In Business the 'Sprinters' seem to get all of the glory! We live in a world where 'faster is better'.
I don't think that we give enough credit to the Marathon runners of the Business world. It's a tough job to survive out there, especially with how quickly the world is changing. Internet and social media allow brands to change their direction within seconds, and we're only as good as we were 5 minutes ago.
In the past, marketing campaigns took months to plan, and business owners could safely plan the year ahead. Time is a luxury that we simply don't have any more, unless we are very smart and create it ourselves.
Business is now a battlefield that happens in real-time, and the longer you stay still the more you have to lose. The flip-side to this is that with great speed, also comes great risk.
We're more empowered than we've ever been, with the best professional development resources at our fingertips. But with all of this extra knowledge, and the ability to learn from other people's mistakes we continue to push ourselves to our physical and mental limits. For some, stress is like an extreme sport that is bragged about in the office.
How is it, that we live in the age of personal enlightenment, and yet we aren't winning the battle against stress?
Who are the Marathon runners, and which of them are still ahead of the pack after years of racing?
Which brings me to Siimon Reynolds. If I could pick three things about Siimon that I really respect, these are what they would be:
1. His tremendous staying power in the business world.
2. His ability to re-invent himself and continually grow and change with the world.
3. His holistic views on business and life, and how the two can be integrated together.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Siimon as much as I did interviewing him. He is one of the loveliest and liveliest people I have had the privilege of speaking with.
SIIMON REYNOLDS - THE INTERVIEW
BW: You became the Creative Director of an advertising agency at 21 years of age - what did you present that convinced them to take a chance on someone so young?
SR: Well you know I think they were really brave, the Managing Director Gary Murphy was really brave to take me on. And you know the truth is when I first went in there and said that I wanted to be Creative Director he said “Look you’re too young.” And I had to keep fighting inside the meeting to get him to even listen to me, and greatly to his credit the next day he said ‘Ok I’m going to give you the job.’ So, incredible bravery really. And what were they looking for? I think they were looking for several things, a better standard of work, I think they were also looking for a new beginning, a new sense of excitement, and someone who could bring energy and optimism and new hope to the company. And you know I think in some respects I represented that to the company, and I was lucky enough to be given a chance.
BW: 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is a term frequently talked about here in Australia but have you encountered it in your career?
SR: Constantly. Absolutely. And the first 20 times it really shocked me. But after a while, you get pretty used to it. It’s almost a test of when you want to achieve, whether you can handle it. I remember a few months ago I had a negative article written about me, and with almost, very little to do with me. It was all about this person disliking me from the word go, and I was quite irritated about it and my girlfriend said ‘Anyone who ever achieves anything is going to be disliked by somebody.” and she said “Come to the computer and type in Steve Jobs and then the word ‘hate’.” And so I did that, and amazingly there were just hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of websites and Blogs saying how much they hate Steve Jobs. She very elegantly showed me that basically as soon as you do anything in life, someone is going to go after you and hate you, and normally someone who is mediocre and sitting on the sidelines.
BW: Why do you think we have a culture like this in Australia? Do you ever experience this working in the U.S? (Tall Poppy Syndrome)
SR: There’s far more respect for people who achieve in the U.S, undoubtedly. As to why, I think it’s just a culture that is in many respects more mature and more sophisticated than the Australian culture. You know certainly amongst people who achieve, and why do some Australians feel that way? I think it’s important to note that most intelligent Australians don’t feel that way. It’s normally the people with chips on their shoulders, or who haven’t succeeded themselves to the level that they’d like who attack others. Then there’s also other people who’ve been brought up by their parents with the view that people who have money or success are just lucky, or that they hurt people to get that way. And so you know they grew up with those feelings, and they manifest in their own lives and the beat goes on.
But all I can say is that it’s just yet another obstacle that someone who wants to succeed has to face, and if someone isn’t strong enough to take the criticisms of fools on the sidelines then maybe they don’t deserve a high level of success.
BW: You spend a lot of your time living and working between Australia and the U.S. What do you enjoy about working in the U.S?
SR: You know I just love the new place, it’s a new challenge, no one knows me, I’ve got to establish myself, I’ve got to grow and become more to succeed over here. And I love that, you know it gets me out of my comfort zone and it also gets me out of the mental rut that I was in somewhat when I was in Australia. Purely because I’d lived there my whole life, so I drove the same streets, mostly went to the same restaurants, saw the same people, and life was very sweet and comfortable. But when you move to such a giant, massively large country, and you are completely unknown there it wakes you up and keeps you fresh I think.
BW: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
SR: Well the first thing I’d say about that is, I don’t know if I have had the wisdom to have taken notes of the very best pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given. There’s probably been countless pieces of priceless advice that have just gone over my head. But of the ones that I remember, let me give you three:
The first is that you become what you think about most of the time. If you can just sculpt your thoughts and discipline yourself to think about how you want your life, and what does it take to get there then you tend to make a lot of progress. Versus a lot of people who focus on what they don’t have, and who’s to blame. So that’s the first piece of advice which I found very useful for me.
The second piece of advice is to have a growth mindset, to always be growing and learning. There’s all kinds of research done, and there’s a great researcher Professor Carol Dweck who’s written a book on mindset and she shows that it’s not necessarily the most intelligent people who get to the top, it’s the people who keep learning and growing.
