Learning to Conquer Change
The editor of Entrepreneur magazine and self-described “nonstop optimism machine” talks about turning crisis into opportunity in his new book, 'Build For Tomorrow'
In this month's episode, we hear from Jason Feifer. He's editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine as well as being a podcast host and self-described "non-stop optimism" machine.
In his new book, Build for Tomorrow, Jason identifies the four phases people experience when living through a major change or crisis - stages he began to notice as people around the country adjusted to life during the worst of the pandemic.
The goal of his book is to use the knowledge he's gained from speaking to some of the business world's brightest minds to help others navigate the four phases of change faster and more effectively.
Then, he says, people reach a "wouldn't go back" moment - where they realize they wouldn't want to return to life as it was before.
Besides navigating change, Jason takes on what I think are really interesting topics with some unexpected angles that I both learned from, and am entertained by.
From reconsidering what it impossible to recognizing your own overconfidence, Jason has excellent insights into surviving - and thriving - through difficulty that will be helpful to anyone and everyone.
- The meaning behind the name of his podcast and book(8:53)
- The mindset that enables you to move through change easier (22:07)
- What an embarrassing guess taught Jason about assumptions (33:43)
- Why failure is insignificant (41:01)
But when I look, the first thing I thought was you're the editor in chief of a magazine, which, you know, the media is tough.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Right? And not to mention print media is tough, and you've been a journalist.
And so I wanted to start with just your general take on the state of the print media and how you think about your role and what you're trying to accomplish and where you think the media is.
JASON FEIFER: Frank, it's funny. When I go out and I give talks to groups, my subject is always how to find opportunity in change, and how to see change is not a scary thing.
It's very much the foundation of my work, it's the foundation of the podcast and the book, both of which are called Build For Tomorrow.
And somebody always raises their hand at the very beginning of the Q&A portion after I say all this stuff and they say, well, hey, you still run a print magazine. That's a pretty old thing. What's up with that?
And the first time somebody asked me that, I was kind of caught off guard.
I mean, I had a logic to it, but I hadn't really figured out how to articulate it. And now I'll tell you what I've come to. I think it's really important for everything that we do to ask this question.
It's a very simple question, which is, what is it for? What are we doing this thing for? What does it get us, what does it create?
And if you were to ask the question, what is content for to a media publication, well, decades ago, they would've had a very easy answer.
The answer was it's for monetization. You make content and then you can monetize it in two ways. You can sell ads against it or you can sell subscriptions to it.
Now, obviously it's much harder to do both of those things, not just at Entrepreneur or literally everywhere, it's harder to sell ads because Facebook and Google eat the majority of everybody's ad budget.
And it's harder to sell subscriptions because everyone can get so much stuff for free.
And so what is content for? Well, I'll tell you what it's for. It's for relationships. That's what it's for, content is for relationships because people trust things because of content.
I mean, you look at Red Bull. If you love extreme sports, Red Bull is your place. They got a magazine, they got a website full of videos. They do events, the whole thing. But do they make money off of that stuff? No, my guess, I don't know, but I would guess they probably lose money on it.
But that's fine because they build these wonderful relationships with consumers who then go and buy their energy drink because they trust Red Bull because of the content.
I think that's the business that I am functionally in, which is that I am in the business of providing really valuable things to people and building relationships. And then you can build a business on top of those relationships.
Yes, we still make a print magazine. Why? Well, because it doesn't lose money, it actually makes money, but it's obviously not going to become the central focus of anybody's business.
But it's out there building a relationship with people, showing up in people's doors and having them say, oh, I really like this brand. Oh, I really like this guy who writes this column and that's incredibly, incredibly valuable. That's the business that I think I'm in.
FRANK BLAKE: I want to take that answer, which I think is a terrific answer, and then turn it back to the question of change.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Because there was a phrase that was always, I worked at GE for over a decade, and there was a constant phrase at GE of people who hug the anchor. One of the things about change is you find people who at first, the anchor is important to you, but then you just hold onto it.
JASON FEIFER: Right.
FRANK BLAKE: And in your example, I would say a magazine is a bit of an anchor. I mean, maybe you're making money, but some people in your shoes would hug that and just become even more definitionally a magazine editor rather than broadening the description of what you're doing it for.
I don't know whether that entered into your thinking as you were elevating the description of what you do or how you came to that, but I think it's a really important thought and I'd love to understand how you got there.
JASON FEIFER: Well, we should kind of split it in two because there's me representing me, Jason Feifer, and then there's me representing Entrepreneur, the brand.
And my goal is to serve both of those things, but the thinking behind both of them is a little different, right?
For example, here's one foundational thing that I, as a leader of this company, and I say a leader, right? because I'm not the president and I'm not the CEO, but I am the editor in chief, I'm very aware of which is I don't own this company, right? Entrepreneur Media is not owned by me.
