One thing known for sure about COVID-19 is that businesses, regardless of their size and scope, all faced the same challenges. Adam’s guest this week believes that COVID spurred a market shakeup that, in many ways, leveled the playing field for every entrepreneur. Beri Meric, the CEO and Co-founder of IVY, joins Adam Markel to discuss how the pandemic in some ways provided cover against market noise, allowing smaller businesses to strive for more and established companies to further appreciate their connections. With the challenging situation that many continue to cope with, Beri explains how this affects the way businesses approach resiliency, determination and the role of creating a deeper connection with people. The two also talk about uncertainty, emphasizing how struggle can still lead to success – if leveraged properly.
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Fair Game: The Leveling Of The Business Playing Field With Beri Meric
I’m feeling the synchronicities. I didn’t know the origin of that word, synchronicity. I was reading a book that a buddy of mine came out with called An End to Upside Down Living, which was a companion book to his first, which was called An End to Upside Down Thinking. His name is Mark Gober if you want to check that book out. I was in the book and it was talking about synchronicity. I didn’t know that Carl Jung was the creator of that concept or the one that first articulated it. I’ve been experiencing that more and more. That’s one of those things that in my life, when I look for things, I tend to find them.
I don’t know if you can relate to that much, but there are some truths in that. We often find what we look for. It calls into question, what are we looking for? I was looking for a great conversation and someone else that had enthusiastic energy when it came to dealing with a lot of the challenges that we’re facing in our world. I was lucky to wake up and start cooking with my wife. She had been cooking for a while so I was assisting her. A good cup of coffee, and then a buddy walked in the door. We know we’re going to see in a couple of days a family member and a friend both.
I got to chat with him. As it turns out, this is the interesting synchronicity here. Not only did he show up and we start talking about something that’s been on both of our hearts separately without speaking about it. Some months ago, he had introduced me to this guy that I found instant kinship with. Somebody that I respected. I loved the work he’s doing in the world. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on one of his platforms to present information, and some strategy around the topic of resilience. I invited him. We wanted to have him on our show and share his wisdom with our community. The guy who introduced me to him walked in the door only to find out that I have that gentleman on the show.
His name is Beri Meric. I’ll say a little bit about Beri other than the fact that it is synchronistic that we are speaking and enjoy. I’m taking a great deal of pleasure at this moment, experiencing it, and feeling how connected our world is. It only takes me noticing it. I did that. Beri Meric is the CEO and Cofounder of an organization called IVY. That’s the organization I was referring to earlier. IVY does some amazing things. I want Beri to share more about the work that they do, but they are a very expansive platform more than a network of like-hearted, like-minded business people, organized folks that are entrepreneurs and running organizations. He’s been at the helm of that institution for several years in more than 50 countries. Beri has an interesting background. I know you lived in Scotland for a while. I can’t recall where you live before that. You were born in what country?
It’s Istanbul in Turkey.
You lived in Scotland, and then to the United States. He studied at Brown, went to Harvard Business School. He’s a guy who was intellectually challenged. I always want to have people like that on the show to round things out. Beri, it’s great to have you. Beri, welcome to the show.
It’s good to be here, Adam. How are you doing?
I’m good. I feel like the Conscious Pivot is perfect for where we are in the world right now. I said a little bit about your background at the outset. What’s one thing in particular that I didn’t say that you’d love for people to know about you at the start?With all the noise in the world, the ability to learn and connect with people fades away. Click To Tweet
I love people. I love life. I love bringing people together specifically through learning. That’s maybe an addition to the bio that you shared.
Loving life and even being in love with life is a tangible tool to develop strength through difficult times. It’s a little self-serving I suppose, but we have a book that’s in pre-order called The I Love My Life Challenge that’s going to launch officially in stores. To what extent is loving life either been easy or a challenge for you?
All of us, life hasn’t always been easy but there’s also never been a moment where I wasn’t in complete awe of being alive, and how amazing people are. The ones I know but also humanity in general. All of it is miraculous if you reflect on everything about life. Loving life has been a constant. I’ve always felt very grateful to have it. What that has meant is that I’ve also always felt a great deal of responsibility to make the most out of it, to make the biggest possible positive impact that I can with all the incredible opportunities that I’ve been given. Many of which I didn’t work towards earning it. I was born with it, was given it by loved ones, family, and the schools I got to go to. Even in the darkest days, I found it relatively easy to love life because I’m in awe of it.
