“Do or do not. There is no try.”

– Yoda

Today we sit down with one of the world’s foremost business growth experts, Kerwin Rae. Kerwin has amassed millions of followers with his raw, no-nonsense motivational style. In an extraordinary career, he’s helped more than 100,000 businesses in 150+ different industries, in more than a dozen countries, to achieve better results. He is also host of the Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast.

But Kerwin certainly had to attend the school of hard knocks to get where he is today. At 7 years old, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. At 15, he had the first of seven near-death experiences. And at 19, he became addicted to drugs.

It looked like the stars simply wouldn’t align for his life, and he hadn’t even read a book in full until he was 23 – which is coincidentally the same year he started his first business.

Then, a series of transformational moments occurred that made Kerwin realize he had FAR more potential than he ever thought possible. At that point, he realized that his rollercoaster journey – through difficult lessons and significant hardships – had actually equipped him with an unparalleled ability to help others succeed. And he’s been kicking massive goals ever since.

Incredibly, he was one of the few people on the entire planet to properly foresee how dramatically things were going to change as a result of covid, and he pivoted his business accordingly.

In this interview, Kerwin and I talk about:

You’ll certainly be ready to Win the Day after this episode.

James Whittaker:
You’re known for your amazing energy and larger than life presence – whether it's on stage or in the office. Who were you before the bulletproof Kerwin Rae that we see today?

Kerwin Rae:
Probably the Swiss cheese version of Kerwin Rae – full of holes. I wouldn't say I'm bulletproof. But I'd certainly say that yes, I've always had a certain aspect of my personality that is quite persistent. And I think that's played out through my life in a number of different ways. But it's hard to say. Like anyone mate, we've all been through so many different experiences in life, and I can honestly say, I've probably lived four or five different lives in the lifetime that I've had.

So it's like asking me who was I before this version? Or who was I before the version before that? But I guess you could say, I've always been someone who’s really enjoyed helping people. I'm someone who natively likes to help and support others – it’s just something I do instinctively – and I think that's played out in a range of different ways. It's been able to support me and many other people in the process.

You and I are acutely aware of the power of the mind. It's what we do with our work and we both love helping people. We know that just as we can think and grow rich, we can also think and grow poor. When you were diagnosed at the age of seven with things like ADHD, and told that you had learning difficulties, dyslexia, and all these different things, how did those labels shape your younger years? And how do you feel about putting labels, good or bad, on children these days?

At the time, I don't think I gave much credence to the labels. It was more the description and how I was treated as a result. I didn't understand ADHD and dyslexia. I just knew that I found it really difficult to learn at school, and I found it very difficult to concentrate. The teachers often made a point of making it known that I was different from everyone else in that capacity. 

At a very early age, as far back as I can remember, there was a suggestion given to me by an immediate family member that I was ‘stupid.’ In many respects, I grabbed onto it – that label of being stupid. And then I started to manifest that in a whole range of different ways. And a lot of that, the ADHD and dyslexia, was ultimately the experience of really struggling in the learning space.

Can you take us into the moment of when you shifted your mindset away from feeling stupid to feeling like you had power – the moment when, for the first time, your destiny was potentially much brighter than what you’d been told to that point?

That's a good question. I actually remember where I was. I was in Carindale in Brisbane [Australia]. I was managing a fitness equipment store at the time, and I was reading a book by Dr. David Schwartz called The Magic of Thinking Big. I remember reading that book because it was given to me by someone I knew. And as I read that book, which I read feverishly – and I never read anything feverishly because I always struggled to read. Like, I had never even read the newspaper up until this point. I didn't read anything. I don’t think, until that point, I’d even read a book cover to cover before.

And this book kind of attuned me into the possibility that maybe there was more potential out there, that there was a possibility of some form of growth and personal development. I read the book over three days, got to the end – which, first of all, was a serious feat because it was the first time I’d read a book cover to cover. But then I remember getting to the end of the book, looking at the back cover and thinking, “Huh, I actually fucking remember what's inside.”

Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.

Then I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m not stupid after all.” I remember thinking that exact thought.

From there, I just made it a practice to start reading news I was interested in. I even started buying newspapers, not because I was interested in the news, but I'd flick through the newspapers until I found a headline that caught my attention, and then I would start reading. To me, that was just a form of practice.

Wow, what an interesting catalyst.

You know, I actually grew up in Carindale for the first 15 years of my life!

There you go! I actually remember your dad.

We lived in the middle of nowhere, before all the residential developments. There was a neighboring house, but no one else around for about a 10-minute drive. So, one of my greatest athletic feats was at about the age of 12 trying to get to the corner store that was about a five-kilometer bike ride away!

I’m sure the experiences you’ve been through, like what you just mentioned, help you in the career you’ve got now where you help so many people. That story reminds me of the quote “When the student is ready, the master will appear” because you always had the ability. But it was specific resource that was able to completely change your trajectory.

Every day, I think about the sliding door moments from my own life and how they can be created for other people. Is a big part of the work that you do today to help other people create those sliding door moments that can massively change their belief of what’s possible and life trajectory?

Everyone's got their own story, and I'm not trying to put myself above or below anyone. But what I do know is I've come from a pretty interesting background where I've had a vast range of experiences that could be labeled as severe traumas. And as a result, that created a whole bunch of situations, contexts, and feelings within me. Some of those were given labels and diagnoses. But it just required a disproportionate amount of work.

I've seen the amount of work that I've had to do to get to the person I am today – and it hasn't been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination. But that's given me a really solid set of tools because I'm one of these people who is relentless, but I'm relentless from the perspective of sustainability. I don't just want to learn how to do something once. I want to learn how to do something over and over and over again.

And through this process of learning how to develop and grow myself, I'm equipped with tools that are incredibly powerful so when I look at anyone – and it's hard to look at anyone as anything other than what they are, which is an individual with their own experiences – but knowing where I've come from, I haven't met anyone to this day that I can't look at them and believe, “There’s still hope for you.”

That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform. But it's just getting people to that point where they can see that.

Many people out there feel like they don't have a good story. Brendon Burchard talks about his car accident. Janine Shepherd, a good mutual friend of ours, was literally hit by a truck. A lot of people out there feel that they’re not good enough because they don’t have a momentous story like that. But I think there's a huge market that you're serving of people who may not have a moment of great trauma from their lives. Although, I should clarify here that I believe everyone who has reached the age of 30 has overcome significant adversity and hardship in one way or another.

You've had a bunch of near-death experiences, business challenges, and personal challenges. Was there one of those challenges in particular that stands out where you were able to identify an equivalent benefit or advantage from?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to go through was probably the separation from my wife about three and a half years ago. That was mainly because I grew up in a single-parent household and I had these dreams and ambitions of creating a family-like environment in my own house. And when that didn’t come to fruition…

I feel very grateful that my ex-wife Kristen is an incredible human being. We’ve separated incredibly consciously, but at the time I was having this massive ideal shattered. This ideal of a mum and a dad, and a family that were going to have these big Christmases and these lives together. And when that started to come undone, from the perspective of the ideal, it required an enormous amount of work for me to balance the perspective and say, “Where’s the benefit in this? How is this serving me?”

Especially considering a significant body of my work is around relationship dynamics, and I’m now going through my own relationship breakdown. So, for me, it was beautiful and I’m so grateful. But I’m one of those people that whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly. I love challenge. I love doing things that are hard. And when we went through that period, it was very difficult, but it was very easy to see the benefits when you’re looking for them.

Whenever I experience challenge, I just embrace it really strongly.

One of the most incredible benefits that I received was all of a sudden I became a full-time dad 50% of the time, instead of a part-time dad 100% of the time, and that was absolutely transformational for me. It changed my life in every single way, shape and form, to the point where I look at that one aspect and say, “It’s in balance. I’m good. It’s all good. I’ve got nothing to regret and everything to be grateful for.”

Absolutely. What has happened in your life, or what have you done, that now enables you to stay so calm in highly stressful situations?

A disproportionate amount of fucking meditation and all sorts of other gizmos and gimmicks! But you've also got to understand my origins, mate. I was undiagnosed SPD. And what that means is I've got family who are on the spectrum. I'm on the spectrum myself. And SPD means I have a sensory processing disorder, but it's not really a disorder – it's more like an upgrade. All of my senses are heightened. So my sense of smell, taste, touch, everything is turned up.

