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The Quest for Real Value: Investor Guy Spier

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Guy Spier, author of The Education of a Value Investor: My Transformative Quest for Wealth, Wisdom, and Enlightenment.  He writes about what really matters in work and life and why these questions are important for a successful investor.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Let me just start by asking you about what is probably your greatest claim to fame: having bid over $650,000 for a lunch with Warren Buffett.  That’s more money than most people on this planet make in a lifetime.  Why did you spend so much to spend lunch with Warren Buffett?

Guy Spier: guy spierWell, I should say that I got to buy in at discount.  I was one-third of that, and my bidding partner Mohnish Pabrai was two-thirds of that.  I went with my wife, and Mohnish went with his wife and two daughters, so I was one of six guests.  If you think of the numerous amounts that we’ve given to charity, where all you get is a plaque or your name on a building but you don’t get to hang out with somebody who’s unusually interesting, then it already puts a different light on it.  Mohnish understood more than I did at the time that to spend time in the company of extraordinary people is – if you can afford to do it – very, very worthwhile, even if you have to spend a lot of money on it. There are a small number of people who’ve figured out an awful lot more than we have, and while studying them from afar is good, being in their presence can be an extraordinary growth accelerator.

SF: One of the things you point to in your book is the importance of surrounding yourself with people whose values are aligned with yours.  That’s the case with you and Buffett, right?

GS: Absolutely.  Here’s what happens when you spend time with Warren Buffett.  You learn how little time and energy he spends doing things he doesn’t like to do.  One big thing about being authentic is that it just takes up less energy.  When you are authentic with yourself and with the world, you waste less energy trying to be different things to different people.  We often try to present one mask at work and another mask elsewhere.  We can do it, but it just takes so much energy– energy that could be used more productively.

SF: It’s a topic that we’ve been talking about a lot on this show lately –the masks that we wear and the costs of having to disguise who we truly are in the workplace.  It’s just so much simpler and more elegant to be who you are, but it takes a lot of courage to do that, and you had to muster quite a bit of courage to find who you really were in your work, didn’t you, Guy?

GS: My book was useless until I got the courage to be honest with the world and write about this horrible place where I worked straight out of business school.  The funny and strange thing about courage in the work-life business environment is that it seems that when we have the courage to be honest, people respect us for it.  I remember the first time I felt as though I really had courage in my fund world.  I was in an investor meeting, and somebody asked me, “So Guy, you’ve talked about the things that you buy.  Could you tell us what your sell discipline is?”  I mustered some courage in that moment to say, “You know what, I’ll be honest with you.  I suck at selling.  I don’t have a good sell discipline.  Let me tell you why.”  There was a sort of sharp intake, a gasp of breath with some people – at least that’s what I sensed.  I walked out of there with that really horrible feeling that I was going to get all these redemption requests the next day.

SF: So you thought people would want to sell your funds rather than stay with you?

GS: Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of, but instead I was given respect.  People understood more about who I was, and I attracted more of the right kind of investors into my fund as a result.  You asked me about spending time around the right people.  I had this lunch with my friend Mohnish and he mentioned various books to me.  One of the books that he mentioned was the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi.  So after this meal, I went out and bought the book, but it sat on my shelf for two or three years before I read it.  When I finally read it, I discovered that Mahatma Gandhi, in his autobiography, talks about his experiences with prostitutes.  My jaw dropped.  It was utterly shocking to me that he would do that, and that was an incredible example of the power of authenticity.

SF: Is that what gave you the courage to declare as much as you did about your early days post-MBA?

GS: I think that that was part of it.  It was this determination to be honest with the world and that I had to do it at this point in my life because if I didn’t do it now, I might never do it.  But it wasn’t just Mahatma Gandhi.  Warren Buffett is extremely honest with the world.  Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and the person who Warren Buffett thinks of as his partner, has a great line: “It’s better not to lie.  Then you don’t have to remember what you said to whom.”

SF: That’s a core principle of the great leaders I have known and admired, and it’s wonderful to see how you have demonstrated it.  I want to step back here and ask what the essence of your idea in the book, The Education of a Value Investor, is?

GS: I think you could actually bring it down to the idea that it was only when I became authentic with myself that my career and my life really got started.  It was only when I became authentic with my shortcomings as an investor and around money that I could really start to go about conquering my drawbacks, and that made me ultimately far stronger.  The ultimate message is to really find ourselves in finance or with our own finances and with investing.  The ultimate answers all lie within ourselves; they don’t lie outside.  When we’re experiencing difficulties in the world in our careers, the real place to look is in our own backgrounds, foibles, and weaknesses.

SF: And how did you come to understand that?  This is ancient wisdom in modern language and modern times.  For you personally, in your journey of self-discovery, what led you to this recognition?

GS: I think one thing that was really important was the realization that the answers did not lie in economics, finance, or the capital asset pricing model, so the first thing was to know where not to look.  I was living in New York City at the time.  While New York City is a vortex for all sorts of reasons, it’s also a great place for people who are on a journey of discovery.  There’s every different type of psychotherapist under the sun, and I must have tried them all.  I started on a reading program of reading dozens of different kinds of books.  Somebody who had a deep impact on me was Joseph Campbell, who wrote the book The Hero of a Thousand Faces.  He’s got this idea of seeking your own bliss and that we should each be heroes of our own journey.  When I read that and had that idea in my mind, I suddenly realized why things like the Iliad and the Odyssey are great stories that we continue to read in western civilization.  The key point is that Odysseus is somebody who we should try to be like.  He overcame his difficulties, and we have our own difficulties to overcome.  We shouldn’t look at him as the hero and us poor humans as so useless.  As is written in the literature of ancient Greece, he’s doing these epic battles, and for each and every one of us, there is an epic battle going on as well.  It’s just that simple shift of mind – seeing ourselves as heroes – that gave me a lot more resources to start confronting my fears of writing about my horrible experiences in an investment bank.  Now I had Odysseus by my side.

SF: I want to return to what lessons you want to try to impart to others who might be struggling.  I know that there are people listening right now thinking, Gee, how did he do that?  How did he just get off the treadmill of the very attractive and perhaps seductive world of finance to find his own path that was closer to his own values?  How, in a nutshell, were you able to make that transformation?

GS: I saw myself as this investment banker at this bucket shop, and seeing Warren Buffett with shining lights on the hill, I had no clue about how to get from where I was to something closer to what he was.  I think of the people who climbed Everest for the first time.  Before he climbed Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary did not sit around saying, “Well I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to the top of Everest.”  He said, “If I want to climb Everest, what kind of equipment do I need?  What kind of training do I need?”  And then he asked himself as he was going up, “Am I closer to the summit, or am I further away from the summit?”  I think that that simple thinking is what I started applying in my life.  I started asking myself, If Warren Buffett was sitting at my desk at this firm, what would he do?  So I summoned the powers or the presence of these people who were heroes to me, and I started making modifications.  The truth is that if Warren Buffett had been in my shoes, he would have walked straight out of there, and I didn’t do that.  But the process doesn’t have to be perfect; it can be gradual.  We need to make incremental steps.  We need to never lose the dream, and we need to keep introducing things into our lives that might get us closer to that dream.  I think it’s a lifelong process.  When the time is right – I don’t think I’m a religious person, but there’s a sudden religious quality to this –the universe opens up to us, but it only opens up to us if we’ve been spending all of our time preparing, working really hard at it, and nibbling away at it.  Now if you have somebody who’s sitting in a job earning money that their family may need, I don’t think that it is in any way practical to tell that person that he needs to make all these radical changes and that everything will work out fine. I don’t think it’s fair to tell them that it’s so simple.  It’s not simple.  The struggle is hard.  That’s why we should consider ourselves as heroes.  Odysseus didn’t make it home in a day.  He had so many battles that he needed to fight, so many fears that he had to overcome.

SF: And what about you?  Let’s get back to your story. Can you give us an example of a misstep that you made where you learned something useful in retrospect?

GS: My situation at that investment bank reminds me of the scene in the Titanic movie when the rich guy with the gun is trying to chase the guy who’s gone off with his fiancée, and he realizes that the ship is sinking.  He suddenly notices that he’s focusing on the wrong thing.  He should be focused on saving himself.  There I was at that investment bank deeply embedded in the machinations of trying to win credit for the deals I felt I was bringing in.  I was participating in the politics and incapable of standing back and seeing the bigger picture.  I couldn’t see that I was never going to win in that environment and that winning in that environment would have compromised my soul to a horrible degree.  That was just such a waste of time.  That brings me to the one big misstep that I was going to share with you.  So there I was – I had managed to start my fund, but I developed deep, deep envy.  At the time, I was running a perfectly respectable fund with about $50 million in it, which was more than anybody needed to run a fund and to live a successful happy life.  However, I was surrounded by classmates who were managing a hundred times the amount of money that I was managing.

SF: Making you feel puny, perhaps?

GS: As I write in the book, I felt like my very manhood was in question.  I would have never admitted it to you or anybody else at the time, but what I was experiencing was the green monster.

SF: But you were able to get past that somehow.  As the twenty-seven year old you were at that time, were you capable of the kind of insight that you’ve now gleaned over time to see that the person who matters most is the one that you look at in the mirror, not those who have ten times or a hundred times what you have in the bank?

GS: In my case, there were no big breakthroughs.  It was about constantly exposing myself to opportunities to introspect through psychotherapy and YPO and entrepreneur forums.  My view is that humanity is infinite, and therefore there are an infinite number of ways to introspect.  I don’t think that any one way is better than any other way.  It can be whatever works for you at the time, be it going to yoga classes, practicing meditation, taking part in your religious tradition, or exploring a new religious tradition.  I think if I get it down to their core, a big part of what do religious traditions try to do is to preserve environments and conditions in which human beings discover their capacities to introspect.

