#1: Nick deWilde – Finding meaning in our careers

January 11, 2021
Nick is a product marketer and also writes The Jungle Gym, a newsletter that covers topics such as careers, learning, and personal growth. In this episode, I talked with Nick about work-life integration, fulfillment and meaning in our careers, and the pros and cons of being a generalist. We also touched on learning, and the benefits of creative side projects.

Show Notes

📚 Books

So Good They Can't Ignore You

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger

🔗 Other Links

Demand Curve

On Deck

👋 Find Nick Online


Newsletter (The Jungle Gym)



Nick  0:00  

Yeah, one of the things that's really important when you're advising people, right, like is like you have to, to be a good adviser, you can't advise them to take your path. And and I think that's a lot of the problem with a lot of advice. Now you can you can just say, this is the way I went, and this is how it worked. And this is why I found it valuable, right, that that's totally a fair way to do it. But I think it's important to be able to say, you know, look, if you're if your tribe is the red one, or the blue one, and you want to be part of that tribe, like, here's how to live a life that that that that will help you accomplish those goals. Right, I care much more about people's goals and how I can help them achieve it then then if they run my path.

Reza   0:50  

Hello, and welcome to the latest episode of out of curiosity. My name is Reza. And on this podcast, I speak with entrepreneurs and creators to learn about their mindsets, habits, and life philosophies.

Together, we dive into timeless ideas to help answer what it means to live fulfilling lives and build meaningful careers.

On the show with me today is Nick the will that Nick is a product marketer and also writes the jungle gym, and newsletter that covers topics like careers, learning and personal growth. Some of the things that I am personally super passionate about myself. And when I came across Nick's work, I knew I had to get him on the podcast. So we can dive deeper into some of these topics and share it publicly. You could tell we had a wonderful conversation we talked about so much from work life integration, fulfillment and meaning in our careers, the pros and cons of being a generalist. And we've also touched on other things like learning and the benefits of creative side projects. It's what Nick does himself right in the jungle gym alongside his full time job. So just over 54 or so minutes of lots of insights shared by Nick, we could have probably gone for another 54 if you tried, but for now, enjoy. Take notes, but more importantly, take action.

Nick, thanks for being here. I'm super excited to chat with you today.

Nick  2:21  

Thanks for having me.

Reza   2:23  

What got you interested in the topic of work life integration in the in the first place?

Nick  2:29  

So I think people often put this artificial barrier between work and life, that that limits them from from living in an existence that's kind of optimal. And, and I think we're in a, we're in a time right now, where we're working life have so much overlap that I think it's really it's kind of an interesting moment to explore this. Just to name a couple of examples. Your housemates whether they be your your significant other are your roommates are now your co workers, your your colleagues from work are now like peering into your home on a daily basis through zoom.

So, there's the barriers between work and life have really come down. But this but it's also a time to really think about how you can integrate your work in your life in order to get more of what you want out of both. So trying to find colleagues that that you feel stimulate you intellectually, trying to find a job function that helps you build skills that can be used outside of work, all these things like they're they're possible, but you have to be pretty thoughtful about what kind of jobs you take and and and what you do outside of work in order to further your career.

Reza   3:51  

How do you see the correlation between fulfillment and meaning when it comes to our careers? How are these two concepts interconnected?

Nick  3:59  

Yeah, I guess I guess I define fulfillment as you have certain needs, and they get fulfilled by your work. So to some degree, a fulfilling job fulfills your your need to be paid a lot, fulfills your need to have a place in society where you feel like you get a steam, it fulfills your need to have something to do all day. So So I guess I think of fulfillment as sort of like they're, they're these these buckets in your life that it fills meaning to some degree is is is the step above. Right? It's the thing. It's the thing that once you have a lot of your base needs fulfilled, I think that's where meaning probably comes in. And and I think it's, it's to some degree, that's, that's really the, the stuff that makes life worth living if you're if you're fortunate enough to be able to, to aspire for it. And, and I think that you can find meaning in a bunch of different ways. I think you can find meaning as in your work, I think work can be the source of your meaning. I think work can be an enabler of meaning. So it can just give you the the financial wherewithal to be able to go do the things you want to do with the people you want to spend time with, to pursue the hobbies you care about. And then I also think it can be part of a vaster portfolio meaning so it can be aligned with your family, it can be aligned with with your Creator hobby, there's, there's a lot of a lot of roles that work can play in that that pursuit of meaning. And I think it's really important to figure out like, which one actually works for you.

Reza   5:40  

So the way I see it, when it comes to a job or a career, there are there are two parts to make it make it more fulfilling, there is one where you enjoy what you're doing on a daily basis. And then there is the other part where you're pursuing what you're really good at what Daniel Pink calls mastering his book, what's your view on how to best combine the two to optimize your work life?