Now everyone might go, “Oh, that's amazing,” but it's not amazing when you give that to a child who is evolving in an environment that is quite noisy and frenetic and hasn’t demonstrated how to regulate in a healthy and functional way. So for me, growing up, I didn't know anything other than feeling stressed because I was constantly under the bombardment of amplified information, whether it be a sound, sight, you name it. Going into a shopping center was a very different experience compared to most other kids.

As a result, I think it was only a few months ago where I came to this conclusion, that I've literally gone through almost every system in my body, learning how to regulate it consciously, just to try and feel normal. But in the process, I've developed an incredible set of tools that are being used by the military, by business, by mums, by dads, by anyone to regulate stress and stay calm and cool.

People look at me and might think, “Man, how is it that you're so calm?” Well, it’s because I spent decades as a very wound up anxious little child who didn't want to be that way. And I used to look at everyone around me as a kid and go, “Why does everyone look so fucking relaxed? I feel like I'm wound up like a spring here.”

So it’s all been about the pursuit of calm. And even to give you context, there are only two base fears that we have: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. I went straight for those two. Once I identified I had a fear of heights, I did 200 skydives in 12 months. I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that. Now that’s not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but you've got to understand, if you can learn to meditate in freefall – you know, flying through the air at more than 200 kilometers an hour – you can fucking meditate anywhere.

I did 60 skydives in very quick succession where I threw a heart rate monitor on and meditated in free fall with the aim of getting under 80 beats per minute and maintaining that.

One of the reasons why I pursued training with weapons and why I’ve trained with special forces — and I'm very lucky to have trained with some of the Navy SEALs and European special forces groups. When I do this training, people think, “Oh, it must be mad you know, running and jumping and climbing through the mountain.”

But I'm like, “No, dude, I don't get my hands fucking dirty in the mud. I play with the guns.”

The reason I like to play with the guns is because you're working in an environment that has a very loud percussion that activates the autonomic nervous system instantaneously if you don't know how to regulate.

And if you have to execute a series of 73 moves in the next three minutes and you're activated, you can't do that. You're fucked. But by virtue of exposing yourself to those stresses consistently – whether falling out of the sky, or loud noises as part of a complex range of sequences that can get someone or yourself killed – it forces you into a new zone where you are very clear on who you have to be. But, more importantly, you understand the value of calm.

One of the reasons that people aren't calm is they don't see the value of it. When you are calm, you have this massive objectivity to be able to make multiple decisions at any one time that most people can't make, because they're stressed and they're activated. There's a lot of value in calm once you start playing in that space.

For most people, jumping out of an airplane is probably stressful enough. But you're taking that to another level of constant growth around pushing the boundary at the furthermost point, which is the meditation in freefall thing, which is incredible.

Recently I had Emily Fletcher [Ziva Meditation] on the show, and we spoke about how 80% of doctor's visits are related to stress. Yet, the people who feel the most stress often aren’t taking the daily steps to improve themselves or get out of their comfort zone.

You’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of business leaders all around the world. Is stress an underlying factor for all those people? Maybe they're too busy working in their business rather than on the business. How much of a factor is stress, and how do you help people get through that?

Look, I would say it's a massive factor, and that's one of the reasons I think that we are so successful in what we do. When we work with business owners, the clients that we work with over a long period of time, there's about one in three or one in four that will 2X to 10X in the first 18 months to two years. We teach very solid business, marketing, leadership and scaling principles, yes. But the one thing that makes us different that really sets us apart is the psychological conditioning component that we teach. And a big part of that is learning how to deal with stress. Because here's what we know about stress: stress is the number one killer of the 21st century, and it’s a multi-billion-dollar issue in the workforce.

When we have stress activated in the body, our autonomic nervous system is activated, and we go into fight or flight. Adrenaline and cortisol start flooding the system and we lose within seven minutes about 50% of our intelligence. So when stress goes up, intelligence goes down. And to me it's a valuable question to ask, “Okay, what are the situations I'm in most that have the highest level of value that requires the greatest level of calm, that if I'm stressed most situations can cause me significant consequence?” And that is in your job, in your business, in your relationship, in those moments that really count.

And so, for me, there's an absolute clear correlation that if you're going to be alive, you're going to experience a level of stress. But if you're going to be an entrepreneur – and stress is a spectrum, right? You are going to significantly start to push yourself up that spectrum of experiencing stress. And the more you can regulate stress in a healthy way, at levels that other people can't, the more you’ll enable yourself to go further than anyone else can.

That’s the beautiful thing about being human. We all have this capability to grow. We all have this capability to change and transform.

The only difference between someone who plays here and someone who plays here is not necessarily their smarts. It's their ability to expose themselves to information, in some cases, stress, at a level that they can regulate in a healthy way. That's why not everyone's going to be able to build a multibillion-dollar company because not everyone could cope with the mental stress of even considering working with those denominations and those values. And that's why you'll always find where your limit is, and wherever that limit is you'll be constrained by some level of fear that triggers a level of stress.

The more we can interpersonally learn how to regulate the systems within our body consciously, based on the recognition of that being required, then the further we can go.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, once said in a letter to shareholders, “I've made billions of failures at Amazon literally.” That’s one of the wealthiest people who ever lived actively seeking out ways that he can get out of his comfort zone because he knows that the more he can expose his company to those environments, the more comfortable it will be. Which creates that sensory awareness around bringing something quickly to market that might resonate, in contrast to your traditional bureaucracy (e.g. banks, government organizations, etc.) that moves so slowly.

You had a two-year career break around the age of 33 when you were between business ventures where you were trying to figure out your next move. What did you do during that time which enabled you to find the business and path you’re on today that you’re so passionate about?

At the age of 32 or 33, I did what I probably should have done at 18 or 19. I took some time off because I went straight out of school and was working multiple jobs, which I had been doing since grade 10 or earlier. From the moment I could work, I was working multiple jobs. And so I never took any time off. At 32, I just got out of a venture, I had some money in my pocket, and I was like, “You know what, I'm going to take some time off.” And I did, and I took some time off living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

I just took enough time – and I think this is critical, I think this is something that everyone should be open to – I took the time to get bored. And the reason I think that's important is because it's not until we get bored that we get really curious. As I said, I've lived many different iterations of my life and my life is very full, and very rarely does it ever get boring. But this is one stage of my life that I got to where I'd basically done everything I wanted to do from a financial perspective.

I thought, “Well, maybe I want to retire now.” I took that time out. And then I started looking at who I was surrounding myself with in that phase. I was playing golf a couple of times a week with 74-year-old men who would sometimes accidentally piss their pants when they hit a good drive. And I thought, “Fuck, these guys aren’t exactly inspiring me to stay retired.”

I had to get to the point where I was so bored that I thought, “Right, I’ve got to do something. I'm going out of my fucking mind here. I’ve got to do something.” But I didn’t need to, so I put myself in a situation where I had to. After two years, I got to the point where I'd spent all my liquid capital, and if I wanted to keep living, I had to start selling assets. And I was like, “Yeah, fuck that.”

I sat down on the beach with a notepad and my cat. I had a bengal, and he's like a little leopard that thinks he's a dog. And I just started writing down what I love to do, and I kept coming back to teaching, I love teaching, I love speaking. But I was quite jaded, because when I'd come out of the industry two years previous, I'd worked in a range of different businesses, and I'd seen quite a different perspective. Like yourself, James, I'd been exposed to both sides of the seminar industry and I was just like, “I have no interest in coming back to the seminar industry.”

But I sat down to identify what I really loved to do: I love to teach, I love to help, I love to serve. Then I thought, “Well, I do that greatest when I'm speaking.” But I’d said I'd never do that again. In that moment, and I remember it was a Tuesday afternoon on that beach, it was a little bit overcast, the waves were pumping, and I made the choice that I was only going to take the stage if I would talk about something I was actually doing.

I gave myself a little bit of leeway, a 95% congruency. But with that 5%, they still needed to be things that I was going to do. The important message for myself at the time was don't talk about it unless you're fucking doing it. Don't talk to it unless you've got experience. Otherwise make it clear that you are going to do it. And that’s become a big part of our brand and making sure we’re genuine and authentic in what we do.

And I think that really comes across in everything you do. It reminds me of what you said at our event for podcasters a few months back that “Leadership is not a badge, it’s a behavior.” It’s about leading by example and taking that time to explore your intellectual curiosity.

