Entrepreneurs identify themselves, not just by the product of their work, but by something that's deeper by a core mission.
Jason Feifer (@ heyfeifer) the Editor in Chief at Entrepreneur Magazine, a podcast host, keynote speaker, and startup advisor. Known as an unstoppable optimist Jason enjoys writing and presenting on the topics of taking ownership, creating opportunities, and building for tomorrow.
Jason Feifer newest book, Build for Tomorrow is a manual on how to adapt to change, cultivate resilience, and reinvention.
“ I have this theory of humanity, which is, everybody has the same skill. And that skill is pattern matching. The difference is that we’re all good at matching different patterns. The more that you can figure out which patterns you’re good at matching, the more you can lean into that.”
– Jason Feifer
Go to https://hvmn.com/ and use the promo code: ‘Divine’ to 20% off your next purchase of Keytone IQ
Mark Divine 0:04
This is the Mark Divine show. And I’m your host Mark Divine. Thanks for joining me today super stoked to have you on the Mark Divine Show. On the show, I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, resilient and compassionate leaders. I speak to folks from all walks of life; martial arts grandmasters military leaders, high powered CEOs, and authors and editors at magazines like Entrepreneur. Such as my guest today, Jason Feifer, who is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. Author of Build for Tomorrow. He is an advisor to startups, hosts to podcasts Build for Tomorrow, which is a show about smart solutions to the most misunderstood problems and problem solvers, which is about entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurs overcoming the odds in their business. Prior to Entrepreneur Magazine, Jason worked as the editor of Men’s Health, Fast Company, Maxim and Boston Magazine. And he’s written about business and tech for The Washington Post, New York and others. Jason, thanks so much for joining me today. Jason, thanks for joining the Mark Divine, show. Super stoked to meet you, and glad you’re here. Yeah.
Jason Feifer 1:06
Thanks for having me.
Mark Divine 1:06
It’s my pleasure. So I’m excited. You know, we have a lot in common with our interest in health and performance, but also entrepreneurship because my world intersects, kind of right there. We’re at the center of it, being an entrepreneur and formerly at Men’sl Health. And I always like to start with kind of since my, my focus is on integrated development, expanding awareness, consciousness, peak performance, mental toughness, I’m most curious, I shouldn’t say most, but I’m often really curious about what formative forces played in your life; parents, schooling, hardships, knocks in the head, whatever it kind of like steered you in the direction that sent you in the trajectory around. So tell us a little about your formative years?
Jason Feifer 1:46
Sure. Well, I mean, I had amazing parents. And I think that their support really gave me the freedom to find not just the thing that I was interested in, but then to make it work. Because those are two different things. I knew from an early age that I liked to write, for example, but it took me a very long time to figure out how to make any money doing that, and how to have a real career doing that. But one of the most formative experiences that I had was actually right after college. So I graduated in 2002. And I took my first newspaper job at this tiny little paper called Gardener, The Gardener News in Gardener, Massachusetts, they paid me $20,000 a year to write about nothing.
Mark Divine 2:31
Jason Feifer 2:32
Nothing is happening, you know, nothing’s happening. And after a year, I was there for about a year after about a year, it was just, I felt bitter, bitter and bruised. Because I had ambitions, I didn’t know how to define those ambitions. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. But I knew I wanted to do something that felt big and important. And that put me to the test. And that was not happening at this tiny little newspaper.
Mark Divine 2:53
But you got to start somewhere, right?
Jason Feifer 2:54
You do you have to start somewhere. And I think that oftentimes, you know, look, it’s easy. It’s easy for guys like us, you know, who have had fulfilling careers, and are not at the beginning of those careers, to say you got to start somewhere. But when you’re actually starting somewhere, it doesn’t feel good. Because it feels like you should be doing more. And also it doesn’t feel like you’re starting you feel like well, but I already have skills and people should recognize me. And that’s how I felt I felt why am I not being recognized for my talent? Why am I still here. And one day, my boss, Stu, came to me with a letter. And the letter basically said, it is time to change your attitude, and do the work that we are asking you or get the hell out of here. And I realized a couple important things in that moment, I realized number one, I’m a lot more transparent than I thought, I didn’t realize I was projecting that to everybody. But number two, I needed to be more humble. Because if I was better than that place, then I wouldn’t have been at that place. So clearly, I had things to learn. And then number three, I had this kind of unreasonable expectation. It was as if I thought the New York Times was going to read some story I wrote about the middle school dance in Gardner, Massachusetts, and call me up and be like, kid, I really love that story. You’re covering the White House now, like, you know, come on down, you know, like, it wasn’t gonna happen.
Mark Divine 4:09
I’m curious, Jason
Jason Feifer 4:09
Mark Divine 4:10
How you came to have such high regard for these latent skills. Uh, my experience is very different. I went into college, or came out of college without a lot of confidence. I pretty much did not think I should be at the top of the heap in my Coopers and Lybrand, where I was just learning how to be a CPA. And so I had a very different experience. I have an understanding of why that was, but I’m curious what you think your opposite experience?
Jason Feifer 4:32
And that’s really interesting question. I mean, first, let me say that the big takeaway from the the story that I was just telling you was that I needed to go to them. That I couldn’t sit around waiting for people to recognize me that I needed to go to them and prove my worth and that is what shaped the career that I have in which I am always thinking, I need to prove myself to others, and not in a like ego way but rather in a, I’m going to get in front of people I’m going to show them my value, and they’re going to have no choice but to say, oh, we got to work with this guy, right? Like, it’s like, don’t ask for an opportunity. Don’t wait for an opportunity, be the opportunity. That is what I recognized.
