other words, if they seem to be icing people out, if they seem to be disinterested in welcoming others, in then, in my mind. There's two things to look for. Number one is the This a community that has to constantly ward off people that are trying to exploit them. I think LinkedIn is actually a grand experiment of this.
It's professionals who want to come together and have conversations and it's an opportunity for those who can contribute value and solve problems to do the same when you approach that Network. However, with, you know, that outbound, I'm the only voice that matters kind of approach, you see?
Very elaborate defense mechanism growing. And what I find spectacular is you can literally invest 10 minutes in an interaction and become a one-in-a-million point of connection for that person. I'll give you a give you some illustrations. So when I was first entering a new industry and I had no contacts in it. What I would do is I would find people who were part of companies that I thought were interesting. Testing that worked in that industry and I would look at their LinkedIn profile. I would see what they would talk about and I would just find if there was something I was curious about or that I thought was cool or that I felt that I had something I could say about and so when I would send them a connection request on LinkedIn, I would include that. I would say hi, you know, so-and-so a new to the industry. I noticed on your profile that you talked about my case HR operations. I'm
Is what you've been learning about metrics as you've been designing those systems. Thanks, Brian. That's it. I formed close relationships with those people. Almost immediately got invited to Banquets, and to do business together in all kinds of things because my starting investment was with them as a person and what they were interested in. You can't do that today with any kind of Brute Force approach soda.
Just by letting yourself be simple and open and direct you that that door is still open. And this is I think something really underappreciated by those that are still coming into the career, world are still coming in. To founding a company is the people at the top. The people that you've you are, the most successful are often the most interested in supporting you as a newcomer to the space. One of my absolute. Favorite investors on Earth who I would love to have as an investor said that fifty percent of his Investments came from a cold email.
So you really do have an extraordinary opportunity at this time to communicate with someone as a person and opened a door by doing that? Yeah, I think you just shared a really great example of
Cold email or cold calling as being a human personal thing. I think a lot of times we just think of it as a straight hustle. It's really impersonal. It's really generic and it just doesn't have to be that way and you don't have to also don't have to reserve it to people who you think, you know would bestow upon you the great honor of talking to you, you know, if you look at it as everyone is above you and no one would want to talk to you. That doesn't work either.
That's a really awesome example, and I also like, how, as we've spoken before and you reference psychology research in sociology research and What what do you think people could should be reading from that to get to learn more about networking? How should people research those principles to see how they can apply them to their own strategy. Well, following and Joseph Campbell's, the hero of the hero's journey, right? So if I'm the crazy old guy in the woods, that's telling you there's a secret book that you can read the tells you how to do all of this stuff that no one's ever heard of. Here's that book.
So it's called diffusions of innovation. It is several hundred Pages thick someday. I hope to write a New York best seller. That's just the distillation of it. To be honest. Just make it business class accessible. So it's an academic at home, but it was authored by dr. Everett Rogers. Now, here's a fun question, right? Everyone's heard of the early adopter, right? We all know that concept, but
Have any idea who invented it. Nope. No clue. Dr. Everett Rogers. And here's the best part. Here's how to rap to. I just wanted to say hi to your cat. And yes, my cat is named Seamus after the wee, Baby Seamus in Archer, adult FX cartoon series by Seamus. Thanks for joining us, James. We haven't gotten tattoos yet. So, so, take it, take a ride with me for a moment. You're in a field in Iowa, and there are just dying plants for as far as you can see.
And you're hanging out with a farmer and you're a geeky grad student from the local University and you're there because as a student. And now, as a part of the faculty research team, you've been sitting at meeting after meeting after meeting where everyone's saying, we figured out how to solve their problem. Why won't they use the methods that we give them? Because this was the issue for the federal government. It was an issue of survival for our citizenry. Universities were inventing ways of producing far more food with less resources and greater resilience, but the farming communities were not adopting them. And so he decided to take his clipboard and go out and talk to 500 Farmers. I want just to note for a second that this is always the Genesis of innovation the Genesis of
Innovation is always going out and talking to a lot of people and instead of confronting them with why they wouldn't accept things that have been proven by science. He asked them how they thought about things. He asked open-ended questions. He asked them how things were going. How did they, you know, when they learned about a new farming practice? How did they think about whether or not it was worth trying or not? And after years of research, he recognized that it is not the best Innovation that wins. But the one easiest to adopt and he created the adoption curve and the concept of the early adopter. And I am so passionate about this message for Founders and change makers because it's really important. A lot of times. There are communities that don't actually have the knowledge or the skills. They need to solve their problems.
