Season 2
Time > Money

Is time more valuable than money? In a world streamlined by technology, is the value of our most precious commodity on the rise? In this season of our podcast, we get personal with thought leaders as we explore the philosophical, psychological and economic questions raised by the increasing value of time in the digital era.

Season 2 Episode 9
See a Better Way, Then Make It Happen (with Beth Comstock)
The best way to navigate the rapid changes we're seeing in our lives—from tech developments to environmental shifts — is to act like a change-maker. At least, that's Beth Comstock's advice. The former Vice Chair of GE has a new book, Imagine It Forward, about inventing the future we want to see. Beth talks about how important it is to find time for discovery outside your comfort zone. That way you can see better ways of doing something—and then make those changes happen.
CHARLES CROWSON: There are lots of ways that kids enjoy playing. For some, like me, I was out there every day in the dirt, in the sandbox, admittedly, I’d make quite the mess. But for Beth Comstock, she had a different way -- a quieter way:

BETH COMSTOCK: I'm not sure I was the dirty hands kid. I was a bit timid, but I was definitely the imaginative discovery kid.

CROWSON: She was deeply curious about the world -- and found her own way to make discoveries:

COMSTOCK: My imagination just wanted to go explore the world, but I rarely ever left my hometown. So it was my imagination that took me out different places.

CROWSON: And you’ve seen the world ever since.

COMSTOCK: I've seen the world ever since. I got to travel the world.

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart.

Beth Comstock turned that childhood imagination and thirst for discovery into a career that has allowed her to crisscross the world.

She’s has twice been named one of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes. And for good reason. She’s led change and growth at global companies that include Nike, GE, NBC and CBS, and helped create the streaming service Hulu.

Helpingothers create that sort of change? Is something that she’s become quite passionate about. Her new book turns that hard won knowledge into lessons we can all use. It’s calledImagine It Forward.And it’s all about being a changemaker. These days, we’ve embraced change in so many aspects of life: working, entertainment, even shopping at Walmart. Change is everywhere. So, I wanted to know…what is a changemaker?

COMSTOCK: To me, a changemaker is someone who sees a better way, and they, they have to make change happen so that better way happens. So see a better way, make it happen. That's what it has, is to me. I think it's also a definition for an entrepreneur. And too often we think of entrepreneurs as just the people who sit in Silicon Valley and make software startups. Entrepreneurs are everywhere. You can be a nurse. You can be a teacher. You can work at a company. You can work in the U.S. Postal Service. You can be an entrepreneur because you see a better way, and you're gonna take action to make it happen.

CROWSON: Is there anything more American than the entrepreneurial spirit?

COMSTOCK: I think not because it's the sense of grabbing personal agency. It's like I'm, I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna take the action to make it happen. And in some ways I wanna remind everybody that that is--entrepreneurism is our character. And it's not something we just delegate to Silicon Valley. It exists in Walmart. It exists in GE It exists in Microsoft. You name it. And let's not give that away. You've gotta find kind of a hustle, and you have to find a way to make things happen. You can't wait for the system to come to you. You gotta change the system.

CROWSON: Your degree is in biology...


CROWSON: ...if I'm not mistaken.

COMSTOCK: That's right.

CROWSON: How did you go from that being an area of emphasis and interest to accomplishing everything you have over the course of almost thirty years?

COMSTOCK: Well the, the thread I think is just being a curious person, and out trying to discover what's next. But the thread that takes through my whole career is really this storyteller. And story let me to marketing, which led me to be about innovation because if you be--if you take your job seriously in marketing, it's about living in the market. It's about being where change happens. And so my job was to get out of the company and go into the markets where things were happening. And that became a natural path for my curiosity, but also to be about innovation.

CROWSON: How difficult is it for you to slow down?

COMSTOCK: It's really hard for someone like me to slow down. I am perpetually busy. I just have always been that way. I like staying busy. I, I am always looking for something to dig into, to read, to learn. So if I'm not physically busy, I'm intellectually busy.

CROWSON: In that, I mean, we can get right into the idea that, the labeling of a changemaker. That's more than a full-time job, I take it. If you're always busy and always looking for that next, that next hurdle, that next challenge.

COMSTOCK: Yeah, it's at odds with slowing down for sure because part of being a changemaker is just being out in the world discovering, understanding what trends are happening, going to see for yourself. But there is sort of a wallowing, a slowing down in that process because it takes time to discover. You have to put yourself in multiple situations where you don't know the intended outcome, you just have a hunch. Hey, this is interesting. Maybe there's something here. Gonna just hang out in this for a while. So I think in some ways, that is my forced relaxation, my forced shift in terms of constantly busy, busy, busy. It's the discovery.

But, but I think that is part of what we humans need to do more of is to walkabout, make room for discovery. It's one of my personal mantras. I believe it passionately. And we certainly don't do enough of it in business.

CROWSON: I just heard you speak and the question was asked of, of being able to affect change or be the changemaker from a different position on the ladder. If you're in a senior leadership, executive leadership role, affecting change might be a bit easier. Is that piece of advice you just gave though, is that what you would tell someone in the middle to lower tier, "you can do it. The path may be different, but it is still possible."

COMSTOCK: It has to start there. I mean, one of the reasons I wrote this book is I think in too many of our organizations we have people in the middle. They're in the middle of their career. They're in the middle of the organization. They're the vital lifeblood of the company, and they've gotta make the change happen. They can't wait for somebody to tell them what to do. And too often we forget about that. So, so yeah it's taking small steps. And again, it sounds small, but it's really important. You wanna make change happen, you gotta start taking those steps to change yourself, to adapt yourself. You can wake up and be surprised. You know, the internet's coming or whatever it is in your business and say I'm gonna resist that, but eventually you can get--you can at least get comfortable with it by putting yourself in the line of it, by discovering it on your own terms, by finding a way to make it work for you, not fighting it, but finding a way to make it work for you. And I think that can happen at any level in the organization. There's nothing worse than sitting around waiting for someone else to tell you what that you have permission to do something or waiting for someone else to get it done. Nothing happens often. So who's gonna do it? And it's those small things--too often we think, "changemaker," you gotta disrupt the whole company. I don't know, you have to fight --

CROWSON: Turning something on its ear.


CROWSON: I mean, turning over the tables in the market. That's, that's the change. And I apologize for stepping in here...

COMSTOCK: No, please.

CROWSON: ...because that is what most people associate with change: big, sweeping moves.

COMSTOCK: And I'm saying that the way you get to that is small, deliberate acts that just get you to a better place. It's, it's so simple. It's really that simple, but because it's so simple, it just seems like, really? That, it can't be that. And that's what I found in my career. The people I've worked with, as a person in a team, my job is to bubble up things I see as a better way. My job is to bring in new ideas, put them out there. And if people don't like them understand why, but if I'm really passionate about it, find another opportunity to come back again. If I lead a team--and a team could be me and one other person, it could be a team of fifty--my job is to let the people who work on the team have freedom. Say, "here's the vision. Now you figure it out. I'm not gonna give you the answers. You gotta figure out the answer." How many managers actually do that with their teams? I hope more, but not enough. And so that's where I think you can start to affect change is just your, start with your small team.

CROWSON: You place such a premium on the value of feedback, both from director to report and vice versa--that feedback loop. You speak passionately about that.

COMSTOCK: Yeah, I've become a bit of a fanatic about feedback. Personally, just from my own experience. I'm a recovering perfectionist. I mean, I struggle with this all the time and if I get good feedback I feel great, but bad feedback, oh my gosh, I just got so much more work to do. And I obsess over it. And like it's not very practical. But the reality is feedback makes you change faster. That's what I've learned over the course of my career. The better--the faster you get feedback, the faster you'll change. And what I love about the age we're in now is we've got feedback loops everywhere. The challenge is which ones matter and what do I do about them. And so what I urge everyone to do is set up some kind of feedback mechanism at work that you're getting feedback on the things that matter to you or matter to what you need to do to get your job done. Am I a good team leader? Am I managing this project well? Do I speak clearly? I mean whatever it is, you can get feedback that helps you get better. And the faster you get it, the faster you can make change. It used to be in companies we get an annual employee review. And you'd have a year to sort of get it right for the next thing. Well, that's too long these days. I wanna know now. What can I do better? How do I do it? Have I accomplished it?

CROWSON: When it comes to that idea of the feedback loop and the need for improvement, is there--in your opinion-is there some hesitation maybe from the leadership's point of view because of the fear of making someone feel bad? Intimidation? I don't know what else to say. Degradation, that's, that's far field. But the fear that it will not be received well. And then you might lose an employee along the way.

COMSTOCK: Sure. I think that's always the fear in giving feedback and in receiving feedback. No one likes having tough conversations. I don't think you need to be blunt. I actually like direct. I think blunt is rude. Blunt just puts it out there. Direct says, "here's some feedback. I'm giving it to you 'cause I want you to get better. You decide if, how it applies to you and what you're going to do about it, but I felt an obligation 'cause I see this holds us back." And so I think there's a way you can do it. But in my career, the people who've given me direct feedback I value that so much, even if at the time I may not like it. And the only other thing I'd say is when you're giving that feedback to someone on your team, and you know, it's hard. You have to tell somebody they're not performing well. You have to tell them their attitude doesn't work, that they're, you know, they're not contributing. You may need to tell them multiple times. And so be, be aware that timing is also an issue. Sometimes we're just not able to get feedback. We're having a bad day. Something's bad in our life. And so as a leader you need to be somewhat intuitive I think to, to the people you work with and understand when they're ready to receive it and help them work through it.

CROWSON: The title of your book is "Imagine It Forward." You've said recently it could almost be titled "Failing Forward"... Why?

COMSTOCK: Well, what I tried to do with the book is to be very candid, as candid as I felt I could be about what worked and what didn't. There's a lot of pressure to have the perfect failure in these moments, and I have a lot of failures. I think in general, and I write about in the book--I have a whole section, I call it "Agitated Inquiry," and it was about the tension I experienced at one of my, my last assignment at NBC. I was leading digital transformation. At the time, YouTube was just coming onto the scene, and it was a time of great conflict, and I got caught up in the conflict. And frankly, I didn't do as good a job as I wanted to, and we failed at some things. We did an acquisition of a woman's community platform that didn't work. Some good things happened. We created Hulu, and things came out of that, but it was so fraught with kind of personal setbacks and personal just tension of things that frankly were sometimes of my own making. It was a pivotal learning for me. I kept saying in that assignment, "there's gotta be some reason I'm here. It's gotta be something that comes out of this job." And I think that was it for me was realizing that conflict is inevitable, but it's part of the process. Don't try to make it about us vs. them. We all had a shared goal. But that would be one of the ones that, that I feel like I learned the most, and there was this--there was so much at stake.

CROWSON: For someone who is such the leader, such the vocal outspoken leader--people gather to hear you. People come to see you, but by nature you were shy.

COMSTOCK: Yeah, I, I've always been shy. I've been reserved, I hold back and I'm introverted. And they're, they're different, and I've come to study and learn a lot about that. I mean it means I'm quiet. And what introversion--there's a great book Susan Cain has called "Quiet," and I totally believe it. But it's about this, you know, introversion's about needing kind of to pull energy in. And I find that as much as I love to go discover and go find things, I also have to have that space where I'm kinda coming inward and replenishing, recharging. And so how did I, how did I get out of that timid state...


COMSTOCK: go, to go put myself out there? Partly realized I was holding myself back. I started to be in work situations where I would find, you know, other people getting credit for great ideas because they spoke up, and I didn't. And I just gave myself a series of small challenges to say you're gonna ask one question. You're gonna speak up in this meeting. Or there'd be a networking event for some work thing, and I realized everybody else came away having met somebody, and I was standing at the chip bowl. And I realized I missed out. So I'd give myself these small challenges. "You're just gonna go there, and you're gonna meet one person. And then you can go home. Next time you're gonna go meet two." And so it just became really small challenges I'd give myself yo kinda overcome my nature. That being said, I've also come to appreciate that my nature serves its purpose maybe 'cause I am a biologist by nature and I believe in our natural state as well that I think I'm a good listener. I think more quiet people in business are there as synthesizers. They help distill. They ask questions maybe that some other people aren't taking a breath in time to ask. So I've tried to also accentuate, my, my presence or, you know, use my more quiet nature. And look, I had a role of a company spokesperson in many cases. I was often the face of GE getting out there for clean tech, getting out there for our digital efforts because I was a storyteller. And what I had to do was say, "this is my job." It wasn't about me. What I'm finding more challenging with this book to be candid is, it's now my book. It's my name. And so it's being out there more about myself, which I find harder to do than being out on behalf of a cause or mission or brand.

CROWSON: Yours is a voice so many people listen to in the way of leadership. Changing, disrupting a workplace. For older women who might be at a different place professionally? How do you impart this wisdom to them?

COMSTOCK: Well, for any woman I meet who's working or in some sort of an organization... most of our organizations are not at parity yet. We don't have the diversity of gender let alone of race or even of thought, which is another big thought. And so I think if you are one of those who are underrepresented, you have an obligation, one, to just work your butt off and show how good you are, do quality work. And your second obligation is to just bring other people in who represent diverse points of view and diverse backgrounds so that you can start to get more of that change and, and perspective in your organization. I think every one of us--man, woman, however you identify--has an obligation to ask ourselves, "are we doing enough to drive difference? Why do I need difference? Because then I have different perspectives and a more innovative company." And it's hard work. It's tension. You're inviting people into the team that have different perspectives. Optimists. Pessimists. Introverts. Extroverts. People who like certainty and people who like ambiguity. There's a whole host of kind of perspectives that need to make good teamwork, but it takes really hard work.

CROWSON: Addressing a group generationally speaking, is a twenty-year-old different from a thirty-year-old, different from a forty-year-old?

COMSTOCK: Yes and no.

CROWSON: Is the message different?

COMSTOCK: Well, the message is slightly different, but I, I'm tend to drive, gravitate more to mindsets. I recently did something with a group of twenty-five-year-olds. And I was like, "look. I know you can run faster than me, but mental agility, I'll, I'll race you on that one. I have worked really hard to be adaptable, to keep my mind fresh, to be at the cutting edge of what's new and next." So I think there's a mindset, and I think too often we tend to look at people by age and by, you know, their life experience. And some of that's relevant. And yes, when your cohort when you grow up, you have certain ways of looking at the world when you're twenty versus the people who are now fifty. But I say don't just, don't box me in. Just because I'm in my fifties doesn't mean I'm not agile and adaptable. That being said, I've worked with some twenty-five-year-olds who are pretty fixed mindsets who act like old people in the traditional sense because they're pretty fixed in their ways. So I think it is a bit, I think it is a bit--I think we need to work against that.

CROWSON: One of the things that was mentioned and discussed toward being a changemaker and it seems... One of the things that was mentioned and discussed in being an effective changemaker is the admission that it's not easy, and that, as you said, point blank, directly. It is hard. It's supposed to be hard, isn't it?

COMSTOCK: It's supposed to be hard, and one of the things as I was putting my book together, and I, I rewrote my epilogue like three or four times. One, 'cause so much of GE has been changing. And, you know, my book isn't about GE, but I work there so it's set there. And so I wanted to reflect that. But the part I felt really strongly about that this process helped me understand is why did I do it? Why... One, often the change was harder than it needed to be. We all, I, team members, we all made it harder than it needed to be. Why? Partly 'cause we're human; we're afraid. But also, as you look back and you ask--I'll go out now and ask people like talk about your change experience. Tell me the hardest thing you've had to change, either professionally or personally. And when people tell me the story, their eyes light up. I mean, they were, these are often really hard situations. It's not like--but, but they, they persevered. They overcame something. And so the struggle I think is what makes the experience even richer. We appreciate it more. And so I think therein lies the challenge for more people at work. You're gonna have to do the hard work. It's not an easy button. But do you have to make it so darn hard? And ask yourself, "am I making it harder than it needs to be? If this were simpler, what would it be?" And so I think it's finding that balance.

CROWSON: We've been through two seasons of this podcast, Outside the Box. And we're so thrilled that you've been able to join us...

COMSTOCK: Thank you.

CROWSON: thematically, our second season was about time management, and the currency we now place on our time.


CROWSON: Time for personal growth, time for family, time for entertainment. How do you do it? Have time to manage all of this.

COMSTOCK: Well, I don't do it all. I have a family. And my big mantra--I mentioned it earlier--this kind of make room for discovery. I believe everyone--I don't care how busy you are, you have to enrich, you have to sort of enrich that sense of curiosity, wonder and learning. And so I always say to people, I guarantee you have ten percent of your time that you're focused on something you already know how to do in a meeting you've already been to you know the answer for. Find that ten percent time--you can do this as a family, you can do this as a team--go out, discover something new, be surprised, be, you know, awed, learn. And to me, that's the secret of great time management is making room to be, to discover and to be delighted.

CROWSON: So we spent the entire second season talking about time. How to get the most of it. What if you were given 10% more time every day? Think about it. You sleep 8 hours a night. Then you’ve got 16 hours of the day to work and take care of all your other tasks. 10% more of that time equates to about an extra hour and a half a day. What would you do with it? Truth is, I’ve been sitting in the studio for the last the last half hour wondering what I would do with that extra hour and a half. Meaning I’ve already wasted a third of it. What wol dI do? Exercise more. Read more. Cycle more. I love riding my bike. But if pressed on it I would probably spend that time with my daughter.

I’m Charles Crowson. This was a bonus edition of Outside the Box. Great conversation with Beth Comstock. See you next time!
Season 2 Episode 8
Learning as a Reason to Love Your Job (with Rachel Carlson of Guild Education)
Millions of Americans confront a dilemma every year. Stay at work and earn … or make time for one of the most important parts of their personal development: completing their education. Rachel Carlson is the founder of Guild Education, which aims to remove that either-or choice, by partnering with companies to help their employees achieve their educational goals without going broke or burning out.
CHARLES CROWSON: Rachel Carlson is BUSY.

RACHEL CARLSON: Our friends make fun of my husband and I because we schedule and calendar just about everything even though our family often ignore the calendar invites we send them.

CROWSON: Even her KIDS are busy. And they’re only a few months old.

CARLSON: The baby girls already have their own gmail calendar too that tracks everything they do (Laughs)

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart.

Many people in this country are TOO busy. And not with family calendar invites----with WORK. They’ve invested so much time into earning a living, they never got a chance to finish school. And if they do eventually try to go get a diploma or a degree, they have to decide: stay at work and earn…. or make time for one of the most important parts of their personal development.

CROWSON: Rachel Carlson runs a company called Guild Education. She partners with companies like Lowe’s, Taco Bell, and Walmart to help working people get an education without sacrificing their income or putting in 23 hour days.

CARLSON: The challenges we work to overcome are ones like how do we eliminate public transportation as a problem…. We think a lot about how to have classes at accessible times... a lot of our students are single parents and so they go to class or they tune in to do their homework after the kids go to bed. … Those are the issues that we at Guild spend most of our time thinking about as it relates to helping students be successful.

CROWSON: Rachel has been wrestling with the question of how people achieve success at school since she was a freshman at Stanford.

CARLSON: I had a really tough first fall at Stanford. I didn't like it, I didn't feel like I was finding my footing and I actually thought about transferring back to school closer to home where more of my friends from high school were going to college. So that's actually formulated a lot of my thinking around how we help people succeed at Guild. I would tell my 18 year old self, I'd say Rachel, go find a mentor or a coach. Go find somebody who you can have an honest conversation with about why you're struggling. Because I was type A, I hadn't had many failures in high school, I didn't have a great toolkit for dealing with those setbacks and suddenly I was in this amazing but daunting world of Stanford's campus where I couldn't quite find my footing.

