Some people are afraid to leap into doing business and choose to hang on the edge instead. Especially those raising their family could not afford the risk and lose their job because of the responsibility to feed their family. In this episode, the founder of Extreme Leadership Institute, Steve Farber, was in the same situation where he had to decide. He took the risk by pivoting and jumping off the train to success. Although it wasn’t a straight trajectory to the top, he still made it. The top motivational speaker and bestselling author shares his story about developing leaders and taking the radical LEAP to grow your business. Tune in to this episode and take that radical leap with Steve Farber to bridge the gap of leadership and move forward to success with him!
- 05:02 Introduction to Steve Farber
- 07:43 Steve’s background
- 12:31 Steve’s first conscious pivot
- 17:01 How entrepreneurship found Steve
- 21:36 A series of pivotal moments
- 28:05 Humility or arrogance
- 34:07 A pivotal decision
- 43:32 Magic wand question
- 49:00 Steve’s growth rituals
- 51:51 Steve’s takeaway from Pivot
- 53:15 Steve’s contact and concluding remarks
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
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Bringing In Extreme Leadership By Taking The Radical LEAP With Steve Farber – Replay
In this episode, we have Steve Farber, who is the Founder of the Extreme Leadership Institute, an organization devoted to the cultivation and development of extreme leaders in the business community. His third book, Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership, was a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. His second book, The Radical Edge: Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, and Change the World was hailed as a playbook for harnessing the power of the human spirit. His first book, The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership, is already considered a classic in the leadership field. It received Fast Company Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award and was named 1 of the 100 best business books of all time.
His book Love Is Just Damn Good Business was listed by Book Authority as one of the top business strategy books of 2020. Some of the things that we discussed was his battle between a traditional life and his love of music. He shares how he had a successful business, a house, a car and a family, but was miserable in his industry, which was the moment that he realized what he was truly meant to do. Enjoy my conversation with Mr. Steve Farber.
It’s a beautiful day. It’s a magnificent day for so many reasons. The most obvious of which, I’m not the sharpest tool in the box or whatever, to me to be alive and breathing in this moment, for us to collectively be breathing together. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I assume that you are breathing. That is a good sign. I woke up and put my feet on the floor. I sat there feeling what I was grateful for. It didn’t take me long to remember that as I was taking those breaths, as I was searching for what I was grateful for, it’s like something came out and then fell out of the sky and hit me in the head and said, “Just be grateful that you can be grateful, that you can even be thinking about or focusing on gratitude at this moment.”
How many people are waking up at this very moment, and they’re even not in gratitude or even more depressing is the number of people that did not wake up. They went to sleep and didn’t wake up or take their last breath at the same moment that I was taking my first breath. One thing I know like I know my own name is that this moment is sacred, that this moment is holy even. It’s a blessing to be here and to be with all of you. This day is a blessing.
It’s about to get even better. That’s the good news. It’s about to get so much better and that’s because I get to share something with you in the form of an incredible human being, friend and colleague, and somebody I have the deepest respect for and admiration for. I love what this man stands for. I love what he does in the world. I get to share him with all of you, which makes my life a joy at this moment to be of service and give in this way. For you all, it’s an exciting time to be able to sit back or do whatever it is you’re doing.
I love this show. It seems that is an ever-growing population of people that are digging this medium to learn things and get some education, get some entertainment even at times, take you out of the routines of the day, and even maybe the thoughts that you’re having are less than positive or less than empowering, to be able to push the pause button in your own inner thinking and maybe the critical voice inside your head. Allow yourself to unfold into a space of listening, curiosity, inquiry, and all of that. This is a perfect time to get into that. I’m going to allow this gentleman to say some things about himself. I don’t do formal introductions. I always love it when our guests are in the moment, they’re present with us, and they can tell us what’s really important to them at this time in their life.
What I know of Steve Farber, who is our guest, is that he is somebody that has taught and trained on the topic of leadership and other business topics. He’s taught all over the world. I have known him because we’re both members of this group called TLC. We get to retreat together a couple of times a year, which is special with a lot of other people that are wanting and are doing amazing things to make the world a better place on so many levels, whether it’s in the personal growth area, in the human potential area or in business development, etc.