I've got to connect you with a friend of mine, Michael Fox, who had a company called Shoes of Prey, which was the world’s first custom women’s shoe company. After a 10-year rollercoaster journey, he lost USD $25 million of investor’s money and his marriage broke up. He then took six months to explore his intellectual curiosity, and that's what led him to that mission of wanting to end industrial agriculture. And now he's created a new business called Fable Food Co that just launched in 600+ Woolworths stores, with partners like Heston Blumenthal, and they’re absolutely crushing it.

That’s great. I love that.

Once you’ve been an entrepreneur, it’s extremely hard to stop working or switch off. But big results if you can manage it properly.

I actually got the idea from David Deida in one of his books, I think it was The Way of The Superior Man. He spoke about how oftentimes what men will do is they'll keep themselves distracted, which will prevent them from discovering their purpose when they stumble upon it. And that's why I'd recommend this to a lot of people to take extended periods of time just to do nothing, just to get bored.

And we see it with kids. A big part of the Montessori method that we do with our son Noah is the importance of getting kids bored because that’s when their imaginations fire up the most.

From all the businesses and individuals that you've worked with and been able to help, is there one transformation in particular that you're most proud of or that stands out?

Yeah, there is actually. I know it might sound arrogant but my own. I feel like it’s a P.Diddy moment, “I'd like to thank me!” [laughs]

Look, it's hard. I don't know anyone as well as I know myself, so that's an honest answer. I've seen where I've come from and what I’ve gone through to get to where I am today – it's been a phenomenal transformation.

But if there's one other transformation that really stands out in my mind right now, it's Mattias, my filmmaker. When he came to me, I still remember his interview, his hair was shaking in the Skype interview and he was very mild. But the transformation, four or five years later, he's now probably one of the strongest leaders in our organization and he's got a great head on his shoulders.

He’s got his own story growing up and losing his mum at an early age. And the more I got to know him, the more I saw where he was from his journey. It’s a beautiful thing about working with a filmmaker, especially Mattias, because he's with me all the time. So you can't help but get to know him and find out more and more about each other. He's definitely one of the most phenomenal transformations I've seen.

Earlier you mentioned your six-year-old son, Noah. What do you do differently as a parent compared to how you see other people raise their kids?

I don't know because I don't look at what other people do with their kids, unless it’s in the line at Woolies [supermarket] or something.

Look, I’m like most other dads. I raise my voice every now and then. But the difference is, and this is probably the key difference, when I do I apologize straightaway. I'm human and can get a little bit on edge and lash out. I'll often say, “Buddy, I'm sorry for raising my voice. I'm not sorry for what I said, but I shouldn't raise my voice.” Then we can chat about the issue and bring it to an end that way.

So he sees me own my shit on the regular. Like, he really does see me own my shit on the regular! Which is something I hold very near and dear. But we also spend a lot of time together. I wouldn't say I’m anti-social but I'm not a massively social person. And one of the things I realized that up until the beginning in a new relationship about five or six months ago now, outside of work, 98% of my socialization was with my son, Noah.

And so I guess what that means is we spend a lot of time together. We hang out a lot, and we play cars, but one of the things we do on a very regular basis is we'll just hang out on a beanbag hugging and just talking. We will sometimes talk for hours. And I talk with him like he's a real human being and I talk with him at a high level, and I treat him with an enormous level of respect. I treat him as a human being, as an age-appropriate human being, but that comes with an incredible level of respect for the potential that he holds.

It’s up to everyone to parent their kids however they see fit based on their own experiences, but I see so many people who are quick to dictate to children how the world is. In contrast, I love asking children questions so they can tell me how the world is. I just love letting them talk and listening to their observations.

What is the biggest fear that you have for Noah as he gets older, and how are you equipping him to handle that?

I wouldn't say I have any big fears, outside of losing the little guy – that would absolutely destroy me. But I guess what I'm equipping him for is a very strong mental game. He gets some of the world's greatest coaching in some of the most important situations of his life. He really does. I look at him as, like myself, as probably one of the greatest clients I'm ever going to have. And I don't mean that in a commercial way, I just mean that in a way of service.

I'm just equipping him with a very strong mental game with a really strong focus on leadership and teamwork. Like, a disproportionate amount of our communication is around working as a team – working together, helping each other, being of service, helping people, and that kind of plays out in every context.

The other day, someone asked me, “How do you know you're successful?”

And I thought, “Okay, that's a good question.”

And I answered it honestly. I said I look at my son. I look at how he behaves in public. And that's not to say that every now and then he's not a bit of a cheeky monkey like other kids can be. He can be. But I look at the way that he treats a stranger, I look at the way that he treats the wait staff, I look at the way that he treats someone busking on the street. And he's the most polite, gentle, kind, loving human being I've ever fucking met in my life. And so that, to me, is success.

Now, I’ve just got to hold the standard for another 15 years to get him well on his way. But that's important to me. And I think that's a big part of why I do what I do. But I do an enormous, a disproportionate level, of socialization with my son.

Have you got anything that you focus on in particular to make sure that you're entirely present with him, such as switching your phone to airplane mode?

He's really good. If he's getting jacked off with the phone, he'll just give it to me straight. And we have a bit of a deal that if dad is distracted, he'll put the phone down. But also, if he has to get an important call, he can take it.

But this is one of the things that I do with my son that is maybe a little bit different as well. Yes, I give him an enormous level of presence. But I actually include him a lot of my business. You know, he sits in on a range of different meetings. He's been in planning meetings, sales calls, consulting calls, client meetings.

If he's around, he's welcome to come into the meeting, and he knows he's just got to be quiet. And so yes, that's something that I enjoy exposing him to as well.

With a 15-month-old daughter, I am astounded at how much she actually remembers and picks up. But I can't imagine the six-year-old level of consciousness. He’s going to learn so much more than what other people might actually think from participating in those situations.

And it's hilarious to see him in a meeting. In early February, I was in a meeting in the office giving someone some coaching. Noah turned to me and said, “Dad, just be nice to them. They’re new.”

Then I was like, “Oh, my God, this is hilarious.” So yeah, he's a pretty funny character. And that's why I look at how he behaves and him sitting in on these meetings and being involved in these meetings like you said, they hear everything, and they echo it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he's running the company in the next six years!

There's a poem that John Wooden used to have up in his office, and it was called ‘A Little Fellow Follows Me.’ I'll send it to you afterward, it’s incredible.

I love the sound of that.

It talks about how we’ve got a little companion who will always mimic what we do, good or bad – that whatever we do is handed down, whether we like it or not.

To switch gears for a second, you always talk about bigger, faster, stronger. How do you balance that hunger with enjoying happiness in the present?

I think it’s a practice. You don't just get happy by accident; you don't just get healthy by accident. Some people are naturally wired that way, maybe. But I think happiness is something that everybody needs to work on with a level of consciousness to be aware of how much they’re experiencing their life. And I'm no different to anybody else – I get obsessed with business performance and with everything moving so quickly, but sometimes I do forget to slow down and enjoy more.

And that's where the last few months have been quite special for me. I've now entered a new relationship for the first time, almost four years since the separation. And I've been spending more time in a family environment and bathing in a sea of happiness that is inspired by a different value to the business at a higher level. I've always bathed in the family value with my son, but to be putting myself back into the context of a family unit, it’s brought an enormous amount of happiness to me and awareness to the importance of managing that balance moving forward.

When covid hit, you were able to connect the dots quicker than anyone I’ve seen. How were you able to read the tea leaves of what was coming with covid, and how did you change your business as it was all unfolding? People might forget the uncertainty, but it was shifting wildly every day and it seemed that no one had any idea what was going on.

I guess you could say it was one-part luck, one-part smarts, and one-part timing. I'm someone who naturally gathers information every day. I use a range of different sources and look at a range of different data, depending on what's on my dashboard at the time. And somehow corona got on my dashboard on 7th January. When I read it, I thought, “Well, this is interesting.”

And I remember doing a little bit more research and thinking, “Fuck, there's something going on here.”

But then the very next day, 9th January, I jumped back on and it was media silence. And I remember thinking it was a bit strange. It went from outbreak in China to no talk at all. After about a 24-hour blackout, it was on the news again. And I just I couldn't shake it. Every day, I just kept gathering data.