SF: That’s what those rituals are all about, isn’t it?  It’s about taking time to reflect on what matters.

GS: Absolutely.  They’re this sort of vessel, but what’s really important is what’s being carried in the vessel.  I think there’s a bias that books have.  In a book, you get edited down, and so much has to be excluded, so you end up talking about the three big ideas or the one big idea and sometimes it’s not three or one big idea, it’s hundreds of small ideas.  In my case, I think there was no one single thing that enabled me to suddenly see that I was consumed by envy.  At some point, there was a painful realization, but there was something good on the other side. Once I realized it, I could clean it up pretty quickly. But exactly how I got there had something to do with surrounding myself with people who were better than I was.  If you surround yourself with people who are slightly better, more honest, more authentic, and more capable of introspection, that’s going to rub off on you, and I think I was doing that.  And it didn’t happen in three or four weeks or even five or six months.  It was more like a decade of pushing in that direction.

To learn more about Guy Spier, visit www.aquamarinefund.com, or follow him on Twitter @gspier.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Andrea Yeh Andrea Yehis an undergraduate junior majoring in Operations and Information Management and in International Relations.

Plant, Scan, Pilot — Jenny Blake’s Pivot Method

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jenny Blake, author of the forthcoming book The Pivot Method: A Blueprint for Becoming More Agile in Work and Life (Portfolio/Penguin, 2016), and the founder of the Life after College online blog and program. As a career strategist and international speaker, Jenny helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny spoke with Stew about how individuals can find greater meaning in their work and offers suggestions on how to successfully navigate work and life transitions and uncover your values in order to make deliberate choices.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Jenny, I just shared with our listeners a quote I love from Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” In what ways have you been enriched by giving in your life?

Jenny Blake:Jenny Blake I love that sentiment because I think it’s really at the root of careers. Often career change is a question of how can I best be of service? Your question is one that I ask my clients a lot. For me, it’s how can I turn my challenges and struggles into something helpful for other people. That’s not to say that any of us would ever welcome really terrible times, but we recognize that they can be transformed and shared. We all get this level of compassion and depth from going through adversity that makes us stronger. I think sharing one’s own experience by telling your story is a great gift which has no monetary association at all, but it can be really key to helping each other through transitions or times of need. Sometimes I think life can be sort of like a seesaw: someone is up and someone is down. I think being able to help pull each other through confusing transitional times in our life is a huge gift.

SF: Jenny, that’s what you’ve been doing, and that’s what you’ll be writing about in your next book. Let me back up here though—you spent five years at Google on the Training and Development team and a couple years before that at a tech startup. How and why did you transition to career coaching?

JB: At Google, I was doing AdWords product training. I learned that I loved being in front of a classroom every day, but I was more interested in the people who were sitting in my classroom than in the material. I had a coaching session that really changed my life, in which the coach asked me what my life purpose was. Nobody had ever asked me that before! It’s certainly not the go-to thing to discuss. Typically with friends, for example, I find we’re often complaining about one thing or another, and not really asking those big questions. I became very fascinated by the person behind the career and understanding that person’s hopes and dreams and fears. I wanted to know how I could help them facilitate their desires and navigate through challenges, so that’s really what led me to coaching. I was 24 when I started going through coaching training, and people looked at me like I was nuts: What are you doing here? Why do you think you can be a life coach? What do you even know?

SF: Seriously though, what does a 24-year-old know that puts them in a position to give life advice to other people? How did you respond to that criticism?

JB: I just did the best that I could. I chose to work with college graduates where I felt I could at least be of service to them. I wasn’t trying to tackle the whole world, but I also felt strongly that one of the beautiful things about coaching is learning a skill set such that coaches don’t have to be the expert in every single person’s life or in each specific challenge. It’s about listening and empathy and encouragement and cheerleading. Yes, some of it is about life experience, but I think so much of it too is about being a presence for other people—something we can all give.

SF: Certainly—our presence, our attention, our devotion, and our concentrated awareness of the other. How do you see presence as a gift, in terms of the impact it can have in a coaching exchange?

JB: I think presence is rare. Of course people today get a bad rep for looking at their phones or being distracted or not making eye contact, but beyond that I think it’s very rare for a person to have one whole hour to talk through what’s going on in their lives—what they really want to create and what challenges they are facing. Presence to me is such a gift because if the person listening can remove themselves from the equation for a minute, and not try to give advice or to judge, but really just ask a few big questions—studies show that we actually create new neural pathways in our brains when we’re asked to answer a question we’ve never heard before. Clearly, someone doesn’t have to be a trained coach to do this. At upcoming parties or family get-togethers you can ask, what are you most excited about this year? What are you most proud of from 2014? What’s the big, wild, and crazy thing you would do if time and money weren’t an issue? Go outside of the box a little bit and just listen. Hear what people have to say.

SF: I think those are three really good questions that people should be asking each other around this time of year. That’s great advice that we can all do to be informal coaches to our family members and friends.

JB: I also love asking questions like what did you learn this year? What are the three biggest lessons that you learned? Or even what was the biggest blessing in disguise? That last one I especially love because it takes something which, at the time, could have seemed like a really bad situation, and then it asks a person to find the good in it.

SF: Back in 2005, your book Life after College came out, which you wrote as a shortcut manual to guide college students through a major time of transition into the working world. Could you give us the one-minute version of what insights you distilled down about creating simplicity out of complexity?

JB: I would say the biggest thing is taking the time to ask yourself what do I really want? That’s not to say that we can have everything we want, and we can have it tomorrow; it’s not about being entitled. It’s about uncovering what is important to you and what are your values. What do you want to create in the next year, in terms of your career? Your friendships? Your family relationships? Your home environment? Your physical activity? What rejuvenates you? In my book, there’s a chapter dedicated to each of these main life areas—I provided tips, quotes, questions; a whole hodgepodge of resources.

I would say the real value is actually to be had when a reader writes in the book. I say on the front: This book is not precious, please write in it! I think that actually goes for all books—write in the margins, circle things, dog-ear it—make it your own, and own it. It’s not about the author, and I’m not an expert up on a pedestal; I’m not perfect by any stretch. The real value comes when you can read someone’s work and get a hint of inspiration and then take a small action.

SF: Let’s get into successful career transitions. What are the key ingredients? What must people be mindful of as they’re thinking of changes in their careers and how those changes will affect the rest of their lives?

JB: The first thing I want people to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with you. We’re going to change careers much more frequently than previous generations. The mid-life and quarter-life crises are, in a way, relics of the past. We can expect that feeling every few years, so “pivot” is the new normal. We talk about startups pivoting and changing direction, and now people are going to have to learn the skill as well—at least the ones who are going to be the most agile and flexible.

The way to pivot is to think like a basketball player and have a three step process: plant, scan, and pilot. If you can picture a basketball player, they start by rounding down in their plant foot. Your planted feet are your strengths, your networks, what you love, and what you’re good at. Essentially, it’s what’s already working. I think so often we forget what we already have so much under our belts, and we’re so overwhelmed by what we don’t have or what’s not working. You really have to start from that grounded foundation—what are my strengths, what do I know—and then scan just like the basketball player with one foot grounded. Scanning the horizons should actually be fun: talk to people, see what’s out there, and identify your options. Then the third step, pilot, is all about taking the pressure off to have the next perfect career move. Pilot implies small experiments, just like a pilot TV show is one episode to see if the whole show is really going to catch. In your own career, what small, tiny experiments can you run to just assess, do I like this thing? Am I good at it? Is there more where that came from?

SF: Can you give us an example of that?

JB: Sure. When I was at Google doing AdWords product training, I started to realize that I was mostly interested in people. I had an idea that I wanted to make coaching as easy for Google employees to sign up for as a massage, one of the favorite perks of the company. I created a Google 10% Project with a friend to make coaching accessible to all employees, not just executives. Up until that point you had to get approval for coaching from your managers because career coaching is quite expensive. We created a program called Career Guru, and it ended up becoming a global program a year-and-a-half later, when a career development team was formed at Google. I was well-positioned to get a role on that team, but if I hadn’t done my little pilot and started with that 10% Project, I may not have gotten on the team when it was eventually created.

SF: That’s a great example. I’d love to hear you talk about how that enriched the rest of your life. That’s really the focus on our show here: how changes in work and life can influence the other parts of your life and vice versa.

JB: Stew, I love the idea you talk about regarding having that dance between work and life and a healthy integration between the two. I also love the idea of piloting as being a scientist in your own life. I think the enrichment extends far beyond work: what hobbies bring me joy? Maybe I take one cooking class, and it leads to a whole flurry of activity, but it has to start with just one little experiment to see if you’re going to like the thing you’re trying out.

I think the same goes for relationships too. We put feelers out. In careers, for example, there’s a lot of pressure to find a mentor, but I’ve always found it awkward to just go up to someone and say, will you be my mentor? The pilot approach, on the other hand, would be to just schedule one phone call. If you hit it off, great, and if not, that’s okay too. Over time you can let it develop into something.

SF: That reduces the pressure by making it lower risk, and, as you mentioned before, there’s a lot to be learned in that encounter, especially if you’re paying close attention to what that experiment might yield.

JB: Absolutely. I think the spirit of always piloting is that you’re never done. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t ever have to have all the answers. I think we humans like a challenge, and we like complex problems, so if we knew exactly what we wanted next in our careers and in our lives we would be bored! There’s definitely some element of just celebrating the confusion.

SF: Earlier you started talking about how Millennials should begin to see pivoting as a regular part of life and perceive the “new normal” to be one of continual transition. What do you see in the millennial generation specifically in terms of managing the relationship between work and the rest of life? How is that playing out, and what advice do you have for people starting out now regarding that crucial relationship between work, home, community, and the private self?

