We’re all drowning in too much information in this digital age. We often feel trapped or even paralyzed by all these distractions while we let the system control our lives. But if you want to succeed today, you need to stop choking and take action.
In this episode, William Treseder, author of Reset, shares his life altering lessons that he learned during a career that took him from the battlefields of Iraq in Afghanistan, to the board rooms of Silicon Valley.
We will talk about how you can personally transform and improve your life through determined action. By creating habits that lead to breakthroughs and power you past your choke points. By harnessing your own unique talents, William believes that you can accomplish more than you ever dreamed of.
William has educated and mentored thousands of entrepreneurs all around the world through partners such as Stanford University, GE, and Singularity University and has even helped governments and large organizations solve major problems. If you’re ready, it’s time to reset and reconnect with the world.
William Treseder: In August of 2012, I was newly fired from a company that had basically imploded, the investors had pulled out and not paid any of the employees for several months of back pay, just broke up with a girl, I didn’t have a place to live, and was kind of in route to crashing in my brother’s apartment in upper haven San Francisco.
I was looking back on a military and college career that I thought would have taken me someplace very different. This was about six months after I finished school and I felt like I was flailing and had not had anything figured out. Silicon Valley is a place where everything seems like it’s happening all the time and opportunities are everywhere.
I knew that I wasn’t taking advantage of any of the opportunities that were around me—that was quite obvious from my first crash and burn after college, despite the fact that I finished it. I was 29 at the time because I had long six years in the marine corps. It was a very hard thing for me to deal with, the realization that I didn’t really know what I needed to do to succeed, and it felt like there were all these wonderful opportunities passing by all the time constantly and they were all just out of reach.
“Some helplessness, a lot of anxiety, and soul searching.”
That took me from 2012 to now, six years later, and my life is different in some ways but more than anything else, I just keep going back to that feeling that there are always opportunities and I’m not taking advantage of any of them. I’m pretty good at the things that I’m supposed to be pretty good at, but there was this feeling of mismatch between the stuff I could do and the stuff that was actually useful.
The stuff that people actually wanted to see me do in order to be valuable, to be desired, to be recognized, to be rewarded, incentivized, however you want to think about that. Does that make sense?
Charlie Hoehn: To have your place, yeah, to feel a part of society when you’ve done all these things that you were supposed to do to fit in and is that part of it?
William Treseder: Absolutely. In the broader sense, I had always been someone who didn’t quite fit in. I grew up with a family that was very conservative in a very liberal town, it is a college town in northern California. That didn’t quite work and then when I was enlisted in the military, I was a very liberal person in a very conservative culture because anybody from Northern California is going to be considered liberal.
When you’re enlisted in the marine corps with a bunch of dudes from the south and stuff. Then, by the time I went to community college, I was older and I was a veteran in a place where there are almost no veterans, and did a couple of more tours in the military. Now I’m the awkward guy who left the marine corps and then came back, I’m sort of in college and never fit into anything and then when I transferred to Stanford, I was just this really old, creepy guy that just came back from war and that was all anybody really knew about me, despite my attempts to fit in.
I think in each of those places, I felt the same lack of place, lack of purpose, not quite fitting in, and then the first job that I took out of college was with a group of people who are mostly former military.
I think I was trying to get back to scratch that itch and to say “Okay, well I know these people, I kind of know this world, and these people, they’re out of the military, they seem to be a little bit more my speed and maybe that’s the solution.” That’s where that came from.
Charlie Hoehn: Reset. Why Reset? Why do we need to reset? Tell us.
William Treseder: I think the most important thing that I realized at that time, what I started digging into, was that no one is really trained or educated to succeed in the world today. We’re basically all being trained to fail. The world has changed so much in the last 20 or 30 years but the way we’re educated and raised hasn’t changed.
It doesn’t really update, it doesn’t adapt to the circumstances. School now looks effectively the same as school looked a hundred years ago; it’s not really different. That’s absolutely awful for anybody coming through the system, there’s this predictable way that we’re screwed up. It’s not that we need to create all these amazing new habits, adapt to all these new things, and pick up all these productivity tips and tools and learn new skills.