And so I wish I had had the right person the right I call it like the person on speed dial who can help you solve those problems. And so that's what we try and do at Guild, is we give every student somebody who they talk to every week as they're starting college to figure out how to overcome those little roadblocks that are often you know they're hills but when you're starting school for the first time or headed back to school they feel like mountains.

CROWSON: Tell me a bit about Guild Education. It's mission and what lead you there.

CARLSON: Our mission at Guild is to help the 64 million Americans in the US who are working today but haven't yet earned a higher ed credential, be that a degree, meaningful certificate, a training, that will help them survive and thrive in the economy of tomorrow, before they reach retirement age. A lot of us think about higher ed as the 18 year old who gets dropped off by mom and dad in the minivan and goes to a residential college, moves into the dorm you name it. But the reality is that's now the edge case, not the norm case for Americans and we are really passionate about making sure that everyone has the opportunities that many of us had to have a really fulfilling and higher ed experience and to advance their career while doing so.

CROWSON: You come from a family of educators, correct?

CARLSON: I do yeah.

CROWSON: Was this always your passion?

CARLSON: Yes and in different ways. I've always been passionate about higher education generally but I also spent some time working in K-12 but what has really gravitated me towards the higher education problem is knowing that so much of the American dream gets unlocked at providing people skills in their final lap of education.

You know we do a lot of formative education in our early years, the K-12 system, but what helps people get to the point where they are able to learn skills that help them succeed in work is what happens at the final stage of higher education and that's college or credential or a certificate that places you in the job of your dreams. And I had the opportunity to have enormous meaningful education opportunities both in college and in formal settings but also in work settings you know I was able to be on the Obama campaign at a young age and learn so much from that experience. And up in the White House get to learn from the best in the nation. From a government perspective while working the White House and so I really deeply believe that when you bring school and work closer together and when you can learn in formal and informal settings is when the magic happens and it's where I figured out what I wanted to do with my career with great mentors and great coaches.

CROWSON: You were so young when you were part of the administration and involved in DC with President Obama and as you just said being in the White House that time. What stories I mean there have to be some stories you can share with us, of things that shaped your opinion, shaped your view.

CARLSON: So I was really sure I wanted to be a lawyer. I looked up to a lot of female leaders in politics, almost all of them had legal training and I was just certain that that's what I needed to do for my career path.

But while working in the White House I was working for Don Gips who had a management training background and also was a deep believer in the training that happens in business schools. And so he brought in this team they were all former McKinsey folks to solve the toughest problem we had to which was when we got to the White House there were literally thousands and thousands of young people who had volunteered or worked on the campaign who were all moving to DC hoping to work for the administration but when we got there and looked at what the headcount was and inherited the Bush administration, there simply, it wasn't clear how to place all those people in roles. So we had to run this massive HR effort to figure out where should all those people go, what jobs are available and what skill sets do all these young people have that can be applicable to the administration. And he brought in this team of business trained folks, all of whom had gone to business school, had done a lot of management consulting and had really tight frameworks and ways of approaching problems that were completely new to me.

I had never seen them used in politics, I had never learned them in college and I certainly didn't think they were the kind that I was gonna learn in law school and so I watched that group and I kept talking to Don and asking him questions about how did these people get trained, what made them so effective and ultimately because of that I diverted my whole plan. I ended up applying to business school specifically because of that experience and haven't looked back and have no legal training now though I probably would have liked the experience of law school. So those moments like that where you get to work for a really high performing leader and see how they build a high performing team and what skill sets they draw on that the Obama administration just had so many talented people leading problems and to that really shaped my life.

CROWSON: Was there ever a moment or an instance or possibly a meeting or an event where you walked in the room and you just sort of looked around and you had this moment of self awareness and wondered how did I end up here?

CARLSON: Yeah all the time. I remember there was a day I got to staff Zach Braff and Eva Longoria who were surrogates for Barack Obama and had come to Denver because we were a purple state trying to you know shift to blue and earn the democratic nomination. So those days were wild where you're hanging out in a van helping prep Zach Braff on the talking points on what Obama believes in. The Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention that year and so we at one point literally stumbled into a ballroom at the convention center that had been under publicized but was an event where James Taylor and Tony Bennett and John Legend were all scheduled to perform and there were literally only 100 people in the room because Kanye was playing down the street and so everybody had gone to the Kanye concert.

And so we listened to James Taylor and Tony Bennett get up and do a duet and there were about 100 of us in the room so so many surreal moments like that. But I think the ones that mattered most to me as someone who hadn't yet learned effective leadership and was trying to absorb like a sponge as much as I could were the moments where we got to hear Obama speak in those early days on the campaign. And sometimes it was conference calls where we'd all just dial in and get to hear the ra ra when we didn't know if we were gonna win and needed a pick me up after many many weeks and late nights. Or getting hear him speak at the convention or as the campaign evolved at various events but it was a really formative period of my life for sure.

CROWSON: You're a busy woman, you're a mother, a wife, a thought leader, you're at the head of Guild Education, one of the things we are focusing on this season with Outside the Box is time. And of those four things I just listed were related to you, how do you manage your time effectively?

CARLSON: I'm dealing with a new set of challenges because I'm a new mother, my twin daughters are 7 weeks old. So I'm still getting adjusted to that and figuring out what life looks like.

I guess that's a good starting point which is I think that a lot of figuring out how to manage your time as a working mom or an entrepreneur comes down to figuring out what life hacks are gonna support the things that matter most to you.

And probably goes without saying but my rank order right now are my two baby girls, Lily and Maggie and what I joke and call my startup baby which is Guild in that order. And so technology and things that enable us to connect while still having and being in the places we need to be are so important and we talk about that with our students all the time, it's why we're such huge proponents of online learning at Guild and pf virtual coaching and models where you can video chat text or chat with your coach without ever having to be in the same room as them, apply to my life.

CROWSON: When the prospect of partnering with Walmart was presented and was something that became a real possibility, were there any reservations?

CARLSON: (Laughs) Certainly. You know there's a case that we studied in business school and I don't remember the headline but it's something like why Walmart can eat your company or you know don't partner with Walmart too early is sort of the takeaway and so we were really candid with the team at Walmart you know a year ago when we started these conversations that we are a startup, we're not a company that's been around for 20 years and what we do couldn't have even existed 20 years ago.

And so we've spent a lot of time with their team working to figure out how to get this right for the biggest employer in the world, private employer but the biggest private employer in the world which is Walmart. But the reason we decided to do it is our mission is to help this 64 million population and today 1.3 million of those Americans work at Walmart. And so being able to immediately address a meaningful percentage of the population that our mission is set out to serve was a dream come true and so we've put a lot of work in over the last year to ensure that we can really deliver on that mission and we're excited to have the team to do so.

CROWSON: What challenges do you face with this? Because the mission is admirable, there's no one that can debate what Guild is doing moving forward to help educate those with the access and the ability. There have to be challenges though in place that you and your team are aware of and are combatting.

CARLSON: I got really excited when I heard about the more broad theme of what you all think about in terms of the value of time in Americans lives because that's something we talk about all the time. So in today's higher ed system, if you look at the community college system which is where most working adults will return to go back to school, the average 2 year completion rate in a community college meaning you start community college in September and you hope to graduate 2 years later with a 2 year degree, the average completion rate for that program is 5 percent. Meaning 95 percent of people don't achieve their graduation in 2 years. They either drop out or it takes them much longer than expected. And the chattering class, the elite view on that problem was always oh well these folks aren't academically prepared, they're failing classes or they just simply can't succeed. Those folks shouldn't go to college. But when you dig into the data, that's actually not the answer at all. Sure there's some percentage of people who aren't prepared for school and we know how to help them with remedial or preparatory course work.

But the real challenges that folks are facing is as it relates to time and money. And so what we think about when we work with companies on how to solve those problems for their employees, we think about time and money. And so in a program like this, Walmart's taken money off the table right. They've told their employees, hey we are taking care of the cost and you only have to pay a dollar a day. But the question of time becomes where we spend a lot of our efforts helping students figure this out. Because many of our students have job commitments obviously they all are employed. We work with companies. And they all have family commitments and they have other issues. So the challenges we work to overcome are ones like how do we eliminate public transportation as a problem. So we have a lot of online programs so that people don't have to waste an hour driving to the local college, parking, getting into class, settling in and then getting home. Especially if they don't have a car. We think a lot about how to have classes at accessible times.

Like evenings, weekends, a lot of our students are single parents and so they go to class or they tune in to do their homework after the kids go to bed. So those are the issues that are really troubling in American higher ed and that we at Guild spend most of our time thinking about as it relates to helping students be successful.

CROWSON: How do you manage your time? Are you a daily schedule keeper, do you carry multiple cell phones, do you have alarms that keep you on track. Do you keep it all in your head. What do you do to get from sunup to sundown?

CARLSON: I am certainly a calendar person. Our friends make fun of my husband and I because we schedule and calendar just about everything even though our family often ignore the calendar invites we send them as it relates to family outings or even like 15 minute and 30 minute events that we want scheduled. The baby girls already have their own gmail calendar too that tracks everything they do (Laughs) So that would answer the question there. Boy you can have everything perfectly scheduled and if it doesn't work out on what the baby wants then the whole schedule gets thrown out.

So working and figuring that out but also just feel grateful to have sort of a village of help that keeps us on track. So grateful to be in a place where I have a supportive husband and supportive family who are helping fill the gaps when the schedule doesn't go exactly as planned.

CROWSON: When that schedule goes awry or something happens, not necessarily related to the daughters, what is one of the first things that gets cut because you had to make those sacrifices, many of them in the moment. What gets lost?

CARLSON: I've been trying to change that because I think you know a company like ours we work externally all the time with our partners, what's often easy to cut are the internal meetings, the one on ones that you have with your team, the lunch or the happy hour with the new folks who just joined the company and so what I've been making a deliberate shift on is trying to make sure that those internal commitments don't go away because they're so important right.

And I, was out on maternity leave and so have even missed some things and so catching up with the team and making sure that those one on ones or the team bonding things don't fall by the wayside during busy time is something I'm really dedicated to. To answer your question more bluntly I think what's falling by the wayside right now are things like exercise and you know the kind of things that you always want to do but aren't always fitting themselves into the calendar right now. But I think it's a challenge all the time and I, it's a challenge we talk about all the time with our students. And it you know we spend a lot of time talking to them about how do you plan, how do you do time management, we even have a full framework that a lot of our coaches use in helping people think about time management. And so I'm still working to get it right and I think we're still working to help make our students feel like they have the support they need to balance work, family, school, and all the responsibilities that come with with 21st century demands.

CROWSON: If you had an extra 3 hours in the day what would do you?

CARLSON: You know last summer I trained for a triathlon and did it and loved it. And that isn't on the books right now but I think if I had 3 extra hours in the day I would put triathlon scheduling back on the calendar for some part of it. And then more time with the team. We've grown so quickly and we're in a world where I used to know everybody's family lives and all the details of everyone who worked at Guild. And we've now grown at such a rate that I haven't had the opportunity and time to get to know every team member as deeply as I'd like to so that would be something I'd love to do.

CROWSON: In as much as we try to spend time on well the subject of time on the podcast, there's often the comparison made... money. Time is money, you have to invest a great deal of time in order to make money to reach a certain number. It's easy to say that time the value of time is more important, maybe than the bottom line of any financial gain. But is that really true in your opinion. Is there not a balance in there somewhere?

CARLSON: I think it really depends on where people are in life and I think that that's an important thing that doesn't get talked about enough. I think for somebody who sits in a corporate office tower, that equation might look one way and I think for the average American it looks somewhat different and I think that's a conversation we don't always have in the US. And so when I think about the average American who we think about all the time here's what we hear a lot.

When people are making the trade off of say taking that one extra class or going back to school to begin with, they are literally looking at their calendar and saying okay if I go back to school this term or if I take that one extra class, that's 7 more hours of a commitment per week. That's 7 hours where I'm not taking an overtime shift. Where I'm not doing an additional side job that I have in addition to my 40 hour a week job that makes me say X number of dollars an hour. So we hear from students and Americans all the time who are making that exact equation.

And what we think our job is is to help people figure out the flip side of that which is okay yep that's totally correct. So we know that for every hour you're studying you're giving up 12, 15, 20 dollars an hour that you could be earning or you could be saving. But let's talk about what your income potential looks like if you complete that degree or if you learn those skills.

CROWSON: Crystal ball time. 5 years from now, 10 years from now, what does Guild look like and what are you doing? Do you go after the foster care system?

CARLSON: 5 to 10 years from now I hope Guild is doing the same thing we're doing today but at a greater impact and that's our whole goal, is just to keep expanding and keep improving the addressable market of employees who we can help go back to school. And I hope we're evolving with the economy and I hope we have more insight at that point as to the next job, you know what is the next thing that the economy needs from our workforce and how can we train people for that, so I hope we're evolving and learning constantly but holding true to our mission of helping everyone have the opportunity to learn the right skills, to have a bulletproof career trajectory and one that'll help them keep earning and learning until they reach retirement.

For me I think 5 to 10 years I'll still be at Guild 'cause we still got a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity ahead of us.

CROWSON: What keeps you up at night?

CARLSON: (Laughs)

CROWSON: What are some things that you worry about that may surprise people or may not for that matter?

CARLSON: Well I'm laughing because with 2 7 week olds we're up all night right now, so what keeps me up right now are 2 adorable little babies.

CARLSON: But while I'm up at night with them what am I thinking about. You know I mean very time sensitive as it relates to the news right now but I care a lot about giving everyone an equal opportunity in life and a step forward. It's why we do what we do at Guild because we believe that everyone ought to have the opportunity to pursue higher education but when you step back on why that isn't the case in the US today it's because we don't provide the same opportunities to all children. And I believe deeply in the concept of the lottery of birth and I believe I was very fortunate to be born into the zip code I was born into which ended up having as we know zip code is one of the greatest predictors of your life outcomes.

And so I think a lot about how can we equal, equalize the playing field and provide more opportunity to folks who don't win the lottery of birth. You know I want to see a world and a country where we do give equal opportunity to learn and equal opportunity to live and to have basic needs met for all of the kids who are in the US but more broadly in the world.

CROWSON: So basically, Rachel wants the world to be a more equal place, a mission I hope she achieves.

This has been the final episode of Season 2. We hope you enjoyed it. And you can always go back and listen to our archives, or find an episode you haven’t heard yet.

If you like what you hear, head on over to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating and a review, it helps others find the show. Thanks for listening. See you next time!
Season 2 Episode 7
A Lemonade Stand and the Runway for Jetblack (with Jenny Fleiss)
Jenny Fleiss is known for taking risks to make the everyday act of shopping a more enjoyable experience – from her first lemonade stand as a kid to the massively successful Rent the Runway. Now, her new venture, Jetblack, aims to save people time through a personalized shopping experience that starts with a text – and ends with the product being delivered to your door. It’s a new idea that Jenny hopes will help professionals like herself make the most out of their busy weeks.
CHARLES CROWSON: Some kids dream of growing up to become an astronaut, or a firefighter, or a movie star. And then, there’s Jenny Fleiss.

JENNY FLEISS: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was that 8 year old who wanted to spend every weekend and every summer day operating a lemonade stand.
I would you know come up with marketing bundles and slogans and signs and this is like truly how I wanted to spend my time.

CROWSON: Jenny Fleiss is the co-founder of Rent the Runway, an online business for clothing and accessory rentals. She’s spent her whole life trying to find the best way to make customers happy. From her early days as a lemonade stand pioneer, to helping busy professionals save time and find a better way to buy, Jenny’s taken risks to make the everyday act of shopping a more enjoyable experience.

FLEISS: Not everything is going to go perfectly as planned. That’s part of the entrepreneurial adventure!

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart. This season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how much is your time REALLY worth?

CROWSON: In the spring of 2018, Jenny opened Jet Black, out of Walmart’s incubator, Store No. 8. And the whole idea behind it? To save people time by using a personalized shopping experience that starts with a text, and ends with the right product being delivered to your door. It’s a new idea that Jenny hopes will help professionals like herself make the most out of their busy weeks. I met Jenny recently at the annual Walmart shareholders’ meeting, and I was immediately impressed with her optimism and drive to change the way we shop.

FLEISS: you know I think shopping has become a chore. Gone are the days where people would be excited to shop for something or to go into a retail store or have a conversation and spend time on a purchase, or to just be blown away by the exact fit of a product that delighted them beyond their belief. So I think you know macro thinking is to bring back some of that sentiment.

CROWSON: You have a pedigree of someone who has been changing the face of retail. Before we get back to your foundational points, where do you see JetBlack in changing that narrative, in changing the way we do business and do commerce in the future?

FLEISS: Yeah I think that there's a few ways that JetBlack is positioned to influence the shape of commerce in the future. The high level vision that I've worked off of was inspired by Marc Lore who said to me, you know what is the future of e-commerce look like, if you were really to blow people's minds with a dazzling experience like how would you envision that. In terms of how we do that and how we translate it for consumers, I think you know it starts with really the simplicity, the simplicity of sending a text which feels similar akin to texting a friend or a personal assistant if you will. And getting a refined set of products that match your specific needs as a consumer.
But then it goes all the way through the delivery experience. So to have items aggregated into a single order in a currier style tote delivery, returns can be left with a doorman or just picked up at your home at a specified time. Trying to make the entire experience seamless.

CROWSON: How long had you been brainstorming this specific idea?

FLEISS: So I think that the best ideas come from the consumer themselves. You know when I co founded Rent the Runway it was me as a woman in my 20's who had a lot of weddings and parties that I was going to and just wanted outfits to wear and amidst social media with constant looking for ways to turnover my wardrobe and to put the best version of myself and branding out there on social media, you know likewise I think this idea had been brewing in my mind just as an intuitive consumer who is constantly thinking of ideas.

I am a mom of 3 young kids now and the pain points in my life are more around finding more time in my day simplifying shopping, taking this sea of products thats available over the internet, winnowing it down the the correct items and finding other ways to enable me to be more present when I am with my children by taking like this mental clutter of these to-do lists and things I need to purchase off my plate in the fastest way possible. And I think text has become the clear solution to that.

CROWSON: You grew up in New York. Your spectrum of knowledge is so vast from tech to fashion to now retail, what did you want to be or what did you aspire to be when you were a child?

FLEISS: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was this really just energizing exciting thing for me and I was lucky enough at Harvard Business school to meet my co founder and strike on this idea of Rent the Runway that was so appropriate for that moment in time and I think timing has a lot to do when you kind of launch and disrupt and industry. And so you know launched Rent the Runway I think at a really perfect time for what consumers were ready for and what the industry needed.

CROWSON: For those listeners who might not be familiar with Rent the Runway and how it was such a disrupter at the proper time, describe that model and from where it originated, where it was born.

FLEISS: Yeah so Rent the Runway was started out of Harvard Business School where my classmate Jen and I were thinking over a lunch conversation about some of the macro trends that were shaping our world and touched on a conversation about my cofounders sister Becky, and Becky had recently bought a $2,000 Marchesa dress, so a very fancy designer dress and her older sister was you know why would you spend this money and you're on credit card debt, you have hundreds of dresses in your wardrobe, how does that make sense. And Becky said two things which were really funny at the time but the first thing Becky said was all the dresses in my closet are dead to me because I've been photographed in them and they've been posted on social media and I can't possibly wear them again.