JB: In a way, people are wanting to integrate these dimensions of their lives now more than ever. Work is no longer something that we just leave at the office. I think there’s a real sense today that people are willing to forgo some amount of financial compensation in exchange for more meaning in their work. Right from the get-go, Millennials are not trying to be entitled, rather they just want to contribute. They want to give, they want to serve, and they don’t want to file papers because they want to have an impact. I think that’s wonderful.

The question becomes, how can you start at the entry level—where you likely don’t have the perfect job yet—and still add meaning anyway? If your job isn’t 100% integrated into your life the way you would like it to be, or it isn’t your most-soul connected job, then do what you can do on the side. That’s not to say that I think everyone needs to create a side-business, but even if it’s just one hour per week of writing or volunteering or joining a professional association, I’d invite you to create the solution that you’re seeking. It doesn’t all have to happen from your day job.

SF: Find some small piece of what you’re doing that’s going to give you a sense of purpose that will inspire you. That seems to me also to be the single defining feature of the Millennial generation: this desire to create meaning and to heal the broken world that we’re living in, in ways that the previous generations haven’t really taken as seriously.

JB: Right. I find that, first and foremost, Millennials want to feel that they’re growing. If they’re not growing within an organization pretty quickly, they’ll be antsy, and rightly so, because they don’t want to become obsolete. The other side of the growth, however, is impact. People of all ages who are very growth-oriented individuals and enjoy learning feel most engaged when they are personally learning and growing. After that need is met, they want to focus on making a bigger impact. The question is when you do hit a plateau in your career, what skills would be most exciting to cultivate? And how can you build a bridge from where you are now to where you want to go and the impact you eventually want to have?

SF: So it’s finding time to complete those small steps toward an idea that inspires you and allows you to give in ways that you’re not able to right now?

JB: Absolutely. And building a long-term bridge drops the need for credentials. Stew, back to your original question, regarding one small thing we can each do to add value to someone’s life? Listening does not require any extra credentials than you have now. Anyone can do that.

Jenny is the author of the forthcoming book, The Pivot Method: A Blueprint for Becoming More Agile in Work and Life (Portfolio/Penguin, 2016), and Life After College (Running Press, 2011), which is based on her blog of the same name. Today you can find her at JennyBlake.me, where she explores systems at the intersection of mind, body and business. Jenny is based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.


Radical Innovator in Healthcare — Stephen Klasko

Contributor: Akshat Shekhar

Work and Life is radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Stephen Klasko, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University.  Dr. Klasko has advocated for a more holistic approach to health care delivery, along with the smaller iterative changes that make such an approach possible.

The following are excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about “interactive action” and why that’s so important.

Stephen Klasko: Stephen KlaskoPart of what we’ve done in healthcare is focus on the past. Think about everything you can do as a consumer online.  The Friday after Thanksgiving you can be in your pajamas watching Game of Thrones and do all your holiday shopping.  But if you have a stomachache can you put “stomachache” on your iPhone and get an appointment with a doctor?

SF: WebMD—doesn’t it do that?

SK: No because with WebMD you cannot get an appointment with a doctor or really do “telehealth” like you would do anything else.  My goal is to look at what’s going to be obvious 10 years from now in healthcare and just start doing that today. A lot of that is changing the DNA of the system one physician at a time. The number one thing about the Affordable Care Act that hasn’t really been talked about is that we haven’t changed the physicians. Our physicians are living in the 80s and 90s, and yet we’re trying to build a 21st century healthcare system.

SF: Let’s stay on this concept of “interactive action,” and then talk in more detail about what you’re doing to change both the mindset and skillset of the medical community. How does “interactive action” come into play?

SK: We’ve gone to our docs and said, “I want you to visualize yourself as a patient, figure out what you would want if you were in their shoes, and then just start doing it.” I’ll give you a couple of examples. We started a model where our doctors, nurses, and population health professions are all working together in a simulation. We have things happen that would normally happen in a hospital, and we look specifically for their first communication. After, we talk to them about what they can do to change the way they interact with other folks in order to be more effective. There’s almost none of that in medical school. I never learned how to interact with a team member until I learned by doing when something went wrong.

SF: This simulated environment is for the seasoned professionals already on the job, right?

SK: Actually it’s for both. We created the Center for Transformation Innovation not only for the seasoned professionals, but also for our medical students. Everything about medical education is ‘look to the left of you, look to the right of you—only one of you will get in.’ It’s constant competition in medical education, but then we’re amazed when physicians don’t work together as high-powered teams. A lot of my research has been based on what makes physicians different from average people. Interactive action is about taking steps to go from having physicians being autonomous, competitive, and hierarchical creatures to having them become more interdependent and members of a team.

SF: Wow, that sounds radical, Steve. So what does it mean for a physician to become a member of a team?

SK: It means you have to teach doctors more “followership” as opposed to leadership. We thought it was a big revolution to teach doctors leadership, but some of us are pretty good leaders already. We like to give orders. Now it’s about how we become followers. Maybe the nurse knows more about something than you do, and you have to listen. It’s about listening skills, interaction skills, and ultimately making those practices an important part of what they do every day. We’ve shown that this model provides better care because medical teams are communicating better.  In an accountable care organization in Florida we showed improvements in the triple aims of patient satisfaction, cost, and quality, just by communicating and interacting in a different way. Rather than doctors giving orders, we encourage getting teams together and making decisions together.

SF: What resistance have you met in trying to push a different mindset and role for physicians in the medical community? What was the most important hurdle you overcame?

SK: I actually did a study with Richard Shell from Wharton about why doctors don’t understand collaboration and found that doctors blindly followed rules. When the MBAs didn’t get it, they said, “We failed.” When the doctors didn’t get it, they said, “I’m really sorry, but at least the other person didn’t win either.” The way we select and educate physicians now creates a cult around a competitive, autonomous, hierarchical, and non-creative bias.

SF: Non-creative?

SK: The issue is not that we’re not creative, but when we asked MBAs and entrepreneurs if creativity was something that helped them in their profession, they said yes. Doctors, not so much. When I went to Wharton, they said, “You are so lucky to be in a $2 trillion industry in transition. Things are going to be good and going to be changing.” Then I’d be back in our old lounge, looking at the same set of data, and doctors would say, “I wish things were still the way they were 20 years ago.”

SF: They were threatened by change.

SK: The MBAs felt change would help them come up with an answer, whereas we doctors felt we would be autonomous creatures losing control.  We found that to deprogram this cult that we doctors are entering into, we have to change the DNA of the system by selecting and educating physicians in a totally different way than we do in medical schools today.

SF: That’s a big agenda, Steve. Where do you start with the education and socialization of medical students?

SK: We still accept students based on science GPAs, MCATs, and organic chemistry grades.

SF: Well, I want my doctors to be smart.

SK: One thing is that we’ve been surprised that doctors aren’t more empathetic communicators. Is a doctor with a 3.9 in memorizing biology much better than a doctor with a 3.6 or 3.5? Or would you rather have a doctor with a 3.5, who memorizes 92% of the Krebs cycle instead of 100%, but also can communicate with you? We started a medical school admission model where we actually choose the students based on emotional intelligence. We’ve chosen 56 students a year based on empathy and social awareness. Once they reached certain academic minimums, we knew they were smart enough on science.

SF: So technical excellence is needed, but you also need to be able to communicate effectively and listen well. Once you make a certain cut, then you test on other factors?

SK: We look for self-awareness and empathy, much like Google and the airline industry do. They want to conduct behavioral and clinical interviews. We take these applicants to art museums, for example, and we ask, “What do you see?” Half the kids can only see what they see linearly.

SF: Concrete thinking.

SK: I’ve delivered over 2,200 babies, and I know it’s easy to deliver a healthy baby. But if you deliver a Downs Syndrome baby and the mother asks, “Doctor, what does that mean?” you can’t reply “It means that the chromosome…” Consider that doctor compared to another who says “Your vision of what a perfect baby means might have to be adjusted.”

SF: Now you’re helping me understand.

SK: It’s about seeing versus observing. To see is to see linearly, to see the DNA, but to observe is to recognize what signals the patient is giving you. We believe the folks we accept based on empathy and self-awareness will be better partners, better fathers or mothers, and better in their work-life integration.

SF: Why is that important to you, as the CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Health System?

SK: It’s important to me because I believe that in order for healthcare to fundamentally transform, it needs to be about the people that provide the care. If we have a more stable and caring workforce of physicians and nurses, patients will get better care, and we’ll be able to provide better access to them.

One of the things we do at Jefferson which I love is that we have a practice which includes standardized patients. We have the physician go through what they would actually go through in an examination, but then we have the patient critique them while videotaping the doctor throughout. Normally medical schools just check off whether or not you asked all the right questions, but we look at the communication skills, and we ask the patient how he or she did in that regard. If a doctor or faculty member says, for example, “That’s ridiculous, I wasn’t looking at my watch,” we can check at the video like when a golf instructor tells you you’re lifting your head in your swing.

SF: Does it break through to them once they see the data?

SK: Well, if they’ve been doing this for 20 years, they’ll say they think the video was doctored! For the medical students, they really get it: think about not doing that, and think about the fact that we unleash doctors on folks without any of that cultural bias training. Part of the training we’ve done is that we’ve coached these medical professionals and residents so that their overall professionalism skills will be up to where they need to be.

SF: The fact that physicians need to have lives that are enriched not just in the clinic, but also in what they’re doing in the home and community—why is that important to you and the future of medicine?

