Our guest today: Matt Lindley
Matt Lindley was the Director of Innovation for SapientNitro when I first met him. We became friends instantly when he first started working there in 2009. Matt had such a positive impact on my life. If you ask me to list three people who have helped shape me into who I am today, Matt would be one of them.
Matt’s list of accomplishments in the advertising and marketing world goes way way back. Today, he works for Google as the Global Creative Lead for Unskippable labs.
He’s been a storyteller for over 25 years. He sold OneZero Media, where he created and produced CBS’s first broadcast TV show about the Internet, and personally hosted the show for three seasons. He was an ECD/EVP at Arnold Worldwide leading the team for the Progressive Insurance account. More recently, he co-created a business visioning tool called ThirtySix at SapientNitro.
He’s a board member for Friends of the Boston’s Homeless, a non-profit organization that helps over 400 homeless individuals move beyond shelter to lead independent lives. He is also a board member for Stop Handgun Violence. Those of you who have driven the Mass Turnpike around 2008-09 probably noticed the 250-foot billboard that says “We Sell Guns! No ID Required. No Background Checks.”
In this two-part episode, I interviewed Matt Lindley at his home office.
In Part 1, you will hear about Matt’s path from growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania to his appointment as a senior advertising executive. Matt shares his strategy for making sure your creative input is valuable and valued. We also touch on parenthood and what it means to do the best you can as a father and colleague.
In Part 2, we explore “A Day in the Life of Matt Lindley, Director of Innovation”. Beyond growing a business, Matt is especially interested in growing and empowering the people around him. We talk about the overlying theme and the collective wisdom that help us move forward. Matt started a Breakfast Club, where he brings likeminded people, friends to sparkle ideas and have a great time. Last but not least, I couldn’t possibly leave the question out:”How much of Mad Men (the TV show) is true in advertising agencies TODAY?” 🙂
A TV show host in a previous life, Matt once again turned the mic around and asked me: 1) Why the feisworld podcast, 2) What triggered me to care about what and how other people think, and 3) How in the world was I obsessed with ice hockey and thought it was my life’s calling? I guess you will learn about me in this episode as well (totally unplanned and unscripted).
Do you enjoy this podcast? If so, please leave your comment below and share the podcast with your family and friends. Your support will keep me on track and bring many other unsung heroes to this podcast.
Select Links from the 2-Part Episodes:
- Warren Buffet’s 5-Step Process for Prioritizing True Success
- Sam Lindley (Matt’s son) on the Spring issue of ESPN
- The 97-year old artist on D.C. art scenes in 1950s and 1960s
- Podcast Addict (Android app for Podcasts)
Part 1 Show Notes (Times Are Approximate):
- The beginning of wanting to make TV. [6:05]
- Matt’s father’s artworks [8:45]
- Wednesday night drawing class hosted by Matt’s father [9:30]
- The notion of having both parents who are artists [11:40]
- “There’s no more straight lines in my life, just curves”[14:05]
- Matt turned into an interviewer for a sec and asked about my mom (Xiang Li’s) upbringing and art as a form of meditation [15.40]
- What shaped Matt into who he is today, recognized as “one of the greatest minds”, who has the “ability to quickly understand a situation and come up with several solves that both tug at the heart as well as move someone to act, is unparalleled” [18:30]
- Why be in advertising + A child’s mind [20:23]
- Why Matt thinks feisworld podcast is a really good idea [21:20]
- Why Not You? [24.15]
- Put yourself out there! [25:50]
- The 3 most memorable moments of Matt (for me, at least) [30:15]
- Do not abandon your opinion [33:35]
- Why be gentle to yourself? [38:15]
- Podcast becomes a journey that lubricates the rest of your life and put things in perspective [41:30]
Part 2 Show Notes (Times Are Approximate):
- A Day in the Life of Matt Lindley as a Director of Innovation [3:15]
- What’s the overlying theme that helps us move forward in every direction? [7:15]
- How do you create a group of likeminded individuals? [10:15]
- Quickly introducing Peter Borden and his comments about Matt Lindley as a colleague [17:30]
- Matt’s Breakfast club [19:30]
- How much of Madmen (TV show) is true in advertising agencies TODAY? [21:30]
- How Matt turned a multi-million dollar business around after the client said no? [22:45]
- On a magic moment in advertising: when Don Draper said: “It’s not a wheel, it’s a carousel” [25:00]
- Podcast changes my “being” [28:00]
- What’s really important to Matt as a parent? [29:15]
- The ability to listen + a welcoming nature [29:00]
- Why was playing ice hockey a dream for me? Matt asks. [31:00]
- Story of the NPR D.C. Artist, now 97 [39:00]
- The process of a meaningful life: Matt’s influences on me and how he enables me to be myself. (Reference: Bruce Springsteen makes you want to be like him, and Bob Dylan makes you want to be yourself)
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Welcome to the Feisworld podcast, engaging conversations that cross the boundaries between business art, and the digital world.
Fei Wu 0:16
My friends, it’s been a month since I released the first episode of my podcast. This is going to be episode number eight. I’ve hit a 500 download milestone a few days ago, pretty psyched about that. Well, the most exciting part of today is introducing my next guest, Matt Lindley. For those of you who don’t know, Matt is the director of Innovation for SapientNitro. We became friends instantly when he first started working there in 2009. Matt had such an impact on my life. If you were to ask me “List three people who helped shape you into who you are today”, Matt would be one of them. Matt’s list of accomplishments in the advertising and marketing world goes way, way back. He’s been a storyteller for over 25 years. He sold OneZero Media, where he created and produced CBS’s first broadcast TV-show about the internet and personally hosted that for three seasons. He was an ECD/ EVL (by the way, that means Executive Creative Director, as well as Executive Vice President) at Arnold Worldwide the team for the Progressive Insurance account, and most recently he co-created a business visioning tool called ThirtySix at SapientNitro. He’s a board member for Friends of the Boston’s Homeless, a non-profit organization that helps over 400 homeless individuals move beyond shelter to live independent lives in our community. He is also a board member for Stop Handgun Violence. Those of you who have driven by Mass Turnpike since 2008, you probably have noticed the 250-foot billboard that says “We sell guns! No ID required, no background checks”. In this two-part episode I recorded with Matt Lindley at his home office, you’ll hear about Matt’s path from growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania to his appointment as a Senior Advertising Executive. Matt shares a strategy for making sure that your creative input is valuable. We also touch upon parenthood and what it means to do the best you can do as a father and as a colleague. I hope you all enjoy the show. And remember that you do not have to scribble furiously, show notes, tools and resources can be found on my website at Feisworld.com. You can also listen to my podcast directly on Feisworld.com or subscribe via iTunes and non-iTunes channels. Enjoy!
Fei Wu 3:15
The first movie, what year was that?
It was 1984.
That’s funny that you’re in here. All the stuff’s in here.
Fei Wu 3:38
Wow, this is great. Like, if we just go around your office…
Yes, we can.
Fei Wu 4:06
So what about that movie from 1984? What was in it?
The movie was called Soaring. So I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, and right behind the farm was an airport. The airport was a little grass strip, and every day as a kid, I would watch the sailplanes, planes with the motors. So I’ve watched them and I could hear them come over the house when it was really quiet. When I went to George School, which is where I went to high school, they had a senior project, so you get like three weeks to go do something, and I decided to make a Super 8 movie about flying. We got a tape recorder, put it between my feet, we got a Super 8 camera, Bolex, and we went up to sailplanes for like, you know, two weekends. Then we used the Steve Winwood’s soundtrack, put it all together and showed it. I mean, it was really old school.
Fei Wu 5:06
How long was it?
It was probably three minutes. I showed it to an assembly my senior year, and I went back for a high school reunion for 20 years, 15 years, something like that, and I wanted to had that movie. So my plan was to put it on a DVD, and then the guy I was talking to said “I wouldn’t send your old Super 8 movie”, and I was like “Well I don’t want to lose it”, so I’m still waiting to transfer it all, make it all digital.
Fei Wu 5:32
Really? When is that going to happen?
I don’t know, sometime soon, I hope. But it’s great, it was a fun movie and the end of it was two loops, sailplanes, which are really scary because you have no motor so you’re going straight down like 90 knots. And then the thing goes inverted, and you can hear my voice on there. I was screaming like I was an 11-year-old, you know. And that was it. I really enjoyed it. But I never want to be a pilot after that flight, that was it.
Fei Wu 6:04
Were you already working in advertising or…?
I wanted to make movies. My dad who was a painter also had a film company called So-so Films, and he had that giant 16-millimeter film thing. I didn’t know what it did, but I thought it was cool. So I’d see him in there, looking at films. He got me little Super 8 one, which had a little hand crank, right and left, and when you cut Super 8 film, you actually slice it, and then you glue it, count to 20 and you pop it out. So I learned how to do that, and that’s why this movie is probably at 72 old pieces. So yeah, that was the beginning of wanting to make TV. The funny part was, we didn’t have TV, there’s no TV in the house. My parents were completely opposed to it. And now as an adult, I have a nine-foot screen in the basement, I used to be on TV and I make TV commercials.
