Linda Bernardi: How To Profit From Provocation – #9
By: Dave Asprey
Would you like to learn how to profit from provoking change in all aspects of life?
Linda Bernardi will show you how.
Linda is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and innovative provocateur. She joints us on Bulletproof Executive Radio to talk about how disrupting the status quo will improve your life and the world at large.
With leadership experience spanning more than two decades, Linda Bernardi possesses a unique vision and a fierce commitment to promoting innovative, disruptive ideas and technologies. In her role as “innovation provocateur,” Linda helps organizations break free of their comfort zone, defy conventional wisdom, and shatter outdated paradigms in their quest for market-changing products, services and methods.
In Provoke Linda asserts that only by creating a collaborative, global “culture of disruption,” in which provocative questions and creative destruction are nurtured and encouraged at all levels of the chain of command, can organizations maintain the innovative fire that ultimately leads to excellence.
Did you know you can get a free PDF download of every transcript of every episode of Bulletproof Executive Radio by entering your email address in the box on the right side of this page? You also get a free copy of the Bulletproof Diet, the Bulletproof Shopping Guide, and much more.
What We Cover
- Why in order to be successful, you’re going to have to be uncomfortable.
- Why people respond to disruption with a negative attitude.
- The way entrepreneurs and employees of the future will have to act in order to make a living in our modern economy.
- How you will need yo change your approach to business and creativity to be successful.
- How a “Culture of Disruption” will foster brilliance and innovation.
- What happens when businesses refuse to accept or pursue disruption.
- How even the lowest paid employee can leverage their power to invent and disrupt the status quo.
- How to provoke change without being ostracized (or fired).
- How to overcome the most common barriers to disruption.
- How you can disrupt current standards to create success in any environment.
- How government restrictions affect the ability of a business to create and lead.
- What happens when one company tries to disrupt the market by copying the work of another.
- Why success and change is possible even in a fragile economy.
- The shortcomings of our current educational system when it comes to encouraging change.
- The questions you need to ask yourself in order to see if you’re a disruptor, or a follower.
- A sneak peak inside Linda Bernard’s new book, Provoke.
Provoke by Linda Bernardi
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Supplements & Food
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Dave: Today’s cool fact of the day is that a lot of vegan products aren’t actually vegan. Most bread you buy at stores today has a preservative known as calcium caseinate in it, which is a by-product of dairy manufacturing. Now, I wouldn’t eat bread because it has wheat and because caseinate isn’t good for you, but vegans maybe ought not to eat most bread either.
We’re here today with Linda Bernardi who’s an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and innovation provocateur. She’s here today to talk about constructive disruption. She’s got leadership experience spanning more than two decades and she’s really interested in promoting innovative disruptive ideas and technologies. She’s actually the author of an upcoming book she’s going to be telling us about. She’s helped organizations and people break free of their comfort zone, defy conventional wisdom, and shatter outdated paradigms.
You can figure out that’s why we would invite her to be on the show. Shattering outdated paradigms isn’t just fun, it’s actually profitable too. As the creator of the Bernardi Leadership Institute, she’s engaged with companies all around the globe as a speaker and coach and consultant. She’s an active entrepreneur. She’s a technologist and educator, an investor, and a board member. In fact, she and I have a lot in common that way.
She’s a founder of StraTerra Partners, which is a technology strategy consulting firm. On top of all of this, she’s got a Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics from UCLA and she just became a vinyasa yoga instructor right in the midst of launching her new book. We found that particularly interesting on the blog, how high performance people like Linda can actually find a way to work in that side of things as well in order to increase their own performance.
Linda: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much for that wonderful introduction.
Dave: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your unique philosophy of constructive disruption. Why do people need to know about this?
Linda: My philosophy has always been unless we disrupt, and disrupt in the most positive sense, we are not going to be able to innovate. That really started when I joined BBN, a think tank, right out of graduate school where we had about six, seven thousand scientists and we effectively looked at solving very complex problems.
To do that, we first had to start from scratch. When you try to solve a problem and you have to go from a particular paradigm, you’re going to be highly limited. We have to look at every problem, whether it was way back looking at how do we design ARPANET, which became the Internet. How do we design the first switch for routers or how do we design the first operating system?
It really requires that you start from scratch. Unless we do that, we are highly limited. When there is this concern about this disruption change, it forces people to start from a point that they’re at and it’s very difficult to truly innovate unless you’re willing to look at any problem that you’re starting from the beginning.