SK: That’s sort of my job, as a president of a university. I gave a talk on “Humans of Tomorrow” in the Hospitals of Tomorrow for US News and World Report, and I started out by telling my introducer, “You know what? I may never get invited back here after saying this, but I think you’re a big part of the problem in healthcare because what you judge us on is not based on what you personally would want in a doctor. You judge us on technical attributes, but not how our folks are doing after spending $200,000 at our university.” He looks at me and says, “You’re right—you’re right that you’ll never be invited back!” But since I charge these students $55,000 a year, I view an important part of my job as ensuring that five years from now, that doctor that came from Jefferson not only provides great care, but he or she also provides great caring. I also would like to know that they’re great mothers or fathers and partners, and I view that as my job too, not just teaching biology and cardiology and OB/GYN.

SF: How did you come to that understanding that an important part of your job is that people have lives beyond work that are enriching and meaningful?

SK: Frankly, a lot of it came from when I went to Wharton and law school and seeing that there are different ways of teaching. The way we select and educate physicians is not only maybe creating a cult, but it also might not be the right way to the future. I looked and saw that so many of my physician friends had gone through divorce and had not been happy in their profession. The Wall Street Journal says 70% of physicians feel unhappy 2 or 3 years out, and they’re also not happy about their futures. I think they’re unhappy because they’re autonomous, competitive, hierarchical, and they don’t think creativity.

Our goal is to create physicians that are excited, for example, about change, so that when something like the Affordable Care Act comes, they ask “How can I help?” as opposed to “How can I go back to where we were 20 years ago?”

If you go to a tennis coach for a year, you expect to be a better tennis player. At Jefferson, we’ve launched a pilot initiative to make our patients feel better a year from now. We’re bringing in more than just the typical physicians to help them do that. Medicine needs to go from these episodic sicknesses to continual and sustained wellness.

SF: That’s so exciting, Stephen. For people listening out there, can you share what you have learned about creating meaningful change in organizations that you’d like to pass on?

SK: If you look in my office, there are two quotes. One’s from Buckminster Fuller: “If you really want to change something, don’t try to change the existing reality. Create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.” A little further in my office is another philosopher, Mike Tyson, who says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I believe if I’m running a mom-and-pop shop or academic medical center and something needs to be changed, I need to start by creating an optimistic view for people around the future. We have a great morale here because we’re trying to envision and create the future today.

Dr. Stephen Klasko, a Wharton grad,  is the President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health System.  To learn more about his work follow him on Twitter @SKlasko.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.”

About the Author

Akshat Shekhar akshat shekharis an undergraduate junior at Wharton and in the Engineering School.

A Life of Learning Leadership — Eric Greitens

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Eric Greitens, former Navy SEAL and Purple Heart recipient, CEO of the Greitens Group, and author of the memoir The Heart and the Fist, about his not-for-profit The Mission Continues, which empowers returning veterans of foreign wars to continue to serve in their home communities.

Stew Friedman: Eric, you are the youngest of the six people that I profiled in my new book, Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. The oldest, by the way, is Bruce Springsteen, so you two guys anchored the age scale. But you’ve truly lived a number of lives in the time you’ve lived on this beautiful earth: you’ve been a Rhodes Scholar, a humanitarian worker, a Navy Seal, and the founder of a very important and successful not-for-profit about which you wrote in your memoir, The Heart and the Fist.

Let me ask you about the moments that were of particular interest to me. You were a boxer and a humanitarian worker back in the 90s. What did you learn from those experiences that served you well in your service in the military and in your founding of The Mission Continues?

Eric Greitens:  Eric GreitensI’ve truly learned a lot from both of those experiences. I started boxing when I was at Duke University—college kid going down to a gym in the inner city there in North Carolina. What was fun for me was that I had this great boxing coach named Earl Blair. Earl Blair had grown up in the Depression, served in the military at the tail end of World War II, and was working in a warehouse when he was coaching me. His real passion, though, was teaching boxing, and he was really teaching life at night to a bunch of kids who really needed it in this gym in the inner city. One of the things that Earl always said to me when I was boxing was to “watch Derek.” Derek was one of my training partners—he was about 26 years old, a professional fighter, and a construction worker. Every time I’d step up to the heavy bags, to the speed bags, to the jump rope, Earl would always say, “Watch Derek.”

The lesson that Earl knew was that we learn best when we actually have models in front of us. He understood that it’s really hard for us to learn any new skill on our own, but when we have a model whom we can imitate and emulate, it helps us learn much more quickly. Now what was fun for me was that I’d be doing this down in the boxing gym, and then I’d be back on campus later reading Aristotle, who says, “You will know what the good thing is by seeing what the good person does.” So I had Aristotle and my boxing coach Earl Blair both saying the same thing.

The lesson I’ve taken from that, which certainly we use in the work we do at The Mission Continues with returning veterans, is that oftentimes, especially when things are hard, especially when people are facing a place of pain, hardship, and difficulty, they need to have a model in front of them for how to get through it.

In practice, what we do at The Mission Continues is, if we have a group of 100 veterans coming together from Afghanistan and Iraq, and we’re at the end of our opening weekend, we will make sure that over the course of the weekend they will hear from a veteran who’s dealt with and overcome severe post-traumatic stress disorder. They’ll see and hear the story of a veteran who might have lost his eyesight, lost a limb, or been severely burned. They’ll talk to people who had trouble integrating with their family when they came back, people who struggled financially or who struggled to set up or find private sector employment. By seeing these models of people who have successfully made it through hardship, people begin to see how they can do this again in their own lives. I think that was one of the things I learned from Earl that we use in the work that we do today. I think we always have to make sure, no matter what age we are, that we have models to emulate.

SF: This is a fantastic example of one of the skills that I really hone in on in your story. For each of the six people I analyzed, I wanted to see what are the skills that these great leaders and people of significance have cultivated to lead the lives they truly want and go out and serve others with their talents and passions. The one that you’re referring to here, Eric, is this notion of applying all your resources, which means taking what you’ve learned or somehow gathered in one part of your life and applying it in others. Learning the value of models, even 20 years ago, is something that you’re now bringing to bear in making The Mission Continues even more powerful. It’s just one example of many that is illustrated in your story, and it’s a great one. Taking the lessons of experience from wherever you get them—whether it’s a ratty gym in the inner city of Durham or on the fields of battle—and then using them later in life by harvesting those skills and applying them, which you did so well.

There are other things that you’ve learned, especially in your humanitarian efforts, about how people survive in the most challenging and even horrific circumstances. Can you talk about that?

EG: My first real experience of doing hard humanitarian work overseas was in Bosnia in 1994. As people will remember, this was during the horrible campaigns of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. I was 20 years old at the time, and I was living and working in refugee camps. I remember I’d see people step off of these busses into the refugee camps, and they were literally carrying everything that they owned. They’d lost their homes, they’d lost their clothing, and they’d lost every material possession. Many of them had also lost friends and had lost family. If somebody listening right now thinks about that—what it would be like right now to lose everything you own and step. What I saw that was interesting in the refugee camps was that oftentimes the people who were doing best in the camp were the parents and grandparents who had really young kids. The people who were oftentimes struggling the most were the people who were my age at the time, older teenagers or young adults. They felt like their lives had been cut short, but they didn’t really feel like they had any purpose to serve.

SF: Because they had no dependents? There was nobody counting on them?

EG: Exactly. The parents and the grandparents knew that every single day they had to get up and be strong because their kid was counting on them. That lesson, again, is something we took to the work we do at The Mission Continues, and I think it is a lesson for all of us. When things are really hard, when we’re really struggling in a situation of pain and hardship, it’s really natural and can be really easy to turn in on ourselves. What we often need to do is to remember the fact that there are other people counting on us to be strong. When we have a sense of purpose that is larger than ourselves, and when we remember that other people need our strength and what we have to offer, it often helps us to make it through those difficult situations as well.

SF: That is the ultimate theme that I drew from writing these six biographies. I looked back and thought, well, that’s it! Each and every one of the people that I wrote about, including you, has found a way to use their particular skills and passions and converted that to value to others. I think that is how you lead the life you want—you get the strength of confidence to progress through life, through all its disappointments and tragedies, by having this mindset of “Where can I serve?” and “How can I be of value?”

EG: One of the nice things I picked out from the book when reading about Bruce Springsteen is where you talk about how he embodies values consistently and creates this culture of innovation. It’s this idea that there are specific skills that people can pull on, build, and develop, and I think your book is a whole series of models about how people can learn from others to build the life they want.

SF: Another one of the skills I thought was so powerfully illustrated in your story was this notion of holding yourself accountable. Your story, to me, is such a wonderful example of doing that when you realized that compassion and charitable works were not enough, and that, when there are bad guys out there, they must be stopped through physical means. Can you talk about how you came to that realization and what it meant for you to make the decision to hold yourself accountable for what was emerging as your understanding of what your core values really were?

EG: I remember when I was a young kid, I wanted to make a difference. In the cleansing in Bosnia and in the genocide in Rwanda where over 800,000 to one million people had been killed, I remember talking to a number of refugees, and they all said some version of, “Listen, we really appreciate that you’re here, and we’re glad that there is a roof over our head, and we really deeply appreciate the fact that there’s food for our families to eat. You’ve even set up places for refugee kids to go to school…” But what was also really clear, and in fact, one guy in Bosnia said this to me: “If people really cared about us, they’d also be willing to protect us.”

I didn’t know what to say to him at the time, but I thought about what he said later, and I realized that what he said was true. If we really care about something, then we’re willing to respond not only with compassion, but we’re also willing to respond with courage. We’re willing to protect those things we care about. For me, at the time I was doing a lot of this work, I was a graduate student. I was talking a lot, I was thinking a lot, and that was all important. But I also felt very strongly that if I was going to hold myself accountable, if I was going to live my values, I also had to find a way to be willing to protect others. That led me to think about joining the US military and ultimately the SEAL teams.