Can you love life even when they’re drilling on the roof above you?
That means I have a roof. I also listen to music the whole time I’m working. I only hear it in conversation.
Hassles and inconveniences are constantly around. To some extent, anybody that might think that loving life, whatever that means to a person, that you’re free of the hassles and inconveniences of life. At least that’s not my experience. I’m a great lover of life, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not annoyed or get taken out momentarily or maybe even more than momentarily here and there when there’s a hassle or an inconvenience. We have a choice when the universe decides to have guys with jackhammers on the roof above making noise. We’re important. It’s absurd on some level and didn’t require from my standpoint that we adjourn a great conversation because of some extraneous noise.
I’ll talk extra loud.
There’s a metaphor there too, where’s the extraneous noise happening around a lot of businesspeople. You work with business people. You’re constantly in the mix and in connection with the work that IVY does. Maybe give us a little background on what IVY does in the world. Let’s trackback to that question of what is the noise in the space right now for people that are in startup mode, or even in some more mature business models?
In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m going to run with the metaphor of noise that you crystallize there, and maybe share what IVY is from that perspective, which I haven’t done before. I would say that all of us when we’re young, it’s obvious and natural. We’re constantly learning like when we’re young from our parents, our classmates. Throughout that experience, that act of learning, we’re also bonding with each other. We’re getting to be there for each other and also being able to receive better support from each other.
This is the most natural basic thing when we’re young. For me, what inspired me with IVY was when I moved from Turkey to Scotland, I was eleven years old. I didn’t speak the language. I was the only foreigner in my school when I moved. I had to be a complete outsider for the first couple of years that I was there. I wasn’t a foreign kid. I was a foreign kid who couldn’t even speak and a total stranger. That was difficult for me because in Turkey, I was the most extroverted, well-adjusted type of kid, tons of friends, life was good and everything was well. That was a huge definition of a crucible moment. It was super tough. I didn’t like it but it made me who I am in the sense that it forced me to ask, what does it mean to belong, to have community? What brings people together? What’s the purpose of humanity? All these questions that I wouldn’t have been asking at age eleven if everything was the standard operating procedure. I was shocked by that reflecting, but I did adapt. By the time I left Scotland, several years later, I had fully adapted to the point where no one in Scotland could tell that I wasn’t Scottish, to begin with.
From there, I came to the US for college. Moving from Scotland to the US was the exact opposite of my experience going from Turkey to Scotland. American collegiate environment was the warmest, most welcoming, most fun. Everything was the opposite. It was so easy to adapt because everyone was there to learn and grow together. Everybody was dreaming about the future. We were all learning from leading minds and we were having the time of our lives when we weren’t learning. That planted the seeds for a lot of essence of what IVY ended up being. After my undergrad, I moved to London. I worked in finance. London’s a place with millions of amazing people, thousands of amazing stuff going on.
I found that it was the opposite of a collegiate environment because I was working non-stop. I could barely meet anyone outside of work. All the learning was focused on one very particular field. I went back to business school. That’s where I got the idea for IVY. As an adult coming back to school again. Having lived in the real world and come back, I thought, “This collegiate environment where everyone’s a classmate, where everyone you meet is potential lifelong friends, business partner, thought partner.” Something is very special about creating an environment like that.
There was also something missing. When you graduate, there’s all this noise. You have your work and you have all these things. You barely have any time for anything. That ability to learn and connect with people fades away. What I wanted to create was a lifelong equivalent of that collegiate environment, where you’re always learning from leading minds. You’re with amazing peers. You’re there solely for the purpose of learning, growing, and connecting together.
That was the vision to create that space for that. I thought I wanted that for myself too. If you look at every trend in the world, given how fast things are changing and how much we have to constantly adapt. Lifelong learning isn’t some luxury for some group of people. We all have to do it constantly, but also people are more hyper-specialized and overwhelmed with digital noise than ever. Real human connection has become much harder to find from real deeper conversations. Whether that’s noise on media where there are interviews. Are people really talking or are they following agenda? I wanted to create a very collegiate environment where dialogue and a deep connection was at the heart of it.
The way you put the idea that noise is a distraction in many ways, whereas something that you are tuned into, listening to, attentive to can be beneficial. How do you parse those things out? If I got it right, you created a platform. It’s not exclusively online. In pre-COVID or non-COVID times, people were getting together physically?
