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CEO Mindset — Strategy Masterclass with Steve Jobs (Apple) & Sandeep Goyal (Rediffusion)

Your focus, willpower, and gameplay are the only things standing between you and your most ambitious goals. So, what can you do to set yourself up for success?

The big game mentality theory by Dr. Sandeep Goyal depicts the difference between the winners and the runner-ups. It is a simple yet strategic mental model to separate big business tycoons from seasonal businessmen. 

Mr. Goyal described this mental model with a very simple analogy based on cricket. He said: “It’s like when a batsman goes up to the pitch and is surrounded by thousands of fans but is still able to focus on the ball and hit a sixer.” Cue Yuvraj Singh and the time he hit six sixes in a single game.

For most of us on the sidelines, we focus on the micro: the glam, the revenue, the share price and the profit of big businesses but often fail to see the struggles, the hurdles, the hard work, and the resilience in the macro.

Similarly, starting on their journey, entrepreneurs dream big but often overlook small or basic factors that can break or make their business. They shouldn’t forget punctuality, being transparent and honest, having a clear strategy, building the right culture, having shared values and focusing on helping customers.

In a nutshell, the Big Game Mentality is all about focusing on your vision and not ignoring the small stuff (macro, meet micro). Little things matter, and they go a long way in cementing how people perceive your business.

Takeaways from Steve Jobs’ Keynote

This conversation with Dr. Goyal reminded me of Steve Jobs’s keynote when he returned to Apple, discussing vision and focus. This keynote is an amazing masterclass. I have to say; I am biased because I’m quite the Apple fanboy, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s a lot of useful information there, so I want to provide a few takeaways from that keynote.

Even though this talk is over two decades old, it boils down strategy to its most essential parts; the who, why, and what. At one point in the keynote, Jobs addresses the fact that Appel suffered from lousy engineering management.

In Jobs’ words: “People were going off in 18 different directions, doing arguably interesting things. Good engineers, lousy management. So, when you look at this farm with all the animals going in different directions, it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of the parts.”

Steve Jobs is saying here that, as a company, you must focus on the things that work and add value by identifying the fundamental direction you should go in. A company without focus is doomed. Focusing is not about saying yes; it’s about saying no to things you want to do but don’t make sense within your vision or strategy.

Steve Jobs also pointed out the importance of being different while remaining relevant to your audience. To drive this point across, he said: “I think it’s important that Apple is perceived as much better. If being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that. But if we could be much better without being different, that’d be fine with me.

I want to be much better, I don’t care about being different.”

Jobs also swears by the top-down approach, where the strategy is clear in terms of the vision, and then you bring in the right people and build the right culture around that. If you do that, your company will succeed because it can produce the right products. There’s a lot more we can discuss from Steve Jobs’ keynote, but for now, I want you to think about the following important points:

1. Focus and have a sharp vision

You might have interesting ideas boiling to skyrocket your business’s sales, but with an ambiguous vision, you are headed nowhere. An important focus aspect is discarding ideas that don’t align with your business strategy. Businesses with a sharp vision are not apologetic about being different than others. Instead, they complete the market gap and attract audiences by pulling on their emotional strings — logical and illogical. 

2. Be different but relevant

A business with a truly unique vision has to be relevant if it wants to be competitive. You can’t develop an application without analyzing and understanding the market needs. 

That’s why it’s important to think of the following questions when developing a unique application: 

  • Does my audience need the product, service or application I am developing?
  • Will it fill the market gap?
  • Are there similar solutions in the market?

Steve Jobs says, ‘We are focusing our energy on the right products, the right marketing strategy, the right communication strategy, and the right distribution strategy.’ That’s a good example to follow!


Pro tip: Think like the CEO of the company.

If you want to go from order taker to trusted creative advisor, always think like the CEO of the company that you’re working with. They are thinking about everything and not just visual design. Here are a few to start:

  • The product
  • The customer
  • The market 
  • The stakeholders
  • The media 
  • The competition
  • The company value
  • The company business model (how they make money)
  • Perception and innovation
  • Operations and logistics

Thinking like the CEO of the client you’re working with will give you a completely different perspective and approach to delivering value. You also want to be genuinely interested and curious, and ask the right questions to learn about the business and industry. That is the secret to becoming a trusted advisor.

