Success Podcast Post

Telling Stories with Jason Feifer

George Grombacher August 30, 2023

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Telling Stories with Jason Feifer

LifeBlood: We talked about telling stories to get your message across, being useful, the value of beauty and brevity, finding your zone of genius, and the power of a personal mission statement, with Jason Feifer, Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, speaker, podcaster, and author.      

Listen to learn why thinking about yourself as a work in progress is a successful approach!

You can learn more about Jason at OneThingBetter.Email,, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Jason Feifer

Jason Feifer

Episode Transcript

The podcast has changed. It’s not built for tomorrow anymore. It’s called Help Wanted. In case you want to, or we could just roll with this and I have corrected you on the record, which I like it. I think we should keep it going. Did I get the name of the book read at least? Mostly? You got the name of the book. Right. You got that you got that subtitle a little bit wrong. Well, that’s okay. Anyway, podcast is called helpful on it. Hi, everybody. And the book title the subtitle, let me grab it for habit behind me is an action plan for embracing change, adapting fast and future proofing your career, but whatever. Nobody remembers subtitles two books. Anyway. It’s called build for tomorrow. Hi. It’s nice to be here. I appreciate appreciate you taking the time. Great to have you on tell us a little bit your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do. Boy, well, what is my personal life, my personal life has become my work. But I am I married I have two kids, eight and four years old. I live in Brooklyn, New York. I’m the editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, I travel around and I talk to companies and help them in their teams

george grombacher 0:02
Jason Pfeiffer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine. He is the host of the building for tomorrow podcast. He is a keynote speaker, a top LinkedIn voice and the author of built for tomorrow action plan for embracing change, adopting fast and future protecting your career. Welcome, Jason.

Jason Feifer 0:20
Thank you. Wait, actually, you want it? Sorry. Sorry to interrupt you.

rethink their relationship to change and become more adaptable. And, and I write a newsletter called one thing better. And I basically I’m just trying to be in touch with as many people and be as useful to as many people as possible, because why do I do what I do? Honestly, it all started just because I really liked talking to people and learning about what they were doing. And what I happen to find was that the way that entrepreneurs think and talk and share was the most compelling of basically any group that I’d ever met. And I spent years being inside that tech community and allowing that community to change me and how I thought about myself and shaped myself into an entrepreneur. And now it is my great joy to work with incredibly ambitious people, to help them achieve everything that they are setting out to achieve.

george grombacher 2:17
Love it being as useful as possible. I think that that’s great language, I’m fine to say and I’d rather be useful than brilliant. How did you come? How did you come to that term?

Jason Feifer 2:30
Because I found that it was the currency of the environment that I’m operating in. You know, it’s funny, I started my career in daily newspapers. And then I got into magazines, and consumer facing magazines, and the world of consumer facing magazines. And the people who work there are very craft oriented, very interested in making a beautiful product and creating beautiful writing and telling beautiful stories. And I got I got really into that I liked that. But then I ended up an entrepreneur. And I started writing for the entrepreneur audience. And this was back in 2015 2016. And I came to discover something which is that, you know, entrepreneurs don’t have time. They don’t have time for your beautiful craft. They don’t have time for, for these complicated magazine pages that you spent all this time sketching out, no time for it. They’re busy, they’re making things and they don’t care about your song and dance, what they care about is what you have to offer. And I as I started to shed this thing that I thought was important, which was the artistry of something. And I started leaning into the directness of things just being useful. This really interesting thing happened, which was that I started to hear from people in a way I never had before. I mean, I would labor for months on a magazine story. And I would think it was the most beautiful thing I ever created. And it would go out into the world. And I’d literally hear from zero people, rarely zero people. I know people read it, zero people reached out. And then I started writing these more simple, straightforward, very value oriented pieces. And I started to get these intimate emails from people about how useful this was and how they read it at exactly the right moment and this thing that they’re grappling with right now and how this idea helped them think about this and, and I came to realize, you know, nobody has time for access. But if I can just be useful. And what I bring to things is not showing us but is rather a a skill of communication and of finding ways to connect with people and make things meaningful and memorable. Then I’m offering something that is going to have a lot more lasting Are you? And that is how I then started to orient everything that I do.

george grombacher 5:04
Well, I appreciate that and appreciate the thoughtfulness. Do you think that there’s going to be a middle ground that you’re going to arrive at?