And then the third I think is that happiness is like any other area you have to study it and focus on it in order to get it. And a lot of work has been over the last 25 years in the area of positive psychology and now there’s quite a large body of scientific data that can tell you all the things you need to do to be happy. And many of them are surprising, for instance money plays almost no part in happiness, after your basic needs are met. And so that was a great piece of advice, I got to study happiness and treat it as an area that could be learnt like any other area.
BW: In your latest book, 'Why people fail: The 16 obstacles to success and how to overcome them', you talk about finding a career that best uses your strengths. For those wanting to re-design their life, where do you suggest they begin?
SR: Well I think first of all they need to identify what their strengths are, all the research shows that if you do a job that utilizes your strengths you tend to do really well at it and you tend to be happier. So firstly you’ve got to identify what your strengths are, and there is some good tests available to do that. If you go onto Marcus Buckingham’s website he’s got a good strengths test, and then there’s another one called ‘Strengths Finder 2.0” and then there’s another one called the ‘Kolbie Index’, and there are many other strengths identifiers.
Another thing you can do is ask your friends ‘What am I good at? Or ‘What am I not good at it and tell me honestly?’. And also ask your workmates, and work out what your strengths are, and what your weaknesses are. And then figure out ‘Ok what do I enjoy?’ And ultimately when there’s something that is both on your enjoyment list and your strengths list as far as careers go, then you are likely to have a great new direction.
BW: Is there a place in life for regrets?
SR: That’s a good question. Look I think regrets are a compulsory part of life, and particularly a life where you are striving to achieve, and the reason is that most of the time when you are, what a lot of people don’t realise is that the people that are highly successful are actually failing more than failures. So they have probably increased regrets, not decreased regrets, but they certainly have a different quality of regret, it’s the regret of maybe not trying hard enough and maybe not doing different things. The successful people often have the regrets of that they’d wish they’d done different things, whereas the unsuccessful people often have regrets that they wish they’d tried harder, or focussed more. I think successful or unsuccessful, rich or poor, life is a school and I believe we are here to learn and to have fun. And I think it’s impossible to avoid having regrets, it’s like it comes from getting older.
BW: What strategies work for you in the quest to maintain a good work/life balance?
SR: Another good question. Look I think first of all to have a leaving time, to have a time that you leave work, a lot of ambitious people have a time to get to work, but they don’t have a leaving time. So I think once you do that you start working far more effectively, faster, and you value your time more. The 2nd is to have a list of fun things that you like to do, most people never have that list, they kind of know that they like going to the movies, or going out to dinner, but there’s probably a list of 10 or 15 things that you could write out and have where you can see it and then plan and schedule and put in the calendar times when you actually do those things. And just doing that can create a lot of balance and joy in your life, and thirdly I think it’s to actually schedule meetings with people you care about like you schedule meetings at work. And I think that what happens is most people will be quite organised at work and then they try and squeeze in their family life, or their personal life, or their health if they have time. Whereas, if they treat it like any other meeting or appointment, they tend to happen.
BW: What is the most powerful skill an entrepreneur can have?
SR: I think the most powerful skill an entrepreneur can have is action orientation. They just try a lot of stuff; generally speaking entrepreneurs tend to get a lot of stuff done. So in the course of a month, they might try 5 different things, whereas someone else may have just tried one. But it’s really by trying many, many different things that you work out the two or three things that work, and so you know there are just mountains of cases of people who open businesses and weren’t doing well, but just kept trying different stuff until finally it works. I was only listening to an interview today actually where the guy was talking about how the Flickr service started and it was a completely different type of Software Company, and by accident they happened upon the method of doing this with photos and switched the whole business around and did it around that. So it’s not how you start, it is how you adapt that makes all the difference.
BW: What characteristics do the most successful entrepreneurs have in common?
SR: I think they’re all optimistic. I think it takes huge persistence to succeed as an entrepreneur, so being an optimist through the downtimes is absolutely vital and you know it’s worth saying that optimism is a choice too. You can learn to be optimistic, and second of all I think they are realistic as well. They are very practical, so they balance the optimism with realism and looking at the dangers and worst case scenarios as well. So that they manage to keep their ship afloat if things get tough. I think that they’re normally very clear and confident. They are clear about their goals, they’re clear about where they want to go and are confident they are going to get there. That’s really vital. And then finally they dare to innovate. They are daring, they dare to compete, they dare to open their company in the first place, which takes a tremendous amount of courage. There are many qualities, and they’re some of the leading ones for sure.
BW: If you could give 3 pieces of advice to the dreamers of the world, what would they be?
SR: The first is whatever you do, give it 100%. One of my greatest mistakes that is sometimes in my life is being in something, and wishing I was somewhere else. So even if you are somewhere that isn’t the best, make the most of it while you are also planning where you should go. Just have a philosophy of giving everything 100%, and that will ensure a success.
2. Make sure you always read inspirational books and books written by the best people in your industry, and about the best people in your industry. Because unless you see in a world where a lot of the people around you are mediocre, unless you are surrounded in your mind at least with examples of people succeeding, then it’s very easy to forget the dream after a while; but those kind of books not only teach you, they keep the dream alive.
And thirdly, I think it is to choose to believe in yourself, choose to pump yourself up, be your own best coach, talk to yourself each day, visualise success. Make yourself passionately believe that you can do it, and if you do that I think that your brain works in all kinds of advanced ways to find you the information and opportunities you need to achieve your dream. That kind of passionate belief is an almost miraculous ingredient that has created some stunning and statistically highly unlikely, but momentous successes in life just because people kept on believing until they found a way to make it work.
You can check out Siimon's work on www.siimonreynolds.com :)