Steve has written some great books. In fact, The Radical Leap was the first book I read of his. It was a radical bestseller. You can check that out radically. Then he wrote The Radical Edge. I may be getting the order of things wrong, but I do believe that was the succession of things. It was The Radical Leap to The Radical Edge to then Greater Than Yourself, which is an impeccable life-changing book on mentorship and on business leadership. This guy is the bomb as far as I’m concerned. You’re going to find that out for yourselves. Without further ado, welcome to the show, Steve Farber.
Thank you. It’s great to be here. I’ve been looking forward to this for reasons that will become clear.
Could you share with our audience a little bit about yourself, your background, where you’re at, and what’s important to you these days?
My life’s work, as it turns out, was not what I anticipated it to be. If you were to ask me when I was in my early twenties, I would not have predicted this, which I know is true for a lot of people. My life’s work is around leadership development, which is a broad term. I’ve been in the field for many years. I’ve had some amazing mentors, including Tom Peters, who was arguably the most influential management thinker of the modern era. I was vice president of his company for a while. I started there in 1994 and left in 2000, and went out on my own. That’s when I started writing books, doing keynotes, and helping people understand that leadership is a very personal thing, not a matter of your position or title.
My exploration has been around helping people to understand the influence that they have. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that leadership is a function of your position of authority and does not automatically come with the territory. We can all think of examples that are obvious like that. People have positions of authority but are not necessarily great leaders. I see it in organizations all over the world. We see it in the political arena, in the business arena, etc.
What happens as a result of that is if I work for a company, I’m on my own, a solopreneur, or an entrepreneur, I feel like a cog in the machine at a corporation. Wherever I am on that spectrum, if I believe that leadership is somehow something that would be bestowed upon me or if I aspired to it I have to achieve a certain position, then I’m missing out on a huge opportunity to lead right now and to make a significant difference in the world around me and to change it for the better. That’s what leadership is.
We agree that leadership is important, but we don’t have a lot of agreement as to what that means or what it looks like and how we can rise to a higher level of leadership ourselves. My work is about closing the gap between what we aspire to in terms of leadership and what we do every day. That might sound a little abstract. My focus has been primarily on the corporate world. I’m doing more work with entrepreneurs. There’s a whole side of my work that’s about creative expression as well. I didn’t start out thinking that someday I should be a leadership development person.If leadership is bestowed upon you, you’re missing out on the opportunity to lead. Click To Tweet
You didn’t aspire to that when you were eight years old.
When I was eight years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I went back and forth. I couldn’t decide between a veterinarian and a heart surgeon. I ended up as neither, although if you think about it metaphorically, perhaps I’m a heart surgeon. I wanted to be a musician. I’ve been playing guitar since I was thirteen years old. If you were to ask me in my early twenties what I was going to do, it was going to be play music, write songs and perform.
I got married at a young age and into my first child, my daughter, Angelica. I was 23. By the time I was 24, I had two kids. At that point in my life, I discovered that the idea of being a musician and feeding people were mutually exclusive. Like a gunslinger hanging up his gun, I hung up my guitar and started raising a family. That’s when I got into business. I had my own company. I was in the financial services industry, had my own small brokerage firm. I discovered I was an entrepreneur right from the very beginning.
We pivot from the day we were born. Once we’re out of our parent’s house and on our own as adults, the first significant conscious pivot was to hang up the guitar in favor of something else. Not that we want to get stuck in that spot very long, but just curious if there’s anything’s come up for you about that?
It was extraordinarily painful, not just because, at the time, I felt like I was abandoning a dream but because I also had a dream of having a family. It wasn’t like I was a prisoner, but I did feel regret. I felt a level of grief in giving that up, not only because I was giving up on a career path. I don’t know if you can call music a career, but for the lucky ones, it becomes a career.
In the very beginning, I wanted to at least give it a try. The other side of it is that music, from the time I was thirteen years old, was such a big part of my personality. It was a big part of the way I connected with people and the way I shared with others who I am. I still feel like people don’t know me well until they’ve heard my songs. When I gave it up as a professional pursuit, it was painful that I just shut it down all the way. I stopped playing. That part of me was put on the shelf for a while.
Part of your music was your identity. You had competing dreams because part of your dream was to be a father, to have a family. Part of your dream was to continue to do something that you loved, which was to play music. In addition to it being in love, a passion, all that kind of thing, it was very much a part of your identity at that time.