When I think about resetting, it’s not necessarily starting over but it’s returning to a more original state.
“We’re better off with our natural inquisitive attitude that we have as kids before it’s ground out of us.”
We’re better off that way than we are in any other way. Reset is really an exploration of how we got to the point where we are now, where the world is churning us out in a way that we’re completely inadequate for the jobs that we’re being asked to do, for the kind of careers that we’re being asked to have.
What does that imply for us? Where do we even start to look for examples of the kind of people that are figuring it out and what can we learn from them?
Can we take a couple of those principles that they have and weave them into our own lives in any sort of a systematic way? Is there any way to do that?
This is what I’ve learned so far. Reset is all about helping somebody come to terms with the fact that no matter how they may feel right now about the world around them, they’re not alone and there’s a lot of other people that feel that way and the reason why they feel that way is not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because they’ve been systematically shaped to be the wrong thing.
The tendency there is to blame someone else, but the reality is we can’t. Blaming doesn’t help, so we can just make our peace with that and then start to move on and the book kind of dives into how you can do that, and the whole idea of resetting starts with the need to view your purpose in life.
Your mission, the things that you want to accomplish, not a thing that you have but a thing that you build, that you earn every single day. It’s like, if you see someone who is in really good shape and you tell them to leave the gym, you say “You’re done, you’re in shape, you have a six pack, you possess it, now you don’t need to do anything else,” right?
Obviously we know intuitively that doesn’t make sense. You can’t stop working out and then still look the same for the rest of your life. It’s an ongoing process. The way you look is a reflection of your lifestyle, your habits, your behaviors. If we can understand that at a physical level, we can also understand that from the perspective of how your overall set of skills, your mindset, and your habits can push you toward a level of success, of achievement, of personal fulfilment and satisfaction, or not.
But it’s not something you can just do once and then you let it go forever.
Where Our Time Goes
Charlie Hoehn: Right. Let’s start at the beginning. You have a chapter called Choke about where does all of our time go? Talk to me about why you began here?
William Treseder: I define choking as getting lost and overwhelmed by all of the information that is presented to us digitally. It’s like information is being jammed down your throat constantly. I think that is probably the single most defining feature of life and for most of us, it’s become this problem of “I’m on my phone, I’m on my laptop, I’m getting notifications, buzzes, pings, emails.”
“Everything is hitting me all the time and because of that, I can’t actually focus on the things that matter to me.”
That my world is going to be defined for the rest of my life by choking on information because unless I do something else, unless I reset, because there are all these products, services, software, and everything else that’s being built, it is only going to make us choke more.
It’s not like augmented reality and things are going to make this any better. If anything, they’re going to make it significantly worse.
One of the best examples of this is for people who are ever interested in the concept of big data, the amount of data being created, right? The statistic that should blow everybody’s mind, in terms of the amount of information available, is that there’s more information created in the last 18 months than if you start the clock 18 months ago and go all the way back to the beginning of time. There has been more information created in the last 18 months.
There’s this absolute explosion that’s driven entirely by technologies that are informing the way that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all these other groups work with and design products, building things that basically hack your brain.
They want to grab your attention, and that’s what it means to choke; it’s to have information just jammed into you, as much as any company can get you to pay attention.
New Habits to Learn
Charlie Hoehn: You say we need to develop habits to help us avoid choking. What are some of those habits that help you?
William Treseder: There’s some pretty basic ones that I think are important for people to know. For those that haven’t played around with notification settings on their phones so that they don’t get updates with every single thing, I turn off updates for everything. A lot of people uninstall social media apps so they can only sign on using their web browser instead of the native app. So if you uninstall Facebook, you’d actually have to go into safari or chrome or something and then go to facebook.com.
Those are specific tactical things: don’t keep your phone near your bed, don’t make it the first thing that you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. There’s a lot of stuff like that. I think the challenge is not as much with people having the knowledge.