Someone who wants to help that Community often because it's touched their lives in some personal way or the lives of someone they love. It's a personal way is a changemaker and the most important thing to understand is that you will never be trusted by that community in the way that you might want. For one simple reason. The stakes are different. In the farmers case the university could put out farming, an evasive methodologies. But if they didn't work, they still have their job next year and the farmers knew that whereas if the farmers took a risk on a new, you know, approach to farming and it failed, they could lose the Family Farm generations of work could be gone. The stakes were very different for them. This is always true and what dr. Everett Rogers has proven over.
50 years of iterative reconstruction. Church. Whether it's an NGO, trying to get sex workers in Thailand to use protection and get tested on a regular basis or mothers who were dehydrated in sub-sahara, Africa, and needed to use formula to ensure their babies didn't develop horrible nutrition, deficit diseases. Whatever the case may be, it was that humility that you mentioned really comes down to, I think accepting up front. That the people you want to help have different stakes in life than you do. And so it's not your job to convince them to change their mind. That's the job of the early adopter. One of The Advocates Advocates.
Okay. So there's a few things you learn about early adopters when you study them. And while there are certainly exceptions to this, the pattern is exceedingly. Strong early adopters tend to be the
People in the community with the most money, the most freedom to say what they think and the most freedom to try new things. I've noticed that If I look at, for example, LinkedIn. Or Twitter, a lot of times the people unless they're Anonymous like on Twitter, a lot of times, the people who are most Innovative or most Brazen about their ideas of the people who don't have something to lose by saying, right? And they are, this is the miracle of the first follower. If you've never seen the video, there's a video of this, Ted Talk called the first follower at a music festival. And there's this guy and he's dancing weird. And he is weird.
Basically, me and everyone else is just sitting and watching this jam band. Go crazy, you know, they're having a good time. They're out in the sun. They're talking with their friends and this dude's losing his mind and you can tell like, there's a group of friends and they're just kind of looking at him and they're talking about him. And one of them gets up and she starts dancing with this guy because he thinks it's hilarious. But now he's having fun, right?
And so, some of his group joins him and other people start joining him and soon the entire festival is dancing like crazy people, like they're made out of spaghetti. And the important thing is we focus all of our stories on the innovator, but innovators are weird. I'm weird and not like people who come up with stuff for weird and it's the first follower that actually is the one that turns it into a movement and the first follower is really the first early adopter.
So, when we think about networking as Founders established, especially the most important thing we can do is to connect with those who have the most permission to check out new things and you're going to find that some of them really have a personal Badge of Pride that they all show their friends. What's new, hip and interesting out there and their message to everybody is I try things out because if it doesn't work, then you don't have to worry about it. I'll tell you about the things that don't work, but the things I'm if I tell you, something works, it's cousin.
It worked for me and that honour system is present in every single network. So innovation has always been social Innovation. It's always been about two people believe, will they change their behavior? And the results that they get, does it actually bring them closer to the group and give them positive results. So diffusions of innovation is the tone.
I'll confess I cried when I read it. It was like reading my own journal. You read story. After Story of people who want to make the world a better place and what they go through and the barriers that they face, and what made this doctor such a genius? Is he accepted the barriers and he found new ways to connect and that to me is what, you know, adoption and networking is all about. Yeah. I love the metaphor.
The guy who gets up dancing and that's when that's when people start going out there. It's someone has to start it.
Ashley: Yeah, I think -- Brain fart. Oh, right happens to me when I'm talking anyway, the another podcast episodes and as I speak, none of these have aired yet, but we've all been talking about how to
You know, the difference between focusing on influencers and the difference between focusing on advocates, and there's a clear distinction.
Do not think that just because someone has a lot of followers that, that makes them worth investing in. That's not a way to measure who you should be talking to. The people who tend to be most invested in the solution to the problem or the value of the community.
Glad you're saying, like who have the biggest stake. Those often are the people that are the most valuable to talk to. And it's also more scalable to because, you know, you can you generally have a greater lifetime value with those people, you know, they might they're more likely to refer you to be to their friends. They're more likely to give you greater intelligence that will allow you to adopt even more strongly. So I love I'm so big on advocacy. I'm so glad that you brought that up.