Fei Wu 7:00
I heard you have a movie theater?
Yes. Well, the idea was we’re gonna watch movies, it was going to be purely for movies. But now I’m sure they’re watching The Kardashians in the basement.
Fei Wu 7:13
Well, thank you so much for having me in your beautiful house. And one of my favorite rooms is on the first floor, overseeing the backyard. I could just imagine it’s a perfect spot for meditation. Do you meditate?
Well, imagine that! Yeah, somewhere between the screaming about last night’s homework not being done and the dog peeing on the carpet, I really don’t have time to meditate. [laughs]
I tried meditation. I just never really got it’s consistency, cause the thing about meditation is that once or twice is not enough. So the idea of sitting out there and being really quiet… Not really my type. But I will tell you, my father at age 80 got very ill and came to live with us, we built a wall and that was his room, that was where he passed away. Right in there. It’s just the way he wanted. And he was there with us for three months. That was his room. So he looked out the window every day until the day he passed away. Really nice. And then that was it.
Fei Wu 8:30
Yeah, that’s a beautiful place. When I walked in there, I just sensed something very different. And then you just shared your dad sketches with me and I just felt very different. I grew up in an artistic family, and I cannot see and like print work. I understand, sometimes we have to do that, but when you actually flip through the pages of something someone actually painted and put in so many thoughts… And I saw a lot of life drawings, you know, of people on the couch and dogs running around and all these things, it is kind of his expression towards the life he was living in.
Yeah, he was an extraordinarily passionate human being about art. In some of the sketches you saw, what would happen is that I would come home from school, it would be a random Wednesday, and I would bring my friend, I remember his name is Gary Anderson. And I brought him home from school, we walked home from the bus. Then I got home and on the dining room table was a woman. She’s probably about 270 pounds, there was a sheet on the table, she was naked, and she was surrounded by about nine men and women, all with sketch pads. And they were all just drawing her arms or legs, her breasts, whatever, they were just all drawing parts. Gary Anderson walked into the house, went over to use the phone and asked his parents to come, he said “I don’t want to be here! There’s a gigantic naked lady on the dining room table” [laughs]. So it was Wednesday sketch class at the house when I was a kid.
Fei Wu 10:17
Wow, I had no idea about all these stories.
It was a very, very different way to grow up. So that was kind of my introduction to all this. That was just sort of normal.
Fei Wu 10:46
It’s so fascinating. I remember when I worked at Sapient, I guess I was 25-26 and trying to figure out….
Yeah, and you’re 50 now. [laughs]
Fei Wu 11:00
It’s like, I remember there was a comedian saying how people change as they age, like, in your 20s you hate everybody, especially your parents, in your 30s you hate the government and the politics, and in your 40s you’re saying “I’m hungry. I can only eat that pig”.
Yeah, I think I’m arriving at “I can eat that pig”. Like, a little bit earlier than at 40, at this point.
So I always realized that your dad had such an impact on you, but just now I realized it is even bigger and more significant than I thought.
I think it was. Both my parents are painters. So the notion that mom had a studio and dad had a studio, they’re both home all the time when I was growing up. And then they would take their paintings, put them in a VW bus and drive them to the gallery and sell them. I mean, that’s how the whole thing worked for years and years and years. So she would paint and he would paint, then they would come in and smoke cigarettes and smell like serpentine during all lunch on the weekends. And then they go back out and paint again.
Fei Wu 12:10
You had the perfect childhood.
I think I did, but there are people who would argue with that because I have a lot of very strange notions about the way things are supposed to work. And now it’s just a very, very different world for me.
Fei Wu 12:26
I’m very surprised because, perhaps, by talking to you, I will figure out what my parents never understood about my life, my career. As you know, both of them, one was and one still is a very hardcore artist. That’s all they’ve ever known. And for me, trying to explain advertising, what I do, is just…
What is the part where you lose your mom when you’re talking to her about something that you’re making? What was the part when she looked at you and said “Why would you do that?” or “That’s really great for you, sweetie, have a nice day” [laughs] What did she say?
Fei Wu 13:04
It’s interesting, as a project manager when I describe to my mom the way I work with designer and user experience designer, she’s thinking “Okay, that’s like the digital side of things, but as a fine artist, I still get it”. Sounds pretty fun. Anything visual you put in front of her, what she struggles with, for example, in website design, especially the banner type of stuff, she’s like “There are so many constraints you have to work within”. Yeah, for one that’s a box and she can think along that term. I’m like “Mom, the reality is 300 by 250 pixels”. And my mom loves huge paintings. Yeah, she hated that.
I get hives. I mean, I get the same thing. This is part of being over 50 – there was a point where I just had to admit I don’t know what to do with Excel [laughs]. And I figured that you can get people to help you do all that stuff. It’s like there are no straight lines in my life, my kids are in school and I’m not a big fan of homework.
It’s very hard not to, you know, be in the banner box. All the furniture that was downstairs that you saw was initially paid by me not eating and making banners years ago. I was making banners freelance, and back then there were no standard sizes. So at six o’clock at night, you would get your assignment, you get a 90 by 170 and 250 by 450. I mean, there was no standard sizes. And there were these little tiny boxes, you know, it was fun because it was weird.
But then years later, it becomes this sort of like constraint. I totally see your mom. I mean, my father, he was powerless to do anything else, he had to paint. He used to go to the studio, even if he couldn’t paint, and sit there with a book and read until noon. He’d go at six o’clock in the morning and read for six hours if he had to, just so he would be there. It took that kind of discipline.
Fei Wu 15:45
I don’t know why all the artists are very similar. I feel the same way about my parents, especially my mom. I don’t know what your dad’s upbringing was, like, possibly very similar for my mom. She came from a very musical family, and the rest of her sisters became musicians, but she knew she wanted to be an artist. And I think also because her parents were very conservative, very strict, she kind of went the other way by expressing herself. One of the example she told me was when my grandma could have bought new sheets – and they were very poor back then -she would try and find a pen to actually trace over all the prints on the sheet. And that’s what she did as like 3.5-4-year-old. Yeah, I think art in itself is meditation for her. I think it sounds like very much for your dad and your mom as well.
My mom, the meditation has become where she is. I mean, she lives on the farm in Pennsylvania, and I think the actual environment, the landscape has become what she does, she doesn’t actively paint but what she does is manage the farm, at 85 or 84 years old. It’s just as a full-time job for her. So she manages this entire place and that’s become what she does. Dad painted right up until a week before he died. It was always paper and pencil.
But yes, the same thing. His father was an editor, a translator, but he lived a pretty strict upbringing. He said he didn’t eat with his parents at, like, nine years old, and his parents would have dinner.
Fei Wu 17:28
Why was that?
It was sort of a thing, child of the, you know, the 40s – 50s. He went away to boarding school and then was sent to Yale, and then came home. That was it. So it’s very much “Send your kids to these different places”. And I think that in the meantime, he wanted to paint, and painting was it. And then he went to the art students, which is where he met my mom. So they were both there at the same time.
Fei Wu 18:01
Wow, this is incredible. I feel so blessed just talking to you. And one of the questions I was always eager to ask is what shaped you into who you are? What is that mix of things? And I think your parents definitely played in how you grew up, where you grew up, played a really interesting part.
It’s like the stories you’re telling me about the Forbidden City. I mean, that changes someone’s life, right? I’m seeing these things that you see, I grew up in Pennsylvania, hundred-acre farm, there was no TV, listened to the radio at night. It really was as low-key as it could possibly be.
Fei Wu 19:03
And then yes, you became a Senior Executive Creative Director at one of the most prestigious multiple advertising agencies in Boston.
Well, I think that’s because of that. I think the thing was, I saw the relationship between things that other people didn’t see because of the need to simplify things. I’m in a constant state of needing to simplify things because I really can’t put them in a perspective that you can see in a spreadsheet, I don’t know what’s happening. I was in school as a horrible student. And I would look at that stuff and the teachers would look at me go “You’re so smart. Why can’t you figure this out?” I’m like “I’m really not that smart”. My brain doesn’t work that way. But I can connect these two things together. So that’s what my job was becoming, and I didn’t realize till I was working in Arnold. I think that’s what a Creative Director does. It’s like “Wait a min, I saw that when I was a kid, or I saw that six months ago?” And then when digital came along, it was like “Wait a minute, if you take that music, and put up together with this…”, suddenly there was this combination of all these elements that made for these experiences for users. You jam all that stuff together, and it’s not incredibly smart. It’s all there. It’s just seeing the connection. And I think in the end it’s just stepping back. And this thing, I call it “child’s mind”, which is you just go to this place in your head where you act like you’re nine and you look at it and you go “You know what, I don’t get that. Like, I honestly don’t get that”. And there’s no other place to do that except advertising because you’re looking at it. It’s a paper towel. You know what I mean?
