Podcast: Taking Note with Guy Kawasaki

The Taking Note podcast is back!

Thanks for the great response to Episode 1, in which we talked about goals and resolutions with leadership mentor Michael Hyatt. We received a lot of positive feedback, including some programming suggestions we hope to implement for future episodes.

For Episode 2, we begin with a roundup of company news, including first-person reports on Evernote’s recent financial milestone, the successful move of our data infrastructure to the cloud, and the new design of our iOS app.

Listen now:

Length: 39 minutes
iTunes | SoundCloud | Google Play | MP3 | RSS

For our main feature, we reached out to superstar tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki and got a personal response in less than two minutes — an early indicator of what proved to be the core of our conversation. Guy first came to prominence in the 1980s as Chief Evangelist at Apple, and today he juggles a lot of roles, from his work for design company Canva to brand ambassadorships, advising corporations, and his constant presence on social media. How does he stay on top of it all? The answer, we found, is Guy’s “always-on” attitude and his ceaseless drive to connect.

Some highlights of our conversation with Guy are transcribed below. To hear the complete interview and catch future episodes of “Taking Note,” head over to iTunes, SoundCloud, or Google Play.

You’ve got so many irons in so many fires. How do you manage it all?

I am constantly working. I think there are people who are much smarter than me, I think there are people who work harder than me, but not too many people are smarter and work harder than me. The secret to my success is the willingness — if not the sheer enjoyment — of grinding it out. That’s why I’ve succeeded. It’s not because of brilliance or anything like that.

The bulk of my outward focus is public speaking, about innovation, entrepreneurship, enchantment. I work hard but I’m affiliated with great stuff. Canva is gold. It is a fantastic service. Mercedes-Benz is fantastic. How hard could it be?

How do you put structure around all that?

You assume I do put structure around that. What determines the structure of my day is when, where, how, how often, how long I have to drive my kids around. On a light day, I work more. On a heavy day, I work less. My typical schedule is I get up at 7:00, I take one of my kids to school, I go to a restaurant, I answer e-mail and do social media. I may have a mid-morning meeting. After that, I go and play hockey. After I play hockey, I eat lunch. While I’m eating lunch, guess what I’m doing? E-mail and social media. Then, I pick up a kid or two. I come home: e-mail and social media. Eat dinner: e-mail and social media.

There’s definitely a pattern there.

Yes, yes. It’s Groundhog Day.

Over and over in a cycle. It does give you structure and that rhythm that carries you through the day. You’ve mentioned that Evernote is a part of your flow. Is there any particular way that you use it?

I send, basically, every travel confirmation to two places: TripIt and Evernote. I could not survive without both of them. Every time I buy a piece of software, anytime I buy anything, I send the receipt or the confirmation or the unlocking code to Evernote. I know it’s in Gmail someplace but somehow, if you buy a piece of software called XYZ but it’s made by ABC company and you’re searching for XYZ, I mean it’s just good that Evernote will find ABC and XYZ.

You do a lot of travel as you mentioned. What does that do to your routine?

The way I travel is I take the second to the last flight out every day because I can’t take a chance that flying on the last flight. If it’s canceled then I’m screwed ’til the next morning. I get to a city, I go to the hotel, I try to sleep, I wake up, I speak, I leave. While I’m on the airplane, I’m answering e-mail and doing social media. We’re seeing a trend here. I’m always doing e-mail and social media. That’s my life.

That’s all very tactical. It’s not the last flight, it’s the second to the last flight. Is that the hallmark of your style?

It is the hallmark of my style because I’m a tactical and practical person. That’s what’s necessary for my kind of existence. I can’t tell you that I sit around gazing into my bellybutton considering future trends or all that. I’m not a visionary, I’m not a futurist. I just do battle.

I’m not a visionary. I’m not a futurist. I just do battle.

Democratization is a theme that seems to run throughout your work. You’ve championed democratization of computing at Apple, democratization of design at Canva, the dissemination of knowledge through Wikimedia Foundation and self-publishing. Now, I know you said you’re not a futurist, you’re not a visionary, but is this the mega-trend of the 21st Century? Is it democratization?

That’s what I stand for. I have a personal mantra for my life which is to empower people and I want to empower people through my work of writing, speaking, investing, advising, whatever it takes.

You talked earlier about how your whole day runs through this Groundhog Day cycle. The line between our personal lives and our work lives is blurring… Is that a good thing? I mean, it’s working for you. Is that a good thing for society do you think?

I’d say who am I to judge that? It works for me, I think, and it may not work for others but you could say that about a lot of factors in people’s lives. I figured out a path. I’m not saying it’s the only path, I’m not saying it’s the best path, but it’s a path that works for me. What can I say? Evernote is part of this path because I have a lot of information and I have a very bad and getting worse memory.

Don’t we all?

Incidentally, I have to say that this new iOS app is really good. Evernote is now on the first page of my iOS phone and that happened because of this upgrade.

You’re a very prolific sharer, you were an early and enthusiastic social media adapter. How important is it to you?

I’m not doing it for fun. Social media, for me, is a means to an end. That end is to empower people and there’s also, honestly, another end which is to promote Canva, promote Mercedes-Benz, promote my book, promote whatever. It is a means to an end. I’m not looking for more friends. I have all the friends I can handle. I read an article the other day that the maximum number of friends you can handle is 150. I’m not sure it’s that high.

Having said that, I don’t use it strictly to promote. I believe that the way social media is optimized is that you have to earn the right to promote. So the question becomes how do you earn the right to promote on social media? The answer to that is you provide value.

You have to earn the right to promote.

There are two examples in the world of earning the right to promote. Example number one is NPR. NPR provides great content every day of the year. A few days a year, it runs the pledge drive. The pledge drive works. Why does the pledge drive work? Why do we even tolerate the pledge drive? It’s because we feel a sense of obligation to NPR. They’ve provided great content so we should donate, we should pay them back. Similar with Wikipedia. Wikipedia provides great information and every once in a while, there’s a banner, there’s an e-mail from Jimmy Wales saying “donate” and we do. Why is that? Because Wikipedia has earned that right to promote. My whole equation, my whole philosophy on social media is to earn the right — by giving value — to promote.

That’s true of any business. I mean, you don’t give somebody money just because they say, “give me money.” You give them money because they’ve given you something that is worthwhile; they’ve changed your life, your day, your working style.

Right. Not every company has internalized that theory, shall I say?

Now, sharing on social media, it’s also a form of writing and writing and public speaking, these are things you do a lot. You’ve written 13 books. You were, in a previous life, a columnist. How do you make time to write?

That is the hardest thing in the world. This is where people should not follow my example. I know how one should do it. One should get up in the morning and do your writing and then do your e-mail and social media. I read Lifehacker. I know how to do this, I just don’t do it. What happens, for me, is I wake up in the morning and I say today is the day you’re going to write. But first I got to check e-mail, there might be an emergency. Then, I have to check social media, there might be an emergency. Okay, you get the pattern.

It’s partly my personality; like I’m all-in or I’m not at all. I know people who play golf once or twice a year, that would never be me. I’m all in and when I’m all in, I am all in.

You can hear the complete interview and catch our future episodes at iTunes, SoundCloud, or Google Play

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