Constructive disruption, or what I call disruption, is necessary in order for us to innovate. Whether we’re innovating in technology, whether we’re innovating in our life, whether we’re innovating in our health, we have to be able to embrace the possibilities that disruption brings about.
Dave: Okay. Walk us through what a constructive disruption would look like?
Linda: If we just, instead of calling it constructive disruption, just call it disruption, and we take the example … I’ll give a couple of examples, one that works and the other one that doesn’t. I’m using an example that a lot of the listeners might identify with if we use the example of Apple.
When Apple was a computer company and Jobs came out with trying to introduce music with the iPod and it completely disrupted the music paradigm, right? Because prior to that, we had had Netscape who had failed. Everybody thought that was insane. Here you are, a computer company, really entering the music world. You completely disrupted your business model because iPod had nothing to do with computers. The rest of it is history.
It changed the entire way that music got accessed globally. Right when you’re doing that, Apple decided, “Well, we’re going to become a phone company.” That’s disrupting really my computer business and my music business. Now, I’m going to go after the phone business. Of course, the phone companies, my big telco clients thought that was insane because a computer/music company couldn’t be a phone company. Right when that was done, you decide, “I’m going to enter another field, a tablet, and I’m going to introduce the iPad.” The story goes on. It’s when you make those massive changes where incredible stuff happens.
If we look at another example where that failed, and that really is sad for me. Will you take Kodak? The world was evolving. We were going to digital and Kodak was holding on to its business model and wasn’t innovating. Imagine what would have happened a decade ago if Kodak would have said, “We’re going to this digital world. How are we going to play in it?” Imagine the possibility of there being the Kodak platform and the Kodak possibility.
If you look at, say, Amazon, and look at what Amazon did when it came out with EC2 and it had a very strong retail business. It came up with something that had nothing to do with that business. Or it went to retail when it was having a very successful book business. We can come up with a lot of examples where unless we really are willing to look at something new ground up that what we … If all we’re doing is massaging the existing paradigms, we are really not going to be able to make those massive changes that we need to make.
Dave: Okay. That makes sense. You’ve also said if you want to be successful, get ready to be uncomfortable. Why is this disruption uncomfortable for people, both just individual people or even for organizations?
Linda: Absolutely. My book, “Provoke,” that is coming out in a couple of weeks, the first thing that it says is “Be prepared to be uncomfortable.” When I give lectures, the very first thing that I say is “You’re going to become very uncomfortable.” Because in anything that we do as human beings, we need to believe that we’re perfect. We need to hang on to those things that we do very well.
When somebody comes along and says, “You know, there’s another way of doing something” or possibly, “The way that you’re doing it is not the best way” or “There’s a brand new thing we can go after.” Because it’s an unknown and because it disturbs the environment that you feel so comfortable with, whether you’re an individual or whether you’re a corporation, the first reaction is discomfort, and in some cases, extreme disdain where I’ve had some clients who have been absolutely uncomfortable. We have finished the meeting. They have said we have nothing to do with each other. As you can probably imagine, Dave, they are now my biggest customers.
The book actually goes through the five stages of rejection before we get into talking about how we’re going to go ahead and disrupt. I think it’s just a natural human reaction to want to protect the thing we think we’re very good in, because we feel that that’s being taken away or shattering. In fact, it’s when we embrace it that we become much stronger in what we’re doing.
Dave: Okay, that makes great sense. Then how do you go about introducing those disruptions to people? This is sort of a personal question. The nutritional stuff that we do on the Bulletproof Executive is disruptive. I’m telling people, “Well, I can eat 4,000 calories a day. I can eat a stick of butter a day. In fact, I do it on purpose and all of my blood chemistry is better as a result of it. Here’s why it works.” It’s absolutely disruptive to somebody who’s been eating a bowl of sticks and twigs every morning for their life.
Now, it’s a question there, but some people go, “Oh my god. That’s stupid and you’re going to die,” and “We’re all going to die,” and “It’s no good.” Then other people say, “I just tried it and I lost twenty pounds in a month and I’ve never felt better.” What’s the difference between those two personality types and how do you approach the people who are maybe change-resistant?
Linda: It’s interesting. I would say what I have found is thateverybody wants change, but there are levels and grades of appetite for change. If we talk about an individual level, I think it’s because we have been taught these things. Shattering that belief, that if I eat a stick of butter a day, that, of course, is going to clog my arteries. Sometimes the same individuals aren’t paralleling that well, “What am I doing to burn during the day?”