Fei Wu 20:50
Someone said the other day “There are 97 different kinds of toothbrushes. Why should I give a shit about this one? – Well, let’s talk about that”. And seeing those connections and making those with all the stuff that we have is what makes it interesting.
Fei Wu 21:07
So as a Director of Innovation – yeah, we’ll get into the title because I think it’s maybe the coolest and the sexiest title anywhere in the world. [laughs]
It’s also the first person to get fired, but yeah.
I can tell, you know, it’s funny watching you doing this. It’s like, I think this is what you need to do. You know, everybody on the radio has a voice that has a thing. Yeah, you have a thing.
Fei Wu 21:48
Thank you. Yeah, I’m not sure you knew this, and I shouldn’t bring up things from 15 years ago, but I worked as a DJ at China National Radio Station. When I was 15-16. Yeah, I was never trained, and they were open-minded enough to say that it’s okay for you to be a complete amateur. Yeah. So what happened prior to that, if I didn’t mention, was my mom over the radio signed me up for national English competition. Of course, I grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese, and yes, my parents had a lot of foreign friends. But, you know, in the long run, I was speaking English like two weeks out of a year, broken English. But by the time I showed up on the competition, my mom was like “You are going to win, you would be number one!”, and I was like “Mom, just be realistic here”. And then I walked around, I noticed all them. They’re all Asian kids, and they’re like “Oh, we go to school in LA, my family’s in Brooklyn”. And I’m like “Whoa, what’s going on here? This is not fair! Mom, no way I’m going to win”. So she’s like “Yes, you will”. And I got up there, so what happened was in the end, I sang a song. Yeah, it’s a very touching story. I just picked up the guitar, I felt so awkward, and I looked around like 5000 people watching the competition, just playing and singing. So I did come in first.
Congratulations! That’s awesome.
Fei Wu 23:17
Thank you. And the best part of all that was that a director of China National Radio approached me and said: “Would you like to host the show?” But, you know, clearly, I’ve never done this before. So I had to co-host the show first before they determine I am good enough. So I did that with some guy, apparently, very famous, some 25-year-old. I remember going to school the next day. People were like “Can we get his autograph? He’s so cute!” And then I did the show in live, and that guy, that DJ, made me sing what I sang during the competition. I felt extremely awkward. And I got my show for about a year.
Fei Wu 23:57
Yeah, I had a ton of fun producing in a real professional studio. And that’s one of the trigger points. My mom, you know, to my 31-year-old self: “You can do it, get back into radio! And you are going to have your shows!” I was like “I don’t know, I’m too old” [laughs]
No, you’re not! No, no, no, not at all. This is an expression that both my father and mother used – “Why not you?” It is really true. Why not you?
Fei Wu 24:24
That’s gonna be the first quote. You know what, that’s gonna be the title of this podcast!
Well, I opened a restaurant in Gloucester with a friend of mine, I’ve done a bunch of startup companies, one of which was a TV show with a website, a company that we sold. A totally absurd idea, but again, why not? Why not you? And I remember calling my parents saying “Listen, I’m going to quit my job. I just got married. So I’m gonna quit my job. We’re going to start this thing”. And they were just, you know, “Thumbs up!” And I’m wondering whether or not I’m going to be that guy, whether or not my kids are gonna call and go “Listen, Dad, I’m going to do hydroponic pot”, and I’ll go “That’ awesome, buddy. I’m so excited for you!” I want to be the same guy, I want to be like your mom, looking at you and saying “Listen, you’re going to win”. So that goes back to that expression, which is why not you? And then you go “You know what, yeah, I am going to do that” And I have a feeling that’s kind of your thing. I think part of that comes from having a mom who’s an artist, which is, you have to put yourself out there, you can’t be a half an artist. I mean, you can be, advertising it’s half art. Like, you can put yourself out there until it offends your client. [laughs] But the notion is that you got to go all the way to the canvas, you got to go all the way to the full expression. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself. So the question is “What do I do to get fully there?”, so for you, you know, NPR, Sunday afternoons, you know, Feisworld.
Fei Wu 26:15
To be honest, I had no idea how much traction I could get. So this is what happened a week ago: I finally put my foot down and after having a minor emotional breakdown producing this, listening to myself, I thought “That was awful! Nobody wants to listen to those, I could hear my accent, I got nothing good to say, I better quit this now”, and I never thought I would think about myself that way, and I made a decision to basically complete the website, learn a ton more and on Monday decided to post it on Facebook. Immediately got 20-30 comments, more likes, posted to Twitter, shared on LinkedIn and decided “I’m going to just forget about the whole thing”, and people started re-sharing yeah. One guy who was a Senior Vice President, he forwarded it to his pupils and said: “If you want to learn about user experience, listen to this podcast”. I was really touched.
That’s until you interviewed me and the whole thing went to hell. [laughs]
Fei Wu 27:45
No, not at all. You are absolutely one of the reasons for me to start the podcast. Truthfully, when I started this, I knew it’s a big project and I have a full-time job, but I thought about people kind of echoing my head – and my mom is the one – I remember very clearly how we met and that image, the aura that you had and how it projected onto me. I instantly stopped questioning myself as much, and I must have described this story multiple times, but that song Fireflies…
[laughs] Yeah, yeah, everybody hated that song except for me.
Fei Wu 28:32
You know, in 2009, I was running on the treadmill or walking down the street, and that song totally caught me. The lyrics made no sense whatsoever, it was bubbly. It’s, you know…
It was everything a pop song is, it was total sugar. I liked it.
Fei Wu 28:51
And I had my noise cancellation fully on when I was listening to the song, of course, no co-worker near me could even hear it. I was so embarrassed. I was like “Let me turn the volume down”. And then I remember that day, I heard it playing from, like, 30 feet away. So loud. And I walked up to you, and you were like “Fei, isn’t that great?!” There’re so many feelings. It’s kind of such a simple event, but somehow it really changed my perspective, working in a consulting and advertising firm. And the fact that, you know, Sapient hired someone like you.
Oh, that’s incredibly nice to say. Yeah, little things. Well, I think it takes a lot. I think when you’re older, when you’re a dad and you’re supposed to be wearing dad jeans and doing dad things, you can do almost any embarrassing thing you want. You know, I saw Pacific Rim, the horrible, horrible sci-fi movie. I loved it. I mean, I didn’t love it as a movie, it’s not high art, but I admitted that they were good couple hours I spent with my son watching an action flick. So I think that there’s a certain point where you just got to be honest with yourself and everybody else. So I like this song, but as soon as you played it 500 times you’re like “Okay, I’m done with that”. Yeah, but I’m looking for the next one since that, you know, the next big one.
Fei Wu 30:28
That’s funny. I remember what happened immediately after we listened to the song together for 30 seconds. I approached you for good reason: a pretty high-end client executive, at the time, was not good about the collection. He was supposed to collect for a bunch of clients, he ignored me and didn’t do it. So I approached you and said “What can I do about this, Matt? Can you help me?
Did I say “Slice his tires” or something? [laughs] What did I say?
Fei Wu 31:01
I said “Matt, could you help me with some Photoshop?”, so we could put, like, the horns or something on his picture, just make fun of this guy, send an email out to everybody. And you said: “You know what, I am five minutes late to an agency meeting, but let’s just do that right now”. And we did that! And the best part was, we were able to collect over a million dollars from there. [laughs]
Yeah, I hate to think of what we did. But you know, it’s funny as I think I’m losing my mind because I forget all these things. But I do remember the song. Oh, that was awesome. That was fun.
Fei Wu 31:37
I’d love for you to paint what your day is like. I think many people are really curious. But before we get there, there’s one moment, a third important moment. So the first being Fireflies, the second was painting a picture of this guy, and the third one, I thought it was so magical: we’re in a meeting again, once a week, I think we’re there to talk about the collection and the strategy, all client executives were there. I’m not going to name the person but someone’s always happy, smiling, like, everything’s always under control.
And I remember that day, all of a sudden, he got really angry, probably for good reason. Because that’s once a week meeting and someone of the client executives was not able to join. Yeah, I remember there was a really awkward silence, you’re sitting next to me, and I had no idea how to continue. I had a stack of papers, of things I needed to go through, and I didn’t know what to do. And then all of a sudden, I just saw, you’re ready to say something. And I was thinking “Oh my God, what’s going to happen?” And then you crack the joke. You actually cracked a joke right then and there, everybody laughed and we just moved on.
Oh, that’s awesome. Well, that’s good. I was waiting for the rest of the story, like “And then you farted”. [laughs]
Fei Wu 33:14
That was amazing. And I was thinking, that’s a risk taking. Not to start painting a theme, but you know, I’m taking a risk having a podcast, you’re taking a risk of telling a joke. And I thought to myself “Thank God that was a good one”. I mean, that’s something that you could be fired for.