So a funny comment but true that this November 2008 at the time social media was really taking off in a new way and suddenly every consumer was their own celebrity. Every time you post a photo it was your own brand you were putting out there. You had more eyeballs on what you were wearing and the ability to cheat and wear an outfit to dinner one night with a group of friends and to lunch the next Saturday with a different group you couldn't do that any longer. And then the other thing Becky said is this in an important event I might meet my future husband at this wedding. Also true that when you're in your 20s you're kind of at your lowest income earning moment in life and yet you have the most events and in theory the ones that are the highest stakes where like you could you know you're putting your brand out there an you could meet your life partner and such. And I think what the industry had seen in response to that need from a millennial consumer was fast fashions so Zara, H&M, Forever 21, these kind of knockoffs of designer luxury which meant that you were also left with a need form the designer community to really think about how could they make their brands as valuable to that consumer, how could they kind of fight back against fast fashion as effectively and Rent the Runway became that unique solution that could service both sides of the equation.

CROWSON: How long did it take from that lunch conversation to the reality to then the evolution of Rent the Runway beyond dresses to everyday wear.

FLEISS: I don't think you can change an industry overnight. And I certainly don't think we did that at Rent the Runway. I think if anything, part of our approach was realizing that this was a crawl walk run transition that would be needed. 12:10 So I think we are really thoughtful about you know we started with dresses, that was the obvious area like your often wearing those items once, they're big photography moments where social media comes into play because you're wearing them to special events.
So starting with dresses and now we have a subscription business so you know realizing that rental there was an appetite for rental for your every day as consumers became more acclimatized to this behavior and comfortable with the idea of renting and even hungry for this idea of being a smart consumer and turning over your wardrobe in a smart, more cost effective way. Customers can really stop their fast fashion habits they can invest in smart purchase decisions around a black blazer or jeans that you might want to own but for all the trend based more editorial styles like a dress or a printed top those are items that make sense to rent.

CROWSON: Did you always have a sense e-commerce would be the direction you would go in your professional growth, your professional development as you were to become the entrepreneur you aspire to be, was e-commerce always gonna be that direction?

FLEISS: No not necessarily, I think if I think of some of the ideas that I've had, like they are often anchored in e-commerce but not all of them, I mean I still have a new idea every day, honestly I have this kind of entrepreneurial mind that loves observing problems and opportunities in the world around me and just finds that so incredibly invigorating.

CROWSON: What are some of those ideas?

I mean if you're coming up with 365 in a calendar year, give me one without specificity of course, give me one nugget.

FLESS: I know but I might use them one day. I mean I think there are ideas all around us like I think that I was with my child yesterday at a playdate for the school she's going to, she's two and there's these juice boxes that fricking all the kids are squirting all over themselves and it's like why don't they create a filter in the straw or juice box that you can't squeeze and you can only suck it's like that's the simplest idea. So that's one nugget, I don't know if I'll do anything with that idea but they vary from something like that to you know something that could be a huge industry changing idea. I'll often write down at the end of that week kind of a few of the ideas that have been stuck in my mind and then revisit every quarter of every year and if there's a theme that comes out many times I think that's what's interesting.

CROWSON: Why do you love this so much?

FLEISS: Gosh I don't know maybe I'm masochistic. It's um I find it so energizing and invigorating like I you know I started my career in finance after college so I hadn't you know I hadn't initially realized that I could do something that I loved this much and that was so fun as my job. It felt like you either went into finance or consulting after graduating from undergrad and while it was a great set of foundational tools I think the big miss was like there wasn't that connectivity to the consumer and so I think why I love this so much is getting to in why I loved the lemonade stands as an 8 year old so much is like getting to see on a daily basis like customer feedback, the way you impact a customer how you change their behavior, how you make their life better or more efficient, it's just really energizing.

CROWSON: Did you ever imagine your growth and development of Rent the Runway would lead you to a relationship with Walmart? Could you have ever seen the connection there?

FLEISS: No I absolutely no I definitely did not imagine that. Even when I became mentally ready to leave Rent the Runway and make my next step it was because I missed the earliest stages of starting a business. And so what I think's unique about this role and I'm really grateful for it is that I do get to start my own business and truly operate like a startup. But yet I have the ability to impact the world's largest retailer and to be a part of this moment in time shaping the future of the retail landscape. 23:12 And of course having this platform where the technology that I create can be leveraged across such a multiple of the number of customers that any otherwise I could have hoped to as an independent entrepreneur.

CROWSON: You and I met briefly at Shareholders here at the beginning of June and you had a sense of positivity about yourself and the way you carried yourself, the way you stopped and spoke with so many people. You seem ed genuinely happy to be there, do you always carry that level of positivity with you when you do things? Or is sometimes, be honest, sometimes is it work?

FLEISS: Yeah I'm sure it's work sometime. Like I like to think of myself as a positive person, I think I genuinely am. You know at Rent the Runway we have this interview question that Jen and I would like to ask. On a scale from 1 to 10 how lucky do you consider yourself. And the point of the question was you know what is luck and in theory everyone is equally lucky or unlucky but it's like kind of how do you view the world. So if you're a 9 or a 10 on that spectrum like you're grateful, you're appreciative you're a positive, you take a lemons into lemonade outlook.
And I really do have that spin on things.

CROWSON: Tell me a little bit about Store 8. What is it? And what is your role within it?

FLEISS: Store number 8 is the incubator and JetBlack is the first company that has launched within Store Number 8. It's named after actually the 8th store that Sam Walton had and it's the store where he himself experimented and innovated and thought about the future trends that would shape retail. So I think it's fun to see that that's a part of the DNA and spirit of the founder of Walmart and to think about ways we can keep that alive.

CROWSON: What are some of the challenges you look forward to tackling through Store Number 8?

FLEISS: So I think if you think, I think a lot of trends in the future of retail relate to using your time more efficiently. And so time is the greatest luxury. Obviously JetBlack does that in dumping your mental list into a text message and having someone shop essentially for you.
It also does it in helping you surface the best recommendations and the best fit products without reading research and reviews. I think a virtual reality experience which is another one of the portfolio companies helps you be more efficient with your time and save time by you know you don't have to go into a physical location but you can actually try on apparel or have an experience from you know your own home or maybe you can try on an item that's in a different store from you know a local store so I think this theme of efficiency runs throughout and how can you leverage technology to create more efficiencies and just better consumer experiences.

CROWSON: Do you find that sometimes we have become too reliant on technology and for something that was intended to save us time, better maximize our time seems to be taking more time away from us.

FLEISS: Yes absolutely so like I think the internet and e-commerce is a great example of that where suddenly you have every item at your fingertips and that is overwhelming and time consuming. And if I type in and search for a travel stroller and get thirty thousand results, it's analysis paralysis where I'm debating between you know various options that may be almost identical and that is probably not the best use of time especially when it distracts from time with my kids or just making me stressed and worked up. So you know I think leveraging tools to really refine and curate and get you to a fewer selection of better products to help you make a purchase decision more quickly is very much needed.
I think certainly our devices being tied to us all the time makes us less present and in the moment because you're trying to multitask and I'm certainly a victim of this. You're multitasking and it makes it harder to maybe do any one thing as well or even to just enjoy an experience. You know we talked a bit about like can shopping be delightful. I think a fascinating trend in that is how social media has really shaped like stores as experiences. And so if you go into I'll use Nike as an example, I think they've done a great job with their SOHO store in New York where they have one quarter it's a shoe dying station and everyone has unique customized shoes and it's fun you watch them making and dipping the shoes there. 33:06 And then you can pick your own colors. So I just love thinking of also these delightful touches that make us enjoy our time shopping even more.

CROWSON: As someone who places such a premium on her time as a mother of 3, as an entrepreneur all of the things you have described so well, what do you find you value the most and how do you make sure you get the most of those prioritized moments?

FLEISS: I feel like I have a decent handle now of some things that keep me sane and energized so like I go for a run almost every day and I enjoy that, sometimes I'll multitask and have it be a run date with my husband or a run scooter date with my daughter or I've even you know power walked and taken conference calls or tried to do walking meetings and stuff like that so getting out there and moving I know is important to me. I think it's just all about the balance like family is incredibly important to me too and I think the way I've grappled with that is to truly evolve cultures and businesses where my family can be incorporated.

CROWSON: Last week as Shareholders wound down, when corporate affairs, we have a number of people on hand to do their best to make sure that program goes off without a hitch and as you saw it was a multiday event. For myself when it was over I spent three days that Friday night into the Monday morning, I turned everything off. I kept one phone nearby but not in my hand. No television, no noise, no tablets, nothing. 34:00 I allowed myself music. You ever done something similar? Because it is very hard for the first 24 hours.

FLEISS: I haven't it's scary to me that idea. But I should and. You're making me think, Verizon has been out and not working in my apartment building for like less than 24 hours and it was totally disrupting my evening yesterday. I couldn't watch tv, I couldn't send emails. Everything was slower, we were all texting about it in the building, everyone was like so perturbed by this and it was like one night. But I think that that's probably a good challenge for myself or to think about. You know, I've been trying to meditate like 3 minutes a day and like I'm failing at that so it might be baby steps for me. It might be like an hour at a time. I'll go on a run right and I'll leave my phone when I go on a run and I think that is for me like good and can clear my mind.

CROWSON: Real quickly here and we'll let you go on this one, from Rent the Runway to your other entrepreneurial ideas, to Store Number 8, now the roll out of JetBlack, so much being done in such a short period of time.

What have been some of your more meaningful learnings?

FLEISS: So I think one that comes to mind is like you know more than you think you know. So I think of the earliest days of Rent the Runway Jen and I started it, we had no fashion background, no technology background. I think that enabled us to have a unique perspective on the industry. But if I think of some of the early technology work I wish I always say I wish we just dug in more and we could have probably avoided some missteps rather than kind of assuming that we weren't that skilled in this area and kind of more outsourcing it and so that was you know one lesson I've certainly learned. Another saying that my cofounder and I say all the time at Rent the Runway is no doesn't mean no it means not right now. I think that that is super important in entrepreneurship but just in life. I think it leads to the positive outlook and mentality, I think it also leads to this willingness to constantly try and to try things in different ways and iterate which is part of entrepreneurship. To have a thick skin so that you don't get demoralized when things go South which will inevitably happen.

And I think that's also a really important part of being a leader because you need to inspire your team with that outlook. Not everything is gonna go perfectly as planned and that's part of the entrepreneurial adventure.

CROWSON: Okay I lied, I do have one more question.

FLEISS: Go for it.

CROWSON: Has there been an experience since this wild ride started for you where you have had a chance to take that step back, look around and you were in some situation, some event, some party in the company of someone, and say okay how did I end up here. Something seems a bit off. Sort of a pinch yourself moment.

FLEISS: Yeah and I wouldn't describe it as a bit off because I think it's more just like these like wow this has just been this dream journey and this dream ride. Like listen I mean being up onstage at Shareholders or like you know waiting in the wings to go up onstage at Walmart Shareholders was one of those moments of this huge career opportunity and how exciting and invigorating that was. I then think of moments with the Rent the Runway team and some of the company wide meetings we have where you just look around and suddenly there's thousands of people, I mean there's over a thousand employees at Rent the Runway with our warehouses and just all the people you're impacting and how excited they are about the culture of the company and the mission and vision which makes me really proud. And then another thing that comes to mind, as exciting as it was to be at Shareholders and launching JetBlack, I think what was so invigorating about that day was just the video clips and the photos of what was happening back in the office and to just see this team here that we've built in a short amount of time, and how energized and proud they all are of what we have built and the kind of fun quirky elements that have arisen in our culture and traditions and trends in a short time and how this group has really bonded and come together and worked so hard to deliver on this big vision.

CROWSON: Jenny thank you so much for the time.

FLEISS: Thank you, thanks for some great questions it was a fun conversation.

CROWSON: I loved hearing about Jenny’s vision for Jet Black, and I’m excited to see how it continues to develop, and change the way that we shop.

CROWSON: Next time on the show…. someone who is changing access to college education – especially for people who think they don’t have time:

CARLSON: A lot of us think about higher ed as the 18 year old who gets dropped off by mom and dad in the minivan and goes to a residential college, moves into the dorm you name it. But the reality is that's now the edge case, not the norm case for Americans.

CROWSON: That’s Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education. Next time on Outside the Box.

CROWSON: Also, if you like what you hear, take a moment to rate and review us in Apple Podcasts - it helps other people find the show! Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 Episode 6
We're Always Trying to Hack Time (with Michael Pollak of HeyDay)
Can you put a price on time? With the powerful technology we now hold in our hands, we’re able to do so much, from anywhere, at any time. So, how do we find balance between productivity and our personal lives? Michael Pollak is co-founder and chief brand officer for skincare shop HeyDay, where you can buy products and get facials. But Michael sees his clients buying something else when they make an appointment: some time to themselves.
CHARLES CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart. This season we’re talking about two things everyone could use more of: time, and money. And we’re asking: Can you put a price on time?

CROWSON: With the powerful technology we now hold in our hands, we’re able to do so much, from anywhere, at any time. So, how do we find balance between productivity and our personal lives?

MICHAEL POLLAK: It’s the luxury of being able to stop and pause and think. That is something our clients get when they come in to get a treatment.

CROWSON: That’s Michael Pollak. He’s the co-founder and chief brand officer for HeyDay.

POLLAK: we're used to hearing you know a grandmother say like, 'Back in my heyday I was young I was beautiful' and yet it's a very familiar word.

CROWSON: HeyDay is a skincare shop, where you can buy products and get facials. But Michael sees his clients buying something else when they make an appointment: some time to themselves.

POLLAK: every day can be your heyday it can be the period of your life where you feel kind of at your best at your peak at your strongest. And there's something beautiful about saying everyday can be your heyday.

CROWSON: Skin… is personal. And launching this business came from a personal place, for Michael too. He got his very first facial just a year and a half before launching Heyday.


POLLAK: Had I not had that experience, I may have thought OK this is an interesting idea because I had had that experience and the aesthetician I worked with understood my skin right away from you know ask asking a couple of questions but also sort of examining it. And she could tell what side of the bed I slept on in terms of my pores and that immediately kind of spoke to me and I said oh this is really interesting. There must be a way to bring this out so that more people can kind of experience it. And the whole idea was to kind of take facials or professional skin care out of the luxury spa where I think it's traditionally always lived So bringing skincare as part of self care as part of wellness as part of you know that sort of general suite of things out out into a place where people can tap into it.

CROWSON: How fascinating was it to have someone sit across from you and basically read your face like tree rings when you think about it.

POLLAK: totally and I think and not only sort of the history of my skin that I had you know taken Accutane in high school and dealt with acne but also she was such a great detective she just asked a few questions and you know one of them was ok see you're working out. You know you shower in the morning, you may shower at night. Are you, what are you doing after your workout. Are you washing your face? Are you showering? And you know the answer was to speed things along I wouldn't wash my hair because I was like I just got to move on to the next thing throughout my day. And she was like OK we're going to we're going to have you cleanse with a specific type of cleanser that's gentle enough that you can use it multiple times during the day and that sort of cured it right away. So I was I was immediately entry this idea of having this this detective or a partner on your side that can kind of help you figure out your skin. If if you look out there there's so many blogs, there's magazines, there's so many resources that I think the general consumer today uses to try to figure out a skincare routine when kind of all along, there's been these licensed aestheticians who literally study skin and how to take care of it every day and what ingredients work for it. And I just think that's kind of a totally magical kind of craft that hasn't been made available to more people.

CROWSON: Tell me about your client, your clientele, who you're targeting bringing the services of Heyday to customers that are more and more affordable price point.

POLLAK: Well, what we were really excited about is in the first year, over about 50 percent of our clients have never had a facial before, which was a huge surprise to us. And I think that that was exciting in terms of validating that we're not just we're not just speaking to people who've experienced facials and skin care before but we're speaking to new people and that there's a need for this to exist. We're not just kind of you know creating something totally new. We're growing, we're growing the market and creating something new. I think our client is twofold. You've got the folks who have experienced skin care but clearly in some way or another weren't engaging with it as regularly. And then you've got the folks that are completely new to it and sort of like me, that year and a half before rolling up the sleeves to do this, had some kind of a-ha moment in a treatment where they learned, yes this is something I should do and I can kind of start incrementally, have a resource once a month bill the regimen at home. And you know we're kind of not about taking you from zero to 100 right away we kind of want to be there with somebody as they grow in their journey. So we've seen a huge number of our clients kind of decide to come once a month and dedicate that time for themselves to kind of check in, you know check in with their skin as well as kind of just unplug for a bit. And that's been really rewarding to see to see happen.

CROWSON: When you began examining the feasibility of this and whether or not it's something that could thrive. Why was this the right the launch your company?

POLLAK: I think there's a movement to trusting brands that I think do one thing and do it really well. You know whether it's a fitness concept or a beauty concept or a food concept this idea today that if I'm going to buy sheets I'm going to go to this brand if I'm going to create meals, I'm going to go to this place. And I think that's sort of specialization kind of laid the groundwork for us to say we're just going to do facials and that's really what we're going to focus on.

CROWSON: You have a very fascinating and diverse background--architecture, interior design, all of these different steps. How did each of those progressions lead you to Heyday and where you are now.

POLLAK: I started in I started an architecture. I think I knew I knew pretty quickly through the course of that that I wasn't going to end up being an architect per se. I appreciated the craft. I absolutely love it. It's sort of married a bit of art and a bit of science. And there was such a rigor and organization to how you how you thought there was creative but there was structure to it. And I think that gave me a lens on how to craft an idea, how to communicate an idea visually and with words. Right after college my first job was actually I was hired as a designer but this architect had a furniture line on the side. On the first day I started the person who ran the furniture line quit. And so she said, 'Can you fill in and kind of run this thing for a while?' So it wasn't the site of creation but it was the site of actually shepherding the pieces of the business and I realized how much I really enjoyed that. There was a side of me that enjoyed kind of the bringing the business to life. I didn't have to be creative coming up with the ideas per se but really kind of creating creating the shape and the vessel for it. And so you know as I've brought that I think to Heyday, I just I love the idea of creating something from scratch. What I love about hospitality is just how many facets there are to it. There's usually a physical location. There's an experience that a consumer is having. There's an experience an employee's having. There's real estate involved. There is design. There's just so much complexity to it and to be able to kind of build build an experience like that from scratch was kind of too too good of an opportunity to pass up with with something like this.

CROWSON: One of the chief focuses of our season this year for Outside the Box is thinking about time. And I can sort of reflect on my career path that led me to where I sit today. Moving through those iterations of architecture, design, stories you shared. Do you ever think any of that was wasted time or was it just one more step along the path to make you the better version of who you are today?

POLLAK: I definitely reflect on that because there are moments I think you know hindsight's 20 20 and you look back and think, 'Oh if I had chosen this, if I know what I know now I might have done something differently' but you know it does sound like the textbook answer but I do think everything you do kind of leads to the next thing. And I've learned I think through my career a lot more from things that I didn't like or experiences that I didn't like. It doesn't make them less valuable, in fact I think it kind of makes them more valuable.

CROWSON: Where did the name Heyday come from?