Nick  6:03  

Yeah, I think it's a it's a loop. And so there's a book called so good, they can't ignore you, I think he was on your horse yet. Yeah, which, which is a great book, because then it sort of reframes the, you should only do things that you're passionate about, and basically says that, like, if you, if you do something that you're if you get really good at something, you will become passionate about it, because you'll be paid a lot for it, you'll be held in high esteem by people, a lot of good things will come. And and I think that's true. And it's important, but I also think there's a flip side of that, which is to get really good at something takes a lot of practice, the hard thing about getting good at something, it's not like the challenging thing isn't finding an online course, it's being motivated enough to do it. And, and so motivation is this thing, it's always in short supply with learning. And if you, if you don't have some kind of engine of motivation, I think interest is one of the best engines of motivation, you're never going to get that good at something. So I really think it has to go both ways. Like and, and, and some people can can sort of manufacture their own motivation. And if you can, more power to you, and if so you should, you know, engage in something incredibly that other people find incredibly boring, but if you if you if you don't have to then then then find something that you really love doing and and you'll get good enough at it so that it can become a vocation.

Reza   7:38  

You seem to be focusing a lot on continuous learning as a as a lever for career growth. How do you see that for long term career growth versus other factors like having a good network, so intentionally choosing how to grow by learning those skills required for the workplace versus putting yourself in the right situations without necessarily having the skills to the fullest?

Nick  7:59  

So, I think there is a an idea that people often share when it comes to both, like, what makes people successful in their career. And, and the the sort of like, often cited aphorism is like, it's not what, you know, it's who you know. And, and I think that's, it's, it's really true, right? Like, like the gatekeepers, ultimately open a lot of doors for you. And whether it's a knowing the hiring manager, like whether it's whether it's someone who's going to give you an introduction to that hiring manager, whether it's knowing a client, right, like like theirs, that is really important. But the question is, what makes those people want to know, you. And what I'd say is, what makes people want to know, you is what, you know, being being a vector of interesting information, being someone who, who just who spends time understanding the world makes you a person that people want to bring into their network. And so I think that that learning actually ends up being a really critical thing for for long term success. And, and I think that frankly, you know, the, the the funny thing right now is like there's so many people who are who are who are into to knowledge management, but but it's, it's really, what matters is your information inputs, it's what you're managing, right? If you you can manage the same knowledge that everybody else has, in a slightly better way, but it's, it's really a small optimization. A lot of the challenge is making sure that you're you're sort of putting yourself in the way of really interesting insight.

Reza   9:42  

talk more about that having access to the same kind of information but processing it in a different way. So you have a you have a competitive advantage there?

Nick  9:51  

When you think that information sources there are. Let you know let's say you're in marketing, right, there are certain people were like, if you could mine their brain for for insights that actually were really relevant to the stuff you're doing. You, you could tenex the the output that you have at work, right? If you if you just find the right book, instead of, you know, going on Google and clicking the first blog post, you find, if you if you find the right research report, right there, there are, there's information out there, that that if you do the hunting for it can really sort of change the course of your life in a big way. And now sometimes, like, it's not just a fact that you read, but it's something that you actually have to deeply kind of profoundly understand. But being able to cultivate sort of really good information streams, I think is is a is a really powerful way to to build a strong career that lasts a long time.

Reza   10:53  

Well, what are some of the ways to go about cultivating that right stream of information for your field?

Nick  11:03  

So you can think about knowledge in a few ways. There's, there's book knowledge, and then tacit knowledge, there's a more academic word for book knowledge. But the difference between tacit and book knowledge is basically tacit knowledge is, is sort of the its information about skills, how to do things, and then book knowledge is really sort of the information about things. And, and you need a bit of both. So you need to need sort of skill, but you also need the actual sort of pieces of information that are going to be able to drive where you apply your skill. I think when it comes to sources of that information, it can be other human beings, like it can be your co workers, it can be your mentors outside of work, it can be communities that you take part in, it can also be just sort of, you know, nonliving documents, right? Like, like getting getting the right book in front of you, just knowing the right thing to put into Google to do a search. So I think being someone who knows how to seek out information is really like that's the that's the meta skill of this century.

Reza   12:13  

Yeah, it seems like with the abundance of information around us learning how to learn is in itself a big skill. Is that what you're referring to?

Nick  12:21  

Yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's research first, right? It's like, it's learning how to like, find the right things to learn from. And then, and then the the meta skills of learning how to learn, right, knowing that stuff, like spaced repetition, or interleaving, or things like that, I think are really valuable. But like, if you don't start with the right kind of nuggets of information, or if you don't start from the right sources, you often kind of impoverish whatever ends up in your brain.

Reza   12:49  

Let's go back to to your writing, how do you choose the topics that you decide to write about how much of it is the topics you want to explore for yourself interest and learning versus what you see others might be interested in?

Nick  13:03  

Yeah, I tend to, I think the domain I've picked of kind of career life integration is an area that I'm generally interested in. And so I mostly try to. So I sort of know that as long as I'm in that domain, I'll be generally pretty interested, I can't really write about things that I'm not interested in. So for me, there are things like, like, at one point, I was really interested in productivity in sort of personal knowledge management, I'm no longer that interested in in those things deeply. And so and so it's hard for it would be hard for me to write about those things, even if my audience really wanted them. And, and, and I think mostly people who who are writing about that they should be deeply interested in it. So they should be sort of pushing the boundaries of knowledge on whatever thing they care about. I typically like to write about things that are at the intersection of can give my reader some kind of like deep advantage and the gauntlet of life. And, and, and things that feel honest and uncomfortable to share, where like where they couldn't get those things in other places. And I think often what that involves is kind of like sharing your like less noble intentions. It's it's being able to talk about fears and insecurities and questions around your social relationships with people that people just sort of feel uncomfortable naturally talking about.