Mark Divine 5:07
Did you think that that was inherent? Or did you see that in modeled in your parents?
Jason Feifer 5:11
So I didn’t necessarily see it modeled to my parents, because, I mean, my dad is a, well, he’s retired now. But he was a dentist, he just had his own dental practice. But I didn’t really understand him to be a small business owner, which is really what he was, I just understood him to be a dentist. And then my mom was an art therapist, who then raisde the kids to stay at home mom. They were successful. And they are, they are very self assured. And they, I think that they just through their own living day to day taught me a level of confidence that I’m grateful for, but I didn’t see them. You know, they weren’t like entrepreneurs hustling, and then, but either what I really saw was other people who were doing things that I wanted to do. And then I would watch them and try to understand what they were doing. And even back then I identified these writers who became celebrities to me. Who are not celebrities, right? They’re just people No, nobody’s ever heard of, but they were people whose work I liked, and I who I just paid a lot of attention to. And I, you know, if they had a blog at the time, because this is like the 90s or early 2000s, I would follow their blog, and I just, I got to understand what they were doing. And I saw that what they were doing was that they were constantly putting themselves out there. And they were constantly pitching, and they were constantly making connections. And I thought, Well, if that’s the route, then that’s what I have to do too, despite how maybe not naturally comes. But you would ask me, Did I feel like I had this kind of ability and talent early? You know, the answer is, sorta yeah. Because people would tell me that I was good at things. And I had a self talk in my head from a very early age, that basically is me telling myself, I’m good at something, not in a cocky way. But in a way in which, yeah, you’re pretty good at this. You could do something with this. It’s a really valuable thing that I tell myself, and I meet a lot of people who have the opposite self talk, and I see how it holds them back.
Mark Divine 7:02
I think you’re absolutely right. That’s one of the cornerstones of, you know, the training that I lead in fact, it’s the second most important principle first is for us is to get your body de-aroused and into good physical condition, because that’s the platform for your brain and your whole showing up in the world. But the second is to learn how to be positive. And that starts with self dialogue, and then the energy that you projecting in the world through your emotional states. So that’s really cool that you kind of learned that at an early age, a lot of people don’t like you said, and so they carry around that negative energy, they kind of mask it over with behaviorism. But oftentimes, you know, this the energy that lands.
Jason Feifer 7:36
You know, what I’ll tell you, it’s interesting, I was just reading this really fresh thought, because I was just reading it yesterday. But um, there’s a guy named Matt Higgins, he’s an investor, he was a guest on Shark Tank for a season. And he’s got this book that’s coming out in a few months called Burn the Boats. And in it, he describes going through a divorce and how crushing it was, and one of the reasons he identified for himself that it was so I mean, you know, this is a crushing experience for anybody regardless, but, but was because he, he was so used to having an idea of himself as someone who can succeed despite anything. And as a result, he had gone through life saying, you know, I can fix any problem, I can do anything, he got very used to that, so much so that when he faced an unfixable problem, which was, which was the divorce, it like completely shattered him, because he had really nothing else to understand himself to fall back upon. He didn’t understand himself as a guy who can’t fix something, I read that, and I recognized a bit of that in myself too, that I’m pretty used to figuring it out, which doesn’t mean that everything has worked out for me, it certainly hasn’t. But, you know, if I run into an obstacle, I generally say, well screw that direction anyway, and I’ll just go in a different direction. I have a lot of things that I would like to accomplish and have not accomplished. But I tend to try to focus on the things that I have accomplished. But I do recognize myself that one of the challenges of that kind of constant self talk of you’re really good at this is that you don’t exactly know how to process when you’re not good at something. And there’s a real value to that, too.
Mark Divine 9:06
Well, I think that’s accurate. And also there’s kind of different ways of positive self talk, right? For instance, you know, in the SEAL teams, I learned, yes, that we were actually really good at certain things. But we also learned humility, and the fact that we couldn’t be good at everything. And we’re gonna get our ass handed to us most of the time. And so that when we got our asses handed to us, the positive self talk was oap, there it goes, again. I got this, I’ll figure this out. It wasn’t that we were I’m good. You know, I’m great. It’s more like, there we go again. Yeah, this is the way it works. And I’m going to, I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, we’re going to find a way or make away. So it’s more of a positive belief system about your ability to endure regardless of the challenges or the obstacles, or the setbacks, some of which can be really painful.