SF: What was the internal struggle there to come to that decision? In terms of being willing to make that kind of change and sacrifice in your everyday life?

EG: One of the things that happens in life is that we all want good things. I was 26 years old, and I joined the military relatively late. At the time, I was finishing a PhD, and I was in a very comfortable place where I had an offer to stay in a university and continue to teach, and I knew that would have been valuable and meaningful work. I had an opportunity to go to a consulting firm which offered to pay me more money than both of my parents had ever made in any one year period, and I also had this offer from the United States Navy where they said, “We’ll pay you $1,332.60 per month.” They said, “The deal is if you sign up on the dotted line, then you’re going to owe us eight years. In return for that, we’ll give you one and only one chance at basic underwater demolition sea training. If you make it through, you’ll be on your way to being a Navy SEAL, but if you don’t, you’re still going to owe us eight years.” It’s not actually a really great recruiting pitch from the Navy. [Laughs].

But I remember as I was thinking about all of these options, there was actually a moment when I walked into this place on the University of Oxford campus called Rhodes House, and I looked up and saw these names etched in the marble of the Rotunda where you walked into the building. I didn’t know what those names were, so I asked somebody later, and it turned out those were the names of students who had left school in World War I and World War II and who had fought and died overseas.

It’s a really powerful reminder. It was a reminder for me, and it was a reminder, I think, for everybody who walks through those doors that our lives are only possible because people before us had been willing to serve and willing to sacrifice. And for me, at that moment, I thought about what you write in your book a lot about how we have to hold ourselves accountable. When I looked up at those names, I thought that I had to take advantage of this opportunity to serve and that I had to find a way to contribute, and again, that’s what led me there.

SF: So that was the turning point, seeing those names on the wall?

EG: It was a really important moment, yes.

SF: You also told me in our conversations for the book that, even as a kid, you had kind of fantastical ideas about wanting to be in a historical moment where you did something important.

EG: Yes, absolutely. I remember as a kid actually reading these books in my local public library—I’d hang out in a little corner and read—and I remember worrying that all of the great battles had already been fought. All of the important things had already been done, and all of these new lands had been discovered. I wondered, What can I do? What can we do? I think, for all of us, if we’re going to build our vocation and really build our sense of purpose, we’re going to have to find ways to embrace our own time and the challenges that we have in front of us. Thinking like that led me to go to Bosnia and Rwanda and start this journey where I joined the SEAL teams and started The Mission Continues. I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate any of that when I was a kid, but the journey has been a good one.

SF: So how do you teach that idea? How do you convey it to young people or the people you work with through The Mission Continues—this notion of finding that connection to what you really care about, what you stand for, what you’re willing to die for, and to move in that direction? I think that’s an issue that many people face, and learning to hold yourself accountable is a skill that’s not easy to hone and develop. It’s easy to slip.

EG: It is incredibly easy to slip, and I think that one of the things we have to do is to get rid of this notion that you can find your purpose. I often tell people you can’t find your purpose because your purpose isn’t lost. It’s not like it’s sitting out there somewhere waiting for you to find it. When you look at the lives of people who have really lived full and harmonious lives, as you talk about, Stew, you find that it is a process of creation. Often what we have to do is to throw ourselves into things, not knowing exactly where they’re going to take us. For me, it was throwing myself into boxing when I was at Duke and throwing myself into the study of philosophy. When you really dive in, it’s actually in that experience of pushing yourself, of challenging yourself, of having the right mentors, of being a part of the right teams—that’s where you really build that passion and create it, actually in the process of doing the work itself.

SF: Some people think of that as education. You explore new avenues for bringing your talents, your ideas, your passions to whatever circumstances are available to you, and you discover along the way, but you need help with that, right? Your story is such a great one in illustrating how you drew on the support of many mentors throughout your life and career. You wouldn’t be where you are now if not for Earl Blair, I would venture to say.

EG: I wouldn’t be where I am without Earl Blair, Barb Osburg, my high school English teacher, Bruce Carl, my Leadership St. Louis mentor when I was a teenager, so many great professors at Duke University, and so many good friends. I think that if we have the humility to recognize that everyone has something to teach us, then we can go out into the world and find ways to learn from our peers, learn from our fellow students, learn from colleagues, and really make everyone a teacher for us.

SF:  There’s an important caveat in that statement, and that is “if you have the humility.” You learned that somehow—probably your parents taught it to you or maybe you picked it up somewhere else. How do you coach people, especially young people, to understand the importance of learning from the world around them, and especially learning from people who have been around for a while?

EG: One of the things I think we have to do is to structure activities for young people where they are, in fact, learning from mentors. Too often today when we think about education, we only think about kids learning information. There’s an aspect of education in the sense that they’re going to learn information, but there’s also an important aspect of cultural training, and this comes from coaches, and it comes from mentors. I think it’s really important for young people to be engaged in these kinds of activities where they can learn from a mentor.

In fact, it’s important not just for kids, but for all of us to do that. I found it’s important for me to do it at my age. For example, I just started Taekwondo a couple of years ago. One of the great things about that is that I got to a place in my life where I was the CEO of my own company, I was running The Mission Continues, and I was writing books, but it’s really important in my life, and I think maybe for others as well, to always be at a place where you’re learning. It’s about learning wherever you are, and it’s about building a life so that in an aspect of your life you’re always learning from people around you. I think that spirit of always being the student, at least in part of your life, is really important, especially as we get into positions of more and more power and prominence where we’re leaders in companies and leaders in families. If we have that place where we’re also always students, it reminds us to stay humble and to keep learning.

SF: Eric, let me ask you just one more question. You’ve recently become a father. Can you give us a brief insight into how that’s changed your perspective on leading the life you want?

EG: I am so excited Joshua arrived just eleven weeks ago. It’s been a mind-blowingly wonderful experience. One thing that parenting does do for sure—and other people have said this—is that it gives you a sense of your own mortality. I’m excited for the life that Joshua’s going to lead, and we, as parents, really want to think about what’s going to be lasting and what our legacy is going to be.

Eric Greitens is the founder of The Mission Continues, a not-for-profit that helps returning veterans continue to serve in their home communities, and the CEO of The Greitens Group.  He is also the author of The Heart and The Fist and a former Navy Seal and Purple Heart recipient. For information on his new book coming out in March, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life and more,visit him online at www.ericgreitens.com, or follow him on Twitter @EricGreitens.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


Morgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Building a Life, Not a Resume — Tom Tierney

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Tom Tierney, Chairman and Co-founder of Bridgespan, the leader in non-profit consulting, and former CEO of Bain.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You are one of the six people I profile in Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life.  In my analysis of your life story, I describe how you exemplify the skills of envisioning your legacy, weaving disparate strands, and seeing new ways of doing things.  What do you do to ensure you’re building a life and not a resume?

Tom Tierney: Tom Tierny I heard recently that “days are long but life is short.”  It’s important to step back and ask what matters.  We are all different and have an opportunity to take advantage of our unique circumstance and gifts and apply those to achieve “success” as we define it. I try to step back and ask, “Have we achieved those things in life that matter most to us?” “What have you done with your gifts?” It’s not what’s in the bank or on paper.

SF: So toenvision your legacy, you try to keep the big picture in mind.

TT: What is success in life for me? I ask myself periodically. And at the end of the year I do a retreat with myself, and with my notebooks.  How’d I do this year with my wife? My sons? Work? Community? My volunteer activities? How’d I do? What can I do better? I keep a journal. A couple of dozen by now.  The act of writing helps me think about it and to overcome inertia.  Time marches on and we have to get ahead of time. I keep notes, get feedback from others.  My wife is my best coach. She asks, “Are you sure you’re living up to what you want to achieve?”

SF:  You have a commitment to continual learning and reflection, examining what is and what might be. And you invest time to reflect. But you must face pressure to get on with other things and pressure from others to do so.  How do you keep that commitment to journaling, reflecting?

TT: Discipline is a really important attribute. Someone asked if, all things being equal I’d rather have 20% smarter or 20% more disciplined on my team. It’s the later, because that person is able to make tough decisions at the margins, tiny tradeoffs. For example, I walk to work, and then there’s the escalator or 45 steps. I take the 45 steps.

SF: You’re smart about your choices.  They’re deliberate.

TT: Discipline manifests itself in little ways.  Do I exercise? Work at home or go in on the weekend? Not check email in the evening.  It’s the little choices on the margins that add up.

SF: How do you manage pressure from colleagues? How do you keep those boundaries?

TT: I find that most of the challenge is in my own head; thinking that I’m indispensable. I’ve experimented with being off the grid and surprisingly the world does not stop. And of the hundreds of emails, I find that someone else handled it, or it wasn’t really urgent. We too often focus on what is urgent versus what’s important.

SF: How do you remain focused on what’s really important and not get caught up in the urgent?

TT: I’ll ask the question, “How important is it today? And how important is it for the future?”  Here are my priorities, things I value, that really matter to me.  We are too reactive to the urgent. It’s asking the question. Making time to look backwards and forwards.  Creating feedback loops. And not getting caught up with inertia or what other people want.

SF: Is this what you’re teaching about leadership at West Point?

TT: I conduct seminars on how to succeed at life. People say the cadets are too young.  But this is always relevant because we are always confronted with choices. And we can learn from each others’ experiences.  We are all the same. Who isn’t struggling with having a great home life and work life?  We want to learn from authorities. But everybody around you can teach you.  A 19 year old cadet asked the question: How can I develop confidence to confront superior who I think is making a mistake? I turned it to class. Some had been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. We had a robust conversation about how to address problems with a boss. How to manage up by exerting influence versus control? You can ask questions and go through others.