I have to be a really good steward of it, right.
I occupy a very high profile role at this brand and it's an honor to occupy that and I want to do it in the best faith possible, but I also want to recognize that I don't own the company, which means that it's good for me to be thinking about building things that I do own.
Now I think that you can do that. I have this belief about work, which is called "work your next job," which goes like this.
I think that everybody, you, me, everybody listening right now, we all have two sets of opportunities in front of us.
There's opportunity set A, opportunity set B.
Opportunity set A is everything that's asked of us. If you have a boss, whatever that boss expects, whatever your KPIs are, these are your opportunity set A.
Do a good job, continue to be employed.
Opportunity set B is everything that's available to you that nobody's asking you to do.
And that could be at your job, that could be joining a new team or learning a new responsibility, but it could also be something outside your job.
You could like podcasts and decide to start a podcast. Nobody's asking you to do it, but it's available.
And my belief throughout my entire career has always been that opportunity B is more important, infinitely more important, because if you only focus on opportunity set A, then you are only qualified to do the things that you're already doing.
Whereas opportunity set B is where growth is.
And I think that these things could be complimentary. Look, you don't want to say screw opportunity set A rather, you want to do a good job.
FRANK BLAKE: Right, right.
JASON FEIFER: But you should be doing other things too, because that's where growth is.
And I find, for example, by going out and doing things on my own at Entrepreneur, right. I mean, I'm at Entrepreneur, but I speak, for example, do a lot of speaking. I get paid, Entrepreneur doesn't get paid.
I wrote this book, Entrepreneur didn't get paid for that, I got paid for that, but these create opportunities for me, but then I also then bring back to Entrepreneur.
I meet this television producer and he says, hey, what are you doing at Entrepreneur? And now I make an introduction and now we're having... It really serves both purposes.
And that's how I think of it. How can I basically leverage the opportunity that I have at Entrepreneur to one, do really good work at Entrepreneur, but also make sure that I'm building something that I can own myself.
FRANK BLAKE: Great. Great. Let's talk about, you referenced your book.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Let's talk about your latest book, and it's called Build For Tomorrow as your podcast is called, did you say?
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Interesting name.
JASON FEIFER: Thank you.
FRANK BLAKE: Why did you choose that title? What's the meaning behind it?
JASON FEIFER: It's funny. The podcast has been around for a long time.
I think I launched it in 2016 and it originally actually debuted under a different name, which was Pessimists Archive.
Now the reason it was called Pessimists Archive was because it was kind of an outgrowth of a very popular Twitter feed called Pessimists Archive.
And what Pessimists Archive does is the Twitter feed, it identifies these newspaper clippings from the last couple centuries where somebody's writing about how addictive radio is or how novels are going to corrupt the youth and it would share those.
And I partnered with the guy who had started the Twitter feed, his name is Louis, and made this podcast under the same name that basically tried to understand what was going on, right?
Instead of just sharing these clips, tried to find out, well, why did everybody try banning teddy bears in 1907? What was that about?
And anyway, the podcast grew and developed an audience and it was very exciting.
And a couple years ago, I hired some folks you know at Pen Name Consulting because they're friends of mine.
And the very first thing that they did was Richelle DeVoe, who's their audience insights researcher over there had surveyed my audience and came back with this kind of revelatory information.
Number one was that people listened to the show because they said it helped them feel more resilient about the future, which was fascinating. I didn't expect that.
And by the way, I should be clear, the name Pessimists Archive, it's not meant to be a pessimistic show, it's actually very optimistic show, but the idea was it was an archive of pessimists.
FRANK BLAKE: Look at these pessimists from the past, they were wrong.
JASON FEIFER: That's exactly right. Right.
FRANK BLAKE: Right.
JASON FEIFER: But turns out Richelle discovered major confusion, just having the name pessimists in the show title made people think that it was a pessimistic show, which meant that I had a hard time reaching my target audience.
And then if people liked the show, they had a hard time passing it along to friends. They'd tell friends about it and they'd be like, ah, that doesn't sound good.
I realized it's time for a change, right? A show about change needs to embrace change.
And so I thought, well, what should this title be?
At the same time as I was trying to figure this out, I was also in the process of selling my book. And my book, I sold the book under the title, You Come From the Future.
My editor acquired it at Harmony, which is a division of Penguin Random House.
And he was like, I don't really love You Come From the Future because it doesn't really mean anything.
I mean, it does because I have a little story behind it, but just by itself it doesn't really mean anything.
But you had written this thing on Instagram, which was Build For Tomorrow, Not For Yesterday. I really like that.
And I thought, well, that's really interesting.
Maybe we could even shorten it and it just says Build For Tomorrow because ultimately that is what we have to be doing.
I think a lot of people spend so much time building for yesterday.
They hold onto the thing that they had already created and then they want to just kind of keep doing that because it's comfortable, and that's building for yesterday, but you can't do that because yesterday's gone and the needs of yesterday's gone and everybody's moved on.