Jason Feifer 9:51
That’s a really great insight. Also, it makes me think about the importance of setting realistic expectations, right? I mean, if your expectation is a lot of the time If we’re gonna get our asses handed to us, then when it happens, well, you can’t be disappointed when you have met expectations. And I tried to set that for myself, I was actually just having a conversation with this, about this with a student yesterday at Penn State. So I do a lot of traveling to speak. And, you know, it’s funny you I get booked mostly for corporate gigs. And the corporate gigs are, you know, they’re great, because it’s exactly what you were told it would be. They’ll tell you, they’re going to be 15 executives in a room, or they’ll tell you, they’re going to be 600 salespeople in this room. And whatever they tell you is going to happen is what’s going to be there, and you show up and you do the thing. But when you go speak to a college, you have no idea what’s going to happen. It could be a roomful of students, it could be 15 students who show up. And so I was telling the student because I just I traveled to Penn State yesterday, it was a full day of travel. And you know, it was a snowy, crappy day. And there were like, 25 students in that room, you know. And it’s like, that was a lot of effort to speak to 25 students now, you know, whatever, that I got paid the same amount regardless. So no, boohoo for me, but but I told this student afterwards, because we were talking about setting expectations for ourselves. And I said, Look, I know going in, when I show up at a college, it’s an unpredictable environment. And that not a lot of students may show up because it’s hard to get students show up to anything. So what I think is, number one, I’m gonna walk into this room and possibly talk to no one. That’s my expectation. So anybody who shows up, bonus, and then number two, I think, even if there are a few people in this room, my job is not to talk to a lot of people, my job is to make an impact for whoever showed up. And you coming up to me right now and telling me that what I said mattered and that you have additional questions, that means that I did a good job. So if I’m setting my expectations properly, then I can’t be disappointed by things happening that I expect it to happen. That’s how I have to frame everything that I do.
Mark Divine 11:43
Yeah, that’s powerful principle. Back to your life story. You had this little town newspaper, you were writing about nothing. You got fired without getting fired, which sounds actually like quite a gift. You know.
Jason Feifer 11:53
Mark Divine 11:53
So that’s awesome. So what happened after that, like, how did you make the leap into the big leagues?
Jason Feifer 11:58
Well, like I said, I had this idea, which is go to them. And so that’s what I did, I sat in this bedroom, now I was able to take some risks, as I mean, look, anyone can take risk at any time in their life. But when you’re young, especially when you’re young, and you don’t have other people to support, you can take big risks. And you know, this big risk was that I quit my job with no other plan. And I sat in this bedroom, in a dumpy apartment next to a graveyard in rural Massachusetts paid 500 bucks a month for. And I just started cold pitching, you know, just sort of reaching out to editors, who I know didn’t know me, and sending ideas, and it took a lot. It wasn’t even rejection, it was just totally getting ignored, you know, most of the time. But after about nine months of this, I started to land a couple pieces, Washington Post, Boston Globe.
Mark Divine 12:46
So this is freelance work, you’re looking for?
Jason Feifer 12:47
This is freelance work. This is freelance journalism, which for those who don’t know, this is basically, you can pitch an individual story idea and send it to an editor. And if they like it, then you become an independent contractor for one project. This is not good money. I mean, sometimes it’s a lot of work, and they’ll pay 400 bucks, but I did it, then I needed the money. And I took another newspaper job. And then eventually I got a magazine job in Boston. And then I got a magazine job in New York, which was at Men’s Health. And that’s what happened. But the reason I think that I accelerated my career, the way that I did, is because I kept freelancing on the side. And as a result, what I kept doing was not just hoping that me showing up and doing the thing that people expect of me, would lead to great results. Because when you show up at a job, people are expecting you to do things you are being asked to do things, and you have to do them, because otherwise you’ll get fired. But it’s actually the stuff that nobody’s asking you to do. But that is simply available to you, that is more important. Because that’s where growth happens. That’s where new connections are made. That’s where new skills are developed. And so I throughout every job that I’ve ever had, including right now, as the editor in chief of a national brand called Entrepreneur Magazine, I am always doing things on the side, always. And those things, I think are really the accelerant for my career because that’s where I grow. Otherwise, if you only show up at a job and only do the things that are asked of you, you will only always be qualified to do the things you’re already doing. But growth happens in the margins. And that’s where I focused.
Mark Divine 14:13
I’m curious. As an editor in chief, do you contribute original work? Are you always just editing the work of the other writers?
Jason Feifer 14:21
I made a decision very early on. I think that if you want to advance you have to look at the marketplace that you’re operating in and say what does advancement look like? How can I like, follow that path, but then do it on my own terms. And early on in magazines. What I recognized was that advancement happened by being an editor. I started as a writer, a reporter, but the jobs, the higher jobs, the better paying jobs, those are editor jobs. I didn’t want to be an editor. It’s fine, it’s fine work. But I far more prefer to be a writer or creator. And so I decided I will become an editor. But I will always be an editor who writes. Because that I think is where my strength really is. And that’s where my So it’s what I get excited about is communicating with people. Everywhere that I’ve ever worked, I always I walked in, and whenever I talk to whoever it was that was going to hire me, I told them, I am an editor who writes, those are the dual skill sets that I will bring. So no, I, I write a lot of our cover stories, which means that I get to interview really cool people like The Rock and Ryan Reynolds and Maria Sharapova, whoever. And sometimes this means that I’m sacrificing time and sleep because I’m stretching myself very thin. But it’s the thing that makes me happy, and you better make sure that you’re doing that.
Mark Divine 15:28
So your primary domain of expertise and passion is writing. But clearly, you know, you have an interest in writing about something, you know, looks like for a while it was Men’s Health, and now it’s entrepreneurship, would you consider to be yourself to be also an expert in entrepreneurship, or men’s health? Or like, what’s the next expertise that you think that you have you develop that kind of merges the passion of writing with with that domain?