A customer-centred approach will also allow you to have cognitive empathy. In fact, emotional intelligence can help you develop a higher-resolution understanding leading to uncovering and solving the right challenge/problem. 


3. Handle criticism with wisdom 

Steve Jobs once said, ‘I don’t feel my job is to win a popularity contest right now’ when he was asked about handling criticism during an interview. Handling critical feedback with wisdom takes you one step closer to running a successful company. 

4. Attract the right audience

Focusing on what your company has to offer means you need to focus on attracting the right audience. How you represent your business in the market should reflect the audience that will buy your products and services. 

For instance, Steve Jobs once said, “Apple is still the dominant leader in education.” By saying that, he clearly stated that his company focuses on educators, creative thinkers, students, and the future generation. He knew exactly who he was catering his products to, and so should you!

5. Find meaningful partnerships 

Developing meaningful partnerships with dominant leaders in the industry will only open your business to more growth opportunities. Not every business in the industry is a competition, so you need to be smart about the stakeholders you choose to collaborate with inside the market. 

Summary 

As you can see, the big game mentality is all about the gameplay you put forward to grow your business. Entrepreneurs are often tempted to act against their business strategy. However, only those who stay laser-focused on their goals win the game. 

Instead of creating a complex plan, stick to the simple strategy of ‘why,’ ‘who,’ what,’ ‘when,’ and ‘where.’ That way, you’ll keep things simple and will find the success you’re looking for faster. 

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The Power of Contrast and Self-Value

Today, I would like to jump right into the topic of self-value. A while back, I was going through Twitter, as you do, and I came across a tweet from Blair Enns that said, and I’m paraphrasing:

“If you’re not willing to pay for value, then you can’t learn how to value-price effectively.”

Blair Enns

That got me thinking about the power of contrast and self-value, so I want to explore that topic with you today.

Why Is It So Important to Value Yourself?

The first thing I’d like to say about self-value is that how you value yourself is the same way you value others. If you don’t value your time, you won’t value anyone else’s time either. For creatives, independent freelancers, and artists of all kinds it is very difficult to see your own value and even fostering that value in the first place can be extremely challenging.

However, it’s so important that you learn to value yourself and your time sooner rather than later. The lack of self-value creates the kind of inner conflict that keeps you from realizing your full potential. Once you sort out that conflict, you won’t hesitate to ask for more money when you’re working on freelance projects. We see this all over the freelance market; people don’t feel confident enough to ask for the remuneration that they are worth.

Why? Because they don’t value themselves, their time, or their skills enough to confidently price their services or product as they should. It is very important to spend time self-reflecting, looking inward, and honing in on how you value yourself and how others value you. It is also important to understand your relationship with yourself and with time because it’s such a finite resource.

Get Invested in Something Greater Than Your Ego

There’s another tweet that got me thinking and this one is from Diego Zambrano, one of my subscribers. In the tweet, he talked about how “real friends are the ones who stick around when you’re happy; the ones who disappear were feeding on your misery.” He also provided great advice for people who want to be happy in saying that they should “attach their ego to a higher purpose than themselves.” There’s a lot of truth to that.

When you’re working on something new that goes against what’s expected, whether that’s building a new business, starting a YouTube channel, or whatever project you have in mind, you’ll notice that a lot of people around you won’t support you like you thought they would and you will actually find that support in strangers.

That often happens because you are going on a new path and the people around you are stuck in their ways, so it’s difficult for them to come to terms with you taking steps forward while they are glued to the same spot. Of course, this is not all black and white. There’s a lot of nuances involved! The type of value you offer has to also be relevant to the people’s attention you crave! See value pyramid.

Have a Healthy Competition With Yourself

Another tweet that truly got me thinking comes from Sahil, and he said: “Competing with yourself is the ultimate positive-sum game.” This got me thinking about how we often fall into the comparison trap. We look at the best version of other people, which is what they show to the world, and we compare it to our version of ourselves, which is still under construction.

You may be having a rough time and then you go on social media and see all these people living the perfect life. That automatically makes you feel defeated and bad about yourself. However, you have no idea what those people are struggling with because that’s not what they show you. That’s something you have to keep in perspective.