And if you're not building for tomorrow, then you're building nothing.
It just felt like it captured the essence of the thing that I wanted to communicate. And so we went with it.
FRANK BLAKE: And so as you're writing this book, did you already know the core theme of it or did it unfold as you were going through it?
JASON FEIFER: During the pandemic, I started telling this story, because I was watching what people were doing, I was watching how everybody all at the same time went through this change, right.
It was a kind of crazy experiment where everybody goes through the same change at the same time and then you can watch what happens from there.
And so when people would ask me, either on podcast or I would be on these sales calls with partners of Entrepreneurs and they'd ask me what are people feeling and going through?
And I'd say, I have observed true, I mean, that people are going through this change in four phases.
And in fact, I think that this is how people always go through change.
And here they are.
Phase one is panic, phase two is adaptation, phase three is new normal, phase four is wouldn't go back, where you reach this moment where you say I have something so new and valuable that I wouldn't want to go back to a time before I had it.
And so people loved this story because I think that they can relate to it and they see themselves in it.
And they're like, oh, what phase am I in? I guess maybe I'm still in panic.
And so when it came time to write the book, I realized that actually the way to write this book was to orient it around that story and try to understand through everything that I've learned.
I've spent the last many years talking to the most accomplished people in the world, as well as just the smartest people you've never heard of, just kind of main street entrepreneurs.
And I thought, if I could process everything that they've learned and also all the stories from history and use it in the service of helping guide people through these four phases of change, I think I would have something.
And so that was what ultimately drove how I structured and wrote the book.
FRANK BLAKE: Now you've thought about this, you've come from observation. First stage, panic.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah. Right.
FRANK BLAKE: Are people panicked enough or not panicked enough?
JASON FEIFER: I think it is probably on an individual basis, whether or not somebody's panicking too much.
FRANK BLAKE: But as a general observation.
You go, boy, what I observe is that people don't get panicked enough until the last minute, or do I observe people spend too damn much time panicking?
JASON FEIFER: I think that people spend too much damn time panicking, however, very interestingly, progress happens anyway, right?
If you were to zoom out, what you find, for example, is that over time, you will see these massive moral panics over the dumbest stuff.
Like I said, teddy bears in 1907 was a moral panic, there was moral panics over radio, over television.
Now we're kind of repeating everything all over again with social media.
And I don't find these to be particularly constructive conversations, but here's the thing.
Despite all the hand wringing and insanity, progress happens anyway where we still actually participate in the innovation, in the creation of new things.
We work out the problems that are very real, that existed with all of this stuff. And we sort of separate the noise from what really needs fixing.
And I think that we do this on an individual level too because if you think back to past changes that you navigated, you will find that they were scary and you were panicked or there was some time where you were like, I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to get through this. And then crazily enough, you did. You just did.
How did you do it? I mean, the answer is that you didn't wake up one day and say, aha, I have a master plan, which is the thing that we want.
We want the master plan and that never comes to us. We never feel we just have the key to or we have the lock or I don't even know what metaphor I'm trying to use. The key to the lock, but instead it happens in this kind of slow evolving way where you learn one thing and you apply it to something else.
And then you realize you had some skill that you had developed before is actually still pretty relevant right now and you get your way through.
I mean, I think ultimately the reason why people panic, Frank, is because people equate change with loss and that something new happens, it feels like it challenges or maybe even eliminates the thing that they're comfortable with.
And they experience that as loss and they have a hard time finding gain because loss is so much easier to identify than gain.
And then you feel disoriented, but even when you're disoriented, you will, at some point, find your orientation.
Things do not stay in one state forever, and we are all the better for it.
FRANK BLAKE: I assume this is part of the topic of your book is, versus having these four stages sort of happen to you, you actually control them a bit or understand them and guide them.
What is the difference between just having them happen?
I just go through panic onto wouldn't go back, all stages, and I do it either intentionally or unintentionally. What's the key difference?
JASON FEIFER: Well, the key difference, I think, is that when you take control of the process of change, you one, can move through it faster.
I think you can spend your energy more efficiently and you can create the things that people need.
I really, really believe in taking control and of viewing things through a lens of control. Right down to, I mean I alluded to, for example, before that I think that a lot of the conversation about technology today is very unconstructive and that goes to, for example, all this conversation about technology addiction.
People talk about technology addiction, but I've found in the research that I've done and in talking to people who research this for a living, it's not an addiction, it's an overuse.
And those are really important distinctions because if you're addicted to something, you don't have control over it, but if you're overusing something, you do have control of it.
Maybe you've built a bad habit and it's time to rethink that habit. You can change your habits.
And when we have language and we think about our relationship to change as something that we are not controlling, well then what we do is we create a learned helplessness where we are teaching ourselves that somebody else has to be in control of our situation because we can't handle it ourselves.