But you can’t be afraid. You know, the reason you get hired to run a drill press is that you’re good at a drill press. And that’s a real job. I mean, people do it their whole lives, not to take anything away from it. The reason you get hired in advertising is that you have an opinion. I mean, you can compromise it, but to have an opinion, to have a reason, a point of view is what makes people successful. And I think when people get that they all of a sudden move ahead in their career to a certain point, and you realize, if you put your opinion out there, it doesn’t mean the first agency would like it, even the second agency, but the third agency would be like “Oh, my God, this is great. Tell us what you think!” And you’re like “You know what, I think this”, and then someone listens. It’s like you got 74 shares on your podcast, and you’re like “Wait a minute, there’s affirmation right there!”. So in a social world, it works both ways. My daughter had a party here, I told her, she could have 50 friends. So she had 50 friends. And we had a DJ and lights were down, they’re kicking stuff around, people were taking pictures. And halfway through the party, she was in tears. And I asked her what was wrong. And what happened was the people she didn’t invite saw pictures on Facebook or someplace because other people were posting them. And they were saying nasty things because they weren’t invited. So imagine, the middle of a party, and all of a sudden, she’s getting feedback in real time from people who did not get invited because they were angry. And I thought, you know, if you live your life like that, if all this stuff impacts you, that way, you’re never going to get out there. All the people we like everybody who gets out there, it’s cool. But I’m telling you, when you’re old older, when you’re 15, you don’t give a shit anymore. When I was 25 or 35 that was cool, I wanted to be cool, I want to be in. And then, at some point, that fades and you get included because you’re kind of out. You kind of just wander out, and you are sort of like “Yeah, I like Fireflies, I like this song”. [laughs]
Fei Wu 36:03
Let’s talk about that for a second. What point, what age was that tipping point? Or was it just gradual over time?
It was not an overnight change. I mean, there’re so many weights and measures on a career, on being a father, on being a husband, being a human being on the planet, but once you put all of that on your plate, once you spread it all out, you’re like “Okay, I can only do so much”. So Warren Buffett had this expression, to take the top 25 things you want to do, write them all down – because if you don’t vision it, it can’t become real – write those down, circle the top five, then throw away the other 15 because there’s no point in trying to do everything. Then what you can do is be the best you can be at all the different things that you do. So I’m never going to be the best employee of the month. I mean, maybe I could peek in December, but I’m not going to be the guy. I’m not there all weekend, I don’t do it. And I openly admit I don’t do it. I mean, I do when it’s necessary, but I’m not going to do it just to do it.
I would consider myself a really good dad, but I’m not one of the dads out there who are building papier mache elephants with their kids all weekend. I’m not that guy, either. So it is moderation in all these things, and also, you know, “Help ever, hurt never” kind of thing, which is like, you know, trying to be helpful.
But, I think, along the way, you discover all these things, and you’re trying to be super cool, you’re trying to be super dad, and it’s just exhausting. What can I do?
Fei Wu 37:59
I think that’s important. The wheel of life, you know, you slice into different pieces, personal career, all that, and I think it’s important to score relatively high or find a balance around all the pieces. I think some people overwork in a certain category, and the rest completely suffer.
I think that’s fear.
It’s just very hard. A friend of mine is a shrink, and once there was a great moment: I walk past Peet’s Coffee, I see him sitting in the window, so I go in and sit next to him. He does not say a word. He looks at me, and he nods, and I nod at him. And I have coffee, and we don’t say a word to each other for, like, five minutes. It’s just sort of coexistence. Then he looks out the window, and he’s looking at these cars going by, and he goes “Do you have any idea how hard it is just to keep a car on the road?” And what he was talking about was the fact that, you know, it’s amazing how we handle what we do. And we all take it for granted. I’ve got to pick up the kids at three, do this, get to the hockey, do this and that and it’s just normal. It’s not normal! It’s not okay. You got to have some balance and all that. So I think that as shrink this is what he deals with all days. People just get overloaded.
Fei Wu 39:24
I had that feeling, exactly as you described, on my way to your house. I punched in your address in the map app and it said that the route will take 25 minutes. So the whole time I was thinking “I don’t want to miss any turn. I want to go through the perfect path and gather exactly 25 minutes”, and it was getting to 30 minutes because I made some mistakes. And I was thinking about that, I was like “Wait a minute. Life shouldn’t be perfect! Life is never perfect”. I think we are so hard on ourselves. I don’t use Twitter very much but one of the things I tweeted was “Be gentle to yourself”. And not to get really deep into it, but I think after my dad passed, my mom… I felt like she’s on her own, so I made sure to take her out three days a week, do a grocery shopping, do all this for her, make sure life is as perfect as it can be for her. As a result, there was this period of time when I completely neglected my myself, my feelings, things I do that are important to me to take care of myself. So I think you’re right and you provided almost a philosophical approach to understanding why that is, because even if you perfectly plan your day, your week, anyways your day will totally go sideways.
I wonder if that’s cultural, though. The stories that you told me about, you know, going from Beijing to arriving in Fryeburg Academy at eight o’clock at night with the snow falling. And then, doing the martial arts as much as you have… You’re at my house, doing Feisworld, you know what I mean? Like, you do a lot! And I think that as human beings on the planet, we don’t look at each other and recognize the fact that we’re doing a ton, I look at my kids and say that. I cancel things all the time for them. But the idea is that if I look at you, I’m like, you do this, and this, and this. You got a lot going on. But people very rarely look at each other, unless they’re a parent, and go “Listen, you got to take care of yourself”. But then you realize all these things, and I think like this podcast for you could be like a journey, and that journey helps those other things, puts those in perspective. And in that case, this journey becomes super important. So it may be one extra thing, but it also might be the thing that puts everything else in the perspective that it needs to be. And you’re like “I have now found my purpose”, or “I found another purpose of my life”, and then the two roads diverge and off you go.
Fei Wu 42:19
Yeah, thank you for your support, though. I know you are one of the busiest people I know. But I just want to throw it out there: after I emailed you, you replied: “Love it, definitely will get involved”. And that means a lot to me. You know, your name is very known in the agency world, and that was not the only reason, actually, that’s the less important of a reason, but the fact that every time I talk to you, you pour your heart out. I remember every conversation as a 25-26-year-old, I thought to myself “Why would he care about my feelings, my questions?”, and you did. I realized we oftentimes live our lives with false assumptions, with misconceptions. And as I was writing some of the questions, – which I didn’t have to look at because the conversation kind of just flows right through – while working at a bigger agency, such as Arnold or Sapient, you get to meet so many people, learn from most of them. And you feel like you’re in this very exciting city, very “trafficky”, and having people like you, and also Kayla Brown from episode 1, you guys are very different. You make me feel like the little coffee shop, a little tea house that I could go to, and learn things, and feel very comfortable. And it creates a set of opportunities, not just there, sipping tea, but really, to pull myself away from the chaos and to really look into myself. And this is not just about me, because I’ve heard all these stories about you, they were so touching. When I entered into my second agency, I spoke with someone who said he was also a very junior designer at the time…
Did I fire him or something? [laughs]
Fei Wu 44:15
[laughs] No! He was a junior designer, and he had to leave the country due to visa issues.
And then he said before, you know, things had happened very quickly. And I completely understand that, it’s similar to my background. So you pulled him aside and took care of everything for him without even telling him that you’re going to do so. And you actually set some time aside and made sure his transition was very smooth. And he told me now, probably in his mid to late 30s, that he will always remember that.
I think we got him back. Did we get him back?
Fei Wu 44:48
Yeah, you did!
Fei Wu (Outro) 44:51
So that concluded part one of my conversation with Matt Lindley. In part two, I started with a question about how should digital versus traditional media merge and be built upon one another. What is Matt vision and hope, as he has seen the advertising world for decades? Matt said he likes the expression of “Floating behind yourself”. At that moment, you begin to see the world differently. The collective “we”, as a company, if we could just learn from each other enough to move forward, we can really do extraordinary things. The question is, can you step back far enough to see? Can you be a catalyst for that? We move beyond just company culture, at times, Matt naturally turned himself into an interviewer to ask about my upbringing, and that really connected the dots for me to understand how and why I started this podcast.
Welcome to the phase world podcast, engaging conversations that crossed the boundaries between business, art and the digital world.