SF: Exactly, others can answer if you engage in dialogue. So, what’s been your worst mistake?

TT: I have diagnosed my mistake patterns. When I have strategic life decision like who you’re going to marry. Then I think long and hard. My mistakes occur when they’re insidious voluntary errors, tactical mistakes. I rush to judgment without leaving my mind open. I can pigeon-hole ideas and people.  I can shut down the receiver and when I do that I am worse off.

SF: Maybe that’s why you are relentless in asking yourself the difficult questions, to counterbalance this tendency you believe you have.

TT: If I’m not careful, I’ll ignore, because I’m task oriented. It’s my fundamental flaw.

SF: But youcompensate for what you perceive to be a flaw.  What do you do, and what can others do too?

TT: Awareness. And put on the brakes. If I’m off, tell me that. My son says, “Dad, I hear you, but have you ever thought about it this way?” That’s the cue for me to hit the pause button.

SF: To keep the receiver open.

TT: You miss a lot of texture if you shut stuff out that which doesn’t fit with your mental model.

SF: So what’s the big idea in order to lead the life you want?

TT: I find it’s true in philanthropy in volunteering:  humanity (care about something broader than just you), humility (it’s not just about me), and courage (do right thing in the right way).  Success is defined as building a life, not a resume.

Tom Tierney stepped down as CEO at Bain to co-found The Bridgespan Group, the leader in consulting in the non-profit sector. To learn more follow @BridgespanGroup, @ThomasJ_Tierney


Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Why Play Matters — Andy Stefanovich

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Andy Stefanovich, provocateur and leading thinker and doer in the field of creativity and innovation at work.  The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: In 1990 you founded a company called Play, which was such an innovative, original concept, to think of play at work, because we typically think of work and play as a dichotomy.  Why does being playful and creative matter in all parts of our lives – even at work?

Andy Stefanovich:  StefanovichWork should be more like play, not playful. Serious, strategic, provocative, thoughtful, innovative, creative, spirited. Those were the things I wanted to affirm. I wanted to bring this important philosophy to executives to unleash imagination, and change organizations.

Watching my father work for GM for 48 years, with no college, but a strong work ethic. He worked for a living and he was rewarded. But he wished the spirit of people were more alive.  He wished we could be more authentic without it being looked down upon on.  Mylife and career is taking that legacy and bringing it to life, asking questions.

How we can change the mood, ethos, culture?  It’s like the weather, creating a mood of innovation and truth. What mental preparedness can we build to face confusion with tolerance?  How long can you stay in a place of grey?  How do you build a mindset that is founded on consciousness and awareness?  What mechanisms do you have that are levers, tools, technology, and strategy to drive change?  How are you measuring what matters?

SF: How do you tap into the wellspring of energy and power from playing. Where do you start?

AS:  A good journal. Write about what empowers you.

SF: You write by hand?

AS: I imagine, I dream, I believe. Write the way a TED talk is constructed. Imagine walking on the stage, I believe deeply in _____.  Passion persuades. Let everyone know who you are. Be a one trick pony. It’s a profound way to capture the imagination of people. I believe it’s important now for these three or four reasons.

SF: So, you need to focus onhere’s what I believe” and “here’s why it’s important now.”

AS: And invite the world to participate. Have an open aperture.  Work should not be work, it should be play.

SF: So how to open that aperture?

AS: Figure out your strong belief, your strong view. Let those in your circle know. Create a consortium of believers

SF: Off broadway, on the road.

AS: Yes, test it with your close-in community. Condition the room, say, “this may be off the wall, but I believe that ____. “ People like intuition vs. intellectual.

SF: How is this playful?

AS: It meets the room where it needs to be. Now it’s too organized, too constructed, too perfect. Ceremonial, like a Greek Orthodox script. Ritual is half script and half chance. Give people more permission, more honesty, more truth.

SF: How do you find creativity, innovation, and change in work and life?

AS: From a curatorial standpoint. Editing the excellence of the world and putting it before others. The High Line in NYC is a good example. There are three words to guide all of it: slow, wild and quiet. Not manicured landscaping. Slow steps. What are the three words that will steward you?

SF: And mood, as you referred to earlier?

AS: It’s a way to access more of your creativity, play, innovation. Make people know that these are the three things that guide me. What are yours? Then use each other for implied expertise.

SF: What have you learned about how can a person live a more inspired life?

AS: A truthful existence. Not waking up and behaving parts. You taught me about family, community, being whole. Not whimsy, but creative center, comfortable, controlled, thoughtful, intentional. Awareness level unleashes. More truthful.  People want it. There’s too much inauthenticity.  People are starving for it.

Andy Stefanovich, author of best-selling Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation.  

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.




Generosity Breeds Connection – Keith Ferrazzi

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke Keith Ferrazzi, a thought leader in American business and author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back – both best sellers.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to understand the importance and  power of interpersonal connections, of networking, for business?  And especially, how did you come to understand the importance of service, helping others, as way of creating value for ones self?

Keith Ferrazzi: Keith FerrazziIt started with our own practice of doing cultural transformation in organizations, especially in sales organizations.  And I learned  that when you’re trying to build relationships it’s important to be of service. I joke that the first rule of relationships is that nobody has time for one with you!  So you better make sure that you’re reaching out with enormous generosity. We’ve been teaching and coaching that with managers and leaders. I found that people were willing to change if leaders were of service to their people; that’s what had predictive power. If you want your people to change make sure they recognize that you’re in service to them. I started looking at how could change my own behavior.  I started experimenting with things in social contexts. How can I and my family practice generosity and service?

SF: So you were connecting different domains; taking a lesson from work and applying it at home, in the community and for your own growth in ways that produced meaning for you and others. What have you been discovering?

KF: At a Renaissance Weekend, a non-partisan retreat, which my family and I have been attending, about how society can change, my fiancé said, “we keep talking about this, but let’s do something about it.”  I’m on boards of directors, but let’s do something at the grass roots level. So we volunteered for Meals on Wheels, we started in the kitchens, then we delivered meals. In the process I met a little old lady, who was all dressed up for us; we were the only people she saw that day. As a result of that experience and others like it my relationship with my own family started to change.

SF: How did this effect you?  In what ways did the experience change you?

KF: I focused on my blessings and on gratitude.  The experience melted our hearts and souls so that we were more open to each other. It’s powerful. And I decided: I’m going to bring my team from FerrazziGreenlight to this. I’ve been involved in foster care. 80% of the US prison population came from foster care.  And foster care is correlated with prostitution. These kids never learned how to trust. They were treated transactionally. They sought intimacy in prostitution and family in gangs. So we started volunteering with fosters in foster homes. And we did this with our employees and with our clients.  We started coaching our employees and clients so that they could help these kids learn to trust more. Derivative of organizational education at Intel and Cisco and elsewhere.

SF: How does sales training apply?

KF: Intimacy, generosity, candor and accountability. You need empathy (intimacy). Gain trust by leading with generosity. Both intimacy and generosity lead to candor and accountability

SF: Can you give us some examples?

KF: If you’d like to have better personal relationship with your spouse or boss, lead with generosity. Bring flowers, put out the trash; generosity of spirit and practice. Then they’ll say, “I’ll give this person a shot.” They’ll let guard down. You can deeply connect around mutual vulnerability, which leads to intimacy, which leads to trust and then they’ll tell you more about what they need; it’s a cycle. And it’s the same in the workplace.

SF: How does leading with generosity lead to vulnerability?

KF: I talk with you about my challenges, frustrations, fears, anxieties concerning my 20 year old son and that would connect us.

SF: It would. I’d tell you about my own 20 year old daughter here at Penn!

KF: We can’t connect them, but the act of sharing humanity connects us. Just because it’s purposeful doesn’t mean it’s fake. If it’s real, it’s not fake — if your heart and soul is intentional, sincere. You can connect around service which can accelerate intimacy.

SF: What are some of the major outcomes of these interventions?

KF: At Greenlight Giving I’ve seen a  16 year old girl, the child of a client, who was primarily concerned about getting the “right car” for her birthday who has been changed by the experience of our trip to Guatemala where she sees those who have so much less than she does, who are happy.  She needs to think differently. My own foster children, now my adoptive kids, lied and stole just to make sure they had enough. But the experience in Guatemala changed him so now he gives his own money to help others. And this builds customer loyalty. Through service to customers and service to each other, this builds loyalty. It opens peoples’ hearts and souls to those in need. Release the brain to exercise the muscle of empathy and care.  Grow in relationships and in collaborative potential.

SF: What suggestions do you have for listeners?

KF: Deliver Meals on Wheels. Help at a soup kitchen. Give out MacDonald’s gift certificate with your employees and ask the recipients for their stories; how did they end up needing this help. How’d they get here?  Those are “light” ways. Heavier ways include, for example, working with GM to shift their corporate culture by coaching field reps to build better networks with their dealerships.  We packaged that training to HS kids in bad neighborhoods. Teach and grow.

SF: We learn by teaching others.

KF: This is anecdotal, but those who taught were more deeply connected to the IP (Intellectual Property) on the job. Their scores with the dealerships went up. It’s how to be a better leader through service. When you have to teach others it helps to cement the learning.

SF: What’s the most important thing you’d like to tell our listeners?

KF: To learn and grow one has to experience. We are not a training company, but a coaching and experience company that helps to shift behavior. If you want to be more intimately connected, then service the most destitute to break your heart open. The more service, the more you’ll show up as the kind of person people will want to connect to.

SF: People can be afraid. How can they overcome fears?

KF: With a Sherpa, a guide. It’s totally safe at Meals on Wheels.