To put it in a more clear bucket, the whole mission of IVY, but also my life mission too is if you want to help people unlock their potential, the two ingredients that you need and all you need is learning and connection. That’s all there is. The issue is most of us are distracted that we don’t make an appropriate time for this particular thing. Pre-COVID, 80% of what we did was in person. We did it across eight cities. When COVID took place, we were able to pivot on a fully digital approach. What’s that enabled us to do now is to essentially partner with individuals, companies and organizations all across the world to introduce them to the leading minds of our time, and also enabled them to go deeper peer-to-peer. While we missed the face-to-face human contact, we have been able to now impact a much larger audience at a deeper level in the sense of not having any barriers in terms of time and space.If you want to help people unlock their potential, the two ingredients you need are learning and connection. Click To Tweet
Where I wanted to track that too was more of a pivot report post. I’m waiting to say post-pandemic, we’re still in the middle of this thing. Where you are now report back on the pivot. A lot of people were required to make some small changes. A conscious pivot as we define it is a change that you designed versus a change that you react to. Much of our change is thrust on us. We have to react at the moment almost out of fear or survival. It sounds to me like that wasn’t the pivot this was for you. Take us back to that moment because I remember it. We’re not quite the same business, but thought leadership and having an influence in a positive way with people through education is a common thread for us. We were also doing most of our work live face-to-face. Take us back to that moment, inside the belly of the beast, and let us know what those conversations might have been like. How did the pivot unfold? Where are you in that now?
The most critical piece of how we were able to make it all happen was a focus on clarifying, what are we here for? We’re here to help people unlock their potential. How do we do that? Learning and community. If an in-person is not possible, how do you best do learning and community in a digital world? Also, who do you do that with? It no longer makes any sense to do it based on geographic cities. That only makes sense if you’re bringing people together. What was super interesting is first, when the shutdown happened here in New York City, two weeks after that, I very likely had COVID because for two weeks I was in terrible shape.
As every business owner knows, those were also when every minute, every hour counts like crazy. You have to execute and shift as fast as possible. Everybody was asking the questions, what’s going to last? What’s going to go away? We were unilateral in terms of what we do is more important now than ever, and we’re going to deliver this. There was zero doubt on whether or not we’re continuing. We’re absolutely continuing. At a high level, nothing changes, learning and community, unlocking potential. How do we do that? How often do we do what? Who do we do it with? How do we deliver it? What platforms we use? All of those are up for discussion and experimentation.
The other thing I would say is as many who’ve done anything entrepreneurial or creative whether it’s artistic or, business, or song, you do not need a pandemic. I have an insane amount of turbulence, uncertainty, feeling like you’re on the edge of a cliff, feeling existential threats, it doesn’t take a pandemic. This is for anyone taking any risk, putting themselves out there. Every time you go onto a podcast as a guest, Adam, anytime you’re delivering a workshop, there is a non-zero chance that you will fall flat on your face and it could be bad. You could lose a client. There are things that could also “damage” what you’re trying to do. You don’t need a pandemic.
What I feel like the pandemic did for me and maybe a lot of entrepreneurs that might not say it is all of a sudden, I felt the whole world is now on my level because this is the environment. When it comes to the topic of resilience, we had in our first seven years, four years in which we doubled our revenue, doubled in size, and every metric every single year. After that fourth year, we had the inevitable bumps in the road. We had very scary moments. It was never because of bad intentions. We had the best of intentions, but we had a lot of learning to do that came from the challenges.
By the time the pandemic hit, I had already gone through several of those. It was the first time with the pandemic where I felt like, “Everyone is going through it now.” That fear of like, “Screwing it up and being ostracized. How could you possibly take something so successful and screw it up?” All of a sudden, everybody was this equalizer. It was all fair game from the biggest companies you’ve ever heard of, to the smallest. I funded a very exhilarating positive song where I feel like, “This is what I’ve been training for.” It goes back to all the toughest experiences that give you the strength when you most need it in the future.
I want to track back a little bit more because I got a little hit there that as you were seeing that there were challenges that other significant companies were facing in the midst of this thing. There was something you felt there. I’d love to know a little bit more about that. If you could explore what that feeling was like for you. Failing at something sucks, we get that. Especially what we make that failing mean, whether it’s at the very beginning of a business or after you’ve already cleared some hurdles, and then something else comes out of the left-field. A big part of what helps any leader, whether it’s their own company or it’s in someone else’s company to succeed, is that day-to-day, even moment-to-moment story that you are internally paying attention to. Something happened for you at that moment when the world was turning upside down that gave you an interesting feeling. What was that all about?