Everybody understands that they shouldn’t do that, it’s kind of like telling someone that you shouldn’t eat this specific kind of dessert that they really like multiple times a week or something, it’s bad if you do that. Okay, fine.
I can know that information and still not change anything about my behavior. It’s really about understanding what the true cost is of connecting that way, that’s the issue and that’s what the book really helps dig into. Not just, what are the tactical changes that you can make, the day to day changes that you can make.
While those are important, you need to understand what you’re capable of and how much more you can do as a person; that’s what’s really hard for people to understand.
You have this incredible power and potential to affect so many other people around you, and to have a massive impact on the community, however you choose to define that. There are often very simple actions that you can take to do that but because we get stuck in choking and constant consumption, we’re never really able to be to get on fire for some kind of mission or purpose, we don’t take any action.
We don’t have a way of protecting ourselves from being distracted, and then we never get to that feedback loop where we start making an impact on other people and get that positive reinforcing.
“Ultimately, we are social animals. We need to see that we can have an impact on other people.”
The book also talks about some really specific ways that you can start to get feedback right away.
That lets you feed your reset and start to gain, gather more momentum, push yourself harder to improve and have a larger mission, a more compelling mission. To take even more action and then to have an even larger impact on the people around you.
Old Habits to Let Go
Charlie Hoehn: What about habits we formed in school growing up that are now just obsolete, it might be holding us back. What are some of those habits?
William Treseder: Yeah, absolutely. Those are basically some of the worst, this is the stuff that you can think about like malware that your brain is running; you need to uninstall this from yourself. One of the worst is the need to have someone else hand you or define for you what you should be doing every day.
It’s an inability to chart your own course and that’s the thing that kids don’t have a hard time doing, but as you get into the system, you’re like a little hamster that’s being fed pellets in school. For 12, 14, 16, 18 years, what you do every day is defined by what your teachers tell you that you need to do.
You don’t spend a lot of time determining for yourself what it is you should be spending your time on. It’s really easy for other people to define those priorities because you haven’t rebuilt that capacity to do that. That is always an absolute number one.
Charlie Hoehn: How do we reform that habit? How do we get started?
William Treseder: Well, I like to tell people that there’s an open secret, there are things that you’re really good at and things that you should be doing, but you never take the time to solicit those inputs from other people.
If I ask you, what are things that you’re really good at? You’ll have a harder time coming up with it than if you’re just in the flow of your life and there’s a way to solicit or crowd source that information from other people. It doesn’t mean this is what your specific task should be for this day but what it means is, you need to start with this messy overlap between what are your actual strengths and what are things that interest you within that set of strengths.
Because that points you in a vague direction and that’s really all you need to get started. But a lot of people get kind of stuck in, “Well this is what I do and so I kind of wait for people to give me things that fall into this world.” Which is very much like waiting for the hamster pellet, right?
Instead, one of the things that I love to have people do is email or text their five closest friends, it kind of depends on the relationship, but start with email because it’s a little bit more formal, and it should be a little bit more thoughtful than just a text.
Usually friends instead of family because friends are a little bit more objective in how they perceive you. Just ask them to say “Hey, I’m doing a personal survey, I’m just interested in figuring out, what are some other things that you think I’m really good at?”
“What are the things that you see me do really well that impressed you and maybe we never talked about it before?”
Hopefully you have friends who won’t just make fun of you if you send them an email like that. I’ve been there but you probably know the kind of people who would give you a good answer and usually, one or two of the answers are basically what you would expect.
Then, you usually get two or three, perhaps even all five that really surprise you with things that people say that they noticed that you do really well, that you may never have even thought of before.
“Open your mind up a little bit to think about the things that you do when you’re in your natural zone, just being with your friends, hanging out.”
They might see you at meals, at social events, maybe on trips or something like that. They see you interact in a pretty wide variety of settings, and you may be surprised what they’ll come up with. They may say, “You know what? You’re just amazing with handling people, I’ve never seen anyone do that, do you remember that restaurant, the person was giving us a hard time about this and you did that? That was really cool.”
