Daniel Pink, the 4x New York Times Best-Selling Author on Why Persistence Trumps Talent Every Time

Show Notes

Daniel Pink breaks down why: Persistence trumps talent, his process for writing books, the sunk cost fallacy, why the world should be better after they buy your product, why you must learn to say no to grow, and more

On today’s interview Daniel Pink discusses:

  1. Why he believes persistence trumps talent
  2. Why he didn’t know what he wanted to do until his early 30s
  3. Why he strongly disagrees with zero-sum negotiation and business deals
  4. How he became the speechwriter of choice for former Vice President Al Gore’s
  5. Why it’s important to figure out and define what it is that you do
  6. The mechanics of becoming a best-selling author
  7. His process for writing books
  8. How to find a literary agent
  9. The value of having a literary agent
  10. Why his book proposals are typically pages longer or more
  11. Why he believes that performance goals don’t always lead to learning goals and that you can actually get an A in French class without actually learning how to speak French.
  12. Why you must say no to grow
  13. Why it’s important to learn from failure.
  14. Why the world should be better as a result of buying your products or services
  15. Why when you take the low road consumers will find out and you will lose.
  16. Why you can’t screw customers and then get positive Google reviews
  17. Why things that rhyme are more sublime

Book: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

  1. Ladies and gentlemen, on today’s show we are interviewing the iconic author of books about behavioral science, sales, management, work, life design, and what truly motivates us all.
  2. Throughout Daniel Pink’s career, he has been the host and co-executive producer of the National Geographic Channel Social Science TV series Crowd Control.
  3. He graduated from Bexley High School in 1982 and received his Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University. He then received his J.D. (juris doctor) from Yale Law School in 1991 where he was the Editor and Chief of the Yale Law and Policy Review.
  4. Daniel Pink is the author of six thought-provoking books, that I’m aware of, including his newest, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which has spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list.
  5. His other books include the long-running New York Times bestseller A Whole New Mind, as well as the #1 New York Times bestsellers Drive and To Sell is Human. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 38 languages.
  6. From what I can tell after having invested copious amounts of time cyberstalking, Dan and his family now live in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.
  7. Dan, welcome onto the Thrivetime Show! How are you sir?!
  8. Dan, you have written so many thought-provoking books throughout your lifetime that we could focus on, but to introduce our listeners to the incredible diversity of your work, I thought we could focus on breaking down some of your writing on the subjects of motivation, sales and timing. So 1st, let’s start with motivation.
  9. Where did your career first start gaining traction?
    1. I feel like my career is still gaining traction
    2. I went to college and majored in linguistics
    3. I went to Washington for a bit and then went to law school
    4. I never worked with the law after getting my degree in it
    5. People always told me “You have to find your passion!”
    6. I realized that you have to ask yourself “What is it that you do?”
    7. I realized that the thing that I was doing on the side is what I wanted to do
    8. What is the thing you are doing in your free time that you really enjoy?
  10. How did you become a speechwriter?
    1. Somewhere someone said “Oh Crap… I need a speech… Pink can you write?”
    2. I said, “Yeah I can do that!”
    3. It didn’t suck so I kept doing it over and over
  11. What was the process like of getting an agent?
    1. I had left my job and written a piece for a magazine called Fast Company
    2. I took that short article and turned it into a book proposal and sent it to a ton of agents
    3. Some of them said “No Thanks” and some of them wanted the next conversation.
    4. One agent thought it was really interesting and wanted to get lunch
    5. He told me it was a good idea but poorly executed
    6. He became my agent and has been now for 20 years
    7. While other aspects of book creating will change, your agent will always be there by your side.
    8. I have a technique that keeps me out of writing a bad book.
      1. I got better at it thanks to my agent
      2. For every book that I do, I write a 30-40 page long book proposal
      3. This proposal has research
        1. Who is this book for?
        2. Why hasn’t someone wrote this?
        3. Why am I “The Guy” to write this book?
      4. This process let me kick out bad books before I got too deep into it
      5. It is just like a business plan.
  12. In your book Drive you write, “Grades become a reward for compliance—but don’t have much to do with learning. Meanwhile, students whose grades don’t measure up often see themselves as failures and give up trying to learn.”  I’d love to have you break down this quote for us?
    1. That book is about the science of motivation
    2. One of the things that happens in schools is good grades motivates and bad grades do the exact opposite
    3. One of the greatest motivators that people have is:
      1. Knowing why you’re doing something and doing it
    4. I took French and got straight A’s but I can’t speak French… Why?
      1. I was doing it for the grade.
  13. NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “Performance goals don’t always lead to learning goals.” – Daniel Pink
  14. Daniel Pink you wrote in your book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, “Persistence trumps talent.  What’s the most powerful force in the universe? Compound interest. It builds on itself. Over time, a small amount of money becomes a large amount of money. Persistence is similar. A little bit improves performance, which encourages greater persistence which improves persistence even more. And on and on it goes. Lack of persistence works the same way — only in the opposite direction. Of course talent is Wimportant, but the world is littered with talented people who didn’t persist, who didn’t put in the hours, who gave up too early, who thought they could ride on talent alone. Meanwhile, people who might have less talent pass them by.” Tell us more about the power of persistence and where most people get this wrong by default?
    1. This is fundamental.
    2. We have in some ways oversold the importance of “Great Talent” or being “A Natural”
    3. This matters far less than showing up, being persistent and making that 105th call.
    4. Writing was something I liked to do but I never told myself that I was talented at it but many talented people fail because they dont have persistence.
  15. NOTABLE QUOTABLE – “Over time, someone with persistence will outdo someone with talent.” – Daniel Pink
  16. My wife Vanessa and I have 5 kids and you have 3 kids…so we stay busy between our careers and our family. Most of our listeners are also trying to best balance their family and their career, which is why I loved the freeing power of when you wrote in Drive, “So get rid of the unnecessary obligations, time-wasting distractions, and useless burdens that stand in your way.” On a very practical level can you share the best way most people can free themselves from their obligations, time-wasting distractions and useless burdens?
    1. Some of it isn’t a complete waste of time. It is worth trying stuff.
    2. If you get to the event and realize that it is a total waste… Leave!
    3. The key is to try but to get out earlier rather than late
    4. Part of it is a flaw, it is called the “Sunk Cost” fallacy where we decide to keep investing into something because you had already invested in it.
    5. Many business owners told be that the biggest mistake I made in managing my business is that I didn’t fire people soon enough.
    6. You should be able to chalk it up as a learning experience
  1. You wrote in your best-selling book, To Sell is Human, “Finally, at every opportunity you have to move someone—from traditional sales, like convincing a prospect to buy a new computer system, to non-sales selling, like persuading your daughter to do her homework—be sure you can answer the two questions at the core of genuine service. If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re doing something wrong.” Dan, I’d love to have you share what you mean by this?
    1. One of the big reasons I wrote this book is because, the people I met in the business world and especially in sales were different from our idea of the sales team.
    2. Sales used to have more information and seemed to just be a lower level of person.
    3. Now the roads have flipped. You want your client or customer to be better after buying from you.
    4. You want them to say “WOW” at the end of today. This approach has changed from the original view of sales where the team would just try to get as many jobs as possible.
    5. In today’s technological world, if you take the low road, you will be found out. Today the buyer has so much more information about the seller than he does of the buyer.
    6. Oxifresh.com has a substantial amount of reviews and that is how you are to gain rapport in today’s world.
  1. Daniel Pink, your entire approach to sales is the perspective I encourage all of our clients to take, and you wrote, “when both parties view their encounters as opportunities to learn, the desire to defeat the other side struggles to find the oxygen it needs.” Share with us why it’s so important for both parties to view their encounters as opportunities to learn?
    1. One of the things that we miss is that business is not “Zero Sum”
    2. There can be a benefit to both parties in all business negotiation. It is not one winner and one loser. There are many creative ways to be positive sum and not zero sum.
  1. Daniel Pink, you wrote “Pitches that rhyme are more sublime.” What do you mean by this?
    1. There was a research project done where they gave a group of people Proverbs.
    2. One group they gave “Woes Unite Enemies”
    3. One group they gave “Woes Unite Foes”
    4. The proverbs that rhymed people had thought that they were more truthful
  1. Daniel Pink, you have written multiple best-selling books, is there any particular book that you’ve written that you would recommend for all of our listeners to purchase?
    1. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
  1. What does the first four hours of your day look like?
    1. 7:30 Wake up
    2. Go to my office by 8:30 am
    3. If I am writing, I give myself a word count goal that I have to hit. Some days I have to work until 1:00 pm and some 3:00 pm
    4. It takes diligence and persistence to write books and get almost anything done.
Business Coach | Ask Clay & Z Anything

Audio Transcription

Best Business Podcast Download Podcast

Clay:
The four time New York Times bestselling author, Dan Pink. Mr. Pink, how are you, sir?

Dan Pink:
I’m very good. Thanks for having me on the show, Clay.

Clay:
I have to ask you. I don’t know that you keep track of this. But how many times have you been a New York Times bestselling author?

Dan Pink:
Oh, I keep track of this, man. How many weeks or how many books? I don’t know how many weeks, but books, four.

Clay:
How many books have you written that have become New York Times bestsellers.

Dan Pink:
Four.

Clay:
And with those four books, you now have this overwhelming success. You’re so eloquent. There’s so many great interviews you’ve done and so many presentations. Go back to the bottom. Take me to the bottom, the very beginning, at the genesis of the Daniel Pink career. Where do you feel like your career first began to gain some traction?

Dan Pink:
I feel, honestly, like I’m still gaining traction. And I came to this career in writing, writing books, in sort of a weird way. I didn’t really figure out what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to be when I grew up, until, I don’t know, in my early 30s. So I went down a very peculiar path. I went to college. I majored in linguistics, of all things. I was very interested in social science and especially linguistics is a very mathematical kind of social science. I ended up working in Washington for a little bit, then I went to law school, really didn’t like it. Didn’t want to become a lawyer. I graduated from law school unemployed, have never practiced law, and started working in politics, did that for a while. And decided that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life.

Dan Pink:
And the insight as it came with this. And I think it’s a lesson for particularly some of your younger listeners out there. There are a lot of people who tell you, “You got to find your passion? What’s your passion?” And I hate that question. For me, it was a very different question, and it was this. What do you do? What do you actually do? And for me, from the time I was in college all the way to the time that I was working in politics and had some pretty demanding jobs, I was always “writing on the side.” I was writing newspaper articles and magazine articles and columns and things like that. I did it kind of as a hobby, as weird as that sounds, in the same way that people, oh, I’ve got my bowling night. Oh, I’m going to go do whatever, taxidermy.

Dan Pink:
And it wasn’t, I don’t know how I came up with bowling and taxidermy. Although, it would be kind of cool if you had a sport where you actually rolled a ball down a lane and you knocked over little stuffed animals. That would be kind of cool. We just invented a new sport, Clay, bowladermy.

Clay:
Right. This is something we have done together, our first [crosstalk 00:02:46] opportunity.

Dan Pink:
It’s bowladermy. Coming up on ABC Sports. And it wasn’t until I realized that this thing that I was doing on the side was kind of what I should be doing. And so that’s why I like the question. And I’m sorry for such a long winded answer. But that’s why I like the question of asking, “What do you do? What do you pay attention to? What do you care about when no one’s watching, when you have free time? What is it that you actually do?” And I think that, it’s usually not a super loud voice, it’s a quieter voice. You have to really listen for it. But I think if you follow that voice, you can have a better chance of finding your path.

Clay:
In the world of politics, and again, if am getting anything incorrect, feel free to correct me here. You were a speech writer when you started. Am I correct there?

Dan Pink:
Yeah. Right. I worked on some campaigns. And then in a completely convoluted way, became a speech writer.

Clay:
How did you become a speech writer? Were you the master orator?

Dan Pink:
No.

Clay:
And I believe you wrote some speeches for Mr. Alvin Gore.

Dan Pink:
So I did for several years. So here’s the thing, here’s how I became a speech writer, and this is the … It wasn’t like, wow, you are so articulate. Wow, look at that sentence you wrote. It gleams off the page. That’s not how I became a speech writer. Here’s how I became a speech writer. Somewhere along the line, someone said, “Oh, crap. We need a speech.” And they looked around and they saw me, and they knew I could type. And they said, “Pink, can you write a speech?” And I said, and this is a very good lesson for your younger listeners out there, I said, “Yeah. I can do that,” having basically no experience doing it.

Clay:
Right.

Dan Pink:
Yeah, I can do that. And I did it, and it didn’t stink. And they said, “Hey, can you do it again?” And I said, “I can do that.” Can you do it again? And that’s how I became a speech writer.

Clay:
When did your first book come out? When did your first bestselling book come out?

Dan Pink:
My first book came out in 2001. It was a book called Free Agent Nation, and it was about the rise of people working for themselves, like many of your listeners, people who left large organizations to go out on their own, start a small business, become an independent entrepreneur. And it was really about … This was way before the gig economy. Why was this happening? Why were people choosing this path? And why were … Some people being forced onto it. But what was it all about? And how was it changing the way that we work?

Clay:
It’s interesting because again … How old are you right now, there, Daniel?

Dan Pink:
I am 54 years old.

Clay:
Okay. I’m 38. I’m a father of five kids.

Dan Pink:
Holy smokes.

Clay:
And I am about-

Dan Pink:
How old are your kids?

Clay:
My oldest daughter, she’s 14. My son’s 11. I have a daughter that’s nine, and then twins that are seven.

Dan Pink:
Okay. All right.

Clay:
And I started my first company out of my dorm room at Oral Roberts University.

Dan Pink:
Okay. [inaudible 00:05:38].

Clay:
I sold the company, but it was the nation’s largest wedding entertainment company called djconnection.com. And I was in Minnesota, and I had a family member, a family member of mine, who’s very, very successful, who said I need to read this book, Free Agent Economy.

Dan Pink:
Oh, really?

Clay:
And I said, “Bah. Bah. Boo,” because I knew about all the DJ music. I did the top 40. I knew about these things, scaling a company, thinking about my career, free agents, no, no, no. Then I sold DJ Connection, kind of a 27 year old now retired. At 27, I didn’t have to work anymore. And I picked up the book, and so it was like a message in a bottle that took me years. And that’s how I first discovered your writing. And I just want to ask you this because I write books, and you write bestselling books, so I want to ask you this. What was the process like of finding an agent that finally understood you and could help you get a book deal that you felt like made sense?

Dan Pink:
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think it’s helpful for aspiring writers to have writers really talk about some of the mechanics. What is it really like? And I’ll tell you what happened to me. For this first book, I had actually written a … I had left my job and was out on my own, and I’d written a magazine story for a magazine called Fast Company about this phenomenon of people, of what we called free agents. And I said, “Wow, this is so interesting. There’s so much more to write about. I think I want to turn this into a book.”

Dan Pink:
So what I did is I took that article, I wrote a short and very bad book proposal, and I sent it to, I don’t know, a bunch of agents. And I found those agents by talking to friends of mine who were writers. Another good way to find agents is to go into the acknowledgments of books, read the acknowledgments of books because a writer will usually thank his or her agent. And I sent it to a bunch of agents, I don’t know, maybe a dozen, that friends and whatever had recommended. And some of them said, “No, thanks. Not interested in this.”

Clay:
Ooh.

Dan Pink:
Oh, yeah, a lot of them. Yeah. And some of them said, “This is great. I’ll represent you. And let’s have another conversation.” And there was one agent in particular who called me up and said, “This is really interesting. Do you want to have … Want to have lunch and talk about it?” And so I had lunch with him and talked about it. He said, he basically told me that this is a good idea, poorly executed, and I could do it a lot better. And he was so smart and so savvy, I said, “This is the guy I want to go with.” And this fellow, Rafe Sagalyn, has been my agent for 20 years now.

Clay:
Really? So you guys have had that relationship for 20 plus years.

Dan Pink:
And it’s a very … And the writer, agent relationship is a extraordinarily important because a lot of times in publishing houses, editors come and go. And your agent can be a sounding board. Your agent certainly is your advocate, not only in getting the contract and in negotiating a good deal, but also throughout the publishing process. Your agent is very good at understanding the broader contours of the market. And so my decision to pick this particular literary agent was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.

Clay:
Have you ever written a book from start to finish that was totally terrible, and once you got to the end of it, you realized what I have just done is I have invested 300 pages, 300 hours, 400, let’s say 4000 hours and 300 pages into writing pure drivel, this book must not be released?

Dan Pink:
No. But the only reason for that is that I have a technique to avoid being in that predicament because what I do when I … So remember, in this one instance that I told you, I wrote a pretty bad book proposal. I got better at writing book proposals thanks to the guidance of my agent. And so now, for every book that I do, I will write a book proposal. And my book proposals tend to be 30, 40 pages long.

Clay:
Wow.

Dan Pink:
Yeah. They have research. They have footnotes. It describes what the book is about, why nobody else has written it, why I’m the perfect person to write it. Who’s the market for this thing? How I’m going to organize it. And here’s the thing, Clay. There have been several times when in the course of writing that proposal, I said, “Holy smokes. This stinks.” Or, “Holy smokes. This is not interesting enough to spend the next several years of my life on. And so I didn’t get to the point where I had written 300 pages. I used that 30 to 40 page book proposal as a way to kind of road test it. It’s a prototype of sorts. It’d be like … Here’s the thing. I don’t know. You were in college. Did you have a business plan for your business?

Clay:
It was interesting. I had a plan, but it was a drawing.

Dan Pink:
Okay. That’s actually really interesting. That’s super interesting. So in some sense, a book proposal is sort of like a business plan. You can write a business plan and say, “Oh, my God. The numbers don’t add up. Oh, my God. This market is a lot smaller than I thought. Oh, my God. 18 other entities have already done this.” And say, “Wow, that was a good exercise because it avoided me starting a business that would’ve been a mistake.” It’s similar for me in book proposals.

Clay:
Now what I want to do is I want to take the listeners through sort of a highlight real. As a DJ, a lot of times you buy a CD and it’s got like … Back in the day, you buy a CD and it had the best of The Eagles.

Dan Pink:
Sure.

Clay:
The best of The Doobie Brothers. The best of, once you got to the part of your career where you were starting to book casino gigs, Journey is now in a casino, The Doobie Brothers. Once you got to that casino phase-

Dan Pink:
I like Journey though. I actually am a Journey fan.

Clay:
Okay. So once you get to the casino phase of your career, you realize what we’ve got to do, let’s do a best of album. Garth Brooks from Oklahoma here, he’s been doing a best of every year at Walmart for I think about a decade. Now so in your book, Drive, I want to go through the best of. This is an interesting, it’s a best of with an author who’s still putting out current, relevant stuff. In your book, Drive, you write, “Grades become a reward for compliance, but don’t have much to do with learning. Meanwhile, students whose grades don’t measure up often see themselves as failures and give up trying to learn.” I am a person who took algebra three times. I took my ACT three times. I used to stutter as a kid, and now I’ve been approached to syndicate our show we’ve been doing for six years. And so I think anybody out there who got beat up in school and started to see themselves as a failure can resonate and can connect with what you just said. Break down why you wrote that and what that means to you.

Dan Pink:
Yeah. So that book, Drive, is about the science of motivation and what really motivates people. And one of the things that happens, especially in schools, is that … Well, here’s what we know about motivation in general. One of the greatest motivators that people have, the intrinsic motivator, is knowing why you’re doing something and making progress in doing it. And so in our schools, many schools are so incredibly grade conscious that grades are about … Grades are the point of the exercise. Grades ought to be feedback on your performance and some ways that you can get better.

Dan Pink:
And so what happens is that the kids who are more or less good at school, which is a very peculiar ability, kids who are good at school are just totally compliant. They know what you need to do to get the grade. And kids who are less good at school get the bad grades and think that they don’t have the capacities. They don’t have what Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist, calls a growth mindset. And so for you in … There is no doubt in my mind, having talked to you for 11 minutes, that you can master, the young you could’ve mastered algebra.

Clay:
I agree.

Dan Pink:
It was just basically you weren’t in a setting that was prizing learning, it was prizing performance. And let me actually make a simpler way to describe this. I’ll talk about me. I was actually a pretty good student in school because when I went to school, if you gave the authority figure what he or she wanted on time and neatly, you could do pretty well. And so let me give you an example of French. I took French for six years, four years in high school, two years in college. I got straight As in French. Every marking period, I got straight As in French. But here’s the thing, Clay, I can’t speak French. Why? Because I was going for the grade, not the learning. I could conjugate verbs. I could get the answers right on vocabulary quizzes, but I was doing the French for the grade.

Dan Pink:
And one of the things that we know about the psychology of motivation is that performance goals, that is getting an A in French, don’t always, and often do not lead to learning goals, mastering French. So I had a purely performance goal, and that doesn’t lead to a learning goal. If I had been smarter, and I wish that I had been, I would’ve focused on learning French. I would’ve learned French and probably would’ve done just fine on the tests.

Clay:
There was a Napoleon Hill quote that set me free. I was probably 19 there, Dan. And it said that failure is a prerequisite to success.

Dan Pink:
Sure.

Clay:
And I was cold calling out of my Oral Roberts University dorm room, Boeing, UPS, huge companies, trying to convince them to book me for their Christmas party. You know? And I’m going, “Failure is a prerequisite to success.” Okay, so I have to fail, and I’ll fix my script. I had to see it as a prerequisite. And in your book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, you wrote, it’s kind of like taking Napoleon Hill to the next level, you wrote, “Persistence trumps talent.”

Dan Pink:
Oh, way, totally.

Clay:
What’s the most powerful force in the universe? Compound interest. It builds on itself. Over time, a small amount of money becomes a large amount of money. Persistence is similar. A little bit improves performance, which encourages greater persistence, which improves persistence even more. I ran out of highlighter juice right there. I ran out of highlighter juice. And I’m just like, “It’s so good. I got to get him on the show.” Walk me through that quote. It’s so good.

Dan Pink:
I think this is fundamental. It’s something that I wish someone had told me earlier in my life. It’s something that I discovered later in my life. That is, and it goes to, there’s something very … I’ll come back to the research on this. But let me tell you what the idea is. We have in some ways oversold the importance of great talent and being a “natural.” And the truth of the matter is talent still matters, and there is such a thing as innate talent and innate ability. But it matters far less, I believe, than we think that it does. And what really matters is showing up and being persistent, and making that 103rd call, and making that 104th call, and making that 105th call. And what I have seen as a writer, and actually, it’s interesting because I’m making a connection I might not have made earlier.

Dan Pink:
Remember how I talked about I was writing on the side. And I think a reason for that, I haven’t thought a lot about this, really it’s just occurring to me right now. I think a reason for that was that I didn’t consider myself a very talented writer. It was something I liked to do, but I didn’t consider myself a huge writing talent. And what I discovered about writing, and basically every human endeavor, is that sort of early in people’s working lives, it seems like, oh, my gosh, that person is so talented, he or she’s going to do really, really great. And I’m just a piker. But what I’ve seen is that many, many talented people go nowhere because they don’t persist. They don’t put in the time. They don’t endure the failure. They don’t show up every day. And people with less innate ability over time, who have persistence, will outperform them.

Dan Pink:
And so if you gave me a choice, in the book, the Johnny Bunko book, one of the characters, Diana, takes to a casino where you can bet on people. And so you can have … So you take two people early in their lives, one is very talented, but not persistent. One is moderately talented, but extremely persistent. I’m betting everything on the second person, everything on the second person because showing up, persistence, enduring failure, ends up being a predictor of success than innate ability.

Clay:
You have so many knowledge bombs per capita. When I go through and edit this show, I’m going to have to just marinate on this rotisserie style for several days. I want to ask you think because Andrew, you know this as you’re taking the shown notes here, you know I never want to try to one up a guest. Never would want to do it. But this is what I thought about. I thought, “I have five kids. And Daniel, I think you have three.” Right, Dan? You have three.

Dan Pink:
Yes, I do. Yes.

Clay:
Okay. But Dan, though, he’s written four bestselling books, and I have written zero. But I’m due. You know what I mean? I’m due. I built multiple multimillion dollar companies, six. I don’t know how many you’ve built, but you seem to be the wiser man. No matter how many, you have these notable quotables that are powerful. And it seems like I’ll read a little line, and it’s three lines, and it changes my year. So I’m going to read a notable quotable from the book Drive.

Dan Pink:
Okay. Talk to me.

Clay:
That changed my year.

Dan Pink:
All right.

Clay:
And so I give you the mega point. You win. Here we go. It says, “So get rid of the unnecessary obligations, the time wasting distractions and useless burdens that stand in your way.” Here’s where I was when I read that. What year did that come out? Do you remember what year Drive came out?

Dan Pink:
I think that was 2005.

Clay:
There we go. See, I sold DJ Connection in 2007-

Dan Pink:
No, no, no. 2008.

Clay:
I think I sold DJ Connection in 2008, 2009, so it was right in that window. But I read this, and I’m going, “I am the head of the Tulsa Bridal Association.” It was a wedding show organization. I’m going, “Why? How many leads do I get by networking with other wedding vendors? Honestly, let’s look at this.” And I’m going, “I would rather spend the time, it was one meeting a week, the 52 hours a year, I’d rather just buy a billboard or a mailer.” I freed myself. And there were so many things where I said, “Why? Why am I going to that networking group? Why?” Dan, why do we get all so caught up in these unnecessary obligations? And where do you see most entrepreneurs wasting their time?

Dan Pink:
Great. So some of it is not a complete waste of time because, and I’ll tell you why, because we do make mistakes in this realm too, and it’s worth trying stuff. So you could’ve gone to that association, whatever, the club, and said, “Hey, this might work out.” You get there, and you realize, oh, my God. This is a total waste. The mistake that people make is that they keep going after. They stick with something that they know isn’t working.

Clay:
Six years, Dan, six years.

Dan Pink:
Yeah. And so I think that the key is to try stuff, but get out earlier rather than late. And I see this in a number of different realms. Part of it is a flaw in the way we think. There’s something called the sunk cost fallacy where we feel like if we’ve invested in something, then … Let’s say we buy tickets to a basketball game, and on the night of the game, it’s raining and you feel terrible and don’t want to go. You say, “Well, I need to go because I spent money on the tickets.”

Clay:
Might as well.

Dan Pink:
I spent money on the tickets. But the truth is whether you go or not, you’re still going to have spent money on the tickets, that’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so what we do is we deeper our commitment to things that don’t really matter. What we need to be doing in many cases, and I see this in many realms of businesses, one boss that I saw, and your entrepreneurs, and maybe you yourself, Clay, have had this experience told me. He said, “The biggest mistake I made in managing my business is that I always kept the pitcher in too long. That is, I didn’t fire people soon enough. I knew it was a mistake. I knew this pitcher was going to keep getting hit, but I didn’t pull the pitcher early enough.”

Dan Pink:
And I think that we should have that kind of … It’s interesting. We want to be able to experiment and test stuff, but we have to be able to say, “You know what, that is a noble failure, and I’m going to chalk it up to experience and information and feedback and move on.”

Clay:
That right there is something that somebody needed to hear. If you’re headed down the path of certain defeat, there’s no need to continue going. Just pivot. Make the change. In your book you wrote, there’s so many book, but To Sell is Human, to Sell is Human. In that book, you wrote, “If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?” When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then you’re doing something wrong.

Dan Pink:
Totally.

Clay:
Dan, what do you mean by this?

Dan Pink:
Well, I mean, here’s the thing. I wrote that book, To Sell is Human, for a couple of reasons. Number one, and one of the big reasons was that I had in writing about business, I had met a lot of people who were in sales, and they were nothing like the stereotype. We have this view of sales as sleazy and dishonest and duplicitous and not that sharp. And in fact, the people I met who are in sales were super sharp. They were very smart. They were very good at what they did. And it got me thinking about how sales has changed over the last several years.

Dan Pink:
Sales used to be a world where the seller always had more information than the buyer. That’s a world of buyer beware. Right? Why do we have buyer beware? Because sellers had the edge in information, but now there’s so much information out there that they’re at an even playing field. We’re now in a world of seller beware, and so what sellers have to do more and more is take the high road. And I think for long-term sales success, what you want is you want your client or customer to be better off because they bought from you. You’re not just trying to hit your numbers. They’re not just numbers on a wall.

Dan Pink:
And so for you, let’s take your wedding business, the DJ business, what you want is you want, I think that you want, I think good entrepreneurs want this, hire you as a DJ at their wedding and have people and the bride and groom say, “Wow, that DJ was so good. He helped make this an unforgettable day.”

Clay:
That is definitely what we wanted. I would say that my whole … I told everybody, all my DJs, our whole theme was going to take every event, and take it from ordinary to extraordinary.

Dan Pink:
There you go.

Clay:
Because every wedding is somebody’s big day.

Dan Pink:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that having that kind of standard, it’s not saying, “Oh, wow. We got to do three more deals this month. What can we hustle up?” I think that taking that approach over the long run is better. It’s better morally, no question. But I actually think that it’s better business. It’s better business to have that kind of high road mentality. And the other thing about it is that there’s a pragmatic reason for it because today in a world of Trip Advisor and Yelp and LinkedIn, if you take the low road, you’re going to get found out, and people are going to talk about it. And so one of the things when we think about selling a product, or a service, our idea, ourself, or anything, we have to recognize we’ve gone from … We’re in a very new world in the last 10 years.

Dan Pink:
15 years ago, 20 years ago, the seller of anything had, versus the buyer, the buyer of anything had less information than the seller, not many choices, and no way to talk back. Today, buyers have lots of information, as much as the sellers, lots of choices, and all kinds of ways to talk back. And I think that changes the nature of what sales is and forces us much more to the high road, forces us in some ways, to use your language, Clay, to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Clay:
I, for the listeners out there that want proof of this, one of the brands that I talk about on the show a lot that I’m involved in, help to work with, is called Oxi Fresh, and it’s the world’s greenest carpet cleaner, Dan. We have 396 locations now, franchises all over the country.

Dan Pink:
Wow. Okay.

Clay:
And we hit today, 147,000 Google reviews, so if somebody types in-

Dan Pink:
Oh, my gosh.

Clay:
Yeah. I think it’s the most reviewed company in the world, seriously. So if you type in carpet cleaning quotes on your computer, Dan, or on any computer out there, we come up top.

Dan Pink:
Wow.

Clay:
I could sit there and say that, but every show’s transcribed, every show’s downloaded by a lot of people. And people read the reviews. They just do. And it doesn’t matter, if you’re going to have someone come to clean your house or come clean your hotel, you’re going to read those reviews, and that wasn’t a thing back in ’99. That wasn’t a thing in 2001. That’s why I think that this book that you wrote many years ago … What year did you write To Sell is Human?

Dan Pink:
2013. I’m looking this up right now. This is incredible.

Clay:
You see that?

Dan Pink:
I see, well, two different things. I see 149,139 reviews.

Clay:
So I lied to you by 2000 short. It grows all the time. We have a haircut chain called Elephant in the Room that I own. It’s a men’s grooming lounge. And if you type in Tulsa men’s haircuts, you’ll find us. And we have, I want to say 30 times more reviews than our nearest competitor, or 20 times. If you treat people right, people read those reviews.

Dan Pink:
Absolutely.

Clay:
And your book is actually becoming, in my opinion, more relevant every year. And in this book, you wrote, you said, “When both parties view their encounter as opportunities to learn, the desire to defeat the other side struggles to find the oxygen it needs.” I’m not into tattoos. I know a lot of millennials are, a lot of listeners are. Would you be opposed to a millennials tattooing an entire arm sleeve with that quote? That’s a good quote, Dan. What does that quote mean?

Dan Pink:
Thanks. Thanks. But here’s the thing. One of the things that I think we … I think good entrepreneurs know this. I think that a very narrow and kind of twisted view of business views business as zero sum. If I win, you have to lose. And the truth is that most encounters are not zero sum. They’re positive sum. And so this is one of the things about negotiation. Whenever I’m in a negotiation, I say, “What does the other side want? How can I help the other side win? How can I help the other side get what it wants?” And not thinking of it as, oh, my God, one of us is going to win and one of us is going to lose.

Dan Pink:
And that’s not to say negotiations of anything can be contentious, and it’s not like you don’t want to be a pushover. But if you start, if you realize that there are many creative ways for it, for encounters, and I think inherently in many business encounters, to be positive sum rather than zero sum. Unfortunately, there’s a certain strain of business thinking that says, “This is war. We’re trying to defeat people.”

Clay:
Crush them.

Dan Pink:
That’s the wrong way to do it.

Clay:
Crush them, and then get a good Google review.

Dan Pink:
Right. Yeah, rip people up, fleece them. And then send them an annoying anonymous … Send them an annoying, impersonal email asking for a review.

Clay:
All right. Now you have … I have two final questions for you. But you have two degrees. You got a degree from Yale Law School, which I believe, Dan. Do they still just give those out to anybody? Is it just sort of like a-

Dan Pink:
It’s pretty much, yeah.

Clay:
Participation thing.

Dan Pink:
There’s a vending machine. You put a quarter in. It’s like those old, I don’t know if you remember those, I don’t know if they still even have them, but I used to love them when I was a kid. You put a quarter into this vending machine and you get this little mini NFL helmet.

Clay:
That was when America was America, really. That’s the problem.

Dan Pink:
That was the dream. That was the dream, to ask your mom or dad at the grocery store if they could give you a quarter for one of those. And when they said yes, you’re just thinking, “I hope it’s not the Cowboys. I hope it’s not the Cowboys.”

Clay:
That would surpass your desire for candy for at least a day. You’re like, “I got the helmet. I don’t need to eat candy anymore.”

Dan Pink:
Totally. Totally because the helmet’s there the next day, the candy’s not.

Clay:
That was the deeper thinking I didn’t have available in the early ’80s. No, so law school degree from Yale Law School, Northwestern University, so you’ve done some thinking. And so here is a Daniel Pink thought that makes us all think, pitches that rhyme are more sublime. Dan, break it down.

Dan Pink:
But here’s the thing. This is based on some really interesting research. I’ll tell you about the research. Here’s what they did. They got their participants. They got a big group of people. They divided them into two groups. And they said, “We’re going to give you some proverbs. And what we want you to do is tell us how accurate these proverbs are in describing the human condition.” So one group they said, they gave proverbs. I’m trying to think of what they might’ve been. Okay. Woes unite enemies. Woes unite enemies. And the other group they gave, woes unite foes. All right.

Dan Pink:
And so in one case, it’s the same idea, woes unite enemies, woes unite foes. One of them was caution and measure will win you riches. The other one was caution and measure will win you treasure. So they’re identical in their content. And what they were looking at is: Did these groups think that these proverbs accurately describe the human condition? And it turned out that the proverbs that rhymed, people took more seriously. They thought they were more accurate. They thought they were more insightful. And what’s going on here is that rhymes increase what linguists call processing fluency, the message goes down easier. And so rhyming pitches and rhymes in general are incredibly powerful in getting people not only to remember something, but also to believe it.

Clay:
I want to give you a rap name if you’re okay with it, Pink Pink Panther. Think about that.

Dan Pink:
Yeah. We might have a copyright or trademark problem there.

Clay:
Well, here’s the deal. I’ll just record a freestyle Pink Panther rap for you. I’ll send it to you if you want to use it, that’s great. I commit to you. I will do that. A former DJ, I’ll send that, the Pink Panther. Andrew, put it in the show notes. I cannot tell a lie on this show. We’ll send it to you. Just hit delete immediately when you get it if you need to. I respect that. Now final question I have for you. You’re a very intentional guy. You have a family. You’ve got kids. You got a lot of people reaching out to you every day, people wanting to book you for a speaking event, you’ve got a lot of social media. I’m sure if you ever take an opinion about anything, someone gets upset. People are happy. How do you stay intentional? How do you organize those first four hours of your day? And what time do you wake up?

Dan Pink:
Okay. I am more of a lark than an owl, but I don’t wake up insanely early. I usually wake up between 7:00 and 7:30. On writing days, I try to get to my office by 8:30. Fortunately, my office is the garage behind my house, so I have a 22 step commute. Writing days, I’m very, very intentional. What I do, Clay, is this. I come into my office by 8:30. And depending on where I am in a particular project, I give myself a word count, 600 words, 800 words. Every once in a while, 1000 words, but usually it’s less than that, maybe 600, 700 words. And that is my job that day, that morning. And I don’t bring my phone into the office. I don’t open up my email. I don’t do anything until I hit that number. And so sometimes I hit the number by 10:30, 11:00. Other times, not until noon. Other times, 1:00, or 2:00, or on horrible days, 3:00.

Dan Pink:
But for me, that’s how I maintain the intentionality. On writing days, I have a quota that I have to hit. I treat writing the way I would treat a job like bricklaying. What’s my job? I come in and I lay some freaking bricks. What do I do the next day? I come in and lay some more bricks. What do I do the next day? I come in, fix the bricks that are now out of line, and then lay some more bricks. And to me, that’s the discipline it takes to write. And it goes back to our idea of persistence trumping talent. There are a lot of people who just aren’t willing to show up and aren’t willing to do the work. And if you show up and do the work in general, you’re going to be fine.

Clay:
Asking you to pick your favorite book is, I’m sure, like asking you to pick your favorite child.

Dan Pink:
Right.

Clay:
So what is a book, though, one of your books that you would say, if all the listeners out there, a lot of entrepreneurs are saying, “You know what, I’ve heard a lot about this guy. I like today’s interview. I’d like to check out one of his books. I’m just a click away on Amazon.” What’s the book you’d say that’s a good entry into the Dan Pink experience?

Dan Pink:
Yeah. That sounds like an amusement park or a Disney ride, the Dan Pink experience. I don’t know, actually. I think the latest one, a book called When, about the science of timing, is pretty fresh. It’s just out in paperback. And I think that a lot of the ideas in there are really, really fresh. It’s stuff and research that a lot of people don’t know about. And there’s all kinds of tools and tips and takeaways in there for business people.

Clay:
Dan, I appreciate you more than you know for coming on here. I know you’re rebounding from a cold. I know you’re an intentional guy. I know you’re a married guy. You’ve got a lot of things you could be doing, a lot of places you could be seeing. But thank you for believing in our listening audience enough to come on the show and share some words of wisdom.

Dan Pink:
It has been a pleasure being with you, Clay. I actually really enjoyed it.

Feedback

Let us know what's going on.

Have a Business Question?

Ask our mentors anything.