So when the China outbreak happened, I was on it. When Spain, Italy, and France went up, I was on it. I ordered the first set of protective gear for our team on 18th January. We created our first biothreat response plan with the team on 24th January.

We had a 13-city tour that was scheduled for February, where I was going to be on 30 planes in 30 days, and I wanted to make sure that myself and the team were protected. A lot of people say, “Oh, it was a good intuition,” but it was just good foresight, combined with a solid intuition, and just looking at the data points.

In early January, I was literally saying on film, “Why the fuck is no one talking about this? This covid thing is taking off and no one’s talking about it.”

By 27th January I was saying, “China's been shut down for 3-4 weeks now. Everyone ships out of China, but no one is talking about this. What's going on?” When it hit, I thought, “Finally, someone's fucking paying attention,” because I'd been talking about it for seven weeks, heavily. As a result, my clients and our business were well insulated.

And it's so funny, because when I first went to my team and said, “Oh, this event will get canceled,” they were fighting it. They said it won’t be cancelled. And not only did that event get canceled, we ended up shutting down the event that we were just about to go into, like two weeks later, we shut it down halfway through. And I had team members arguing with me saying “No, that's not going to happen, it will never happen. That's impossible.” And I was like, “Oh, it's not impossible. It's going to fucking happen. Everyone needs to get their head around it now.”

For some context for those who don’t know, when you ordered all that protective equipment, that was seven weeks before the US stopped the first flights from Europe. And it was also five weeks before Nancy Pelosi held a press conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown district to reassure people that everything was fine and that they should continue their lives as normal. To make that call many weeks before those things happened is incredible.

It's kind of birthed a new division in the company. We now have, I guess you could say, a small intelligence division in the company that just gathers data. And it gathers data at whatever we point it at, which is very helpful. We’re going to explore that more moving forward.

A lot of people these days want the instant monetization strategies, the magic bullets. But for me, and I suspect you too, relationships have been by far the most valuable asset and the most valuable weapon in the arsenal. How have relationships played a role in the success that you have today?

Massively. A relationship is a dynamic that's also on a spectrum, and we're all involved in them. It just depends on what types of relationships, whether they be relationships with our family, our team, our audience, our clients. And so, as someone who is a massive introvert, it's been a real journey. Because I wanted to be like, “Okay, I just want to help people and make money, but I don't want to talk to anybody!”

It’s interesting because I see that playing out with a lot of our clients who say, “Well, I'm not really a people person.” I go, “Well, neither was I. I had to fucking learn!”

If you want to do anything well, you're going to require a team. And if we're going to have a team, there's going to be relationship dynamics at play. And fundamentally, what determines the performance of those dynamics is your communication strategy and how well you communicate. It ultimately determines the level of trust or connection that you have, which ultimately determines the quality of the collaboration.

And that collaboration might be your wife or husband. Again, that might sound cold, but it’s the reality. It's an intimate collaboration, whether its collaboration with your kid when you’re parenting, or collaboration with your team member when you are trying to lead.

As humans, we are built to collaborate. But not all of us got the best instructions on how to do that effectively.

I just had Keith Ferrazzi on the show who’s the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like Never Eat Alone. During our interview he mentioned that the next romantic partner he wants to have will be his partner not just on the relationship side but to co-elevate with. To lift each other higher.

In a relationship that involves kids, they allocate so much meaning to the relationship the parents have with each other. Is that a big focus for you and your ex-partner – making sure the relationship you have with Noah’s mum is one he admires and respects?

As parents, we need to swallow a pill, take a step back, and start to really become aware, because a lot of parents look at the relationship dynamics of their children and say, “Well, I don’t know where that comes from.” I’ll tell you right now, there is a very high probability it came from you. Whenever Cesar Millan works with a dog, he goes, “I rehabilitate the dog and I train the human.” It’s the same thing with kids. As parents, we’ve got to be very careful with the blueprint that we demonstrate because that ultimately become the foundational operating system of how they relate in a different context.  

And that can be at an intimate level. One of the biggest fallacies that we tell our kids is that if someone is mean to you, it means they like you. What does that tell a six-year-old girl or a six-year-old boy?

“Oh, that boy is bullying me.”

“He doesn't not like you. He likes you, but he just doesn’t know how to tell you.”

And so now we start building this whole model of people treating you poorly, which you interpret as them meaning they love you. Or they start looking at the dynamics they have with their mom or their dad, and their communications strategy, and they don’t understand why their communications strategy keeps playing out in their intimate lives when they move forward.

As parents, we have a lot to answer for, but we also have a lot to be responsible for and a lot to be grateful for, if we are conscious of what we demonstrate.

Check out the YouTube or podcast or YouTube version where Kerwin does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question, what's one thing you do to Win the Day?

I just get it done. To me, when you know yourself well enough, you just know what buttons to push and you can do anything, in most cases, regardless of context.

Always great to see you! Thanks for coming on the show.

Absolute pleasure, James. See you, next time buddy.

Resources / links mentioned:

📝 Kerwin Rae on Facebook

📷 Kerwin Rae on Instagram

Kerwin Rae website

🔥 Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

🧭 Unstoppable with Kerwin Rae podcast

📙 The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

“Success in any field – but especially in business – is about working with people, not against them.”

– Keith Ferrazzi

There’s less than a handful of people on the entire planet currently alive today whose work has continually and significantly impacted my life. Without even knowing them personally, these people have spoken to me through their life-changing books and given me the confidence and tools that really inspired the mission that I’m on now and that I will continue until my dying breath.

Today, I am extremely grateful to have one of those people on the Win the Day show: Keith Ferrazzi. Keith is undoubtedly the global leader in relationships and networking. In fact, he’s often cited as the modern-day Dale Carnegie. (For those who don’t know, Dale Carnegie is author of one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, How to Win Friends and Influence People.)

As long-time fans of the Win the Day show will recall, relationships have been by far the most important ingredient in literally every success I have enjoyed to this point and I’m sure will be responsible for every opportunity that arrives in the future. I’ve spoken before about my struggles through high school and as a young adult, and that it was really only at the age of 23 when I felt focused and empowered for the first time.

But the journey from then certainly wasn’t a straight line.

In 2012, I moved to Boston on the east coast of the US – about as far away from my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, as you can get. I was 28 at the time and moved there to study an MBA, and early in the university program they mentioned Keith’s book Never Eat Alone so I grabbed a copy.

The #1 New York Times bestselling book showed how being genuinely interested in other people, being of thoughtful service to others, and constantly learning (and practicing) every day are the foundations to making every one of our own dreams come true. This philosophy had a profound impact on my life. Keith’s blueprint to success in relationships – along with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset and Napoleon Hill’s achievement principles – are what have shaped my mindset today and really underpin everything I do.

Yet, more than ever, I see people who want magic bullets to success – and the secret to instant monetization. However, this focus on immediate gratification all but nullifies the opportunity to establish authentic, lifelong connections that can provide enormously transformational experiences for us and the people we meet.

In May this year, during my presentation at our virtual event House Sessions, I even mentioned that my number one tip for monetization is not advertising, which everyone kills themselves to get, it’s relationships. It’s giving without the expectation of anything in return. It’s boldly being of service. And it’s knowing how to leverage the people in your network – the ones who would do anything to help you – to achieve your mission.

You're going to love this episode of Win the Day with Keith Ferrazzi, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like Never Eat Alone, Who’s Got Your Back, and the brand new Leading Without Authority. Keith leads executive teams of some of the most well-known companies in the world, including Delta Airlines, General Motors, and Verizon, and is featured regularly in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

When he was just a summer intern at Deloitte, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, Keith used the power of relationships to become the youngest Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company and the youngest partner in Deloitte history, all before he turned 30.

In addition to relationships and networking, Keith is recognized as the world’s foremost authority on remote work. At a time when most teams are failing, and the global pandemic has pushed the majority of organizations to remote work, Keith’s mission is more important than ever.

In this episode, we talk about:

At the bottom of this page, you can also check out the 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi.

James Whittaker:
I know we were talking offline, but I wanted to quickly give a public acknowledgement to express my gratitude for all you've done – not just to help me, but how you’ve helped the world through your work. It's had a profound impact on my career and on my life, and I know for millions of other people around the world too. So thank you. It means a lot to me that you're on the show today.

Keith Ferrazzi:
Thank you, James. I'm honored.