If I’m not eating anything and I’m not working out in any way, then it really doesn’t matter what I’m eating because my body is not burning. When Dave says, eat a stick of butter, he doesn’t mean eat it and sit and watch TV. He means eat that and then change your lifestyle. I think the issue is that deep down individuals have a discomfort about changing things. I’m finding that there are some individuals, hopefully over time less and less and definitely far less in the younger, below 40 population than above, that embrace possibility.
When you do that, you don’t have a preconceived notion about what the outcome needs to be. You’re willing to experiment because you’re intrigued. You want to challenge your body. Part of it is the appetite for challenge. Part of it is, frankly, lack of laziness because when you’re proposing something, it requires that the other person has to take action, and action has an unknown.
It’s an experiment and you have to be willing to do that experiment, maybe another, maybe another. At a personal level, I think, that’s what I encounter is that people are afraid of change. They are afraid of changing life routines. That might be one of the reasons why people resist things.
Dave: It’s interesting that you call out the difference in age groups there. I’m pushing forty, I turn thirty-nine in a couple of weeks, but I find that I’m spending a lot of time on the Bulletproof Executive with people who are ten plus years younger than me and are just so involved and so interested in this. Then there’s another group of people who are older than I am too who are basically saying, “I’m ready for change. I don’t want to feel the way I’m feeling. I want to perform better. I want to do better.”
I do see what you’re saying where people maybe just embrace change more easily when they’re younger but people who are older are generally wiser, according to tradition. Is what you’re saying a natural process, that as people become more senior at companies, they become older, they become more change resistant because they’re older? I mean, is this mostly just driven by age?
Linda: Honestly, I’m finding more and more as … Let’s backtrack for a moment. As the economy is changing and people are staying in jobs longer and the envelope of what is the age is changing; the age of entrepreneurs that I deal with, or the people that I work with. My youngest genius entrepreneur is seventeen and the old one is seventy. That’s a pretty large gap in age.
Linda: That particular seventy year old is a phenomenal seventy year old. I don’t sit with him thinking I’m with a seventy-year-old because every time we’re talking, sparks are flying. It’s like, “Oh, what if we can go do that?” I think we’re entering an era where we’re redefining age and it’s no longer the categories of 17 to 25, 25 to 35, those arbitrary break points. I really think that this meant people are who they are and they’re completely different and people embrace disruption, change, in very different ways.
I think it’s, in my opinion, it’s completely unrelated to age. As this envelope is changing because you could basically, today, if you’re an entrepreneur and you have an idea and you have a thousand dollars, you’re on Amazon, you’re getting your infrastructure, you’re rolling out your idea, right?
Linda: We’re entering an era where people are able to do things without the old paradigm constraints. Suddenly, the world is learning about these people and you could have somebody designing a phenomenal game in Scandinavia or somebody in Siberia is designing a new app. We don’t know who those people are, what their ages are. As the world evolves where possibility is available to people readily, that breaks down the paradigms that age brought about where you had to have certain amount of experience to get to this point.
Now, entrepreneurs are of any age. It’s really changing the mindset of people. At the same time, I think yes, there are very conservative organizations where maybe in the work environment that’s more prevalent where older ones are more resistant. I mean I’ll be at the Department of Defense. I see the most vibrant people embracing change and that’s our largest organization that we ever have.
This is changing, Dave. I think we’re seeing a big change coming about where age is no longer the issue. It’s people embracing the possibility and the fact that due to the economy, people aren’t thinking, “I should be golfing at sixty-two.” They’re thinking, “Hmm, what’s my next job at sixty-two?” That’s changing the playing field.
Dave: Oh, yeah. Definitely, that’s an underlying theme in the Bulletproof Executive. We’re saying you actually can change your native intelligence. You can increase your working memory. You can increase your IQ by at least a dozen points, and oftentimes significantly more. People can do that at any age. What you’re saying then is that it’s much more important to look at where you fit with your comfort level around change and how comfortable you are embracing disruption. That’s far more important than age when it comes to looking at how you can interact in a new economy that’s coming around.
Linda: Absolutely, yes. I think I would just add onto that, that it’s about becoming comfortable with change and pushing yourself to embrace change, whether that’s change in how you adapt to technology because probably your and my grandmother right now are iPad using, Skyping people. That’s a change, right?