It was and remains a big part of my identity. The problem back then was part of it was a function of an emotional defense mechanism and part of it was just immaturity. I was in my early twenties. I was still a kid. In order to deal with it, in order to pursue the family dream versus the music dream, I felt at the time that I needed to shut it all down. Otherwise, when I picked up a guitar, instead of feeling a sense of creative expression, I was feeling an experience of what I’d given up. It felt like I had abandoned a part of myself.
That was the word that just came up for me, abandonment, that idea that you abandoned a piece of yourself. Abandon is a strong word, but to leave a piece of yourself behind for a reason, you didn’t do it just because you wanted to. You did it because, on some level, you applied logic and reason. In the law, we call it the reasonable man standard. You were a reasonable man. You wanted to start a family.
There’s no such thing as pure logic or reason.
It’s what we know of it at the moment.
The decision was logical, reasonable and responsible. The experience was abandonment. If I had given up that part of myself, that would have been tough. To turn my back on it, abandon, shun it and say, “That no longer serves my path as a family person,” that’s what it felt like. I had regret. I felt like I had given up a part of myself. I also felt a bit of resentment too that I had to do this somehow. At the same time, I love my family. I love my kids. I was having kids for the first time. There’s a sense of gratification in bringing home the paycheck the occasional times when that happens. The choice to go into business wasn’t like stepping onto a golden elevator.We all agree that leadership is essential but don’t agree about what it means or looks like. Click To Tweet
This is where hindsight is great, wisdom or whatever you want to call it. Life experience is so great because it informs us about reality into looking back in the rearview mirror. At the time, you looked at music as the wild ass risky thing to do. You turned your back on it, you abandoned it. The good news here is that this is not the end of the story. The story does not end in some sad fashion like, “I abandoned my dream. I abandoned my kids or something,” and there’s never been any reuniting. It’s interesting you chose business, out of all things, entrepreneurship as the responsible path to take when that’s a harrowing experience all by itself.
I did not choose the entrepreneurial path immediately. I went to work for somebody who offered me a job in the commodities futures business, which I knew nothing about at the time. Still, it was a straight commission thing. It was an entrepreneurial venture. It was feast or famine. It wasn’t like, “We will give you a salary plus commission and healthcare.” It was like, “You can come work for me. Keep bringing some accounts. We’ll pay you some money.”
I hadn’t thought of it in these terms before. I was an entrepreneur from the beginning because I did not go into a secure job. It was a straight commission. What I discovered in that process was that I was an entrepreneur. I had some semi-salary jobs that I’ve been involved into, but I ended up with my own shop. That’s the really short version of the story. I started my own small commodities brokerage firm. I’ve got some experience of it.
I realized that I had this mechanism in me that’s always thinking about what I can create and the sense of freedom that comes along, one would think, with having your own enterprise and all that. I ended up with a small brokerage firm. As an entrepreneurial venture, I could pay myself a salary, but that salary came from the revenues that the company had to create. That’s where I learned everything from the financial markets. From the entrepreneurial side, that’s where I learned about hiring people, marketing, what it is to try to make payroll, and everything that every entrepreneur has to learn. I learned it very quickly.
Ironically, the main thing that I learned was how much I hated that business. From the outside looking in, it looked pretty cool. I’ve got my own company. I’m my own boss. I’ve got kids, a car, a house, employees, and all that so-called American Dream. The problem was I hated that industry. It’s a very speculative investment, so clients lost their money left and right. I had a moral dilemma with my own business and I hated it.
In a very short span of time, I gave up the music, which caused me grief. I got married and had kids who raised the stakes in terms of responsibility as a provider, and then I ended up getting into a business that I hated. There was no music or joy in going to work. I’m sugarcoating it a little bit. Believe it or not, it was an intensely challenging time that ended up being my formative years. This was all before I was 30 years old. I started pretty young. I had to figure this out as I was going along. I’m a slow learner because it took a while to figure this out.
Is this going to be the pivotal moment?