Three of the most impactful books I've ever read are: How to Win Friends and Influence People (by Dale Carnegie), Think and Grow Rich (by Napoleon Hill), and your book Never Eat Alone

Those are the three books that had the biggest impact on my life too!

It's a good coincidence then! All those books include themes like: being genuinely interested in other people; the power of the mastermind; how we can all go higher together; and the importance of working on your relationships now rather than when you desperately need them. Those three books have enormously shaped my mindset and created all the opportunities and relationships I have in my life today.

All your work talks about relationships, but I want to know whether you had relationships with any books that played a pivotal role early in your career?

Yes, particularly How to Win Friends and Influence People. My father gave me that book when I was young, and I have to say there's nothing more gratifying to me than when somebody will say to me or introduce me as ‘the modern-day Dale Carnegie.’

Another book you wouldn’t imagine is The Great Gatsby. Growing up, I was a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and I got to go to some pretty prestigious schools thanks to my parents' commitment to education. But through that, I also created and absorbed a great deal of insecurity. I didn't feel I deserved to be in the room. I wasn't as good as the rich kids.

And if you know that last chapter of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby – who came from the wrong side of the tracks – had this beautiful desire to be with Daisy Buchanan. He moved to a mansion right across the ocean from her, in the Long Island Sound. He longed for that green light on her deck that someday he could be something. And that actually was his demise and what ultimately led to his death, as you know from the book.

And the name of my company is Ferrazzi Greenlight. It's to always remind me of that deep insecurity I had as a kid and how that insecurity could really be my demise if I didn't watch out for it. So, The Great Gatsby was a warning to me as a young man.

“It's to always remind me of that deep insecurity I had as a kid and how that insecurity could really be my demise if I didn't watch out for it.”

I just finished your awesome new book Leading Without Authority, where you introduce the concept of ‘co-elevation.’ For those who haven't read the book, what is co-elevation and what problems does it solve in this rapidly changing world we're in?

Thanks, James. Co-elevation is a shift of an operating system in the workplace. And in the last four months, we have seen more innovation change the way of work than we have in 20 years. We’ve been talking about the future of work for 20 years. It happened in four months. And I think the question we have to ask ourselves is: how are we as leaders, teams, and organizations in a post-covid world?

You read my book, Never Eat Alone, and it's about networking. Today, we work in networks. Anybody who's listening to this podcast has to understand that your dreams, hopes, and aspirations depend on your capacity to create a team around you that will co-create and fulfill the mission that you have.

But the mission that you have is owned by the team. So when you invite somebody into your mission, you're inviting them into their mission as well. It’s that journey of co-creation … of taking a hill together. And at the same time as you’re going for that shared mission as a team, you're also equally as committed to each other's development.

Co-elevation is a commitment to a shared mission and a commitment to each other. When a team has that, nothing can stop them.

“Co-elevation is a commitment to a shared mission and a commitment to each other. When a team has that, nothing can stop them.”

Another big theme of the book is that maximizing each other's capabilities should be the responsibility of every member of team. I think that's so important, whether it's a sporting team, a business team, or even a family team.

But in the business world, particularly, we have these hierarchies and job titles. People in a junior role might not feel comfortable approaching someone higher, or maybe the person in a senior role might rest on their laurels due to their job title. Is traditional leadership now out of date, and are job titles sabotaging companies from within?

We have to take a step back to recognize the world we live in today. Today, the world demands transformational levels of change from all of us. If you're an entrepreneur, or simply an individual who wants to achieve anything, it requires that you consume radically large volumes of information and continuously adapt to that information to figure out what your plan and strategy is. You also need to keep pivoting because that information changes pretty frequently.

That's unheard of. Previously, we never had that. I coach the transformation of teams and work with companies like General Motors and Delta Airlines. These groups have wake up every day and ask themselves: “What business are we in? How do we deliver?” And so, every one of us has to meet these transformational pressures.

Now, how do you do that? Well, you cannot do that alone. You're only going to be able to do that through unleashing the insights, the wisdom, the warnings of risk, and with the help of a calm networked set of individuals.

So, if you thought your job was to manage your team, meaning the team of people that report to you, and you think that's going to get you there? Bullshit. There's no way you're going to meet the pressures on you by simply managing the resources you have.

Your ability to transform and meet the pressures of the marketplace is dependent on your ability to enlist others into your goals, your mission, and your vision. If you want to be transformational, you've got to work in the network.

I coach executive teams of some of the biggest companies in the world. Covid hits, and no one is spending outside money on new consulting. Even McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, they're giving away their consulting because they don't dare ask for cash, which they know these companies aren't giving, but they want to earn loyalty. So, from our perspective, what's the marketplace that we play in now? Well, we've started playing in the middle market where I've coached coaches in our methodology, and they deploy that into smaller companies. We have courses in team transformation that can be taken online, and I had none of that on March 1st.

“We’ve been talking about the future of work for 20 years. It happened in four months.”

So I needed a team to make all that happen. And I found my team in a group of individuals that I didn't even have to pay. Now, the co-creators of my business ended up being individuals that I had admired for years, who I reached out to. Jim Kwik, the memory expert, is a good friend of mine. I reached out to Jim and said that I didn’t know anything about online sales funnels and I needed to sell to small / medium sized businesses and individual business consumers. Jim walked me through the sales funnel process.

All these people came out of the woodwork to help me. Peter Diamandis. Tony Robbins. All of these people joined my team to help me create my business. Opportunities like that have nothing to do with your org chart. Remember that if you’re sitting there at the moment and think you’re stuck.

I had this conversation last night with my 25-year-old [foster] son. I got him at 16 and he's 25 now. He was bemoaning the fact that there's no work out there. And I said, “Kiddo, let's talk about who's on your team to find your work.” I could, obviously, help with that in a moment, but it’s about his ability to co-create a vision for himself. He needs to know what he wants to do, then invite people in to help him and work out what's next in both of their lives, right?

It's amazing how the entire world is open to you through the idea of creating a team where you’re going to help each other be successful. That's the bottom line, and that’s co-elevation.

These days, everyone wants a magic bullet, instant success. For example, I work with a lot of podcasters, and the number one challenge they have is how to monetize. But the only solution they come up with to monetize is to get sponsors on their podcast.

Recently, at We Are Podcast, I spoke about the number one monetization strategy that you can have is investing in relationships. I mean, Keith, look at the relationships that you and I have both been able to build. Then, as you said, you need to be clear on what you want and not be afraid to call in a favor, because other people who you have built up all that goodwill with actually want to help you. That can easily equate to millions, tens of millions, over time, rather than going for a short-term dollar.

One of my favorite quotes from your book is when you said, “I never let a title or a lack of one stop me.” How did you become the youngest Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company and the youngest partner in Deloitte history, all by the age of 30?

I'm going to try to answer this in a way that I can coach your listeners and viewers. Imagine yourself working inside of a company. And the CEO says his vision is to really go from eight in the industry to being one of the top consultancies in the world. You're in the audience. What do you do with that information?

Most people say, “Well, that’s nice and I'm glad to be part of the team that's going to go there.”

Well, here’s what I did. I went up to [Deloitte CEO Pat Locanto] the CEO afterward and said, “Sir, what are some of the critical elements that you have in your plan to make us become number one? What are some of the things you're working on?”

He responded by mentioning pieces of brand, marketing, and core competencies. And I said, “Sir, I know you didn't ask me to, but I'll do some research, and if see anything that could help, I'd love to be able to reach out to you and show you what I’ve got.”

He said, “Oh, sure kid” and didn’t think much would come of it.

Well, I went back to school because at the time I was a summer intern. At school, I reached out to a professor of mine and said, “I'd like to do a white paper on professional services marketing. I'd like to do that as a replacement for some of the work that we're doing in our class.”

And he agreed, saying that it sounded like an interesting project. So, I reached out to the top consultancies – their Chief Marketing Officers. I told them that I had spent the summer at Deloitte and was really intrigued by marketing and professional services, but I couldn't find much about it in the industry papers. I mentioned that I was going to do a study on best practices, and I would give them a copy of it when I was done.

So, I was a 100% transparent. And I talked to McKinsey about their vision for thought leadership – how they extracted it from the projects that McKinsey worked on and how they put that out into the marketplace. I talked to Jim Murphy about how he was applying traditional advertising and media, and what that looked like. And then I went to the other folks at the other firms.