Then you’re looking for opportunities to explore that a little bit more, just within your current life, right? All of a sudden, you’re taking a skill and kind of reasoning backwards from: here’s something that I have actually done naturally in the past.
It’s something somebody else has noticed in me that I do, and I do it well, that’s a very different way of engaging than what is somebody telling me I need to accomplish today? It also allows you to look at some of the things that people tend to task you with and say, “All right, what is the way I can cater to my own strengths when I’m accomplishing this goal?”
How could I do this differently in a way that plays to the things that help me develop the skills that I wanted to develop? I do this all the time with people at work, I give them three kinds of tasks. They have core tasks and then they have the random task, that’s the stuff that you have to get done.
They always have stretch tasks.
In every quarter, I ask everybody to identify what their stretch tasks are and it’s fine if they change from quarter to quarter, the point is not to define and get it right. The point is to just think to yourself and engage other people around the idea that there are things that you do really well that you need to weave into the rest of your life, to do more of the things that you do well, and stop just accepting whatever is handed to you.
Fear of Missing Out
Charlie Hoehn: Now, let’s talk very briefly about two big points that I think, the more I talk to people, the more they’re aware of these issues, it seems to be a rising awareness but A, why do we get the feeling like we’re missing out on life so often and why are we so addicted to the web and all these things coming at us every day?
William Treseder: I would answer the second question first. When we say we’re addicted to the internet, what we usually mean is that we’re addicted to social media and a couple of the attended things like YouTube and stuff like that, maybe that’s not properly social media but it’s content that’s often distributed through social media.
The reason why we’re addicted to social media is because every social media company makes almost all of its money (and when I say almost all, I mean, at least 90 cents on every dollar but usually more like 95, 96, 97 cents on every dollar they make) off of advertising revenue.
That kind of surprises some people, but if you think about it, it really shouldn’t. Remember, social media didn’t even exist 15 years ago, right? Not in any meaningful form. It’s a very immature industry, it’s very new and we really have barely seen how it’s going to emerge over time. They basically just latched on to the first thing that makes money and there you go. They sell us, we are the product that the social media companies are selling to other people.
“They are companies that want to sell us things.”
They need our attention and so the social media company sells us as products to the people that want us to buy their stuff. That’s google ad words, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, twitter ads, sponsored ads. All of the different things that you see, all this social media marketing, all of this stuff is all based on selling you to someone else.
It’s easy to forget because you think of social media as “Yeah, it’s my friends, people I know or people I follow or people who follow me.” There’s two worlds of social media, there’s the massive loud, noisy, obvious world and then there’s the quiet shadowy world where all the money is made, and it’s very easy to just entirely forget about that since everything that we do on social media is free.
We don’t think about it, but it’s not free.
No business is free, so the cost is our attention and again, unless you can figure out how to handle that world, you’ll basically be choking for the rest of your life because social media is not going anywhere. It’s only going to get more sophisticated, it’s only going to be immersed more and more into our lives. We need to build our own systems for controlling and moderating it, otherwise, we’re choking.
Social Media Sales
Charlie Hoehn: The second point of why we’re feeling like we’re missing out all the time like you said, we are the ads, our behavior changes to make our lives look like advertisements.
William Treseder: Exactly, we’re mimicking the behavior without even realizing what we’re doing and it’s a terrible trick that we all play on each other. I tell a story in the book, a time when my wife and I were at a party and really not having a good time at all.
Instead of leaving, just getting out of there and going to somewhere else doing something else together, she wanted us to take a picture and then of course you want to put that picture up on social media.
If you looked at the picture, which was filtered in a particular way and set up perfectly with the right hashtags and everything looked wonderful and we’re all smiling, you would get a completely different perspective on what that party was like.