Jason Feifer 15:52
So I have evolved my understanding of myself over my career, and I actually don’t now currently think of myself as a writer, I think of myself as a storyteller. I think a mistake that we make as people is that we identify too closely with the output of our work. Rather, we define ourselves by things that are easily changed. I remember, at the very beginning of my career, my identity was I’m a newspaper reporter, even though I didn’t like working at this tiny newspapers, I loved the idea of being a newspaper. I’ve romanticized newspaper writing and newspaper reporting. And so when I discovered eventually that I didn’t really like working in newspapers, it wasn’t just a question of work, it was a question of identity. Because if I’m not a newspaper reporter, but I go around calling myself a newspaper reporter than what am, I am nothing. And I think people do this all the time with the roles that they occupy, you know, the job that they have. I came to learn by spending all my time now talking to entrepreneurs, that entrepreneurs think totally differently. They identify themselves, not just by the product of their work, whether they that’s important, but by something that’s deeper by a core mission, something that is so deep inside them, that it drove them to develop skills that enable them to do tasks. And I have found for myself, and I sort of see others do it even subconsciously is that they come up with a like a sentence for themselves. It’s just like a description. And the line that I came up with for myself is this. I tell stories in my own voice. And the with stories are so important, because if I just think of myself as a magazine writer, that’s too easily taken away. I have a boss, it’s the president of Entrepreneur Magazine, they’re entrepreneur media, the parent company. He could call me right now in the middle of our conversation here, and he could fire me. And if that happens, and my identity is that I’m a magazine editor, and then one phone call can change that, well, that’s a pretty bad place to be. So I like to think of myself as a storyteller. Because as a storyteller, I can help people in any number of ways I can do it by speaking, by by writing books by writing magazine stories by making podcasts. But also by working with founders. I mean, I advise a lot of startups and if when, when one of my founders calls me and asks me about this thing that he’s grappling with, the first thing that I think to do is tell him stories of other people who I’ve talked to who have gone through similar situations. And in doing that, he feels not alone. And he also starts to develop some good ideas about what he can do, he or she, I should say, can do. And so I am a storyteller, and I do it in my own voice. That’s the terms, I’m setting terms for how I operate. Another thing entrepreneurs do that is amazing as entrepreneurs are what I like to call vertical thinkers. Most people are horizontal thinkers, do this, move along, do this move along, do this move along. Entrepreneurs only do things because the thing that they’re doing is the foundation upon which the next thing will be built. They’re thinking about how doing one thing is going to lead to the next thing, how they’re going to develop some new skill or insight. And that’s going to help them grow in some way. And as I absorbed that, for myself, I stopped thinking of myself as a media person, I started to think of myself as an entrepreneur, I have an LLC, that’s mine, I have a lot of revenue generating projects and products outside of entrepreneur. It has radically transformed the way that I think and my advice to anybody who hasn’t fully absorbed this, and who maybe is looking to kind of shift their mindset. I mean, there’s a reason why they listen to your podcast. And it’s because you want to spend time hearing people who think and talk differently than you so that you can calibrate your brain to the way that those people are thinking and listening to a podcast is great. But I will tell you something that’s even better, which is surrounding yourself in real life with people who can help you, and who can build with you, and who can kick ideas around with you in real time. You need that network, it’s the most important thing you can build for yourself,
Mark Divine 19:24
You’ve got so many little cool little nuggets in there. But the two that I want to draw out, I kind of I can really relate with, is getting working with my clients, what you said about people identifying, you know, their identity being wrapped around their career profession or job and, and how limiting that is. And so that’s one of the first places we work with them after getting them physically healthy and thinking a little bit better. Is to start to think about their life purpose in terms of an archetypal energy. So storyteller fits that perfectly. You know, for me being a warrior, a warrior teacher right and teaching coaching kind of warrior principles and I don’t articulate exactly that But it’s an archetypal energy, has nothing to do with a career or job those, you know, that’s going to ebb and flow and change as I evolve. And the other thing you said was vertical thinking. And we use the term vertical development. And I think you’ve nailed it spot on. Horizontal development is basically the accruing of tasks or accruing of skills that allow you to do things better. Vertical development is the accruing of awareness and developmental capacity that allows you to be better or be more evolved or see things from another perspective or a better higher perspective. And so I think you’re absolutely right. So entrepreneur is also an archetypal kind of energy, it’s an urge to go create, and entrepreneurs in are also vertically developmentally aligned. Just because in order to create, you have to be constantly evolving. It’s so cool to see how these insights kind of can come naturally, just by the act of putting yourself out there, like you said, on the edge of your own growth, and then all these principles just kind of like, show up for you when, at some point in your own growth and learn you have to read it in a book, you know, I mean?