I put it all together, sent it to Pat Locanto, and said, “Sir, you don't remember me, but I was the kid that said I'd like to do some research and come back to you. I have now interviewed the Chief Marketing Officers of all the major competitors. Here is the analysis of what a codified marketing strategy would be if we wanted to be rivaling one or two.”

Well, it kind of blew him away. None of his partners had ever done it. He didn't even have a Chief Marketing Officer.

Pat called me, flew me down from Boston (where I was at business school), and took me to dinner. He said, “Kid, this is unimaginable, what you just did. I want you to come and work for the firm, and I want you to come in and work on a project around redefining marketing for the company.”

I said, “I would love to. All I want is one-on-one dinners with you every few months.”

I knew that relationship was more precious than anything else. I did ask for more money; he didn't give it to me!

Then I said, “If I do this job for you, will you make me Chief Marketing Officer??

And he looked at me and laughed. Actually, he said, “No effing way! Get that out of your head. You’re a child, just out of business school, and you would have to be a partner to be the CMO.”

So I said, “Okay then. Make me a partner.”

He said, “You're just lucky you’ve got this opportunity.”

Within three years, I was the youngest partner ever elected at the firm and the Chief Marketing Officer of the company.

So, all I ask for those of you listening to this is don't give me bullshit. In chapter two of Leading Without Authority there's the six deadly excuses of why you are mediocre. And one of them is, is ‘laziness’ because the reality is that path with Deloitte took work. The other one is ‘deference,’ which means, “Oh, it's not my job.” That wasn't my job. There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path. Leading Without Authority is really a prescription for that.

“There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre. If you want to be extraordinary, you chart your path.”

Now, the flip side of that is if you are a title individual, holding onto your title is going to also make you mediocre because you'll never have enough resources under your control to really break through. You need to go to Peter Diamandis. You need to go to Jim Kwik. You need to get James Whittaker who knows everything about podcasts to teach you about podcasts, right?

So, you need to expand your view of team, which is chapter one of Leading Without Authority. You need to redefine your view of team. If you don't redefine your view of team, you will remain mediocre with mediocre resources.

Incredible stuff. What I love about the book is how tactical it gets, especially in the second half. I listened to the audiobook, but I think I need to go and get the hard cover because there's just some really amazing stuff in there!

How did the guy on the audiobook do? With covid, I really didn't have the time, even though I wanted to.

He did great! I feel like if you’re an author and you can't do the audio recording, at least find someone who's got a similar voice.

I listened to a bunch of guys and listened to their style. Then I got him on the phone, and I said, “Brother, let me explain this to you. Let me explain to you my passion. I've listened to your books. I don't know who directs you, but I want to tell you, you better be excited as hell about this book. This book is going to change the effing world and how we think about leadership and interdependency in the workplace. It’s going to redefine collaboration. You need to be excited about this. I want you to record your first chapter and send it to me. And if you're not excited enough, I will get someone else.”

By the way, I knew I didn’t need to listen to it. I just needed to throw that gauntlet on the table.

He did great. He's a good substitute for you anytime you can't do it!

You often talk about vulnerability and struggle. Why is that so powerful?

We work in a world where people don't have to do what you want them to do. So, that's what this book is written about. The book is written so that you can lead people who don't have to do what you want them to do. By the way, that's not just people who don't report to you.

I can remember all the jokes about millennials, but the reality is you have to earn your right to lead. People follow you, not out of authority, but out of their own compulsion to do so. So, the basic idea behind all of this was a word I created called opening porosity.

“You have to earn your right to lead.’

This [computer] screen is not porous. You drop water on it, it slides off. Sponges are porous and absorptive. You want people to be a sponge to you. You want people to be a sponge to your ideas. But what opens them to you? Vulnerability. Authenticity.

The reptilian brain, which controls your fight-flight mechanism, is triggered when people are insecure and fearful. A friend of mine, Christine Comaford, talks about people going to critter-state like that. So, many leaders have their people in critter state constantly. But if you’re constantly in critter state, you can't be innovative. You can't be risk-taking. You’ve got to be in flow.

And so, porosity is about us. How do you create ‘us’ with people? And the one human connector of a productive relationship is empathy. You open that door with vulnerability. Think about how I started this conversation when you asked me what books changed my life. I could have stopped at How to Win Friends and Influence People.

But I went to The Great Gatsby. Not only is it an accurate answer, but it’s expressing my vulnerability because what a great opportunity to start this dialogue with people getting a peek into who I am. They open their ears more. Does that make sense?

Absolutely. And I think one of the best things that you have done is stay grounded despite a lot of the people who you rub shoulders with today. I think it's great that your mission is still very much to help everyday people, rather than focusing on coaching the best executive teams in the world. I mean, you are doing that, but you're also doing a lot to help people all over the world because you're aware of the impact that one person with the right knowledge, expertise, and willingness to help can do for others.

Well, it goes back deeper than that. My whole mission… I don't think I've ever told this story in any of the books. My whole mission started at my dad's dinner table when he was unemployed. Unemployment was rampant in Pennsylvania. The bosses and the managers didn’t care about the workers. They weren't unleashing value from the organization.

“The one human connector of a productive relationship is empathy, and you open that door with vulnerability.”

I vowed that I would grow up and make sure that I made an impact on leadership and organizational dynamics, because I felt that we were unemployed because of it. That is an especially important lesson for me, and it is very humbling. I do what I do at General Motors and Verizon and Delta and all these companies because it saves jobs – hundreds of thousands of jobs – and families. That's why I do what I do.

That feeling from when you were young is still so strong within?

So strong. Hopefully I've ironed out a lot of the insecurity, but I’m still working on that.

We’re always a work in progress! What about bureaucratic bottlenecks? Some of my clients are police officers, in Australia and the US, who express their frustration with how hard it is to progress. You can also see that more broadly in any government organization, where people want to move up the ranks, and they don’t want to wait for the tap on the shoulder for it to happen, but they feel like there’s absolutely nowhere for them to go. What can employees of bureaucracies like governments do to move up the ranks quicker?

Well, frankly, the more barriers you have to progress, the more you need to influence the network. I was talking to General Stanley McChrystal who is an amazing business leader and coach. He and I were talking about how the people in the military that really make it to the top understand the network. It’s the grunts down at the front level, the infantry, who are not imagining the network is what's going to get them there. They're just doing what they're told. However, those who do awaken to that are the ones that navigate up through the hierarchy.

“The more barriers you have to progress, the more you need to influence the network.”

But it's true of everything. That’s the only way to move forward if the blockers of large organizations – like silos and bureaucracy – are standing in your way. Deloitte was probably one of the worst organizations at the time. And my whole point was, “Bullshit I’m going to wait for 12 years until I’m a shot at partner.”

I committed to adding so much value, and doing it in the face of the most powerful people that I could find. I didn’t want to play onesy, twoesy around the board. I wanted to go down the slide and win the game.

Rather than being confined by the linear progression, just because of how that worked for others previously?


In March this year, we started really feeling the effects of the pandemic. Now, people are working remotely. There's been a lot of unemployment and a lot of economic issues that I'm sure are still to come in the next few months and years.

Despite that, are there any opportunities or benefits that exist right now, uniquely as a result of what's happened with the pandemic, that people can use for their own personal growth?

Massive. So, that's the third business I just started. In March, everybody was panicked, and I started a business. I had done a lot of research around remote teams and remote work. I did it starting in 2015, and nobody gave a damn back then. I had invested $2 million in research on running remote teams, and I did it with Harvard Business School. I raised the money from Siemens, Cisco, Accenture and a bunch of others.

“I committed to adding so much value, and doing it in the face of the most powerful people that I could find.”

And I believe that remote can be better than co-located. I think a lot of us are finding that it's not as bad as we thought, and with certain adaptation you are going to get better collaboration. So, I opened a website called Virtual Teams Win, which was me finding opportunity in crisis. And through that website, we started courses and a resource center. That point of view gave me access.

For example, Zoom named me their top thought leader in remote teams. Fast Company did the same. Harvard Business Review asked me to do more pieces within a one-month period. I had more PR and more visibility because I read the tea leaves of where people were suffering the most, and I decided to serve that market.

I was talking to a gentleman this morning, Martin Lindstrom, who's just a brilliant market strategist. He was talking to me about how in times like this, you need to step back, look at the tea leaves and say, “How has customer demand changed and in what way? And how do we serve that?”