Jason Feifer 5:12
I think I found it in a way, right? I mean, I don’t the world of, of communication for people who are looking for, for help, right in some way or another, you know, business communication, communication, people who are, who is self development, communication, there’s a wide range of the way that that stuff is produced. Some of it is as bare bones as possible. It’s just bullet points. And I read these newsletters, and they’re just, they’re just bullet points, and everything is 200 words. But I don’t know how to do that. And I don’t like doing that. And I don’t like reading that. And so what I do now is I do it in this way in which I take a big idea, and then I illustrate it through a story. And then I use that story to lead into an exercise that wraps back to the big idea. And what I found is that that harnesses the skill set that I had developed throughout my career, but just utilizing it in a totally different way. And people reach out and they tell me about how memorable it is because I’m communicating and story. But I think that everybody I like this phrase that somebody came up with, it wasn’t me, which is zone of genius, you know, what’s your zone of genius. And I think it’s valuable to recognize what you’re really good at. And what I’m really good at is telling stories. And what I realized is that there isn’t just one way to do that. And in fact, when you start to liberate yourself, and think of your core value is very transferable and malleable. And that doing it in lots of different ways doesn’t diminish your core value, it actually creates a consistency in what you have to offer the world, then you can maximize what you’re best at, for whatever means are in front of you. For me, it’s storytelling, I apply storytelling to the way that I instruct people about business. And that to me is a wonderful middle ground, it means not abandoning what I had learned before, but rather just finding a more purposeful way of using it.

george grombacher 7:15
I love it. And then the different mediums that you operate in you are a you are speaker, you’re doing workshops at companies, you obviously do your podcast, whatever, whatever, what is the correct name of the podcast again, it’s called Help Wanted, Help Wanted. And then we have the book, you’ve got your newsletter, and obviously through the magazine. Yeah,

Jason Feifer 7:39
it’s still on what you

george grombacher 7:41
were just talking about. Working to incorporate your zone of genius into different ways to communicate, I can see that as challenging and rewarding and sort of like a kind of like laboratory.

Jason Feifer 7:54
And once you figure out what is underneath it all, it becomes an unlock, I always advise people to come up with a mission statement for yourself, it should be a single sentence starts with the eye. And then just a few words, every word carefully selected because it is not anchored to something that’s easily changeable. So I am a magazine editor is a bad mission statement to easily changed, right? Very easily changed. All it takes is getting fired from a magazine, which could happen anytime could have a right now, right? You and I are talking I could look at my inbox afterwards. And I could have an email saying that I’m done. And that could happen. And so if my identity is I’m a magazine editor, I’m one email or phone call away from losing that that’s not good. So instead, I tell stories in my own voice. That’s my mission statement statement for myself. I tell stories in my own voice seven words, the word stories really important to me stories, not magazine stories, newspaper stories, whatever I can do it in any number of ways of doing it when I’m talking to you right now, sort of telling a story of myself. And once you have identified that thing that is so core to you, that it drove you to develop the skills that enable you to do the tasks then at that point. There’s a sort of infinite variety of ways in which you can articulate that core mission for yourself. And that’s what I found for me, and it took a long time to get there. And then it took a long time to shift everything that I’m doing towards it. I made podcasts before help. I mean, this is part of the reason that I do help wanted to not the original show that you said which I which I ended and that’s because that show I felt didn’t fulfill the consistent mission that I’ve set out for myself now. I started that show years and years ago, it was time for something new. It was time to bring everything in line so that I felt like once I’ve established a mission. I’m really thoughtful and careful about how everything that I do grows out of it.

george grombacher 9:58
I love it. They could that is fun. Fantastic, and I appreciate you saying that it took you a long time to sort of come to that and to figure out how to link everything together. Because I know that there’s a lot of people out there who feel like they are not necessarily living a mission driven life.

Jason Feifer 10:16
Yeah. And then guess, you know, the crazy thing is that if I, you and you and I are talking, let’s just timestamp this, you and I are talking August 15, Tuesday, August 15 2023. If I listen back to this in two years, and I listen to myself talk about how I figured out this mission statement, I started execute, I’m gonna think to myself, I didn’t know what I was doing back then I had no idea. And that’s how I That’s how I feel. Now. I mean, I think about what I was doing two years ago, and I think a little boy, that was rough, that was rough material. And that’s how it’s always gonna be right. So you have to, you have to at once you have to hold these two things in your head at the same time, which is at number one, you have enough of a clarity of purpose, to move towards and build things. But also know that a lot of what you’re doing is going to evolve and change, and you’re still in the growth stage. And I think that it’s good to always think of ourselves in the growth stage, Reed Hoffman, the co founder of LinkedIn has this great little phrase, which is called permanent beta thinks everyone should live in permanent beta as if you’re a beta product permanently. And the liberating concept there is that when you release something in beta, it’s not supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to have problems and the point of it is actually to test it, and to see how it can be improved. And so when somebody tries a beta product and says, Oh, actually, this doesn’t work over here, the people who make it are not like, Ah, crap, right? They’re like, Oh, good, good, good. Good. Thanks. You know, and that’s how we need to think of ourselves to like that we’re always in development. And therefore when we notice something that’s wrong. It’s not a failure. It’s literally part of the process.

george grombacher 12:00
I love that. I was just thinking earlier today about looking backwards and thinking about those times two years ago, when like, oh, my gosh, that was so silly for thinking that but then 10 years ago, and 20 years ago, sometimes I look back on things, and I’m, I’m embarrassed by it, embarrassed by some of the things that I did. And I really liked that idea of permanent beta and realizing that we are works in progress, and it’s imperfect.

