Mark Herschberg: The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You (#276)
Our Guest Today: Mark Herschberg
Mark Herschberg is the author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You.
From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many non-profits, including Techie Youth and Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.
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Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, lengths and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hey, everyone, this is Fei from Feisworld Media and I haven’t gone live in a little while, I’m being pretty selective these days, but today I have a very special guest, Mark Hershberg from MIT, who’s Mark is an MIT professor but also a published author. His latest book is called The Career Tool Kit Essential Skills for Success That No One Thought.
You and I just want to say that this conversation really is for everyone. Whether you’re a student, you’re someone who is just starting out your career management executive, H.R. This book is so essential and there’s a piece of feather flying in front of me that is so important for everyone. Yes, that includes the covid situation as well. So most of my audience, those of you guys watching right now are creative entrepreneurs, podcasters, content creators. So Mark is so thoughtful, trying to make those very relevant.
So he’s going to follow my lead and we’ve got to have a good time. And before we get started, I want to give a shout out to today’s sponsor stream streamed audio link below who sponsor this interview. And I so appreciate it. I think they make content creators better. And there are the simple app platform anybody can use. You do not have to be a technologist or computer scientist. You can set it up and you can go live to more than 30 platforms all at once.
I think it’s totally essential a must have for content creators and podcasters. So definitely check it out. With that said, Mark, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here today, Mark.
So you reach out to me directly. I really appreciate that. And what I did is I had to kind of spying on you a little bit to make sure you’re a real person. I reach out to Tami Guler Loeb who say you are outstanding and you are incredibly interesting. So with that said, I think it’s a it’s hard to say anything after that, I’m sure. But how I mean, how do you introduce yourself casually to people you’re meeting for the first time?
Well, it really depends on context. And that’s actually something important for all of us to think about. We have different personas. How I am certainly to my family is different than how I am to my coworkers, to people in the author and reader community, to the MIT community, even the ballroom dance community as part of. So depending on the group I’m meeting, I’m going to introduce myself in different ways. It’s kind of like you want to customize your resume for the job you’re applying to.
I do the same thing with my introductions.
Lovely, lovely. So let’s say you’re meeting a group of guess my audience, podcasters, people who either are park podcasting, part time, still holding on to a career, but probably thinking about how this how they can potentially leverage their own platform and do something interesting and different with their career. How would you go about that? Maybe introducing yourself in relations to the book you just published to? Sure.
My background is primarily as a CTO, chief technology officer, and I’ve built a number of startup companies from the traditional three people in a living room up to companies with three hundred thousand people, Fortune five hundred who want to play startup but didn’t quite have the right processes because big companies act very differently than startups. So I’ve gone in to help them as well. I’ve also helped to start a couple of teaching programs. I helped to start a class at Harvard Business School that used to teach finance and a class at MIT to teach his son the skills.
We’re going to talk about today. I’ve been teaching in that class for the past twenty years.
Yeah, guys, look at your resume. I was thinking, how do I even put everything in a forty five minute interview? So thank you for that intro. I must say, one of the first things, first things I saw as including everything you said. But there are other things that caught my eye as someone was learning about you for the first time. So you mentioned something about studying the Dark Web and tell us a little bit about that.
I used to track terrorists and cyber criminals on the Dark Web. My graduate work at M.I.T. was in cryptography, which is secret codes. And that’s what we think of as how do I know I can send my credit card securely where the guy that safe. But the flipside of that is we also are the guys figuring out how do we crack that? Right. Because you have to figure out you can’t just say, oh, I think it’s safe to say, well, let’s try to break in and see if it works.
So cryptographers, those of us with cybersecurity training, think about how secure things, but also how to break the right. You have to look at both sides and on the dark web, this is where a lot of bad guys think. If you’re going to do something bad, you want to do it in place. Not many people are watching. So what we would do is build some systems that would do effectively intelligence gathering, these people didn’t want to be found, but we wanted to find them in.
Our clients, who are various government agencies and large corporations, wanted to figure out who these people were so they could better defend against them or in some cases arrest them if they were a government agency. So I used to build systems that would do that.
Would it be kind of dangerous for you at times? I mean, is that something that you have to do you have any concerns for your own identity and making sure that they don’t find you or not even find you just personally like a personal attack, but more like finding more about what you’re doing and trying to reverse engineer it and things like that as well.
What personal attacks were a risk? Our company, the address of our office was need to know because not that’s not normal. Usually address of a company. That’s pretty obvious. But we had a public mailing address that was a P.O. box. But the actual physical address, we would not tell people unless they really had to be in the office. So our recruiters, for example, did know our address would say, oh, we’ll tell the candidate the day before they’re going to show up.
Just know we’re in this area. There is something called swotting. And this is a technique that a lot of cyber criminals and people in that world will use in which if I were to do something to upset them, such as try and stop them from stealing your credit cards, they would try to respond by one simple thing is pizza bombing. Just having 40 pizzas delivered to you, just an inconvenience. But swotting, they would call the police and say they’d find my address and say, oh, I’ve heard gunshots.
I hear threats at his apartment. You got to go now. He’s going to kill someone. So SWAT team runs and shows up. And if they kick down the door first, it’s very disconcerting. And second, if something goes wrong, right, the SWAT team comes in. I think I’m going to reach for my TV remote and turn it off. And they see me picking up something blocking in my hand. It can turn out very badly.
No, thankfully, a lot of SWAT departments, including the New York Police Department, they’re pretty good about this. They can start to recognize where to fake phone call. They also these days, we’re not just going to kick in the door, but if they were to come to my apartment building that first wait outside, say, wait, we’re not hearing any any screaming or shouting, they’ll ask the doorman who’s going to say, yeah, marks?
No, he’s a is a fun guy, so I have some defenses against that. I wasn’t too worried.
