Momentum Podcast: 10
Entreprenurial Life of Questions
by Alex Charfen
Entrepreneurs are driven by a foundational set of questions that propels us through our lives. You may be hearing these for the first time as they are revealed in this podcast. These are the questions that move us forward, create our successes in life, but can also keep us stuck in place. These questions are the foundation for the path that every great entrepreneur in history has taken to success. Once you understand our foundational life of questions, they can help you create momentum immediately regardless of where you find yourself.
Full Audio Transcript
This is the "Entrepreneurial Personality Type" episode 10: The Entrepreneurial Life of Questions.
This podcast is going to be a little bit different. I'm going to actually share with you a live presentation I did in Canada for Robin Sharma at his Titan Summit. Titans was one of the most amazing events I've ever spoken at, and meeting Robin w000000as like meeting one of my heroes. When I was in my mid-20s I got his book, "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari," and I tell this story all the time. I got that book and I actually had a Ferrari dealer application at the same time. And I didn't buy the Ferrari; I read the book and it changed a lot of things for me.
Up until that point, I had this idea that the world was just like that movie, "Wall Street." And it was a great movie right up until the last five minutes, and greed really was good. And I wasn't necessarily hurting people, but I didn't have a lot of regard for the people around me either, and I did just about anything I could to make my business grow. And Robin's book changed my life.
And I met him at Genius Network. I remember I did a 10-minute talk, and I sat down, and I got passed a note and it was from Robin. And it said, "We have a lot in common. Let's talk." And I did exactly what anyone would do when you get passed a note from somebody's who's iconic as Robin Sharma. I mean, 10 million books sold; number five book in Israel. Number one book of all time in Israel, and it's amazing how many places Robin has touched.
I did exactly what you would do if he passed you a note, I took a picture of it. And then I remember sitting there thinking, "Jesus, did Robin just see me take a picture of the note he passed me?" But that note led to a conversation, which led to one of the most prized relationships in my life.
And I've now spoken at Titans twice, and there was just something about this event, this time, being there in Canada, sharing this content with such an amazing group, and being there for Robin that I think it came out in a really special way. And "The Life of Questions" is this foundational theory I have that entrepreneurs are driven exclusively by questions. We have more questions than the rest of the world. We're inquisitive; we want to know what's going on, we want to know what's happening. And I've studied tons of entrepreneurs, and when you look at them you can see this drive from questions.
You know, Einstein and his question, "What would happen if I was on the beam of light heading towards the clock?" That burst the theory of relativity. When he switched to the question, "What would happen if I was ahead of the beam of light?" that's where that started. Newton gets hit in the head with an apple and asks, "What made that happen?" And entrepreneurs just have this drive to answer questions our whole lives.
And if you look at our behaviors, I believe you can see fundamental foundational questions we ask ourselves that we graduate through as we go through our lives. And this comes out of my obsessive observation of people who have changed the world. And I believe that these are the questions, in order, that drive us. And after you listen, I want to tell you where these questions have developed into; some other proof out there that not only are they absolutely real, but successful entrepreneurs recognize them. And kind of share with you how we're sharing them today.
We're driven by questions. How many of you are driven fundamentally by questions? What is the kid who asks questions all day get told in school? Huh? "Stop. Sit down. Enough." Right? You know, I posted on Facebook this morning we spend our entire childhoods being told to sit still and we spend our adulthood telling ourselves to move. Isn't that a fact? And when we look at the life of an entrepreneur, Steve Maslow has his Hierarchy. And most people don't know, but Maslow has Hierarchy version one, two, and three. Does anybody know that? Yeah, he got very confused. Really, he did.
And if you read the data tables and you look at his research; I've read a lot of stuff about people. I like Maslow. He was the only guy who thought that human beings weren't just here to sleep with their parents and steal from each other. He really did. He thought there was like a human need hierarchy that made us good. And at the top, what's there? Self-actualization, right? What's at the bottom? Food, water, all that stuff, right? How many of you know an entrepreneurial personality type now that I've described it, who want to do nothing but help other people and feel good about it, but have very little food, water, and other stuff? How many of you know that person?
Maslow was wrong. How many of you have been wanting to help people your whole lives, since before they were nice to you? Right? Do you remember the contradiction of being a kid and thinking "I want to help these people even though they're beating me up"? I'm not kidding. I was bullied, which is the U.S. way to just make torture sound good. You call it 'school', I call it '30 prisoners, one guard with back turned'. Because for people like us, is there pressure and noise? So here's how it works, guys. We don't have a hierarchy. We have questions that drive our lives. The fundamental base questions.
And when I look at an entrepreneur, I can talk to him five minutes, figure out where they are in their career. Because here's how it starts. We all start asking the question, "How do I stop pressure and noise?" How many of you know that when you were younger, you had more pressure and noise than most? Put your hands up. You remember this?
The next question, how do I stop pressure and noise is where it starts: "What is wrong with me?" How many are still asking this question? Guys, here's the fact. We can all get back to these two base level questions: how do I stop pressure and noise, and what is wrong with me?
The next question that is birthed is, "How do I get ahead?" First signs of potential, because if you have high pressure and noise and you know there's something wrong with you, the burning question is, "How do I get ahead?" "How do I get ahead?" turns into "How do I get further ahead?" and is normally where innate motivation is ignited.
How many of you remember that period you were on a team, you had a coach, there was a mentor, there was somebody who saw potential in you and lit the fire that never went out? That's that "How do I get further ahead?" Now this big transition in an entrepreneur's life is "How does my team help me get ahead?" We all hope this is a short period. It was not for me. This is a messy management period. How many of you will admit to the "How does my team get me ahead?" where you hired people and you often hear people in this stage of management say things like, "I don't understand why they're not doing anything. I already told them." Right?
"What do you mean, "How do we do it?" I already said it this morning. Why aren't they doing what they're supposed to do?" You know what I'm talking about? How many will admit to that management period? I was 21 years old; I had nine secretaries in eight months. I didn't fire one of them. I'm like ... I'm calm these days. You should have seen me back then. I was intense.
So after "How does my team get me ahead?" "How do I help my team get, or how does my team get ahead?" So, here's what happens in every entrepreneur's life, guys. We see this. I've read over 10,000 biographies. When I was a kid, I had one year when I was in special education. The next year, where I was in gifted and talented. The next year I was in special education. I figured I was screwed. I started reading about success. And I knew that the institution of school was doing a lot for a lot of people, but for me, it was doing nothing but confusing me.
And I started reading about what makes human beings successful. And if you read 20 or 30 biographies, you see some patterns but they're not really clear, and everybody looks different. But you start reading 100, 200, 1,000, 2,000, you start really reading, you see these transitions because the transition here is magical. From "How does my team get me ahead?" to "How does my team get ahead?" is where an entrepreneur sees the value in people around them, sometimes for the first time. No joke.
We can look at the histories of some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, and it is clear that prior to this question being birthed, they did not see value in people. But what this leads to is the connection, the contribution, the spirituality of running a business, the exchange we enter into with the people around us as we all mutually move forward. Is that an experience? It's magical because it gets us to this question "how does my team get further ahead?" when an entrepreneur leans in and it's all value in people, it's all improving his team.
And what happens is even the toughest competitors, the most challenging entrepreneurs, the cutthroat competitive people have so much reflection from their team, they want them to get further ahead and then they want to start helping others. And the way that every entrepreneur ends up is with the question, "How do we help everyone?" And guys, I can demonstrate this to you. Watch.
So, Bill Gates. Anybody remember Bill Gates? You see, Bill Gates, what is he today? He's remembered as like a humanitarian. Let's go back through Bill Gates's life. So first, "How do I stop pressure and noise?" Did Bill Gates have pressure and noise? He was Bill Gates; look at him. I'm not kidding. When Gates was younger, he didn't have eyeballs. He had these regions behind glasses, right? You know what I'm talking about. So did he have pressure and noise? Absolutely.