Brian: Yeah, I think you really zero in on. Are we getting resources? Are we opening ourselves to resources? Yes, that's a good way to put it. You know, if I were to look around myself right now. I am surrounded by millions of dollars worth of assets right up in a house on land owned by the, you know, that's zoned by the government. I have gadgets.
There's it's if you just recognized for a moment that you are literally surrounded by wealth and then you look at a network and you realize that when you connect with people as equals, you get a chance to learn how to shift the way that you look at things to open resources. So, you know, you have something to offer and someone may have a need but the connection between the two of you is something different entirely and Earning that connection and how to make it is really where the Superstar entrepreneurs live.
Ashley: Yeah. There's there's this huge misconception. I find about successful entrepreneurs that you know, they're so above everyone and their, you know, I don't have any time for, you know, the regular guy and you know, politically, I'm sure some of that is true in some circumstances, but at the end of the day, I mean the most successful people are successful because they know that they have to solve a problem and they know that they have to solve, not just a problem but a problem that's excruciatingly painful and you cannot elicit that kind of intelligence. Unless you listen and then unless you're in some way in some capacity, on a Level Playing Field with the people, you want to serve the people, you want to get business from.
Brian: Yeah, and that's I think that's the difference between looking at commerce as exchange and emergent value creation. When we co-create with others. We create something more valuable than either of us brought into the room or different in value than what we brought.
And when we approach our partners that way, we get to let go of a lot of things. Do you mind? If I bring it back to our workflow dork? How's Ash? Yes, totally. So you can apply this mental model to all of the things that we've been talking about. I'm going to take a moment to talk about myself and the transformation head that I went through because as a fairly bright young person, I was convinced. I was right most of the time and often I was and yet still, I was very ineffectual and one of the, you know, there's a, there's a principle of how you do. One thing is, how you do everything. So I began to really take that to heart. And here's one thing that I noticed that I was doing personally that I see a lot of companies intentionally building that is fundamentally flawed.
And what that is is building a workflow that is convenient for me and then brute-forcing my way in to making it work in the world.
Here's a simple example. When I join a team. I might prefer to have conversations face-to-face. I might prefer to have conversations over Slack. I might prefer to have conversations over email first, right? And so the way that I communicate with others, I might do all of my communication with them. And because I'm a systems thinker, I took this to the nth degree. I built out my system so that I could communicate where I prefer to and it would populate out to all the other channels where people were responding on my team and people still felt Found Me Out of Touch, not really helpful to be honest. And even when it was really important or really urgent I was
That's what moving things forward. So, so, I did a 180 and when I join a new team now, where I create one, one of the first questions I ask is how do you like to be communicated with and I'll end up with an individual communication profile for each person? Well, text me first, and then, if I don't listen, you know, if I don't respond to you on text and slang me and someone else might be the opposite, right? So I might say, please never call me. I, you know, I'm I have to be Available for customer calls, but just, you know, shoot me an email unless it's urgent that said it to me and Slack. Now, as I'm explaining each of this, these items to you, of course, your brain starts to fill up, right? How am I supposed to keep track of everyone? Well, if I felt myself a tracking system, so, you know, when I joined a team, I build my own spreadsheet of the people, and I build how they like to be communicated with. And I'm building columns email. This is what, how someone thinks of email. This is how they think of
Sally think of chat. Invites, you doing that. What I found is that I get this synaptic connection because now, when I have something to say, I know how to say to that person, where there is zero cognitive effort on their part to engage with what I have to say, so I'm so I'm going to blow up something that I think is an urban myth of marketing and I literally just heard someone in the pr space status the other day and I could not disagree more strongly.
Her view was that what you need to do is come up with your message. And tailor it to each medium. I could not begin to equate my Instagram life with my LinkedIn life with my Clubhouse life. They're different. There's so many things about them. That are different. Why I’m there, who I'm there with what we talked about.
So I really --
Ashley: What the other people are there for.
Brian: There. It is. That's that's the whole thing. Right? The whole thing is why is the community there in the first place? You know, the conversation you're going to have at Burning Man is just going to be different than When you're getting your oil changed and so I guess it depends on who you are bright, unless you beat that burner at the oil Chase station. I really, you know what I mean, so and even then the conversation you have with the pliers going to be different than you know, probably on the cement. So that's that's the thing is I think that we've built we built a very narcissistic philosophy behind our systems and our technology and the beauty is again, just the small shift that can at first feel foreign and overwhelming and that's okay because it's new. But just a small shift that says, I'm going to think of every person I communicate with, as an individual. I'm going to notice how they use the tools and I'm going to adapt how I communicate to them. So that I meet them where they are.