POLLAK: Naming is absolutely the hardest thing. That was that was a really hard part of the journey. I think in the beginning in the beginning some of the thinking was ok it had it had to say what it what it meant and and it was it was so important that when people heard the name they knew exactly what it was. As we were sitting around we looked a lot at Soul Cycle or Sweet Green. Some of the sort of successful brands that we admire but those names have you kind of think about I've always used to joke. Well you know you know what Soul Cycle is because you're familiar with it, but it could be a charity right in the South like it, it may not be you know a spinning studio that started in New York that you know of. And the name is kind of only new the first time you hear it. So it was a big push to say let's let's let's broaden the meaning of the name a little bit and if we aren't doing facials and we're not selling products, what is the what is somebody walking away with when they leave our shop. And that was something that I think everybody was quick to be able to answer. In the short term, you feel great like you have a facial, you're glowing, you're relaxed, you've just had great facial massage like you should leave kind of feeling feeling mellow, feeling you know, on top. And and there's that short-term gratification. But I think with skincare there's something deeper there. We are building, you know we're building confidence and some people were making a change in others and you're doing something for you know the largest organ in your body. You're taking care of it for the long term. So there is this long term benefit to engaging in skin care and taking care of yourself. How we said, 'OK how do we reconcile that?' How do we come up with a word that means feeling great in the short term and taking care of yourself in the long term which is this idea of kind of being in your prime. So kind of like everybody does went to a and was like what words mean the idea of prim and feeling great all the time. And heyday kind of popped up on the list. We know a lot more goes into that than just skin care but that's that's where we start. And that's what we do.

CROWSON: Tell me about your co-founder. How well do the two of you still work together?

POLLAK: We have a yin and yang in terms of skill set and focus that it kind of allows us to divide and conquer and double our time and that essence. But I think you know in the center, you have to have the same values and the same beliefs and the same vision for where a company is going to go because there are you know you do have to have a common foundation to fall back on. So we're always trying to hack time to try to build more time into the day to do things together. lately it's carving out the time for the big picture and moving away from I think some of the smaller day to day things to allow you the space to think, to innovate, to gain inspiration from from from just kind of taking a look at things from a much different position then executing the kind of every single day. it's the luxury of being able to stop and pause and think. And I think that that is that is something that our clients get when they can come into the you know, in to get a treatment. But it's certainly, that's definitely a luxury to be able to stop and think.

CROWSON: As an entrepreneur, you're working many many hours beyond what I believe you said a few moments ago, not working the typical 9 to 5 schedule. It makes so many demands on your time in your life. How do you take time for yourself? And if you don't mind sharing what exactly do you like to do?

POLLAK: It's it's kind of being brutal with priorities. blocking out time to make sure you're sleeping seven to eight hours a night, I think it's something I'm trying for. For me, I would say three things. Some active time, gym time, fitness workout that's really important to me. It's time when you're not holding a digital device which seems to be the other 23 hours of the day. as things are right now and it's often I think when I come up with a lot of my best ideas The second thing is I actually leave the city. My partner and I have a place in upstate New York and I think through the process of starting this company I've actually realized how much of an introvert I am in the sense that I get my energy from quiet and I recharge from spending time alone or in a less populated environment. And the third thing is I love organizing things. I've loved organizing closets since I was a kid. You see the chaos, put it in order, check it off the list, check back in a few weeks and see if you’ve done it right, I think it’s a lovely thing, it drives my partner crazy, but I usually send him a tornado emoji, and that means don’t come home I’m tearing up the closets, and two hours later he knows, and it’s safe.

CROWSON: Well I vow to you about a few hours separated by time zone and about seven states. but I’ll get there eventually. Real quickly. Tell me about how technology has helped with Heyday.

POLLAK: I'm a huge fan of technology but I'm also a huge fan of it in the workplace when it helps people do their job better. And I know that sounds simple but I think there's a lot of tech for tech sake, apps maybe where there doesn't need to be one. There's you know it is very easy to kind of go down the rabbit hole of technology, to have bells and whistles. Um we've really tried to focus on technology, I would say in this first phase of the business more in the background. We track a lot in our treatments. So when you come in the first time you're going to fill out a form with some of your health history your care history so we can kind of craft a safe and effective treatment for you. And then with every visit you have, the therapist that's working on you, in the background, is taking notes on your skin analysis, the conditions you're experiencing, what your own goals are as well as kind of all the products that we've used on you throughout the steps of the treatment and then afterwards, there's also some inputs of you know what we what you should focus on for next time and some product recommendations and then those go to our clients in an e-mail afterwards. But this database I think that we've built, helps helps us do our job better. It gives us a record so if you come back and see somebody different or you know in the near future you go to a different city and see us, we can pull up your record and see what you've done, what you've liked, what you've purchased and I think that can really kind of support a good hospitality experience and kind of help us do our job better at a person to person level. And then I think thinking broadly, it also allows us to kind of step back and look at the data and say what trends are going on. What what does skin look like in New York City versus you know clients in Los Angeles per se? I mean weather, stress, environment, all these things kind of play into into the health and conditions of our skin and to be able to step back and look at the numbers big picture like that, has been really amazing.

CROWSON: What do you think the success of Heyday says about the future of what we previously suspected about spa services and maybe how you're changing the game?

POLLAK: You know I think traditional spa services lived under this world of beauty and pampering. Like if you google a spa service or a facial you're going to see a lady with perfect hair with a white towel it's like this total make believe world that I think you know exists in very very you know small pocket. But that's not everybody and it's not every day. And I think people are when it's gratifying when our clients talk about us not as pampering but as self care, as a way to take care of themselves. We see a lot more guys come into our shop than I think an average spa does and that's really encouraging too. A therapist said once at one of our orientations about why she got into skin care and she said well it's because you know our parents teach us how to brush our teeth. But nobody ever taught us how to wash our face. and it's true. I don't, nobody really teaches you that and to be able to build a brand where someone can teach you about your skin how to take care of it and kind of how to walk through life feeling confident about that and about the face that you face the world with every day. I think that that's something strong that we can build. Build a brand on that you know extends certainly well beyond well beyond New York and into a much wider wider set of people.

CROWSON: How do you advise men who might be reluctant to come in?

POLLAK: I think we usually start with it just feels really great to have somebody take care of your skin for an hour. Even if you haven't had a facial massage, if you haven't had your your face massaged, it's pretty lovely. And it doesn't it doesn't--It's not feminine. It's not it's not gendered per se skin is skin. Everybody's got the everybody's got the same skin, essentially. And so really it's just about being taken care of for an hour. If you had a massage, it's it's you know, it's in a similar vein to that. So I think it has nothing to do with gender. I think that that's been built up because of the environment facials have always lived in. And that's something we've certainly tried to decouple and make more accessible for everybody.

CROWSON: Prior to meeting you. I I'm guilty of thinking that any anything like a facial or industry like that which, full disclosure, never had one. You would go to a spa to do that. Buy your wife a gift certificate to the spa you buy your girlfriend a gift certificate to the spa, buy your significant other a certificate to the spa. And that's what you would do and that's where they would get these services. Bring me through your front doors there in Manhattan or maybe soon in Los Angeles. Bring me in and tell me and show me what's different about hey day that I'm might not get in one of those conventional spas.

POLLAK: The first thing you'll notice when you walk into a Heyday in New York is it's on the ground floor. And that was a big decision for us obviously rent is a lot higher when you're on the ground floor but you have visibility and people can-- literally there's transparency-- they can see inside and see what's going on and kind of explore it. So you walk in you're greeted by an incredibly friendly front desk and if you're there to shop there are products on the shelf for you to shop and are there for a service you're greeted, you check in and you wait for a short period of time and your therapist comes and gets you and brings you through this space. And the first thing you're going to notice through this space is it's not a quiet hallway. It's not dark. There's not a separate treatment room that you're in. Behind closed doors with one other person there are in our first store there eight stations and there are semi private so there's some walls between them and some curtains because we know people want to talk about their skin and that can sometimes feel kind of intimate. But overall, there's a there's a vibe. You hear the buzz of other clients talking. You hear a playlist of music that can range from soul to kind of what I call "tropical disco," things that are relaxing. You might hear Stevie Nicks but aren't sort of this otherworldly place and you're there for 50 60 maybe 75 minutes and you're kind of moved back into the world out onto the streets. Not totally in a daze because you've come out of this dark place on the second floor but something where you left work at 6 o'clock you can still show up at a 7 o'clock dinner after having a facial and glowing and kind of looking great and then hopefully having having had a great experience and a great conversation with a therapist.

CROWSON: and people are trying to cram so much into their lives into a limited amount of time. It seems to me that sort of customer service aspect of it really seems to be time centric and focused toward that client you're trying to attract. Is that right?

POLLAK: Yes definitely. Our client is time strapped first and foremost is a young working professional who is busy probably working longer than to 9 to 5 but also still wanting to squeeze in all those other things I think that make your day engaging and active. Going to the gym. You know having a meal out or grocery shopping or cooking or taking care of yourself, meditation, facials whatever it is but there's a lot obviously to cram kind of cram into the day. And that's interesting because as we set up the business we knew that time was something that people mentioned was a deterrent to getting a facial. That it took too much time that it was something you had to do on a weekend and it would take kind of two hours out of your day, three hours in this sort of meandering experience and they wanted it quicker. So when we opened we had a we had a 30 minute treatment and a 50 minute treatment, knowing that both of those get kind of get you get you in and out in an hour but still get good work done. And actually our hypothesis was that more people would, the time strapped New Yorker was going to pick the 30 minute treatment. And today we're looking at 80 percent of our of our treatments or the 50 minute treatment. So I think people and people want to stay longer because it feels great. And I think it's about that meaningful experience. I think if we're talking about luxury of time, I think an experience an experience first off is something that I think people there's a luxury to be able to engage in and experience. And I think also thing you know a meaning, spending your time meaningfully and with human touch and human interaction, I think that kind of slows time down a bit. And I see that with our clients. There's a connection and a moment that can happen whether it's with yourself or with a therapist, even in 50 minutes that I think can can change the trajectory certainly of your day but potentially your week or your month ahead.

CROWSON: Michael seriously, Thank you, This was a great time

POLLAK: Pleasure, if you’re in New York we’ll have you in the shop for sure

CROWSON: Well I for one am definitely inspired to take more time for myself.

Next time on the show, we talk with Rent the Runway and Jet Black co-founder Jenny Fleiss:

FLEISS: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur...

That’s next time, on Outside the Box.

Also, if you like what you hear, take a moment to rate and review this podcast - it helps other people find the show! Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 Episode 5
The Art of Being (with Ellie Burrows of MNDFL)
When we think about time and productivity, we usually think about doing. But meditation company MNDFL is trying to shift the focus to being. We talk with the company’s CEO and co-founder Ellie Burrows about why she made this her business – and how taking the time to unplug can make our lives more meaningful.
ELLIE BURROWS: I mean if you would have told me that I was going to be a meditation studio owner, I would have said you were absolutely out of your mind. I mean there was not a shot in hell that's what I was going to do with my life.

CHARLES CROWSON: That’s Ellie Burrows, the CEO and co-founder of a meditation studio called MNDFL.

BURROWS: It kind of surprises me every day, I go to work and you know I feel energized and excited to be there.

CROWSON: With more technology than ever at our fingertips, it’s a challenge to find the time to unplug. There’s always the next email, the next text begging for our attention. It feels impossible to justify taking the time for quiet.

BURROWS: You know we’re so busy trying to make things happen that sometimes I think we’ve forgotten the art of allowing things to happen to us.

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, a podcast from Walmart. In this season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how much your time is REALLY worth. When we think about time and productivity, we usually think about doing. But MNDFL is trying to shift the focus to being. Ellie’s made this her business, leading a series of studios made for people looking for the respite of meditation, without religious affiliation. But before all that, she grew up on the other side other side of the country, with a family in a completely different businesses: entertainment.

CROWSON: OK. So Ellie before we explore exactly what MNDFL is I'd like first talk about you a bit because you have lived somewhat of an interesting life haven't you?

BURROWS: Depends on how you define interesting. Sure.

CROWSON: Tell us a little bit about that. You grew up in Los Angeles?

BURROWS: I did. I grew up in Los Angeles in a family who was who is in the entertainment business and they derive an enormous amount of joy from what they do. I assume that that same joy that they felt every day was awaiting me. So I-- After I graduated went right into the William Morris mailroom in New York City, and pursued a career in executive film for about seven years. It's a grueling industry. It can be incredibly relentless. You have to have a real passion not just a backbone but a real passion for entertainment in order to survive it. And I found that I had the work ethic and I had the passion but not the passion for entertainment. And I would say to myself, if I don't feel that way about what I do, I'm probably going to be pretty miserable--forget ten years, maybe in a year from now-and I knew that I had to make a change.

CROWSON: So you you you've described taking the risk of taking a year off to recenter yourself personally and spiritually you return to the business in 2010 for roughly three years. Was there a moment a breakthrough moment where you said that's just it. This is not for me. I have to go find-- I have to follow my own path. Was there one moment in particular that you can point to and say that's wanted?

BURROWS: Yes. And there's a human I can point to too that was the ultimate trigger for me. So I remember sitting at a staff meeting. And I had a very dynamic, very passionate, very talented colleague by the name of Dana O'Keefe. And Dana had a fervor and a passion for film that I felt like was unparalleled. And I would say to myself, I want to feel that way about what I do. And so in a way, having you know hundreds of staff meetings with Dana O'Keefe, after a while, that that process was really like I feel this way about something but it's not about film. I feel this way about the pursuit of one's own consciousness. I feel this way about the pursuit of my own spirituality. I feel this way about being the best human I can be on the planet and if I continue to come here and work on this, then I cannot devote my full attention to what I'm ultimately, truly passionate about. And so in 2013 I quit. I went around the world as, what we lovingly joke about it MNDFL, as a 'spiritual tourist.' So I picked destinations that were the seat of traditions. I was interested in diving deeper into things I wanted to touch and feel, not just read about in books. It was about a six month trip and I started saying 'yes' to everything that felt more aligned with what I was ultimately truly, passionate about

CROWSON: OK let's go right there. Before we go, when you stepped out in '13 and said 'This is not my path. I need to find my own way.'Explain for me the fear you may have felt at that time, uncertainty. You knew where you wanted to go but did you know you were going to get there?

BURROWS: I would say that looking back, as hindsight is truly 2020, I would say the thing I was the most afraid of was other people's opinions and judgments. You know, What is my dad going to think about me quitting my job. What are my colleagues going to think? What are other people going to think? What does culture think about me making a decision like this?

I-- there's a part of me, that is a true pleaser or somewhere inside of me and wanting to make other people happy. Wanting people to be proud of me. And I felt that by walking away or quitting, I was somehow disappointing people, when I knew it was ultimately what was right for me.

CROWSON: So, Ellie has a co-founder over at MNDFL. His name is Lodro Rinzler, and he’s known as their Chief Spiritual Officer. Which on its own is fascinating… And so I wanted to know how Ellie and Lodro met -- and developed their business partnership as well as their philosophy.

BURROWS: Meeting Lodro was so unexpected. I was volunteering for Lodro's nonprofit. He had a nonprofit that was called the Institute for Compassionate Leadership and it took millennials who knew they wanted to make a difference in the world but didn't exactly know what they wanted to do. So I was helping Lodro recruit students and about four months into that, I asked Lodro to go to tea for a catch up. I had, been super struggling with my meditation practice. I had a beautiful cushion and an altar in my house in a place that was designated for meditation but everything but meditation was happening in my house. So I was cleaning my dishes, organizing my closet. So I asked Lodro for tea to help me solve this mystery problem. And finally I was like Lodro, um, you know, meditation is not happening in my home, you know and I-- there's so many wonderful teachers in New York City, I don't even know where to begin. How come there's no place I can go in New York City that's like Body by Simone, where I was going two hours a day seven days a week. Six days a week for workout? How come I can't take my body somewhere to meditate, the way I can take my body somewhere to dance. And Lodro said to me, Ellie it's only a matter of time before there's going to be a meditation studio on every corner. They're going to be like yoga studios. Just a complete-- like a light bulb going off doesn't even do it justice. So to Lodro, whoa, 'I feel like I could totally--I feel like we could do that together.' And he's like--'We could do what?' I was like I feel like we could you know create a meditation studio together. And Lodro's like 'OK.'

CROWSON: And that's that?

BURROWS: That's that. We made a handshake deal. I walked in seeking the advice of a friend, walked out with a business partner and the rest of my life was absolutely changed. And you know to be able to have the contrast of waking up every day and feeling like you are truly honoring your purpose and you are so passionate about your work and that there are unending energetic resources to put towards it because you love what you do so much. I mean this is something that I thought was this feeling is what I felt was a unicorn. I never expected to feel that way.

CROWSON: How many times do you think people--all of us, you, me, any of us --have those chance encounters but don't recognize it or maximize it.

BURROWS: I would say these encounters happen all the time. Every day of your existence. And you know I think we're so busy often trying to control and bend time to our will or bend the unknown to our will to try and figure out exactly you know what we're going to do, where we're going to be, how we're going to do it. Is this going to happen. And of course, all these these feelings can often be motivated by fear that sometimes you know we're not relaxed enough or open enough to to allow certain things to happen to us. You know, we're so busy trying to make things happen that sometimes I think we've forgotten the art of allowing things to happen to us. I mean I'd be lying if I said I didn't walk around constantly being like, 'Alright, universe, whatever is going on out there, hit me. Show me you know the next step.' This is a lot of the way that Lodro and I run the business, in a way. Is that, you know, MNDFL is very much its own entity. We work for MNDFL. MNDFL doesn't work for us.

CROWSON: Explain MNDFL as what it exists. How does this exist as a business? Because this is a business. It's a service industry. Something that a lot of people probably don't take advantage of as they should. What is MNDFL?

BURROWS: Yes so, MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good and we do that by helping these humans maintain and or build a meditation practice. We feature expert expert teachers from a variety of traditions, offering simple techniques in an accessible manner. So that means, even if you don't think you can't meditate, we have teachers who will prove you delightfully wrong. We have 30 45 and 60 minute classes across three studios here in New York City. And so MNDFL can exist now because we are where, perhaps the fitness revolution was in the eighties [80s]. Like if you- Lodro tells us amazing joke-- that if you told someone you were going for a run in the nineteen fifties [1950s], someone had said, who's chasing you? Right. And then of course the fitness revolution of the eighties ['80s] came around and you know nobody would have ever asked that question after that. And you know and then of course yoga followed that shortly after and now meditation I think is where yoga was maybe 30 or 40 years ago where the benefits are widely published and so people are just starting to explore it and be willing to be open to this practice. We're in over 100 companies now teaching meditation across New York City and the surrounding area. We have a video channel called MNDFL video. So About 15 percent of our community actually lives outside of New York. It never ceases to amaze me when someone brings their bags straight from JFK to our studio. And I want to point them in the direction of the Empire State Building you know 20 or 30 blocks north and they're like, no I'm here for MNDFL. That kind of blows me away that we are even considered a tourist destination here in New York. But so we have a video channel for those 15 percent of the people who live outside of New York or for our corporate clients who don't have access to in-person teaching's here and our teachers in their offices so other colleagues in other offices can also experience the same teachings we offer in-office here.

CROWSON: Talk to me about the cynic. Someone who says, 'You know what, I've got my music. I do my meditation while driving to and from work or I'm on the subway if you're if you're in New York.' The cynic who says, 'my time is my time and I do it on the way.' Where could they be mistaken?