And it might be that you serve someone you've never served before. Unilever didn't do hand sanitizer, and in 20 days they had hand sanitizer on the shelves in North America. Normally, it would have taken them six months to get a product on the shelf.

And now the hottest item in the world.

Exactly. You need to look at the tea leaves and really understand and decide how you’re going to serve. With Virtual Teams Win we started a whole series of what we call ‘remote reboots.’ How does a team reboot itself in a remote world and make it a better team? But then I started hearing people talking about going back to work, and I thought, “What's that going to look like?” And I started getting scared, because I've seen more innovation in the last four months than I have seen in 20 years.

“I had more PR and more visibility because I read the tea leaves of where people were suffering the most, and I decided to serve that market.”

And I wanted to capture that. So, I started a media site, as opposed to go back to work, it's called Go Forward to Work. And I hired the former managing editor of Forbes, the former editor of Brand Week, and a few writers. And they're collecting the world's largest database of best practices of how work been redefined over the last four months and how marketing and sales have been redefined.

I know one large tech company that used to spend a billion dollars a year in sales travel, but now they've spent no money in sales travel. They've saved over $400 million in sales travel – and their loyalty numbers have gone up. So, what does that say?

One question is, “What have we seen that we like, and we want to hold on to, as we go forward?” Start curating that question with your team.

And the next question is, “What are the things that we're fearful in a remote world will not be performed as well?” And then when you list those things, stay on them and ask, “Well, how can we do them better?”

We believe we've engineered a process where team meetings can actually be better in remote world than they were physically. So, I think there's a lot of opportunity right now.

You speak all over the world and meet tens of thousands of people each year. What system do you have of keeping in touch with all those people that you meet?

I use Salesforce. I know it's a little expensive, and there may be a lot of things out there, but what I like about it is that as my company has grown, it doesn’t just track my network – it tracks campaigns.

The one thing I learned since writing Never Eat Alone is that a network is not about you running a bunch of individual relationships. It’s starting communities. And that's probably a whole conversation by itself, but starting communities is very powerful. When I started Go Forward to Work, part of the intention was to take all of my VIP relationships, pull them into a virtual room and say, “How will we teach each other what the future of work looks like?”

I started a community and then I hired a community manager, a gentleman from Forbes, who's curating that conversation, so when I'm not there, I'm still there. When that group convenes with Bruce, I'm present in that conversation, right? So, your ability to be present in conversations and build your network by building community makes you exponential in terms of your network.

So much of what you talk about comes from that abundance mindset. It's like when you were talking about hosting parties at your house, where you ask everyone to be co-hosting the evening – that they all make sure everyone's got a drink in their hand and that everyone’s invited into a conversation.

Well, the point I'm making is that leaders are great hosts. And part of being a great host is helping other people make other people comfortable. If I’ve got a table of 14, I can handle that. I can make everybody comfortable. But if I've got a party of 150, now I need to turn everybody into hosts. If everybody acts like a host to take care of each other, then everyone's going to be taken care of.

“Part of being a great host is helping other people make other people comfortable.”

It's the same thing with your team. A great team leader is a host of a team that takes care of each other.

In Leading Without Authority you talk about co-elevation in the workplace predominantly, but what about co-elevation in the home? How can it be used to improve a marriage, or a relationship with your children, or even a relationship with someone's parents?

By the way, it is so infrequent that I show up and somebody's done their homework. You've actually read the book and consumed it. It's just amazing! Thank you for that.

The example I use a lot is my son. I could not parent my child the way that my dad parented me, nor would I want to. And I think that's true of a lot of us. But with our spouses, imagine being in a spousal relationship where your commitment is to a shared and aligned set of goals for each other, for the family, for my career and for my spouse's career. And collectively we are going higher together where we are open and interested in each other's challenges, innovations, and critiques. Not critique as in badgering. Critique as in caring enough to correct. And it's received that way and it's given that way.

I'm single now. I've been single for five years and I've made a commitment that my spouse is going to be my co-elevating partner. That's one of the reasons I didn't dive back into a relationship sooner.

I'm hopeful that co-elevation is adopted by governments because we certainly need more cross the aisle collaboration. It's starting to heat up with all the [political] conventions. And unfortunately, we're going to see such divisiveness and lines drawn, when what we need is more co-creation because we need the brilliance on all sides of the aisle to come together and fix these problems.

Absolutely. Focusing on the future rather than pointing fingers or what might've got us here in the first place.

How can someone turn a generic “How can I be of service?” into actually being of service?

Well, listening helps and asking the question is easy. In the case of Pat Locanto, I was in the audience and I heard something and I was like, “Let me double click on that. That sounded important. Let me double click and let me see if I can be of service.”

It’s this idea of serve, share, and care. And the service piece is really understanding what another human values. And typically, there's a checklist: they care about the kids, they care about their own personal development, they care about the careers, they care about being entertained, they care about their intellectual growth, they care about their spirituality.

You have a checklist of things, and if you are curious and ask people questions about things, you can start to say, “Oh, well, I can introduce you to this person.” Or “Maybe I could help you here, or “Could I do some research here for you?”

It's quite easy when you start having a framework that says, “Okay, James. How do I help James? Well, here's the checklist of things that I might be able to do to be helpful.” And you get better at it as you practice.

Check out the YouTube or podcast version where Keith does the Win the Day Rocket Round, answering questions about his favorite quote, what advice he’d give her 18-year-old self, his favorite book, and a whole lot more 🚀

Final question. What’s one thing you do to Win the Day?

I workout every day.


Connect with Keith Ferrazzi and learn more about the resources/links mentioned in the interview:

💚 Greenlight Giving Foundation

Keith Ferrazzi website

📙 Keith's new book Leading Without Authority

🚀 #1 New York Times bestseller Never Eat Alone

👨‍👨‍👧‍👧 All-time classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

🗝️ Bestselling self-help book of all time Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

💻 Go Forward to Work

🌎 Virtual Teams Win

📷 Keith Ferrazzi on Instagram

📝 Keith Ferrazzi on Facebook

That’s all for this episode! Remember, to get out there and win the day – I certainly will after that chat with Keith.

Until next time...

Oonwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

PS - As a special bonus for making it this far, check out the 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi below...

The 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi:

  1. “We are long overdue for change in the way we work.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  2. “I never let a title, or a lack of one, stop me.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  3. “Position doesn’t define power. Impact defines power. And impact can be made at every level.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  4. “Your team is made up of everyone who is critical to helping you achieve your mission and goals.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  5. “There is no excuse for you to remain mediocre.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  6. “Come to the table looking to disrupt your own thinking.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  7. “Co-elevation creates a bias for action and innovation. It helps people go higher together.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  8. “Build momentum with positive people first.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  9. “No matter what your status within an organization is, the way to be a leader is to start leading. Right now. Do the job before you have the job.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  10. “When people don’t feel connected, they don’t lean in to collaborate.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  11. “Until you try, you will never know if someone will make a good teammate.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  12. “We can’t wait for our team to find us. We need to build it ourselves.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  13. “If a situation scares you, there’s probably something in it calling you to grow.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  14. “You don’t have to wait for others. You just have to get started.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  15. “If what you do matters, you have to give it your all. Your excuses don’t matter.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  16. “Prioritize your mission, rather than needing to be right.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  17. “People don’t want to be told. They want to be a part of something.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  18. “Making a commit to co-elevation means making a commitment to being boldly of service.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  19. “Change is about people. And if people aren’t open to change, there will be no change.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  20. “Give without keeping score.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  21. “Relationship-building is too important to be left to chance.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  22. “Co-elevation is when everyone in the team is committed to the mission and committed to each other.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  23. “True co-creation is anything but consensus.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  24. “Leaders are never done learning.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  25. “Get to know people personally, not just professionally.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  26. “Give feedback with the other person’s best interests at heart.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  27. “Never deliver personal feedback without requesting it in return.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  28. “Feedback is a gift. Once it’s given, it’s up to the other person to consume or discard it as they see fit.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  29. “The strongest leaders are lifelong students.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  30. “Thank people for their feedback, as you would any gift.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  31. “79% of people leave their job because they don’t feel appreciated.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  32. “An ordinary moment can be made heroic and meaningful through authentic praise from a leader.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  33. “What we reward with praise others will try to achieve.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  34. “You have to earn your right to lead.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  35. “Every team member must maximize each other’s capabilities.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  36. “True leaders leave no one behind.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  37. “The burden of responsibility is lighter when the mission is shared.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  38. “Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  39. “Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  40. “The only way to get people to do anything is to recognize their importance and thereby make them feel important. Every person’s deepest lifelong desire is to be significant and to be recognized.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  41. “Connecting is one of the most important business and life skillsets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers, in every imaginable field, work the same.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  42. “Real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  43. “By giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  44. “Poverty, I realized, wasn’t only a lack of financial resources; it was isolation from the kind of people who could help you make more of yourself.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  45. “It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  46. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best in the world, as long as you know that doing so also means wanting to be the best for the world.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  47. “A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. The majority of “one per-centers” are in that top stratum because they understand this dynamic—because, in fact, they themselves used the power of their network of contacts and friends to arrive at their present station.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  48. “Organizations can’t change their culture unless individual employees change their behavior – and changing behavior is hard.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  49. “There is only one place to find real peace, real harmony. That place is within.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  50. “Who you know determines who you are: how you feel, how you act, and what you achieve.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  51. “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  52. “Lifetime corporate employment is dead; we’re all free agents now, managing our own careers across multiple jobs and companies. And because today’s primary currency is information, a wide-reaching network is one of the surest ways to become and remain thought leaders of our respective fields.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  53. “Audacity was often the only thing that separated two equally talented people and their job titles.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  54. “The choice isn’t between success and failure; it’s between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  55. “There is genius, even kindness, in being bold.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  56. “When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  57. “The problem, as I see it, isn’t what you’re working on, it’s whom you’re working with.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  58. “You can’t feel in love with your life if you hate your work; and more times than not, people don’t love their work because they work with people they don’t like.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  59. “Power, today, comes from sharing information, not withholding it.” – Keith Ferrazzi
  60. “Until you become as willing to ask for help as you are to give it, however, you are only working half the equation.” – Keith Ferrazzi