Keith Ferrazzi is the best-selling author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back. To learn more about his work, follow him on twitter: @Ferrazzi.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


Crafting Sustainable Careers — Monique Valcour

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke Monique Valcour, Professor of Management at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France about crafting sustainable careers.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about your work on crafting sustainable careers.

Monique Valcour: MoniqueValcourCareers and Work/Family are both long-term interests of mine. Over time I’ve combined the two.  I think crafting a sustainable career must start from a foundation of deep self-awareness, understanding, for example, what am I good at,  what do I really care about, how can I keep learning, how can I follow my passions and make money from it so it’s truly sustainable.  This is about a work/life integration over the life course.

SF: Exactly,and this is what we’ve been doing here at Wharton and elsewhere with Total Leadership.  Asking people to clarify what’s really important (their vision and values), who’s really important and then asking them to try small experiments to better align their actions with their values. How do you help people know themselves better, to figure out what they are good at, to clarify and articulate what they care about, so that they can continue to grow, pursuing what maters? How do you help them gain the insight and the courage?

MV: It’s the importance of being proactive; reflecting and tracking. Everybody needs to be a social scientist and study their own experience.  I like to recommend an end of week review; what have you accomplished, what feedback did you get, when were you most engaged, what are your goals for next week? I suggest that people keep a file — word doc or email folder – of positive mentions or positive feedback, what was high impact.  Later they can bring these little threads together to better understand themselves.

SF: This is precisely what our guest last week, Gretchen Spreitzer, was reporting on from her own research at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business’ Center for  Positive Organizations and her new book with Jane Dutton, How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact. She reported that their study included tracking regularly and looking for patterns. This may be easy for us in academia with our students. But does it require a classroom, accountability and support? Without structure how do you maintain the discipline?

MV: Teresa Amabile, Professor at Harvard Business School, says it’s very powerful to have the experience of making progress. So, you can use goal oriented programs, note your progress, and give yourself a boost on a daily basis as you move toward your goal.

SF: Amabile’s Progress Principle is all about the benefits of identifying progress. So, how do you align your career with what you care about, what you value, what you are passionate about and make a living doing it? That’s challenging.

MV: People struggle with the feeling of being overloaded, having too much work, doing one-and-a-half jobs. With all that how can they get more training, how can they get out?  So they stay the course.

SF: How do you help? What can be done?

MV: Most of your career growth and learning happens in your job, not necessarily in school.  So it’s important to consider how to refocus, even slightly, at work.  How can you learn about other projects in your company, how can you work with others who energize you?

SF: People and projects are both opportunities for growth. You want to look for who you can connect with. What about our earlier caller who was seeking advice for his millennial niece on job crafting?

MV: Get your head out of the hole and look around. It’s up to you. See and learn what’s going on in your company. In what direction is your company going? Too many people feel as though they’re waiting to be picked off, which is frightening and stressful; the fear of being let go. She should have lunch with others outside her immediate circle, use LinkedIn to see what others do, use a company intranet to connect and post to it; spread her own capital. Brian, another caller, felt overwhelmed and felt that he couldn’t pivot.  I recommend that he try to find a mentor, a local association, to gain inspiration and to connect.  He can ask others about innovative ways they scaled their businesses.  He can try to identify those people, perhaps through industry events.  People are open if approached by someone who wants to learn.  You want your social network to reflect, not where you’ve been, but where you’re headed. Do informational interviews with others. Use LinkedIn and blogs in specific areas. Entrepreneurs and small business owners are often more effective if they are in a network that includes complimentary services/goods. It’s good to get and to receive help.

SF: So it’s useful to consider related fields and people in them. What other small changes can help get someone’s “head out of sand?”

MV: Figure out and understand what is it that you have that’s unique and valuable. Be curious so you can become more knowledgeable. Connect two disconnected networks, curate knowledge and share. Information is a classic source of power and reputation. Synthesizing is wonderful skill. Or find someone who can synthesize information and learn from them. Talk to as many people as possible, read, listen, learn. Listen to yourself, know yourself and what fuels you. Listen to your inner voice.


Monique Valcour isProfessor of Management, EDHEC Business School in Nice, France.  She previously served on the faculty of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.   Her research program focuses on careers, work-life integration, human resource and performance management, and management practices that support well-being and performance.  She is currently writing a book on managing sustainable careers. To learn more about her work, follow her on twitter: @moniquevalcour

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests

Walking Away from Wall Street — Sam Polk

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Sam Polk, a former trader for CSFB, the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world who left Wall Street because he wanted to live a more meaningful life, founding Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity, about what it takes to break addictive habits that keep you from leading the life you want and bringing your heart and soul to your work and career.

Listen to the complete podcast.

Stew Friedman: Sam, I learned about you when you wrote a much-talked about opinion piece in the New York Times For the Love of Money.  You described your evolution for Wall Street hedge fund trader earning $3.6M in bonus money at age 30 (and being disappointed with the small size of the bonus), your confrontation with your addiction, as you called it, to money, and your scary decision to leave this lucrative, but for you, empty and deadening life.  You ultimately founded GroceryShips, a company that feeds the hungry.  The reason I wanted to talk with you is that your story is such a compelling (and extreme) example of someone who was able, through a crucible, to find a way to truly live an integrated life.   Can you share with our listeners your story?

Sam Polk: Sam PolkI went to Wall Street when I was 22 years old, just out of Columbia. I remember going onto the trading floor and everything I wanted in life was right there.  I grew up sort of middle class. My dad read about successful businessmen in the paper every day and being successful was ingrained in me.  When I walked onto the trading floor, I could tell just by looking at the clothes people wore – their haircuts, their suntans (you could tell they played golf) – that I’d never seen people as wealthy as this.  And it was everything I wanted.

After the article I got hundreds of letters from college kids more or less asking me to help them get a job on Wall Street.

SF: But wait, the article was about you leaving Wall Street because you found that it wasn’t meeting your inner needs, though it was more than meeting your financial needs.  And they were asking you to help them get jobs on Wall Street?!

SP: I understand why. They hear that success is all about being rich, powerful or famous and these kids are insecure, they don’t have any of these things.  I was like that at 22 and just graduating. They’re getting strong cultural messages.  I think 3% of our cultural dialogue says “don’t be a money lender” and “money doesn’t bring happiness,” but 97% says “get as much money as you can, as quickly as you can” and Wall Street is the place for that. I feel compassion for these college kids, the culture says you’re important if you start a tech company and make a $1M.

I had a black car waiting for me when I landed, I went to countless World Series games, sat in the 2nd row at the Knicks games whenever I wanted.  It’s a tremendous feeling of power. I was living the life.   Making money feels good.  You come home and show your girlfriend, “look at this, I’m proud of this.”

The college kids want to be Lloyd Blankfein (CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs). I was like that.  They feel envy and I did too.  No matter how many millions I made. Trading was the coolest thing in the world. So I understand why these college kids are writing to me wanting to be on Wall Street and hoping I’ll be able to help them get a job there.

SF: So what happened? What changed for you? Why did you give it all up? Was there a moment? An epiphany?

SP: I began to realize that the stuff I was doing every day didn’t matter, even though I was being so well compensated.  There were so many moments including one during the hedge fund crisis.  Other brokers were against any new regulations on the industry, and I said, in a meeting in front of my boss, “but isn’t this better for the system as a whole.” And my boss said, “I can only think about what’s good for our company.”  My dream was to a billionaire; a billionaire was a hero.  The fact that my boss (who was a billionaire) was self-seeking made me realize that there was no end point. I have enough, let me go do what I was meant to do.

Kids wrote saying, “I just want to travel, take care of my family, I just want $6M.” I don’t have that.  And most people don’t.  If you get to $6M, you want $12M.  Money, power and prestige fill that hole.

SF: So, what about that void that you wrote about? You weren’t able to truly bring your whole self to work as a hedge fund trader, but now your personal passions fuel your work.

SP: I was trying to fill this hole inside me, this sense of worthless. The only way I thought I was valuable was Columbia, millions of dollars, a big loft apartment on Bond Street; those things you get when you are on Wall Street. Then I realized the hole is still there. We have this brief life and if you play out the Wall Street story all the way, you get $100M and the world thinks he’s successful.  But he’s spent his whole life getting money and accolades for himself.

SF: So how did you get out?

SP: I had a spiritual teacher, a Native American women, for whom I more grateful than anything I can imagine.  Three weeks into first internship I was dating this girl so out of my league; I was punching outside of my weight class.  She dumped me three weeks in. First love. I didn’t see it coming.  It was a devastating heartbreak. I could barely eat or get out of bed. But I had this internship, and besides this girlfriend, that was the most important thing to me at the time. I needed help. This girlfriend had brought me in to couples counseling with this Native American spiritual teacher who was the only counselor I knew.  I went every week. No Ph.D.  No Ivy League.  No thank you, was what I thought then. She had a completely different perspective from the one on Wall Street which was all about hierarchy, bigger, and more being valuable and important. Wall Street was all about the chase to get the top. And she said, “No, there is no hierarchy.  We are all equally valuable and that the value of the life is in the inner character, not in outside achievements.  It’s about treating people with compassion.”  I thought she was wacko. I wanted to know how can I get over the breakup so I can make money. At the beginning I believe her 10% of the time and I believed in the Wall Street philosophy 90% of the time.  But over 8 years it shifted, little by little until the balance went in the other direction; I believed her philosophy 90% and I believed in Wall Street’s 10%.   It was like in The Matrix, taking a red pill and seeing how the world really is.  On Wall Street people refer to other people by the size of their bank account; he’s a $100Millionaire. Money is the signifier.

SF: So, what happened when you left?

SP: I left when I was 30 and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done until then. (I know other people have it harder in life, but for me, that was the hardest thing I’d done.)