No. It goes downhill from here. There was a pivotal moment, and there was a series of them. They all happened in late ’88 or ‘89. We were living in the Midwest. I moved the family out to San Francisco. My business had gone down in flames. I knew I hated that business. I was given a job offer in San Francisco. That’s why we moved out there to work for somebody who was starting a commodities futures business. He offered me an opportunity to move the family to San Francisco and collect some paychecks, so we did it. I took advantage of it and did it not because I would do more things in the industry that I hate but because it facilitated a new chapter. I felt like a new chapter was coming.
Here’s the pivotal moment. I remember this very clearly. On my lunch break, walking around downtown San Francisco, which is beautiful and I was still overwhelmed by, “What a great city and I can’t believe I’m here,” but at the same time, I was still miserable. I remember it was about as close as I’ve come to prayer in a very inadvertent way. I lived in a prayerful state, but it was one of those moments where it was like, “I know in my bones there’s something I’m supposed to be doing on this planet, and I have no idea what it is. Please give me some hints. Tell me what I’m supposed to be doing and I will gladly do it.”
That was the first pivotal moment where that came together where I just acknowledged that aching in my bones that says, “There is something I’m supposed to be doing.” I didn’t feel hopeless in a sense like, “I got nothing. There’s no contribution I can make.” It wasn’t like that. I knew there was something, but I didn’t know what it was.
Step one, you had a real moment, a real conversation, a vulnerable on your knees and hands prayer?
Walking down the street in the financial district in San Francisco, looking up at the buildings, and saying Tell me what it is because it isn’t this.” I don’t remember exactly the time frame, but it was very short. It might have been days, at the most weeks. After that, I was having a conversation with an old friend who I hadn’t talked to for a while. We were talking about our mutual friends. This person mentioned a mutual friend of ours, Alexandra Leslie, still a friend of mine, a great person.Don’t assume that there’s an answer. Know that there’s an answer. Everybody has that sense of knowingness. Click To Tweet
He was telling me that Alexandra was teaching some workshops for companies. That was the level of detail that I got. There is no exaggeration in this. All of my lights went on. I said, “That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I have no idea what that is, but that’s it.” I started talking to people about that, including my sister and close friends, “What do you know about this corporate training thing?” Lo and behold, there was a whole industry out there that did all kinds of things. Honestly, I had no idea there was such a thing as corporate training and developing industry. I started to research it and find out who did what. It turns out there was a company in San Francisco that was looking for somebody.
In the meantime, I got hired by a small consulting company to do contract work to teach business writing workshops. I was a writer. I’d always been a writer from the time I was a kid. I was a pretty good writer. I learned how to teach their program. I started doing these little workshops in business writing for AT&T and I slapped that on my resumé, “Professional trainer.”
I sent that resumé to a company in San Francisco that was looking for somebody. They came out and watched me do my thing at AT&T, this little writing workshop. They brought me on as a contractor to do an entirely different program which was very customer service and culture-oriented. It was a two-day very performance-oriented show almost. That’s where I learned my chops and started traveling around the world.
Once I jumped onto that train, I’m not going to say it was a straight trajectory to the top, but it sure was the new trend. I fell in love with that work and being up in front of people and helping them make their places better and get along better and communicate better. After doing that for a few years, I got hired by Tom Peters in 1994.
I learned more about leadership and started working with senior executive teams, developed my own point of view and started writing books and the whole thing. I hear this question a lot, Adam, as I’m sure you do. When you’re out speaking at an event, people come up to you and say, “I want to do what you do. How did you get started?” I don’t recommend the path that I took, “First, you have to go into a period of very deep, dark pain.”
You’re not making light of it, but I want to get serious about that. You talked about being in that place of prayerfulness or asking the question, “What am I supposed to be doing?” If you were going to categorize that question, would you categorize it as humility or as arrogance?
It definitely didn’t feel like arrogance. Humility is closer to it. Honestly, it was despair combined with a knowingness that there was an answer to the question.
That’s how I look at you. When I think of the word humility or humbleness, it’s assuming there is an answer and also recognizing that you don’t have it.
Maybe we’re nitpicking a little bit in terms of semantics, but it’s important. I didn’t assume there was an answer. I knew there was an answer. I don’t know if that’s something that’s teachable or not. I would like to believe that everybody has that sense of knowingness in them, but for me, it was very prevalent. It rose to the surface. There was that gap between, “I know there’s something I’m supposed to be doing and I know I don’t know what it is.” I wasn’t asking for riches to fall on my head. I was asking for an opportunity to discover what my purpose is and then to live it.