Fei Wu 0:17
This episode is part two of my conversation with Matt Lindley. You don’t have to listen to the two parts in order, though I highly recommend that you do not miss out on part one, where Matt talks about his upbringing and influences prior to becoming a senior advertising executive. Matt Lindley is the Director of Innovation SAP nitrile, and a board member for friends of the Boston homeless, as well as stop Handgun Violence. I had the pleasure to join Matt, his family and friends at the annual event for friends of the Boston homeless for the past three years, where I met Joe regulatory owner of the famous regulatory icecream and one of the sponsors at the event. Joe had recently agreed to be part of my podcast. What a connection for ice cream lovers like myself. Well back to friends of the Boston homeless. It is an incredible nonprofit organization that helps over 400 homeless people every year to move beyond shelter, and lead independent lives. Please check it out and see how you can play a part. In this episode, you will hear a day in the life of Matt Lindley, the Director of Innovation beyond grown a business, Matt is very interested in growing and enabling the people around him, we talk about the overlying theme, the collective wisdom that helps us move forward in every direction. We also catch up on my own invention of a Breakfast Club, where he brings like minded people, friends, to sparkle ideas and have a great time. Of course, I couldn’t possibly leave the question now. That is how much of madmen the TV show is true in advertising agencies today. I should be able to answer that question, right? Because I’m also an advertising but anyway, as a TV host and Matt’s previous life, he once again, turn the mic around and asked me about why face world podcast. What triggered me to care about what and how other people think, and why in the world was i Obsessed With ice hockey, and thought it was my life calling. I guess you will all learn more about me in this episode as well. totally unplanned, unscripted. I hope you all enjoy the show. And remember that shownotes tools and resources can be found via my website at FaZe world.com FEIS Wo rld. For this episode, as well as all the previously released once you can listen to my podcast directly on my website, as well as subscribing to iTunes and non iTunes channels. subscription will help us stay in touch. And the next episode will be downloaded automatically. As soon as you open the app. For iPhone users. The podcast app is fairly trivial. For new Android users. The one I like a lot is called podcast addict, which you can download for free. Now enjoy the show.
One of the opportunity here is if you could walk the audience through your day as Director of Innovation. What is your regular day like? Yeah, yeah,
Matt Lindley 3:30
great question. Well, the innovation thing. Strangely, I think that five, five or six years ago, Barry and I interviewed the same time for the creative director job, I didn’t get it. Barry got it. And I was like, wait a minute, I just came from running 120 people and you know, $400 million with a business and I can’t run 12 people over here at sapient. But I liked it. I liked the notion of safety of the idea that connection between the strong link between technology and creative. So is the idea of building an agency in an environment that there will be with 10 or 12 people in an environment a whole bunch surrounded by a whole bunch of really, really smart people. So I thought they stand a better shot than most groups. So Chris called me back and said, Hey, I want to hire both you I want you to be the Director of Innovation. I’m like, What’s that? He goes, Well, we’ll figure that out when you get here. So we started working, and essentially what it has been, honestly, has been a new business job. And the new business job has been to understand the connection between the technology stuff that we do, because I spent time at CMCI and ZDNet and started a bunch of tech companies the connection between that and creative which I’ve always loved but I’ve never been fully in either camp. I don’t think that you would find I wasn’t executive creative director and Arnold but it really was on technology and it really was on quote starts for progressive and Vonage Voice over IP phone systems. And then and then Creative Director at ZDNet which was which was about ad placement and then CMCI it was This combination these two things. So Director of Innovation saiping gives me the ability to walk the floor at sapient with these incredibly smart people, some of my favorite creative people, Alan’s there Gary’s there. And, and connect the two. That’s really it. I mean, it sounds I hate to make it seem. So if someone’s listening to this and paying my salary, they’d be like, wait a minute, is that all? But the notion is that I see something in technology. And I’d be like, you know, that is really, that’s explain that. And I usually needed to explain like two or three times, and they’ll say, like, now what happens is you press this button, and then someone shot the little thing, and I hit pops off, and I’m like, Well, that’s pretty cool. And then someone caught it, someone else has, you know, creative, not a crisis, but they’re gonna they’re working through a creative problem. I’m like, wait a minute, have you seen this button push thing where then stop the head. And they’re like, wait a minute, so we put the two together. And it’s a touchscreen. And the touchscreen does a bunch of other stuff. And I thought, That’s it. And I thought I did my best shot at doing this in Boston, because I’m not moving is sapien, nitre. That was my thought. And it still is, it’s just it’s five and a half years later. And I can’t say that it’s gotten any easier, as you’re discovering and most agencies is a very, very hard thing, almost impossible to do well, because one group of people I mean, I was in Switzerland with someone from saving Nitro, I made some joke at the dinner table. I said, Well, it’s not like we’re, you know, you’re from an arranged marriage. She goes, I am, you know, she was president arranged marriage. And I, you know, I grew up on a dirt road. So here’s a kid from a farm in Pennsylvania. With a woman this is charisma from, from she lives in Bangalore or someplace, or Delhi. And, and we’re both in Switzerland, working for French client, who’s in Switzerland. And, and we’re trying to make all these things work together. Because that’s the nature of the that’s the nature of the beast now, really fascinating, but extraordinarily, are culturally difficult. Language barriers, technology issues. And all of that makes it exciting.
Fei Wu 6:54
So that that is so true, if that’s the world I’m living in. Yeah. And I think you really pinpointed some of the core themes here. So I was wondering what this is something I’m trying to like, figure out on my own, I think it changes over time, potentially, is what is the underlying overlapping? theme? And what is what I mean by that is the core competencies, were the way you look at the world, your vision, your strategy, that’s the same across regardless of language and cultures. But on top of all that, what are something? How do you have to operate differently, given a new age, and to kind of in some cases, as we all know, is sort of the traditional to digital transition? I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. Let’s just put it that way. And sometimes the two have to marry. That’s a long winded question to say, what’s the same, what’s different?
Matt Lindley 7:47
Yeah, I go back to the expression I used before which, and I don’t know where I picked it up, which was child’s mind. And it was the idea of standing three feet behind yourself. And looking at yourself, I happen to operate in this years ago, I operate an extraordinarily high anxiety level all the time, it was just what kept me going. And I used to just get so kind of freaked out about what was going on, I used to sort of float behind myself a little bit, which was a technique a friend of mine told me about, and the at that moment, you begin to see the world differently, you begin to see the problem differently. There’s a there’s a video being done, a friend of mine was telling me about which was he was telling me about there’s a video being made. And it’s all these astronauts, and they talked about these astronauts who have seen the planet Earth from the Windows spacecraft. And they looked at the whole world. And these are these are traditionally right wing, military, Republican, whatever, guys. And their perspective is, you know, we all got to try to get along because they’ve seen the earth in total. Like, you know what I mean? Yeah, like they’re not, it’s not like us in them. It’s us. And you see this giant and I always thought that was fascinating, because the idea is, there’s all sorts of fiefdoms. And there’s also an you know, from clients, all these verticals. The overlying theme is if you step back, is that the collective way, and that, that can be any concentric circle you choose to make as a company, if we could just learn from each other enough to move forward. We can do some extraordinary things. I think it’s true in medicine, I think it’s true and everything. So the idea is, can you step back far enough to see can you and can you be a catalyst for that even beyond that? Can you be the person who helps other people step back and see and sometimes it’s themselves? Sometimes it’s like, Listen, this, you know, it’s like a little thing, like, no, no, why not? You like this is not wrong. But then you realize that by doing that, you’re the sum total gets better. But it’s just it’s not it’s not essentially valued. companies tend to go like no, you see, Bob had a sales, he’s killing it. That’s the way we operate. He’s up 22% Last year, we’re about it. We’re a group of individuals. But I think that’s important too. But the step back is that in the collective Audio that goes with it is I think is where the real I think that’s where the great stuff is. And if we could do more of it, we could move, we can move into some really exciting places.
Fei Wu 10:10
One of the questions I always thought about you go to places, rarely, you know, for me, I mean people like you, and I want to be friends with for the rest of my life. Regardless,
Matt Lindley 10:22
we’re friends forever. Like, it’s gonna happen.
Fei Wu 10:25
We will be and I wonder from not to talk about pulling HR for a second, what are some of the strategies in making sure that making sure that you create a group more or less describing some sort of personalities? Or, you know, they’ll just put a that’s a better? I guess I could
Matt Lindley 10:45
I know what you’re asking me, essentially, how is it you create a group of like minded individuals? Yeah, having started an agency, I know that, you know, we got to for people, we were not, we were no longer like minded individuals. It’s one of the reasons going back to the original point that people become artists, this is complete self expression, I’m going to be honest with myself, and this is what I can handle, I can put myself out there, it’s your mom, it’s, it’s my parents, it’s, you know, it’s like, the idea is I’m gonna put myself out there as an individual, as soon as you have an agent and that you know, somebody who goes, you don’t you want to do is, I remember, I heard this true story. My mom sold a painting. It was a painting and my parents after they got divorced, and it was really an aggressive, kind of an aggressive piece of beautiful, it was huge. And there was a woman came into the gallery, and she bought it because she liked the colors, and that would fit over her couch. She had no idea that the painting was like this really, you know, aggressive thing, if you knew my parents, it was two fingers standing with their hands just just about a quarter inch apart. I mean, it was completely personally word sketched in there with a palette and I it was crazy. And somewhere in Long Island, in someone’s house, because it matched the blue leather itself, I guess, I don’t know. So. So essentially, the notion is that, that if, if, if you can get like minded people around you, I’ve just never seen it work beyond the, you know, six, you know, like our eight, you can’t, you can’t, diversity is part of it. But everybody’s going to start break, everybody’s issues are in there. And you cannot make the you know, the perfect anything you have to that’s where the ebb and flow comes. So, in business inherently always wants to build. So you get this. You can’t stay at six people, because inevitably, there’ll be something else and be like, Oh, we got to take a shot at that. We just need four more people. And we did that with modern East in the beginning and 12 became 25 became 100 really fast. And I think that that the idea is you try to hire people, we have this SAP we have this no assholes rule. You know, the idea was we just didn’t want people who are assholes. And that, you know, not a lot of hassles. Consider how many people there are. You know what I mean? It’s hard to come out of jerks. I mean, it really, really, you know, if they’re 13,000 people, and you can’t really there’s nobody you want to drive over? I think you’re doing pretty well. You know,
Fei Wu 13:02
it’s so true. This goes back to those lives is perfect circle, but to identify and acknowledge differences. And I think that’s partially what I’m still working through my own career, admittedly speaking, to work with different personalities, work with people with extreme, you know, insecurities. And, you know, sometimes you’re like, oh, maybe that makes sense for when you’re 25. Really, you still doing that when you’re 30. And that comes up and I try to train myself not to get too tangled up, worked up around that, because then I feel disempowered. And I become a different person. So
Matt Lindley 13:40
do you think people think about this as interesting about you? Do you think that people think about this as much as you do? Or do you think they just they go to work, they make an ad they don’t dog they watch football? I mean, you really think about this stuff?