Jason Feifer 21:00
No, you don’t, I actually am not all that interested in self development books, even though I’ve, I’ve written one. I’ve written Build for Tomorrow, but I don’t read a lot of them, I actually I read almost none of them unless I happen to be interviewing the person I’m going to talk to. And that’s because I, I have found that for me, the way that I come to my ideas. And the way that I grow is through interactions. And then stepping back, I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of pattern matching, I have this theory of humanity, which is had, everybody has the same skill. And that skill is pattern matching. The difference is that we’re all good at matching different patterns. So the more that you can figure out which patterns you’re good at matching, the more you can lean into that. I know that for example, I’m really good at matching communication patterns, I can listen to podcasts, and then understand what is good about the podcasts and then replicate that. In the same way that somebody else could walk into a business and identify what’s wrong with this business and fix it. I don’t know how to do that. But the reason I tell you that is because another thing that I really like to do is to have experiences that feel strange, and then try to understand what’s happening to create that strangeness. For example. This is the origin story of how I figured out vertical thinking. Years ago, I wrote a romantic comedy novel with my wife. It was a long project, it went on for years and years. And by the time it came out, it came out on a major publisher, it was St. Martin’s Press. And by the time it came out, I was editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, which meant that people saw me as this leader in entrepreneurial pursuits, and and thinking. And now I have this like romantic comedy with my wife is very weird, right? And so I got these two different reactions to this project, based on what kind of person I was talking too. People in media writer friends of mine, they would all say, congratulations, that’s so awesome. You sold this book, entrepreneurs would say, oh, that’s interesting, what are you gonna do with it? And after enough of that, I stepped back and I thought, well, what’s the pattern here? Like, why is this happening? Why are these people thinking differently? And I realized that the answer is because for writers, the simple act of the creation is the end unto itself. Because they are operating somewhat horizontally, they’re putting something out into the world, and then it’s out there. And then they’re just going to move on to the next project, which could be completely disconnected from the previous one. But entrepreneurs are doing something else. Like to them, the logic of the world is that one leads to the next. One leads to two. And so the only reason to be doing this is because I must have some plan for how to make this bigger. Writing this novel must lead to, I’m going to teach classes about romantic comedies, I’m going to open up a publishing house, and there’s has to be some reason that I’m doing this. And the honest truth was that there wasn’t a reason that I was doing it. I was operating horizontally. But once I made that recognition, I realized, oh, my gosh, if I started to think vertically, then a project like this doesn’t make sense for me. But look at what does and look at how the next thing that I do, I should start thinking, Well, what position is this putting me in to grow? And how can I build upon the next thing that I do? And that’s where I came up with the idea of vertical thinking. You know, I think every time that you’re in a situation that doesn’t make sense to you step back and say, instead of just being like, well, that’s weird, or these people are stupid or right. Instead say, Well, what is the logic behind what is happening here? Because that logic is probably going to inform some insight that can really help me.
Mark Divine 24:30
I agree, and then you start to align or make better decisions, right? And so you start to think about that archetypal, like story of who you are. And then you begin to say no to anything that doesn’t directly align with that and build toward that.
Jason Feifer 24:45
Mark Divine 24:46
Build toward a bigger capacity, a bigger vision for that. That’s where the idea of saying it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no. Over saying no. in service to the bigger Yes, well, the yes is that bigger identity is beyond the next you know, horizontal thing. I love that. That’s awesome. And so that obviously led to a platform called Build for tomorrow.
Jason Feifer 25:05
Mark Divine 25:06
Right, that’s your podcast and this book you have coming out. So, so tell us a little bit about that. You know, what’s the big thinking behind that? And let’s maybe dig into some of the principles that you’re surfacing in the book.
Jason Feifer 25:16
So here’s another pattern. Another pattern is that in the beginning of my time as editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, I was going on podcasts, I was being invited to events, and I was getting asked the same question over and over again. And that question was, what are the qualities of successful entrepreneurs? Like, what am I seeing? And I started to wonder, why am I getting this question all the time? And then I realized, well, okay, you know, if I’m to step back and try to understand the logic of the pattern that I see. The logic is this, number one, if you listen to the questions that people ask you, you will discover that those questions are really people telling you what they think your value is to them. And if you start to listen in to what people think your value is to them. You can start to lean into that value, and be incredibly useful to them. Why were they asking me what are the qualities of successful entrepreneurs, I realized, it’s because they see me as the guy who talks to everyone and therefore can see the commonalities. That’s a unique place to be. And so I should leverage that. And that means also that I should have an answer to that question. And so I spent a lot of time, years really, thinking about and talking to people about it. And I came to this answer, which is that the most successful people are adaptable. And then the question is, well, How? And, I was kind of working on this, this question as the pandemic began. And, you know, once I got over my own absolute panic about that experience, I’m looking around, and I’m realizing wait a second, the pandemic is a fascinating experiment, because it means that everyone is going through the same change at the same time, and then diverging. And I can understand what is happening with the people who diverge in a way in which they’re building productively, and what’s different between them, and the people who are falling apart? Or whose businesses are falling apart? I came to this theory that I just sort of road tested with everybody I talked to, and the theory is that for everybody, it doesn’t matter how successful or not you are, everybody goes through change in four phases, panic, adaptation, new normal, wouldn’t go back. And that, it doesn’t matter what your background is, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, everyone’s going to feel those four things. Everyone’s going to panic, everyone’s going to then try to figure out what new things they have to work with, everyone’s going to find some new comfort and familiarity, build a new foundation. And then everyone is going to eventually reach a moment where they say I have something so new and valuable that I wouldn’t want to go back to a time before I had it. And the people who were able to pivot really fast, simply moved through the earlier stages faster. They simply moved through panic faster, they knew how to harness it, they started to run experiments and adapt faster because they were gathering more information, right? They started to see failure as data not as something to be afraid of. And that’s when I said, Well, I got I think now I have a book to write because I now want to help people move through these phases that I’ve identified. So we can all get through panic faster, and we can all get to wouldn’t go back eventually.
Mark Divine 28:22
I’m curious now, of course, how? I mean, now you’ve given us the framework, right? So it’s like a mental model, I get it. So I gotta move through panic, I gotta adapt, try new things, iterate, I gotta come to that new normal, and then systematize it. And then I’ve got this kind of sense or feeling. The last stage sounds like more of a, like a place you just get to, I don’t know if there’s processes for the last one. But so what do we do? Like, what, how do we get through panic quickly? How do we adapt quickly?