You will become a craftsperson, you'll become an expert because that to a craftsperson, everything is unique and that's how you get. Excellent. Since that's how you get people. You want to hang out with and that's how you get to do. The best work of your life.
Ashley: Yeah, I think if someone -- a friend or acquaintance -- was very rigid about connecting with me only in a certain way, I probably wouldn't open as much to them and I wouldn't want to talk to them as much and I would be fairly closed off and I think you're so right to point off that that being versatile to other people's flow. Doesn't necessarily mean that it's inefficient.
You have you can create a system for making that work so that you're doing the right thing for the right audience and the right setting?
Brian: Really well, said, I think that one of the things I like about the way you're approaching his conversation, is it feels like the person is first in your mind and what a wonderful starting place because it's the truth, right? It really is it really is, I think a lot of people who struggle to look at it the way we're looking at it. It's I'm not sure what it is. I think that's partly my job as as a coach. You know, that's Bertha's partly what's going to be difficult about developing. My coaching is figuring out like where did people learn that?
Being a human, is the way to go. Like did someone teach them this? Is it more, you know where they guarded and it's like a defense mechanism. Is it just because these new mediums of communication or these New Media of communication are so new that the people are just, you know, wary of Behaving how they would normally. It's really, really interesting. So as an ed Tech entrepreneur, I have both thought about taken done conducted experiments and experienced the reasons why personally to a very to very sharp degree. Of course, they don't have the answer, right?
I think the questions you're asking are really powerful and worth asking. Why do I feel that? I have to prioritize external validation over my own development? The things that I value, why have I been taught? We're how did I come to believe that my voice is inherently less important in guiding my own life than others?
And I think that when you look at little children, one of the things that I notice with children is that they are inventing themselves. So they're taking what they came into the world with and what their, you know, the way which others are interacting with each other and they're sort of inventing their patterns of interactions and when you get into education, you know many people have pointed this out really we're going on a whole generation of researchers and activists and missionaries pointing this out all the way back to Maria Montessori. One of the first celebrity women Engineers, who was so appalled with how difficult it was to get companies to behave creatively that she created an education program.
Solved the problem and many if not, most of founders have some Montessori education in your background, but it's because it has been taken from them. If you really look at educational performance and you look at where children come from from many different schools and approaches to education. One of the things that you will find is that there are many, many, many, many, many ways to educate a child to the point that they have been successful in the way that we measure it today.
The main difference between the system we have now, and most of those alternative systems is the emotional and mental health of the child. So, you know, artists have gone United. Steven K noted that when he would go talk about being an artist to different grades. You would notice that if you asked who here is an artist to kindergarteners almost every child would raise their hand. And as each Progressive grade went on fewer and fewer children would raise their hands until only that one weird kid. Did you know?
And so, it's important to just get curious about how we were educated because we were taught that getting a good grade was more important than what was going on with us. We were taught that passing the test was all really anyone cared about at the end of the day and so it's kind of a cruel irony that when we show up in life and we try to run that script, it kind of works, but it seems to only work for people who are interested in exploiting us. Yes. Yeah, and that's because that's exactly what it's intended to do.
Ashley: Yeah, it is. I think that's a great point. A lot of people don't really look at. You know, I see it as a way of making people submissive, you know, for example. Not to speak ill of my communications program or or, you know, attitudes that a lot of people have two new Communications grads, but it took me a long time to learn to charge what I was worth and, and seek opportunities that I really, really wanted because I felt that I didn't deserve them. I felt like, you know, we always talked about.
What's the term? What's the term for when you think bad about, you always think that you're unqualified for something?
Brian: Impostor syndrome. My favorite topic.
And I think what, what would you know was never talked about, in my, you know, in my world as a new grad, or even a student was that that imposter syndrome is not just something that that you have, because you have bad self-esteem. It's instilled in you a lot of the time in a lot of those kinds of systems because you're required to work for free. You are expected to do everything you're expected to do is so that you can put it on your resume, irrespective of its value to you in your own professional development or whatever, you know, you're expected to do unpaid internships. You're supposed to work out of scope and not talk, you know, not be mad about it. Not quit the job or whatever, just do whatever you can to appease people.