There’s a difference between believing and knowing. This is an important point here because there are a lot of people out there that may be in a position in their life, whether they’re in their 20s, 30s, 50s, 60s where they don’t know something that’s important, like what is next for them in the doing, career or work, or business area. They may know that there is something for them to do. Maybe they have that level of clarity that you had, and at the same time knowing that they don’t know, which is whatever word you want to apply.
For me, the word will be humility. I have the humility to know or admit that I don’t know something and also to be able to ask for help. Not everybody’s going to pray. Not everybody’s going to ask spirit, god, source or whatever to get an answer. You’ve got to ask someone or ask of something, inquire of something to get an answer to a question you have.
To me, the universal principle that’s at play here is that you cannot ask a question and not get an answer. The only thing that’s variable or uncertain is the timing. It’s a knowing, not a belief. I think belief is very much what we want, we suspect and what’s in place until we have more proof or evidence. It’s a strong hunch, and it could be based on the experiences we’ve had or people that have been close to us. A belief is a strong suspicion and a knowing is something that you can count on.There is an answer to every question. You just don’t get it the way you prefer at the moment. Click To Tweet
You went to prayer knowing three things, knowing what you were doing wasn’t what you wanted to be doing. Knowing that there was something for you to do that would be what you’re supposed to be doing, and third, knowing that you didn’t have the answer to it but were willing to be guided to it. It was a foregone conclusion that you get an answer. The only question is, “When would you get the answer?”
To the principle that there is an answer to every question and you’ll get it, it just doesn’t happen necessarily in the way that we would prefer at the moment. In other words, it may not be an instantaneous answer or even if it is an instantaneous answer, it doesn’t mean that you hear it. I may not want to hear that or they may be too much noise. When I see how many clues I had along the way, I completely ignored them.
Take us to now because you had this pivotal time where you asked a question, cause and effect, got an answer. It’s not a linear thing. You got an answer when the universe or however you want to call it, the answer was going to show up at some point and you heard it. The moment that this answer showed up, you paid attention. You were ready to hear it. Clearly, you were ready, you were paying attention and then you took action because you had this knowing now. Not just belief but a stronger feeling inside that this was what you were meant to be doing, and then you started down that path.
Fast forward a bunch of years, you’ve been doing amazing things with that knowing. It’s not been a straight line, it’s not been without its pitfalls, challenges or whatever, but you have maintained that course ever since. Bring us up to speed to what you’re doing. Did music ever reappear back in your life or is that the end of the tale of woe?
As far as the music goes, after a while, I did start playing again just for myself. After we moved to San Francisco, I did start playing a little bit more. I even went out and played in a couple of open mics to get that feeling and all that. It did take its place in my life again to at least a small degree. I hadn’t completely shut the door and left it closed. In terms of my career path, there were several pivotal moments. I got hired by a company that was based in Denmark and had an office in San Francisco. They were the ones that came to watch me at AT&T and then offered me a contract position to do training for them. These were big training initiatives.
One of our clients back in the day was US Airways, which is now United. It was an organization-wide program, so we trained thousands of people over the course of several years, 120 people at a time cross-sectional. There were people from various levels of management across different functions. We got them together for two days in a room and it was all about culture and creating an environment of service where we treat each other as customers.
It was very entertaining and presenter-driven and lots of skits and performances and lots of humor. I just loved it and I was good at it. I was a contractor. I got paid whenever they tapped me on the shoulder to go teach some workshops. I was getting paid pretty well, $1,000 a day or something like that, to do these things. I was finding my stride in that industry. It was waking up into it and say, “This is what I was built for,” and digging it. Still, I was a contractor.
One of my colleagues there went to work for the aforementioned Tom Peters, which was right down the road in Palo Alto at the time. For your readers who are unfamiliar with him, his original claim to fame was the book called In Search of Excellence that he co-wrote with Bob Waterman, which is one of the most, if not the most influential business book ever written. This guy was a celebrity and an amazing thought leader and all that.
When my colleague went to work for them, she’s on the sales side, I said, “What about me? I want to go too.” She introduced me to Jim Kouzes, the president of Tom Peters Company at the time. We had a nice conversation. My desire was that I wanted to be a contractor for them too. I had no interest in being an employee. They came back to me and said, “We would like you to come work with us, but we want you full-time. We want you to join the team as an employee of the company, not as a contractor.” That was a pivotal decision because they gave me two days to think about it. I went back and forth. I struggled with the idea of being somebody’s employee. It was hard for me to say the word employee without gagging on it.
I decided, “Farber, if you go to work for these guys for a couple of years, then you’ve got Tom Peters Company on your resumé and then go back and do your own thing later on.” That was the deciding factor. I said, “Sure.” Before I knew it, I started working for them. I started focusing on leadership because that was their focus.
Within a few years, I became vice president of the company. I was helping to run the place. I had a vested interest in the place. I fell in love with it. I love my colleagues, some of them are still my best friends. That was an incubation time for me. Making the decision to not be an entrepreneur because it was the right place to go and I felt drawn to it was one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made.
How do you define incubation in that context?Making the right decision to where you’re drawn is the best professional decision you could make. Click To Tweet
I was developing my point of view on leadership. I was getting such great experience working with all these senior executive teams, working with a body of work called the Leadership Challenge which was created by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, still a must-read in the leadership world. The Leadership Challenge is now on its fifth edition or something like that. If you have any interest in leadership at all, you should read that.
I taught their workshop. I got proficient at teaching somebody else’s body of work. This is what I’ve been doing in my career. What I came to understand, experience, is that when I taught the Leadership Challenge, I taught it in my own voice. I had my own perspective on it and that worked. It felt great and people connected with it and resonated with it.
After a time, I started asking myself, “What do I think about all of this? After everything that I’ve learned and all the people I’ve worked with and this great learning from my mentors and from doing all this client work, if there was one thing or maybe a small handful of things that if I could flip some magic switch and have everybody in the business world understand, what would that be?
In trying to answer that question, my own body of work and point of view began to emerge. That’s what I mean by incubating. It was gathering the experience, honing my chops, getting good at the craft and the art of educating, training, speaking, facilitating and seeing how people apply it and helping people to apply what’s learned in getting in the trenches and learning about business.
I had exposure to so many different companies and industries, appreciating the differences but also seeing the universal truth from company to company. All of that stuff was what I meant by incubating. That was all going in. It came together on the question, “What do I think?” If you were to ask me, if you let it all out, what is it? That’s where The Radical Leap framework came from. LEAP stands for Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof.
That’s been the core of my work ever since. I first started playing with that framework right around the time I was leaving the Tom Peters Company in 2000. It eventually became the framework that I wrote about in The Radical Leap, which came out in 2004. What that came from was that magic switch, magic wand question, “What would I have everybody get?” We dance around it, call it different things, use the word sparingly, but the bottom line is great leadership is about love. The great business is about love. I’d seen it over and over again in my career thus far.
The great leaders, the people that work with them, for them and around them, they loved them. Respect, admiration and all that other stuff are all part of it. The reason they did was that the best leaders that I’d met made no bones about the fact that they love their team, work, their clients and customers. Due to that, they had much higher standards and expectations for themselves and for the people around them. They wouldn’t tolerate sub-par performances because love wouldn’t let them do that.
These people generated tremendous energy in the way that they worked. They were audacious in their thinking. They weren’t small-minded. They changed the world minded. It was critical to all these people that it wasn’t enough to talk a good game and say the right words. They proved that they meant what they said through their actions, results, specific, measurable, observable steps that they took every day.
You mentioned that question. I want you to go back to that and see if we can formulate what that magic wand question was because that was a pivotal question. It seems like what’s trending here, looking back at your life. Are these powerful questions that arose at certain points? Those questions are not ordinary by any means and the answers to them changed everything. What was the question?
I’ve posed this question to other people as well that they should ask of themselves, “If I had the power to have everybody in my industry get it, what would it be?” What is it that people need to do differently? What do they need to know? How would they act? If I had that sway, what would I have people do? That’s a good question for any of us to ask about the industry and world that we live in. The answer is going to be much more powerful if you’ve taken the time to gather the experience.
For example, you know my experience with teenagers. To come full circle on the family side of things, after two marriages, three kids and three step-kids now, if you look at the span in between, I raised teenagers for 25 straight years. I know from where I speak about teenagers. Teenagers love to tell you, based on their vast experience, the way things should be, which is a wonderful impulse.
For the most part, “Thank you very much for your opinion. I’ll take it under advisement.” What I’m saying is that question, “If I can have everybody get it, what would it be?” You’re going to get a better answer with deeper experience. I know it’s obvious to say, but I was not ready to ask that question in the first part of my career. Even though I was out there teaching, as we all know, that’s the best way to learn. I was in the learning phase of my career. I still am. We always are. In terms of the foundational elements and understanding of leadership and business and how it all fits together, I wasn’t ready to ask the “What do I think about all this?” question in a way that was going to be useful to anybody else other than myself.The best leaders love their team, work, clients, and customers. So they won’t let themselves have subpar performances. They generate tremendous energy, are audacious in their thinking, and prove that they mean what they say through their actions. Click To Tweet
There’s no question that the, “What do you want other people to get or what is it that you want people to understand?” is based on experience. Not to dilute the experience with teenagers, because, in some contexts, they may get what it is that they want other people to get. They’ve been bullied and they decide at eighteen years old that what they want is for people to get that bullying is debilitating to our world. It’s counter-productive to everything that our society is moving toward. Whatever that is, they could get that early on. Clearly, it’s based on some experience and often, my theory, anyhow, is that experience is often a painful one. It’s not necessarily all roses, chocolates and stuff like that.
I’m not saying that teenagers have nothing of value to give. There could be nothing further from the truth. In fact, there’s a combination of experience and innocence at that age where it can give a greater degree of clarity to how the world should be. I think kids younger than teenagers and teenagers have a wonderful perspective on how the world should be. Their experience is very intense. The experience of being a kid is very intense. You can look around your environment at school and see somebody being bullied and have the presence of mind to stand up against that and say that’s wrong. That happens every day. It’s relative to the world that they’re living in.
On the other hand, you wouldn’t take a teenager who has incredibly valuable experience in that arena and necessarily put them in a board room with senior executives to talk about business strategy because they don’t have a context for it. It’s always relative to your insight. The bottom line on this very obvious point is that we constantly need to expand ourselves and get a deeper, wider, richer experience so that we can extract wisdom from that and share it with others.
It’s the precursor and prerequisite to insight is the experience of all kinds. I am loving where our conversation has taken us and would like to conclude by asking you what rituals you have to sustain that growth that you were just advocating.
I have to close the loop on the music thing and maybe that ties in with the rituals. I’m not much of a ritual person other than I make bulletproof coffee every morning and bring it upstairs to my wife. That’s our big domestic ritual. That is my territory. That’s the role of service that I play. In terms of music, over the past few years, I have re-awakened the musician side of my personality. I’ve played over the years, but I’ve started writing a little bit again and brought back some of the songs I wrote many years ago that I’ve always played and brought to the forefront of who I am and what I do.
I’ve even started playing music in some of my keynotes. You heard me do that once. I don’t get the opportunity to do that every time, but when I can, I love to do that. I’ve been through this musical re-awakening. As a result of that, I’m going into the studio to record with the Brothers Koren, Isaac and Thorald Koren, formerly known as The Kin, who toured with Pink and opened for Coldplay. They’re brilliant musicians. I’m going into the studio with them and recording six of my songs, which we will then release on Spotify and iTunes and all that.
I’m doing it just to give expression. I don’t have any designs on a hit single or anything. It’s an amazing thing to be completely fully honoring that important part of my personality and my being. This idea that we have to sacrifice one part of ourselves to nurture another is false. None of these things are mutually exclusive.
Some people have referred to our ideal state as the radical edge, which is to be successful in our business ventures and prosper, amplify personal joy and meaning in our lives, and change the world for the better all at the same time. These also are not mutually exclusive ideas. We don’t have to be a martyr in order to change the world or have a terrible job in order to live a life of joy on the weekends. It should all be moving at the same pace. That’s what we’re built to do, in my opinion.
You read Pivot at a pretty pivotal point in your life. What was the one thing out of that that you either took away or still somehow are influenced by, if anything?
I think the prevailing wisdom seems to be an all-or-nothing point of view. You used this imagery in the book. It’s the burn the bridges kind of thing. If I’m going to pivot or move in a new direction, then I need to just do it, all or nothing, take the leap in the literal sense and burn the bridges behind me. I have done it that way before. Sometimes I think it’s needed.
This idea that we can start right now with small things that add up to big things over time, I’m not going to say that it was the most important thing in the book, but it seems to be the most immediate for me because we are pivoting with our business. We’re taking a new direction in the things that we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We’re doing it incrementally and little by little. Sometimes I get frustrated that it’s not moving fast enough and I remind myself that we’re starting at a completely different trajectory and it’s better to get it right as much as we possibly can with the smaller steps.
How can people find out more about what you’re up to these days? What’s the best place to send them so that they can either discover who you are as an author, speaker or facilitator? Is there one place you’d like to say, “This is the website. Go here and all your dreams will be answered?”
All your dreams will be fulfilled at SteveFarber.com. There are lots of videos. There are some good content. My blog lives there. There are some good white papers and you could see about my speaking stuff. We’re doing a lot of cultural change. We’re having some great results with helping to change cultures. You won’t see a whole lot about that on there as of yet. There is a free audio series that’s available there, which I get great feedback on and I invite you to partake.
I know you’re doing online training as well. Is there information about your online course?
I amazed myself at how relentless to sales guy and marketing guy I am, which is quite good. You could find the information on that there as well.
What a pleasure to have you join us. Thank you. For everybody, thank you for being with us and giving us your most precious asset which is your time. To remind you that tomorrow, your first and only task, to begin with, is to wake up, literally wake up and figuratively wake up. Wake up a little bit more your consciousness, awareness, appreciation and gratitude. At that moment, it’s pretty easy to realize that as you wake up, as you’re taking that first breath, there will be people taking their last. It’s a special moment.
You don’t have to search far to be grateful at that moment. If you also feel inclined to do so, I do believe in rituals, which I have specific definition most of my readers I think are aware of, which is not from a religious standpoint or some dogma but more like upscaling habits. How do you upscale a habit? Stephen Covey’s amazing book about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I look at habits as things we do unconsciously. Since I’m committed to raising consciousness, I look at rituals as something that we consciously choose to create over time. It takes practice. Not everybody loves their life, in my experience, or grateful as much of the day as they could be and maybe even want to be but somehow aren’t.
Conscious habits that become master habits or rituals are powerful. When I get my magic wand, this is what I would do with it. I wave my magic wand because the thing that I want the world to get, business owners, entrepreneurs and everybody who’s anything else, however you categorize, the employee or otherwise, is that you love yourself. That’s the magic wand wish for me. You have to learn, and I believe it’s learning.
I believe it’s something that we are not necessarily shown how to do from the moment we’re born, all the evidence to the contrary around us, in our parents, in the world that we live in, what it’s like to not love yourself and accept yourself unconditionally. First things first, we wake up, we’re grateful, put your feet on the floor and declare, if you will, “I love my life.” Do that for a sufficient amount of time, 21 days is a start, 75, 100, 200, 1, 2, 5 or 10 years later. The universe has a way of helping you to see how easy it is and how intuitive it is to love yourself. I love you all. I send you lots of love. I wish for you today and everyday self-love. Steve, thanks for being here.
Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure.
- Extreme Leadership Institute
- Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership
- The Radical Edge: Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, and Change the World
- The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership
- Love Is Just Damn Good Business
- In Search of Excellence
- Leadership Challenge
- The Leadership Challenge
- Online Course
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
About Steve Farber
Steve Farber is the president of Extreme Leadership, Incorporated, and the founder of The Extreme Leadership Institute, organizations devoted to the cultivation and development of Extreme Leaders in the business community, non-profits and education. His third book, Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson In Leadership, was a Wall Street Journal® and USA Today® bestseller. His second book, The Radical Edge: Stoke Your Business, Amp Your Life, and Change the World, was hailed as “a playbook for harnessing the power of the human spirit.”
And his first book, The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership, is already considered a classic in the leadership field. It received Fast Company magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award and was recently named one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time. Farber’s much-anticipated new book, Love Is Just Damn Good Business, was listed by Book Authority as one of the top Business Strategy books for 2020.