Jason Feifer 28:47
Yeah, some of the things that we’ve talked about already, we should map on top of this, because something that will help you get through panic will be to recognize the part of you that does not change in times of change, right? I’m gonna think that oftentimes, the thing that drives panic is a loss of control and identity. And that’s going to come from feeling too tied to the specific things that you do, right. So this idea of being able to define yourself in a way in which you’re opening up a million avenues for creating value, and for recognizing that you have transferable skills that like, just because you’re doing something one way does not mean that there aren’t a million other ways to do it and to be valuable. That’s part of it. Also, part of it is doing this thing that I like to call work your next job, which is what I was describing where, while you’re doing one thing, make sure that you’re also pursuing all the opportunities that are available to you that nobody’s asking you to do. This is future proofing yourself, is what this is. But let’s also recognize that one of the reasons that change is especially hard, is because we equate change with loss. So when something changes in our lives, the very first thing that we do is we identify we think about something in our lives that is going to no longer be as relevant or that we’re not going to have as much access to do as we did before.
Mark Divine 30:01
when also loss of identity is probably the biggest, you know, smack in the face for a lot of people.
Jason Feifer 30:06
Right? Very much so. And then here’s what we do next, because we want to know the future. So we will always, take whatever information we have, and then we will extrapolate that information to try to see what’s going to come next. And if all we see is loss, then what we will do is extrapolate that loss. We will say, because I’m losing this, I will then lose that. And because I lost that, I will lose this other thing. And soon, you don’t feel like you have anything left. So one of the first things that we have to do is we have to try to focus in on what potential gain looks like. Gain is harder to see than loss because it doesn’t come as immediate. And because loss is tied to a thing you already have, or as gain is going to be something you may not have yet. But if you can ask yourself even some simple questions, like number one, what are we doing differently? Number two, what new skills or habits are we learning as a result? And then number three, how can that be put to good use? Well, what you’ll start to do is create hypotheses for yourself about what potential gain could come out of this change. And then you can start to explore them to work on them to run experiments, I interviewed for this, ror this book, I interviewed the fascinating researcher named Katy Milkman. She’s at Wharton, and wrote a book called How to Change, and I had asked her what people should do when they’re feeling stuck, and they maybe don’t know how to change. Foundational question. And she said, you know, this is gonna sound stupid, because it’s so simple. But one of the things that we do not do enough, is experiment, we think that every decision that we make is permanent, and that it is a long term commitment. And therefore we’re afraid to make any decision. But what if instead, we just pursue things and say ahead of time, this is going to be an experiment, and I’m going to run it for three months, I’m going to see if anything good comes of it. And if not, no problem, because now I know something that I didn’t before, right? I mean, there’s a famous, possibly not true, but you know, story of Thomas Edison, as he was, I think, trying to invent the lightbulb and hadn’t quite gotten there yet. And somebody asked him, well, it doesn’t seem that you’ve learned anything here. You’ve been spending years on this? And he said, No, no, I’ve learned 10,000 ways not to do it, which is valuable. And so we need to run these kinds of experiments, because I think that part of the thing that we need to do is just prove to ourselves that gain is possible. And you will find that not by reading it in a book and not by somebody giving you an idea, but rather by experiencing yourself. So stop focusing on the loss, even if there is loss, and we have to recognize and respect that. Try to identify, gain, and see if you can extrapolate the game and run some experiments to start to see what direction you should be going in. Because eventually you will find one that will change everything.
Mark Divine 32:51
I love that fact that, you know, and I’m seeing this in a lot more and more people that I mean, you have a job like a traditional job, but you don’t look at that as like your main, and maybe it’s your main source of revenue, maybe not, it’s actually not okay, then you have multiple sources of income. And, and you look at yourself as Jason inc., you know.
Jason Feifer 33:09
Mark Divine 33:10
I think that’s really important message is that the old world of sticking or having a job, you know, for the rest of your life. I mean, there’s still elements of that, that exist, right. You can, you can have a job for a long time, if you if the company sticks around for a long time. But for true future proofing, right to build for tomorrow, right? It’s really important to think of yourself as an inc you know, or as an LLC, and to find multiple ways to, you know, provide value to add service, and to learn and grow. And that also equates to multiple income streams, which then provide a lot of security, you know. Because a lot of industries are going to get disrupted, as you know, in the next five or 10 years. Certainly, as an entrepreneur editor, I’d be interested to get your thoughts on, you know, the acceleration of technological development and innovation and how that’s gonna lead to so much disruption in the world and the future of work. What does that look like?
Jason Feifer 33:59
I got plenty to say on that. But first, just to just to emphasize the point that you just made, I think you’re spot on. It’s how I think about myself, I think of myself as a brand and a business. And here’s the word that I think people should be obsessed with. It’s the word that I’m obsessed with. It’s the word that undergirds everything that you just said, that word is ownership, right? Because the only thing that you really own is you. And so if you work for a company, you don’t own your job title you don’t own probably a lot if all of what you’re creating at that job. I don’t own Entrepreneur Media. I don’t the CHE family owns entrepreneur medium. And that means that this is their company, not my company. And that means that the title Editor in Chief, which is a great one that I’m honored to have is one that I have to remember I am renting and I renting it from them. So like that’s fine, because we have a right now we have a relationship where both sides benefit from this, but I have to also be a Whereas what I own, and the thing that I own is me. And so I want to make sure that I’m building things that attached to me, because I’m the project. I mean, I show up at work to entrepreneur every day, and I want to do good work, because that benefits the organization, but also because it benefits me. And I’m the project, I should be the biggest project for me. And that’s the same for everybody who’s listening to this. So it’s about ownership, be obsessed with ownership, and be aware of what you own what you do not own, because that will help guide you for what you should be doing.