BURROWS: I think we're we're so consumed by our technology that having a place to go where technology isn't allowed like MNDFL, where you actually have to leave your phone, you know in the front desk area, and you can set aside that time for yourself and come in and have one human hold space for you while you do that, I think is a very special experience. And of course, you know while I'd love MNDFL to be for every single person on the planet that's a completely unrealistic goal. But there are people who will come through and will say, 'Hey I like practicing on my own' and that's that's totally cool. You know MNDFL is here to offer up an accountability structure that we find can be very helpful in building consistent practice and some quiet space which I think you know there is a premium on these days. I really I truly believe

CROWSON: I do agree with that but you spent a good portion there talking about the necessity of tech in our lives. It's there. It is something that's not going anywhere and we all know it. So how does one balance the need for that, the use for that, in a meditation environment. Is there a place where they can be connected or do they have to be mutually exclusive of one of.

BURROWS: I would say, let's start with the app piece, right. So meditation apps can be incredibly beneficial if you don't have access to a live in-person teacher in your city. Right. So if you are building a meditation practice using your phone, with someone guiding you or speaking to you and helping hold that space for you, I have no problem with that. I don't use technology as part of my practice and at MNDFL, we also don't use technology really in-studio at all as a part of the practice. You know I think this-- you know another thing Lodro taught me which is so beautiful is that one of the Tibetan words for meditation is Gohm [?] and Gohm [?] means to become familiar with. So meditation helps us become familiar with all of who we are. And so it can be a bit difficult I think to figure out who you are if you're constantly spending your time in a device that is not inherently you. So what we do at MNDFL is we provide space for you to sit and sit with all the feelings that comprise the you and to learn how you relate to your own thoughts and your self and who you really are. And I think you know we're not going to find that. I'm not sure we'll find that in the same way in our phones that we would in ourselves.

CROWSON: I've been reading some of the works of Kumal Ravikant over the past year or so. He wrote a book, or had the book a little more than a year ago, Rebirth, and has written some pieces ever since, talking about the value of meditation. He says that a five to ten minute timeframe, for someone who has a busy lifestyle, is a good place to start. Would you agree with that? Or is it something to be more extended or is it specific to the individual?

BURROWS: I would have 100 percent agree with that. I think something is better than nothing. And five to 10 minutes that's I mean ten minutes is really where most the scientific studies are showing you know that you really begin to feel the benefits. You know over I think it said it was a 10 to 12 week period, depending on the study. So yeah I mean, I totally agree with that. Something is always better than nothing. And you know, having a meditation practice in a lot of ways is like being in a very intimate long term relationship. You know I can feel all sorts of things about my practice on any given day. Even still you know someone like me where it's a cornerstone of my life I can have days where I'm like stuck in an e-mail hole, I keep putting it off and putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. I mean like ugh, I'll just meditate on a second. I'll just get there in a second. I mean I'm a human being, you know, there's no such thing as a you know perfect meditator. Many, many teachers who've come before me have said, you know we don't meditate to get good in meditation. We meditate to you know get better at being human. And so you know I'm in constant relationship to the practice and I think you know one of the things that you begin to come into contact with is this feeling of oh, I didn't get my meditation in and then beating yourself up, right? This is part of the cycle that's broken through the practice of meditation. This this having a lack of compassion for yourself for missing a meditation, that's not at all what the practice is about. So I try to be super soft and kind and gentle and make space where I can. And if you know I happened to miss a meditation, I don't drag myself through the mud over it. And yeah, I think any little bit starts and you'll just hopefully see some things really blossom in your life if you if you're willing to make the space for the practice.

CROWSON: Is there anything out there you wish you had more time for? Or because you treat each day as its own individual path and own individual experience, do you feel like you don't miss out on anything?

BURROWS: Oh I love that you just said 'Miss out on anything.' I absolutely love that because you just walked me right into one of my favorite questions of all time, which is, so this acronym that Millennials love so much, FOMO, fear of missing out, right? Often we make decisions from a place of fear. I want to do that because I'm afraid I'm going to miss out on something or I want to do that because I'm afraid X Y and Z isn't going to happen. And I try to make decisions from a place of what my meditation tradition calls charm. So charm is this idea that nature could be cueing us in the direction of our highest evolution and good. So when you really feel like you are drawn to something, not dissimilar to 'I need to quit my job. I know this isn't right for me' and that ultimately led me to MNDFL now. I, of course, had no idea that MNDFL was on the horizon but that feeling was incredibly charming, right, to follow something else. What the FOMO would've been would be to stay in my job, stay there out of fear, fear of missing out on a career, fear of missing out on being a part of the family business, fear of missing out on certain things. So when it comes to time, I like to practice the art of saying no, particularly when I feel like I should be doing something out of FOMO. I should probably go to that event because if I don't go to that event, I'm gonna miss out on something or I should probably have that dinner because I don't want, I'm afraid I'm gonna miss out on something with a friend. And so I like to really think about why am I really agreeing to go to this or do this or give my precious time to this. And do I feel like it’s truly aligned with what’s best for me as a human being in this moment?

CROWSON: So eight years in eight years along on your path with meditation, what surprised you the most?

BURROWS: I would say that meditation is not a cure all. So as it relates to my meditation practice, I would say that while it does have enormous benefits, you are not going to sit down and then you know magically never yell at your spouse again. That's not that's not what it does that's not what happens. It certainly can help you self-regulate in a more effective way. But you know I still have moments where I'm like I'm a meditator, I shouldn't have done that or I meditate, I shouldn't have you know done that. And so part of that is working out the relationship to the practice. You know, having self-compassion for the fact that I am a human being with all sorts of limitations. And you know I'm here trying to do the best that I can, trying to be the most open-hearted most kind human being I can and I'm definitely going to make mistakes.

CROWSON: What does the future hold? What does the future hold for you and what does the future hold for MNDFL?

BURROWS: Tricky question for a meditator. You know, I'm so focused on the present moment, I try not to get too ahead of myself but I will say, another one of my favorite teachers said to me, 'You know the present is the future in the making.' So my future is unfolding right now during this conversation. It will continue to unfold every moment that I'm living and I think, not to draw full circle, but that that ability to, you know, be open to things happening to me rather than me trying to make things happen, will make for I think a rich and interesting future. So of course, would I like to bring MNDFL to other cities? Yes, of course I would like to do that. What I like to make meditation accessible to as many human beings as I can? Yes, but you know, only time will tell and I'm excited for the journey and the ride.

CROWSON: Alright. Ellie, thank you so much for the time today.

BURROWS: Thank you, Charles, I really appreciate it.

Next time on the show, we hear from someone who wants you to make more time for yourself:

POLLAK: It’s the luxury of being able to stop and pause and think. That is something our clients get when they come in to get a treatment.

That’s Michael Pollak, co-founder of facial shop Heyday, next time on Outside the Box.

Also, if you like what you hear, take a moment to rate and review this in Apple Podcasts - it helps other people find the show! Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 Episode 4
Fighting the War on Busy-ness (with Joe Fernandez of Joymode)
What is the value of fun? In an era when we are constantly connected to work, how does our relationship to leisure, or downtime, change? Joe Fernandez, founder of Joymode (and before that, Klout), talks about how we can seize our precious free time and make it really count.
CHARLES CROWSON: We've all been there: scrolling through social media, seeing friends scaling rock faces or hosting elaborate dinner parties and thinking...

JOE FERNANDEZ: wow that sounds really cool, I'll never do that, I don't have time, I'm so busy.

CROWSON: That’s Joe Fernandez. He's trying to change that mindset… by making it really easy to have fun. He's the founder and CEO of Joymode, a rental company that delivers you all the things you might need for a special activity -- from a weekend camping trip to a homemade ice cream party. You just have to enjoy them.

JOE FERNANDEZ: Literally for hundreds, probably thousands of years, our status has been based on how much stuff we own. And really that is changing, especially with the millennial generation being much more focused on experiences.

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, a podcast from Walmart. Today, we’re talking with Joe about how we can seize our precious free time and make it really count. Joymode has been around for 3 years, but Joe is a veteran entrepreneur. Back in 2008 he started a company called Klout -- you might have heard of it. It’s an online tool that uses social media analytics to rank people’s influence across the Internet. Based on how influential you are, you get a score from 1-100. Klout did really, really well -- and Joe sold it in 2014. Then he started thinking about what would be next...

CROWSON: So when you sold Klout did you have your next move already planned out, were you looking out in the horizon, or was it a sort of a, okay so what now what moment for you?

FERNANDEZ: I actually promised my wife that I wouldn't even think about another company for at least a year. Because the Klout experience was very intense and she was there from the very beginning and it's really the significant others and family that pay the price for the kind of quote glory of the entrepreneur. But I actually had the idea for Joymode before Klout even, and had been working on it all the way back in like 2005, 2006. so I didn't make it that full year that I had promised, I made it maybe like 6 months and then I told her, hey remember that idea I had had that I was working on before Klout - I wanna go do that. And that was like a relatively difficult conversation.

CROWSON: Is that how we explain those with our spouses? Relatively difficult?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah I was like please don't stab me.

CROWSON: You said though that Joymode predated Klout. Why?

FERNANDEZ: So I had moved from Los Angeles to New York City in 2005 and shortly after being out there I met a girl who is now my wife but we decided to get an apartment together. And that apartment ended up being very typical New York. But so small that just to function in that space, anytime either of us bought something we basically had to get rid of something. And that really changed how I thought about ownership. On one side it was really nice to not have all this clutter. And feel kind of unencumbered from just the stuff we accumulate. But on the other side I was really frustrated that it felt like our lives were kind of artificially constricted by what we owned. So I started really thinking about what ownership meant and why do we need to own these things. you know why can't I just have access to the stuff I want when I need it. And I spent a solid, about a year trying to figure out what that meant and what that kind of company could look like. but this was pre-iPhone apps, pre-Uber, pre-Airbnb, pre-Rent the Runway. All these great companies. so I just couldn't find the breakthrough to like actually figure out how to make it work and then I had the idea for Klout and that got traction really quick so I kinda focused my energy on that. But all the while I was really thinking a lot about Joymode.

CROWSON: In one of the descriptions I read regarding this is it's something that helps and promotes the experience economy. What is that?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah so basically we want to help you live as if you owned all the things you need to do amazing things with your friends and family. We actually own all the products so we have a giant warehouse here in downtown LA and if you wanted to let's say go camping this weekend, we would deliver you the chairs, the cooler, the tent, the lights, everything you need to have a great camping experience and then pick it all up when you're done. And then if the next weekend you want to go to the beach, we have all the beach stuff.
And if the next weekend you just want to, you know clean your house, like we actually literally have vacuums and we have all these products curated into bundles that we give you access to so that you don't have to own it.

CROWSON: What is the most commonly rented bundle?

FERNANDEZ: Our most popular right now is called the backyard movie night and it is a giant screen, a projector, speakers, chairs, even like an old timey popcorn machine. Everything you need to host a movie night in your backyard or some people do it on top of their roof or in their driveway or whatever… but that is a really popular one.

CROWSON: What within your portfolio do you guys rent that you thought yeah I never thought we'd be renting that.

FERNANDEZ: The vacuum really surprised me and kind of everybody. It's actually the 4th most popular thing on Joymode. We call it the cleaning kit and it comes with a really nice Dyson vacuum, you know effectively a standard vacuum, a small stain removal kind of power washer type thing and a steam mop. and so there's a lot of people now saying I don't need to own a vacuum and they use Joymode to get it when they need it and not take up all that closet space when they don't.

CROWSON: I was to go back to the conversation with your wife. You make the one year deal that you won't think of a new company, you do. When you first pitched this idea you said it maybe was a bit contentious, how did it go? I mean seriously, because buy-in from a partner in a situation like this is something you need as an entrepreneur.

FERNANDEZ: Yeah absolutely and you know it was in retrospect probably not the best timing on my part. She was probably 4 or 5 months pregnant with our first child.

CROWSON: Rookie mistake.

FERNANDEZ: Yeah. You know and so to have that conversation of like hey I know for the last 7 years I was just busy building this other company and it's only been a few months but I want to start doing that again. You know it's just a tough conversation. And we talked a lot about what would be different this time and really the thing that was at the top of that list was the team. And in the early days of Klout we were a pretty ragtag group. And we were all figuring it out for our first time and a lot of stuff ended up falling on my shoulders so with Joymode it was an agreement that I would get the best possible people from day one so that we could kind of share the load more effectively. and my cofounders Keith and Wayne are really just incredibly talented so I'm very lucky to get to work with those guys.

CROWSON: So when you go from concept to realization, a warehouse in Los Angeles, working with Wayne, working with Keith, buy in from the family, Joymode growing… What does it look like now?

FERNANDEZ: We are a little over 40 people. We will probably triple in size before the end of this year. So growing incredibly fast. For the first few months we actually were working out of my garage. And I remember a big weekend for us was we delivered like 20 products out to different people. Now on a kind of normal weekend we'll deliver more than 10 thousand and that is doubling kind of every few months. So the scale of velocity of how people are engaging with Joymode is growing really fast. And the most exciting part of that to me is not the stats, it's really the stories. So you know we deliver the stuff to people, they are using it to have these special moments in the real world with their friends and family and we get to see that play out across social media and even hear about it in person when we do those deliveries.

CROWSON: We're spending a lot of this season on Outside the Box focusing on time. Saving time, maximizing the use of time and being efficient therein. It seems to me as you explain Joymode, that story you just told about being there in some capacity for people to have those special and memorable moments, that's the valuable use of them being able to use your service to make best use of their time. Would you agree?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah so I've certainly found myself looking at magazines or seeing something on Pinterest or seeing, hearing about something somebody else did and thinking like wow that sounds really cool, I'll never do that, it's too much work. I don't have time, I'm so busy. And with Joymode, we are trying to take care of that work for you. So we've curated these bundles so if you say you want to go camping, it's everything you need for going camping. If you say you want to host a pool party, it's everything for the pool party. All you have to do is push a button and all those things come to you. So really enabling you to focus on that time that's so hard to get with your friends and family. we talk internally a lot about this kind of a notion of a war on business. We're all so busy and it's so easy to let the weekends or the days fly by and we want to make it easy for you to connect and do something that, even the mundane can be special if you have the right products and tools. And we want to help you do that.

CROWSON: What are some of the more memorable stories that you could share? Maybe your first one or two that come top of mind.

FERNANDEZ: So Oculus Rift, the virtual reality kind of setup that Facebook owns is really popular through us. Most people have not tried that, it probably costs a couple thousand dollars to get the full set up., that is one that is often reserved through Joymode. I was doing a delivery and I was actually picking that up and the woman who had it was a little older than I would have expected somebody renting an Oculus Rift you know, virtual reality system. So I asked her, I was like oh how did you like it? And she started crying. So I was like oh my gosh I'm sorry was everything alright? She says no you don't understand. My father in law who lives with us is really old and can't really leave the house and through this virtual reality set up got to have this amazing adventure. And you know the fact that we enabled that was really powerful to me. Another one kind of recently. I was doing a pick up and it was a karaoke set up. And the woman, I had picked it up I was like oh how did everything go. She says oh my gosh it was my daughters I think 10th birthday. She had a Katy Perry, Taylor Swift Karaoke birthday party with her friends and it was the cutest thing and again it's just like you know we were able to help them do that while avoiding the whole kind of consumption hangover of debt and clutter and you know environmental impact. And that we played a small part in that really means a lot to the team.

CROWSON: Are there any bundles out there that you're considering that you might want to expand your portfolio a bit?

FERNANDEZ: We are constantly expanding, constantly getting feedback from our members. One that just came up was a woman said she really wished we had everything for a paella night. Because the paella pan's really huge and it you know takes up a whole part of the kitchen. And we thought like oh that's a cool idea so we went and got it. We had another person say we wished we had a dog obstacle course. It's the exact type of thing that just ends up sitting in your garage forever. So we went and got that. So like we're constantly looking and listening and finding new things to expand the Joymode inventory.

CROWSON: What are some things that you are still passionate about owning, and what have you learned from some of your customers about things they're passionate about owning?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah everybody's gonna still own stuff and it's fun to see what things people care enough about that they still wanna own. So I will meet customers that say oh I reserved the camping stuff a couple weeks ago and we had so much fun camping that we want to make it a part of our lives and we went and bought that. Personally I have a weird, I really love pinball. And so I have like the most impractical thing to own, is I own several pinball machines. And other than, my wife and I are pretty minimal.

CROWSON: So one of your online profiles says you can take a punch. Literally or figuratively?

FERNANDEZ: Both. I grew up in Las Vegas so boxing is a big deal and my father's from Cuba and also very big into boxing so I kind of just grew up around the sport. Had a few amateur fights, I've kind of been training forever. probably better at taking a punch than throwing a punch but it definitely serves you well in the entrepreneurial world.

CROWSON: What is the one key fact to remember about taking a punch?

FERNANDEZ: once you take a punch it's easier to take more punches, I guess is the key fact.

CROWSON: One of the things it appears that Joymode is doing is almost, it's an antidote for an online life. We've all become so digitally minded. We have our iPhones in our hands. And I did use plural intentionally. I carry 2 around. We've got our tablets, laptops, everything. What do you do to limit that digital time?

FERNANDEZ: Yeah it's a constant challenge. probably the thing my wife gets the most annoyed with me about is the looking at your phone and not being present in those moments. at the start of the year I think this has kind of been a common meme but I personally removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. That has had a big impact on not just my presence in the moment but even just kind of mental anxiety. I feel just much calmer and much happier. And then being the CEO of Joymode has a special benefit where I can say it's work to bring fun stuff home for my family to use. So basically every weekend I will bring something home from Joymode and my wife and kids and I will test it out.

CROWSON: Have you always valued your time?
FERNANDEZ: Probably not as much as I should. Through Klout I felt like I could take advantage of my time in the sense that I could work all hours and all weekend and all night and all day. And just you know kind of out-hustle everybody and that was really something I took pride in and I think did serve me well. We had our first kid right as Joymode was starting and we've had a second kid since then and that has really changed kind of everything about how I think about time and it's not just my time and getting able to spend time with them is something that really matters to me. So being much more thoughtful about everything from how I delegate at work to how, what I let into my life from social media to even just like my schedule with friends and other things, I'm just like 100 times more careful and kind of planning with those things.

CROWSON: What are some things out there maybe you wish you had more time for?

FERNANDEZ: I mean the obvious one and I think everyone would say like I wish I could have more time with my family. Anything else would be like well below that. When I think about the things that I would list below that they’re, you know, relatively trivial. the first one probably is just being healthy in terms of getting more time at the gym and for exercise and that type of thing. But the list gets pretty shallow for me. It's like I wish I could play more video games. travel more would be nice. But really for me and I'm guessing a lot of people it's family is the thing I try to find time for.

CROWSON: Characterize your perfect day. You have nothing to do, nothing on the schedule. Nowhere you have to be for Joymode or anything else you're involved with. Take us through your perfect day.

FERNANDEZ: I wake up really early. even with nothing else to do and no pressure I would still wake up really early and I find myself the most creative in the morning. And so you know waking up at 4 or 5am and having time to think and work on ideas and you know right now those ideas are all about Joymode and it's incredibly fun to be able to create this company so having a few hours to creatively think about kind of the next few moves we are making as a company and what we're building and how we can help people have these moments with their friends and family would be kind of the first part of the day. Probably head to the gym for a little bit after that and then probably spend the rest of the day with the kids and family and I love LA and exploring the city and just taking the kids to go learn the city. And then kind of back at night I would probably do more work because I really really do love what we're building.