I’ve always got two narratives running in my head simultaneously. One is this sense of purpose, sense of destiny, everything we’re doing is positive and intense. There’s no way it’s not going to be super positive, whether big or small, whatever but it’s going to succeed. That is my bedrock. However, on top of that, there’s another one, which in the very near term I’m fallible. I’ve made mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes. Compared to everyone else out there, we’re limited in resources and time. I don’t want it to slip through my fingers. That fear of failure. What if I screw it up? There are two of those things. The reality is nothing ever shakes the bedrock, but sometimes I forget it because I’m caught up in the near term. What the pandemic did is first of all, all of a sudden, it didn’t matter how big a given company is, who had what resources, who had whatever. It was a time of shakeup. Everything was fair game. For me, it got rid of all the noise. I didn’t worry about failure when the pandemic hit. It was this time of pure execution. I knew we had a lot to offer to the world. I knew that we could be faster and more agile than many others out there.
The vulnerability was visible. If I’m going to unpack that even a little bit for myself, it was seeing the fact that the sacred cows are not really sacred cows. Meaning to think that another organization somehow doesn’t have the same potential fallibilities that your organization does, or that mindset isn’t as important in a company that’s gotten into momentum or scaled. Somehow, we’re comparing ourselves to the representations of success, or the success we might even aspire to. We forget that those organizations are made of people and people are people. People have the same frailties, insecurities, and ability to both make right and wrong decisions.
When we see a company years and years ago at the outset of the last great recession, the financial collapse, we saw Lehman Brothers go out. It’s a 100 plus-year-old investment banking icon, the blue ribbon for that space goes bankrupt. It was a reminder that can happen to anyone. It’s interesting at the start of this latest disruption when those tectonic plates started to shift, and you could see everybody was dealing with a lot of the same challenges. It leveled the playing field in some respect. I want to be clear. I don’t think you got any pleasure in seeing real strong competitors also struggling, but more like it revealed that all of us have something in common. Anybody that has the audacity to be in business to begin with is cut from a cloth that we could say, “We’re kin.” I opened this up to say that I felt that kinship with you at the beginning. It’s on the best of days being in business that’s tough. It’s a wonderful tough, but it is not easy.
When you zoom out and look at the facts, it’s not the same companies in the S&P 500 over the decades. Even the biggest companies’ turnover, it’s very rare for a company to last for decades and centuries. It doesn’t happen. The nature of business is that the world is constantly changing, and some businesses adapt, some don’t, things change, people move on, people get old. If you’re running a higher risk, higher return, more vulnerable upstart type organization, where you have the audacity to be like, “We’re going to create lifelong learning and community. These 3,000 colleges in the US haven’t figured it out. We’re going to be the ones to figure it out.” It leaves you open to this extra risk. In an environment where there are more tectonic shifts, it’s very positive for the younger ones because it’s not like that this snobbery of established companies is less because everyone is shaking it up. All of a sudden, you might be the one that better delivers for everybody with the shakeup. Whereas otherwise, the incumbents have a bit of a home-court advantage. They already have the models that work.
Being agile in that time, being flexible and resilient. This is a study that McKinsey did of companies coming out of the great recession of 2008. It’s simple. I like simple charts and this is a simple one. The resilient organizations not only recovered more quickly, but they also were able to extend their gains over time. The thing here is that years ago, while resilience has been something on the radar in organizational development and other areas, a lot of people thought that it’s a bit of a soft skill, that some people are born resilient and others aren’t.
There have been debates about whether you can teach resilience or train it. People can learn it at any phase and stage. This has been an era we’ve dove quite deeply into. That’s what we’re talking about. When the world was shaking in the way it was back in March 2020. It’s like back at the start of that financial crisis. The organizations that are around, the ones that have extended their gains, the ones that will be growing their business models a few years from now that we’ll see, are the ones that are the most resilient. I’d love to get your sense. I put our definition up here, but you’ve got to be prepared to pivot, to make changes in other words when things are disrupted. I personally think that it’s better to positively interrupt the status quo than to wait for market disruption or more macro disruption. What’s your definition of resilience?