Jason Feifer 12:25
Yeah, it’s really helpful. And you’re also you know, it’s funny, I mean, I look, I’ve had a million moments where I did something and then regretted it or thought I look stupid or whatever. And you know, I I’ve I came to, I came to realize there’s a term for this, which is counterfactual thinking, which is that you start to compare what you did against an alternate reality when you did something differently. And then you feel like what you did was lesser than the better version of it, which is actually called Upward counterfactual thinking, there’s downward cash with counterfactual thinking, where you think about how something could have gone wrong, or worse. But usually, we’re upward counterfactual thinking, and you know, that’s not fair. That’s a fair to us. Because I, first of all, it almost certainly wasn’t going to go this kind of perfect route. And in to the way that it went was actually probably fine. You know, I mean, I something I always have to remember, I go on TV, do these TV segments, and then afterwards, it’ll be fine. And then afterwards, I’ll be leaving the studio, and I’ll be kicking myself, because I’ll be like, Oh, I should that would have been I should have said this joke. When they said that I didn’t think to do that. And oh, this line would have been much cleverer, right. And like nobody at home, zero people at home, watched what you did, and was like, ah, that joke could have been better that you missed the joke, right? Like, they’re not thinking that. And so you shouldn’t think that it’s not fair to yourself to the degree that you do it. Take it as a lesson. Oh, next time that happens, I should think about that. But past that, I think that we need to, we need to accept that what we’ve brought to the table on any one day just happened to be the best that we could produce that day. And that our B or B minus for ourselves is probably still someone else’s perception of an A, and you can improve tomorrow without having to diminish today. Well, so

george grombacher 14:30
you are a writer, and you obviously do a lot of it. Do you have a certain amount that you write every day? Tell me a little bit about your process?

Jason Feifer 14:39
No, I mean, there’s something new to do every day. And so I have processes for specific projects. For example, I have this newsletter, which is called one thing better. comes out every Tuesday morning. If anyone wants to find it, you can find that one thing that’s Oh, any one. One thing better dot email. That’s a web address one thing better dot email and you know, it’s it’s what I say is one thing better offers you one way to improve your work and build a company or career that you love. And I tend to write that on a Wednesday or Thursday morning, and then I let it sit for a little bit. And then I fiddle with it over the weekend, and then I obsess over it on Monday. And then it turns out on Tuesday, and then I repeat, but past that, really my one routine is that I write in the morning, I don’t write at night, I’m not a good writer at night, I’m burnt out, I’ve got too many things cluttering my brain, I’m going to be a slow writer, and I’m not going to be as clever. And it’s like, why would I? If something if something in the morning takes me an hour to write, it could take me three hours to write a poor version of it in the evening? Why would I waste those three hours in the evening when I could be? I don’t know watching Better Call Saul with my wife. So I would rather be efficient and think of myself as a resource, and how do I most efficiently and effectively use myself as a resource, and then structure my way my day around that? So, you know, I would suggest to anybody that you think about the different tasks that are required of you and the different kinds of mental energy that is required for those tasks? And then how can you best line up your day to maximize you? So if I think fastest and most most creatively in the morning, then I want to do my writing in the morning. And that means that I’ll do all my meetings when I don’t have to be as clever in the afternoon. And and then do they need to have to hold to it. You can’t book you can’t book a meeting with me before 11am I won’t let you not acceptable. I love it. Not acceptable.

george grombacher 16:46
Well, Jason, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you?

Jason Feifer 16:52
Well, I suppose we’ve said a bunch of it already, but I’ll just rattle it off. So one thing better is that newsletter which I I just I care so deeply about and put a lot of energy into it and each week gives you one way to improve your work so no, you can find that at one thing better dot email. And you know, I would just suggest that because from there I will be linking to my book and the podcasts and and all that stuff. And also if you respond to a one thing better email, it goes directly to me and I’m happy to respond to you.

george grombacher 17:23
Excellent. Well if you enjoyed as much as I did, so Jason your appreciation and share today share with a friend who also appreciates good ideas. Subscribe to the one thing better Tuesday newsletter by going to one thing better dot email and I can certainly speak to its quality. I am a subscriber and I love Thank you. You’re welcome. And check out the Help Wanted podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts and then pick up your copy of built for tomorrow and action plan for embracing change adopting fast and future proofing your career. You got your books, and obviously continue reading the wonderful Entrepreneur Magazine as well. Thanks again, Jason. Thanks, sir.

Jason Feifer 18:05
Appreciate it.

george grombacher 18:06
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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