Bill Taylor’s Advice for Success Today

Check out an excerpt from the transcript for The Social Capitalist interview featuring Bill Taylor. Please access the audio recording here. Click here for the full transcript: Social Capitalist Transcript – William Taylor. Enjoy!

TAHL RAZ:     So you do make a point, so let me push you on that and just say, it’s not just enough to be smart and it’s really actually I think you make a point that it doesn’t – this economy doesn’t reward you to be smart at many little things.  You make a point of saying you need to be the most of something to stand out.

WILLIAM TAYLOR:    Yup.

TAHL RAZ:     Can you talk about that?

WILLIAM TAYLOR:    Well, I think this is true of organizations but it’s also very true of individuals.  It’s very easy, particularly in these kind of fast-changing, risky times, to get comfortable operating in the middle of the road.  That’s kind of what feels safe and secure.  That’s, in theory, where all the action is.  So you say okay, I’m in the hospital business or I’m in the airline business or I’m in the banking business.  And we know there’s kind of a conventional playbook for how to be in that business as a company, a conventional playbook for what an executive or leader in that industry looks like, and that’s what I’ll do.  But then I’ll just try to be three percent smarter or five percent faster.  We’ll chip away at the margins.  But everybody wants to be kind of in the middle of the road.  But today, where so much change, so much pressure, so many new ways to do just about everything, the middle of the road really has become the road to nowhere.  So what I urge organizations and individuals to do is to say to this, it’s not good enough anymore to be pretty good at everything.  You really have to become the most – it could be the most elegant.  It could be the most simple.  It could be the most exclusive.  It could be the most affordable.  It could be the most brash and colorful.  It could be the most easily accessible.  You know, for you as a person coming, you’ve all go to make your own choices.  But today, being successful requires getting outside of – the you know we had Rick Perry have his famous brain freeze last night at the debate.  One of the funny but true kind of homey pieces of wisdom from Texas is the only thing in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos.  And I think that’s true on a Texas highway and it’s also true for all of us as leaders, innovators and individuals today.  You’ve got to figure out, why am I interesting and compelling to people?  Why should people want to hurry up and get energized and figure out how to help me succeed at whatever endeavor I’m trying to do?  How do I conduct myself as the kind of smart person that other smart people want to rally around support and contribute to?  And that requires you at some level to be the most of something in whatever environment you’re after.

TAHL RAZ:     You know though there is I think a rejoinder to that which is your own, which is a terrifically written post in HBR recently entitled the Values Proposition: Do Small Things with Great Love.  I admit you thought I was going in a different direction but I like the idea that, you know, on the one hand, you want to be the most of something but you know you made the point in that post that a few of us who ever do “great things” that remake company, that reshape industry, but all of us have the capacity to do small things with great feelings and an authentic sense of emotion.

WILLIAM TAYLOR:    Yes, and that by the way is evoking the spirit of Mother Theresa.  So in one webcast I’ve now quoted from George Carlin and Mother Theresa which either should win me an award or should win me banishment from any of these things in the future, I’m not sure with you.  I would have do that, but I think I would say two things.  I thought the blog post are going to talk about at something called, it did called We is Bigger than Me, and it was really kind of taking to task, and you know we kind of started this, the Fast Company many years ago with the brand called You and this notion that we’re all personal brands and we’re all supposed to, you know, be fabulous and flamboyant and you know conduct ourselves in way there are impossible for people to ignore.  And I guess I’m sort of talking about that but I’m sort of not tag them all.  What I’m suggesting is everybody we encounter in life, and that could be direct colleagues at work, it could be partners in our business, it could be friends, neighbors, people we know in church, everybody we encounter in our life has a million different activities, projects, opportunities, people, buying for their attention.  At least people they could choose to pay attention to you or not.  And if you believe that your value as a person, your value as a leader, your success as a learner is a function of how many people almost kind of voluntarily choose to engage with you, to share their ideas with you, to support you, you know, they hear about what you’re working on and they’re on a drive and something occurs to them and they’re actually going  to take the time to send you an email tomorrow, give you a call saying “You know when I was thinking about that project then, here’s a thought that might help you on the way.”   People have to actively choose to do that and they’re only going to choose to do that with people that conduct themselves in ways that they find appealing, interesting, worth affiliating with.  And that doesn’t mean conduct yourself like a human billboard and thinking of yourself as a personal brand or an art project.  It may well mean doing lots of small things that come naturally.  Small gestures, small acts of personal interest and human kindness that in this world being reshaped by technology, really resonate with people who are the recipients of those small acts of kindness or generosity and that persuade them in return to go out of their way to help you succeed, help you do things better, help you learn faster.  So I think that’s how I would explore that circle.

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