That generation is now completely evolving. They’re embracing technology the same way a nine-month-old now can interact with technology. Barriers for what is permissible in age are changing. It’s really making people comfortable at all levels: individual, corporate, global, that change is a wonderful thing and the worst that can ever happen if you try to disrupt is a momentary change. You always have the choice to come back to where you were. Imagine the possibility if you’re willing to change something.
Co-host: Linda, you’re talking about how these massive shifts are changing and how different age groups are beginning to interact with technology. What would happen to innovation and the economy if the … or what happens when the government places regulations on what businesses can and can’t do? Does that limit the ability of individuals to perhaps pursue these ideas? Does it help them? What do you think the role is there?
Linda: I think the government can put limitations, but I think we have now entered an era where individuals globally feel completely empowered about what it is they can do. They have use of technology. I think that this is far less an issue, in my opinion, now globally than it would have been in the past particularly with mediums like social media where communication is occurring. Even in the tightest government regulated countries, there are still ways to speak and express. I think that we’re entering an era where government regulations, I’m finding less and less of them that are going to control human behavior.
Dave: Well then, if you’re in a … Let’s say you are the lowest paid member in a company. You’re in an entry-level job. What kind of power then do you possess in a company that’s maybe less regulated and you have all these change embracing abilities? What does that mean for you and your power?
Linda: Here’s an interesting paradigm. Think about that same lowest paid individual … Before we answer that question let’s look at that person, the rest of his or her life. That person is still completely connected to the world if they so choose to be. They can interact. They can evolve. They are using technology. If you take that organization or company and we say, “Okay, that same person in the lowest paid position, there’s a misconception that, first of all, one of the paradigms that I break apart in a book is that we’re going to do away over time with all these command and control layers within companies that have protected corporations the way they’ve been designed.
Instead of that, really, what that’s doing is stifling innovation. Putting that aside for a moment, even the lowest paid person in whatever their task is, there is probably a better way that that task can be done. When I talk to those people and I do go spend time because this is a very common question when a 200,000 person company and I’m going in their company and I’m talking and the hands go up and go, “Hey, I’m at the lowest level of the totem pole. What control do I have if they tell me to do something, I have to do it?”
Fact is there’s probably a better way to do anything that you are doing and it’s a matter of the courage and the desire for the person to want to do it better. I don’t know of any organization that thrives on stifling doing things better. Organizations are afraid of change because they’re afraid of the focus but there are still ways of doing anything that you’re doing better, because if we accept that there isn’t, then we’re accepting there’s only one way to do it and we’re also accepting there’s no way to make it better.
Even at that level, there can be a change which then starts trickling around. That would be the way I would approach that question.
Dave: What you’re saying is that companies can improve themselves through the process of maybe gradual, incremental small step improvement just by enabling pretty much everyone at every level to make small changes every day that move the company in the right direction.
Linda: Absolutely. The thing we have to remember, Dave, is that for the first time ever in the history of technology and in the history of corporates and structures, we live in a world where technology is now available to anywhere, anyone, anytime. Remember the time that we used to go into our companies and all we had was the mainframe and that was our connection to the world so the company could shut-off browsing and you were disconnected?
Fact is everyone today has a smart device. They are connected to the outside world. Companies recognize that. People are using apps. They’re becoming interesting. They’re doing things so no matter where you are in this chain, you’re still improving because every day in your daily life you are using online banking. You’re using your credit card. You’re scanning stuff. Want it or not, you’re shifting.
That inevitable shift, no matter level of a person we’re talking about, is occurring in their daily life. Corporations understand that that’s coming and there’s absolutely zero value in controlling or limiting what that person is going to do because they have their smart device and they’re connected at any time. Remember that now people are connecting to mediums like social media and they’re talking about things. Corporations actually have a strong vested interest to make sure that the employees are satisfied because there are a lot of channels for people to talk about.
Dave: That’s definitely true in my day job where I spend most of my time during the week. I’m vice-president at an internet security company, so I deal with that intersection quite a lot.
Dave: I will still point there that because people are now empowered, they can help a company perform better. I was really struck by your incremental comment there about how that works because the nutritional things that we recommend for people to become higher performance on the website, it’s not “Do this diet and you’re wrong,” it’s a map that says, “Every time you’re sitting down, here’s a guide to choosing incrementally a food that’s going to do more of what you want it to do to increase your personal power.”