Wow. And in order to get a job like that, I saw on your resume you studied physics, but also computer science. How much of what you studied in, I guess, undergraduate and graduate schools actually applied to cybersecurity or a dark Web security? And how much of that knowledge do you have to learn outside or pick up on your own?
Good question. Obviously, my graduate work, cryptography very much was training for my undergraduate degree and X quite relevant because cryptography, it’s applied math. But to really use it, we’re doing computers. Right. And so computer science, knowing how to write software was key so I could build these systems and oversee others building the systems to do it. I would say, though, that even in computer science, when you get a computer science degree, you’re not fully ready to build a system.
Think of it like if you know someone who comes out of school with a mechanical engineering degree, they can tell you how an engine works. They understand heat cycles, they understand tensile strength. Right. And materials, but they’re not ready to go design the next car at General Motors. They know they know the fundamentals. And building a car is a whole bunch of other things you have to understand about projects and processes and some of what we talk about in the book and then the physics degree.
Honestly, I think that was my best training because physics taught me how to think and problem solve, even though I don’t do anything in the realm of physics, that mental model, that understanding of how to approach problems. That was great training.
I thank you for that. I echo so much of it because I actually studied computer science and math from undergraduate school. And still to this day, I realize it definitely helped me understand structure processes, ways of thinking, ways of triaging. I realize still this is so many years ago that the most I have learned through my experience or through my degree or work in the realm of computer science is through like debugging, understanding why something isn’t working as opposed to at the beginning, building something from scratch, which was also very exciting.
But to be part of a big system, not understanding it was a very kind of boring and at the same time frustrating to me. But to figure out what went wrong and kind of decoding it and reverse engineering it. And I mentioned that were before it. Just so fascinating to.
I would say computer science, all of our degrees really teach us a certain way of thinking, computer science, some of the things that come out of it is certainly the concept of encapsulation and abstraction. Right. So all of us get that some level. Back in the old days, we used to have to deal with writing binary code and then we abstracted it away for a binary code and have to deal with the operating system. I just say open the file.
And those who are using computers, we get that. Remember, we’ve heard stories of how you had PhDs running computers the size of the room. Now you click a button because each layer is built on top of another layer. And this is true in some of our lives. Right. Things that used to be really complicated have just gotten much easier where we can say, oh, just with a single phone call or button click, some service happens.
Think about delivery now where I can one click order something. It’s paid for. It’s shipped to me and the old days stuff. Call up and say, here’s my credit card info, here’s my shipping information. So that concept of a structure, encapsulation, we see it everywhere. We all get that computer scientists, we’re trained how to think about doing that. How to build layer upon layer.
Mm hmm. Yeah. Now I feel like as I get older, I start to appreciate and see things, which is part of this conversation work. What I want to kind of help people understand and be exposed to are the things maybe they don’t have exposure to where they’re not seeing just yet to see the pieces come together. And for me to have been creating content on YouTube on a regular basis for only a few months, a year and a few months, I feel like I’m learning so much more about how to work with sponsors, how much to charge, how to negotiate, and but also monetization and the type of content that’s going to resonate with people very, very different than my assumptions kind of sitting inside a darkroom in my office and just dreaming of what’s not perfect and what is perfection anyway.
And I realize there is what’s interesting about your book is it’s really not about perfectionism. It’s about people kind of stepping out and finding having a toolkit, but to know what to do and and to allow themselves to fail or to experiment and to fail. So how do you structure your teaching? I feel like it so much relates resonates with me in terms of what you just talked about, like how did you structure the book to make it useful and engaging, even what you just said, that that resonated with me so much because so many people go into a new job, whether the job next up in the ladder or new job that they want without understanding what it is to first a first order, we understand.
Oh, OK. Podcasting or streaming. I get I get a microphone. I speak. There are so many people who went into it, especially this past year. In April, everyone started podcasting twenty twenty. And then they were done by July because we see OK, podcasting. Right. You sit here, you have a conversation, but they don’t understand. You have to get sponsorship, you have to market, you have to edit. There’s a whole bunch of things we don’t see and people sometimes go into a job and you’ve only seen part of it and you’re not prepared for the other parts of it.
But to the question you asked how I think about the book. So the book, it’s broken down into ten different chapters, ten different skills. And these skills are not just Walmart thinks this is important. Certainly I do, but it comes from having hired and mentored and manage thousands of people, but also feedback we’ve gotten at MIT that have said from from corporate America, these are the skills we’re looking for leadership to team building, communication, networking negotiations.
We want to see this in people. We’re not finding it. And this is not just for my students. It’s also we’ve gotten similar feedback at other universities. And they’re not just sitting only for people right out of school. They want to see this in everyone. And it helps us as individual business owners as well. So when I looked at the book, I said, here are the topics I want to tackle. And to your point, it’s not about here’s how to be the world’s greatest negotiator.
Here’s how to be the greatest leader. It’s recognizing that if you can get just a little bit better, you’re going to get a massive return. And it comes from shifting your understanding about how it works and then providing concrete steps you can take and techniques you can use in the field to achieve those better outcomes.
I love that. And is there an example that comes to mind where in your book you mentioned this is not a book you have to pick up, read for six hours and then still trying to figure out what to do. You can read chapter by chapter and are two kids within that? You can practice today right away. And you also develop an app of the same name so people can really practice with each other. And could you give us like an example that.
And listen and watch right now, maybe try something today, tomorrow.
Sure, so an actual thing you can start using today. So here’s a very simple version. We all know that there are people who are left brained and right brained. We’ve all seen them and we know they think differently. So imagine, if you will, someone extreme on each side, an extreme left brain person. So that would be me and a lot of my friends at MIT, but also extreme right brain person, that kind of super creative genius who’s maybe a little scattered.