And I just fundamentally don't believe in that.
I mean, obviously people can have individual circumstances that are beyond their control, but I'd say by and large, whatever you're facing, there is some option available to you. And it is really a question of whether or not you're willing to identify it and take advantage of it.
FRANK BLAKE: And so are there characteristics or behaviors that help you identify those control points as is or does it come from gee, I have a mindset of optimism or I have a mindset that's towards the future?
What helps you focus more intentionally?
JASON FEIFER: I think one of the most important things that you can do is have a clear-eyed understanding of what about you or your organization does not change, even in the face of change.
Because I think that we all as individuals and then as organizations, I think that we associate ourselves too closely with, we identify too closely with the product of our work.
And as a result, if the product of our work changes, if the way in which we do something, the way in which we serve people, the way in which we produce a product, if that changes because of something, anything, because people's desires or interests change or needs change, because the market changes, because an industry changes, because an economy changes well, then we feel absolutely lost because we thought that we are the product of our work.
But if we realize that we're not, what we actually are is we are driven by something that is so core inside of us that it drove us to develop the skills that enabled us to do that work.
Well, now we have a good idea of what changes and what doesn't.
It's kind of abstract, but I'll tell you.
I used to think of myself, I started out in newspapers. I identified as a newspaper reporter and I had a really hard time leaving newspapers, even though I knew it wasn't for me because that was my identity.
And then I made the same mistake with magazines.
I mean, I am still in magazines, but I thought about leaving many times.
And one of the things that always kept me there, even if I was kind of miserable wherever I was working, was because I thought, well, I'm a magazine editor. I mean, I can't not work at a magazine.
It's the difference between that and this.
My kind of mission statement for myself right now is I tell stories in my own voice.
I tell stories, not magazine stories, not newspaper stories, not podcast stories, not book stories, not speaking stories, whatever, I tell stories. Take one away from me, I still have plenty more, it doesn't really matter.
And then in my own voice, I'm setting the terms for how I'm going to operate. Not in somebody else's voice, I'm not here to be subsumed by an organization and just do whatever somebody asks of me. I tell stories in my own voice.
When I am able to separate what I do from why I do it, then I am able to move forward into any moment of change saying, okay, well, here's what I still have, here's what hasn't changed.
And now I just need to find a new way to do it.
Doesn't make it easy, but it certainly gives you an orientation. And I think once you're able to do that for yourself, you're able to move through this a lot easier.
FRANK BLAKE: Let's talk for a minute about the fourth stage.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: I'm sure each of the stages has a lot of content behind it.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: But the "I wouldn't go back" stage.
JASON FEIFER: Uh-huh.
FRANK BLAKE: Describe that.
What's the core set of insights behind the I wouldn't go back stage?
JASON FEIFER: My belief is, and my observation, watching people go through change is that you eventually do reach this wouldn't go back moment.
This moment where you say, I have something so new and valuable that I wouldn't want to go back to a time before I had it.
And what's amazing about that is we cannot have possibly envisioned it at the very beginning.
There's a faith that has to take place that this kind of feeling is going to be there, but we've all experienced it, right?
We've experienced it in our career changes and our relationship changes.
You move cities. God, I know so many people who've left New York where I still live and they would say, I'm never going to love a place like I love New York. And then they get somewhere else and they're like, boy, I can't imagine ever moving back.
This is what happens to us.
Now, how do we get there?
I think one of the things that we need to do is we need to do this thing that I like to call reconsider the impossible.
When the pandemic was kind of raging and I was watching entrepreneurs reinvent themselves in their businesses, I got very curious about how it seemed to be that this moment of massive disruption led people to reinvent their businesses in a way that were so beneficial.
They found new business models, they found new people to serve. They transformed, obviously not everybody, but a lot of people.
And I wondered why and how, and I called around.
And one of the people I talked to was this guy named Brian Berkey, who is a business studies and legal ethics professor at Wharton.
And he said, a moment of crisis forces us to shift the window on what we're willing to collectively take seriously.
I really love that analysis.
What he's basically saying is there's a band, a large band of options. And we create a little narrow window and the options that we can see through that narrow window are the ones that we take seriously.
And that makes sense.
We have to do some version of that, right.
We literally don't have the time in the day to consider every option, but we're leaving a lot out.
And when crisis comes along, when change comes along, some of the things that are inside of our window don't work anymore and we have to look outside.
And what we discover is that some of the things that we thought were crazy or impossible or too difficult, or too whatever, were actually the best choice for us right now.
There was the right idea all along.
And so what we needed to do, like I said, is reconsider the impossible. And when we do, I think what we find is that there was a better way to do the thing that we were doing.
And now that you can recognize that, I think that you can feel liberated from feeling you have to hold on to what came before just because what came before was comfortable or because it worked at the time or because it led you to some success because there are better other options, as long as we are able to reconsider the impossible.