You can’t go wrong with a map like that. You can go left, you can go right. The next time you sit down, you can go left o right. It’s not like I failed or I didn’t fail. It’s an incremental approach to improvement versus an all or nothing model, which I don’t think works for companies or for individuals, not anymore.
Linda: Correct. I think that companies, up until about two years ago, I’d be struck when I’d be going into a very large company, over a 100,000 people in a variety of different verticals, and we would be talking about this social enterprise, the social power. I would hear comments like, “Oh yeah, that’s Facebook. That’s what they do in the background.”
Believe it or not, one of the biggest things we now spend time on: “How are we going to use the social enterprise fabric better internally and externally?” In a phenomenal way, this is changing how people are perceiving their daily tasks. To go back to the first question which is well, if you’re at the lowest level and you’re doing something, you’re still highly connected. You still have an influence. Technologically, this is a phenomenal time to be in, in terms of the possibility to innovate.
Dave: Okay. You sold me on the idea that innovation is happening and that disruption is important. In fact, disruptive technology has been a part of my job title for almost like, I think, almost twenty years now. God. I definitely believe this, but I’ve also seen some times when a lack of dissension, a lack of disruption, or groupthink comes into place and this happens in groups of people. It happens at companies. Do you have any examples of where really negative things have come out from groupthink?
Linda: I honestly don’t. I have a lot of negative examples of what happens when it doesn’t happen. I think I shared with you Kodak as a company that was phenomenal. It decided to really not look at what’s happening in the world and not go disrupt, and I wouldn’t use the word dissent because disrupt in this model, the way I use it, is around really changing a business paradigm, experimenting with different possibilities. Dissent might imply some sort of a negative action.
In the disruption world, if we take another example, it would be RIM and Blackberry and the fact that RIM really chose to not really look at what’s happening in the outside. I was a nine year avid Blackberry customer. I had every single Blackberry that came out, the speed, the efficiency, and eventually, this year finally, I had to buy an iPhone because RIM chose to not listen. If you look at what happens in these companies, that don’t evolve, that don’t disrupt, they will and are going out of business. Their business models are failing.
Now, in the past, that took a much longer time because the consumer was not as involved. Today, the market is driving what happens to a company if the company does not disrupt because the market now speaks, connect, has power. More and more companies today are learning how to become attuned to listen to what the market wants and they’re realizing, “If we don’t evolve, disrupt, the market will not be our customer.” That’s forcing a lot more disruption, Dave, than we have or seen in the past or will … and this will just … this pace will grow dramatically over time.
Dave: Okay, that makes great sense. What do people do to say, “All right, I’m ready. Maybe I’m young. I’m still in school.” I think you had some questions about how this all interacts with an educational system and what people can do in schools. Go ahead.
Co-host: This is one of the questions I was thinking of before the interview. You mentioned earlier how you’ve never run to a company that thrives or just wants to stifle innovation or keep disruption from occurring. Do you think that’s really a place where disruption can occur easily? Or do you think the current school systems and colleges are set up in a way that encourages critical thinking instead of lack of disruption?
Linda: It’s a very good question but it’s a loaded question, right? Because there’s so much that’s flying through my mind to try to answer. Let me break it down into schools as in below 12 and college. As an example, there are splinter groups that came out. Montessori came out. Montessori school system says, “We are going to base it on experimentation and we want an environment that we really don’t care about the standardized tests. We want to grow the child’s mind.” Now, of course, Montessoris are private and you go back to the large public school systems. Of course, whenever you have a system that has to accommodate tens of millions of students, you have to have some metric that’s standardized, but within even those environments, magnet schools got created.
You always have people that look at things and say, “Is this the best way to do it?” That doesn’t mean we have to abolish the standardized exams because unfortunately we still need something, some measure to categorize students, are they really smart, are they not? We all know that, for example, an SAT score, perfect SAT score, doesn’t mean a perfect student. It means somebody that was a really good test taker. Does that mean that we can immediately come out tomorrow morning, and you and I decide we’re going to do away with all standardized tests and we’re going to come up with a new model?
Unfortunately, in a system where education is not funded, where we’re not really paying attention to these things, we are holding on to very old standards. Can it change? The answer is yes. Is it easy to do? No, because public school teachers are so badly paid that as it is, it’s very difficult. To go to those people and say, “Now, on top of everything, come up with a new paradigm, create a change.” That’s not likely, but is it impossible? No, because even within systems, we find systems that are very different and if we look outside of the U.S., we find very different below 12 education systems.