Now, imagine you need to pitch this person some idea, selling your product, convincing them to join with you to do something. How would you go about doing that? The way you might convey it to the left brain person, you would have a very logical ordered presentation if say, here’s why. Here are the key points. Here are the benefits and you’d lay it all out. You might have a very neat PowerPoint presentation. Now, imagine you’re pitching to that right brain person.
You’re not going to sit there and do a 16 slide PowerPoint presentation to that person. Right. Instead, you’re going to tell them a story. You’re going to get this great vision. You’re going to be really kind of spontaneous and emotional in your appeal to that person. You’re going to pitch the same idea, but in a different way. Now, this is a very basic example. In the book, I talk about other more complex models and how it’s more than just left brain, right brain.
But once we understand that different people communicate differently, we can start to change our style. Why is this important? Imagine if you had to go over to France to do a talk. You don’t speak French. So what do you do? You speak in English and everyone in your audience as they listen, they have to translate what you’re saying into French. There’s a little mental tax where they say, before I could even understand this, I have to spend some cycles saying, OK, wait, I’ve had English years ago.
Was that mean? And that’s less time. They can focus on your message. Ideally, you speak French and now they don’t have to do that. They can just hear what you’re saying and say, oh, what a brilliant idea. The same thing is true as we talk to whether it’s left brain, right brain or other models, we’re doing that tax. We’re saying this isn’t resonating. Well, I have to I have to think about my way.
And if you can take that step, if you can learn to speak their language and all of us can, it’s not as hard as learning French. When you learn to speak that language, you’ve made it easier for them to receive your message and understand and buy into your message.
I got to follow up questions possibly. So one is how do we, quote unquote, spy on people in twenty, twenty? Until now, I feel like I’ve been on more new business, phone calls, connections, phone calls than ever. And there are few things that you could do. You can go on their LinkedIn profile of their have a website. You can probably tell based on the type of content they have created, where they’re podcasters, podcasters and YouTube are open books.
Because the moment you can hear someone and see them, you can guess pretty correctly. But if some folks personalities are more cryptic or you can’t get to them right away, you’re hopping on call. What can you do to quickly assess and maybe decide the style? Or if you’re if you’re preparing something to pitch to them, whether it’s in a PowerPoint deck or verbally, how do you quickly shift your style based on what what you’re learning in real time?
To your first question, how do we assess the person, our target audience and you’re right, it’s Google stalking. If you can find a video or a podcast, great. You can actually see and hear them, but you can still just look up. Look up their LinkedIn profile looked up what their education is, knowing that you had a computer science background that tells me something about you. So it’s OK. It’s definitely a logical part to your brain that I can tap into.
It might not be the only part of your brain, but we’re not all purely left brain or right brain, right. We’re not purely any of these models. But you might be able to look at whether education or training is the types of roles they’ve taken on. You can look at their public posts and see their their style words that they are choosing. And that’s going to give you an indication when you’re actually conversing with them. Of course, we can’t fully research everyone we’re going to meet all the time.
When you are talking with someone, just as I think about people in the medical profession, they can meet you and they can instantly start to diagnose problems they can recognize. Oh, your your shoulder is sloping and that means something or you’ve got some type of skin condition that corresponds to something else. We don’t know how to do this. We’re not trained to do that for the medical professionals. We do it all the time. When you get more experience doing this and you start to just converse with someone, naturally you start to pick up on they’re using this language or that language or framing things a certain way and you start to recognize and understand.
So it just comes from years of experience that we all get within our with our areas of expertize.
Yeah, for sure. Definitely. I feel like speaking through experience. I feel like that’s a painting with Krista Tippett, who’s one of my favorite broadcasters of all time. And she’s a you know, if there’s something really sweet that comes with age and experience is you really get better at what you do. And I used to not really freak out, but I used to get pretty nervous about the guest I’m interviewing, especially at the beginning. And now most people have accomplished a lot then.
I have. And it’s important that as a host, you don’t feel less than your guest because it’s not really about that. You’re bringing that conversations to your platform to share with the world. So I just want to give it a shout out to people who create content out there. There is a part, too. But guess the third question to what you just said, Mark, is when you’re in a room with more than one person, so on Zoom these days could be I know I’m joining a business call with three or four other people.
And when I worked in consulting and advertising, there often way too many people in the same meeting who did not need to be there. Fifteen, twenty people with several people you’re speaking to as my primary point of contact. So how do you judge if they have drastically different personalities, how do we decide to commune? And I just want to say this part gets a little political because oftentimes that decision maker in the room often is not the person with the most the best context to what this project is about.
So it’s messy.
And those of us who sell understand you have the decision maker, but you also have the influencers. I know as the CTO, OK, I have the final authority to actually make the decision, write the check, but I don’t do it all myself. In fact, I’m not always as up to date on each little technology because I’m looking at some other issues. So I rely on other people and my senior staff to do some of that evaluation. A good salesperson knows I don’t just convince Mark.
I convince these other people, these influencers, advertisers know this, that when you try to get the kid to buy the cereal or toy, what’s the parent who buys it? But the kid’s a big influence or the kid says, Mom, this is what I want for Christmas. And so you have to target both market. You have to convince mom it’s safe and good value and obviously convince the kid that, yes, this is fun. When you’re in a room of lots of different people, you ideally would know what each of them are and ideally they’ll be one.
But that doesn’t happen. So you might need to convey this idea through multiple messages. Politicians are usually good at this. So politicians, Clinton, even the younger Bush, certainly Biden, we see that they’re good conveying their message and putting it in a couple of different ways to try and resonate into the different styles, because obviously their audience encompasses everyone, though you’re going to be as you get experience, you recognize I don’t just go purely that left brain or purely right brain.
I’m going to pull him on a beach or in these more complicated models, I get into all the different types of models you can use and give examples of this.