And then I was doing a lot of reflection about why I was so uncomfortable pursuing things that I really valued and pursuing higher pay and why was not listening to that little gut that told me that someone was going to exploit me, even though I always knew it was happening.
I would keep working with that person or whatever and a lot of it was because I had been conditioned by systems that I worked with that this was the, this is, this was required of me and I had to unpack all of that before I could, you know, see my worth and focus on things that I thought were valuable. It's yeah, it's it's I think it's really important for everyone to look at, you know, the things that that instill, that, that lack of confidence in them and work on that, that's part of your Discovery to, you know, getting higher in the world is, you need to figure out what's making you feel less than.
Brian: I also think that you can step right into a bold choice, which is to say I value myself. Yes. Is that something you feel comfortable saying?
Ashley: Yes, yes, but it took a long time to get there and I had to basically undo a lot of baggage. I basically had to leave sectors that I was working in. I had to cut certain people out of my life, certain -- even friends. It's -- there's a lot of, you know, when you unpack things. It's not just about, you know, self-talk and reading, and that sort of thing.
You really have to, you have to cut things out. And that's, I think, maybe that's partly what people are scared of and networking is just what they'll have to give up in order to achieve what they want to do, you know, beliefs they hold or or things that people have told them that you know, validated something that made them feel a little more comfortable or It's yeah, you it's you really have to peel back a lot of things that are comforting.
Brian: Yeah, I think there's a level at which we fear that inside us as nothing. Of course, that's true. The “we're nothing” and everything. You know, we're not an idea. I think the simplest definition I have for, what the ego is? It is our idea of ourselves. We have an existence. That is it stands alone, whether we're thinking about it or not. And, you know, Watson others have done a great job playing this out. So I really walk through that journey myself and it's painful to peel away parts of yourself because you're really afraid that there won't be anything there, once it's gone. And I think that once you begin to take that Journey, this new compassion for ourselves. And for others really begins to grow, which is, of course, it was there. It was there all the time but no one was feeding it.
And we were not to feed it, too. It's just it's very little and it needs our love and our care. Most of all, you know, I was just sharing with a really close friend. It's your puppy. You know, it's your you want to conjure up that caregiving energy for yourself because then you recognize that it's the most precious thing in the world. Why would you trade anything for it?
Ashley: Yeah, and I'll also with kind, you know, being kind to your puppy, you wouldn't chastise your puppy for being, you know, for not doing something with with knowledge didn't have, you know, so for example, as annoyed with myself, as I am for, you know, not taking myself seriously and not or, you know, thinking that I had to do all this free volunteering, and all this free, this and free, that and work for people who undervalued me and all this.
I can be conscious of why that happened and how problematic it was for my career, but there's a reason I felt that and there's no sense in me beating myself up about having those things because I was undervalued. And so I think it's important that everyone when they're being kind to themselves to not use that. As a weapon to say like, oh, why did you do that?
Think we can know, our society significantly over values judging ourselves and others, right? It's not a it's not a pretty. It's not a very useful habit. In the end. I think though that you're illustrating something right now that is my hope for humanity and why I take a multi-generational view in terms of what I believe is possible for us to create, which is you top yourself, a skill, which was to be yourself and value it so much you were willing to change your life to live that way. That's now a gift you have to give to others.
Ashley: Pay it forward.
Brian: Yeah! It turns out that that's natural, I think people who find things that they love have to tell other people about them. It's unnatural to find something good and try to build walls around it. It's you know, they're there is a non-mammalian sort of non-social way of calculating. You know, human society and human interactions and it is useful. It is, but it's running the ship. And so we've ended up with a lot of things that calculate properly, but nobody's living a life they want to be living, right?
And, I wouldn't even sit. You know, I don't even think that's fair to say anymore. I think we are seeing the blossoming of people and communities everywhere. Going. Who do I really want to be in the world?
And I'm going to create the future that I want to live in. A good friend of mine Alex Boyd, who founded revenues at and I were just chatting today and he said, you know, it turns out human beings can change the future a lot better than we can predict it.
Ashley: Yeah, and how, what an empowering message, too that, that it's not, you know, we can change things. It doesn't matter if you've messed up your career for the first third of it. There's always ways to learn from that and derive value from that so that you can help others. I mean, I have become interested in doing public speaking at some point.