Reza   14:33  

Can you talk about a piece that most resonated with your audience when it comes to being honest and uncomfortable?

Nick  14:39  

Sure. Earlier this year, I wrote a piece about doing a job search during COVID as a generalist, and and you know, I mean, I think even if I'd done that I would have been maybe even a click more honest now but but but at the time, you know, wrote about, there are a lot of insecurities that come with job searching as a generalist, right people aren't people aren't knocking down your door all the time for things because it's hard for them to know where you fit. And so and so every time as a journalist, you do a job search, you're sort of you're you're doing so in like, a state of a bit of angst and crisis, because you're not a perfect fit for anything. But there are a lot of options in front of you. So you have both of these to challenge at the same time. And, and the way, you know, most businesses are structured is like they reward specializing, with like with their leveling and all the the accoutrements that come with it. And so I think of too, and I think just talking about that, from like, a personal perspective, is is one of those things that I think people, people naturally feel it, they feel uncomfortable sharing it. And I think that tends to be a good way to to engage people. I did this recently in a post about how to sort of integrate writing with work. And there's a lot of insecurity that people have with sharing their work on LinkedIn, and Twitter in places where their co workers are spending time, because it can look like they're messing around, and they're not actually doing their work, right. And so it's like writing is a very weird hobby in that way. And so I think just the more you can bring things to life that people feel uncomfortable talking about, that's sort of at least where I found, I guess, my voice.

Reza   16:25  

I want to go back to being a specialist versus a generalist. But before that, let's double click on the personal identities and professional identities. I think the lines between these two are getting less and less defined as their barriers to content creation are getting lowered, and a lot more people are creating content around their passions. talk more about this shift that's happening, and how could that be beneficial to employers and employees alike?

Nick  16:52  

I think we, one of the interesting things, when you look at a lot of these, these broadcasts and social channels is for a long time, individuals couldn't really compete on them, right? You never saw individuals buying TV commercials. But when it comes to social media, companies and individuals sit right alongside each other. So like, as you're scrolling through LinkedIn, you're seeing updates from from your co workers and updates from your company in the exact same feed. And it turns out, individuals do a lot better on those channels, then their companies do. There's some crazy stat that like him, employees have like 10 X the reach of their employers on LinkedIn. Right. And I assume that's true on Twitter, too, because people naturally want to learn from other people. It were like hardwired to it. It's what it's what made humans successful. It's this kind of cultural learning. And so I think that we live in a place where, where it actually benefits companies a lot, to be able to have employees, who have their own identities and have their own audiences, that actually sort of increases the surface area of the business to be able to kind of pull people into it. So let's say that that's kind of the the pitch for why I think it's useful for companies, I think, for individuals, you know, I think we're moving towards a world of kind of more fractional careers, I think that people will be doing a lot more things at once, I think that it's in and people spend a lot less time at one company, I think that, you know, the, the it's almost trite to say, but like the age of somebody spending 30 years at a company, then walking off gold watch and hand is like, that's, that's gone. And so, you know, you're to some degree, the audience that you build. And what you build it for is, is really, you know, it's kind of your your, your career stability going going into the future. And so making sure that like that, that audience that you're building is one that you that you want to continue to sort of tie in with future jobs, I think is a valuable thing.

Reza   19:08  

Can you talk more about that, from your personal perspective of being a product marketer, working at Guild, and also writing the jungle gym, a monthly newsletter that covers work life integration, which is a broad topic that could be applicable to any company you work and any title you work under? How has that experience been for you? And how do your as much as you can share, how do your co workers perceive that?

Nick  19:31  

Yeah, I'll say, I've been really lucky in the way that you know, at my previous job tradecraft, you know, my my partner was helpful in kind of even helped me think through what what that newsletter should be and should be about and, and my, our CEO at Guild, who I've known for a while has always been, you know, a supporter from the early days at the newsletter and so I feel really lucky about that and, and in general guilds a place where there are a lot of people who who share ideas and who right. And so that's been a really nice thing. But But also, you know, you know, in a world where you're working remotely and I have, like, my co workers, most of them I haven't met in person. And so there is there's a weird feeling about about writing something online and, and, and sort of having that show up sometimes, like the the main work product that that some coworkers, they don't spend a lot, a lot of time. Let's see. So I, you know, it's, it's, but I would say, you know, for the most part, like my experience has been good, but I think I still try to do some things with my writing to make it integrate a little bit more with guild and what guild wants to do. And, and so from, like an audience building perspective, the The nice thing about that, anywhere I where I work is like my audience tends to be smart knowledge workers and, and I tend to work at companies who hire those smart knowledge workers. And so as long as I'm speaking well about my company, like, I tend to think that that's value additive for them. I also think from that where it's what's really benefited me is like, a lot of the best ideas that I brought into work, either come from the research and time I spend writing, or some of the people that I've drawn in through that process. So I think it's, it's those ideas that have been really valuable and, and to some degree, even the act of writing and sharing a newsletter is to some degree, but it's like, it's like, really what product marketing is, you are, you are crafting and building a product that is mostly made a copy. And you're finding an audience and trying to build that audience for it. And so that the muscle that you develop, doing that he's also a muscle that that's, that's really helpful at work. I don't know, like, for me, it's a really tight integration of those things. Now, it could be tight, right, I could be writing specifically about the things that, you know, my company cares about right now, you could be writing to fortune 1000, you know, CH sorrows. But But I don't do that. And I think that the nice thing about not doing that is I don't have to worry so much about running everything I say through, you know, through our comms team.