Fei Wu 13:52
I think about this stuff. And you are absolutely right. That people I believe most other people don’t think about this as much as I do. And I think a few interviewees, I will be interviewing next week or so are not from this country were originally you know, born elsewhere. And I have this like, I don’t want to call an immigrant mentality. But there’s a there’s something going on with myself that we tend to be a little more self conscious than others. Starting questioning your accent and your grammar mistakes, and why you should always be better. And our parents, of course, play a significant part. Maybe not my parents, it’s like the a mine is a sort of Asian if
Matt Lindley 14:40
you’ve seen the t shirt that says while you’re reading this as an Asian kid doing his homework.
Fei Wu 14:45
Yeah, while you’re eating this, yeah, right.
Matt Lindley 14:47
While you’re reading this t shirt reading, reading this amazing kid is doing his homework at the mall. I was like, Really, they could sell that T shirt. So like the age of FDA minus Yeah, that that would be very that would be applauded. This sounds like a minus for people.
Fei Wu 15:02
I bet your kids are really good in school.
Matt Lindley 15:03
They don’t you know what they’re okay in school? Yeah, they’re okay. In school. They do. All right. But yeah, but we don’t have we have no, I mean, I don’t want you to fail out of school. But I also think it’s absurd what we’re doing with the four or five hours with the homework. I just don’t I don’t get the point. I think that as we as we get older, I think we’re going to evolve out of that. I think it’s a very, it’s important people practice because I think they ought to know this stuff. But, but I think that there’s a there’s just, there’s a sort of backwards pride and having five or four or five hours worth of homework. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t I mean, I wouldn’t. You know, we had study hall and I went to boarding school, and we’d sit there, the doors would be open, and we had three and a half hours every night and prefects would walk up and down the hall, and you’d sit there and it worked. I mean, you know, I can, I can process and concentrate. But I don’t think it makes sense. Now. I think there’s just too much going on. move too fast, too much access to everything.
Fei Wu 15:57
Yeah. I love where you’re going with this, because I can’t some of the interviewees don’t have kids. Yeah. And I find it fascinating to talk about parenting, and especially with your spin as a creative director. Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty cool to think that if you want to be parents as Creative Director at an ad agency, so but I do have to ask your permission to say it’s 112 Do you have like another 20 time? Great, awesome. I’m
Matt Lindley 16:26
not that busy. You keep saying I’m that. My uncle called that was it.
Fei Wu 16:31
I saw something on LinkedIn yesterday. Yeah. It blew my mind. Because out of SAP and 1000s of people, probably without exaggeration, you and another guy, Peter Borden. Yeah. Peter blows my mind. Yes. His the way. Yes. He looks like a crazy scientist. Don’t mind me saying that. Peter. Yeah.
Matt Lindley 16:53
As a crazy scientist, you know, he was he was a bench bench researcher or something at Yale School of Medicine. Yeah, he was he was Doctor track. He was. He was, you know, when he walks around with an iPad, like a like It’s like monastic kind of thing he’s got going on. He’s sort of got part part monk, part bar monk, a little bit of everything going on.
Fei Wu 17:13
He is amazing. And he is very zen to your point. And he has not responded my request to do the podcast.
Matt Lindley 17:22
We’ll get we’ll drive out there, right.
Fei Wu 17:26
So actually honest, just two of you guys from sapiens. And if I just quickly play an example, so the audience get a sense of who he is, and then maybe together we can pressure him to get on this podcast. Yes. Is if he or Peter, we, I was in a again, very tense situation tense, the very difficult client to work with. And we’re at this workshop, nobody. There’s business. There’s technology. There you have it. Just tension. Yeah. And the workshop is not going anywhere. And here comes Peter. He had his backpack. He said in the back, he realized this, and he passed me a note and said, he and I talked about neuro linguistic programming all the time in NLP. And he wrote me a notice that I’m gonna go out there ask a question. I want you to watch how the crowd changes their behavior and their posture. And I thought to myself, This guy is crazy. Yeah, don’t do this. And I said, I nodded. And he went up there. And he said, a question. I just remember people turning from old twisted posture, everybody turned forward and in within a minute business and technology from the same company. Were talking to each other. Yeah. So with that said, I think you have a picture there. And I saw goes back to LinkedIn. He wrote you a feedback. He said, Matt Lindley has one of the greatest minds.
Matt Lindley 18:50
It was like 50 bucks for greatest he said, like, you know, oh, man, I wanted to say badass, that would have been like 75 Peters incredibly nice. And I had asked me for something at one point, and I said, Well, that’s very nice of you. And then he wrote something on my wrote something for me. I think he’s incredibly smart. They, they had an expression for him at work. He just sort of wanders into a room and on, complicates things, sometimes so much to get complicated again. So he can unwind something so much that it goes the other way. But he’s a fascinating, fascinating character. Yeah, absolutely. So So I was Breakfast Club on Sunday sometime. And it was Alan from work Alan Popham Bach. I invited my friend Chris, who, who great guy that I fish with, but also got his PhD from MIT and plays that Kazoo and has a site called Mr. Crunchy me he’s completely insane, also Quaker like me, and went to all the Quaker school for our tribal school. And so I was thinking about who I could add to that group and I called my uncle who is a psychiatrist and teaches Sanskrit he’s an interesting character. And then I thought, Who can I who can I add to this group to have like the best conversation I can possibly have? And I called Peter and I said, Would you like and he showed up. So Peter and Alan and Chris and my uncle Alia Charles and I all sat around used to have breakfast every Sunday morning. And the conversation was fascinating us to get used to what we just stopped doing it one day, we just stopped doing it. We got to get back into it. But we used it. We did it for eight Sundays or something.
Fei Wu 20:24
Really, I don’t want to crash the party, but oh, yeah, you
Matt Lindley 20:27
should. We should. It was just fascinating. Bunches started, you know, it’s a bunch of old guys sitting around talking about like, you know, how good things used to
Fei Wu 20:34
be I love talking to grow now. Yeah.
Matt Lindley 20:37
And then we just, you know, then it all sort of just went away. But we got to start doing it again. But the conversations fascinating Peter, Peter eased into that group, like he’d always been there. Wow. And these are guys that I fish with. I mean, that’s his close when you’re in a river in Montana, and and both for days, you get to know each other pretty well. And Peter just like to slit in, like, instantly. And that was pretty impressive to me.
Fei Wu 21:01
You and Peter are in my mind, you will feel very flattered but I have to say are legendary
Matt Lindley 21:08
in like you you wonder why I was so into doing the podcast, anybody calls me legendary. Come talk to me all day, all day. Like I do go into the third hour now. Part Three. We’re gonna do another week here. So come on back. Yeah, well, that’s incredibly kind and embarrassing. But thank you. That’s great. Kind of you. Yeah, sincerely. I don’t want to let you down.