This is great. Yeah, this example definitely helps a lot. And this commercialization kind of triggered a lot of thoughts in my mind, because because of it, I feel like somehow there’s so many more people who came to Feisworld Media to ask me questions, engage with me personally. I really appreciate that. And I also see a much bigger variety of people now nowadays, as well as medical professionals being one of them, but also people who are in I don’t want to say stuff on careers, but people who have worked in the executive level fortune one hundred five hundred for a long time.
And somehow I guess I was a bit surprised by how unprepared they are. And I’m not talking about people who are at the start of their career. I’m talking about people who are 20 years in and people I, I used to look up to when it comes to career development, entrepreneurship, future planning, because that’s kind of their brand in these organizations. Yet I see them struggle the most when making that pivot. And unfortunately, some people already made that pivot in twenty twenty.
But I find that there are so many pieces to this puzzle that’s called entrepreneurship that there were simply not aware of and therefore they struggled to assess where they are currently at any given moment, maybe today to say am I on the right track? What else is missing right now? Am I doing well? Not so well. Like what? Know, how do you put it? You seem to have really laid out a structure for them. So what do you have to say to this audience?
I just described what you’re describing about not being necessarily well prepared, this universally comment. This is what would horrified me when I first realized it. I think of the following. Have you ever heard networking is important? Of course, we’ve all heard that multiple times. I remember as a young kid, my parents would say, oh, it’s so important to have a good network. That’s not what you know. It’s who you know. We’ve heard this many times.
How many of us have actually had any training in how to network? A single class son, not in high school, not in college, not in our professional development. Everyone tells us it’s important, we know what’s important, everyone agrees. And yet no one even bothered to say, let’s think about how to be a little more effective. You’ve actually had more training in how to tie your shoes than how to network. That’s insane. So these are the problems we face in career planning is another example.
We know we should have a career plan if you not even everyone knows that. But if you think about it at work, you would never undertake a project. You’d never say, I’m going to work in the next three months without a plan. You never say to your boss, listen, I’m not going to write up a plan. Let’s just wing it and see where we wind up in a year. If your boss would be horrified, you know, you need a plan for our career is more than a year long.
Why don’t we have plans? So you want to create plans now? The important thing to note to people immediately pushed back until you can plan your career, you absolutely can. You just can’t treat it like it’s set in stone. Right. Just like our project plans, they never quite wind up exactly as planned. You’re going to be changing, adjusting your career plan. So how do we go about creating it? Start from your goal. This is the classic don’t skate to where the puck is, skate to where the puck is going to look at whether it’s another job and might be further up your ladder.
It might be a pivot or it might be. I want to go do something new. Let’s say podcasting, say, OK, I want to do that. What are the skills that I need to be successful? And here we go back to what we said earlier, that podcasting will need to be a good conversationalist, maybe have a good lighting set up because that’s the part you see what find out. Talk to people in that role. Certainly you can read articles and you can you can hear about from podcasts, but actually talk to people and say, tell me, what do you actually do?
Oh, well, you spend five hours a week dealing with sponsors and advertising. I had no idea. OK, that’s good to know. This is a skill I need. And so you want to list out what are the skills, what are the experiences, skills and knowledge you need for that role? Now, you might not feel you’re ready yet. I know when I wanted to become a CTO as a young software developer, I realized, OK, I need to know how to code.
Probably get better than I was, but I also need to know how to manage people, how to hire people, how to work with other departments, how to budget, how to build effective teams. I didn’t know any of that. And so I set out a plan to learn it. You’re not going to learn this all in six months. So you want to sell the plan to go from here to here to here, change maybe here now here you’re going to adjust along the way.
If it is a job, you’re going to think about potentially intermediate jobs to get you there. If it’s going to be starting your own business, you’re not going to be good. Everything. There’s a reason we hire accountants and lawyers, figure out what you are good at and then what are those other things for which you can outsource them or find a partner or someone else to supplement your abilities.
Great, great summary. And for people who are watching, listening now or later, if you have questions for Mark, for this particular section struggling with their career, not sure where you’re going pivot to whether it’s within your organization or somewhere else, a different company or starting your own leave your comment. And I always personally kind of just consolidate them and I continue to work with my guests usually. Don’t worry, Mark. It’s not going to be will be flooding you for the next three weeks or anything.
I’m happy to answer them. It’s always more fun when it’s interactive.
Very so true. Very, very true. So the the second the third segment of this I want to kind of delve into is I am now seeing as a result of that, there is a flood of people who realize that while my full time job really is at stake and whether they want to continue nurturing that I find a way to work at virtually or otherwise. There’s also this group of people who are starting their own businesses to say is either now or never and very gung ho about it.
I find these two cohorts to be really interesting and there’s always a gray area. People are like one foot in each boat and just not sure how to navigate this. And so what are what are your thoughts in terms of people now as we’re Feb twenty twenty one, still trying to make that decision? Do I stay? Do I leave? Is entrepreneurship really for me. How does someone evaluate if freelancing going out on their own entrepreneurship is right for them.
Nobody seems to have the right answer.
Certainly historically, I’ll say this is a great time to do it after any crisis, and I use that term broadly, it doesn’t just have to be pandemic’s any type of crisis or big change. There is massive opportunity. A lot of pieces are going to be moving and shifting around, and that gives the opportunity for new entrants to come in and grow. So I think this is a really good time. This is a good time to think about new ventures, whether it’s a small solar proner business or a larger business you’re envisioning.
That said. It’s scary, everyone who’s done this is going to tell you it is super scary, you have no safety net, it will be beating your head against the wall some days. It will be frustration. I know I tell entrepreneurs who try to raise money, it’s going to sound like this. No, no, no, no, no. You should write about 20 of those. Even more than a yes. People are going to say, I don’t want to work for you.
I don’t want to hire you. I don’t want to partner with you. I don’t want to invest. Your product isn’t going to work. And you have to have this dichotomy of recognizing I know there’s something here, I see an opportunity in the market or I think this product is going to succeed. You have to have that vision, despite all the knows to believe in yourself. But at the same time, the humbleness to listen to all of them because they have a point.
There’s a reason this experienced investor isn’t investing. There’s a reason this potential employee is choosing a different business. So you need to have this keep one foot on each side of. I know I’m right. Hey, you might have a point and you just have to be prepared for a lot of long days, little income, feeling isolated, alone and frustrated. If you can get through that. If you’re passionate about this and you say, I don’t care because I have that vision, I can see that rocky montage of I’m going to be out there lifting and training and working all by myself.
So one day I can get into the ring. If you have that perseverance, then this is for you. Of course, you don’t have to be totally alone because you can find peer groups, other entrepreneurs, other small business owners who can work with you to not just in your company, but are just there to talk about issues. So it takes a lot of mental toughness and talk to people who have done it to make sure you really understand it.
The every single point you mentioned was so important, the last one since you were on that note, people who are watching, those that didn’t include the link. But I started a creative entrepreneurs group. You guys are interested. Just drop me a DME and it’s small as one hundred and forty people. And but my friend Michael Roderic started his own called the gate. It is fantastic. I also was part of Saskatoons El Tembisa. Seth Jones painting is way over there, so I’m not going to point at him right now.
And it’s all Tumba is one of the best things I have done. And that was back in early twenty seventeen. But I stayed with this group of people, cohorts and new graduates and it’s, it is absolutely huge. And going back to a previous point, Mark said, I immediately remember that I think they work in a bunch of other influencers. Entrepreneurs mentioned new careers that were born out of twenty twenty immediately that comes to mind virtual anything, everything, and including virtual event management and those of you podcasters and fitness entrepreneurs out there.
Real quick, podcasters who know how to use Lifestream such as this, how to set things up. You can use the same set up to help other podcasters, content creators and publishing authors, because the offers that I’m seeing right now have a lot of success. Connect connecting with our audience is the one are the ones who go live and trying to figure out how to engage with people live on this livestream isn’t new anymore, but it’s still sort of at the beginning.
It’s going to be a household name later this year, I’m sure, but definitely try to help some of the early adopters. Maybe you are one yourself. And and Mark, guess what? Like last year, so many fitness entrepreneurs had to leave the gyms because the gyms closed. A lot of them came to my channel because that that was their full time job. And it’s just pretty scary all of a sudden trying to raise a family on that income.
And they ended up setting up lights, camera, webcam, and they learn how to teach Zumba or fitness on Zoom. But they didn’t take us so seriously. They tell me say people are coming to me asking me how to do it. That could be your business. Whatever you end up learning, you can teach everything you know, everything you’ve just learned. What are your thoughts on that skill is to be a good listener, right? Is to hear, oh, I wish I could do this.
Oh, it’s so frustrating because and if you learn how to listen, you say, wait a second, I can make that less frustrated. I can help you do that. And this is how we generate opportunities for us, whether it’s to start my own business. I’ve even done this. I’d say about a third of the jobs I have did not exist. It wasn’t someone saying, oh, we need to hire this role. I heard someone saying this is a frustration, so let’s speak.
And I have a conversation and I generate a roll out of thin air. I get either a full time or a consulting role with the company that right before the conversation, they weren’t thinking. They knew they had the pain point and going and speaking to them. I could connect the pain point to my ability to solve it. If you want to be an entrepreneur or be a good listener, the thing the listener part is fascinating to me because, Mark, I can see this as part of your belief system.
It’s part of your book as well. The idea of iterating on whatever it is that you’re working on, which is something I don’t see enough people practicing, which is traditionally people are saying, I need to have the perfect website, you know, the font of pixels, and then I need the perfect business plan and. I see people asking people to work on a business plan for them paying a lot of money, that person is not even part of the business, you know, is someone with a fancy title.
And so I this is where my urge comes in to say you can’t sit on a business plan for too long with a website for too long. You need to put it out there and show to the world what you think is most important is detrimental, if not to other people. They don’t care. And you can learn so much by listening and by interacting with people and make the right changes to the website and save a ton of money.
Let me give you an example and I apologize for hearing background noise, I live in New York City apartment and someone is doing something in the hallway. I don’t know what I’m hearing. A lot of noise of where you are.
And I’m not Mark. And I’ll show you how to use Crisp to eliminate background noise after this.
So with there’s an expression perfect is the enemy of the good. And this is so true. Now, I had to be a little more of a perfectionist when it came to printing my book just because with a book, it’s harder to change. Although in the first printing I did find one typo that somehow got past our proofreading. But my website we put up and then we’ve been changing it. We’ve been evolving it. There’s a great expression. No no plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
Right. And so in the military, you come up with a great plan, but the moment you start to use it, it’s going to change. But you have that plan and that’s going to help you as you adjust it. And certainly when we look at classic books like Crossing the Chasm, that’s a great book. Anyone building a product you need to read Across a Chasm by Jeffrey Moore. And he talks about how you start out by getting it out there and who your early customers are and then who your later ones are.
But you get to hit those early customers and get their feedback. And certainly when you think about skill building, you are not can be great at everything. One of the things I emphasize in this book, it’s not about being, as I said before, the greatest leader, greatest communicator. It’s about getting a little bit better because you get this massive return. So consider someone who is a genius. We all probably knew that professor who was great but was just a bad lecturer and we knew he was well respected in the field.
But no one wants to hear him speak and think about this person trying to convey his ideas. And people are just tuning him out. If he got a little better at public speaking, if he just went from horrible to just OK or maybe even a little better than OK, ideally, all of a sudden he’s so much more effective because we take his strength, we take his ability to come up with these genius ideas and now he reaches a much larger audience.
Don’t think about I have to be the best in everything I think about. I have to be strong in something. I have to some value proposition. I am innovative in this area or I am really good at some skill and then just make sure your other skills are strong enough to support it. Not that you’re great in that area.
Active listening skills is, I think, one of the most important skills ever. And, you know, I’ve I’ve had or I still do have a lot of friends who are type. And I live in Boston. I travel to New York a lot and I work in New York a lot prior to covid. And it’s probably not by surprise that I’m surrounded by a lot of Type A overachievers. And it’s interesting how conversations go at dinner tables or friends gatherings, everybody speaking all at the same time.
And you can see the volume rise and and it’s hard to get sometimes get your own opinions. It’s hard to be heard. And and then I realize in order to kind of sneak into those conversations, I started to I had some overlapping themes or personalities in order to kind of match up with these folks and starting my podcast in twenty fourteen. It’s really changed everything because I had to learn how to actively listen. And people love to be. Listen, guys, if you actively listen, which means you’re not pulling your thumbs, you’re not like looking bored, but you’re listening, giving people maybe to hear something you’ve already heard before.
People you can see their whole chakra opens. The whole dynamic of their relationship with you changes almost like forever in that instance. Like now. What are your thoughts, Mark?
There was a great expression I heard years ago. Are you listening to the other person or waiting to speak with so many of us are just waiting to speak like, OK, can finish up because now I have a really good point. I want to tell you and I am not paying attention. I’m just waiting for that pause. One thing I’ve learned, and this actually comes from my personal life, I’ve I’m single. I free covid was going on a bunch of dates, most of which were so incredibly boring.
And of course, it would be rude to even have ten minutes. And I say, oh my God, this woman is not for me. I’m not going to leave after ten minutes. So now I’ve got another forty some minutes to kill. One thing I learned to do is to realize everyone has something interesting. They have some experience, they have some habits, some knowledge, something that is interesting that I don’t know about and my job is to find it.
And so I’m just a very focused and I got to pay attention to what you’re saying. I got fun. Oh, you said something interesting in that last sentence. Let me dig into that. And so now I’m paying attention to you and clearly I’m active. So I called that little thing you mentioned, and I’m asking follow up questions and to keep me focused on doing so because I’m searching, as long as I have that focus of searching, I stay engaged in the conversation.
And this works in business as well. Recognize that there’s going to be something interesting in every conversation. And your job is to find it. And when you go in with that mentality, you’re a lot more engaged.
This is beautiful, Mark, since you brought up being single, I’m so curious because I often wondered about what is it like, what does it mean to people’s social lives? And this past year, people of different ages. And I know that I know several youngsters who just graduated from college and then career and they’re really eager to get outside and they’re ready to experience live and for a serious relationship or for fun. And it kind of stopped everything. What are some of the communication skills or how do you level set for yourself to focus on work versus, you know, kind of meeting people?
Again, this is personal. You don’t you can shut this whole thing down if you want to.
Happy to answer. covid has actually been a little bit of a blessing for authors. I know some authors said, oh, is terrible. We canceled all our live speaking events, but in fact, it’s been great for me. Now, my book was pretty much written. I was done with the book by the time of covid hit. In fact, we finished the last proofreading sometime, I think around the second week of March, but I just missed that window.
But marketing a book takes as much effort as writing the book. And right now I do appreciate there’s no famo. I can spend my nights reaching out to people like you and researching. OK, where, where should I go, who should I speak to. And I’m not worried about all my friends are out of this bar or someone’s birthday celebration. It’s a lot easier and I can do it all from home and I can speak to people in San Francisco in the morning, in Chicago in the afternoon and save all the travel.
So it’s been a benefit in that sense. Obviously, socially, it’s been a limitation and people more the extrovert side have taken a hit. I happen to be an extrovert introvert, so I’m OK being by myself, although I will say after a year, certainly nothing in a relationship not have a lot of interaction. It does weigh on you after a while and it’s it’s changed people’s social perceptions. I have a lot of friends who are matchmakers. Matchmakers are telling me this is a boom time.
So many people are reaching out and they’re saying people are now starting to recognize what’s important. It’s not, oh, I have a great time with you hanging out at the bar and drinking. It’s can we live in a confined space together for a while? Is this going to be someone where during stressful periods I’m going to want to be with this person? There’s been this change. I worry what’s going to happen, let’s say, and I’m going to pick an arbitrary number, let’s say in three months, sometime like end of May, we’re mostly vaccinated.
We’re all going back out. I think New York’s going to be a big party to summer. Everyone’s going to be excited to be out at that point. Are people going to switch back and say, I don’t want to commit to a relationship? Right. I’m going to be out, I’ll be single, I’ll be having fun. And if we’re going to lose that, I hope not. But it’ll be interesting to watch.
Yeah, that will be some really interesting predictions to talk about, to write about record. I do wonder about that. People’s behaviors to maybe some of you guys realize that you’re OK to be on your own. Maybe you’re happy you can occupy you have something that that you created, whether it’s a YouTube channel or book or podcast that you love working on something on your own, then you welcome someone that you truly love and adore into your lives as opposed to I’m just bored and I feel like people are probably a little bit more selective and more wise, hopefully, about all this.
So coming up for the hour, I got to to wrap things up. Mark, let’s first of all, make sure people know how to find you. All the links are below in the description everywhere, wherever you’re watching this. But where do you how do you prefer what’s the best? What do you want people to kind of remember to do at the end of this interview?
If you go to the website, the career tool kit book dot com, you can learn more about the book. You can also follow me on social media or reach out to me via the contact page. I also recommend downloading the app. One thing about this type of learning is that you don’t simply read it once they say, OK, I’ve got it forever. Right? It’s not like memorizing the quadratic equation and you’re done. It’s something that you need to be reminded of.
And unfortunately, when you read a book like this, you forget it three weeks later. And I know that wonderful. You’ve got the app. So the app which is available, it’s free on Android and iPhone. And from my website you can get to the store. What this does, it’s like a daily affirmation. So it’s going to pop up on your phone once a day with a reminder of some of the advice. And that’s going to help reinforce it and keep it top of mind.