Reza   22:22  

So we're essentially the CEO of your own media empire, in this case, your newsletter.

Nick  22:28  

That's, that is, that is one good way of putting it, I think, I think that it's, it is a nice thing, too, especially if you're working in a get a, you know, larger company, then you know, 20 people, you're gonna deal with some some organizational headaches, right? Like, like, you're gonna have to just convince someone of something, you have to make creative trade offs. And this is true in any company. And, and so having something like a newsletter, where like, the work you put in is, is really a function, or the work that comes out as a function of the work that you put in is, is really powerful. And it's powerful for your sense of agency. Because you can, you know, you can make sure you're shipping as much as you want to ship. And you really have kind of a real barometer for yourself, like, Am I doing a good job? Oh, did I get my, my newsletter on time? Was it well read by people with it, well reviewed those those things, I think it's a very empowering experience for someone to have.

Reza   23:31  

Yeah, I completely agree. And in terms of having been in a hiring manager seat as well, when I see two exactly identical candidates, I much rather work with one who is doing something, some sort of passion project on the side that they're doing outside of work that they're deeply invested in. Because to your point earlier, I think the average time an employee spends at a company is probably like between one and a half to two and a half years, depending on the role and the seniority level. So I think that is the one thing that sticks with you, regardless of where you're working and having something like that, that you're again, deeply invested in, I think, is a sign of passion and enthusiasm and ambition.

Nick  24:10  

Totally. And I think I think actually having something on the side that you do, allows you to stay put a little bit longer, because frankly, if if you're totally dependent on work, for all of your career satisfaction, any sort of changes to your work environment, that are that are negative kind of can become untenable really quickly, right. So like, so let's say, you know, there's, they hire someone new on your team, they don't get along with right, like, if that's really what you're depending on for career satisfaction, it's pretty hard to like, stick that out. And so I think often people jump for, like small things that change in their, in their in in work. And so I think having this this sort of secondary thing actually, it turns out, you know, rather than than then making you a less productive employee, it actually makes you probably With a more productive one and a and an easier to retain.

Reza   25:03  

I want to circle back to the article we wrote about seeking a job as a generalist. Whar are some of the advantages of being a generalist in a specialized world?

Nick  25:15  

Yeah, I mean, good question, I think, let's start with the things that are not advantages of being generalist. So so one advantage is, like, it's really hard for people to slot you in places, because there's always someone with more experience. And so and the problem is that at some point, when a company grows to a certain point, that experience is really important. And, and, and it's, it's really important because you have to be able to like to, to bring patterns in to how you how you lead a team. So So I think, to some degree, it's pretty hard to, to like to, to climb a corporate ladder, and stay a generalist the whole time. There's some people who've done it. And I think I think it's really those people tend to be really interesting to work with, because they basically gone through the fine sieve of people who didn't make it. But I think at some point, you sort of have to pick a function. But But I think coming to that function with a generalist toolkit is pretty powerful, because you can bring ideas to it, that don't often sit there and, and kind of, like we talked about with with work in life. keeping those two domains separate does have its advantages, but you miss a lot of like, the special, interesting cross pollenization, right. And so being able to say to like, have had experience doing sales, or building community or creating content, or designing or building products, whatever, you when you bring those things in contact with each other, you can come up with ideas that other people in your function just don't naturally come to. Now, again, it's a trade off, because because you're also you're missing sort of depth to be able to say, hey, I've seen this 100 times in this situation, this is how you should do it. But But I do, but I wouldn't trade the tool kit I built as a generalist for now that I sort of found a spot that I want to apply that generalist toolkit.

Reza   27:25  

I love that. And I think it also depends on the stage of the company that you want to work at. If you are more into being scrappy, and work in startups, you can probably remain a generalist for the rest of your career and be a jack of all trades and know how to do a lot of things once a company goes into growth mode, and you're no longer kind of suited to that situation and something you don't enjoy, you go to the next startup.

Nick  27:48  

Totally. And that's exactly right. And, and, and, and to some degree, being at really early stage startups is really fun because of that, like it is it is fun to be able to say, Hey, we have to do this thing and like, like, so you have to just learn how to do it quickly. And, and the the rate of learning that you experience is is kind of amazing. There's also something amazing about being able to say, we want to do this thing, and not having to learn this random software tool and just saying Cool, let's hire a contractor for it. And let's just go, I think having experienced doing both is great. And, and and ultimately, I think you you know, you can kind of figure out who you are after after doing a bit of both.