I love your definition. For me, the key ingredients I would put in resilience is a relentless determination to get from A to B, without any hardcore allegiance to a given path. It doesn’t matter what the path is. I’m going from A to B. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there. I’m going to get there. The methods or how it’s done doesn’t matter. When I think about it in the past, I used to think that those who are successful and had leveraged resilience, they’re the ones with the biggest visions or the most perseverance. They can take a lot of pain. Now, it’s very clear to me that at the heart of it, the most important thing more than vision and perseverance is conviction.
You have to believe. You’ve got to believe in what that goal is. If you’re going from A to B, you need to believe in the importance of getting to B. You need to believe in the person undertaking the journey, which was yourself. If you don’t believe in the B, the destination, if you don’t believe in yourself, it is not going to happen unless you get lucky. If you’re not that lucky and the world is changing all the time, everything can change, but as long as you’re alive, you still believe in yourself or you believe in the destination, no one can stop you from trying. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get there but you’re going to outlast people who waver in their conviction in themselves or down the goal that they’re going for.
That’s one of the things you can say to people inside an organization to sow a seed of resilience is to say, “I believe in you.” Like you say you believe in yourself and you believe in those on your team. I believe in our ability to succeed because that level of conviction is contagious. We are contagious in many ways. More than the pun of the pandemic, we are contagious.If you don't believe in yourself, nothing will definitely happen unless you get really lucky. Click To Tweet
It’s powerful to remind people that you believe in them to reinforce their belief in themselves. That’s super important. It was my birthday and I was with a small group of friends, given the times. They were very generous to share why they believed in me. It gave me 10 to 20 years’ worth of energy hearing that stuff. The other part of what you said is it’s not about how much I believe as an entrepreneur and CEO about getting to B because I’ve drunk the most Kool-Aid. That doesn’t mean necessarily that everybody is going to believe you because you believe.
If they doubt that you believe in it, it’s game over. From a leadership perspective, the most critical thing is getting people to believe that not only is the destination worth getting to, but that it’s eminently achievable. There are a ton of issues but all we got to do is X, Y and Z and we’re there. Is it going to be easy to do X, Y, Z? Not super easy but it’s not rocket science. We don’t need to know that E equals MC squared. You got to be smart and execute. That’s oftentimes my best leadership moments. What I’ve done in my worst ones and what I failed to do is to be super clear on this is the destination. All that should be done as X, Y, Z. We got what it takes. We’ve got the people that can do that. That’s where organizational resilience is boosted by that inoculation. Getting people to be like, “No matter what happens, because we know where we’re trying to get and we have what it takes.”
You define pretty well what the best leadership moment looks like for you. What’s the worst leadership moment?
I don’t have them rank-ordered but one bad one that comes to mind right away is whenever I focus on the intermediate facts, what happened, or what needs to be done versus the end goal, the objective, the very end. One powerful suggestion somebody gave me is if you’re having a disagreement with somebody, if you simply ask the question, how do you want this movie to end? You ask that person if the person is talking to you but also to yourself, how do you want the movie to end? What do you want the conclusion to be? It’s not so much about what you did or what I did wrong. All the noise, all that matters is, how do we want this to end? How do we get there?
Objectivity versus subjective scribbling. The worst leadership moments a lot of times is, “I’m frustrated. I can’t believe this didn’t get to that. I can’t believe this didn’t happen.” It gets very interpersonal. That’s not helpful. If you imagine like a war movie and it’s the middle of a battle, and you’re in the bridge of a ship and there are torpedoes and aircrafts flying over. Who cares who said the right thing or the wrong thing, all that matters is we’ve got to survive? We got to get out of this alive. We got to thrive also. Anytime a leader can do that, it’s like let’s zoom out and focus on the process.
That’s tangible, Beri. It leads me to want to understand better your philosophy around uncertainty. If we knew it would all work out, for any leader at that moment, we’re frustrated. You put yourself like in war, for example, you’re on a battleship in the middle of World War II in 1943, let’s say you’re an American, there’s a lot of uncertainty. There are chaos, bombs flying by your head, everything imaginable you can think of, tremendous uncertainty. You say, “It’s all going to work out.” Not a hope or prayer in 1945, this awful conflict will be over. Your emotions and your way of approaching that moment would be different because you knew it would all be all right. That’s the trick of it, because at that moment where you’re frustrated that things aren’t getting done, and you want to focus on the process, a part of the reason you do that is because in the end, it all works out. I’m curious how you would leverage uncertainty or how do you leverage uncertainty for its benefit.