Now, if we go into the college environment, that’s where we really are embracing free thinking because if we’re talking about the students, the students have choices about which schools they go to, for the most part. When they’re in those schools, they have choices about what they study and students are the freest of the thinkers. They are the free atom that’s out there.
Unfortunately, what constrains them is that they have to get a particular grade and they have to get a particular degree and they choose to go into a particular job. Suddenly, when hordes of them are going into Wall Street, they’re studying those degrees to go there, but does that mean there isn’t free thinking? Possibly no. There absolutely is. In my book, “Provoke,” there’s an entire chapter on academia and my issues about the lack of involvement that students have and professors have that we shouldn’t be really that worried about getting tenure. Frankly, if you’re good, you will have it.
We should be more concerned about doing things and schools, whether it’s below 12, above 12, that’s the purest form of a Petri dish. It’s an experimental place. It’s a place to really test things. Unfortunately, people are just going through the journey as if it’s a job and they go at it, ten years later, I want tenure and I want this and I want that. That’s what’s killing things.
I would evolve that question and I say, “How much of this is up to us and how we’re handling things versus things that are out of our control?” I would contend that it is up to us, but just like the initial part of the interview when we were talking about people’s resistance to change, let’s start asking the question, “Is it that there are constraints throughout academia? Or is it that people within academia are resisting change because of the consequences?”
Dave: In a couple weeks, I am giving a talk to the Thiel Foundation’s 20 Under 20. This is a group of people who are under twenty years old who are given a grant essentially to not go to college. They’re given $100,000 over two years and access to entrepreneurs like me who can advise them although I’m advising them on how to upgrade their brains rather than just entrepreneurial things.
It’s one of those … it seems to be like a very disruptive model that says rather than going to school, use the world as your school and even disrupt education that way. Is this along the lines of what you’re talking about in your book “Provoke” or is this … maybe it’s something different? How does that work with disrupting education?
Linda: To bring an example, one of the brightest engineers that I work with who works in a company is seventeen and never went to college. There’s always the debate we have when we sit around with guys that have MIT degrees and post-docs and he’s in the room with them and he’s thinking clear and less constrained. Now, that’s an unusual event because this person is self-taught, so driven that overcomes that.
Those possibilities are definitely there. “Provoke” doesn’t necessarily say that you have to be anti-something. It just says wherever you are, it can be done differently. Yeah, I mean a program that takes gifted people and gives them money and explores possibilities, magic is going to happen. Now, does that mean that that’s what always has to happen? No, that’s relative to the person receiving it because there are instances, and that may happen in the group you’re dealing with, Dave, that it’s not the matter of the money. People will get the money, but they don’t know what to do with it.
There will be those who will get it and they’ll see this as the nirvana of making the impossible become possible. That opens up the whole area of entrepreneurship and what happens when we pour money into entrepreneurship. That’s another couple of chapters in the book talking about that but I think that that’s an example of where something could happen by looking at things differently and taking these groups of students. I’m assuming this is a case where you’re going to study them over time to see what happens. That would be my assumption.
Dave: I think that’s what the Thiel Foundation is looking to do and to track their progress, and also just to choose some of the best and brightest that they can find. People who have already done amazing things and just say, “Well, if you’re going to do amazing things, let us help you do the right amazing things using the arrows that we’ve had in our backs through lives of being entrepreneurs and of being successful.”
How does this work with what you’ve called the disruptor test? It is something that’s coming out in your book where people may ask themselves questions to figure out where they fit on that whole scale. I’m guessing that these entrepreneurs pretty much would score very high on the disruptor test but tell our listeners a little bit more about what is that test.
Linda: First of all, the biggest question that comes up whether I’m talking in a university or a big corporation or an environment, for example, at a conference that has people from different corporations. There is a misnomer that people think when we’re talking about disruption, it implies everybody is an entrepreneur or should be an entrepreneur, or that entrepreneurism is necessarily the thing we all want to be.
In some ways, being an entrepreneur is like a job. You could be a dentist. You could be a doctor. You’re an entrepreneur. Is it for everybody? Not really. Part of the clarification that I make to people, and almost, I have to tell you, they get so excited by this, is that you could still disrupt without necessarily leaving your job, putting your house on mortgage, raising money because you had a dream about a company. That’s good for some people, not good for others.