Reza   28:32  

How much of a role do you think automation is going to play in workplaces over the next decade?

Nick  28:40  

I think a lot I read a newsletter for guild and called learning at work if you if you if your audience likes the intersection of sort of future of education and future of work on like an institutional level. it's it's a it's a it's a great read. But But one of the things that that our new chief Commercial Officer Natalie talked about was was the stat from Gartner. And they predicted in 2020 to 90% of large organizations will have adopted automation in some form. That's a pretty crazy stat. So it means that like, like, to some degree that future of work is already here. Now, does that start changing everybody's job right away? No, but it'll it'll move pretty fast. So like GPT three will take over a lot of copywriting robotic Process Automation will take over a lot of you know, work in factories, there will be these discrete areas as self driving trucks, right will eventually get rolled out this this will happen. Right. And I and and the question of will we get to a place where like, there's just a whole bunch of new jobs that are created that we could have never thought of? Maybe, but I don't think so. I think I think ultimately, humans have a finite number of capacities. And what we're finding is, is artificial intelligence and automation are able to cover a lot of them. And, and I think we're, we're, and even even creating, right like like music, art, all these things are possible to create their machines now are the will the most valuable pieces of art be created by machines? I don't think so. Because Because frankly, at the end of the day, it is the fact that a human is doing something, sometimes that makes it the most valuable. And that is sort of one thing that like a machine can't be better at the human that humanists. They will try perhaps, but but I don't think that'll happen. But in that way, I do think we will, a lot of the jobs and individual tasks we do, will end up going towards machines. And I think we'll have to build a world that that that can reconcile that. And that's going to be that's going to be a big project of this century.

Reza   31:02  

And on that note, in your, in your opinion, I'm curious to know, what are some of the timeless skills, technical or soft skills that are never going to go away? And how can we ensure our education system is preparing more people with those skills?

Nick  31:19  

Yeah, I think my my colleague guild talks about perishable versus durable skills. His name's Matthew Dan. And I think he shared this stat that skills have about like a, like a five year Half Life, where they they they get less and less valuable. And maybe that's specifically for technical skills, I think when it comes to what are the skills that are actually going to be really durable. I think there are skills that involve communication in sort of interpersonal relationships that like, are gonna be really hard for machines to master. And, and, and humans are always sort of looking for signals that that something fake is happening, right, like humans really want to engage with other humans. So like, you could, you could try to build a selling process, that's, that's totally done through a bot. But But ultimately, like, it would just sort of change what what humans had to do in order to signal that this process was actually done by humans. And that process would still be quite valuable. So so i think i think there are there are interpersonal skills that will never really go away.

I think, quickly, being able to learn, right, like, like, this is kind of what we talked about before, but with like, with picking up information and actually retaining it, that's a really powerful skill. And like, and one where if the world is changing quickly, like you might have to be able to hop from lily pad to lily pad, you might be able to have to sort of reshape your job role, right? If you're, if you're a copywriter, and it turns out that like GP three takes over copywriting, like, you might have to be able to quickly step up to, to sort of the next level in order to, you know, keep doing what you're doing. So I think I think that a bit that that sort of meta learning ability is becoming more and more important. I think, also just sort of it's I mean, it may sort of be the the sort of revenge of like the liberal arts, right, like just just being sort of a well rounded person, I think like things like engineering mindsets, or like, it is a really valuable mindset to have, even if you know, SQL isn't always the language that you need to be able to programming.

Reza   33:33  

And it also, I think, goes back to what we were talking about around our passion projects are something that you're doing on the side, regardless of what happens to these skills, if you have built an audience over time that you can always go back to and produce for. And you've got to got to know over over the years, I think that is almost always something you can rely on. Even if there is there isn't a job that that is a match to your skill sets in the future.

Nick  33:56  

Totally. And I mean, I think one of the interesting things with like, with with writing is that a newsletter that was written by AI could be really good and full of interesting insights. But it would be very boring to read, and the reasons why it would be very boring to read or like, if to kind of think through it, but like, it's because a human isn't backing it, there isn't skin in the game behind it. So there are

there are really always ways that human beings will be able to provide a value that that can only come from humans. And I think that it has to do with the fact that like we, we we still have, we still are a lot like our ancestors, we don't think totally rationally. So I do think there will always be roles for humans and creating value for other humans but it'll just it'll change a lot and a lot of the the ways in which we do I will change.

Reza   34:50  

Status, power money, how would you rank those when it comes to your career?