And this is something I don’t know why more books don’t do this. I was really shocked this app didn’t exist before. I had to build it from scratch. It’s also useful because. This content, it’s not helpful on your couch, you’re going to read the book on your couch, but we’re generally networking not from our couch. We might be doing a little of that today during covid, but it can be helpful when we’re about to walk into some event.
You don’t have the book with you. So when you have the app, you can also open it up and then quickly scan through the tips and get that kind of refresher course right before a networking event, before negotiation, before an interview. So it’s there in your pocket. But most of the time you do have to open it. It just reinforces it. And then there’s a whole bunch of other resources on the website. I reference other books.
If you want to go deeper on the topic, I reference other websites that can take you further and have some free content. And then most importantly, when you try to learn this, it is best learned as a group because you’re not memorizing information, you’re having a conversation and you’re saying, hey, how do you think about leadership? How would you handle this situation? Oh, that’s interesting. I would have done differently. I never would’ve thought of it that way.
And so why have these conversations with others and I have a download on the website how you can do that within your own organization or if you are a sole proprietor or your organization doesn’t want to do it, you can just create your own set of groups. It could be done through the online community you’ve created, could be done through a meetup group you create and so you can find other people, learn how to enhance your skills together. And that’s a free download as well on the website.
The your media presence is very impressive. I think the websites you like and I know as a technologist, it takes a village to build an app. Is there I mean, did you work with an agency? Did you mostly work on this with friends or on your own to kind of build this ecosystem?
Before the app or in general, you’re asking in general, I think, including the website too, because it’s quite extensive and the amount of information and how it looks.
It does take a village and it comes from having an extensive network. This is a mistake. A lot of people making networking, they think, OK, I’m in fitness, I need to meet other people in fitness. And that’s definitely helpful. You want to other fitness instructor if you want to. People in the fitness world. In the gym world. OK, great. But you should also know other people outside of your realm. So, for example, if you are a fitness person and one day you want to build an app.
Oh, do any of my friends know how to build an app? But if as you’re building up your network at some point you met a couple of software engineers. Now what happens? You say, well, now my fitness friends know about building apps over these software. People do. Now, they themselves might not be building apps. They might not know about it, but who do they know? Hundreds of other types of software engineers and some of them know how to build an app.
So when we think about diversifying our network, it’s not just what our first order can do. It’s the fact that they have an extended network that we now have access to. And I’m very fortunate that over the years I have built up a very extensive network of people. So, for example, when I first realized I was writing a book, it wasn’t intentional, by the way. I thought I was writing up notes for my class would be 20 pages of notes.
When I hit one hundred pages, I said, this is a book. So what I do, I reached out first to Dorie Clark. She’s a friend of mine, has written a bunch of great business books. She’ll Well-Being. She’s written some great dynamic communication, other great books, Olivia Fox, Cabonne. So a whole bunch of people who are business authors. Oh, thank God I know them. When it came to doing some media for this, I want to put out a press release about the book, went to the VP of Marketing, who I used to work with.
I said, hey, can you help me out with this press release? Would she do she helped me with him, then said, I’m going to introduce you to a to a PR company. They’re going to get out for you. They did as a favor to her and she did as a favor to me. But she and I have a good relationship. We help each other all the time and so we can call in favors and even chain those favors.
Strangers I had never met were helping me through my network. And so all of us, by developing this diverse network, we can pull in people with different experiences. And so I’ve got to advise. Story was the one who told me to go on podcast, and that’s why I’m here today. I the yes. Build that diverse network no matter what you’re doing and don’t just focus on people in your industry, build diversity in your network.
Yes, absolutely. And diversity is not is not only more useful, but it’s also a more fun and just it’s great to be able to talk to people from different industries. You learn something from every single sentence, and I think it all really connects the dots. Be a good listener, diversify your own portfolio, but also your your friends and network. It’s huge. So, yeah. I mean, one, since you brought up Marc, I’m curious.
And there is the PR, the traditional media side of things. A lot of people don’t have connections or maybe the money to consider them. And then there is not just social media. There is as a startup, you bootstrap everything, your own events, your own YouTube channel, your own social media network. What are what are your thoughts on that? And how do you see the effect has been for you? Podcasters to me is on the side or a traditional PR magazine.
New York Times is on the side, like, how do people go about that?
And in PR, I’ve done it before for my company. So it’s always a crapshoot. I’ll tell you, with a press release that I put out, we spent a thousand dollars on it. So that was just the the wire fee because of course, it was a favor to degrade it done for me to spend a thousand dollars. It got picked up by two outlets and one of them have to be linked to news. That was a good one.
Another was a good podcast who I had reached out to before and had responded, but that was it. And when you do a press release, when you do that for additional kind of PR, it’s hit or miss. It could have easily been zero trade. It could have been five. But it really just depends on the day you have to be scrappy and do guerilla PR. I have not spent a single penny on marketing or PR other than that one press release.
We sold out the first of books in two weeks. It blew away my expectations. Yeah. How did this happen? Well, it happened because I have been doing outreach, so I’ve been reaching out. I would look at what are relevant podcasts to go on. I look at lists of business podcasts. I’d look at other people like me, what podcasts they’ve been on and they’d reach out. And of course, I had to create my media kit to reach out to you to show you, hey, I’m not just some random guy saying, please let me on.
I have some back. We have the website. If you look, I’m legit. And so you have to plan the groundwork and then discuss it, smiling and dialing this expression, use the PR, but you have to do that yourself. You have to use your network. So I was very lucky that through a. Community, I know there’s a Forbes Forbes contributor, he said, oh, I heard about your book, I’m happy to take a look.
