I had the pleasure of attending a two-day event in Toronto last week called MastermindTalks, put together by Jayson Gaignard. There were 20+ presentations, 16 breakout sessions, and attendees who matched the extraordinary caliber of the speakers. I learned a TON.
The headline speaker was three-time New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss. In his latest book, The Four-Hour Chef, Ferriss writes about acquiring the skill of meta-learning, or the meta-skill of acquiring skills. Two of his keys for quickly learning any skill, including learning, are 1.) Identify the best practices and do the opposite and 2.) Study the anomalies. He cites the example of a wispy girl who can dead-lift 405 pounds—because she’s doing it with technique rather than genes. And technique is learnable.
It didn’t occur to me until I left Toronto, but this event was filled with über-successful anomalies. The difference is in the difference. I mean, if we all read the same major publications and consume the same mainstream media, can any of us ever acquire different knowledge from our peers? If we hire the same consultants and implement the same best practices, will we ever distinguish ourselves from our competition, or be able to offer our clients new ideas?
Since we live in a time of information overload, I think the most effective way to grow and improve might be to learn from unlikely sources. Everyone I met at MastermindTalks had something different to share. I could easily fill pages describing each of them, but I won’t go into that much detail. Just know that every person on this list is well worth getting to know better. With that, here is my recap of the 25 speakers and takeaways from MastermindTalks:
Suli Breaks: This up-and-coming spoken word-rapper-poet reminded us that “only a few are willing to realize and accept that there is a big distinction between greatness and success.” He is the man who gave us I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate (a must-watch for any parent), and it was great to witness his brilliance in person. You can check out his new album here.
G – Create a Goal
R – Reconnaissance (follow and learn from the best)
E – Effort/Hustle
A – Attitude
T – Team
Shaa Wasmund: The bestselling author of Stop Talking Start Doing shared her incredible journey and her thoughts on The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. You can see all of the amazing things Shaa is up to here.
Derek Halpern: If you’re looking to grow your blog, or learn more about the convergence of business and human psychology, his blog is a must read. One of the smartest guys I know, Derek laid out his “BAB” model for selling:
- Before — Empathize with their current reality; make them realize they need help
- After — paint a picture of a world where these problems no longer exist
- Bridge the Gap – Show how your solution is the missing link
Joey Coleman: All of the speakers were competing for a $25,000 prize, and I was thrilled to see my good friend Joey take home the cash! In his presentation, Joey shared his thoughts on designing a “First 100 Days” strategy to wow new clients. If you could use game-changing business cards, or a complete rebranding, Joey is your man. (Full disclosure: Joey is a cadre member and I am a client of his, so there may be a little bias here.)
Hod Lipson: The Cornell professor blew everyone’s mind by bringing the life-altering potential of 3-D printing to light. If you don’t know much about this technology and the significant impact it’s likely to have on society, his book is an excellent guide to this brave new world.
Dan Martell: During his “Balance is Bullshit” presentation, Dan posed the challenge: “If you think you do not have balance in your life, before you do anything else you should ask yourself what balance means to you.” He recently founded an amazing service called Clarity which allows you to easily connect by phone with the best experts from around the world when you need them most. Check it out!
Jim Sheils: The Founder of Board Meetings International, an organization that exists to strengthen the relationship parents have with their children, talked about the benefits of families taking mini-vacations with their children. I can see why his organization has significantly impacted so many parent/child relationships. According to Jim, there are three basic ground rules for making a family getaway a rewarding experience:
1) It must be one-on-one (i.e. not with your spouse or other children)
2) No electronics allowed
3) It must be a fun activity, which the kid gets to choose, with focused reflection on questions like, What was your favorite part and why?
A.J. Jacobs: The Editor at Large at Esquire and author of four New York Times bestsellers had so much to share, but I especially enjoyed hearing about his experiences while writing The Year of Living Biblically (he followed every rule in the Bible for an entire year). The one takeaway that sticks more than others is “It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” Go ahead and marinate on that for a minute.
Dandapani: After living as a monk for 10 years, Dandapani allowed his monastic vows to expire in 2008 and ventured out on his own. He now shares the teachings of his guru in workshops and spiritual adventures around the world with individuals, groups and organizations. I learned so much from him, and was especially struck by his basic keys to developing greater willpower:
1) Finish what you begin (for example, to finish sleeping, make your bed)
2) Finish it well, beyond expectations
3) Do a little more than you think you are able to do
Ryan Holiday: The rock star media strategist, who has worked with the likes of Tim Ferriss and Tucker Max among others, suggested that even he wouldn’t be able to help much if your product isn’t worth promoting. If you have a remarkable product/book/course, I can’t think of anyone better to lead your charge (and his blog is excellent!). But as Ryan suggests, just make sure it meets the following criteria before reaching out to him:
1) It is something new and/or different?