Nick  34:58  

I Think relationships hips are sort of what makes life interesting. And I think that money is sort of interesting up until a point like, it certainly gives you leverage to do a lot of stuff and like, talk to like a navall, or a devotee of his and he'll say, like, Don't play stupid games and win stupid prizes and like, status to maybe a stupid prize power. Also, I think, you know, being able to, to shape the world in the way you want is, it it's a, it's a worthwhile prize, if you know that you're going to be able to shape it in the right way. I think great power comes with a lot of responsibility. And and I don't know if I'd want the great responsibility, great power. And so to me, like, I think prestige is a really, it's a pretty fulfilling thing. And, and so, I, I'm, I may go with that. Because I think I think ultimately, prestige is kind of how you build relationships with people. And relationships are sort of where knowledge comes from. And I think sort of the intersection of knowledge and people is where I get most of my fulfillment. So I probably go there, but I think the like that sort of, if you can wave a magic wand and get the prestige you want, like mining, for prestige, in, on Twitter, and on and on, on social media channels, is is a pretty rough life. And, and it's it's something where like, you can get really pulled in and addicted to that game. And so instead of some degree, I don't recommend people spend all their time seeking prestige or status, because I think it can really, it can really screw you up. And it can, it can blunt a lot of your other pursuits. I probably don't recommend you, you spend all your time seeking power or seeking money either. But But I think the question you asked is a thoughtful, interesting one.

Reza   36:55  

Yeah, that dopamine hit is definitely real on social media. And it can, it can definitely distract you from what is really meaningful, and what is real versus what is kind of artificial, by giving you those short bursts of likes or retweets or replies on Twitter.

Nick  37:14  

Totally. Yeah, like you can be, you know, you can be sitting in front of your parents, right? And you're like, in reality, like, you only get so many times left with your parents, right, especially if they're older. And you can get more pulled in by sort of the the status that you're earning on Twitter than you are the like, love and, and real connection that you're getting to your parents. Right. And that's, that's a that's a weird thing. And and if it I mean, if, like that, what that's kind of what ultimately convinced me of the ills of social media, it's just sort of like the power that it can have over over your brain.

Reza   37:54  

Yeah, speaking of parents, I think you mentioned in one of the podcasts that that you recorded previously, that your dad prints out your newsletters every month and goes through them highlights them, and then you end up having a discussion around certain topics. I'm curious how much difference exists between your point of views when it comes to the different areas or different discussions that you have around work life around their careers?

Nick  38:23  

Yeah, my dad has has lived kind of like a Forrest Gump life. He's he's he got fired from the Nixon administration for not defending him during Watergate. He, he worked in he worked in Wall Street, he sold some of the first mortgage backed securities, he but really, he kind of he cut his teeth as an executive recruiter, he started his own search firm. So he's really thought kind of deeply about about careers. Now, he comes from the, from a different generation than I do, right. And, and, and the, the baby boomers had had a lot of room to run, right? They they could they could get to the top of of a law firm or a consulting firm or a search firm, and really stay there for a long time. And, and it kind of screwed over the generation behind them. And Gen Xers I think, sort of followed in their path thinking that was the right way to go. And all I do is look at, you know, look at Congress or the Senate, and you'll see how many sort of what's the buzz word octogenarians and septuagenarians there are clogging up the ranks of our government. Seems true in in many other areas of corporate America is a little bit better because they they they sort of force retired people, but to some degree, if you're trying to climb a ladder, you'll find quite a full one. And, and so I think I think in that way, we sort of come to it with different perspectives where like, where he, he sort of sees the, the prestige that one can get from from climbing a ladder successfully as something that's quite valuable. Whereas I think I see the the freedom and the self actualization ability of something like a newsletter to be to be a sort of better career path or or one that is a good supplement for, for the traditional career path.

So, yeah, I think I mean, but but he's, he's someone who just he has, he has so many good insights about careers because he's seen it. He's, he, you know, he's placed a bunch of CEOs and companies and things like that. So, so I really, I do try to, to not think of myself as having all the answers, right, I tried to, to, I think when I was younger, I was sort of allergic to my parents advice, as all kids are, but like, you know, it's, it's It is, it is important to understand that, like, you know, living for a bunch of decades will give you a perspective that you really just can't get in your, your 30s and 20s. So, I really tried to be a lot more thoughtful when, when when he does share advice, because it is it is valuable and hard one.

Reza   41:08  

I've noticed that in the way that you write and reason as well, in your writing to it seems like you tend to go back a lot to the first principles. And also, when you provide an argument, you'd look at it from different perspectives as well, or the way we're talking about meaning at work, you didn't just talk about work has to be meaningful period. It could be, there could be other ways for it to be an enabler or be a part of a portfolio career. So I think I've seen this sort of ongoing trend of going back to the first principles and obviously supporting different parts of the arguments as well, in the way that you're right.

Nick  41:41  

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that's really important when you're advising people, right, it's like, it's like you have to, to be a good advisor, you can advise them to take your path. And, and I think that's a lot of the problem. With a lot of advice, it says this, and now you can, you can just say, this is the way I went, and this is how it worked. And this is why I found it valuable, right, that that's totally a fair way to do it. But I think it's important to be able to say, you know, look, if you're if your tribe is the red one, or the blue one, and you want to be part of that tribe, like, here's how to live a life that that that that will help you accomplish those goals, right, I care much more of a people's goals and how I can help them achieve it, then then if they run my path.

Reza   42:31  

How was your experience doing an MBA at Stanford?