First of all, it’s important to clarify that no one knew the war would end in 1945. There was no guarantee. Being a soldier is the most extreme version of this. Business people use all these metaphors. You can be the best soldier, but it takes one bullet and you’re out. It’s the ultimate uncertainty, yet you still need to perform. Even though that can happen at any moment, you still need to give it your best. For me, it’s not about knowing. As a soldier, it would be ridiculous if you said, “I will not get shot and we will win this war because I know it.” I don’t think any general or soldier thinks that way. That’s not in your control. There are millions of people involved. There are all the decisions. There are all the stray bullets.
That’s what people seek. They seek control. In a moment of uncertainty, they’re reaching for control. That’s where the frustration comes from. You don’t have control of something.
In these situations, what you do have control over is, am I giving it my absolute best? Am I fighting for the right cause? Am I giving it all that I have? Those are the only two things that are under your control. Zooming out uncertainty is one of my favorite subjects. The universe is incredibly well-balanced. That supply and demand curve in economics applies 100% to every individual, all the greatest feats that have ever been accomplished have been done by people who were willing to die for it. Dying doesn’t always mean taking a bullet for it. It can also mean dedicating your entire life to something, knowing full well that it might be a complete fools’ errand, and you might be forgotten and nothing amounts to anything.
There’s a correlation. Those who are willing to up the ante and go all the way to “die for it” or the other side of that coin to live for something, those are the people. Those people also know that there’s a very good chance that doesn’t happen, but it’s worth it because that’s their calling, that’s their cause. Einstein could have worked on trying to figure out E equals MC squared for his whole life and still got there. That was his purpose, it was trying to figure that out. He tried to figure other things out that he didn’t get to. He knew that mission was clear. The one clear example I’ll give is Alexander Hamilton. I read his biography, which I highly recommend. The musical is incredible, but the biography is like you can’t make this stuff up.
Every step of the way, he was willing to not work harder than anyone else, but there were a lot of hardworking people. He was willing to die for it many times, or risk absolute defeat and humiliation, and so much more. He combined that with a lot of innate talents, and with a ridiculous work ethic. Let’s say the innate talents and the work ethic is table safe like you’re not going to change the world without those things. What changes things then is your ability to embrace uncertainty and to die for it. I don’t think that’s something that I would teach as a teacher, that everyone should live and die for something.
We all have our internal comfort level with risk. We should all push our boundaries and step out of our comfort zones. It’s not for everybody to start a business or go to war or try to be an artist. It’s not for everyone. It’s for some people, but all those people that maybe have the more glamour, they’re supported by unbelievable people with maybe lower risk tolerance, or maybe higher consistency or talents in different ways to support them. For every Hamilton, for every Einstein, there are still many thought partners, collaborators, all the other people that maybe don’t need to go all the way but can still be part of creating an amazing journey. That’s the team of every leader until they themselves become the leader.
To me, conviction is what this is about. You’re creating more of a depth to that word and to be convicted, to die or to live. However, which way you look at it. It’s the thing that moves you through those moments of indecision. A person in a moment of battle of any kind, whether it’s an internal battle or being on a battlefield, you can’t be indecisive. Indecision kills. Hesitation kills. Let’s look at a squirrel trying to cross the streets, that only causes suffering in the decision.
Conviction is one of those things that cuts through it. I shared this story with your group back in September 2020 where I blew these three whistles. I have my lifeguard whistle with me all the time or at least here at the desk. It reminds me of a conviction and learning about conviction when I was nineteen years old working at Jones Beach. That first summer we had a devastating thing happened. We missed somebody. We missed them in the surf. They went down. We went out on a long search and rescue, and didn’t find them. We still continue to do our job that day, and day after day throughout the summer.
When it happened, the captain of our beach gathered us for a brief period for saying a prayer, a moment of silence for the family. It was the most awful thing to see or be witness to. He said to us that day, “You either make the save or you die trying.” That was the conviction level at our beach. For seven summers, I still worked at Jones Beach and we never lost anybody after that. Nobody ever went down on our watch again. The word that you brought up earlier was such a powerful component of that. How do you move through uncertainty? First of all, you don’t try to make something certain that by its nature uncertain. It creates frustration. It creates an unwinnable situation. It depletes our energy. Conviction is a clear inoculant, if I made up a word there maybe, that feels right to me. Beri, thank you for sharing that. The last question I have for you is about your own personal rituals. What do you do to either create or maintain your own resilience?