Mark Divine 35:30
I think it’s also, I mean, maybe fairly obvious, but probably, we’re saying that popped in my head. As you develop this ownership kind of mindset. And you develop kind of these side projects, if you are working for a job that you love, that it’s all in alignment, right?
Jason Feifer 35:43
Mark Divine 35:44
Like you wouldn’t go out and start the new Entrepreneur Magazine. Like the Che family would raise their eyebrows.
Jason Feifer 35:52
That’s exactly right. Right, right. I see it is very complimentary. And they do two, which is to their great credit, right, they understand that by me going out, and let’s say traveling the country speaking, that’s money in my pocket, not in their pocket, but I’m a representative of them, it makes people feel good about their brand. It also puts me in touch with very interesting people and I can bring those insights back into the magazine, sometimes I meet people and, and it leads to a partnership with Entrepreneur, everything can be complimentary, and you should think of it like that. And, you know, if you have a team, you know, then you should think about that the same, like your entrepreneurial minded employees are your best employees. They are operating at 150% capacity, they will give 100% to you, and they will have 50% for themselves, they will gather that together in something that benefits everybody.
Mark Divine 36:42
I love that, that is so true. And and, and it takes a leap of faith and abundant mindset to operationalize that.
Jason Feifer 36:48
Mark Divine 36:48
So let’s talk about you know, in the last few minutes, the future of work, as you see it, and the future of entrepreneurism with this confluence of technological innovation, AI, everything that’s that’s, you know, seems to be happening and speeding up.
Jason Feifer 37:02
Yeah. Okay, a couple things. Number one, I became fascinated within the last year or so with the four day workweek. And the reason I became fascinated with it was because it was a wacky idea that was pretty much only engaged with in an academic way. Like, let’s study this, before the pandemic, or before the pandemic, like Microsoft, Japan ran a study in which they moved to a four day work week. And it turns out that there was not a loss of productivity. And that was very interesting, and people talked about it. But nobody was saying, this is a real thing that is going to happen in the world. And then suddenly, it is a real thing that’s happening in the world. Like there are actually lots of companies right now that have moved to a four day workweek. And there are entire countries that are engaging with it, like Iceland, like a bulk of the country companies that have moved to a four day workweek. So I wanted to know, what is it like, and what has it been like to implement? I talked to a bunch of people who are running these four day workweek companies now. And the most interesting thing that I heard out of it was this. People love it. It’s not easy to implement. It’s not as simple as saying, Okay, now everybody has Friday off, right. You have to restructure a lot of what you do, and even the way you think about your goals and your management structure. But once you get there, you really can drop a full day and you can maintain productivity. But after about a year, people are going to complain about something, they’re going to love, love having that extra day off. They’re going to feel like their life is more in balance. The head of people at a company called buffer that has a four day workweek told me, a colleague said to her, that that colleague would need $100,000 more from another job in order to go back to five days a week. Oh, yeah. So it’s meaningful to people. But here’s their complaint. The complaint is that after about a year, they start to feel disconnected from their colleagues. Because how do you get to a four day work week, while maintaining the same level of productivity from a five day work week? The answer is, you cut out as many meetings as possible. You’re not chit chatting on Slack or whatever as much. And therefore you’re not connecting with your colleagues, which means that you feel more isolated from them, and you don’t feel as connected to the company culture. So what do you do about that? Well, some people might say, aha, that is proof that this is a bad idea. But maybe not. And I should say, I don’t think that this is a good idea for every company. But you know, for those who have found it useful, it’s very interesting. Because I do the we asked, we asked the wrong question about every new thing. And this is true about the future of work. And it’s true about technology. And it’s true about everything that we will ever encounter, that’s new. The question that we ask is, is this perfect, right? So people would now look at the four day workweek and they say, Aha, it is not perfect. People feel disconnected from their colleagues, therefore, bad idea, we should get rid of it. But that’s the wrong way to look at things. Because if you ask the question, is this perfect? I will tell you the answer. The answer is no. Not about anything. Nothing is perfect. Nothing. So if your filter for new things is is this perfect? The answer is no, it’s not, and therefore you’re going to get rid of it. So that’s not very useful. So instead, here’s a better question to ask, the question is, is our new problem better than our old problem? Because if you ask that, then you start to track progress more realistically, you make room for problems, because problems are inevitable. And you start to say, well, how do we solve this? And can I now measure this success against what the problem was before. And I would say that, you know, employees who feel like they have a better life balance and are able to bring more energy to work, but are feeling disconnected from their colleagues is a better problem to have than employees who are burned out, and not bringing their full energy to work. So we have a better problem. Now we have to solve that problem. And that’s what they’re now working on trying to do these companies, they’re, you know. They’re they’re experimenting with retreats and other ways of having kind of micro engagements. And anyway, that is, to me, representative of the broader question about the future of work, work will not look like it did in 2019. And it will not look like it does in 2022. It will look like something else. And we are figuring out what that is right now. And the way that we’re doing that is that we’re running a lot of experiments, and we don’t even think of them as experiments, but they are experiments. And we’re going to learn things from them. And we’re going to say these new problems are better than our old problems, or these new problems are worse than our old problems. And I have a feeling that the answer is going to be that in 2019, work looked pretty similar, regardless of where you went. And I think that in 5-10 years, you’re already seeing it now, work will look kind of different depending on what company you work for. And that means that everyone’s going to have to figure it out a little bit for themselves. But the future of work is going to be I think, one in which we have grappled with openly a lot of the challenges that we are facing about work. And we have gone in different directions as we’ve tried to solve them. And I think that that is absolutely wonderful.