CROWSON: Where do you see it 5 years from now, 10 years from now. Bigger warehouses, larger array of bundles or what?

FERNANDEZ: You know right now we are just in Los Angeles and even within the giant sprawl of Los Angeles only in a pretty small piece of it. In 5 years I would be disappointed if we are not in dozens of cities, hopefully starting to expand even beyond the US. And my hope is that people say that I have changed my consumption and my habits, know the way I think about ownership has changed because of Joymode. If we accomplish that, I think we are an important company and having a positive impact on the world.

Next time on the show, we’ll talk with someone who is trying to help us change our relationship with time.

BURROWS: You know we’re so busy trying to make things happen that sometimes I think we’ve forgotten the art of allowing things to happen to us.

That’s Ellie Burrows, co-founder of a meditation studio called MNDFL. Next time, on Outside the Box.

Also, if you like what you hear, take a moment to rate and review this in Apple Podcasts - it helps other people find the show! Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 EPISODE 3
Finding a True Fit (with Andy Dunn)
Shopping for pretty much anything has changed drastically these days. But can e-commerce really recreate the same experience we’re used to? Andy Dunn, CEO of Bonobos, talks about building truly personal experiences by walking in customers’ shoes, and the unexpected path that arose from a simple idea to make a better pair of pants.
ANDY DUNN: Fell in love with the consumer Internet. I thought it was so fascinating and really was looking to build an internet company. And then my buddy started making better fitting men's pants and I thought, wait a second, maybe these pants are the internet company that I've been looking for.

CHARLES CROWSON: Meet Andy Dunn. Like many entrepreneurs, he knows that sometimes you just can’t predict where you’re going to end up.

DUNN: I had a job offer. I had a $150,000 in debt. The smart thing to do was to take the job, but I thought that these pants that my buddy had made were great and I thought the chance to create something was exciting and we just followed that energy.

CROWSON: Andy took a chance on that internet pants company. Today, it’s known as Bonobos, a hugely successful online clothing retailer.

DUNN: There have been lots of moments in my life where i feel like there was a chance to do something and i didn’t take it, and it’s actually the disappointment that I feel in those moments informs the risk-taking down the road.

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart. This season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how much is your time REALLY worth? Last year, Walmart bought Bonobos, because online shopping is THE great time-saver. Bonobos has cracked the code to saving you time AND making you feel like a valued human customer. They do this through their stores, their site, and their customer service people -- Bonobos calls them “ninjas.” (And who wouldn't want to be called a ninja?) It’s fun -- and reflects some of the reasons why Andy started the company. He started by putting himself in his customers shoes.

DUNN: We built a brand that was really selfish in nature. Right? Which is how do we actually make this fun for us? And at the beginning part of that was pants don't fit, so we made a better fitting pair of pants, right? You get going with that. But I think the insight that you layer on top of that, that turned out to be what changed the industry is the idea that it's not enough to make a great physical product. You've got to bundle it with a service experience that makes it really, really frictionless to go out and get that product. The concept for me was how do you actually architect it for a guy who, you know, you know, doesn't love to buy clothes.

CROWSON: Right. How did you improve on the male pant? What did you look to improve?

DUNN: Well, this is where my co-founder is a genius, Brian Spaly. What he observed was if pants actually fits you right in the thigh, they tend to be too boxy in the waist and if they fit you right in the waste, they're going to be way too tight in the thigh. And so as a result, what he was doing is he was buying a size 34 waist pants that would fit him in his thighs and then he was taking it to a tailor and getting it hemmed in to a size 32, which was his actual waist size and you know, he called it hockey butt, he said he grew up playing hockey and soccer and as a result couldn't fit in his pants,

CROWSON: Baseball butt, it's baseball butt in the south

DUNN: It just all depends on what you grew up playing. Right?

CROWSON: I carry one well, yes.

DUNN: So it was, it was really this idea that rather than going and getting pants altered every time, someone's got to come up with a pattern that solves that problem. And so he went to a pattern maker in San Francisco. He took these pants that he had been getting altered and we actually made a pattern from that pant and so the core innovation is they come with the waistband that's a little bit curved so that the pant comes around the seat, makes room for the thighs and you get this. It's almost a, it's a mathematical relationship between your waist size and your quads and Bonobos unlocked that and then we had this realization… We can include all men because over time with an online driven model, you can offer all of the fit-silhouette-waist-inseam combinations that you can dream up. That was how I got started.

CROWSON: Conceptually I understood Bonobos, I got it, but I didn't appreciate it until I visited your Los Angeles store and I was actually able to see it in action. Is that something that customers should do to really see it and understand the way it works? Because once I was there, I could have broke the bank.

DUNN: Well the guide shops are funny. I think about the inventions in the company's history. The first invention is really a better fitting men's pants. That curved waistband pant, that's invention 1 invention 2 happened around the same time, which is let's actually endeavor to build the brand on the Internet because most people would have said, wait, you're building a brand that's about fit and you can't even try it on... well. actually. We're going to do amazing free shipping both ways. 365 day returns. We're going to develop this team, the customer service Ninjas. We're actually going to build a better way of buying product by not having it physically distributed, and then you've got invention 3, which is, wait a second, if that model's going to work, you can't stock a store because you're offering so much more fit. You could never. You could never do that. Well it turns out that a store has got at least two purposes. One is to interact with the product, two is to fulfill that product order. And what Bonobos did with our third invention with, which is the guide shop, is we pulled that apart and we said you can interact, touch, feel, try on and have a great one to one service experience, but you don't need to get the goods right then and there. Going to the guide shop is actually the highest form of the Bonobos experience because you're getting not only the more specific fit options but you're getting to experience them in person and touch and feel the product so that you can fulfill future orders on the web. But that, that guide shop experience for me is how I personally love, love to do it.

CROWSON: Where is home for you? I know you grew up in Chicago,

DUNN: Home’s Chicago. So the whole family lives in Lincoln Park on the near north side. We grew up in the western suburbs, mom's an immigrant from India, born in a refugee town on the way from Pakistan to New Delhi, India at the time of the partition. And then my dad's Irish-Swedish American. US history teacher. Met on the west side of Chicago, so born and raised there. And then have spent the last, what, 11 years now, living in New York.

CROWSON: Did you ever in your life think you would be in Bentonville, Arkansas or the state of Arkansas? Kid from Chicago, Northwestern, Stanford, New York, wherever you gone the success you've had northwest Arkansas?

DUNN: No chance. Actually, I'll, I'll give you. There's two moments that stand out. The first moment is hop in the path train in New York over to New Jersey and sitting down with Mark Lori, who's now our, our CEO of, of all of e-commerce in Walmart. Talking to him about how the future of e-commerce is not going to be just about great platforms. It's going to be about great brands. So that was fun because that was a business conversation, but what I found in terms of building a company is it's not about business, it's, it's far more spiritual. It's about what's the purpose, what's the why behind doing it. And when I sat down, Mark goes you gotta meet Doug, Doug McMillan, our CEO. And so we had a dinner together, it was the snowiest day I can remember in New York. Sat with Doug, sat with Mark, thought “Wow” Bonobos is not only going to have an exciting future, but we're gonna be, we're gonna have the backing of the fortune one company, the world's biggest company and we're going to be able to take this innovation that has been in the corner little corner of men's wear and going to be able to now export that and our know-how to every vertical in the consumer retail ecosystem. And my brain was just whirring, you know, like, this is a totally unexpectedly amazing way for this story to unfold. Now, how do I go and explain to, you know, 200 millennials who live in Brooklyn that Walmart is going to be their new employer and help them understand why that's an exciting thing.

CROWSON: How did you explain that to them?

DUNN: I have profound respect for the journeys that people need to go on themselves. And no one wants to be told how to feel or what to think you know there's nothing more invalidating than saying, here's some news, here's how you should feel about it.
I personally didn't have conviction that this was the right ultimate long-term place for Bonobos to live until I came to Bentonville. I went and sat at a bar and there was an immigrant from the northeast in a Vietnamese immigrant from Northeast Arkansas who had just moved to Northwest Arkansas. And we sat and I ordered a pizza and had a beer with him and…. not an experience anyone told me I'd be having, um, folks that said this was a dry town, that it wasn't, you know, friendly to folks with different from different walks of life. Of course, there's lots of, there's lots of challenges to Bentonville just as there are at any place and it's a place on the move.

We now have this weird thing where there's a whole ecosystem of Walmart that includes not just what's happening in Bentonville, but of course Hoboken, San Bruno, and New York City. Now we've got to figure out how do we actually make this enterprise work in a world where we've got talent from all different kinds of places and how do we get that folks to work together and how do we get better from a diversity-inclusion standpoint. These are fascinating challenges that I never dreamed would be on our on our plate or that we've even be a small participant in.

CROWSON: But it's a very large portion of your plate now as you've taken on more responsibility beyond Bonobos as you're here with the company as well. You have other challenges.

DUNN: It's awesome. One part of this job that I thought that was going to be important, which is about digital transformation, but there are two things that I get to do now that are privileged to do within Walmart, and those are sustainability and diversity inclusion. So we're now working on a, on a project in the sustainability space, I can't say much about it … And then diversity inclusion couldn't be more topical for me. You know, we put out a catalog in February of this year at Bonobos that had almost no people of color in it. I have no idea how it happened. It was just this idiosyncratic thing where clearly we don't have the right lens on because it came out and there was a guy who tweeted at me and said, if Bonobos not going to have any people of color in it's visual imagery then this is not the brand for me, and I thanked him for it. I said, wow, I hadn't seen this. We've got some work to do to figure out how this happened because we pride ourselves on moving in the right direction on those things. These are really huge parts of my job that I didn’t know would be a part of my job before we did this, and where the opportunity for impact has gone up by a factor of a thousand being a part of this broader enterprise.

CROWSON: Season two of our podcast, we are examining time and how we all value our time and how we as consumers utilize our time. And It seems to me one of the things Bonobos really tapped into, again, not fully realized as a consumer until I saw it, was that ability to save the consumer, the male shopper time through online shopping, catalog shopping, and then brick and mortar shopping.

DUNN: Yup.

CROWSON: How has e-commerce changed that-- The construct of time for the customer base today. You've been on the front lines.

DUNN: Yeah. I'm a nerd and I was in high school. I was on the math team and so only someone on the math team who later ended up running a fashion brand. I don't know how that even works or why that's even possible. At one point I had an equation about how men think about shopping for clothes and it was FIT like all caps, big plus style, slightly smaller meaning fits more important than style minus trend, which is to say if it's something you've. You've got to follow trends at that point. It's like a turnoff like that decreases utility for your experience minus hassle, which is any hassle is going to be a huge problem and then can you actually make it fun. Everything about our experience is built around the concept that we're going to make this more personalized. Hopefully free of hassles as expeditious as possible given where you are, where you want to shop, and hopefully it's certain unexpected moments. It's it's fun or it's or it's special, you know? We do these challenges to the Ninjas where they have to go above and beyond as frequently as they can to delight people. Call it customer delight. One of our customers his home burned down and fire and he lost his clothing. He also lost his dog and one of our Ninjas found out about this. What do you even do with that? And they commissioned a painting of the dog for this customer. And sent him the painting in addition of course, to a new wardrobe that those are the kinds of stories that to me say we're. We're operating at a different level ideally on our best days and so much of that has to do with how we treat people and how we show up in their lives in positive ways. Not always that special, but in positive ways and I think that's what that's what keeps guys coming back

CROWSON: Are we going too fast in our day to day lives to appreciate those opportunities as they present themselves or even see them?

DUNN: I think so. I think so. I got uh. Email is a funny one for me. I did something last two Sundays. I haven't admitted this in any kind of a semi public forum before, but the last two Sundays, this will be my first admission. I just archive my whole email inbox and I said to myself, I'm going to be miserable the whole week playing catch up, so I'm just going to archive the whole thing and then go into the week with an empty inbox so I can be present in conversations and meetings so I can send initiate new ideas. There's going to be about 10 or 20 people that are gonna be like, wait a second, I didn't hear back, but they'll come back. Right. Or maybe they'll come see me in person in real life. I think it's this “always on” thing is problematic and it's, it's definitely not how great things start.

CROWSON: Um, what do you do with your time? You're clearly busy. You're traveling, you're always involved. You're always involved with, with Hoboken. You're also involved with Bonobos. You're involved with Modcloth. You're now newly married and on and on and on. How do you best, how do you best manage your time?

DUNN: My wife has helped me remember that there is something in this world called just the joy of learning something new and I've been so focused for so long on Bonobos that I forgot about hobbies. I forgot about the power of being creative or even focused outside of work. So it starts on this Saturday, probably two years ago. She's like, do you want to play tennis today? And I was like, I haven't played tennis since 1996, She's like do you wanna play tennis. I'm like, yeah, let's go. Um, so I started playing tennis again and then a friend of mine is built the world's largest online chess site. I made a profile on I play probably seven or eight games of chess a week. Recently basketball league Thursday nights. But it's, it's this realization, you know what, there's more to life than work. There's really fun things to do as a human being that don't entail working. I lost sight of that over the last decade. I lost sight of that. In fact recently told people somewhat sheepishly like, I don't work on the weekends anymore and I'm embarrassed to say it like you're not supposed to say that. I guess cause for 10 years I worked, you know, 24/7. I can remember the first day that I took like a day away from my job was, uh, three years in, was the first like day where I was like, I'm not going to do anything for the day. Sunday in 2010 was that

CROWSON: How hard was that!

DUNN: it was hard and I felt guilty and so I, there's something weird that I'm now learning. Hey, you know what, Friday night come home, we light the candles for Shabbat and go dark at that point and that it's OK to, you know, archive all your emails on Sunday morning, Sunday nights so that you can have a fresh start and Monday the work week begins.

CROWSON: What does a normal day like for you?

DUNN: I used to have answers to that, that were, um, made up because there was nothing normal. So I did my best... these days. I'm kind of into the concept of some rhythm or routine to, to things. Um, so perhaps I'll give you today because it's the nearest day...Walk down the street, facetiming with my mom and dad, which was cool. And I got here in, in. I try to do as much as I can. I'm borrowing a little bit, a little bit from my boss. Try to do as many conversations as I can by like 1:00 or 2:00. Right. So if I can pack in and get all those meetings, what that leaves in the afternoon is unstructured time to be able to think. I'm trying to build alone time back into the routine. Um, today it took the form of just having, having a meal alone. Um, sometimes that'll take me into a game of chess, get my mind off things and come back. And then for when, when it is time to be on, um, being in conversations in teams where I'm not the one talking…one of my jobs is to shut up and to see what are all the ideas that come and just kind of take it in and not have to say, all right, let's go this direction or that direction, but just soak it in and let all the good ideas rise up. And wait a second, why is that person being quiet today? What if I invite them, Hey Laura, what's your opinion? And you start to think of yourself a little bit more as a conductor of an orchestra than someone who's playing a piano concerto and you're the lead. And those kinds of things are inspiring me right now, making those slight evolutions in style. Um, in terms of how to show up. So it's all a work in process.

CROWSON: What's one thing right now that comes to mind? You especially enjoy doing, you enjoy devoting your time to your wife is not an option.

DUNN: I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is I enjoy reading again, you know, it's hard to read in this world. I was on a plane with a colleague on the way down here, flying Newark to Bentonville. And I had a book and I had the same reaction of am I setting a bad example by reading rather than working while she's working on this flight I was like, what am I even thinking, you know, what better example can one set than by being curious and -- whether it's work related or not. if I could read a book a week, you know, I, that would be a dream. My wife probably reads three books a month and she's a far more interesting, curious, engaged person as a result, if I could get to a book a week, wow. That would be. That would be a dream.

CROWSON: Now, most important question of the interview now, what does your closet look like?

DUNN: Well, I live in New York, so it's not.

CROWSON: It's not that big.

DUNN: It's actually kind of funny it. I've decided I can get down to having like 40 items in my entire wardrobe, so I have like seven or eight of the same thing, like seven or eight white button-down shirts, seven or eight pairs of jeans. Lots of different variants of. Probably the most interesting thing is I have like seven different Tuxedo blazers cause

CROWSON: One of which you're wearing wearing right now

DUNN: One of which I'm wearing cause like a regular blazers kinda boring. You might as well wear a tux jacket, like it's like a dinner party every day.

CROWSON: What did you aspire to be when you were a kid?

DUNN: You know, it's funny. So much of, I think what you dream of is based on what you see around you and in my family was all doctors ever where I could see. And I got to college and I spent some time still, you know, going on that path. You're not really studying medicine but you're doing all the sciences. I remember I, I kinda got through all the coursework and I was looking around this organic chemistry class and people really cared and I thought this is so. This is so boring for me. I don't really care about this. I care about in theory because it's a step to something else that I might care about. And I realized you're lost if you’re at any step in your life where you're not as passionate as the people around you. So I had to figure out what that was and it, it took a while to keep enough doors open that I started to fall in love with consumer experiences. The last, a year and a half has been busy. October of 2016, the cubs won the world series. I became, I converted to Judaism in February the following year. Got Married in May of last year. And then Walmart acquired Bonobos in July. So I told my wife, I was like, I know we just got started, but I think I can die now. There's nothing left to do!

CROWSON: Next time on the show…Have you ever thought to yourself: “I don’t have time for fun”? We’re talking with someone who is hoping to change your mind.

FERNANDEZ: if you wanted to let's say go camping this weekend, we would deliver you the chairs, the cooler, the tent, the lights, everything you need to have a great camping experience and then pick it all up when you're done.

That’s Joe Fernandez, founder of a company called Joymode – next time, on Outside the Box.

Also, if you like what you hear, head over to Apple Podcasts and leave us a rating or a review - it helps other people find the show! Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 EPISODE 2
The Connective Tissue (with Brent Messenger of Fiverr)
Technology is changing our relationship to time, but is it saving us time? Brent Messenger is the Global Head of Community at Fiverr, an online marketplace where you can buy someone’s time through a service or a gig -- from building a website, to designing a logo, to giving psychic readings. We hear how Fivver is helping its users make the best decisions about two things everyone wants more of: time and money.
CHARLES CROWSON: Real quick-- how much technology do you have on you right now?

BRENT MESSENGER: Two laptops one iPad 1 iPhone.

CROWSON: That’s Brent Messenger.

MESSENGER: And I find myself carrying all of them sometimes which is the stupidest thing ever.

CROWSON: I walked into a meeting of the day I had two phones and iPad and my laptop that you do kind of feel silly because each one you need a bag to walk into a meeting.

MESSENGER: It's a problem. You might have a problem.

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, a podcast from Walmart. And….yeah! I might have a problem. It might be a problem you have too. We love our devices and being connected. Things that maybe feel like they’re saving us time, or money. But -- are they really? This season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how much your time is REALLY worth.

MESSENGER: Well first of all I'm a I'm a father with two small children. So I value my time so I can spend more time with them.

CROWSON: Today, Brent is helping us explore our relationship to time -- and how technology changes that. It's something we here at Walmart have been focusing on for years. Brent is Global Head of Community at Fiverr, It’s an online marketplace where you can buy a service or a gig -- like building a website.