We, you know, maybe when this is all over and the whole way I got into that was, I started doing talks for business, communication students at my local University and a lot of the themes of the talks were about, you know, how to avoid people taking advantage of you and why they shouldn't and how to position yourself in your own mind and to the people as a person of value. You're not just doing the hours. You're not just doing the deliverable. There's value to everything you're doing and no one should expect to get that for free.
So that's kind of how I delved into a whole new way -- a whole new possible stream for my business, you know, is just using that as a tool to help other people. And it also helped me do a better talk. And I learned a lot about getting feedback from people.
It's just it was such an empowering experience to use, what, what had been, you know, so problematic for my career and to take it and turn it into fuel for not just my own business, but for other people that I still get feedback from some of those students that, you know, they, they know how they know their value and they know how to position it so that they can focus on things that they actually want and deserve.
Brian: That is such a powerful story. Actually. What a hero's journey.
Ashley: Thank you. Yeah, I was it was it was beautiful and it really helped me overcome a lot of the anger I had about how I'd been treated and how slow my progress professionally had been because I turned it into something that helped other people and also helped myself, you know, I learned so much about myself and other Communications professionals and I got lots of business intelligence out of it. It was beautiful.
Brian: Well with that. I have a poem I’d love to close on.
This is this is one that has helped me quite a bit in also making peace with my past and my feelings about myself for failing to take care of myself the way that I would want to. So, here it is:
I walk down the street.
There's a hole in the street.
I fall in,
I climb out.
I walk down the street, the same street.
There's a hole in the street.
I know there's a hole in the street.
I watched myself fall in,
I watch myself climb out. I walk down the street.
I know there's a hole in the street. I walk around it and continue on my way.
Ashley: Nice. Yeah, it's so true. Isn't it? What we learn from past experiences and how we have to kind of work on ourselves in order to really learn, you know, you can redo things over and over again and make the same mistakes. But until you work on yourself, you're going to keep doing it. You're going to keep falling through.
Brian: Yeah, give yourself permission to come back. So just like in meditation coming back to the present moment is the practice. It's not preventing yourself from thinking right?
And so, it's the same thing with any Behavior change is. We, we are creatures of habit, We crave the familiar as much as We crave stimulation. And so noticing that, we tend to flow in circles that we tend to move and spirals, right? What we're moving in a direction, we circle back to Old places and that's the beauty of that poem is its permission to Circle back to Old places while you're watching yourself, doing it because that's how we invent. We want to be dead.
Ashley: Yeah, totally. And that's -- to bring it back before we go -- that's also a great networking tool, you know, to figure out: why you were uncomfortable? Maybe talking to certain groups before or why you were uncomfortable sharing, certain Insight or why you were kind of hesitant to listen to certain groups, or really get, you know, be there to listen for intelligence instead of be there for broadcasting. Revisit why that was uncomfortable for you because you can, you can learn so much about yourself without beating yourself up about, you know, having done the wrong thing or whatever.
So thank you so much for joining me. Brian that was lovely. Is there anything else you'd like to share anything you think that people should be reading anything that you want people to look up before we go?
Brian: Yeah, I think the best teachers that I can recommend, the teachers that I'm learning from our Gay and Katie Hendricks and they have a non-profit foundation called the Foundation for Conscious Living: foundationforconciousliving.com and the most accessible book that Gay is written.
And he's been an advisor to the CEO and founder of Dell as well as rock stars, actors and all kinds of amazing creative people who birthed unbelievable, you know, amazing lives as well as great art. He has a book called The Big Leap and The Big Leap is about really connecting with your unique genius. What you uniquely do in the world and building your life around that. And I have recommended that book out to quite a lot of really smart ambitious people.
And they've said that it has been, you know, kind of like a drop of the water. Like it ripples out through their lives and changes everything and so that would be the starting place and I would really encourage you. If the things that we've talked about really resonate, thefoundationforconsciousliving.com, has an incredible amount of resources on how to develop your authentic self and make that the centre of your life.
Ashley: Nice. All that stuff is really helpful in business. It's not just this, you know, fluffy life lesson stuff. People think it is. It's totally applicable in business and life in general and people feel better once they understand it.
Brian: Yeah, it's how I get to have fun with billionaires. Like honestly, like it is like I can hang out with. This is good with anybody, you know, from Many background. Once you're yourself you really are already every person's equal. And so you'll be amazed at the doors that open in your life when you choose that path.
Ashley: Nice. Alright, well, thanks so much Brian, and I'm sure I'll talk to you soon.