Nick  42:34  

It was amazing. And, and frankly, like, it's a, it's a huge privilege to be the the people you get to spend time around. And I don't even know if I if I, you know, if I was able to take advantage of it or appreciate it as much as as as I do now. I think it's, it's, it's an amazing place to spend time. Now that that that, that doesn't mean I recommend it for everybody. I certainly don't recommend an MBA for everybody. I think I think there are certain MBAs like Stanford, Harvard, where like, the network you build is so valuable, that it's like, it's really hard to go wrong. It's hard for that to be a bad experience. But I think an MBA or like an MBA itself, is really a means to kind of accelerate you along a career path. And, and it's a really expensive way to do career exploration. And so I, I don't I don't recommend it for that.

Reza   43:37  

Yeah, I actually, on that topic, a friend of mine was recently considering doing an MBA at Stanford GSB. And without having done an MBA, kind of knowing his personality of how how much of a go getter he is and how much he can get done in the two years that he's doing an MBA, I kind of encouraged him out of it. And yeah, it's something that I always had on my mind to want to do. But then the more I talked to the people who've done it, and then the more I realize, again, how much you can possibly how many companies you can build in the span of two years, without having to learn everything that they teach you during an MBA or other programs for that matter. Like formal setting, the more I just want to do on build and take action, as opposed to just learn, I think the learning can happen on the job as you're as you're doing it.

Nick  44:22  

Yeah, I think, I think it's, it's like when you think about an MBA, it's kind of helpful to, to look at a few different domains, right? Like, like the question of, is it going to make you wealthier? Is it going to bring you relationships, like there's, there's, there's a lot of ways that you can you can look at it like, I think, I think to some degree, there's, you know, with this idea of like, of who you know, is really powerful, ultimately, that that MBA network is, is especially the one from Stanford, I've really depended on and has and has really been valuable to me both both on like a personal level and a professional level. So And it's hard to, it's very hard to put a price on that.

Now, the knowledge that I gained from that, I tend to be a much better self learner, I've gained far more useful, valuable knowledge from from having to write this newsletter each month. And so and so I think there are certain parts of the NBA that you can manufacture outside, and there are parts of it that you can't, I think, I think the LinkedIn network is something where like, there are, there are some ways to kind of pull that together. But there's something about just getting a bunch of smart people from a bunch of different industries, like tech Tech has a view on MBAs,where you can actually meet a lot of impressive people in tech, without without getting an MBA, but like, can you, you know, meet consultants and private equity people and people from, you know, fortune 1000 companies, and it's very hard to pull together that kind of network. And so, you know, I almost always take the devil's advocate position, when it comes to these NBA competitions, I tend to find like, either you're in a group of people who are who are like, very anti, or people who are too overly obsessed with them. And, and, and I think that it's, it's, it's so personal and kind of dependent. And I think, basically, if you're the kind of person who can, who can do a lot on your own, you can think of NBA as a force multiplier that would help you do more with what you want. But I also don't think it's a necessity anymore, which is a nice thing, given that the cost.

Reza   46:35  

How do you think the rise of online communities is going to compete with the traditional education? Especially when it comes to the when it comes to networking and meeting people being the biggest benefit of those?

Nick  46:50  

Yeah, I think so the I mean, the interesting question of why it's hard to replace universities like especially prestigious ones, it's a fascinating question.

I think one of the reasons is like, it's really hard to find sort of socially acceptable ways to spend a couple years without being at work. And what you really need is you need something that has like a, you can think of brands a little bit as having a network effect, like, because your parents think something's valuable, it is valuable. If your parents and your friends think something's valuable, then like, it's an extra valuable, like, if you could, if you could convince every, like, if you could take two years off and convince everybody around you that you didn't, or you did something really hard. There's something really valuable about that. And so any community or any, any sort of new education institution who's trying to start that from scratch, has to kind of be able to build some kind of similar value, which is which, which just takes a lot of people's beliefs, when it comes to communities. I think communities are, are a really powerful way to like network yourself into information. And I think networking yourself and information also helps you build relationships with people. Now the question of, of, is it easy to sort of sustain those relationships when they're totally online? I don't know if we, I don't know that the answer to that yet. I found this year, I've been blown away by how many new relationships I built, like, like you and I have never met each other. And that's crazy, right? And so like, whereas prior to this, I don't think I had any only online relationships. And now actually, not only do I have online relationships in these sort of ancillary communities, I've been spending time time in but also at work, right. And so like, and so there's just this is a whole new kind of interesting muscle to build. And I'm kind of fascinated to see where it goes. But But that said, like, I'm very I'm, I'm bullish on, on communities being kind of critical to any knowledge worker, like, like, as a company, you should have a vested interest in your in in like, you know, like, I'm part of a community called demand curve, the return for markers rightly so. And and like, like, I've gotten really good marketing ideas from that. Yes. They're great. And, and, you know, you and I both are both in, in on deck, right, like, like, in in I do compound writing, right? Like, these are all communities that like that, because I'm in them. I've I've encountered people who have been super valuable for my life. And and that value has been also extended to work