The disruptor test concept is where is your appetite and your own personal desire to change whatever it is that you’re doing, to do it better, to do it differently? I mean if you were, for instance, in HR, which is not necessarily a tech environment, etcetera, how could you be doing things differently that changes the way that you do things? If you’re changing and disrupting and there’s positive that comes out of it, which is efficiency, you’re being happier about what you’re doing. All of those are positive outcomes and that doesn’t necessarily break things down.
There’s a misconception when people hear disruption that they think that it’s always about breaking down everything, restarting. No. It’s maybe changing the way you look at things. There are people in any capacity that I meet that are intrigued by that and they live their lives by that and it motivates them. Then there are others that are very afraid of that, and hopefully by the end of the talk or the two-day session, they become very comfortable that, “Wow. This is almost, at an early stage, a thinking process. Am I willing to give myself the permission to think about what I’m doing differently?”
That is the very first thing that I ask people to do. Sometimes people really stop and say, “Of course, I give myself permission” and then they go, “No, you’re right. I’m not because I’m so afraid nobody is going to allow me. Therefore, I never take the first step.” If you go back to the original question of whether somebody in the lowest level of a company can do that, imagine if every level started doing that. If every level started ranking higher on the disruptor capacity, then change would happen inevitably, right?
Dave: Yes. I think that you’d also find a very high performance organization if everyone thought about what they were doing and looked for ways to do it better even across their own life as well as in the company. I think what you end up with is people who are continuously improving themselves and continuously improving their companies at the same time. It’s that line between the two that’s really where the Bulletproof Executive Blog lies that says if you improve yourself, you can improve whatever it is you’re doing. Or you can be better at everything, whether you’re an artist who’s selling your own artwork on display at a museum or at an art gallery, or whether you’re doing the traditional Silicon Valley, or the small company start up.
It doesn’t really matter, but everyday make decisions that are better and you can be more efficient. By your definition of a disruptor test here, it sounds like people can even disrupt their own life when they wake up in the morning, before they even go into work. Would you agree with that?
Linda: Absolutely, and it’s about … Absolutely, Dave. It’s about raising the bar and looking at one another to raise the bar. If you and I are interacting, and I raise the expectation for myself on what I want this interaction to be, you will sense that and you will raise the bar. You will then raise that bar with somebody else that you’re interacting with.
A lot of times, I love athletics because there is a bar that you can always raise. Imagine a triathlon where people got there and they said, “I am not having a good day. I don’t think I’m up for this.” What happens in the triathlon? They’re there. They’re going to go for it. Are they going to win? No, only one is, but they stimulate one another to go forward. It’s not because everybody is going to win but it’s because everybody wants to achieve that very high bar.
I believe that humans have enormous capacity. What’s happened in the structure of academia, entrepreneurism, corporations, government, we have brought in so many systems of control that we’ve taken away that power. I fundamentally believe that probably there’s an 80% higher intellectual capacity that people have that they are just not expressing. I don’t believe that it’s that they don’t have because they’re at a lower part of the job. I believe they have, but we haven’t learned how to capture that and use it properly.
Dave: I think that’s very well said. Linda, you mentioned that you just became a certified yoga teacher where you spent thirty-one days with eighteen hours a day of focusing on yoga and obviously exercise and the things that go with yoga, the meditative side of things, right in the middle of being a powerful consultant and right before publishing a book. Can you tell our readers why you would make a decision like that?
Linda: Absolutely. I’ve been an avid yoga practitioner, particularly power yoga, for a number of years. I really needed to take it up to the next level. In fact, right … It was exactly in the middle of writing the book where I just needed that clear my mind to be able to think clearly about what’s going on. I got my power yoga certification, but in particular hot power, which is effectively ninety minutes in between 108 to 112 degrees. Our training was grueling, but it also required learning Sanskrit and learning a lot of different things.
The eighteen hour days were comprised of very demanding physical activity as well as then having to learn a new language, deciphering the sutras and understanding what is really going on. Completing that with fairly extensive and difficult exams and then going through your practicals. What it did is just completely cleared my mind.
I needed to get away. During that process, you don’t have any phones. You’re not connected and you’re really focused on something very different. There is a famous sutra which says “chitta vritti nirodha” which is in Sanskrit means “Yoga begins when the fluctuations of the mind stop.” We live in a world where we are in 99% fluctuation and 1% thinking so it was really an opportunity to be in a very quiet mental space, pushing the physical boundaries of the body to achieve what you didn’t think you could do, and pushing that along with a group of people that were all … We all came from very different walks of life.