FRANK BLAKE: Let me ask the obvious question. Is there a way to get to the I wouldn't go back stage without having to go through the panic stage?
JASON FEIFER: I think that if you are really good at adapting, if you really believe in the value of change and that there will be a wouldn't go back moment for you, I don't know that it's possible to not panic even a little bit, but I think that you can move through it a lot faster.
And the more that you do it, the more that you know it is possible.
I mean, I'm always amazed talking with very seasoned leaders like yourself.
We've had a number of conversations before where they'll be telling me about some incredibly difficult challenge that they face and then they'll kind of strategically break down how they navigated it.
And that's not to say that probably there wasn't some moment at 3:00 AM where they were like, holy crap, I don't know about this, but you do it enough that you feel I know at least the game plan.
And I know that there's something that I can do here and I know that there's a way to be in control.
And that doesn't mean that it's not scary, right.
I mean, I'm sure that everybody who does anything that's high risk thinks there's some kind of moment of insanity to it, right.
But I think the more that you do it and the more that you believe in your own ability to do it, the easier you can get through the uncertain stuff and move towards progress and solutions.
FRANK BLAKE: I mean, you interact with a lot of folks, a lot of really great entrepreneurs and leaders.
Is there someone you'd say, boy, this person just... I wanted an example that was in my book of effectively moving through these four stages in building for tomorrow, who would that be?
JASON FEIFER: I've talked to a lot of people who I've been extremely impressed with the way that they've operated.
The one that jumps to mind as you ask this is as a guy who runs a brewery.
His name is Sam and he runs a brewery called Dogfish.
Have you ever heard of it? Are you a beer fan? Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Yeah. Yeah.
JASON FEIFER: Because he did this thing, so I remember years ago, I went and I visited Sam in his brewery in Delaware and we're walking around, he's telling me this story and I was just marveling at it because it was just such a perfect way of thinking about navigating change.
I'll just tell you in brief, which is that Sam, early days of Dogfish, came out with this beer called 90 minute IPA.
90 minute was a reference to 9% alcohol by volume, which is a really, really strong beer, right? Budweiser is a 4 and a half percent or something.
This is a, you drink the beer and you fall on the floor kind of thing.
People liked the beer and then IPA, this is just also important to the story here. It was 90 minute IPA.
That's the alcohol by volume, and then IPA for people who don't know is a popular bitter style of beer.
His distributor says to Sam, hey, people really like this beer, but can you make a version with less alcohol so people could enjoy a few?
And so Sam says, that's a good idea.
He makes what he calls 60 minute IPA, which 6% alcohol by volume. Far more drinkable, you can have a few, you're still standing up.
And people really like this beer, comes out and it becomes very, very popular very fast.
And then they love this beer and then they need this beer, they have to have this beer.
He's getting inundated with calls. And very quickly, this beer rockets up to become on track to be about 75 to 80% of all sales of Dogfish.
75 to 80% of everything that this guy is going to sell, or this company is going to sell, is this one beer.
Now, a lot of people would say, that's great, right? That's exactly what you want.
You want a hit product and you want to sell our product.
But Sam, as he's telling me this, as we're walking around his brewery, Sam thinks this is a problem. And the problem is that tastes change.
He knows it, right? It's built into his equation, tastes change.
If he allows this beer to dominate all sales of Dogfish, well, play it out.
That means that every time somebody encounters this beer at a restaurant, at a liquor store, wherever, the way in which they will experience Dogfish will be through an IPA, which is fine as long as IPAs are popular.
But the second that they're not, then he goes from being a hot brand to an old brand, and who wants to be an old brand?
Sam makes this decision, which sounds crazy, which was that he was going to cap sales of his best selling beer at 50%. Right.
This thing is on track to be 75 to 80%, he's capping it at 50%, which means that he's got all these people who are calling him and he cannot fulfill the orders. And they're angry.
They're angry at him, right? They're yelling at him on the streets of Delaware and Sam is Beyonce in Delaware.
The people love him and they're yelling at him because they run a liquor store, whatever, and they can't have the local beer that's hot.
And so I asked Sam, were you concerned about this, because it sounds kind of crazy.
And he said, no, because he felt really confident in what would happen if he just let this thing go by itself.
And so instead, he said, look, this was an education opportunity.
This was where when somebody reaches out and they say, I would like this 60 minute IPA, he could say, I'm sorry, it's not available right now. We make it really fresh and we're trying to keep up with demand, which of course is sort of a lie.
And in the meantime, why don't you try some of our other styles of beer?
Why don't you try our sezon, why don't you try our whatever.
And that is how Sam got all of his other beers into people's stores and that's how he gained a reputation, not as an old IPA brand, but as an innovative brand.
And that is how he sold the company for $300 million a couple years ago.