2) It is provocative? (For a good example of provocative, check out this campaign he did with Tucker Max.)
3) Do you know specifically who it is for, where they are and how you can reach them?
Clay Hebert: THE Kickstarter expert not only revealed some great hacks for that platform, but also left us pondering the profound question, “I have no doubt you’ll be successful, but will you matter?” You should also check out his awesome new project, Spindows.
James Altucher: The front of the MastermindTalks program read, “If You’re the Smartest Person in the Room, You’re in the Wrong Room.” Seeing this, I was worried this author of 10 books and one of my favorite blogs would leave. Fortunately, James stuck around and had us drinking from a fire hose during his talk. As an aspiring super-connector, I enjoyed hearing his process. He listens to people’s issues and either helps them on the spot or introduces them to people who can. He does this five times each day and as a result, has made millions! Be sure to check out his next book Choose Yourself, which becomes available on June 4.
Tim Ferriss: The author of three New York Times bestsellers was dropping knowledge bombs left and right, but here are two gems that stood out for me:
1) To continually get to new levels of success, you have to say no to almost everything.
2) When networking, focus on the potential relationships that will transcend the business objective.
Marc Ecko: It sure was fun listening to the fireside chat with the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the billion-dollar global fashion and lifestyle company, Marc Eckō Enterprises. When asked about things he would have done differently in growing his business, he admitted to coming down with “Ralph Laurenitis” for a few years. Essentially, trying to chase down the leader in his industry cost him millions of dollars. He eventually embraced the uniqueness of his brand, which paid off big time. His upcoming book, Unlabel, will go even deeper and I encourage you to check it out.
Mitch Joel: I wasn’t too disappointed that the host of my favorite podcast was not presenting, since he’ll be keynoting our event on June 27. I would have loved to hear him discuss his latest book, Ctrl Alt Delete, which is excellent, but I can’t think of anyone better suited to interview Tim Ferriss and Mark Ecko. Mitch is a masterful interviewer and his poise and grace in the presence of these business icons, I believe, allowed us to learn more than we would have with anyone else in this role.
Mike McDerment: Freshbooks recently won the Gold Stevie Award for having the Best Front-Line Customer Service Team in the world. When asked what he attributed this to, the CEO said that part of the reason is because they have the best customers (entrepreneurs and business owners) in the world. So obvious, yet so insightful!
Bruce Poon Tip: Unfortunately I was unable to be present for most of this conversation. I wish this had not been the case, because from what little I heard, I took away some valuable lessons from this CEO of G Adventures as he related how his business grew from a small startup to a company with over 1300 employees catering to upwards of 100,000 travelers every year.
Dani Reiss: The CEO of Canada Goose is the epitome of a leader committed to sticking to his core values. All of their production is in Canada because they’re committed to outstanding craftsmanship, and cold weather is part of their national identity. As a result, everyone in Canada is incredibly loyal to their brand. This served as a great reminder that we shouldn’t try to please everyone. We can all build a successful business by being hyper-focused on serving a specific niche and blowing them away!
Cameron Herold: It says a lot about the quality of an event when one of the best speakers I have ever seen is one of the attendees. Cameron led one of the breakout sessions, and his TED Talk, Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs, should be required viewing for every parent.
Stephan Aarstol: Another breakout facilitator, whom you may know from his appearance on Shark Tank, which led to Mark Cuban becoming an investor in his company, Tower Paddle Boards. I got to spend some time with Stephan and long story short, it’s easy to see what Mr. Cuban saw in him.
Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas: While I did not get the opportunity to spend time with either of these gentlemen, they contributed to my experience in a very meaningful way. They created The Five Minute Journal, which provides the daily template for spending 10 minutes each day (5 when you wake up and 5 before bed) to reflect on the positive experiences in your life and what you are grateful for. I have done this exercise every day since, and cannot recommend it highly enough.
Jayson Gaignard: Last, but certainly not least, the man who made all of this possible. I’m sure bringing together this lineup of all-star thought leaders was no mean feat, but I also believe Jayson’s careful selection of attendees really made MastermindTalks special. You had to apply to attend this event, and Jayson narrowed more than 4,000 applicants down to just over 100. He and his wife Kandis were the ultimate hosts, and it was clear that they painstakingly thought through every detail. I mean, they had Athletic Greens available for us every morning! Plus, Jayson did not leave all of the educating to the speakers. We learned about the Pomodoro Technique (check it out!) from him, and I’m already using it to be more productive.
I’m not sure whether MastermindTalks will evolve into an annual event, but if it does, do not – I repeat, do not – miss the next one!