Fei Wu 21:32
So maybe we can take a turn here. And a desperate question I had. Yeah. After watching five, six seasons of Mad Men. Yeah. So since you’ve been in advertising a lot longer than I have. Yeah. How much of that is true versus not so true? Obviously, it was reflecting a
Matt Lindley 21:49
time Yeah, the timeline, the timeline, the the old agency stuff in the 60s, I have people whose my friend park his father was live then. And work there. He says a lot of it’s very true. The problems the the things that went on in the show some of the conflicts between you know, the accounts leaving and people wanting to those are very contemporary, like you could change the clothes. People sit in offices and say, Listen, we’re gonna start an agency or we’re gonna get out of here we, you know, we need you we need you. We need that account. People I’ve done it gone to an accountant said, Listen, if I left, would you I mean, all that horrible stuff, you know? So that’s all very true. The rest of it. I have no idea but I don’t watch it because it feels to me like I get angsty. Watching it. I get like, I seriously, I’m like, I like to watch mindless. I don’t actually watch television. I turn it on. I like sports, watch football, but I’ll fall asleep to it. That’s the kind of TV that I like to watch now. Because this the problems that they’re sort of the things that are going on these little twists and turns are a lot of them are very true. Yeah. And that makes me a little crazy. Because that happens during the day a client calls and goes, Listen, we’re leaving. And I true story. We had one unaccounted Arnold it was, you know, I don’t know it’s $30 million piece of business. It was the first one on one it was I was feeling you know, and it was a group of us that had wanted, it was something that was a reach for Arnold, I felt really good about it. And the client called after two weeks and said, Listen, you guys are not, not the agency I wanted. And I was like, I’m leaving the two weeks. And I had just gotten there. And I was like trying desperately to, you know, prove myself. And so I said, I said that this client said, Where do you live? And he said, I live in Connecticut. I said, where exactly give me your address. And I left the office at two o’clock in the afternoon and I drove to his house. In Connecticut, we want to having dinner, we want him sitting down we want to talking we wound up whatever. Long story short, we kept the account. But I was watching madmen, you know, and there’s just you know, the guy goes, where are you? And he’s like a comedy guy gets on the plane flies out there. I’m like, Oh, my God. And I was driving, I’m driving down there going, like, I don’t know what I’m going to say I may as well just tell the truth. Like I may as well gonna wait, you know, the pitch is a very fake situation. I’m telling you what you want to hear. You know, it’s like dating, you know, you think everybody’s perfect. And then it turns out, well, maybe they have some weird stuff going on. And then when you actually get into the business, you want to you want to fulfill what you the promise that you made. And we were not fulfilling the promise that we made. But what it was was, I need you for you to trust me, I need for you to trust me and this group of people who are going to take care of this business and do everything we can to make this right. And they did and it all worked. But I was exactly the same scenario. You know, that had been on Mad Men, or I saw it later on Mad Men and I thought to myself, I can’t watch the show anymore. It’s got I’m gonna pass out. Nosebleed. Nosebleed. Yeah. So I watched you know, law and order and sports, because this has nothing to do with what I do.
Fei Wu 24:41
And I was like a plumber watching the Palermo movie and can’t do it.
Matt Lindley 24:45
I don’t need to watch Waterworld. It’s making me crazy.
Fei Wu 24:50
my follow up question which I don’t think you’re able to answer is who on them and do you feel like you know, resemblance? No,
Matt Lindley 24:59
I can’t think of any Have I? I think we all watched the episode where Don Draper was standing up there saying it’s not a wheel. It’s a carousel. I do. Remember they were talking about the wheel of the slides. Yeah. And he goes, it’s not a wheel. It’s a carousel. And I remember that moment and saying, what happened was it it turned from something upside down to something right side up, like there’s a magic moment in advertising. And I think that is not that that’s a lost art. But I think digital is changing that because they’re like, even if he had said carousel of like, well, let’s use your test that, let’s, let’s put that out there and see what happens. And life’s too short to and my father used to say that he used to have every car he had when he’s growing up, you had to be able to put a cigarette out on the ground by reaching out the window. That was the thing, he had to be able to reach out for a cigarette, that low. Something that low I have a receipt from he had a Porsche that he bought, used, and he said the guy drove it across the lobby. And it stalled, because that’s the car I want. And, and I had the receipt for the car, it was 17 150 bucks or something. It’s around here somewhere. $1,750
Fei Wu 26:00
I wish I could meet your dad.
Matt Lindley 26:03
That would have been a good thing. He’s a good egg.
Fei Wu 26:07
It’s perfect. I wish I had the opportunity to interview him. Yeah, he could have just like you, but I think there’s there’s part of you that truly is a reflection of your dad. Yeah. You know, it’s it shouldn’t I shouldn’t jump to a conclusion like that. But
Matt Lindley 26:21
oh, it’s true. I think it’s true. I think, you know, this amalgam thinks that when you get older, too, it’s like, when we started the interview, you said, you know, your 20s your rebellious in the 30s. You’re like, Oh, my God, they’re not bad people, my parents, and I think all that’s true. We are this amalgam of all these people that we know and, and our parents and and we try to take from that what we think will one serve us well, and two that we want to sort of keep alive. And the service? Well, part of it is you know, the shaking someone’s hand looking them in the eye saying please, and thank you, I mean, really dead. That’s all I cared about in the end of the day. And then and then the part that you keep alive is the fact that sort of rounded, rounded edges thing again, which is like those, the interesting people are usually the you know, when you got a whole bunch of people were on the escalator going up the interesting persons usually sitting there and some weird hat. I mean, it really is true. The weird ones are usually the cool ones. And the cool ones is something going on. And it’s not always healthy. You know, that can be a lot going on. But it’s usually someone who’s like, got something going on, you’re like, what’s up with that person? Yeah. And it’s like, well, it’s like, it was what I when I discovered you at sapient. Well, you and I talked, you were thinking about this stuff, you were thinking about all of it, and you’re thinking about all of it all the time, it would be very easy to plug in, and not unplug, you could do 20 years, somewhere like that without any trouble. And that might be right for some people, but you keep thinking about this. And you’re like, I want to try that. And I want to get into that. And I want to lean in that and you realize that is your life’s pursuit. That’s phase world.
Fei Wu 27:55
Yeah, that is phase world, right? This thing really is for me. Yeah, I started podcasting only two weeks ago, and I felt my entire being and energy changed. I you know, to be the sounds funny, but I still sleep pretty late for the most part of these days. But this morning, I couldn’t even sleep much beyond like seven or eight o’clock. Yeah. I felt really excited about this. Yeah, you know, people I people with a career. Yeah, compared to people with a job. There aren’t enough that there isn’t enough time in the day.
Matt Lindley 28:26
Yeah. This is important. It’s like you said like exercise like meditation. I think this is your this is your meditation.
Fei Wu 28:32
This is my meditation. Yeah. And choosing James Altucher said, choose yourself. This is one thing that I’m doing that choosing myself. As you mentioned, just parenthood a little early on. I I love to complete adore your kids. And today is probably the most time I’ve spent with them.
Matt Lindley 28:51
Maybe you could take them with you when you got
Fei Wu 28:54
there very, there’s 17 F 15. And I quickly kind of mentioned when I talk to parents, I definitely want kids. I know that probably will happen in the next two to three years. Let’s just say. And I know you’re never going to be prepared. Don’t wait till the perfect moment to do it. But I’m learning. I’m really interested in learning about parenting parenthood. In particular, I spoke with Holly actually also worked at Arnold, how do you teach her like, well, what is parenthood? Like? Is it could you just like encapsulate it like in the story, so I can, she’s like, that’s gonna be very difficult. But she said one example. And I thought it was eye opening. And I see the same moment in your kids. She her kids are probably a little younger, you know, a six, four. And she said, Well, you know, one day we plan to go to the zoo like Franklin Zoo. And so we’re reading like it is today. And the kids said, No problem, mom. We’re just hanging out we watch a movie. And she said, in that moment, she said I that’s what I wanted my kids to be like very even keeled. Not Mega. Not not to be so dramatic in a way that everything has to go their way. And all three of them very different in age are okay with that change. And I felt very different than with your kids. And when I met them much younger, five years ago, not all of them are taller than I am. And I just there there was a moment when I saw them how comfortably they walked around Sapien. They, they shook hands, they were back then 13 and 11. They were shaking hands with people SAP and people much older. They’re completely comfortable. Yeah. And then today, years later, you know, I your daughter barely, probably barely remembered me. I actually think I met her. She remembers you. Yeah, yeah. And then she gave me this huge hug. And then you know, Sam being his age being a teenager, and he’s clearly Way cool, you know, very welcoming. And as, as a parent, as a non parent, I want to make sure you don’t take that for granted. Yeah, that doesn’t happen with teenagers. Yeah. So what what, how did you create
Matt Lindley 31:00
physical abuse is how we got to know. How do we get to thank you for all that. I think that I again, I think that you take, as I said, before you take from your parents what I remember my father’s finger, he would, I would be in an elevator and I start moving and his finger would go into my collar to make sure I didn’t leave the elevator before other people left the elevator. So I started do that to Sam, he start walking and I stick my finger just I think in the end, I mean, you know, it’s so funny. The A minus comment you made before was like, the grades are important and understanding, you know, the difference between, you know, you know, identifying Modigliani in a gallery is a great thing. All those things are great things. But what was really important was the idea that you’d shake hands say please, and thank you, it is it is so ridiculous how that has gone. Culturally, we’ve lost that in a lot of different ways. So the notion that they would just be good citizens of the planet Earth was really, really important. And so that is what the idea is that that’s what we put in more than anything else. So I don’t I honestly, you know, I hesitate to say this out loud, because if it becomes part of the podcast, they might hear it, but I just I just want good citizens, you know, good people. And I really don’t give a shit about the rest of it. I really I sadly, i don’t i i would be fabulous. If they both got full rights to Harvard. I think that’d be but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. And I don’t and I don’t and I after, but I think as human beings, when they go out there, I hopefully they’ll be touching people’s lives and making a difference that way. And I think that starts with like an open mind. And a willingness to listen other people in a, in a welcoming nature. Because we’re not, you know, we’re not built like that. I mean, we are built like that as kids, but then it all just gets messed up. I remember being a teenager you like, screw that. So it’s been a struggle, but just trying to keep them open. You know,
Fei Wu 33:01
one thing I notice, Sam, your older son is very into extreme sports. And that aspect that reminds me so much of myself. Growing up as a girl in Beijing wanted to do skateboarding, rollerblading, ice hockey was like a lifelong dream of martial art. And my parents were very nervous. I’m the only child and I was very careful. And I was never a great skater. Let’s just be honest. And your your son Sam is and I could just tell I mean, I I remember seeing posts and you know, all his friends went crazy for him. I know he trained. He goes to these special places to kind of train me Oh, yeah,
Matt Lindley 33:38
he got this summer. He got his picture. on ESPN. He jumped over something. And he was it was in this boys of summer issue of ESPN online. And that was that was pretty much it. And remember, just and they were like, What the hell have you been all days? Like, no, it’s downtown. There was an ESPN photographer. I jumped over this thing. I’m like, I don’t because he’s been in the hospital. He had knocked himself out. At one point, he broke his foot, broke his foot because he went off this ramp. We were at this park. And he jumped off this ramp. The whole place went crazy. And I turned around had a camera and I’m like, I missed it. What do you do? And he goes, I’ll do it again. So he went up on this wall. He spun the bike around, he landed and he broke his foot. Because I told him to do it again. So I’m really aiding and abetting the bad behavior. But But yeah, it’s funny. Why? How can ice hockey? Why was ice hockey like a dream of yours? How does that even work?