Of course, she didn’t mean it this way but for somebody who is in another party, maybe a party that was better, they’re looking at our Photoshopped version of our party, thinking, “I wish I was over there.” The reality is if they weren’t plugged in at that moment and weren’t choking, they would be able to be wherever they were and be happy.
They can’t, so instead, they have that fear of missing out on something that actually didn’t even really exist, it was a fake party that only existed on Instagram and didn’t actually exist in real life. That’s an example that I like to use with people when we talk about the goal of removing social media, making it harder for yourself to get on social media. That’s a great example of why it’s so important. It’s not because of the obvious benefits. It is because of the non-obvious drawbacks and consequences.
It’s the difference between how you intend it to come across. You may genuinely just want to be celebrating something or you want your friends to know about a particular thing but it has this unintended Keeping Up with Joneses dynamic.
“It is this wheel that spins faster and faster and faster, there is no end to it.”
So, we are all on these weird social media treadmills next to each other and we are all in charge of each other’s speed, so we just keep upping each other’s.
It’s really terrible and it always comes back to the idea of well I didn’t intend to do it that way. I am only trying to celebrate this thing that happened that is really wonderful. Yeah that’s great but if I see your highlights and I see the highlights of all my other closest friends that have been algorithmically placed within the feed based on how likely I am to pay attention, this is the other thing that most people don’t realize.
It’s that you’re not showing your feed, your newsfeed is just the people that these companies algorithms have shown are the most likely to get you to keep reading. So it is probably the people that you are going to be more obsessed with and probably have a less healthy reaction to, those are the kinds of people you are going to see more. So again, that’s the nature of the business model and a big part of the challenge is to use other things.
Not to talk a lot about women in social media and health but my wife has a specific group. It is not social media. It’s a WhatsApp text chain, a group message with some other people who are like a support group for if they have an issue around wanting to eat a specific dessert they know they shouldn’t eat. They just text each other for encouragement to stick with their plan. And that is a good example of how you can use this connectedness as a way to foster positive outcomes.
Instead of as a way to unintentionally hurt someone else’s perceptions of themselves or generate this sense of anxiety or fear of missing out.
Charlie Hoehn: The key there is that they’re in a dialogue. It is an actual conversation and not a broadcast. It is not an ad. It is a communication stream. It is not putting an advertisement out there to get likes and comments. It is an actual conversation.
William Treseder: Yeah, exactly. That’s one of the amazing things about it, and the promise of the internet has always been to help you build communities and dependent geographies and that is an amazing thing if you can do it well. But again, you are not trained to do that well. So it’s something you have to figure out, you are not educated to do that.
You have to figure out how to do that, and this is a brief return back to the educational piece.
This is where one of the most insidious and negative parts of the educational system comes in. A lot of people who are afraid to embrace their strengths because not that they would think about it that way, but it makes them lopsided.
So, the difference between being a great person and being a great student is kind of an instructive example. So, if I am student and I have one A+ and three Ds or Fs would you consider me a good student?
Charlie Hoehn: I mean I am sort of against the whole grading system in general, so it is tough for me to say.
William Treseder: There it is. There is usually a reason for it right? I think a teacher would look at that student and immediately want to bring up the D’s and the F’s and any parent would as well. So, the education rewards that right? But if I can build a team of people, and there are more subjects, and I have somebody whose grades look like A+, F, F, F, somebody else is F, A+, F, F, somebody else is F, F, A+, F, do you see where I am going with this?
If I put those three together, I have a team across the board of A+ and they’ll work together and will naturally figure out how to self-govern; to accomplish and do amazing things and push each other to get to whatever the level is after A+ right?
And that does exist. It’s just that it’s really hard for people to think that way because they spend so much time being told that who they are can be quantified and if it can be quantified, it can be compared.
A lot of people don’t know that the first grade that was issued to somebody in an educational setting was right around the turn of the 19th century, so around 1800. The idea that you could condense a person down to a letter is absolutely insane. We just have forgotten that it’s insane. So it is really interesting to think that for almost all of human history, there was no such thing or even an attempt to try to shrink down and condense who you were as a person and as a student into a letter.
There’s no way you can actually do that, it just makes it a lot easier to run an industrial school. This goes back to the kind of comparative behaviors that we have. I am afraid to embrace my true strengths—the strengths and the relationships that made me unique—because I have been trained not to. I’ve been trained to even myself out and to play nice with others but also stick with the pack.
All that training keeps us from being able to embrace the behaviors and the mindset that will actually let us enjoy life a lot more, as well as be a better fit for the kind of world that we live in now.
Reset in Day to Day Life
Charlie Hoehn: What I am curious about William, is where is your life today and how is resetting shaped your future?
William Treseder: Yeah, that’s a great question. I will answer in a couple of different ways. I’ll just start with a good day for me: I have a wife and two kids and a couple of businesses. A good day is waking up way before everybody else and spending some time in prayer and getting a workout before anybody else in the family gets conscious and then, once I get the basics of self-care out of the way, I love to start by taking care of my family.
I will get everything ready for my daughter, get her lunch made and make sure that any of the stuff leftover from the night before cleaned up and put away and get ready to prep everything for her breakfast, and all that stuff, to me, is a way of autocorrecting for the purpose of not allowing the rest of life to creep in.
I always try to keep myself focused on this mission when I am at home, I try not to pollute what’s going on at work or anything that can be considered work.
A good morning for me, launching into the day correctly, means that once everybody is up and everything and I drive my daughter to school, I probably don’t check my email until I get to work. I might have been up at 4:30 and I get to work around 8:30 and I haven’t checked my email yet. That is a great launch to the day and even better, the longer I can extend that, the more productive I tend to be because that goes back to you are just opening that massive floodgate of distractions, right?
But that is a very specific thing about trying to focus on the relationships that matter to me and not to let technology determine what I am focused on at any given point.
So, my purpose in that place is to be the most conscientious father and husband that I can be in the mornings. It doesn’t mean I don’t try to do it other times, but it means I really stress building habits around this specific purpose, a family focused purpose, in the mornings and then have a similar structure in the afternoons.
But really, since that time, since the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to join my old professor who is a former Army special forces guy and start a business with him and two others—that business is about five years old now and that’s been a huge part of my life.
The company is called BMNT, just four letters. It is a military acronym, but we do a huge amount of work in the national security innovation space, so we do a lot of problem solving work for different groups.
“If MacGyver had Attention Deficit Disorder, that would characterize our work.”
So we are constantly moving on to diffusing the nuclear bomb and the next nuclear bomb and the next nuclear bomb. So in a lot of ways, I am head of product at the company. My goal really reflects all of the principles of Reset and we really are. We call it being outcome driven because it is the language of the industry, but really it’s what we drive on, we focus on missions.
This is a big part of Reset, and we help build this mission over time. We curate and cultivate the problems that we work on. We’ve spent a lot of time on that stuff and that’s what our customer finds valuable.
So it has been really cool and a wonderful experience. We’re up from four people to 40 people and continue to grow. It’s a lot of fun, that work is really powerful for me. At the same time, and I mean to be super clear, the only reason why that company started and became the company it is, is because of people.
It was this mission that the original founder of the company had, he just came to me and said, “You know I have known you for four years. I really like you and respect you and I think that you are the right kind of person to do this with,” and that is exactly how we felt about the other two people that joined the team as founders, and it was no more complicated than Silicon Valley has amazing talent and the military has a bunch of problems that we got to help them solve.
We’ve got to harness the right talent and we’ll just do whatever we have to do to figure out how to make that work, and that was the beginning of the company and it has taken off since then. It goes back to this is a mission, right? It was started with the right people but always focused on people first and building a really strong culture.
At the same time, when my wife and I started a company, it’s pretty similar.
My wife is from Nigeria and we had this really cool opportunity back in 2014 to travel in Nigeria and to build a program for GE, that was designed to help entrepreneurs, mostly in hardware and supply chains companies, build businesses and rapidly grow the businesses so that they could help mature the manufacturing phase of Nigeria, because Nigeria is trying to transition away from oil. So, there’s this huge mission just like a lot of countries in the Middle East.
The countries that only know how to make money off oil are trying to figure out, how do we build the economy for the post-oil future? And the answer is: you have to invest in people. You have to teach people how to build things of value, right? You have to figure out how to take the people who are coming out of the system, I mean, the Nigerian Educational System makes the US Educational System look awesome, by comparison.
How do you take those people and help correct them, to correct their mindsets and correct their habits so that they can actually build businesses themselves? So we built a program called The Lagos Garage. Lagos is like the New York of Nigeria, it’s not the capital but it’s the head of the economy and that company is doing really well. We’ve had a bunch of people, hundreds of entrepreneurs go through the program, a bunch of them raise money and build companies that are doing great work in Nigeria.
And also worked on a project to basically educate 10,000 entrepreneurs remotely, via the internet, over 10 years and it was a really amazing project to get to work on and I get to talk about that a little bit in the book, but it is an example of what it’s like to really build off of the community to create these missions that are super powerful, super compelling. Basically somebody came to us and said:
“We have this huge massive mission of educating 1,000 entrepreneurs a year for 10 years and we don’t have anything that we need to get started but part of the vision is to educate them. How can we do that?” And oh by the way, they basically want to train them, like give them an MBA with an entrepreneurial focus. You only have 12 weeks to do it, on their own, there could only be 12 weeks to build a curriculum and it has to be in three different languages.
And it also has to take up no space in terms of data because data is super expensive the way that the telecommunications companies are set up across Africa. So the people who are in rural areas who are poor can’t afford to download big PDF’s or watch videos.
It is a 12-week MBA that you have to deliver basically by SMS to people who don’t even have feature phones, distributed across the continent and if anything I have said has come through yet, this to me was amazing.
“This is such a great example of the kind of thing that you can really turn into a super powerful mission.”
These are the kinds of things that we’ve been able to do not because we were super strategic. I am one of the least strategic people in the world. I am really bad at sales, I’m bad at business development, I am bad at so many things but when we do work in either company, when we do work our customers are always really just blown away by.
And how we always elevate them as a customer and what they do and that means that they always want to refer us. They are asking us, “Who else would you like to work for? Who do I have in my world?” And we are just connectors, we bring people in and we’re able to over deliver on everything we do even with insane constraints, like some of the stuff that I just mentioned and in both cases though, these companies have done really cool things.
Certainly, from the baseline of being unemployed and homeless and sleeping on my brother’s couch in San Francisco two years before, the real key in both places was just it was a conversation with one other person and it was just about a mission. The conversation with my wife was like, “Hey I have this crazy idea based on this job offer that I got and do you want to come back to Nigeria with me for three or four months and just live there?”
“I think she didn’t think that was actually going to happen.”
I am pretty sure most people would say no to that but to me, I was like, “Don’t threaten me with a good time,” you know? “Absolutely let’s do it,” that is something that we are never going to forget, and it has led to a lot of other great work. But it’s just that willingness to reframe these things as a mission that you can do to help a community and to focus on just taking action, however you possibly can and then launching.
Like I was talking about in the very beginning of this answer, just getting a huge amount done every day before I inevitably get sucked down into answering emails and reading things and all the other kind of stuff that happens. But each day, I’ve been meaning to bite off a meaningful chunk of every mission that I am working and that is really how resetting has practically changed my life.
Both of that very high level in terms of the stuff that I have been able to accomplish but also just in terms of how I am able to orient myself each day and the habits that I try to build to reinforce who I want to be and close the gap a little bit each day between the opportunities that are around me and my ability to take advantage of them. I feel like I have a place and I am doing something that really matters.
A Challenge from William Treseder
Charlie Hoehn: So William, could you tell us where our listeners can get in touch with you or follow your work?
William Treseder: Sure, so I like to connect with people on LinkedIn. I think that is the best way to do it. I don’t like people following me, I think that is a weird thing, so in LinkedIn I can actually have a little bit of relationship with people. So they can just look me up on LinkedIn. If you type in Treseder on LinkedIn, if you are looking at a keyboard it sounds hard to pronounce but it is actually really easy to type. If you just type Treseder, they’re all right next to each other and it doesn’t repeat any letters.
On LinkedIn you can find me immediately. Go either connect with me or my wife because we are the two main Treseder’s that will pop up on LinkedIn. That’s pretty easy.
Charlie Hoehn: Nice, owning those results. So, what’s a challenge that you could give to listeners, something they can do today that will make a positive impact?
William Treseder: I think there’s two things and it depends on where the person is in their life. So if the person is feeling a little bit more outgoing, social and they want to try to actually do something that pushes them out of their comfort zone a little bit, I would suggest sending that email to five good friends that will give you thoughtful answers to the question, “Where do you see me really shine, what do you think my strengths are?”
I think that is a really powerful one. That’s a one-off kind of thing for somebody who wants to engage their community a bit more. For anyone, no matter who they are, I think a much easier thing—well it sounds easier but to do this consistently—is to try to teach someone else something new every day before lunch. There is a chapter in the book that really gets into the nature of community and how that works and what the relationships were like. I really hate the concepts of mentors, to sort of figure out the person.
Actually, it is very old school, you are probably going to anger them or annoy them. There are a variety of ways that it’s inappropriate and another one is the open-ended time commitment. There is a whole chapter about this in the Reset and the way I break it down is pretty simple. Never use the word mentor, instead use the word teacher, student, and cheerleader.
I think cheerleaders are pretty obvious: they are literally people that just pat you on the back, send you a text, “Hey that was cool”.
Maybe it’s a metaphorical pat on the back, maybe it’s a literal one. I have received both many times. I had one just yesterday. I got one from you during our warm up which I appreciated. So I think that is really important. The “teachers and students” is a reframing of things from a perspective of, what is a thing that someone else had learned very recently that they are just a little better at than you? They could be a lot better, but the point is that you want to find someone.
There are teachers everywhere. It is not that you need to find someone who is well known in this field. For instance, my wife is a marketing executive. You don’t have to go to somebody at her level. There are a lot of people who know about marketing that can help you out because they know more than you, and there are a lot of people out there that are students of yours.
“You may not think of that way, but you are teaching them a specific skill.”
It is a very specific to them and it is specific to the context of the relationship. So it is these little micro transmissions. I mean if you want to think about it any way, it is like micro mentoring. It is a very specific thing that you do for a very short period of time that’s designed to correct a specific deficiency, and that is a very different way of thinking about anything around how you actually get mentored by people, but it is the reality of what people want.
I want to close the gap, I want to learn new skills and I also want to solidify the skills that I have by helping teach them to others. I lift my orientation and learn about the skill in a new way when I am teaching it to someone else and that’s just such a super basic point that people often forget about, that there is a process of teaching and learning as you go. You learn and you teach and you learn and you teach and that’s expressed across many dimensions both professional and personal.
So that’s an absolutely huge thing that people need to take way more advantage of; I love to see how much of an impact people could have. I tell a story in the book of my uncle who was a math major in college. He went to college in Oregon and he was walking through the math library, he walked by a woman that he recognized from one of his classes and stopped and said hi.
Then he saw that she was working on a problem set that he had done already and he helped her with a couple of problems and didn’t think anything about it ever again until he saw her 30 years later. She said, “I was actually going to drop out of school because that class was so hard and you helped me with that problem set when I was going “that was it.” That was the breaking point for me and it was only because you did that, that I actually stayed in that class and ended up graduating.
I went on to have a good career and everything else,” and she was doing fine.
Who knows if that is actually true, I mean that’s how she remembers it therefore that is the truth for her and I can’t tell you how much it meant to my uncle to hear that from her. That is a perfect example of how you never know when just doing a little bit of teaching can make such a huge difference for someone else.