Reza   49:42  

completely. And if there is a silver lining for what's been happening over the last almost year, I think, is the realization that there is so much that can be done and there's so many connections that can happen online and like Like you said, you and I met a couple of months ago and now we are doing this podcast together and The entire reason I'm going to be writing about this, but the entire reason this podcast exists is me realizing since March, I'm having so many valuable conversations that I wasn't having previously, because I was confined to my own, the City of Toronto, which is you have a lot of valuable conversations, but the number and the volume of those are very limited. So suddenly, you're exposed to the entire globe, and you're having, there were times that I was connected and having conversations with people from four different continents on the same day. And that blew my mind and realize, I, I want to create this podcast at some point, and this is the best time to do it. And I just wanted to find a way to record this conversation. Some of them were, we got to the end of it, and whomever was talking to her like this is this has to be shared with the with everyone else. And if nothing else, we can just listen back to it, because this was really good. And yeah, I completely agree with what you said.

Nick  50:47  

I think that's really smart. And I guess because I think at some point, we will, as as you know, remote work stops being the only way to work and and we start getting more connected into our meatspace socialize again, I do think it'll be it'll be a little bit harder to build those relationships. And I think a podcast is a really good excuse to make sure that keep happening.

Reza   51:12  

Absolutely. What are some of the books that have shaped who you are today?

Hmm, good question. I think one of them has to be this book called The elephant in the brain, which is, which is really a book about signaling. I think one of the things that like, like I bring to marketing is, I think that the biggest motivator for people is almost always social, and how how they are seen by other people, I think, like prestige is this is this, this crazy motivator. And with the elephant, the brain kind of talks about, like, it has a theory that we we built big brains in order to both deceive others and to and to detect deception. And one of the ways that we're able to deceive our like members of our tribe into thinking that we are a good, a good human being to partner with and ally with is we are good at deceiving ourselves into thinking that we only have good motives. And so they've talked about this as kind of the elephant in the brain. And I think it's really powerful play another one is the righteous mind by Jonathan Hite. If I'd imagine, you know, I think probably a lot of your your listeners are, are curious people curious people tend to be a little bit a little fed up with politics, just because politics is one of those things where it's it's such a zero sum game, it's such a it's very dogmatic, and it really hijacks people's brains in a certain degree. And the righteous mind really just takes a perspective on like, why morality, politics, things like that have such a crazy impact on us. And I think sometimes when you can understand the system, it sort of loses its power over you. I think one of the big things that's happened over the past four years, you know, which is defining time for this to happen is like, it's like, politics, and the gravity of it has sort of lost its, its hold on me, even at a time when when sort of our political system can sometimes feel like it's the most in jeopardy. And, and that's, that's been a really beneficial thing for my life. And I, you know, some people might say that it's like, it's a very privileged position to not care about politics actually think it's a very privileged position to, like, only care about politics, I think the the concept of like, being able to tell your family off because they don't believe the same political things you do, is incredibly privileged, because most people need their family and need their friends. And, and anyone who doesn't, and who can surprise politics over that is, is a little hard to understand in my book. So that's when I'm politics that I think is super powerful. I love there's a book called seeking wisdom from from Munger to Darwin and and I couldn't explain to you exactly what it's about, because it's about so many things. It's sort of it like if you, most people go through this phase where they love digging through mental models, if you like doing that, like this book sort of describes them in the most kind of interesting way. I returned to it over and over again, it's just one of the great books that that has a lot of power. I think some of the the lab books like anti fragile, they're, it's a really powerful mental model to realize that like, the reason that tradition matters is because it's been around for a long time. And I think I think this is, you know, it's easy to think that like this, this idea of like believing science, right? In truth, we, we know so little and we are capable of knowing so little, and so the best simulate like believing in science is one power. model, but believing in tradition is another like, like stuff that has kept human beings alive for a long time has natural power to it.

What's an example of that?

Nick  55:12  

So, I mean, it's like, the whole sort of goal of the human project is to pass on your DNA. Right? Like, and so, and that's, that's not to say, that should be a thing you value. If you don't have kids, you don't have kids. But But like, but every living thing before you has, like, successfully managed to do this. And so what you're really looking for, like stuff that helps you live long enough to be able to do that, and stuff that makes you successful at doing that. Mm hmm. And, and so, you're really looking for for traditions and things and things too, like, like religion to some degree, right? Religion, we don't really, you know, it doesn't matter if you think it's true or not. It turns out, it's been pretty successful in helping people pass on their DNA and procreate. Right? And so a belief system, that may not be true, again, scientifically true. It's like, I can't tell you if it's scientifically true, what I can tell you is it's made people successful. It's, it's, it's increased people's fitness. And as much as I look for things that are true, I also look for things that that increase fitness and and things that are meaningful. And I I don't think one of those things alone should be the, the barrier you you, you choose to sort of take an idea seriously.

Reza   56:40  

Nick, this has been wonderful. I could go on for another hour, but I know both of us have to run. So we probably have to do this again.

Nick  56:47  

Thank you so much for being here again. Yeah, thanks for that. This was really fun. And thanks for doing so much research for this. I this is this is a Yeah, a really, really good time and excited to do it again.sometime.

Reza   56:59  

Appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

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