“Success in any field – but especially in business – is about working with people, not against them.”

– Keith Ferrazzi

In this episode of Win the Day, we’ve got a very special guest!

Keith Ferrazzi is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books like 'Never Eat Alone,' 'Who’s Got Your Back,' and the brand new 'Leading Without Authority.'

Keith leads executive teams of some of the most well-known companies in the world, including Delta Airlines, General Motors, and Verizon. He’s also been featured regularly in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal, and is often cited as the modern-day Dale Carnegie.

In 2012, I first picked up Keith’s blockbuster hit, ‘Never Eat Alone' which showed how being genuinely interested in other people, being of thoughtful service to others, and constantly learning (and practicing) every day are the foundations to making every one of our own dreams come true.

This philosophy had a profound impact on my life. Keith’s blueprint to success in relationships – along with Carol Dweck’s growth mindset and Napoleon Hill’s achievement principles – are what have shaped my mindset today and really underpin everything I do.

Yet, more than ever, I see people who want magic bullets to success – and the secret to instant monetization. However, this focus on immediate gratification all but nullifies the opportunity to establish authentic, lifelong connections that can provide enormously transformational experiences for us and the people we meet.

Keith has chalked up some massive wins in his acclaimed career. When he was just a summer intern at Deloitte, one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, Keith used the power of relationships to become the youngest Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 500 company and the youngest partner in Deloitte history, all before he turned 30.

In addition to relationships and networking, Keith is recognized as the world’s foremost authority on remote work. At a time when most teams are failing, and the global pandemic has pushed the majority of organizations to remote work, Keith’s mission is more important than ever.

In this episode, we talk about:

There’s a ton of value here and I know you’re going to love it!

Resources / links mentioned:

💚 Greenlight Giving Foundation

Keith Ferrazzi website

📙 Keith's new book Leading Without Authority

🚀 #1 New York Times bestseller Never Eat Alone

👨‍👨‍👧‍👧 All-time classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

🗝️ Bestselling self-help book of all time Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

💻 Go Forward to Work

🌎 Virtual Teams Win

📷 Keith Ferrazzi on Instagram

📝 Keith Ferrazzi on Facebook

🎙️ We Are Members: create a thriving business from your podcast

🔥 60 best quotes from Keith Ferrazzi

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation.”

Margaret Wheatley

Early on in my career I made the decision to get good at networking. Whether it was striking up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator, trying to be memorable at events, or adding value to people far higher up the pecking order, I wanted to forge a meaningful relationship based on emitting a vibrant energy, an organic connection and unconditionally adding value.

This decision, along with being committed to simple and consistent action, has been the cornerstone to every success I have achieved to this point.

Being your natural self is an important part of building relationships. When it happens as organically as possible, authenticity reigns, time is saved and value increases tenfold. I’ve seen too many networking ‘experts’ say that the solution is to start at the finish line, where you spend big money to attend events, enthusiastically ‘appear’ (rather than meaningfully engage), and dish out business cards like ninja stars.

Remember, extraordinary achievement only comes with a strong foundation. A few meaningful connections are far more valuable than exchanging 500+ business cards.

Here is a five-step system to take your networking skills to the next level. This process can be followed by anyone and I absolutely guarantee it will have an enormous impact on your life.

1. Build your knowledge

True mastery in any field—including networking—only comes from ridiculous amounts of purposeful practice. Before diving headfirst into the deep end, work on your stroke. Here are the three best networking books I have encountered:

Grab a notepad and spend one hour each day reading these books, until you’ve finished all three, being sure to jot down ideas and inspiration as it comes to mind. When you’re finished, keep increasing your knowledge with podcasts like Build Your Network by Travis Chappell.

I guarantee you will 10x your networking results from this first step alone.

2. Get clear on your definition of success.

Retain a laser-like focus by being crystal clear on your objective, i.e. what you actually want to achieve from networking. Perhaps it’s to:

It could be anything. Once you have a clear objective, you can work on crafting an elevator pitch that gets people excited about wanting to help you achieve it. The result? A sizzling first impression.

Just remember the cardinal rule of networking is to focus on other people’s interests before your own. As Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” 

3. Invest in your personal brand.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is scrimping on their personal brand. Tidy up your social accounts and your personal website, and get some good quality business cards that:

In the world of Squarespace/Wix and Fiverr/Upwork, there’s no reason not to have at least a reasonably professional online presence, irrespective of where you’re at in your career.

In reference to creating a killer website for his brand new (at the time) School of Greatness podcast, Lewis Howes told me, “The website needed to look professional if I was to attract high level people to appear on the show. If it looked amateur, I would only attract amateurs.” Invest in your personal brand.

4. Get out there.

At this stage you should be fired up and ready to go, like Usain Bolt on the starting blocks! Test out your skills in every interaction you have, whether at a coffee shop, the dog park, in a business meeting—everywhere. The aim is to quickly establish rapport and get comfortable communicating with authenticity. Carry an air of confidence, trying to draw out a smile from others. If you’ve done step one, you’ll know that you need to be:

Find a list of conferences/events that are in your industry. If possible, connect with a few people beforehand who might be attending—you can easily find them via an industry FB page, the event’s FB page or posting to your own network. Having some conversations locked in can help you warm up and feel more confident than fronting it blind. Make sure you look professional, but natural and authentic.

When you start to meet people of interest, and have offered value to them, ask them to suggest 1-2 people you absolutely need to connect with at the event. When they offer some names, ask for an introduction. The original lifestyle entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once outlined his networking strategy as: “Go narrow. Go long.” A deep, trusted relationship with a few people is exponentially more powerful than a surface-level acquaintance with many.

Experience is an essential part of mastering your craft, and remember that you’ve already done most of the hard work, so excitedly get out there and get your “sea legs”.

5. Keep in touch.

Continue to offer value without the expectation of anything in return—perhaps it’s an article that might interest them, an introduction to someone you know, or a brief catch up to hear more about their journey and how you can help.

Down the track, start hosting your own mastermind catch ups to really turbocharge your network. Never underestimate how valuable a core team of enthusiastic supporters can be on every aspect of your life.


Remember, networking is not event-specific—it is an “all the time” skill. Judge success on the number of real relationships you’ve made and invest in them long term, rather than risk burning them for short term gain.

Follow this simple formula and see how quickly your impact is amplified. After all, your network is your net worth.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

Ready to win the day, every day? 

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