The Importance of Contrast

Contrast is everything in life; black and white, sweet and salty, day and night, cold and warm. As human beings, our senses operate from contrast and everything we enjoy has contrast.

For example, there’s a big difference between eating something that has the perfect balance of sweet and savoury and eating something overly sweet and has no nuance to it. Which one do you enjoy more? It’s often the former because it has contrast.

That is true for everything in life. Contrast is always present and it’s what makes things interesting. You can use the power of contrast in your thinking and day-to-day life to make everything so much better. Learn to hack it and you will see a big difference in your career and your life.

View this NFT art on Opensea here.

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How to Lead With Curiosity

All the major breakthroughs and inventions in the history of the world derive from one thing: curiosity. As defined by Mirriam-Webster, curiosity is the desire to know and I would add that it is inherently intrinsic to who we are as a species.

Curiosity is linked to all aspects of human development and it’s what allows us to acquire knowledge and skills so we can support our lives and have an impact on the world around us.

It inspires us to ask questions we want to understand something, create something original, or solve a difficult problem. This is why curiosity has led to so many wonderful breakthroughs because it’s not too far apart from creativity. In fact, it fuels it.

As humans, we have an instinctive desire to seek and explore. It’s a natural, insatiable drive that we should prioritize as much as any other drive because it can lead us to greatness in all aspects of life.

The question I want to work with today is this: if curiosity leads to breakthrough innovations, unbound creativity, and transformative ideas, why aren’t we all tapping into this powerful asset?

The Fear of Saying “I Don’t Know”

Saying “I don’t know” is something most people tend to avoid like the plague. But why is that? What is wrong with admitting that you don’t know everything? Absolutely nothing. Not knowing is a positive. In fact, it opens us up to possibilities.

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer.”

Richard Feynman

What happens when we ignore something? We take steps to seek the information we need and we end up learning a lot more than we originally intended to.

As Chamath Palihapitiya said, “It’s really powerful to be able to say ‘I don’t know’. American culture is this weird thing of know-it-alls. When is learning going to be valuable?”

What We Are Taught About Failure

If you remember what it was like to be a child or if you’ve had the chance to observe a child, then you already know how much curiosity we have in those early years.

Sir Ken Robinson has a great story about this, “A little 6-year-old girl was in a drawing lesson and she was in the back drawing. The teacher was fascinated by it because the little girl could never pay attention so she went over to ask what the girl was drawing. The girl answered, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God’. And the teacher said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like’, to which the girl said ‘Well, they will in a minute.’

When children don’t know something, they simply take a stab at it because they are not afraid of being wrong. That’s why they are so creative! If you are not prepared for failure, how can you expect to come up with anything original?

By the time we grow up and become adults, we become scared of being wrong, and that’s why there are so many leaders out there who stigmatize mistakes and failure.

This is how people are educated out of their creative potential because we are taught to stick to the left side of our brains, but in doing that, we stop questioning things.

The Work Culture Issue

Work culture often consists of an incentive structure that is set up to stifle and silence curiosity and creativity. However, as Elon Musk has said, “The massive thing that can be done is to make sure that your incentive structure is such that innovation is rewarded and not punished.”

When curiosity is incentivized, innovations occur left and right, so people rise through the ranks and meet their goals a lot faster. As a result, the organization thrives more than ever before.

So, you can see how our curiosity is silenced by external forces since we are children, but that changes today. From this moment on, you are going to turn things around.

Take the stigma and fear out of not knowing and turn it into a positive because that allows you to honor your curiosity by wondering, investigating, exploring, and learning.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

When you learn to say “I don’t know” you go from being the carrier of knowledge to being the person who asks interesting questions, and that is a lot more valuable than we’re taught to believe.

One of my favorite things to say in meetings or conversations is “I don’t know, what do you think?” This propels the conversation, leads to collaboration, and it allows you to empower people.

When you stop offering solutions, in the words of Michael Bungay Stanier, “You begin to empower people not by giving them the answer, but by helping them find their own answer. Not by holding onto control, but by giving up some of it and inviting others to sept in and step up.”