Now, the reason I tell you that story is because there is someone who didn't just navigate change, but rather anticipated it and built the reality of it into his decision making process.
And as he did that, he took this big risk and he did something that would've scared a lot of people.
And that frankly lost him money in the short term, but that by respecting the reality of change, he built a brand that has become iconic in the beer world and made him a lot of money.
And that is not a thing that would've happened if he just thought, well, screw change, it's not going to happen.
FRANK BLAKE: That's a great story.
Is there something for folks interested in exactly the process you're setting out, they're just interested in change generally, or just broader interest that you say, I discovered this in the writing of the book.
It's not what I thought going in, but this would be great for everyone to know.
JASON FEIFER: Well, I mean, I discovered a lot of things in the writing of the book.
I'll tell you something. Here, how about this?
I'm trying to think of what was one of the most surprising moments for me as an individual when I was working on this book.
I'm going to tell you a quick story that's going to be embarrassing. And that's how all the best stories should be. Okay.
And Frank, you get to decide if you want to possibly embarrass yourself as well in this story.
I was wondering if we are to agree that change is inevitable, then it's not really a question of whether or not to change, it's a question of what change to make.
And so, is there a way to forecast out what are the right decisions, a way to predict the future, and outside of going to a street corner psychic or something, was there somebody better at this?
And so I thought, well, why don't I look around and try to find a forecasting company and see how they do it.
And I found this company called Good Judgment. I get their CEO named Warren Hatch on the phone.
And the interesting thing about Good Judgment is actually Good Judgment came out of this government contest to try to identify people who are really good at forecasting.
And they have this system of tests that they put people through to identify what they call superforecasters, who are people who are just significantly better than the average person of looking at data and deciding what is likely to happen next.
And Warren is a superforecaster himself.
And so I said, Warren, what are the qualities of a superforecaster?
And he says, well, because what can other people learn to become a superforecaster-light themselves?
And he says, well, they're really good pattern matchers, they are able to identify and set aside their own biases, there are a whole bunch of things that they're really good at, but one of the most important, he says, is that they are not overconfident.
Because if you get a bunch of people in a room and you ask people to raise their hand if they're overconfident, nobody will.
But if you test them, it turns out that lots of people are overconfident.
And so of course my next question was, well, how do you test for overconfidence?
And he says, this is a long test, but I'll give you one of the questions on the test.
He says, what year was Gandhi born? What year was Gandhi born?
Now, do you know the answer to that, Frank? Because I did not.
FRANK BLAKE: I'd take a guess that it's the late-
JASON FEIFER: Don't guess, don't guess yet.
FRANK BLAKE: All right, all right.
JASON FEIFER: Don't guess yet because that's where we're going next.
FRANK BLAKE: Okay.
JASON FEIFER: But I like that you're willing to do it. Okay.
I tell Warren, I say, I have no idea what year Gandhi was born.
He says, doesn't matter. It's not the point, it's not a trivia contest.
What I want you to do is I want you to tell me the earliest possible year you think Gandhi was born and the latest possible year you think Gandhi was born, earliest and latest.
I said, okay.
Frank, do you want to, yeah. You were about to guess, do you want to play along?
What was the earliest and latest year you think Gandhi was born?
FRANK BLAKE: Wow. Okay. I'm going to say the latest would be 1915 and the earliest would be 1890.
JASON FEIFER: Okay. All right. Well, that's a lot better than me because I'm an idiot.
Now, I said the earliest is 1940 and the latest is 1955, which is terrible.
The answer is 1869.
Warren says the answer is 1869 and I laughed because I was embarrassed that I didn't know anything about Gandhi.
And he said, look, the point of this was not to know when Gandhi was born.
The point of this is to see how confident you are in the knowledge you think you have, because based on me saying I didn't know anything about Gandhi, I picked a 15 year band, right.
I didn't know anything. And I really offered a very narrow guess.
Now you were willing to jump in there so you felt you had more knowledge about Gandhi than I probably did, but you-
FRANK BLAKE: No, I'm just willing to guess.
JASON FEIFER: You're just willing to guess. Well, great.
And so you did something that was similar. You guessed a fairly narrow band. Your band was much wider than mine was, but still.
I said to Warren, it's funny because I guess had I really been comfortable with not knowing something and then respecting that I didn't know it, what I would've done is I would've said well, the earliest that he was born was 1600 and the latest he was born was 1980.
Why didn't I do that?
And Warren said, because you were overconfident, right? Because your bands were too narrow.
And what you need to do is in the future, be mindful of what it is that you don't know and then widen your bands, consider what you do not know and then open yourself to more information.
Because ultimately, what we need to do when we are trying to consider what is going to happen is that we need to be very aware of the things that we don't know so that we don't start making decisions based on things that we don't know.
Warren says, if you make one decision based on information that you think you have, but that you don't, well then you're now going to start compounding the problem by making a second decision on top of that based on the thing that you didn't know in the first place.