To go off of the last point you made there, I do think that no man is an Island, as they say. The opening of For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. At the end of the day, no matter how much conviction you have whether it’s Hamilton, Einstein, without your good friends, family, mentors, could be subordinates. Without people reminding you, “Wake up, you still got it. This is still worth it.” Everybody, the strongest person still needs a coach. The strongest person still needs somebody. Make sure to have a dose of that in your life. The people who will prop you up, lift you up, and remind you of what’s at stake.All the most incredible feats ever been accomplished in history are done by people willing to die for it. Click To Tweet
Many of those people are alive. They’re our friends and family. Many of those people are dead, and they wrote all these books, or they live these lives that we can learn from. It all comes to learning and connection, which makes us more self-aware and objective about the world, which then helps us reset our vision, set a better vision, set better goals, and take better action. That is critical. Doing whatever I can to infuse learning and connection in my own life. I don’t do it for my own business. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you forget to do it for yourself but that helps.
Are there very practical rituals? One is Shabbat Saturdays, like Friday night to Sunday morning, zero work, no emails, no talking about work, nothing. At the early stages of entrepreneurship, I had those moments that many have unfortunately tasted, which is like, “I don’t even have enough money to pay my rent next month.” That’s how bad it is. I was thinking like, “How did I screw up my life so bad? How did I make so many bad decisions?” I was being a whiny person. All of a sudden, in that darkest abyss, I was like, “Beri, wake the F up. What is wrong with you? You had the best parents, best family, best education. You were blessed with many abilities. You have the best friends. You’ve got all these opportunities. You graduated from Harvard Business School and you’re pitting yourself, come on. You had all these miracles and you’re fine. Now that you’re in a tough situation, you’re like that.”
That was the moment I went from working seven days a week, morning until night, to then being like, “You know what? I got to have that day of reflection, day of ‘letting go.’” That has completely saved my business, saved my life because every Friday night I know that no matter what’s happening, I can’t work until Sunday morning. It gives me an incredible recharge. It lets me sleep, catch up, get real with life and know there’s no one stronger than me on a Sunday morning after that recharge. That’s been a great one.
Another one is I don’t look at emails and anything like that until I’ve done a whole bunch of things in the morning whether that’s working out, meditation and little things like that. Trying to pause my inbox as much as possible, trying to let noise come through. Only some of the noise is external, a lot of it are internal. Usually, I’m never in as good a mood if I’ve not looked at my inbox for six full hours, and got a whole bunch of work done, whether that’s through discussion or writing proposals for myself. Those are some for what it’s worth.
The research is clear on this too. Resilience is not about how we endure. Many people think of resilience or developing that strength in terms of the Rocky model. Rocky Balboa getting knocked down, gets back up, knocked down, gets back up. It’s that ability to bounce back that people think is what resilience is all about. It’s fine. We respect love when we see people get back up or able to rebound. Over time, what it shows is that it depletes people. It takes a toll on them physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually even. The research is clear that resilience is created by recovery, rituals for recovery, not rituals for endurance, not winning the night owl award.
I don’t feel the same way as folks that are out there saying you need to work your twenty-hour days and what I think is horseshit advice like that. I also think that for me personally, I had to eat my own cooking. I was doing a lot of what I was saying not to do when COVID hit. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the space. I leaned back on an old default that when there’s uncertainty, I’ll work longer and harder than anybody. I’ll be more tenacious. For several months, that was the mode we were in. My wife and I transplanted ourselves from this beautiful place.
We live in a lot of the year in San Diego, and we went to the East Coast to spend time on a little island. No man or woman is an island, but you can live on an island. We did that to hunker down and work from that location. When we did, we started to recapture our weekends. I realized that when you’re talking about honoring Shabbat from sundown Friday night until sundown on Saturday, you’ve given yourself a solid 24-hour period to be unplugged from technology, from all that stuff that takes you out of the recovery zone. We started to call back. We started hashtagging, bring back the weekend, and what is a weekend. The week doesn’t end for many people, especially people in the business.
Maybe that’s one of those great things that folks can commit as a result of reading this. They can recapture your weekend because of the recovery that you get from that, you’re a beast Sunday morning. I’m a beast on Monday. I don’t dread Mondays. I don’t remember the last time I had felt that anxiety on a Sunday night anymore about the week starting. Statistically speaking, you’re more productive and you can go longer distances and help more people. I love what your business is about, Beri. That’s why we wanted to have you on the show, learning and community, and how it is that you be a positive influence in ways that are meaningful. I’ve got one final thought to share with our folks, which is my waking ritual. Beri, if you’ve got a waking ritual, chime in here. Mine is three very simple steps. I like things that are usable. This is something I’ve been doing for several years. I don’t deviate from it. It’s too simple to make any little tweaks to it. I wake up every day. That’s the first thing. Beri, did you wake up today?
Yes, I did it.
Here’s a question because I was a lawyer for eighteen years. Did you have an agreement, a contract signed, oral agreement of any kind that when you went to sleep last night, you get to wake up today?
In addition to waking up, it’s the recognition for me that what waking up means is more than another day. It’s a gift. It’s sacred and holy. At the moment that I recognize I’m breathing, there are people in this very same moment who are about to stop breathing. It grounds me at the start of the day. My grandmother used to say, “Start the day on the right foot.” That’s the best thing I can do for myself is to ground in that way at the start of the day. That’s the first seed that I plant. It’s the seed of recognizing the sacred nature of being given another day. I move into the second piece, which is what I’m grateful for at that moment. It can be a short list or a long list but it’s not difficult at that moment to feel gratitude. Was there something you were grateful for when you woke up if you can recall?
I was grateful because it was my birthday. We had a small group of friends come together. We did two activities that everybody could keep in mind if they like. The activity I brought to the table was I paired everybody with somebody they didn’t know of, so that they could introduce each other to the whole group. Find out what makes that person amazing, and then share with everybody. That was strong. Someone in the group said, “Let’s all share one thing we appreciate about, Beri, one thing about him that we’re grateful for.” It was like hearing a good eulogy while still being alive. It was so meaningful. I woke up filled with gratitude for those people sharing those things, and giving me that energy boost.
They filled your cup. The thing that I’m curious about is that there’s such a power in what we say out loud versus what we think. If we were to have to watch a replay of all of our thoughts throughout the day, most people would be pretty horrified. Some people would get locked up. That’s all of us too. Nobody has to feel strange if that’s particularly true. What we say out loud is extremely powerful. I wake up and I have that moment. I think of something. I feel something I’m grateful for it. I say out loud four simple words, but they’ve made a huge difference for me. Those words are, “I love my life.” Do you remember the first words that came out of your mouth this morning, Beri?
No, I don’t.
It has been the case most of my life that I couldn’t tell you what I said first thing, but for the last several years, I know the first words that come out of my mouth. They’re specifically designed for what it is that I want to experience, how I want to experience myself being for the day. It doesn’t have to be those words. We do have a book that’s coming out called The I Love My Life Challenge, which is 28 days of these practices. It doesn’t have to be those words that come out of your mouth. The suggestion I’ll make to folks that are in our community reading this, is that you do think about something you want to say, or at least pause at the moment when your feet hit the floor, and take ten seconds to decide right then and there, what do I want to declare out loud right now?
It could be anything. I know when I was a lawyer for many years, I was unhappy and unfulfilled in my work. Even though I had so much to be grateful for, married, a long relationship, four healthy kids but still miserable. When I put my feet on the floor back then, the first words out of my mouth were usually curses. I would grunt. I would breathe heavy. I’d feel anxious. I’d say shit or something like that at the beginning of the day. It’s like talking about the first domino. What’s the first domino now? What can that look like? Beri, this was early for me, a little later for you because I’m on the West and you’re on the East Coast. It’s a great way to begin the day and a wonderful conversation. It was great to get together with you.
Adam, it’s such a pleasure being here. I enjoyed this and I’m excited to keep exploring together how we get to be more resilient. Thank you.
For folks that want to know more about Beri Meric and IVY. IVY is an incredible organization. We’d love to have you take our resilience assessment. If you want to find out a little bit more about your resilience score, go to Your.ResilienceCulture.com. In three minutes, you can find out how you’re doing mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually when it comes to resilience. Ciao for now. We’ll see you again soon.
- An End to Upside Down Living
- An End to Upside Down Thinking
- The I Love My Life Challenge