SF: What was the reaction?

SP: I heard, “I’m sorry you’re leaving.  I think y could have made a lot of money”

SF:  A bonus of over $3.5M was not already a lot of money?

SP: I had to give back half that year’s the bonus because I left. I gave up almost $2M to walk away. And I was in contention to be head of trading.  I’d been so focused on making money my whole life.  A lot of people didn’t agree. My Dad didn’t agree.  But I didn’t seek his counsel. There were different cultural values. My Dad was this guy focused on money and on himself and his extra-curriculars and not on me. As a kid I was desperate to impress him. Wall Street and my bosses were my dad. I was trying to impress my boss.

SF: So how’d you go from there to founding GroceryShips? And what is GroceryShips?

SP:GroceryShips is a health program for low income folks struggling with obesity. We go into a community, get applications from families, select 10 families who will receive food scholarships. We provide healthy cooking classes, emotional support groups, education about food, how to read labels, how to manage stress, deal with mental health, talk about childhood trauma if it’s affecting emotional eating. And we provide incentives. For example, if you and your family eat 5 fruits or vegetable a day or lose weight, we provide money for healthy food.  The support for these folks comes not just from GroceryShips but from each other.

SF: How did you come up with this idea?

SP: My family struggled with obesity. Two people in my family had bariatric surgery (stomach stapling). I went in the other direction with wrestling. But food was always in issue in my life. When I walked away from Wall Street one of the things that I was able to see is that in this hierarchy we on Wall Street we step over people as we strive to get to the top.  There’s waste in their backyards, highways in their neighborhoods; these folks are seen as not as valuable to those of us on Wall Street.  I spent my whole life climbing the rungs. And, of course, obesity exists in wealthy communities, but it mostly affects the poor. Groceryships focuses on equality, not hierarchy, and on reciprocity. We focus in people who need help, but we treat them as equals, with total respect. Reciprocity is the structure of the organization.  We’re a non-profit with an extensive nutrition and health curriculum.  We’re expanding into corporate wellness, and using those earnings to pay for low income in surrounding areas.

SF: Why would an organization hire Groceryships for their wellness programing?  What do they get out of it?

SP: if they’re looking for a wellness program, we’ll bring one plus their money will go to low income communities in their surrounding areas.  I believe that people are good and if you are faced with two choices and one has a social good component and it’s good public relations, then it’s an easy choice.  Companies use Groceryships both for corporate wellness and for civic engagement and for P.R.

SF: The changes you’ve made in your work and your life are quite dramatic.  What advice do you have for others?

SP:  First,Wall Street is not evil; it’s just that something was missing in my life. I now haveintegrity in the way of everything works together.  I work just as hard, but all with one thing in mind.   I’m living a life in line with my principles.  My life not perfect.  But there is no dissonance inside me.

When I left most people congratulated me, and said that they wished that they could do the same, but that they couldn’t do it yet. The idea is that they’ll do it as long as they can, to get the most money out of it before they can move on to what they really want to do.

So, I say to others: Respect where you are.  It’s hard to make a change like this.  If graduate from Wharton, for example, you can expect to make more than $400K/year in the next few years and then maybe about $3M or more per year if you go to Wall Street. That’s the straight and narrow, “right” path.  The left side is path you can’t see.  Inside every one of us is the unique compilation, the one path that no one has taken before.  It’s your gift to the world.  You can’t go right way, but you have to go left.  I made one huge trade that combined all my years of training, education and experience and expertise and in one trade I made $5M and I thought that with all these gifts, and talents, and opportunities, I could be doing something else. Take your Goldman Sachs or take a different path.

SF: What is your gift to bring to the world? How can you ask for help?  How can you explore and learn about other paths that will help you lead the life you want?

Sam Polk is the Founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a former trader for Bank of America and the head distressed trader for one of the largest hedge funds in the world. After eight years on Wall Street, he left because he wanted to live a more meaningful life. He founded Groceryships, a non-profit that helps low-income families struggling with obesity. In January 2014, he published an OpEd about money addiction on the front page of The Sunday Review section of The New York Times. To learn more, go to www.Groceryships.org and follow on Twitter @GroceryShips, and Sam on @SamPolk

Join Work and Life  at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests and a roster of past guests.

Act Like a Leader — Herminia Ibarra

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Herminia Ibarra the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD in France about creating meaningful change by acting your way into the future rather than by analyzing your options

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Before we talk about creating change by acting vs. analyzing, let’s talk for a moment about what the caller brought up –networking and social capital and the importance of asking for help.

Herminia Ibarra: Herminia IbarraNetworking is about getting to know other people, finding out what’s out there.  You may not even know what kind of help you need yet.  One of the great things about networks is they can give you help that you weren’t even asking for.

SF: What do you mean by networks helping in unanticipated ways?

HI: You maynot have great insight into what you’re facing. For example, with people who change careers.  A lot of times people will know what’s not working, what’s not satisfactory, but part of why they feel stuck is that they don’t know what they’d rather do. So, they don’t know how to search for it.  And sometimes they meet someone who’s doing something that they find fascinating, but they never thought about. So it’s a piece of information that comes their way, but they weren’t looking for it, they didn’t know to ask for it. If they didn’t have a network that reached out broadly they would never have learned about it. This happens constantly, especially with people who are trying to innovate.  They bump into someone who’s doing something that has part of the elements they’re looking for. So, I would back-track to the pre-help asking stage. And in those exchanges you learn how helpful you can be to other people. So then you’re not so shy about it when you actually need it yourself because you’re part of this exchange.

SF: You’ve observed that the more people provide help to others the less likely they are to be inhibited about asking for help themselves?

HI: Yes,because they see that that’s how it works. When you’re inhibited it’s when you feel you have nothing to offer. Why should they help me, I could never reciprocate. I’m being selfish. Back to direct asking for help when you need it. It’s a great principle, but it does need qualification. In my work on helping people build better networks there’s a few classic mistakes.  One is that you ask to a level that is not appropriate to the level of the relationship. If you don’t know someone very well and you ask them for a huge amount of time. It’s important to moderate it and ask for something commensurate with the nature of the relationship. Ask for something bite-sized.  Get your foot in the door.

SF: What’s another classic networking gaffe?

HI: Some think that if they ask for help they’re showing their boss that they’re not competent.  And there to you have to calibrate.  Of course, you need to ask for help when you need it but you need to carefully consider who should ask first and what you should ask. So, sometimes it’s better to go to your network, rather than a senior person in your organization so you don’t have to worry about how you’re being evaluated. A senior person in your organization might think that you’re asking for help shows a lack of initiative so it may be better to come equipped with some ideas. So, it’s ok to ask for help, but it’s also important to do your homework.

SF: So look outside the hierarchical chain to minimize risk.  What else have you learned in your extensive work on networks?

HI: The biggest thing is that most of us have networks that are much narrower than the ones we need. One network is one you need in order to get things done.  That’s the direct reports, boss, suppliers, service providers, customers, clients, etc on whom you need to rely to get things done.  That’s easier than what I call a strategic network which is going to help you advance your career, to change your game in some way. The strategic network needs to be a lot more widespread, diverse, external, and cross-boundary (outside your immediate function, team, or business unit). Because sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for.  You need a much more helicopter, big picture view of what’s going on in your organization, in your industry, and people’s views.  You need this to develop good ideas and to help you understand the direction of changes.  It’s one thing to have mentors who you can turn to for help.  It’s quite another thing to have a network that’s broad and wide enough to help you to understand possibilities that you don’t even know about.

SF: The narrow network is easy and comfortable, populated by people like you.   You don’t have to do the work of learning new codes of conduct, new languages, new norms. How can people broaden their networks?

HI: Whatyou just described I called the Narcissistic and Lazy Principle of Networks. To broaden your network and make it a strategic network you have to think about things and things to do is because the first step is to have a common experience or context before you can use your network to ask for help.  So, easy examples are projects in your company, cross-functional group, task force, anything that mixes it up so you’re not dealing with the usual suspects. Extracurricular activities; people join clubs, industry associations, professional conferences, LinkedIn groups. Those are all ways to get to know people you have something in common with but aren’t in your everyday path.

SF: Let’s talk about other insights from Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, the title of your most recent book.  You’ve already discussed a few, but what were the other teaching points?

HI: There were three bits. How do you create experiments that allow you to test careers in some smaller, less committed forms, without burning any bridges. The second was how do you expand your network so you are more likely to get new ideas, leads, and inspiration for an alternative career.  And the third was how do you learn to tell a story about why this makes sense and that’s a story that’s going to convince you yourself because you need to convince those who might hire you or fund you.  The big picture message is that when you’re looking to change into something completely different, you can’t go about it in a methodical, analytical way.   You can’t map it out.  You know what you’re moving away from but you don’t have a clear enough view, yet, of where you want to move to.

SF: Change is non-linear. So what happens when people shift careers?

HI: It’s hard to plan and strategize and spreadsheet it because you really don’t know what you don’t know.  So you need to engage in a process that I call experiment and learn as opposed to plan and implement.  It’s a much more discovery-driven process. The bad news is that it’s long, it’s not time efficient and it can be kind of messy and chaotic. But there’s really no other way.  Coaching, and testing, and introspecting doesn’t help you to really learn what’s the next best job for you. The process needs to be trial and error and often involves serendipity and that’s where the importance of your strategic, broad, diverse network comes in.

Herminia Ibarra is the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEADand the author of Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.  She’s an expert on professional careers and leadership development who directsThe Leadership Transition, an executive program for managers moving into broader leadership roles. She is Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Women’s Empowerment and Chair of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Business School. Thinkers 50 ranked Ibarra #9 among the most influential business thinkers in the world. She has a new book coming out, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (February 2015)

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