"How do I get ahead," or "What's wrong with me?" You know he was asking that question. "How do I get ahead?" In the early years of Gates's life, there's some bad stuff there. He stole some stuff to start Microsoft, just like Jobs. Right? That "how do I get ahead?" burns hard. In fact, of course not in this room, but in many rooms of entrepreneurs I speak to, there's a high percentage of us who have a period in that "How do I get further ahead?" not that it's like we wouldn't be transparent, but we're not necessarily volunteering it to the kids, right? You can always tell when people laugh that they're the ones who really had a challenge. That's why I always laugh.
When you look at Gates, he matured. "What is wrong with me? How do I get ahead? How do I get further ahead? How do I get further ahead?" Those of you who don't remember the biography of Bill Gates, he was at one time suing half of the states in the United States, 13 countries international, almost every Attorney General in the U.S. was going after him. Gates was using Microsoft as a battering ram against the entire world. Who remembers this?
Like, he was public enemy number one, sitting in front of Congress and basically like flipping them off, right? And so "How do I get further ahead?" Here's what happened. He overwhelmed himself. He couldn't breathe. His team had to move in. He started mentoring people, working with them. Saw value in people change. Gates became kind of like a guy who was like good to be around. People started saying, "Hey, Bill actually is like a mentor. He's a good guy."
I visited Microsoft once. I had a name badge. The name badges had carpet colors on them. You couldn't go onto certain carpet colors unless you had the color on your name badge, and the one that I didn't have was brown. I asked why I couldn't go in there. They said, "Well, we installed that carpet because visitors can't go on the brown carpet. It's the perimeter from where you could hear Bill if he's yelling." That's, like, real.
But what has Gates turned into? What happens? Microsoft explodes. A secretary becomes a millionaire off the stock. He starts seeing value in people. There's this thing called 'contribution'. We can change things. So much so he has to leave Microsoft. And what is he trying to do today? Save the world.
His buddy, Warren Buffett, is just the same. I mean, Buffett, "How do I stop pressure and noise?" Same as Gates. He had some issues as a kid, right? And so, "How do I get ahead?" Buffett knows he's terrible at managing people, but he wants to get ahead. And his whole thing is scale.
So how does he get further ahead? How does his team? He gets a team. 25 people in Berkshire Hathaway corporate ran the single most valuable company in the world. It was all paper. But Buffett, you remember in the early days, this guy was cutthroat. He was an undertaker; he used to take companies apart. He was also public enemy number one, right? And Buffett used to say things like, "Do not give anything away." I mean, this guy had his Communion money rattled away somewhere.
And what happens? Read "Snowball." Same story. Team starts being successful. He sees money doesn't change people for the bad. Success changes people for the good. We should give things away. We should help other people. Maybe there's more people that need help. Maybe other people will help. "Hey, I've done scale before." Buffett today runs the single largest private fund in the history of the world with less than 25 people. It's a charity.
That's where I wrapped up "The Life of Questions" at Titan's. And it was just such a magical event, such a great time, such amazing speakers. And here's what "The Life of Questions" has become. I've actually refined it and worked on it, and looked at it from so many different angles, and working to prove how entrepreneurs actually ascend, how we create more, how we go up.
How do we get to the place where in the hidden recesses of our minds we always have known we should be? And "The Life of Questions" is actually, was the foundation for a podcast we did called "The Evolutionary." If you can look it up, there's about 20 episodes online. And I asked experienced entrepreneurs if they remembered the transitions I just took you through during the presentation in Canada. And it's amazing, it was so amazing hearing their responses. And what this framework has become is content I call "The Billionaire Code" that allows entrepreneurs to identify exactly where they are in their entrepreneurial career so they understand what they should do next. And I will share that with you in a future episode.
But in episode 11, I want to share with you what may be the most important content we have, What may be the most important information I've ever recorded and ever discovered. It's called "The Contribution Equation," and it's the four-step process that every entrepreneur in history you remember has followed to create the success, the influence, the affluence, the dent in the universe that we remember them for. And you'll be shocked at its simplicity, and it may change your behavior immediately.
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