Mark Divine 42:02
Yeah, I love that. And I think that will become one of the major criterion for people selecting a particular job or career or even companies, like how do they work? I thinking actually, I left the CPA world, I was a CPA before as a Navy SEAL for four years in Manhattan. And there were many reasons why I joined the SEALs, mainly by growing identity as a warrior versus a merchant, right?
Jason Feifer 42:25
Mark Divine 42:26
But also, there’s a nature of work, like I wanted to be outside, I wanted to be doing dangerous and risky things. And I wanted to be working with my body instead of sitting in a cubicle. That’s a really extreme example of that. So some of that already existed with those types of extreme job examples. But I think it’s going to be much more in the mainstream, that you’ll have these different options and opportunities.
Jason Feifer 42:46
That’s completely right. Right. It mean, it totally did. I mean already, and what you gave us an extreme example. But here’s a more kind of down to earth example, which is, you know, the difference between me going into media and me going into banking, I could have gotten into banking, I guess, I mean, I’m not very good at math. So maybe I couldn’t have. But one thing about that, and about working at a law firm and about like, you know, a lot of being a doctor, a lot of these kind of traditionally high paying jobs that was never interesting to me was the workload. And I’m not afraid of hard work. But what I don’t want to do is be at an office until three in the morning working on like a legal brief. That’s not the kind of hard work that I want. So I want a different kind of culture that fosters and celebrates different things. And you know, we all have some version of that before. But I think that at the time, like what we’re talking about here is is that it’s being almost classified by the industry. And I think that as we move forward, what we’ll see is that it’s always going to be classified by individual company.
Mark Divine 43:40
Awesome. Well, we got to wrap this up, Jason, where can people learn more about you and find your book and all that kind of stuff?
Jason Feifer 43:46
Yeah, I appreciate it’s such a great conversation. So the book, again, it’s called Build for Tomorrow, it is available in every format you would like, except for stone tablets. So you can find it. As you know, we’re working on that, we’ll get that later.
Mark Divine 43:59
Working on that, well got to find a stone tablet and recorder.
Jason Feifer 44:03
Exactly, you know, audio book on Audible or whatever, ebook and of course, hardcover, you know, wherever you find books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore. And then I would, I would absolutely love people to subscribe to this newsletter that I have. You can find it at JasonFeifer.com/newsletter. It comes out, it comes out weekly. And it’s basically versions of what we talked about today is sort of helping you figure out how to grow and how to identify opportunities ahead.
Mark Divine 44:30
Well, Jason,thanks again for your time. Thanks for doing what you do. And good luck with everything and Hoyah, as we said in the SEALs, nice work.
Jason Feifer 44:38
I appreciate you. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
Mark Divine 44:39
What a great conversation with Jason Feifer, author of Build for Tomorrow. Thanks so much, Jason, for your time. I love to learn about your framework for overcoming massive change in your life. Like what happened to pandemic. First you got to get through the panic phase quickly. And then learn to adapt and iterate, try new things test. Get to that new normal, and then get to that place where you won’t go back. Love the discussion about ownership and getting to asking better questions. Such as is the new problem better than the old one. Great, great conversation appreciate your time. Hoyah, Jason show notes are be up, or are up at our website, MarkDivine.com. And you can also find the video at YouTube, MarkDivine.com/youtube. And you can reach out to me at Twitter @ Mark Divine, Instagram, Facebook @ Real Mark Divine or on LinkedIn. If you’re not on the newsletter or email list for Divine Inspiration, you might want to head over to MarkDivine.com to subscribe. Every Tuesday, I’ll send your inbox, my blog, show notes for the week’s podcast, other shows that I get interviewed on, and other interesting things that come across my desk and a weekly practice. Check it out. It’s amazing, Divine Inspiration, you can subscribe on my website. Thanks to my awesome team Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell and Q Williams who helped produce this podcast and bring incredible guests to you every week like Jason. Reviews and ratings really, really help. So if you haven’t rated or reviewed the show, consider doing so wherever you listen, Apple or Amazon especially, or Spotify. My goal is 500, 5 star reviews this year. So thanks again for being part of the change you want to see it the world. My goal is to do that at scale through this podcast and through my company SEALFIT, and through my training program Unbeatable Mind. SEALFIT’s offering a new program called Quest this year in 2023. We’ve offering four quests which are 90 Day Challenge is replete with a virtual challenge group coaching and an event. First question the first quarter is the quest to get SEAL FIT, go to seal fit.com To learn more, it’s going to be an incredible experience. So join in the fun and get SEAL FIT. This is Mark Divine once again, thanks for participating and listening in the Mark Divine Show. Please share it with your friends and we’ll see you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai