Guy Kawasaki is an entrepreneur, startup investor and author, as well as the chief evangelist at Canva and former chief evangelist at Apple.
In Wise Guy, his most personal book, Guy shares everything from moral values to business skills he learnt in his lifetime and the lessons we can draw from them.
Quitters Can Win
What you do after you quit is more important than the fact that you quit.
Don’t fear the impact of quitting something. People are reluctant to quit for these reasons:
- They’ll slide down a slippery slope and become perennial quitters.
- Quitting will make them look stupid or weak, because winners are always smart and strong.
- They will let down their parents, friends, teachers, and coaches.
Quitting something doesn’t necessarily make you a perennial quitter, or stupid, or weak. It’s just one instance and one decision. Granted, if you make quitting a habit, you have a problem.
Just Get In
The day after you start a job, nobody cares about your connections, history, and credentials—or lack thereof.
Don’t worry about the “minimum requirements” of a job. They represent wishful thinking rather than nonnegotiable prerequisites. Few, if any, candidates embody them all.
- Get in any way you can. Don’t be proud. The day after you start a job, nobody cares about your connections, history, and credentials—or lack thereof. You either deliver results, or you don’t.
- Get in at any level you can. The rising tide floats all boats. The level you rise to is what’s important, not the level at which you entered. So take that internship, software tester, database administrator, or receptionist job and build from there
- Learn to disregard two factors when you’re doing the hiring: (1) the lack of a perfect education and perfect work experience of a candidate who loves the product; and (2) the presence of a perfect education and perfect work experience of a candidate who doesn’t love the product.
There’s More to a Job Than Money and Perks
Don’t assume that the only motivational tools for employee recruitment and retention are money and fringe benefits. There are always organizations that can pay more or provide better perks.
The opportunity to learn new skills, operate independently, contribute to a higher purpose, and work for people who have the smarts to know when you’ve done good work is rare and valuable. Daniel Pink explains this concept magnificently in his book Drive. His acronym is MAP: Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.
If you’re an employee, look beyond salary and perks. Does the job enable you to master new skills while working autonomously toward a meaningful goal? If you’re a boss, are you offering employees a way to master new skills while working autonomously toward a meaningful goal?
Sometimes You Work for Free
Do what it takes and pay the price of success. Writers enter writing contests. Programmers participate in hackathons. Contestants on America’s Got Talent don’t get paid. I have given dozens of free speeches, and they led to paid ones. The sheer quantity of speeches that I’ve delivered helped me improve, too.
This is what it takes to get a career going. Reach out and grab opportunities and wrestle them to the ground. Do it for no pay or low pay. Exploitation can be a state of mind, just like being a victim, not pegged to compensation. TEDx, for example, doesn’t pay speakers, but anyone should jump at the chance to speak at a TEDx event for the validation and exposure
Customer Gratification Rules
Take a sale when you can. The moment people walk out of your store or navigate away from your website, you’ve lost them. One of the few advantages a brick-and-mortar store may retain over Amazon is instant gratification (although Amazon is experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores, so this advantage may not last long).
Why Canva Succeeded
The probability of a start-up becoming a unicorn is also close to zero, but Canva’s achievement was not because of luck. And there are important lessons there:
- Perkins and Obrecht (the founders of Canva) foresaw two changes: first, text alone doesn’t work well on most forms of communication, so more people needed to create graphics; second, these people could not afford the cost of nor allocate the time to learn expensive and complex high-end products.
- Canva did not merely take market share from existing high-end products, it created new types of customers who would not, or thought they could not, design graphics before. In short, Canva made the pie bigger for design, just like Apple made the pie bigger for personal computers.
- Canva has relentlessly pursued perfection. I have never worked for an organization that is more obsessed with optimizing everything—from the onboarding process to the selection of templates to technical support to localization in dozens of languages to smartphone versions to the printing of designs. I mean never—and I’ve worked for some very good companies
So if you’re in for a start-up venture, get ready for a marathon. Starting a company is not a sprint. It’s not as simple as creating a product, selling it, and cashing out. Entrepreneurship is a marathon combined with a decathlon—that is, you have to do a lot of things well for a long time.
Showing Weakness Is a Sign of Strength
Don’t be afraid to show weakness. Strong people can admit a mistake, change their minds, and tolerate humiliation. Often this is the first step toward building strength. Weak people are afraid to show vulnerability. They think this gives their competition the advantage or positions them poorly. Strong people don’t see it this way.
When you encounter weakness, flexibility, or the willingness to compromise, don’t underestimate your competition and don’t overestimate yourself. When you encounter what appears to be strength, don’t overestimate your competition and don’t underestimate yourself.
In short, be kind, flexible, and humble when you are in a position of strength. This communicates true power better than brute force does.
Everyone Does Stupid Things
Be skeptical of experts, because everyone does stupid things from time to time. An expert in one field is not necessarily an expert in another. For example, a brain surgeon might not be the best person to run a government agency.
Also, someone who isn’t an expert in one field might be an expert in another. For example, that old guy who can barely surf might be an expert in entrepreneurship and evangelism.
After many false positives and false negatives, Guy adopted the strategy of being skeptical of everyone, but he also assume that everyone can do something better. This combination of perspectives has worked well for him.
- Touch gold. It’s very hard to evangelize crap. It’s much easier to evangelize great stuff. Guy learned that the starting point of evangelism, and 90 percent of the battle, is having a great product. So your first challenge as an evangelist is to find or create something great to evangelize.
- Position as a “cause.” A product, no matter how great, is ultimately just a collection of parts or snippets of code. A “cause,” by contrast, changes lives. It’s not enough to make a great product—you also need to position it and explain it as a way to improve lives. Steve Jobs didn’t position an iPhone as $188 worth of components manufactured in China. Evangelists take the high ground and transcend the exchange of money for goods and services.
- Localize the pitch. Don’t describe your product using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm-shifting,” and “curve-jumping.” Macintosh wasn’t “the third paradigm in personal computing.” It simply (and powerfully) increased the productivity and creativity of one person with one computer. People don’t buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirin” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives, so localize the pitch and keep it simple.
- Look for agnostics; ignore people who belong to another religion. Guy’s experience was that the hardest person to convert to Macintosh was someone who worshiped MS-DOS. The easiest person was someone who had never used a personal computer before. If a person doesn’t “get” your product or service after fifteen minutes, consider cutting your losses and moving on.
- Learn to give a demo. “Evangelists who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. If you can’t give a great demo of your product, you cannot effectively evangelize it. Demoing should be second nature, maybe even reflexive. This is what made Steve Jobs the world’s greatest evangelist for Apple’s products.
- Let people tell you how to evangelize them. Guy gave companies three different reasons to write Mac software. If they were amenable to supporting Macintosh, they usually told us which reason was the most appealing. Then they dropped the other two and concentrated on that one.
- Never lie. Lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because when you lie, it’s necessary to keep track of what you said. If you always tell the truth, then there’s nothing to keep track of. Evangelists evangelize great stuff, so they don’t have to lie about features and benefits, and evangelists know their stuff, so they never have to lie to cover their ignorance.
- Read to write. Great writers are great readers. The writing of others can inspire, motivate, and challenge you.
- Have something to say. The only time you should write a book is when you have something important to convey. Fame, fortune, credibility, and other fantasies are not good reasons to do so.
- Embrace the editing process. The key to writing is editing—that is, the willingness to refine your work through dozens of drafts after you think you are “done.” No author spits out a good draft that only requires light editing.
Public Speaking Wisdom
- Ask for a small room. It’s easier to entertain and inform an audience that’s packed into a room, so try to get the smallest venue that you can.
- Befriend the audio-visual team. You want them to want you to succeed, because they can ruin your presentation, if not your career.
- Pre-circulate. Get out and circulate with the audience—especially the people in the front rows. When you are onstage, you want to look out and see familiar, friendly faces.
- Customize your beginning. Use LinkedIn to find connections to the people in your audience, whatever it takes. Use this information to break the ice.
- Take off like a jet, not an Airbus. Good speeches take off like a fighter jet and don’t rumble along for two miles before making it into the air.
- Use a maximum of ten slides, if you use slides at all. You’ll be lucky to get ten points across in a presentation. Less is more.
- Make the type size on your slides bigger. At least 30 points. FYI: Steve Jobs used 190-point text. The bigger the text, the fewer words fit on a page, and the more you’ll communicate.
- Limit your presentation to twenty minutes. TED Talks are only eighteen minutes. It’s better to end early and have time for questions and answers than to end late and not cover your key points.
- Tell stories. Always tell stories. Use them to illustrate your key points. Stories are ten times more powerful than bullshit adjectives such as “revolutionary,” “innovative,” and “cool.
Social Media Wisdom
- Add value to people’s lives. Provide value, and social media becomes a fast, free, ubiquitous, and powerful tool.
- Optimize your avatar and cover page. They should establish that you are an interesting person, so tell your story with it.
- Be positive or be silent. If you don’t have something positive to say, shut up and keep scrolling.
- Keep experimenting. Don’t assume that what the experts recommend is optimal or true. The only thing that won’t change is the value of experimentation.