When it was completed, I really had a lot more clarity and I think we were able to do the latter part of the book. I mean it became enormously cleaner after that and faster and with a lot more clarity and vision. That was what it was about. Now, teaching is a key thing for me to do because it’s now about the passion of transferring this, but not necessarily just the physical aspects of the teaching, but really helping people reach that level of mental calmness so that they can begin whatever else they’re doing much better.
Dave: I love your description there. I advise people that I work with as a mentor to take up yoga or to use other techniques to help to calm their mind and to deal with stress because so many people are basically letting their mind to get in their way because they just don’t have control of their brain. I went through a similar process when I was writing my book that’s coming out through Wiley probably in about nine months.
This is a book about nutrition and about stress and about personal performance and even about … It’s targeted towards pregnant women about how to have healthier, higher intelligence babies. What I did during that was I did a more biohacker focused, seven day retreat hooked up to an EEG machine, actually an $11 million research EEG machine that let me do the equivalent of 40 years of Zen meditation in seven days, so I could learn to clear my mind in a way that normally takes almost a lifetime to learn.
It’s been really amazing because I sat down right in the last day of that and I wrote the entire outline for the book just in my notepad from one end to the other and that’s what we’re publishing. Yeah, once you get out of your own way, it’s amazing what you can do. I find it really intriguing that you chose a similar path in order to also help your own mind focus and get clear. I think that’s-
Linda: I think, Dave, you just hit on a very critical … the sentence, which it really deserves a moment of conversation, which is a book you and I ought to write together which is called “How Do You Get Out of Your Own Way?” because that is in fact the whole core of the problem. When the questions came up about how do you disrupt if you’re not in an environment you can disrupt? How do you do this when this is not possible?
Truth of the matter, it is just all about you and what you have in front of you, whether it’s physical things you want to achieve, whether it’s … anything. It is we who are in our own way and it’s a brilliant topic of a book you and I need to write together because once we learn how to remove our self from our own way is when everything happens. Disruption is right now stifled, whether we’re talking about education, innovation, companies, government. Everything is stifled because of how people, the limitations they put in front of themselves, not about limitations that fundamentally exist.
Now, granted, it takes us reading a lot of books which probably you and I have to learn how to remove ourselves, but that is the passion of yoga, is helping people realize that one step at a time.
Dave: It is indeed. It applies so much more than people realize to ultra successful people. I sat in a room. I’ve done for quite a while breathing exercises, and one is called Art of Living. I’ve done them in rooms full of people whose net worth certainly exceeds $50 million; people who have been incredibly successful entrepreneurs over and over and over.
Linda: Had a hard time breathing.
Dave: They’re all there because they recognize that taking some time to work on the hardware of their body through breathing was actually affecting the software, their brain, and that it was making them better people and better entrepreneurs. That’s one of the techniques that we talked about on the blog and obviously something that you just spent a lot of time on over the course of your training in yoga.
I think it’s key to being able to disrupt and being able to create and innovate, to be able to, like you said, get out of your own way. I’m really glad that we got to talk about this as part of the interview and I can’t wait to read your new book, “Provoke.”
Linda: Absolutely. They can find me by www.lindabernardi.com, L-I-N-D-A-B-E-R-N-A-R-D-I.com. My book, “Provoke,” absolutely I encourage to read because I’m hoping what will happen is without a doubt, at the beginning, they will be very uncomfortable. I’m hoping they will sustain through and they will be highly entertained as they read it, but it’s also a very critical way of looking at all the components that play in going from disruption to innovation.
I want people to, particularly at a time now where we’re looking at things like Groupon going for an IPO, and I want people to look at that and say, “Does that make sense? Is that really innovation? Is that disruption to innovation? Is that financial model making sense?” I just want people to be part of the dialogue and they’re invited to become members of the culture of disruption. In fact, when they get their book there’ll be a membership card in there and the many talks that I give people get membership cards. I invite people to my blogs to communicate and become part of what I hope will make us better as a society.
Dave: That’s a great goal and one that I very much support. Linda, thank you so much for spending time with us today here on the Upgraded Self Radio.
Linda: Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you so much.
Dave: Thanks everyone for listening to today’s show. If you enjoyed this, you can help us by leaving a positive ranking on iTunes or even just by clicking Like on Facebook, or Twittering a link to our show.