And soon you're really far out on a statistical limb.
And this really struck me because ever since he did this with me, I have kind of run friends through this exercise or whatever and everybody does something very similar to me.
They say they don't know anything about Gandhi and then they pick somewhere between a 15 and a 20 year band.
And I think that goes to show that we are maybe not as comfortable as we should be not knowing something.
And that the way in which we should approach the world is with more mindfulness about what we know and what we do not know, and a willingness to widen our bands.
FRANK BLAKE: I think it's a great story, great approach.
I would also say, in some fairness, if you're asked to pick something, if the band is too wide, you haven't done it.
JASON FEIFER: That is true.
FRANK BLAKE: If you said guess when Gandhi was born and you said the answer is sometime between 1600 and 2000, I mean, or 1950-
JASON FEIFER: You're punching on the question, yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: You've just said I'm not willing to guess is another way of phrasing that.
JASON FEIFER: Right. That is a very good point. Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: I mean, I think that humility around knowledge is profoundly important because it's always the assumptions that trip you, not always, but it's usually the assumptions that trip you up.
JASON FEIFER: Yeah. Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Yeah. That's terrific. All right.
When you bring that into your life, what's the implication of that proposal?
JASON FEIFER: Well, I think that when you bring this into your life, the implication is that the things that you are going through are not as big as they feel. That the changes that you are experiencing are not end all be all.
I mean, I remember talking to an entrepreneur once who was going through a merger and then the merger fell apart and I asked him how he dealt with it.
And he said, one of the things he thought about was Reed Hastings from Netflix, who, there was this moment where Reed tried to sell Netflix to Blockbuster for 50 million and they didn't bite, right.
It's sort of classic story about Blockbuster's hubris, but it's also a really wonderful story about Netflix because he could have thought, well, that's the end of that, right?
I built this thing, I had one shot at it, I was going to sell it to the market leader and I guess that's the end of the road, right?
Because that day was a failure, but as it turns out, that day was insignificant.
It was kind of an amusing bump along the road. And Netflix of course is a giant industry maker now.
And if you are able to zoom out from your own experiences, that is ultimately what just about everything that you go through is, which is that it's a kind of funny moment in time and might be a confusing and weird moment and it might feel scary, it has risks and it has implications.
It's not to say to not take things seriously, but rather it is to say that the things that we're doing don't, in the long run, carry the same feeling and weight as they do in the short run.
We should do the absolute best that we can to make the decisions that we have in the moment, but let's not forget that there are other decisions to come.
There are always other decisions to come.
And the more that we can respect that and focus on that, the more that we can, I think, lessen the panic that we have over any one change and just try to do the absolute best that we can.
FRANK BLAKE: That's great advice, it's terrific advice.
And Jason, I love the stories and I highly recommend everyone your podcast and I'm sure your book is going to be great.
We'll make an offering for our listeners to be able to get it for free. I always ask who has done a crazy good turn for you?
JASON FEIFER: Yeah.
FRANK BLAKE: Because you've now dispensed a lot of wisdom and advice to our listeners.
Who's done a crazy good thing for you?
JASON FEIFER: I mean, I'm very fortunate a lot of people have done crazy good things for me.
It's funny. I was just in LA doing some media and my friend, John Beer, who runs a PR agency out there, I was supposed to get lunch with him before going to the airport, but then I ran long and I didn't have time.
And so he ended up just picking me up from my one spot and driving me to the airport and then that was it.
And then I was reflecting upon how it is rare to come across people and have people in your lives who just go out of their way, right. They just go out of their way to do nice.
The last time I saw him, I was two and a half hours outside of LA doing a talk and he was like, yeah, I'll drive out to say hi. The guy drove two and a half hours.
And he has given me so much advice. He was really the first person who told me, you can make money as a speaker.
And I said, are you sure about that? And now it's a nice portion of my income.
And so anyway, I guess shout out to John for being willing to go out of his way.
And you know that when somebody goes out of their way for you, you're not the only person, that's how they think, that's how they treat people and that's pretty great.
FRANK BLAKE: Another question before I let you go.
Is there someone out there writing, doing something for other people, somebody that you have come across or pay attention to that is maybe not so well known that you'd say God, the world needs to be paying more attention to this person?
JASON FEIFER: I will offer two things here.
For all the time that I spend talking with entrepreneurs, I think it's important to kind of step away from whatever it is that you spend all your time engaging with.
And I'm a big podcast listener and one of my favorite podcasts is this show called Everything is Alive by Ian Chillag.
It is a show in which Ian has conversations with inanimate objects.
He has an actor perform from the point of view of a lamp post or a subway seat or a sock. And what I find so charming about it is that despite that kind of schlocky setup, they have really gone through great lengths to think what the perspective of life would be from that object.
What would that object see of the world and understand of the world and understand of their place in the world?
And I just love it because, well one, I think it's just really valuable to see things through other things' perspectives and to have spent that much time really thinking about it and kind of coming up with a full internal understanding is just special.
I recommend that show as a way to get out of your own head. And then, so again, it's called Everything is Alive.
And then I will tell you just the thing that really struck me most recently.
I don't know this person personally, but we just ran this story in the magazine, in Entrepreneur magazine about this woman whose name is Amy Nelson.
Amy was the founder of something called the Riveter, which is a women's co-working space. And then she was pivoting the company during the pandemic, because of course, co-working companies did not fare well in the pandemic.
And while she was doing that, this high stakes kind of life or death for the company pivot, her husband fell under investigation by the FBI for some crazy stuff when he worked at Amazon and anyway, the government froze their assets and they had to sell their house and leave.
And anyway, and I have gone through some challenging things in my own life.
I was sued for years, this crazy insane case that was very unfair.
And I was just reading this and thinking it is so valuable for other people to see what it is like up close for somebody to go through something very, very hard and then see that they get through the other side, right, which Amy has.
She actually pivoted her company into something called Riveter Spaces now, which you can book working spaces in hotels.
And she just came out with this perspective where there was a time where she was shaking uncontrollably and unable to figure out how possibly to just get through the day, to having control over her life and her company.
And we had a reporter, Liz Brody, she's a contributing editor at Entrepreneur and she spent a year and a half talking to Amy for this story.
We just ran it in the October issue and I read it and it's an emotional experience reading that story because if you've ever been through something like that, and I've never been through anything like that, but everybody has their own things.
Then when you see somebody else go through it and be willing to share what it is like and watch somebody evolve, you can see how the darkest days do not stay forever.
FRANK BLAKE: That's awesome. That's terrific.
Well, final question for everyone who's listened and been fascinated.
What's the best place to follow either your newsletter, your podcast, where do they find Jason?
JASON FEIFER: Yeah. Well, thanks.
Anyway, I'll tell you of a reminder, the name of the book is Build For Tomorrow.
The name of the podcast is Build For Tomorrow. Nice and easy on both.
And I also have this newsletter and anyway, you can just find it all at my website.
It's jasonfeifer.com is a really good spot to go to that you can get a link to the book and to the newsletter and to everything else.
And I will say, I'm extremely responsive.
If you're hearing this and anything that we talked about today got you thinking and you want to share some feedback or tell me that you got the book or whatever, reach out.
There's a contact form on the website, you can also DM me anywhere you find me on social media and I will totally respond.
FRANK BLAKE: Well, and we look forward to giving away 50 copies of your book because I'm sure it's going to be fantastic, just as this conversation was.
JASON FEIFER: Well, thank you.
FRANK BLAKE: It's terrific.
JASON FEIFER: I really, really appreciate that you've done that and thank you so much.
Win a Free Copy of ‘Build for Tomorrow’
As editor of Entrepreneur magazine, Jason has examined some of the most brilliant minds in business to learn from their successes and disappointments.
In his new book, Build for Tomorrow: An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career, he draws upon those stories to create an essential guide for approaching change not as loss, but as opportunity.
It will help readers move more quickly through the four phases of change toward a new and better position that they might never have imagined.
We're giving away 50 free copies of Jason's book so listeners can reach their "wouldn't go back" moments. Click here to enter to win.
Thank You Awards
During this campaign, we will send a signed thank-you letter along with a $50 gift card to just about anyone you feel grateful toward.
Just tell us who they are, and why what they did was so generous.
We encourage listeners to send in stories of kindnesses great and small.
Here are just a few of the nominations sent in so far by listeners like you:
Billy Kerbel nominated his mother, Melissa Kerbel, of New Jersey: "My mom is one of the most generous people I have ever known.
She has volunteered at the soup kitchen every week for several years and constantly goes out of her way to help people and bring a smile to their face.
She runs a community garden and distributes fresh produce and flowers to our neighbors with no thought of getting anything in return.
I can think of no one else that deserves recognition more!"
Beverly Laude nominated Sarah Hostetler of New Mexico: "I was involved in a serious car wreck and Sarah was here to pick me up from the hospital, drive me to all doctor appointments, brought food to me, took me to the bank when I needed to go, took me grocery shopping and more.
I couldn't drive for 3 months and she and her husband were always available to help."
To nominate someone you know or admire for a $50 Thank You Award, go to crazygoodturns.org/thankyou.
From Frank Blake
My Sincere Thanks
Your support has helped take our little idea to celebrate generosity and good deeds, and turn it into one of the most listened-to podcasts available.
Thank you for being part of a community that celebrates people who do good things for others.
Your giving of your time to listen to these interviews, and acknowledging those good deeds, is a crazy good turn of its own.
Please help us continue to grow by subscribing on your preferred podcast platform.
And please, help us spread the word by sharing our show and website with friends.