And she wrote a great article on my book. And that, of course, can be great publicity right before the launch. And so it is going out and every day it’s going out. It’s meeting people. These days, I’m No. One else. And so I go out and club pals and there are podcast groups on there. And that’s useful because I run to other podcasters. I’m not one myself, but this helped me. These are podcasters are clearly the ones paying attention to their craft and that gives me even more target lists or I’ll meet them or talk to them.
And I’ve gotten on podcasts through people I’ve met in club. So you have to put that effort in every day. What you can do it without spending a dime. It’s either time or money. That’s really the tradeoff. You either do the work yourself or you’re paying other people to do it for you. And really, it’s going to be a balance.
Yeah, it’s beautiful. And then to clarify, traditional PR versus podcasting. Yeah. So we’re little over time. One last question mark. How did you do remember how you found me? Just curious.
I have to look it up. So I have a spreadsheet that every every one where I found them, outreach to them, the current state so I can pick it up.
I love it. If you could send out the whole I mean, list of the content. But I would love to see the structure a template for that, because it’s it’s super thoughtful and you’ve done so much on your own. It’s just it’s incredible. Um, so is this is it true, my assumption that you’re doing a lot of this on your own without like three assistants floating all over the world?
Most of them, most of it on my own and certainly early on. You should, because, for example, my my outreach to you and that media kit and what that email looks like, I have to craft it. I have to do it. Say, you know, I don’t think this sounds right and revise it, then I can pass it off to someone else, because typically for this, you’re not going to hire the person with twenty years of experience.
Say, you figure this out, you’re going to be hiring that virtual assistant, the person who’s working for fifteen, twenty bucks an hour. And they can sit there and copy and paste the email and find people that reach out to, but they’re not going to be as great at crafting that right message. They can and should say, here’s why I’d be a good, good guest for you. It shouldn’t just be generic copy and paste, but doing the message, knowing when they pitch me to you, what are the three likely points that I would talk about and which one should they pick?
I have to create those three points for them. So you have to initially create it. And then once you’ve done a certain amount of times, you’ve got it honed. That’s when you can pass it off. In fact, this is true when you think about building your business. Every business I’ve been in, when you go for that first customer, now we sell enterprise systems. Typically the companies I work at that first customers all hands on deck, everyone trying to figure out, OK, what’s the customer want?
How do we sell this? Oh, yeah, we never thought of that. I just asked about, OK, I stole them while we figure out how to meet that need and this is true. The first couple customers, then you’re going to start hiring salespeople once you have again, I’m doing enterprise stuff here, seven, ten customers. And by the time you’re on customer number thirty or forty, now you’ve got salespeople and you give them the script and you say this is the process.
But we had to figure out that process for ourselves, the for a few times. So whenever you’re going to new area, be very hands on. Even if you have someone from the start, even if they’re the expert, you still need to be hands on and pay attention because they might not fully understand the subtleties that you do. And then once you have it going, that’s where you can hand it off. And now you’re in supervisory mode where you just check in.
How’s it going?
Yeah, this part is so important. I’m so glad we didn’t end this podcast five minutes earlier because I see so many podcasters paying people, like you said, eight, ten dollars an hour and then just trying to send the invites. That’s the most important step because you can send one hundred invites or emails without any response. So if you are experiencing that right now, you don’t have to be a podcast or you could be an entrepreneur to to go after customers.
And you will see a huge difference when you actually pay attention, be thoughtful, crafting a relevant email and letting the other person know that it’s you and you care and you’re responding because you’re also demanding the other person’s time. Right. It’s both of you are invested. But so often I see people making that decision to say I will show up. When it’s time for me to appear for the podcast, I’ll show up for a documentary. But you have an assistant who represents you, whether it’s using your name or using their own name.
People feel like they don’t have a direct line into you. That is that that is the number one mistake, I would say, for entrepreneurs who are starting out. And I know it’s hard time is limited for everybody, but that part is is huge. Thank you, Mark.
I’ll also recommend the concept of the 80 20 rule. This is that 80 percent of the. People have the same 20 percent of questions as a guest when I reached out to you, I said my media interview kit and the interview kit has here a couple of different angles. Here are questions for the angles. You’re not obligated to stick to that. We’ve got a lot of things that just this is right for your audience that weren’t in the kit. But there are some people where they just prefer to have more of a guide instead of having a type that each time I have, like if I cuz I’ve sent it out to them and podcasters, so many of them missed some of that as well.
So if you’re a podcast there, I would recommend to someone who’s been a guest on over 60 podcasts, you’re going to get some standard questions. Is this audio or video. There’s a lot of podcasts are going to video that I know I need to set up my lighting or just be in a t shirts and unstable audio or video. How long do you run? Who is your audience? Because a good guest is going to focus on the audience, have different messages for different audiences.
So you should have your own cue. Most podcasters these days send me the standard. Here’s how to be a guest on a podcast and use an external light. And those are those are good. But everyone’s answering the same few questions. Go that extra mile. Look at what questions guests ask or what you would like your guests to know ahead of time. And you just write this one and send it out to put on your website and podcast groups.
Think about the questions you have over and over. Automate that for people outside podcasting, same thing. Look at what happens over and over where you’re spending your time and that’s what you want. Automate. That’s where you say I’m no longer thinking about this. That’s what I can outsource or just write down and give to someone else.
Yeah. This is beautiful. Beautiful. Mark, thank you so much for pointing this out. And anybody who wants to know what it’s like to be running a show for seven years, feel free to reach out to me. I created a course as well talking about how to get help, but also how to build out the initial momentum and create the structure. So I’m so glad we touched upon this point. So we’re a few minutes over. We did start a few minutes late, but I think this is a perfect place to wrap up.
So thank you so much, Marc, for your time. And I encourage people to check out your book and the description below, please. The app. And there are a lot of resources on the website as well. So check it out and send your question along. Thank you, Mark.
Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed being there with you.
This episode of the First World podcast is brought to you by First World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand phasor podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta Leon transcript editor Allena Almodovar. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World.
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