Published DateAuthorStrategic Coach Founder Dan Sullivan and Gord Vickman
In this episode, Gord Vickman and Dan Sullivan explain how entrepreneurs who don't think of themselves as technically minded can still use the latest tools to their advantage. You’ll learn simple, actionable steps for breaking through the mental barriers that can make technology seem intimidating at first, so that you can make it another part of your overall teamwork strategy.
In This Episode:
How can entrepreneurs who don’t consider themselves to be technically minded embrace new technologies?
Dan’s new quarterly book, Thinking About Your Thinking, is based on a mental skill he developed at age six and formed the basis for all his subsequent success.
Most people think about things, people, and thoughts, but there’s another level of thinking available that opens up new and better possibilities.
Why Dan’s never felt lonely or weird—even when he was doing completely different things to the people around him.
Instead of learning about every new development himself, Dan simply surrounds himself with others who are fascinated by technology, tells them what he’s looking for, and rewards them for discovering useful new shortcuts and capabilities.
Gord and Dan discuss the Kolbe profile, which helps you learn how to work in your best abilities—or team up with others whose skills complement yours.
The Kolbe profile made Dan happy because it highlighted the areas where he has no staying power or motivation, which showed him where he needed teamwork.
Kolbe also helps explain the widely different ways in which people will approach learning a new tool.
“Technology is teamwork that has been made automatic.” - Dan
The starting point is an awareness of individual uniqueness, then combining that with other people’s uniqueness.
“I always keep a smart human between me and technology.” - Dan
“I would not spend any time learning how to use any technology. But I’m very, very fast to understand the importance of the technology.” - Dan
Gord Vickman: Welcome to this episode of “Podcast Payoffs”. My name’s Gord Vickman. Here as always with Dan Sullivan. Dan, always a pleasure.
Dan Sullivan: My pleasure.
Gord Vickman: Dan, I titled this next episode, which funnels nicely from the last one we did—if you haven’t heard the previous episode, it was all about ChatGPT, and we didn’t rehash what you can already find out with a simple GPT query of your own or even a Google search. We focused more on the human element and how ChatGPT can be used to help, or perhaps hinder, teamwork and entrepreneurism and all those wonderful subjects. So that would be a good one to start with if you haven’t heard that one yet, and then you can check back on this one.
Because one of the subjects that we touched on last time, Dan, was there is a certain element of people that may be intimidated, who consider themselves not very technical. So we thought it would be wise, or maybe even fun, to consider some of the ways that people who do not consider themselves technical— entrepreneurs, because that’s what we focus on, on this podcast—how they can embrace new technology. Or, in your technique, Dan, hire someone who can. So if you stick with us on this episode, we’re going to give you some simple, actionable ways to break the mental barriers that convince you that you’ll never understand technology and maybe you’re too afraid to try. That was written by me, that was not written by the ChatGPT. That was all human, all Vickman, that came right at you.
One of the interesting things that we do, we chat about your quarterly books on this podcast quite a bit, and the brand new one is called Thinking About Your Thinking. I read it yesterday. Fantastic read. It’s very quick. You can get your copy. If you haven’t read it or you don’t know where to find it, go to strategiccoach.com, click store, and there’s a download there available for you. Thinking About Your Thinking.
Thinking about your thinking is a concept that’s been with you, Dan, since you were six years old, and I was wondering if you can parlay any link between the capacity to think about your thinking, and how that can be useful when encountering new things that may be intimidating, in this instance technology. Can you see any links between that skill that you have developed and learning things that are scary?
Dan Sullivan: Yeah. Well, the doorway to the skill that I got onto, as you mentioned, when I was six years old, is that I actually had the experience walking around the family farm. This would be the year 1950. And all of a sudden had this experience that I was actually thinking about the way I was thinking about walking about the farm. And it was a totally different experience, and it was very energizing and very captivating. And it was almost like you were watching a movie of your brain working, and then it went away. But I remembered it, and then it would happen unpredictably. Usually when I was out in the fields. Usually I was outside and I was walking. And all of a sudden I get this experience, and it almost like time sort of stopped and you were just watching how your brain was working and how my brain was working.