Fei Wu 34:24
I tried to recall I was much older than the rest of the planet who are those into ice hockey. I was I was 15. Actually just a year before I came out here, it’s like life takes you to very interesting places in the world. i My mom felt really guilty that I was during my winter vacation and she had to travel for work. So she sort of hired and persuaded some woman in her little sports sedan to drive me to this place 40 minutes into downtown and it was the first ice rink ever built in Beijing. And that happens to be in between like All these embassies in particular US Embassy, Canadian embassy. So I was I was there I struggled a little bit. I have my fingers skates on. And then I see these little like girls in there to do looking things like very beautiful, very constructed and like, I don’t want to do that. Yeah, exactly. And then about half a day, four hours in, I was really into it. And I thought to myself, wait a minute, like there I saw just a couple of guys. So one teenager, one older, one older gentleman, and they were just flying on ice and their awareness, a little cheesy, they’re wearing jerseys and maybe the Bruins with a king’s nose. And that day when I was wrapping up when I saw a bunch of Canadians Americans will come in when they were closing down the rink. That moment I saw them walk in there getting dressed and they start flying on ice. And I always like to be outside and you know, sometimes it’s hard to do in Boston or Beijing, the cold weather and all that two months, summertime. And I remember just the way if I could go that fast I fly my face will hit the wind. I will have this natural high. And I was completely right. So the next day it’s day two I came in. I said how do I get hockey skates? And the story was there are a couple of Asian guys there they have their quote unquote connections to their friends in Canada US did you get these magical CCM Bauer skates? And of course it was marked up 300% tax so and I said what if I get a pair and that night I convinced my parents. They’re like, Oh, I just the cost that much. Oh my god, how long can I use it twice? If this is it? This is my life calling. I was being dramatic about it. I cut my skates. I got my skates on. I had the world’s greatest coaches and two guys. The best part is one of them actually work at the rink and it was very expensive skating there. I remember every hour was five every hour, it was like eight to 10 US dollars. But I usually spend like a whole day there as you can imagine. And I made friends with them. I day two or three are going there for free. Yeah, so yeah, I started spending a whole day there got my skates. And sorry, just my answer is a six. So I got really into it just like taekwondo. Yeah. And I remember my coaches those two guys are saying, learning how to stop on skates. How to do crossover within the week, right the first week when they’re like, Oh, you are kind of what was the word they use it like, you know, on like an athletic people that we learned all those and half a day. It’s been a week you haven’t learned how to stop?
Matt Lindley 37:31
It’s all figured out. Yeah.
Fei Wu 37:33
And so I would try things much earlier on. Yeah. And then later on, I learned that people were not naturally all that comfortable on skates, and I got my jerseys. I start playing with the junior leagues, and they’re much much better. But I was just amazing. And Wayne Gretzky, of course, I follow him when I was a young kid and I loved it just loved how he how he was and the fact that he I think he’s he’s 511
Matt Lindley 38:01
he weighs 10 pounds. He’s tiny. Yeah, we play from behind the goal. I mean, that was his thing. Was he protected himself within that? Yeah. Great player. Yeah, that’s amazing. Hockey and Beijing.
Fei Wu 38:13
Yeah, came out here. And of course, Freiburg. My I remember all the Asian kids, you know, they A minus or a plus kids who traveled to Freiburg with me. And I remember our headmaster would have tea with us and say, You know what brought you here. Tell us about hockey. Yeah, I said hockey, everybody else at Harvard, I think the only woman or only girl though. So I had to play with boys for half of the semester or half the season. We had the girls team.
Matt Lindley 38:43
Awesome. Sam had a teammate. Very tall, very big, very big girl. And he scored a goal and she high fives and she knocked him off his skates. She was so bad. She’s probably playing professional hockey at this point. But yeah, there was a piece on NPR the other day about the Washington seven. And it was these artists and the only one is alive is this 97 year old guy. And they were they were color school. In other words, they were just a bunch of artists who was all about color. And so the the the reporter went to meet this 97 year old blue haired, blue eyed, white haired guy. And they went into his studio. And he said, No, basically, all I did was soak paint acrylic paint into the canvas. And they were talking to you as you want to try it. And so she did it the way he did it and turned out something that looks just like me. She goes, You’re the artist and he goes, No, you’re the artists like what he was saying to her was like all he did was figure out a technique. And then he did something was just this little discovery thing. And I thought what was interesting about that was he had said it sometimes it is just the technique that someone turns you on to and then it’s like your podcast or Taekwondo. or you turn somebody onto something, and then it becomes their art. And that becomes their expression. And, and all it is, is the is the is the is the willingness on both people’s sides to give a little bit, you know what I mean? Like I want somebody wants to learn, somebody wants to teach, and then you get into it, and then it becomes your thing, and then someone takes it from you. And then it becomes even better like that, that you pass it along. And it’s suddenly like, you are good artists, they’re a fantastic artist, and it doesn’t have to be the same thing. It doesn’t even have to be art, it could just, it could be spreadsheets, horribly. But I think that’s really, I think that’s a cool idea. And I think that’s what this is going to become for you. I think that you’re finding you’re finding your expression here. That’s like, you know, like, like when you’re telling me about Taekwondo and you know, fight guys are under 200 pounds, six. Because you keep knocking out people who are that big. That’s, that’s like your, that’s all of these become the extension of your expression, your mom’s a painter, you may be a painter too. But the way you express yourself is, you know, I take this next I take this, I take these things that I like, and I take to the next level. And that’s how I express myself. Look, that’s awesome.
Fei Wu 41:10
I think that’s like the perfect conclusion. That’s one of the things I was going to ask you is like, where do you see this go? How should I kind of find how should I find my voice? And I think only I know how to do that. And it’s, it’s hard, you know, as much as I welcome people’s feedback, you are, you’re an enabler, like you don’t tell me exactly what to do what I should do what is better, or worse, you somehow painted a path for me in a very natural way that I find my own voice in it. And I people compared to a country singers, or something like one guy makes you want to be him and the other guy makes you want to be yourself.
Matt Lindley 41:50
And interesting. Yeah, that’s a great, that’s fantastic.
Fei Wu 41:53
I need to find their names. And they’re very, the whom I mentioned their names we like,
Matt Lindley 41:57
Yeah, well, I want to be the guy that makes you want to be yourself, like, I want to be the and I think you I think you I think, you know, sort of, in conclusion, I think that you sort of, sort of think that this, this journey you’re on whether you stick with it or not. It’s just another piece of the this, this sort of blended light that becomes your life, and you really don’t reflect you may or may not reflect on it, because so few people pause, but I have faith that you will I think that’s why we’re friends is because you strike me as the kind of person who will pause and look at it and examine it, you know, it’s not an unexamined life with you, this is not you know, and so, I think that I think that the idea that along the way you you stop you pause you look at you go No Why Why am i What are all these things the wise you know, phase world, I got this, I got this, what are all these things? What does it all mean together? And then from that, you bifurcates and you take the path on the right. and off you go again, and I think that’s it. I think that is the process of a meaningful life.
Fei Wu 43:06
Thank you. To listen to more episodes of the face world podcast, please subscribe on iTunes where visit face world.com that is f e i s wo rld where you can find show notes links, other tools and resources. You can also follow me on Twitter at face world. Until next time, thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai