Episode 312

Apple Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki on Steve Jobs Stories, Innovative Thinking and More

Elevate with Robert Glazer | Remarkable Thinking


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Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva and the creator of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast. Guy was the chief evangelist of Apple and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He’s the bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Wise Guy, The Art of the Start 2.0, and a new one, Think Remarkable, which is now available wherever books are sold.

Guy Kawasaki On Apple And Remarkable Thinking

Welcome to the show. Our quote for this episode is from Scott Belsky. It is, “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” Our guest, Guy Kawasaki, knows how to make things happen in the business world. He’s the Chief Evangelist at Canva and the creator of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People Podcast. Guy was also the Chief Evangelist at Apple and an Executive Fellow of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He’s the best-selling author of over a dozen books, including Wise Guy, The Art of the Start 2.0, and the new one, Think Remarkable, which is available wherever books are sold.


Elevate with Robert Glazer | Remarkable Thinking

Guy, welcome. It’s great to have you on the show.

Thank you very much. I have to tell you. I share your frustration, if not plain being pissed off with all those LinkedIn, “Congratulations on your anniversary.”

You saw that post?

I don’t know any of these people. I feel, “Am I supposed to respond to them? Are they going to think I’m some kind of jerk because I didn’t respond to them?” You get dozens of them and they’re using the default LinkedIn notification.

For those of you who didn’t read about me talking about this on my Weekend Conversations episode, I had grouped a bunch of board roles on LinkedIn. Somehow, it tagged the various companies and then told everyone it was my six-year anniversary at various companies. All these people wished me a happy work anniversary at various companies using the auto prompt. It led to a discussion around mass personalization. Some of this stuff is not helping. It makes it too easy. People don’t realize the other side of that. Some of the people, if I go to their message history, I’ll see that the only thing I’ve ever had from them is once every two years. It, in totality, doesn’t look very good.

You would think that someone at Microsoft would pick up that this is not a positive.

If you work with someone, maybe wishing them a work anniversary or a 5th or a 10th, but people you don’t know, even after people hit it, I thought they would’ve noticed the message they sent and tried to make a joke, delete it, or something like that. We have better things to talk about than various anniversaries. I’m always curious. It’s fascinating to start with childhood. I know you give credit for some of your prolific writing to a teacher. Is it Harold Keables? Was that his name? Can you talk about how he had such an impact on you?

He had an impact on me. He was my high school English teacher. He was probably the most challenging teacher I’ve ever had in my life, not just in high school. He had a method of teaching writing that you wrote, and then if you broke any of the rules of grammar, he would circle that and you would have to write the mistake again, the same sentence.

He was not worried about my ego. He would circle it. You’d have to write the mistake and then you’d have to write the rule that you broke, and then you’d have to write it again. He was a stickler for, “Cut out your passive voice. You have to have a comma with a conjunction between two independent clauses.” That was a huge factor. He has long passed. I swear he’s in Heaven and thinking, “Of all my students, Guy has written sixteen books? What happened here? What did I miss?”

I haven’t written sixteen. I’ve written six and a few more on the way, but I feel like my English teacher would’ve said the same thing. I was going to ask you this question later. We’ll jump around , but it ties to that because. A lot of people remember that there’s so much pressure to get things right, not use red pen, and otherwise. People remember the tough but supportive coach they had, the teacher, or the impact.

I was going to ask you this in relation to Steve Jobs because Steve was tough on people. I read in his biography that he got the most out of people. He raised their expectations for themselves rather than we seem to be lowering them. Was that one of the things that he did? Did he make people believe that they could do more than they thought they could do?

I feel like I’m interviewing myself. I have said that exactly. As I look back, the people who have had the most positive influence on me were the toughest teachers, the toughest bosses, and the toughest coaches. If you are a young person reading this and thinking, “I’m going to go find the easy boss or the easy teacher. I’m going to work remotely. I’m going to go to Bali for a month. I’m going to fill in my role there ’cause my boss lets me do this,” there may be a day when you look back and say, “I wasted those years. I wish I had a tougher boss. I wish I had a tougher professor.” That’s something you come to realize. It may take you twenty years to figure out that the toughest teacher was the best teacher, but you’ll come to that realization.

[easy-tweet tweet=”It may take you years to figure out that the toughest teacher is the best teacher.” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

Steve Jobs was five standard deviations beyond. I will tell you honestly that all these HR theories about how you meet with people, develop an open and transparent relationship based on trust, focus on positivity, and focus on highlighting the good, Steve Jobs did none of that. He scared the crap out of me. I saw him rip people in public and humiliate them. I said to myself, “You are never going to be that guy.” He managed by intimidation. I was intimidated and that drove me to do some of the best work of my life.

You’re not encouraging that part, but it’s the expectation piece that we’re losing. My daughter called me. If she reads this, she’s going to be pissed that I’m saying this. She called me from college before this call and is dealing with a very difficult teacher who said some irrational stuff. This is the difference. She has parents that approach things differently, which is good for her.

I said, “You’re going to have some difficult teachers. You’re going to have to learn how to deal with some irrational people in life. There’s something in that.” I know she doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s not dissimilar from what you’re going to face in the real world. You can’t love all your teachers, but there’s something to learn in how you navigate difficult people.

One of the best use cases for my book is that parents send it to their kids saying, “You don’t listen to me. Listen to this guy. He was the Chief Evangelist of Apple. He is the Chief Evangelist of Canva. You use Canva every day. Ignore what I say. Listen to him.” That’s the use case.

There’s a best style of parenting that aligns with the best style of leadership, which is challenging but supportive. When you get the challenging without any support, you get narcissism. When you get support without any challenge, it’s permissive and not super helpful.


Elevate with Robert Glazer | Remarkable Thinking

I hate to use sports analogies when talking about life in general and business.

I know people don’t like them, but they’re super relevant. I agree with you. I know two-team leadership stuff. It’s very relevant, so we’ll allow it.

This is really going to date me, but if you look at the people who played for Vince Lombardi at the Green Bay Packers or Bobby Knight at the University of Indiana, from the outside, they’re yelling at people. They’re so mean. They’re stomping around, throwing chairs. The people who played for them loved them. There’s a reason for that.

There are so many examples of that. They don’t tend to remember the cheerleader who told them they were better than they were and then they had to face reality after that.

Not long ago, there was the 40th anniversary of the Macintosh. There were about 40 of us. Some of us were on a panel at the Computer History Museum. I was sitting there with all these people that I had worked with many years ago. Everybody was happy. We were making jokes. We were talking about Steve in the most positive, emotional, and warm way.

I was thinking, “How many times is it going to happen where 40 years after you did something, you’re going to get back together with your peers and reminisce about the good times?” Do you think 40 years from now 30 Tesla employees are going to get together and say, “It was so great working for Elon. We changed the world with our electric car.” That isn’t going to happen.

They’re a little different. You went to Stanford after growing up in Hawaii. I’m curious. What was the transition like coming from Hawaii to the mainland and an environment like Stanford?

I got out of an airplane, Western Airlines, at SFO. The Stanford van picks you up and takes you to the dorm. It was like, “This is the promised land. I have arrived.” I loved going to Stanford, coming to the mainland, and the broadening of my horizons. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but the expectations are if you’re successful in Hawaii, at least this was back then, you might run a big retail store or a hotel or you might be a manager at some agricultural company. There was not something like, “I’m going to be the next Hewlett-Packard and the next Intel.” It was all different. I came to Stanford and that was a religious experience.

After Stanford, you went to law school. That was the plan. You then did a pivot to business school. What caused that other than not wanting more education?

I love how you used the word pivot for that. I went to UC Davis Law School for about two weeks. My father was a state senator who had never gone to college. It was his dream that I would go to college and then get a law degree and maybe follow in his footsteps. I went to law school for two weeks. I hated it. I’ll freely admit. I was intimidated. My whole life is a story of intimidation. You wouldn’t figure that from the outside looking in. I was intimidated by law school. I was miserable so I quit. With hindsight, that was one of the smartest things I did because most people practice law for twenty years and then they figure out they hate it.

They hated it the whole way, but it paid really well.

I don’t want to be like a character in Suits.

It’s a good show though. Harvey seems like he has a good life.

He has a complicated life.

Did you go right from business school to Apple?

I went from business school. While I was at business school at UCLA, it was a four-day-a-week program. I come from a lower middle-income family, so it was not like I was a trust fund baby and driving a Lamborghini to school. I had to go to work. I worked for a jewelry manufacturer, believe it or not, in downtown LA. After I got my MBA, I went to a jewelry manufacturing company. My friends were going to Wells Fargo, Anderson, Goldman Sachs, or whatever and I went to a small family jewelry manufacturing company.

Believe it or not, in the famous words of Steve Jobs, you have to connect the dots looking backward. In the jewelry business, we sold to retailers. That is a very difficult thing. This is hand-to-hand combat. This is not, “Go to the homepage and figure out A versus B and blue versus green.” It was not that kind of selling. This was you waiting in the lobby with your samples for hours and praying you get a meeting with Tiffany. That’s the nature of retail selling. I had to learn how to really sell. That has helped me for the rest of my life. In particular, Macintosh evangelism. I learned how to evangelize by selling jewelry.

When you came to Apple, you had to fight hard for that. What was your initial role? How did you end up at Apple? I know you took off the chief evangelist title, but is that where you started or did you start in a different area?

Full disclosure. I fell in love with computing because I got an Apple II. Back then, the state of the art was an IBM electric typewriter with a white correctable tape ball. That was word processing. To come from IBM’s electric typewriter II to Apple II with a word processor was a religious experience again. I loved the Apple II. My friend from Stanford had gone to work for the Macintosh division. He recruited me. Truly, the only reason why I got hired at Apple was nepotism. It happens that I did well in that role because of the sales training in jewelry. I’m living proof that nepotism can work.

You were one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984. That’s a dream job from an evangelist standpoint. What was the biggest challenge in something that’s new and different and then what was the biggest win? I always hear people say it’s better to sell painkillers than vitamins because people know they need painkillers. This was really new for people. I probably couldn’t even imagine, “What the heck do I do with a personal computer? I’ve got a typewriter. It’s great. Why do I need this for thousands of dollars?”

The pain that Macintosh relieved or alleviated was the pain of user interface. People could not use MS-DOS. People could not use things that were not a metaphor or a graphical user interface. That’s the pain we solved. I wouldn’t call Macintosh a supplement back then or a vitamin. It truly was a painkiller. It enabled people to do things that they always wanted to do, and then it went beyond that. It enabled people to do things they never could have imagined.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The pain that Macintosh relieved or alleviated was the pain of the user interface. It truly was a painkiller and enabled people to do things that they always wanted to do. Then it went beyond that and enabled people to do things they never could have imagined.” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

I f you had said to somebody in the mid-’80s, “You could have a word processing document with multiple fonts. You can put a little graphic there in multiple sizes and multiple styles. Without being an artist, you could use this thing called Mac Paint and make graphics,” they would’ve looked at you like you’re nuts because they’re coming from an Apple II.

This is hard for people who grew up with these functions to understand where it was.

It’s very hard to explain to someone how limited graphics were. That’s an oxymoron. There were no graphics back then.

Tell me about the campaign a little bit and working on that. What was a big win and what was much harder than you thought it would be?

The big win was that a significant but small percentage of people loved Macintosh. It was like a magic thing. It was a religion. That’s the good news. The bad news was, in Jeffrey Moore’s terminology, it was easy to get the pioneers and the early adopters. It was very hard to get to Main Street. Macintosh was introduced in ‘84, but by ‘87, ‘88, and ‘89, the company was in trouble. This is all the whole Steve Jobs comes and goes, gets fired, and all that because we could not make the transition to Main Street.

What did help? Was it the price? Were the evangelists willing to pay that price and other people weren’t? What had to happen? Did the price have to come down? What eventually broke it into the mainstream?

A lot of it is that for a long time, there was no software. S teve Jobs came back and he introduced the iMacs, the colorful ones, the ones that were blueberry, cherry, and tangerine. There was the Think Different advertising campaign which celebrated independent thinking. All of that worked together.

Wasn’t that also when he did the deal with Microsoft for Office?

Yeah. He did that deal for Microsoft. Microsoft wanted to avoid legal issues, so they paid. For people who are reading this and saying, “What the heck are they talking about?” A very good analogy that you’re seeing is Tesla with the electric car. In a sense, they had the first early adopters, the people in Silicon Valley jumping on this platform, but it’s not that easy to get electric cars into the mainstream.

We had this problem with software and all that. If you don’t own your house and you cannot put a charger in your house, it is a major pain in the butt to try to be all-electric. Tesla has gotten the early adopters, but getting to Main Street where everybody buys a Ford 150 Lightning instead of a Ford 150 internal combustion isn’t so easy.

Range anxiety is probably similar to the software availability. Maybe Elon took a page out of that playbook because he has opened up his charger, a protocol. It’s similar, whether it was VHS, Betamax, or Apple, he has opened up the charging protocol so that everyone can go onto it. If you had to choose between 1 or 2 chargers, that would be harder. It does seem like after charging Ford for a couple of years, the early adopters have all bought their electric vehicles. The average person is a little worried about performance, range anxiety, cold weather, and all these things.

You cannot blame them. A similar case for Macintosh was, “If I buy a Macintosh, will the file format work with my Windows compatriots? Am I going to be stuck in this corner where only Macs can talk to Macs?”

It was a different floppy drive. This goes back. People were like, “What the heck is a floppy drive?” It was a different floppy drive and a different software. You were like, “Am I going to get stuck?” A lot of people bought some Betamax players, some expensive ones, that ended up being pretty worthless. Customers, when there are these dual standards and it seems like it could be a winner-take-all, they get a little nervous

I have to say though, Tesla has opened up their charging system or, at least at the physical level, the same connector. With Elon, you never know. In 2025, he may say, “We’re plug compatible, but only Teslas can charge at Tesla charging stations because we’ve noticed that was a crucial selling point. Now that everybody thinks they can use our infrastructure, they’re buying other electric cars. Starting next week, you have to own a Tesla to use the Tesla infrastructure.” Is this any different than telling the landlord at Twitter headquarters, “We’re not paying rent anymore.” That’s the kind of guy you’re getting in bed with.

You see a real difference between Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Compare and contrast because you’re in a good position to do that.

A few years ago, I would’ve said that Elon Musk is the closest thing there is to Steve Jobs. In fact, I would go even further because Steve revolutionized personal computing and phones. You could make the case that Elon changed the automotive business. Maybe the tunneling under cities, solar panels, traveling to space, colonizing, and then embedding a chip in your head. Elon has arguably done more things, but the last thing in the world I would do is have Elon Musk put a chip in my head.

You said it before. You don’t think in 30 or 40 years, some of his top lieutenants will be getting together and talking about how great it was to work for Elon. Do you think there’s a difference?

I think so. A lot of it is because he has gone so political, even to celebrate, “We got on board with this racist.”

Did you think Steve Jobs was more predictable in a macro sense, not a micro sense? That is interesting. It’s a different time. People are more into Twitter and politics. Steve was more like Bill Belichick. He stayed in his world and in his craft.

He dominated it. I could tell you something. This is back in the mid-’80s. If you looked at Steve’s direct reports in the division, half of them were women. S teve did not care about your gender, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, or anything like that. All he wanted to know was are you great or are you crap. Nothing else mattered to him. If you were great, it didn’t matter your gender and all that kind of stuff.

Let me ask you this question first and then I’ll flip to that. Thinking back to your time at Apple, how did the culture and the vision contribute to all the innovative products that have come out of Apple? That has to come from the culture, right?

Yes. It’s Steve. He had very high standards in user interface, functionality, and all that. Out of fear, we embraced those high standards. It became part of us. That’s in the DNA of Apple that when Apple makes great products, it does well. That is a quality that is passed on from the CEO. I don’t think you could kill it if you tried. I’m friends with Wozniak, so I know how much he cares about user interface, quality, and all that too. That’s in their DNA.

[easy-tweet tweet=”It’s in the DNA of Apple to this day that when Apple makes great products, it does well. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

The UI is the common thread throughout all Apple products. It is really the UI focus. I’m thinking back to Tesla. It used to be the battery, but it’s not the battery anymore because they’re not having leap and bounds improvement on battery. I do wonder again what’s the singular focus there that they were driving. People have caught up on the battery side. I’m not sure anyone ever caught up to Apple on the UI side.

What’s interesting to me is, in a sense, Apple and Steve put the playbook out front. You make something that’s beautiful and functional and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Why didn’t everybody copy that? I don’t know if you use a digital camera. You show me a digital camera with a user interface that’s even close to the intuitiveness of Apple’s products. Why is it so hard to, “Do you want to format your SD card? It’s in the 16th manual on the 17th level.” I don’t understand that.

Until we started talking about this, I never thought about that. When Teslas first came out, 300 miles or whatever range, for a battery car, that was revolutionary. We heard that he locked up all the batteries and focused on the batteries. That was the focus. If that was the focus, then they should be constantly the range leader. Every year, they have a new range and people are not keeping up. Ten years later, the ranges on some of these have not improved. It is interesting.

I’ve always wondered, too, that when everyone has a Tesla, it’s like having a Toyota Corolla. Does it become a little, “I don’t want the Toyota Corolla. Everyone has one.” They have the most chargers, but I’m not sure that’s a sustainable competitive advantage because it’s electricity. They’re cutting the margins on the car that Stockman killed. People are looking at the charging network. I’m like, “Owning a bunch of electric chargers is not a super sexy, sustainable, competitive advantage because those will be ubiquitous in 2 to 3 years.”

They still sell a heck of a lot.

It’s a great car. I am taking nothing away from it. It is interesting. As you point out the thing that Apple has continued to zero in on what was in the culture, I’m not sure I could point to a similar thing to Tesla.

All of the things you mentioned are business decisions. It’s a competitive analysis of batteries and all that. I will never buy a Tesla because of Elon. I know he’s the cause that it’s such a great car. With all the other baggage that comes with him, I will never buy a Tesla.

There’s unpredictability. There’s a lot of stuff coming out with all these accidents with the autopilot and stuff being buried. It’s not super transparent.

I hope you don’t drive a Tesla.

I don’t drive a Tesla. It’s not that I wouldn’t, but it’s hard to support some of the things that have happened in the last couple of years. You’ve had this job. If you’re the Chief Evangelist at Tesla, or you can be at Rivian, whichever one you want, because, to me, they’re the best next chance, what would you focus on to get more people comfortable with electric cars? We’re through the early adopters and having problems with the mainstream.

I’m stepping back for a second. The key to evangelism is not the person’s personality or whether he can shuck and jive. The key to evangelism is a great product because it’s easy to evangelize a great product but very hard to evangelize crap. I would focus on making the car as great a product as I can. I know people who own Teslas and they love them. Maybe that problem is solved and Tesla will succeed despite the weirdness of Elon.

It’s hard to be an evangelist of a crappy product. That’s what I’m hearing you say.

I look at the Cybertruck.

It’s the most polarizing car ever. You couldn’t pay me to drive that car.

I would not be seen in that car. That car is so ugly.

It’s going to cost a fortune to insure. It’s all stainless steel. If you’re trying to get everyone to love something, it seems pretty hard. As a strategy, this seems like the first thing that’s really polarizing. Most of us can look at a Tesla and say, “That’s a nice-looking car.” The Cybertruck is out there. You’d have a hard time evangelizing that.

People are probably like, “What the heck does this have to do with being remarkable?” It has a lot to do with being remarkable.

That’s where we’re going next. I’m curious. Despite all odds, you have become a prolific writer. What was the prompt to write your first book?

The prompt to write my first book was that I was in a job where I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted to do with the company. It’s a long story. The Macintosh Way, which was my first book, is a cathartic effort. I wanted to write about how business could be done with the right thing in the right way. I wrote that book for catharsis. I thought that was the first and last book I’d ever write. Here we are, sixteen books later. I don’t know what happened.

One of your first books outside the tech world was Rules for Revolutionaries. One of the rules in there is to create revolutionary products and services. You have to create like a God. Explain what you mean by that. I’m sure that’s a little bit of maybe a polarizing statement for some.

I found this great quote by Constantine Brâncuși, the sculptor. It was, “Create like a God command. Like a king. Work like a slave.” W hat I’m trying to say is that a great design is an inspiration. It comes from vision, passion, and luck. This is where Steve Jobs is way ahead of everybody else. It’s a gift. It’s not necessarily doing focus groups and doing AB testing. I have a great appreciation for artists. It’s an art.

If it’s an art, does that mean it has a high degree of subjectivity? The difference between something that is beautiful, new, and different that has mass appeal versus that is polarizing. Sometimes, people say to love something, other people need to hate it. Do you think that’s true or that the real, successful innovation comes from figuring out what it is that most people would gravitate around?

I’m in the school of, “You should create what you find beautiful, what you find useful, and what you want to use. Pray that you’re not the only nutcase that feels this way.” It may be that Elon Musk loves the Cybertruck and thinks it’s great. God bless him. He’s worth more than I am. What do I know? I am of that school that it’s an art. I’ve come to know artists. They’re listening to a different voice, especially the great ones.

[easy-tweet tweet=”You should create what you find beautiful, what you find useful, and what you want to use, and pray that you’re not the only one who feels this way.” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

They’re not thinking about the commercial ability of what they’re doing. They’re creating. I’m curious. With Steve Jobs, did he go for perfection on these things? Did he talk about whether people would buy it or whether they’d be interested?

That may be a false dichotomy. He was trying to do both. He thought that he could make something beautiful and people would love it. It’s not an or.

He didn’t do focus groups or customer research. He was going on his intuition there.

The focus group for Steve Jobs is the fact that the right and left hemispheres of his brain were connected. Focus groups have a legitimate use for evolving a product, not for starting a revolution. If you went to an Apple II user or an MS-DOS user and said, “What would you like in your next computer?” They would say, “Better, faster, and cheaper.” Nobody would say, “Give me this one-button mouse with icons that simulate trash cans and folders.” It’s not in their vocabulary to express that.

They wouldn’t have said an iPod. They wouldn’t have said an iPhone.

They sure as heck would not say, “Give me a car that’s made out of stainless steel and that’s bulletproof.”

I got an insurance quote for my new electric vehicle and I was blown away. I can only imagine what that thing costs to insure when people get into it.

What kind of electric car did you buy?

I got a Rivian.

I have to say. Rivians are beautiful. Do you have the truck or the van?

The truck. I was a little worried about it. First of all, people love it that I have it. I listened to his podcast on How I Built This. He’s an impressive guy. The culture of that company is very different. He’s not as crazy as Steve Jobs was, but it reminds me a little more of Apple. He’s been working on this since he was fifteen years old. It’s a vision. It’s something he wants to change. It’s been a low-drama company, which is good.

The industrial design of Rivian is straight. I love the two little headlights.

It’s polarizing a little bit, but it works. When you see one, it’s clearly identified. It’s interesting. I can see that a mile away. There’s a lot more of them so you’re seeing it more often.

A Rivian truck does not scream, “Look at me.” That’s what Cybertruck is screaming. They’re like, “Look at me.”

It’s modern-looking. It’s an evolution, not a revolution. Let’s talk about some of your latest works, specifically your podcast, Remarkable People, and your new book, which is out, Think Remarkable. I’m curious. The podcast came first. What was the genesis of starting that?

There are two versions of this.

You can tell me the better one. I won’t know the other one.

The truthful one is that my previous book was called Wise Guy. I was on a book tour, talking to podcasts. One day, I asked this podcaster, “What’s your business model?” He says, “I sell ads.” I said, “How many ads do you sell?” He says, “I sell 1 at the beginning, 1 in the middle, and 1 at the end.” I said, “How much do you make for those ads?” He goes, “$20,000 for the first one, $15,000 at the middle, and $10,000 at the end.”

It’s a big podcast.

I’m adding that up. I say, “You’re telling me you make $40,000 or $50,000 per episode times 52 episodes.” He said, “I do more than 52 episodes.” I’m saying, “You make $2.5 million to $3 million a year?” He says, “Yeah.” I said, “Why am I writing books? I got to do a podcast.” That’s one version.

There’s not much money in books. Tim Ferriss figured this out. You notice he hasn’t written a book in quite a few years.

As a book writer, you work on this for a year and a half. The moment it comes out, you have regrets. Hopefully, you get royalties that exceed the advance. Whereas a podcast, every week you can do something different. You can fix it immediately. You can keep selling sponsorships 52 times a year. You’re asking yourself, “Why would you write a book?” I have done 200 podcasts. The overlap of your guests and mine is really high, like Angela Duckworth , Gretchen Rubin , and Daniel Pink . We have had the same guests.

I’ve interviewed very remarkable people like those three I mentioned plus people like Jane Goodall, Wozniak, Katy Milkman, and Stephen Wolfram. I  said, “There’s so much wisdom and goodness in what they’ve said, but for people to get them, they’d have to listen to 200 hours.” I decided, “I should take all these lessons and put my filter on top,” because it takes someone to filter all these interviews to get the real nuggets. In this hour of reading about me, there are only going to be 3 or 4 nuggets. Imagine if Robert wrote a book, “These are the three main lessons you can learn from Guy.”

That’s what AI is for. This is a synthesis of all the best remarkable people that you’ve talked to.

This is not the Guy way. This is the way of 200 people with Guy’s filter on top.

Without giving away the book, what is the synthesis of the synthesis that you can give us some of the cliff notes on? First of all, how would you define remarkable, and then what have you found about people who are remarkable?

I would define remarkable as people who have made a difference. They’ve made a difference by making the world a better place. This immediately sets off the next question, which is, “Does that mean I have to be a Steve Jobs or a Jane Goodall to be remarkable?” The answer to that is no. You can make a difference to 1 classroom, 1 team, and 1 person. It could even be yourself. These are remarkable people, not rich people or famous people. That’s the definition.

What I learned after interviewing 200 of them is it comes down to 3 phases. It’s growth. This is the work of Carol Dweck, the growth mindset. There’s grit. This is the work of Angela Duckworth who you had. Finally, there’s grace. At the end of their career,  remarkable people come to understand that it’s about paying back and helping the next generation. It’s not just reaping.

Which part are most people missing? Is it that last part? That would seem like the part where people fall off.

In a sense, it’s like any kind of sales funnel. Everybody enters the top saying, “I want to be remarkable. I want to make a difference.” People fall off because they don’t have a growth mindset. Even if you had the growth mindset, you had to work your butt off, so then you have to have the grit mindset. If you have growth and grit, you’re on a good path. To truly be remarkable, you have to have grace and graciousness.


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Did Steve Jobs have grace and graciousness?

In his own unique way, yes. You would not say he’s Jane Goodall graciousness.

I’m detecting that’s what you feel that Elon Musk does not have at all. If you put those two together, not at all.

Think of someone like Jimmy Carter. That’s grace. That’s graciousness. It’s not about him anymore. He’s very old now.

It’s not about you. It’s what comes after. It’s the next generation. When you talk about it, people are confused. That’s why you’re seeing some of the struggles at Twitter. He’s brilliant around product. He sees things in the future and brings them in, but I’m not sure these are organizations that you want to work at even though you’ll do some incredible things. It’s interesting. I’m not sure he’s focused on creating the next group of leaders, what comes next, or otherwise. He’s focused on what he wants to do.

You must have seen the famous interview of Linda Yaccarino.

I’ve seen a few. They require a lot of cognitive dissonance sometimes.

You can’t watch her in an interview and say, “That’s the A team.”

He has put her in some uncomfortable situations. Let’s go to that middle one we talked about. We both interviewed Angela Duckworth. I am a big fan of her work on grit. What’s your thought on how someone develops grit, particularly if they’ve had a pretty easy life by general standards?

In a sense, you don’t wake up and say, “Tomorrow, I’m going to be gritty.” You have to come to the realization that it is a necessary sacrifice. Angela’s father may have hammered that into her maybe too much.

[easy-tweet tweet=”You don’t just wake up and say, “I’m going to be gritty.” You have to come to the realization that it is a necessary sacrifice.” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

I still go back to when she said, “I want to be in education,” and he said he was really disturbed because he was a cultural cliche dad who was like, “You could be a lawyer, a doctor,” or whatever the third thing was. It was an engineer, probably. He came back a day later, she said, and was like, “I thought about it. If you want to go into education, you should be the secretary of education,” because that’s the highest thing that he could find in that. She’s like, “That’s not what I want to do.”

That is so Asian. I’m Asian so I can say that. You cannot say that.

I cannot say that, so I let you say it.

I’ll tell you an Angela Duckworth story. I interviewed her a few months ago for the second time. She also explained the effect of her father and his high standards, etc. She said, “My mother is now 89. As I got older, I understood more that she’s as remarkable as him because she made this sacrifice to come from Taiwan or China knowing nobody and not speaking English. She came to America to have a better life. She made all these sacrifices for all her children. She de-prioritized her own desire to be an artist. Now that we’re all grown and she doesn’t have to take care of my father anymore, she’s blossoming as an artist at 89.”

She tells this great story that she’s in an assisted living facility. She went to the manager of this and said, “I want another room.” He said, “What’s wrong with the room you have?” She said, “Nothing. I’m going to keep that. I want a second room to be my art studio.” She’s 89. That’s one of the best stories I heard on my podcast.

Did she get it?


What’s next for Guy Kawasaki? Are there any projects or initiatives you’re particularly excited about other than launching a book, which is a lot of work? Y ou’ve written a lot more books. I tell everyone it’s not the writing of the book. It’s the launching of the book that is exhausting.

People think that writing the book is hard. It’s the marketing of the book.

It’s the birthing of the book. People don’t want to talk to your publicist. They want to talk to you until you do 100 of these things. You have to call in the favors. The marketing of it is, for sure, more work than the writing of the book. You’re a marketer. For a lot of people who aren’t marketers, then that’s got to be even harder.

I got to tell you. You look at the books that are outselling your book and you could say, “How is this possible?”

You got to offend someone. A lot of those books are written for one crowd or another. It does not appeal to a broad swath.

I don’t know how many downloads you get of your show, but do you ever say to yourself, “How is it that Joe Rogan gets six million downloads?”

I saw he signed a $250 million deal. It’s crazy.

Do you get $250 million for your show? I don’t.

I did not. I’m working on it. I t’s a good thing for parents and kids. That’s why I always say to my kid, “Whatever you want to do, if you’re the best at it, there’s a market for that.” Being the best at whatever you do, there’s a market for that. Rather than funneling everyone into a narrow set of choices by certain parental pressures, you could be like, “You can make a good living. They don’t have much differentiation.”

You’re talking to the guy that dropped out of law school.

You did go to business school, so that wasn’t horrible.

I have a slightly different interpretation of what you said. Lots of people think that the magic Venn diagram is you take what you like to do, what you’re good at doing, and what you can make money at. When you find the intersection, that’s what you should do. I have a very different theory. It is more influenced by Mark Manson. Mark told me, “When you are doing something that everybody else considers a crap sandwich but you love it, you have found what you love to do.”

For podcasting, it’s editing the podcast. That’s a crap sandwich but I love to do that. My interpretation is not that you find this magic intersection of what you’re good at, what you like to do, and what you can make money at. The real test is if you are doing something that you might not be so good at yet that you cannot make money but you will still do it, that’s when you found something.

This is the last question for you. This can be singular, repeated, or personal or professional. It’s multi-variant. What’s a mistake that you’ve made in your life or career that you’ve learned the most from?

You’re talking to a guy who quit Apple twice and turned down Steve once. That’s a few tens of millions right there. I cannot look back on my life and say, “You really blew it.” I left a lot of money on the table by quitting Apple. I don’t want people to think, “Guy thinks he did everything right.” I’m not saying that.

No regrets, right?

Yeah. This is a Daniel Pink theory, “The regret you’ll most likely have in life is not that you quit Apple when you should have stayed. The regret, most likely, is you didn’t take a chance or you didn’t go for it.” More or less, whenever I had the chance to start a company or podcast or write a book, I went for it. It’s not that they were all successful, but I did go for it. I don’t have those kinds of regrets. At the end of your life, you are the sum total of all your experiences, good or bad. I’m not saying, “I wish I had some debilitating disease or something so I could have grown more.” You are what you are. That’s part of being graceful.

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My father, when I was in high school, said, “There’s this thing called noblesse oblige,” which is the obligation of the people who have been fortunate with money, education, or whatever. When you’re that fortunate, you have a moral obligation. I have changed that term. I’m inventing a new term. It’s called success oblige. When you are successful, you have a moral obligation to help others. If you do that, you’re not going to look back on your life with regrets.

That goes to a part of your remarkable formula as well. That’s the grace. How can people learn more about you, your work, and the new book?

If you search Guy Kawasaki, you’ll go to GuyKawasaki.com. You can go to ThinkRemarkable.com. You can go to RemarkablePeople.com. I’m very good at buying domains.

If you know how to use Google, then you should be able to find Guy.

T here’s one more power tip I’ll give you. I love AI. AI is the biggest deal maybe ever. I created with a company KawasakiGPT, believe it or not. KawasakiGPT is built on ChatGPT, but the dataset is all my writings and all my transcripts. You can go to KawasakiGPT and ask it questions. It will answer you better than I could in person. If you want to tap into Guy’s brain, go to KawasakiGPT.

That’s awesome. I’ll check that out for sure. I’m sure that’s going to be something coming in the future. It will be very interesting to try to determine whether you said something or whether an AI that’s been trained on your material said it at some point.

It’s even better because it has 200 transcripts in it. If you were to ask, “How do you embrace a growth mindset or a grit mindset?” there’ll be an answer, and it’s going to cite where Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck said that.

That’s very cool. Thank you for joining us. You’ve had a huge impact on the world through your writing and your business evangelism. It’s great to talk to you.

Congratulations on your anniversary for your six companies.

I had a lot of tenet friends texting me after they read that post, thinking they were all very funny and congratulating me on my anniversary.

Thank you very much.

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