So anyway, the frustration of not being able to do it when I wanted to do it, grew and grew and grew. And finally I was kind of really almost angry. And I said, “What am I thinking about right now?” And the moment I asked myself the question, I got in the door and I was doing it. And I started experimenting with it because I had a feeling that this was something that I had never heard anyone else talk about. My mother, my father, my siblings had never talked about it. And I talked really well as a child and I could talk on an adult plane very, very early.
So I just began noticing and watching people. And I just had a feeling that people thought about a lot of things, but they didn’t think about their thinking. They would think about things, the things in their life, their objects and material things that they had in their life. They would think about other people, they would talk about other people. “So and so did this,” and “Did you hear about such and such?”, and everything like that. And they would think about thoughts, but the thoughts weren’t their thinking. Their thoughts were thinking that somebody else had done.
And that really played a big part when you got into the school system because you were basically thinking about the thoughts of people who were considered to be more valuable in terms of their thoughts and thinking. Every subject that you took, you were thinking about the thoughts of whoever wrote the book or who was ever explaining things to you, but it wasn’t your thinking. And I just noticed that there was this entirely separate world called “thinking about your thinking.” And what I noticed about that is that when I would think about my thinking, I would do smarter things. I would organize myself smarter, I would be clearer about what it was that I wanted to achieve. I would cooperate with people better. I would get a handle on what other people were trying to achieve, where I could be useful to them and everything else.
So I began to see this as a real success path for myself personally. And sometimes I’d get off track. Hormones will do that to you. Growing teeth will do that to you. I mean, there’s all sorts of things that happen to you when you’re growing up. But at 30 I took a chance and I bet my future that I could create a business based on my thinking about my thinking, but showing other people how to think about their thinking. And that was 1974 and we’re almost 50 years later, and that’s been the single path of my life. Is thinking about my thinking in such a way that I can find new ways to help other people think about their thinking.
Gord Vickman: I wanted to ask one question. You may have never been asked this question before. Because when I pictured you in the forest as a six-year-old and this epiphany befalls, were you at all frightened? Because it sounds mildly psychedelic and perhaps a little freaky to a child to have discovered this capability.
Dan Sullivan: No.
Gord Vickman: No. It was comfortable?
Dan Sullivan: The funny thing about it is that over time it was accompanied by a feeling of actually being connected to everything. That you weren’t alone, actually. That when you’re thinking about your thinking, you’re not isolated, you’re not feeling lonely, you’re actually feeling connected. I mean, that’s been my experience. I don’t remember when I’ve ever felt lonely. Even though I’ve spent times in my life where I really was alone. And even now in my late seventies, I’ll spend whole days where Babs will be doing something and I’ll be doing something, and I’m alone for the entire day.
I mean, I have a tremendous number of connections simply because of the Coach workshops and the Coach. So every quarter I’m in contact with hundreds of very, very successful, very ambitious entrepreneurs. And I give a lot of attention to what they’re telling me about their lives and everything. And it’s food for thought, it’s food for my thinking, what they’re telling me about their lives and what they’re looking for. But I never have the experience of being alone. I always feel very, very connected.
Gord Vickman: That’s interesting.
Dan Sullivan: The other thing is I didn’t think I was weird.
Gord Vickman: You thought it was normal?
Dan Sullivan: Well, I thought I was different, but I didn’t think I was weird. In other words, because it didn’t make me less capable, it didn’t make me less useful, it didn’t make me less successful. So there wasn’t any penalty to be paid for doing this activity.
Gord Vickman: And Dan, thinking about your thinking, we’re talking bedrock, foundation, cornerstone Strategic Coach. And people do come to the workshops, not just people, but successful, talented, ambitious entrepreneurs come to the workshops to learn new things. So one of the first things we’re trying to get through, through the workshops, is this concept of thinking about your thinking. How do you think that could be useful when someone is intimidated by technology and what’s coming? We touched on this again on the last show. And the pace of technology that’s coming is intimidating to certain people. So is this the antidote right here? Thinking about your thinking, and how can you link those together?
Dan Sullivan: It certainly has been the antidote for me. And because what I began thinking is that I’m really good at thinking about my thinking. And what I noticed that there are other people who are really great at thinking about technology. So why don’t I just think about my thinking related to having them think through technology and make it useful to me? Okay? So right off the bat it made me appreciate that people had different things that they were fascinated with and things that they were very committed to going into deeply. And that I could profit enormously by just kind of letting them know what I’m after, using their skills.
Most people want to feel useful. If you put out “You know, you could really be useful to me if you would do this and this and this.” You work out some sort of reward package that their doors are going to open up for them if they do this. They’re going to have opportunities, they’re going to have material success, they’re going to get paid more, they’re going to be given more freedom if they do this. So I think that where it’s taken me—and I’m talking now about being at this for more than 70 years—is that I can kind of put myself in the other person’s position and sort of understand what it is that they’re striving for. And if I help them think through what they’re actually after so that they’re really clear what they’re after, then I get the benefit of their progress.
Gord Vickman: One of the things you hear, not only from adults, but students and people in general when they’re learning new things, is “I’m not a [blank] person.” “Oh, I’m not a math person.” “I’m not an English person.” “That’s not going to work, I’m not a technical person.”
And then when I was thinking about that as I was planning this show today, we use the system at Strategic Coach, it’s called the Kolbe System, K-O-L-B-E. You can check it out at Kolbe.com. Jump in if I’m not describing this correctly, I think I can put it into words. But it’s a short questionnaire that will assist you in learning the way that you are able to work in your best abilities. And what strengths you may have to complement the strengths of other people.
Dan Sullivan: Terrific.
Gord Vickman: There we go. Nailed it. I didn’t even write that down, top of my head. Because I’m a Kolbe QuickStart. Now there’s four categories. They look like cylinders full of color. I love the visual that they have. We have their Fact Finders. High Fact Finders are people who need a lot of information to make decisions. Then you have Follow-Throughs. How easy is it for you to follow through on the things that you set out to do? And how draining is it? If you have a low Follow-Through it doesn’t mean that you can’t finish anything, it just means that it might take a little bit more gas in the tank for you to do so than other people who have a high follow through. Third is QuickStart. These are people who have the ability to, we’re talking, jump first, figure out where the rip cord is later.
Dan, you are a ten QuickStart. I’m an eight. So we both have a similarity in that regard. And then Implementer is the fourth, which would mean how well you deal with the world around you—objects, places, and things.
Do you think there’s any one particular cylinder of Kolbe, anyone that has a strength over another that would be maybe better, or maybe not so much better, but they would find technological advancements easier to deal with? Would it be people who love processing information, or would it be people similar to our profile, which is people who just want to dive in and do it and see what happens? Can you identify one or the other?
Dan Sullivan: The rule for Kolbe is that you can guess at what other people’s profiles are, but you can be deceived because you could get mixed up with things like extroversion and introversion. And so for example, I’ve met people who are very, very short—short being a low number, like a one in QuickStart, who are extroverts. So that extroversion with someone who’s long and quick start. And that they’re mostly really very, very assertive communicators in their ideas and everything else. And somebody who knows a great deal and has an extroverted personality can come across you say, “Well, he’s an extrovert,” but they’re not QuickStarts at all. They’re extroverts.
So the rule, and that’s even with Kathy Kolbe who created this system. She said, “I’ve done tens of thousands of these profiles with people. And you can kind of get a feel for what the person is.” But she said, “Until they’ve done the test and you see the actual results of the test come out sort of saying ‘This is where you want this person involved in a team.’” You want this person to do this part of the teamwork, to complement, as you said in your description, complement other people who have different capabilities.
Well, for example, we weren’t looking for an eight QuickStart when I put out the description of the podcast manager, which you have successfully exceeded my expectations. But you were smart enough with your eight QuickStart to know that we were looking for something else. And you were able to explain why, because of your work experience and your great work habits, that whatever we were looking for as crucial would be taken care of just because of your experience and your work habits. My sense is why we hired an eight QuickStart is because the eight QuickStart was smart enough to know that he had come up with an alternative.
You had to come up with an alternative so that we didn’t disqualify you just based on a numbers description. And I think you guessed that. And you kind of guessed, I think, that you were dealing with someone who was a real action/results person. So you walked in the door with ten projects that you were going to complete when I only asked for about five. And you said, “I’ll have ten projects finished in the first six months,” which you more than succeeded in doing that.
But Kolbe, for me, has no meaning except in the context of teamwork. Who you are alone with yourself in the room, I couldn’t care less. But who you are in teamwork situations with other people who have different skills, that becomes very, very important then to know that this is sort of your area and this is your border. But don’t cross the border into someone else’s territory.
Gord Vickman: And I brought up Kolbe just because it’s something that’s at the forefront and we deal with it every day. Everyone at Strategic Coach, all of our clients, and many of our friends, they’ve gone through the Kolbe process. So it’s interesting to see what others—and if you know someone well who’s never been through the process, you can kind of guess if you’re right, but you don’t really know. My wife has never done the Kolbe profile. I’ve been meaning to run her through it for a few years now, and I will eventually. But I think I know what she is, but it’d be interesting to see if I actually run her through it, if that matches.
Dan Sullivan: Well, the other thing is, the person’s own consciousness and willingness to appreciate. When I got my Kolbe profiled back, it was one of the happier days of my life. Because I could see where it showed that I didn’t have staying power, I didn’t have initiative. Where all the bad experiences of my life where I had obligated myself to be a Fact Finder when I really don’t have the staying power or even the motivation to make sure that all the facts are there, all the details are there. I’m just not motivated in that direction.
And same thing with the others, where I have a low number. Could I do it for an hour? Could I do it for two hours? Probably. But could I do it tomorrow? No. Could you depend on me doing it for the next week? No. So the big thing about it is that you have a certain kind of energy to perform in a certain way and to succeed in a certain way. And when I’m working with someone, I only want to know what that is. Because I don’t want that person wasting time and energy, and getting frustrated by doing other activities that we can get somebody else who’s got just the correct kind of profile to do that type of work.
Gord Vickman: Something I figured out, this is a decade or more before I ever even got a sniff of the Kolbe profile, was, early on in the radio years I was trying to teach myself because the formal education that I had did a pretty miserable job of teaching me about audio editing. It was something I was interested in, I wanted to learn more. I loved playing with sound. Seventeen, 18 years later, I still do. It’s what I gravitate to when I’m procrastinating and that’s what I should do for the rest of my life. And that’s what I do currently for Strategic Coach, in addition to other things.
Now I recognize even before the Kolbe profile that I don’t learn well when it’s “Step, step, step, step, step, step, result.” So I have a book in front of me: “Do this, do this, do this, do this, do this, and this is the result you’ll get.” A Fact Finder, that might work very well for someone, because they can see each step as it leads to the result. What I did when I was teaching myself how to edit audio was I would get a piece of audio that was interesting to me that I didn’t quite understand how they achieved the result they achieved. And then I worked backwards, basically just trying anything that I could think of inside the program to achieve that result. So I had what I wanted it to sound like, and then I took a piece of audio and I would just basically start tapping buttons, as clumsy as that sounds. And if you do that for 17 years, you end up becoming a pretty decent audio editor. But that would not work for someone who’s a Fact Finder, who needs to have “detail, detail, fact” information, information leading to the result.
So if you have the kind of profile, or if you’ve never even been through the Kolbe profile, just so we’re including everyone who may not be inside the discussion as so far as Kolbe’s concerned. If you know that you don’t learn that way, where you are prepared to go and screw things up for three hours in order to get the result, if you just want to work through those steps, then by all means do that. I believe—and again this is just my theory—that’s the Fact Finder way of learning. It’s “step, step, step, step, step, step, result.” Whereas QuickStart learning is the complete opposite. You have “result” and then you basically deconstruct it. Neither of them are right, neither of them are better.
Dan Sullivan: Well, they’re all needed. I mean if any project of size or scope is going to require different capabilities, you want them to be complementary capabilities to get the whole project done. Humanity has gotten where it is through self-awareness about what you can contribute to a bigger project and then the ability to cooperate and collaborate with other people. I mean that’s the secret of humanity. We’re just the greatest team players species. And not only that, but then do self-corrections and change on the run, the ability to just change strategies on the run.
And that requires that at a certain point somebody says, “You know, things aren’t working. Things just really aren’t working. We got to rethink this right away.” And that person has to have enough credibility with their team members. Because we’re experiencing that it’s not working, so maybe there’s an insight here that someone else has. And that’s the genius of humanity. I think there’s a point where people are not confident about their own unique humanity, where they want technology to be the problem-solver. They want technology to be sort of the savior, to technology to be the leader.
And so you brought up the topic right at the beginning of the podcast about teamwork. And my feeling is technology is very important because it’s a form of teamwork that has worked so well again and again and again when it was just on the human level that you can now make it a predictable set of repeatable activities and then make it automatic. And that’s the crossover into technology. Technology is teamwork that has been made automatic. You can see the difference.
So I think the big thing is that this is a constant in human affairs, this topic that we’re discussing here, this is just a constant from day one of human affairs. But the more that humans take advantage of each other’s difference in talent and intelligence. First of all, you get great teamwork and then that teamwork is the most likely teamwork that’s going to become automated into technology.
So the starting point is the uniqueness of each individual and their awareness of their uniqueness. And then their awareness of how they can combine their uniqueness with other people’s uniqueness.
Gord Vickman: Dan, we’ve covered two strategies on the show so far. Which is when you’re learning technology or anything that seems intimidating, you can do the deconstruction, which will be the QuickStart method you have result, and then break it down, break it down. Or you can do the construction, which is detail, detail, fact, detail, instruction, instruction, and then result. And there’s a third one, and this comes with cash confidence, and that is find a Who to do the How’s if you’re not interested. And your famous line, Dan, “I always keep a smart human between me and technology.” So if you’d care to explain that briefly.
Dan Sullivan: And I just want to say something about there. I’m not technologically inclined.
Gord Vickman: Not at all. No.
Dan Sullivan: I would not spend any time learning how to use any technology. But I’m very, very fast to understand the importance of the technology. So I have a keen mind of the usefulness of technology. I don’t have any particular inclination to actually involve myself in learning the technology, but I will very quickly create teamwork with the person who has the inclination.
So you want some entertainment, you’re going to go see people who are naturally gifted musicians and they love the activity, they love the activity of being a musician. Well, I’m not going to go up and try to entertain. But I know great talent when I see it, and I know the transformative effect that great music with other things, having great social events, what it can do. So I’m looking for all sorts of talents. But I know where the borders are that I stay inside my own borders.
Gord Vickman: Dan, with you though, I’ve always had the sense that if you chose to, you could get all of this. But you are so well-versed and have been so successful with what you call intellectual shortcuts, that it’s a more intelligent shortcut for you to find that Who to put that in.
There’s never been any technology, whether it’s something that the toast of the town Clubhouse a few years ago that nobody talks about anymore. Or whether it’s ChatGPT, or whether certain recording softwares. Zoom. I’ve never encountered anything that I would say to myself, as someone Who between you and technology, there’s nothing that I’m encountering that I don’t think if you so would choose to do, that you wouldn’t pick it up like that. You are so smart in terms of finding the Who’s that you need. So when you say “I’m not technically inclined,” I believe that’s because you just elect to focus on other things, but it’s not because you don’t have the capacity to be that person. It’s just you choose not to because you found a shortcut around it, allowing you to do things that you prefer doing. Does that make sense?
Dan Sullivan: I think that’s accurate, but that would be true about you, too. I mean, you used the example of, “I was really fascinated with sound recording and working with sound.” Well, you could have developed all sorts of other skills along the way, but you didn’t. And I think for two reasons. One, is the enjoyment factor was too high for what you were doing. You were getting constantly rewarded with each new level of skill and knowledge that you had in this area. But the other thing is that you discovered that other people found that skill useful. So there’s the one thing that you’re self-rewarded by the activity, but you’re also rewarded by the network of people that you’re in. And again, we only have a certain amount of time to get good at something. And you make a guess and then you make a bet.
And I just had a feeling, going back to the start of our podcast here, the thing about thinking about my thinking, I just didn’t come across anybody else who did it. And I could see that I was leading an unusually interesting life because I was following my instincts with this. And I got to the point where I had enough confidence, I said, “I think I can create a business. I think I can create a business out of this where it’s just about me coming up with new ways of thinking about my thinking, and then finding ways to communicate to other people who would find this a useful skill.” And we’re not a little company. Classically, we’re called a medium-sized business, and we have no barriers to growth, really.
Gord Vickman: And always keeping your mind available for those serendipitous insights by not necessarily getting bogged down in technological things that you know there are people on the team of the people that you’ve hired to do those things for you. But still getting your feet wet a little bit with them.
Dan Sullivan: Well, I’m interested in knowing what’s available. I’m interesting to know what was useful. But you spending some time over the Christmas break exploring ChatGPT, a currently hot-item technology, was better than me spending time over Christmas trying to come to grips with it. I mean, I went on and they got me in. And already it was about three steps in and I said, “I shouldn’t be doing this.”
Gord Vickman: Glen! [Head of Strategic Coach’s Tech department.]
Dan Sullivan: “Somebody going to show up who’s got a keen interest in this.” But my feeling is that I’m taking an organizational approach to the technology, any technology. I said, how does this fit in with the organization as a whole?
Like our commitment to Salesforce, which has taken about seven years. But what it means is that we could go 10 times, we could go a hundred times as an organization. And we wouldn’t have to go to any other technology to handle the complexity of having 10 times more clients, 10 times more workshops. So that was an investment, and Babs and I were very, very clear that we’ve got to invest the time. And it was frustration and it was a lot of downtime for people to get everything moved over from 25 years of sort of Jerry-building our own system and all the information. But we had to say, “Okay, whatever it’s going to take, we have to master this new approach.” And they’re out there. The Salesforce is out there every day dealing with trillion-dollar companies and solving the problems of trillion-dollar companies. So any breakthroughs that we’ll need down the road, they’ve already done that for us.
Gord Vickman: That’s big-picture thinking.
Dan Sullivan: Profitability.
Gord Vickman: Being in charge, but not being in control. Big-picture thinking, finding the peeps to handle the deets. And that’s what you and Babs have done a very masterful job of for decades now. And that’s why Strategic Coach is what it is and continues to be successful and will be for a very long time to come.
Dan Sullivan: That was well-spoken and ChatGPT would not have been capable of that closing line that you just gave us.
Gord Vickman: Yeah, we’re going to leave on a high, as ChatGPT is wont to do as well. No chat bots were harmed in the creation of this podcast, although some of them might be jealous because we have come up with things that I am not sure if they’re capable of yet. We’ll see what the future holds.
If you enjoyed this episode, tell a friend, share it with someone who you think could glean some value from it as well. And Dan, it’s always a pleasure. Thanks so much.