MESSENGER: I'm also someone who likes to dabble in music so I play some music with a band sometimes and I have a fun time with that. And I've recently actually bought a gig on Fiverr to help me get a piece of music posted on a website that I didn't quite know how to do. So that was kind of fun and doing that allowed me to have you know freed my time up to do other things. It was something I wanted to do but it wasn't something I wanted to spend a lot of time on and I know I sound like a commercial saying that but the truth is, I value my time too much to spend it on that. I've got too many things to do before I leave. So I bought the service.

CROWSON: What instruments do you play? [laughter] You knew that was coming.

MESSENGER: I'm a guitar player-- I'm a guitar player first. I'm a, I'm a pretty rough bass player second. I like to bang on the drums sometimes, third and then I'm a pretty bad singer. But I did did sing lead vocals in a rock band at one point but not well.

CROWSON: What was the name of the band?

MESSENGER: Oh I can't believe we're doing this now.

CROWSON: Oh yeah we are.

MESSENGER: The band was called Every Move A Picture. We didn't do much to sort of promote ourselves but a radio deejay in Los Angeles got a hold of this CD and he thought it sounded pretty good and he put it on the air. And I started getting inquiries from record labels in Los Angeles. So pretty quickly I had a ramp up a business around this and it's absolutely true. People laugh. They don't think of musicians or rock stars as being business people. You've got to hire a lawyer you've got to hire a business manager you've got to figure out accounting. There's about to be money coming in. You know, I had to set up a corporation. We had to get credit cards. It ran the whole gambit. I managed every bit of that and actually to be honest with you I'm think I'm more proud of the way we ran the business than I am of actually how it all turned out but we ended up with a record deal and tours and the whole bit. And it was a lot of fun. Lasted about 18 months. We failed spectacularly but it was great.

CROWSON: Every Move a Picture, available on iTunes

MESSENGER: That's right. And me and that you can tell already the name of the band is such a mouthful that that probably wasn't a master stroke for marketing.

CROWSON: That’s great. Fascinating. So what is what is Fiverr?

MESSENGER: So Fiverr's an eight year old company. It's it's a marketplace for freelance and digital services. The biggest in the world. There's a transaction on the marketplace. You know every three point five seconds. Every day there are seventy five hundred new gigs added to our marketplace. So it's a massive global marketplace of buyers and sellers for digital freelance services. It's eight years old, founded by a guy named Mika Kauffman. And really, you know, his goal was to create as frictionless a transaction as possible between people who had a service they were trying to sell and someone who wanted to buy it. And it's really just that simple.

CROWSON: We all know the hours they put in through the course of a week we all know the time and and the sweat equity, I guess be the cliche to use there. This is a great way for them to save time and money on that front end as they're still building building their concept, isn't it?

MESSENGER: You know it's kind of amazing, Mika's idea in all this was to create a service a service, as a product, right. To take this model of freelancing that people have where, there's a freelancer, who you know who is on one side of a transaction and a buyer and the buyer gets a proposal and they talk back and forth about their proposal and then they eventually engage. Mika's wanted freelancers to be able to say, 'I will do something for you for X fee and for someone to say I would like that.' And so that's what that's what he built with Fiverr. That's how a transaction works on our marketplace to this day. And it's super easy. You know it allows a buyer, a small business person to say yes I do need someone to help manage my social media accounts. Yes, I do need someone to build a landing page for me. I need someone to do a voiceover for a video that I just shot. So we like to think that we're democratizing access to these services for small businesses.

CROWSON: So you serve as the global head of community for Fiverr. What exactly does that entail?

MESSENGER: Well it really means being, without without being being too dramatic about it, it really means having a finger on the pulse of the community, a sort. Fiverr Sees the community as sort of the beating heart of the company. So my job is to know what's going on out there, to know what our community want, what they need, to really understand who they are. You know what we've learned is that our community is not just sellers and not just buyers but it's entrepreneurs who all have similar struggles, and as you point out, time constraints. You know they're all trying to get ahead. And so my job is to know what they want and how we can make them more successful. That means thinking about everything from you know their experience on Fiverr, all the way to training that we can offer them to get better at the things that they're doing. Helping them access health care, helping them access tax tips, or anything else that might help an entrepreneur succeed. So the job, my job is pretty broad in that regard.

CROWSON: Did you ever imagine this is what you would be doing?

MESSENGER: [laughter] No. It's funny. I--all the time--And sometimes I think about how a community organizer finds them way finds their way to a company like Fiverr. It's sort of that the tip of the spear in this revolution or an independent work. And it makes a lot of sense. Intuitively I can see how my skill set matches in building a community here is incredibly valuable and it all makes sense. But if you'd have asked me 10 or 15 years ago if I saw that, I just I don't think I would have seen it. I guess I wasn't wasn't aware enough of the macro changes that were heading us in this direction.

CROWSON: You've been working as a community organizer and organizing communities for at least a decade. What was your first experience in that arena as you can best remember and how it sort of inspired you to move forward in your career?

MESSENGER: Well, without giving up how old I am, I'll tell you my first experience in community organizing was right out of college. I joined a political campaign that as it turned out was a pretty ambitious state legislature candidate in California who had this crazy idea of knocking every door in his entire district and he wanted to speak with every voter in person, if possible. So my job on that campaign was to rally up enough volunteers to let us go out and talk to every voter door to door and him personally if possible. So it was a pretty big task. And that's kind of when I got the bug. I did a couple of other things in between. Got involved in some some other campaigns and some other companies and kind of flopped back and forth between politics and community, community organizing work and tech and then found myself working for the Obama campaign in 2007 as a sort of an early member of that team. And then from there you know did 2007 2008 2012 and then I've just been continuing ever since then to work in the field of community organizing

CROWSON: Why politics?

MESSENGER: Why politics? You know I'll tell you there are probably a lot deeper answers than this but I met a candidate on campus as a college student and I really liked and I thought he had a good message and it seemed like interesting work. And when I got into working in politics I really loved interacting with people and I really loved the energy that I got from it. And I think you know, it's not just politics; it's advocacy and it's now community organizing at Fiverr but through the through thread there is that I just really enjoy interacting with people and talking about what motivates them, what inspires them.

CROWSON: You worked on President Obama's campaign and it was a groundbreaking campaign using using social media and various technologies at that time. It's amazing if you think ten years ago so many of these technologies we now take for granted and hold in our hand everyday, were just starting. They were used expertly in that campaign. What did you learn there on the trail that you would be able to harness and use later?

MESSENGER: The first place I was on the Obama campaign was actually in California, where I'm from. And the challenge there was we up against a pretty well-financed, well-established opponent in Hillary Clinton in the primary and the mandate was, how can we use all this enthusiasm and energy that that Barack Obama had been stirring up to overtake her when she can outspend us by about as much money as she wants to spend. And what we learned pretty quickly was when we have a lot of people that are engaged and they're very excited about this candidate. We can't talk to all of them at one time. We don't have enough community organizers to spread out. So we need to target, find the most engaged people the ones who we think we can turn into organizers. These are volunteers. Train them up and put them put them in action. And the fastest way for us to do that was through technology. So at the time, we actually cobbled together a suite of tools commercially available products including Google Docs and Google Sheets to create a de facto sort of organizing platform to put all these people in action. And at the end of that primary season in California we had over 100000 volunteers engaged. On the day of the election, we actually-- people don't remember this because they think that Barack Obama lost that primary, which he did-- but on the day the election we turned out more people than his opponent, which was eye popping and you know, for the people in Chicago who were running the campaign they were absolutely stunned that we were able to turn out more people than she was. You know, she spent about 20 million dollars on that race and we spent about 200,000 in California.

CROWSON: That's astounding.

MESSENGER: It was pretty spectacular.

CROWSON: Yes, when you put the hard numbers against 20 million versus 200000, is it is unbelievable. But to me it speaks to the changing face of the narrative and the changing changing face of message delivery and that's something that was done so well back then. What part of that did you take and craft to your own way to bring it into the private sector or into what is now Fiverr?

MESSENGER: Specifically, since you asked, is the organizing model. There's a model we use, I won't go to in the weeds on it but it's called the snowflake model and it's a teams-based way of engaging people and empowering them to take action and ownership over a specific geographic area. So at Fiverr we have 100 community teams around the world. These are people who who do this on their own volition because they really enjoy it and they want to help the community around them succeed and they put on events they put on trainings they put on social activities they do all kinds of stuff together and that's specifically built out of the model that we know that we harnessed on the Obama campaign in 2008.

CROWSON: For basically someone who works 25 hours in a 24 hour day I'm sure you have a lot of a lot of tech around you at all times multiple phones multiple tablets and the like don't you? So are the words "digital detox" dirty words to you? Or have you ever tried it?

MESSENGER: They're not dirty words. First of all, I have a friend who works in an organization who does digital detox. They work on this once a year. Getting people to shut down and unplug and do all that and I always tease her and laugh and give her a hard time about it if she asks me to make a pledge which I never make. But my family goes on a vacation every year here in California to a part and this is probably going to be hard to imagine for anyone listening that's not familiar with California. There is a part of California where you get no coverage. It's near Yosemite Valley, a beautiful spot in the middle of the woods and there's no there's nothing. There's no internet. There's no cell coverage. Nothing. You have to go ten miles out to just get a phone call. We go there once a summer for a week and it's fantastic. The first day, I twitch and I rock back and forth and scratch my arms like I'm detoxing literally and then by about the third day, I just feel absolutely fantastic and I realize that everything I control you know I've already put in motion and I've got good people around me and trusted colleagues and everyone's taking care of business and I'm not worried about it. But it takes about three days to feel comfortable.

CROWSON: That's amazing. What does it say about time. I mean think about if you have two laptops, a tablet and a phone. So if you're checking your phone many times in an hour?

MESSENGER: I think it would work less when I'm in the office. I think you know I've got many of the same things on my screen in front of me. So my Slack messaging and my e-mail and all of that obviously better browser and a lot of the business tools that I need are in front of me. Less when I'm in the office but when I'm at the office, how much do I check it? I really wish someone could study me and tell me because it feels like you know, casually jeez I must be checking it every 15 20 minutes maybe, it's got to be every three minutes. I mean I just I feel like the thing is glued to my hand. And if someone you know opened an alien was observing me as the first human had ever seen, they'd think that I was you know that that was somehow controlling my body or something. I mean it's in my hand constantly.

MESSENGER: Yeah. This feels like a therapy session.

CROWSON: It kind of does! Because I'm applying this, I mean it's almost like we're we're helping, we're accountability partners.

MESSENGER: There you go.

CROWSON: Because the iPhone has been around 11 years? That right?

MESSENGER: I think that's right, yeah.

CROWSON: And I mean now it's like it's like it's like if you know an appendage.

MESSENGER: It is the saving us time? That's the question. Is it saving this time?


MESSENGER: I mean I think there's a I think we probably all think there's probably a sweet spot in there, right. It certainly helps the efficiency. You can tackle e-mails and you can tackle messages on the fly and you could you can you could sort of parse those out quickly. But is it is it saving time ultimately? And I think I think you said no and I feel the same way.

CROWSON: I do. I mean granted, it makes, the thing I love about it and I watch my child do this a lot is the accessibility with which information can be gathered that quickly. I mean in the snap of a finger you can go to Google, find what you want and educate yourself and then in turn have the facts. Now 12, 13 years ago that wasn't the case at all. But if I work remotely, I'm working off my phone the entire time and I'm staring at it the entire time. You're not enjoying your time away from the office.

MESSENGER: Yeah you know I have a friend who, he's he's written a book. He's pretty successful business person and he talks a lot about efficiency. He and I think Oprah also does this as well. He says you know you teach people how you want to be communicated with. And they don't mean necessarily the tone and the demeanor and the people around you that means that the time. And when he says is he says I never answer an e-mail after 5:00 and I never answer an e-mail on the weekend. And I said, that's insane. I don't know how you function and if I were your boss, I would fire you. You know and this is a person I love. Obviously meant with love and a joke but but truthfully I don't know how he does. What he says he does is he trains people you know that just you know he's not available at that time. He's incredibly efficient about responding when he is available but he's just not going to do it in those hours. Even if he can because he doesn't want people to think that he's going to always do that. Tying that back to Fiverr really quickly I think it's an interesting it's an interesting tension because our freelancers, they want to be responsive. They want to be engaged and they need to decide you know what their time is worth too and how they want to, how often they want to be able to be reached what that's going to mean to them

CROWSON: What it means to them.

MESSENGER: It's a challenge we all face whether we're freelancing or working in a large corporation or whatever.

CROWSON: So we're not going to let you off the hook yet before we wrap it up. I do want to go back to the book, the title and the and the writer because I need it. So as we get your therapy session here, I need the book.

MESSENGER: I can't believe this is going to turn into a plug for for my good friend Justin Kerr, K-E-R-R. He has written a book called, he's written two books actually, one's called "How to Write an Email" and the second is called "How To Be A Boss." But I feel like the first book, "How to Write an Email" is such good content that I've actually done a live Facebook session with him on Fiverr's social channels, on Facebook so we could talk about the learnings from "How to Write an E-mail" because I think it just learning how to communicate clearly, in a written form, is really important for people starting out and it's a lost art for a lot of people at various stages in their career and frankly for me it's something I needed to go back and look at. When I want to send a message to someone, am I getting the most from it? It's a very entrepreneurial way of looking at communication. How can I do this faster? How can I do this cleaner? Justin calls himself an efficiency monster. And if you read these books you'll see why.

CROWSON: So if you had more time in a day what's out there that you wish you had more time for. I'm going to magically give you three extra hours a day. Now 27 hours. What are you going to do with that time?

MESSENGER: I'll bet you I mean you the probably the most boring answer but probably put this is probably gonna be in the top 5 of all answers everyone would give you. I would like to spend more time exercising, sort of taking care of my taking care of myself. I feel like that really is the thing. You know if you're a hustler, you're a doer, you're someone who's out working hard on a business or you're working hard in a job. You may be great at taking care of all those things and if you're a family person or a mom or a dad or an aunt or uncle or caregiver or whatever you watch out for those kids you know you're watching out for other people, maybe you're taking care of a sick relative. These are things that don't budge. You know if if you're taking those on you take care of them. So you've got your job and you've got those things. What do you give up? You give up your health. You give up taking care of yourself. So if I had three hours back. Three would be a lot. And you know I would take 45 minutes to an hour just to get to the gym everyday or at least take a walk.

CROWSON: In the current in the current dynamic what is what is Brent Messenger's ideal day?

MESSENGER: My ideal day I think is getting up getting off to an early start. Right now I bang out a lot of morning meetings because I have a team that's distributed all over the country and co-workers and peers that I work with all over the globe. So it's there's a lot of early meetings in the morning. I love that I think it's great. I like to start my day with meetings where I need to be present and active. It really helps my mind. I think maybe if I could tweak it slightly some exercise in the morning would be great. But I've no complaints because I really like that early time getting work done and then it would be you know sort of heads down work during the middle of the day, the writing all the things that you've got to do when you need to be a little bit quiet and then then later in the afternoon I think I'd really like the ability to get out and get a little exercise and then be home in time to spend time with my family in the evening. Pretty boring stuff but I like structure and I do really like tackling the stuff that that I really need to be present for in the morning. It just seems for me the way my mind works that's just a better way for me to work.

CROWSON: For someone who is older than 35, let's let's let's go north of that, someone who's 40 or older, with that evolving workforce, two years, five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road, that gets a 40 year- old to retirement. Right? OK? What does that work force look look like and what do they need to do to adapt to be serviceable in it for the next 15 years?

MESSENGER: Now I think about that a lot actually because you know I'm getting on in my career as well. And I've and I've I've often thought, am I going to find myself in a position where I'm going to be an independent worker? And it's scary for me, right? And so I think I mean the answer to your question is I think if I told you I knew what was going to happen I'd be being dishonest. I think we don't know what's going to happen. But I think what we need to realize is there are all different kinds of people in here. When we're talking about the independent workforce, we're talking about people who are highly skilled and trained in a field you know they could be lawyers or tax accountants offering consultations at the highest level or they could be people who are driving a Uber. So it's a huge bucket of people and I think that actually we do the whole entire shift, economic shift, a disservice when we talk about it too generically.

CROWSON: Let's wrap it up on a fun question for you. You have had you have had a tremendous career, professionally, politically, personally, I'm sure. But just hearing you explain as you moved from community organization into the campaign in '08 to where you are now, what has been the most surprising and or exciting thing you have seen along that ride?

MESSENGER: For me the most surprising thing I've seen in my career is how organizations, companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Fiverr, really to name some of the biggest ones, have embraced community organizing, traditional grassroots community organizing as something that could benefit a company. And we recognize, as organizations, well speaking specifically on behalf of Fiverr, that doing that is good for business. Here's what's happened--people have said, 'I'm going to jump into entrepreneurialism. I'm going to jump into being a freelancer.' And when they do that, they get all these benefits that everyone knows. I get to set my own meeting times I get to be my own boss. I can take meetings in my underwear if I want. What they lose is other people. They lose the ability to turn around and vent about something that's problematic for them. They lose the ability to ask someone a question. They lose the ability to go out to happy hour and have work friends. So forward thinking companies, Fiverr being one of them, has looked at that and said that's not a good way to be. And we have a community here we can offer these people something that makes their experience in life better.

CROWSON: You seemed to have a positive outlook on this with everything you're doing. Is this as much fun as you make it sound? And if so what are you going? What keeps the hustle going?

MESSENGER: It is incredibly fun. It really is. Building something that's that's new and hasn't been done before is always really fun. Applying these things I know really well from politics and seeing them work in a business environment is really fun. Engaging with people and what I mean by that, this such a sterile term, engaging with people, meeting these people, these entrepreneurs and freelancers that are out in our community is it's uh, it's life giving. You know, we just had a big, we did a series of events last week across Los Angeles and a coworker of mine who'd never been to these kinds of community events before went along on that trip and just this morning in the office she said to me, I think everyone at the company should have to do that. If I ever feel like I'm getting stale in my role and I don't know what to do, I feel like I could just tap into this community and be filled back up. And it's exactly that. It is so inspiring and it can easily sound like a cliche but when you get out among these people who are doing things, making brand new companies, making you know taking ideas you know from their head and turning them into something real and you hear them talk about how it makes them feel, the impact it has on their lives or their families, it's incredible. It's incredible. It's really if it feels really good. Actually, to be honest with you, coming from partisan politics, it's refreshing because these are all people from all walks of life and there's no battle. They want to help each other. So it's really it is fun and it's refreshing and it's invigorating.

CROWSON: Brent I appreciate the time

MESSENGER: Well I feel better.

CROWSON: I do too!

I really did feel better! And I hope you do too. And if you like what you hear, head on over to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating and a review, it helps others find the show.

Next time on Outside the Box -- A classic story of risk-taking, blind faith and ... men’s pants.

I had a job offer. I had a $150,000 in debt. The smart thing to do was to take the job, but I thought that these pants that my buddy had made were great and I thought the chance to create something was exciting and we just follow that energy.

Andy Dunn, C-E-O of Bonobos, next time on Outside the Box.
Season 2 EPISODE 1
Waking Up on the Right Side of the Desk (with Adam Grant)
We spend a quarter of our lives at work. So, don't you want to know how to make all that time worth your time? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has been inside hundreds of workplaces, and has made a whole career out of carefully observing how people spend their time. In this launch episode, we hear about how Adam values his own work time -- and how he recommends we use our time wisely.
CHARLES CROWSON: What’s more valuable to you? Time? Or money?

VOX: What do I value more? / I definitely value time more than money. / Time, probably / Money you can recover but time you can’t. / Money just goes. / Definitely time. / Yeah!

CROWSON: I’m Charles Crowson, and this is Outside the Box, the podcast from Walmart.This season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how much your time is REALLY worth.

VOX: I’m not sure if you can put a price on time. / I think some would say time is money / Can I put a price on time? / No it’s one of those most valuable things that is intangible. / No, I don’t think I can [laughs].

CROWSON: Throughout this new season speaking with a number of people about their work, and how they manage their time. And we’re going to start with someone who has been inside hundreds of workplaces.

ADAM GRANT: We all have limited time and I want everyone to be able to use their time in a way that they feel is meaningful.

CROWSON: That’s Adam Grant. He’s an “organizational psychologist,” which means he’s made a whole career out of carefully observing how people spend their time. He LOVES work.

GRANT: part of what I do is I study how we can improve our effectiveness, our motivation, and our happiness at work, but a lot of the things that we find are relevant to every part of our lives.

CROWSON: Adam is the host of a podcast called WorkLife. He teaches at the Wharton School of Business. He’s written several best-selling books about work. And he’s given several TED Talks about….you guessed it: work.

GRANT: The basic problem in my life is that I'm a kid in a candy store and the candy store has ballooned to be the size of New York City. And so I have you know kind of the weekly experience of trying to eat it all and then I get really sick and then I back off and then we rinse and repeat.

CROWSON: But all this work means that even Adam sometimes has to figure out how balance his life.

GRANT: I feel like the biggest failure of modern biology is that I can't just hire someone to sleep for me. Where I get an extra 8 hours in the day and you know my brain gets their sleep credit. You know in the absence of that I feel like I fill my day with way more things than I have time to do. And then you know I end up trying to figure out how to be more efficient and more effective at as many of them as possible.

CROWSON: When did you become so fixated and so focused e on the human condition and people being able to better use their time and for the most part, improve their quality of life and quality of work life.

GRANT: I think it started when I was in college. I was fascinated by trying to understand how the world worked and I thought about both psychology and physics and I discovered pretty quickly in my first college physics class that we knew a lot more there than we did about psychology. And I also felt like it would be easier to bridge from sort of the ivory tower to Main Street. The lightbulb went off for me when I took an organizational psychology class at the same time that I was working as a manager. I was just so interested in what I could have done more effectively in that job and all the things that we could learn about work and I guess I was really struck that most of us you know spend the majority of our waking hours at work. And yet we don't find our jobs that meaningful and motivating. And that felt like a travesty to me. And I wanted to fix it.

CROWSON: What were you like as a kid? Were you always this curious? Were you always this driven or was it something that sort of ramped up as you aged?

A: Yeah you know I guess don't take it from me, I've tried to actually get a sense of this by asking people who knew me when I was a kid. My mom always tells me that I would be out of my room every morning even on weekends at 5am. When I was 3, 4, and 5 years old. And I remember my friends making fun of me when I was 7 and they called me Mr. Facts. If there's any sign you're gonna become a professor that's it right there. But the context was we were trading baseball cards and one of them would say something like Mark Maguire is definitely worth more than that. And I would say no. In 1984 he only batted 232, so that's not right. And I had I guess I had memorized all these batting averages. Which my friends thought was weird. But I guess the early exposure to statistics has paid off in my job. You know and then I applied a lot of this through sports. I think it was 1991 sending in a little prediction at the start of the baseball season to Sports Illustrated for Kids. They asked us to guess which 2 teams would play in the world series. And who would win. And I guess I was one of 3 kids in the country who ended up predicting it.

CROWSON: Was 91 the Twins and Braves?

GRANT: Yeah it was the Twins and the Braves and somehow I predicted the Twins over the Braves.

CROWSON: Kirby Pucket. Steve Avery, John Smaltz, Tom Glavin, Maddox came around in 93, 94 right before the strike. And I'm not even a Braves fan.

GRANT: Wow nicely done.

GRANT: Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who still has these occasional bits and pieces of it. As I got into high school I was a diver and I just spent hours and hours every week watching video tapes in slow motion, breaking thing down and trying to improve. And I also got into magic tricks. And spent most of my weekends for a good chunk of middle school just reading magic books, watching magic shows, and teaching myself tricks. And so I guess a lot of those early interests, some of those same habits have spilled over into my work if that makes any sense.

CROWSON: As a magician, how would you describe yourself?

GRANT: I got into magic largely because I was babysitting and I was trying to entertain the kids down the street. Who had taken an interest in it. And I discovered really quickly that it was incredibly fun to surprise and delight people. I was drawn to the creativity of trying to figure out if I could solve a trick or create my own trick. Just trying to do everything i could to set up that reveal and that's also something that I've tried to bring into my work as much as possible.

CROWSON: To that, what is an organizational psychologist.

GRANT: So basically my job is to try to fix other people's jobs. So I study psychology at work. I try to figure out how to make work suck less. And you know that sometimes means trying to redesign a job to make it more interesting and meaningful. It could be working with a team to try an improve collaboration and creativity. It could be trying to shift and organization's culture. And you know those are the kinds of things I spend my days doing. Which is a blast and endlessly interesting.

CROWSON: One of the things you do emphasize and do a tremendous job of and I've seen this in some of your TED talks. Helping other people, getting people in the right spots so they can maximize their potential. With that, I mean you have to have seen so many different dynamics in the workplace from everyone you've worked with. What fascinates you the most when you get in there?

GRANT: Oh it really depends on the workplace and the people that I'm getting to work with. Most often what's fascinating to me is when a workplace just completely fails to confirm my expectations or my assumptions. So as an example, for Work/Life we went into The Daily Show writers room with Trevor Noah. And I'm expecting that they're just gonna, they're gonna have this completely chaotic environment. And it's totally structured and everything is scheduled and everyone has a plan. And you know that immediately catches my eye and I walk out of there thinking okay there's something different about how you do rapid creativity than I thought. And then Trevor walks in the room and I'm figuring that the dynamic is going to totally change because now the alpha dog is here and we gotta be a little bit more careful about what we let fly in front of our boss. But no, it's the exact same dynamic as before. And so he's done something to make that really psychologically safe and I want to understand that too. And so you know those moments of surprise. I guess you know just like in my magic days, immediately make me curious and they make me want to try to figure out what's really going on.

CROWSON: I've watched some of your TED talks. You have a natural ability to control a stage, control a crowd, and control a room. How difficult was it for you to arrive at that point. Because I'm not gonna lie, you're very good with a great command.

GRANT: Well thank you, I'm not sure it's natural. If what you say is true, I think it's something that maybe it's become a little bit more second nature than it used to be. I remember when I first started teaching. I gave a guest lecture and I gave out feedback forms afterward and one of the forms said you're so nervous that you're causing us to physically shake in our seats.


GRANT: Yeah and another one said that I reminded them of a muppet.

CROWSON: [Laughs]. You've written a number of books here and it sort of speaks to the condition at work, but a lot of people can apply these ideas in their personal lives, can't they.

GRANT: I hope so. I guess as an organizational psychologist, part of what I do is I study how we can improve our effectiveness, our motivation, and our happiness at work, but a lot of the things that we find are relevant to every part of our lives.

CROWSON: Right, when I was watching your TED talk on give and take, when you were describing this, I sent it to my teammates in our pod and said I don't send these things to you guys, but you should watch this, because we all work in such tight quarters it touches on so many nerves and the dynamic of how we all interact.

GRANT: Well you're not supposed to try this at home right. That's sort of the warning label that should be applied to a lot. No I think in all seriousness, to me this dynamic is fascinating because it really does apply to every part of our life. So when I think about the question of are you a giver where you say to most people what can I do for you. A taker, what can you do for me. Or a matcher. I'll do something for you if you do something for me. We all have a preferred style at work which is how we treat most of the people most of the time. And you might have a slightly different style in other parts of your life so we meet lots of people for example who are givers at home with their family and friends but then they want to be a little more self protective at work and they shift into matcher mode. But these are also values, right. These are core principles that we carry around in life. And so there are a lot of people who try to be consistent across domains and that means just as we might say alright you've really gotta protect yourself against takers in your job, you also need to be careful to make sure that you don't marry a taker. Or you don't let a huge taker into your life as a friend right.


GRANT: And too many people end up in that position where they only realize after the fact.

CROWSON: Long after the damage is done.

GRANT: Yeah. It's often your spouse who will say why are you helping that person. They constantly screw you over. And you only hear from them when they want something.

CROWSON: Exactly. What is the biggest misconception we have about time and managing it properly?

GRANT: Ooh I think there are a lot of them. I think probably the biggest one for me especially when I think about productivity is that you need a large block of time to do something that's creative or to solve a hard problem. I hear this all the time so let's talk about writing as an example. So most of the authors I know, they have this mindset where they say alright if I'm gonna sit down and write an article or a big chunk of a book I need at least 4-6 hours of uninterrupted time so that I can get into flow and dive into deep work. And focus. And really make progress here. And yet there's this psychologist Bob Boyce, who trained doctoral students to write in 15 minute blocks a day and he found after doing that they made much better progress on their dissertations. And I found this to be immensely useful. So I might be sitting down to write a hundred thousand word book, but there's no reason why I can't at least churn out a few sentences in 15 minutes. And what's great about that is if you write or work in a 15 minute interval, you're not gonna finish it and so you're gonna be left with an incomplete thought or sentence. And that means when you come back to it, you actually have a place to get right back in as opposed to saying ugh I've gotta reboot my thought process and really start this difficult task. You can sort of pick up where you left off. Hemingway wrote about this. That he deliberately left sentences unfinished so that he could just sort of get right back in to the rhythm of writing. And I think that most of us if we want to use our time more effectively should say you know what let me get in the habit of doing meaningful work, at least a bite sized piece of it in a 10 or 15 minute interval.

CROWSON: You just mentioned deep work. Drill down into that if you don't mind. What is it and how can we all execute it a bit better.

GRANT: So when I think about deep work I think about Csikszentmihalyi's research on flow and psychology. So flow is that state of total absorption where you're immersed in a task that you lose track of time, of place, even a sense of self. And I remember when I was, I think I was 18, my sister convinced me to read the first Harry Potter book. And I enjoyed it so much that I read the next 2 and I read all 3 that weekend and I remember finishing the 3rd book and just being struck that Hogwarts wasn't real. And I'd forgotten right. I was so into that world that I kinda suspended disbelief and my imagination took over. That is a flow state. And a lot of us experience flow when you're driving from one place to another and you don't quite even remember how you got there. You were just you were in the task. You weren't even necessarily having to think totally consciously about it. Those are moments of flow and I think to get into flow we need to be free of distractions. We know that from a lot of research. We need to be in a situation where we feel like we can concentrate. And it really helps to be clear about our goals so that we know what direction we're driving in.

CROWSON: Applying that within the workplace and structuring your workday properly, what's the best way to do so.

GRANT: Alright so my colleague Nancy Rothbard shows that one of the things that you want to do is you want to wake up on the right side of the desk. So if your first task is one that you find really intrinsically motivating and it's enjoyable, that can create energy to spill over and help to motivate you for the rest of the day. But you have to be a little bit careful about how you structure that. Because a former student, Jihe Shin and I gathered some data where we found that if you work on a highly interesting task and then you follow it with a task that's boring, your performance on that next task is gonna suffer because by contrast it sounds like it's gonna be an awful experience and you really can't get into the zone while you're doing that boring task. Because it's just been framed as even more unpleasant by that fascinating project you just finished. And so you could think about it a little bit in terms of tapering. Like a swimmer or a runner would before a big race. And what you want to do is you want to do a highly interesting task first. And then a moderately interesting task. And then a boring task. And if you do that kind of taper, you're much more likely to perform well on the boring task. And then after the boring task I like to follow that up again with the most interesting one and start the cycle again because it gives you something to look forward to once you finish the dull task. So I'd go interesting, moderately interesting, boring, repeat.

CROWSON: What about wasting time. We're all guilty of it. And what are some of the ways we do it sometimes in our jobs we might not even realize we are doing it.

GRANT: Well I don't think that time wasting is an inherently bad thing. I think if you look at the great innovators throughout history, they all wasted time. So I've had over a dozen of Steve Jobs' close collaborators tell me that he procrastinated regularly. Da Vinci was a serious procrastinator and I think it's very hard to predict the moments where it seems like you're wasting time will be fruitful. And I think that often times the diversions you take can actually lead you to new insights, they can help you incubate ideas, and in some cases they make it easier to hit the reset button on your brain.

CROWSON: But you say procrastinators aren't so bad.

GRANT: I think the problem is, of course there are times when procrastination, especially if you're a chronic procrastinator, it can be a huge vice. But it comes along with this extra price. Which is not only do we procrastinate and sort of get behind and fail to make progress on our work and not use our time wisely, but then we also have all these negative emotions that go along with it. So I feel like I'm lazy and I'm not motivated and I'm disappointed in myself and I'm frustrated and I feel all this guilt and then panic and dread and those emotions swirling around actually make the effect of procrastination worse as opposed to better.

CROWSON: When it comes to time management and trying to find that balance between the precrastinator and the procrastinator which we just described, what are some of the best ways to find that center.How can we best take time management advice and work toward normalizing.

GRANT: Well I think it's always hard to predict but there are things you can learn from observing your own behavior. So one thing I find really useful which I would encourage anyone to try who hasn't yet is to just go back and review your calendar over the last month. And look at the days when you were most productive. And try to figure out what are the patterns. What did those days have in common. Is there a certain routine. Did you start working at 8:30 instead of 9. Or did you go to bed earlier the night before. Or are you more productive on days where you work out. There are all these tiny patterns that we have access to in time use and efficiency.
And I don't think we study them carefully enough because once you pick up some of those patterns, you can go and test them. You can run mini experiments and I think we ought to do one of these every week just to keep our own work lives fresh. To me that's the starting point to figure out how to use time effectively. To actually see how you're already using it effectively and then do what works for you more often.

CROWSON: What are your top 3 practical tips not just grandiose tips, practical tips we can apply to better manage our time.

GRANT: Alright number 1 if you want to get better at time management, stop thinking about time management and start thinking about attention management. Most of the time that you waste is when you're multitasking or when you're not fully focused or you’re not totally prepared for the task that you're about to dive into. And so if you pay attention to where your attention goes, you're in a much better position to figure out okay given that I only have a fixed number of hours in the day I can probably be more thoughtful about how I set up a task so that I'm really ready to engage in it. Or how I make sure that other tasks don't distract me when I'm working on 1. So my second piece of advice is to be thoughtful about saying yes. And I think that breaks down into the choices that you make about who you help, how you help, and when you help. So when you make choices about who to help, if you meet a taker, if somebody has a history or reputation of selfish behavior, you actually don't want to be as generous with that person because it's more likely they'll take advantage of you and you also just don't want to reward that behavior. On how you help you want to think about aligning your yeses with what energizes you and where you have a unique contribution to make. So that the time you spend supporting other people is both enjoyable and you're adding real expertise. As opposed to just being redundant with what someone else could do. And then on the when you just have to block out time to make sure that you get your own work done. And then you have windows available to other people. If it's not an emergency so that you can say alright I know that Thursday is kind of my helping day every week and I'll field more requests from other people on that day knowing that I had time carved out Monday Tuesday Wednesday to push my own work forward. The last piece of advice practically would be you need to block out time in your calendar that is actually not scheduled. So your schedule needs some unscheduled time. One of the things I've done for years is I have blocked out a minimum of 1 day every week that's completely untouchable. Where unless it's an emergency it cannot get interrupted by anything. And sometimes I'll use that to work on something creative. Other times I'll use that as a catchup day when I've gotten behind. But without having that time available where I know I have total control over it and nothing's gonna interfere with it, there's no way for me to stay on top of everything that I'm trying to do.

CROWSON: Last question for you here and this one is, it might be harder to answer than I think right now. Why do you care about all of this?

GRANT: Oh! I oughta be able to answer that question right. I mean look I care about this because we all have limited time and I want everyone to be able to use their time in a way that they feel is meaningful, is worthwhile, is enjoyable. I guess if you think about all the ways that the quality of human life has improved over the past few centuries, most of those could be attributed to work. It's people doing work, having jobs that kind of led into the industrial revolution that has brought us advances in science and technology and medicine. Most of those advances are not people volunteering. Those are people doing jobs. And so I just, I feel just a sense of responsibility to try to make work better.

CROWSON: I really appreciate your time today.

GRANT: My pleasure, I hope there's something useful in here.

CROWSON: There's tons useful Adam. I would honest to god, I would love to just sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. Because I'm just fascinated by your perspective on things and of course we could sit around and throw around baseball stats.

GRANT: Well I appreciate the enthusiasm and I will try to live up to it.

CROWSON: I hope I DO get to have that coffee with Adam Grant. Until then, we hope you enjoyed this first episode of our new season! And if you like what you hear, head on over to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating and a review, it helps others find the show.

Next time on the show…we talk with someone whose job it is to help you get back some of your time.

BRENT MESSENGER: Yes, I do need someone to build a landing page for me. I need someone to do a voiceover for a video that I just shot. So we like to think that we're democratizing access to these services for small businesses.

CROWSON: That’s Brent Messenger, Global Head of Community for Fiverr – next time, on Outside the Box. Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Next time on the show…we talk with someone whose job it is to help you get back some of your time.

BRENT MESSENGER: Yes, I do need someone to build a landing page for me. I need someone to do a voiceover for a video that I just shot. So we like to think that we're democratizing access to these services for small businesses.

CROWSON: That’s Brent Messenger, Global Head of Community for Fiverr – next time, on Outside the Box. Thanks for listening! See you next time.
Season 2 Teaser
Introducing Season 2: Time>Money
This season we’re talking about two things everyone could use more of: time and money. And we’re asking: Which is more valuable? We'll hear from people who make the most of their time -- and want you to make the most of it, too.
MICHAEL POLLACK (HEYDAY): We’re always trying to hack time. To build more
time. Lately it’s carving out time for big picture.

CHARLES: They say that time is money. But is it? Do you budget your time like you
budget your money?

MEESEN BROWN (BEHERE): There's a huge shift in the way we value things
and it's moving from wanting to have a big house and the expensive car to sort of
more experiences.

CHARLES: I’m Charles Crowson and this is Outside the Box, a podcast from Walmart.

CHARLES: This season, we’re trying to figure out how we value our time. Like, how
much your time is REALLY worth. To do that, we’re talking to people who have found
that sweet spot at the intersection of time and money -- leaders and visionaries, CEOs
and entrepreneurs.

BRENT MESSENGER (FIVERR): We want people to be able to interact with each
other and we just want to be sort of the connective tissue that makes that possible

CHARLES: We’ll hear from people who make the most of their time. And want you to
make the most of it too.

ADAM GRANT: if you want to get better at time management, stop thinking about time
management and start thinking about attention management.

JOE FERNANDEZ (JOYMODE): We talk internally a lot about a war on busy-
ness and we want to make it easy for you to connect.

MICHAEL POLLACK (HEYDAY): We learned that people are willing to spend
time on themselves if we give them the opportunity.

CHARLES: Here at Walmart, we’re spending a lot of OUR time on this, too – thinking
about time as a currency … we want to help our customers save more of it. Subscribe to
Season 2 of Outside the Box, from Walmart, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever
you get your podcasts.