Brendan: Most people live a life filled with regrets over missed opportunities, missed relationships, and missed adventure and fun. Boldness is the solution. Boldness can be learned. Anyone can rapidly increase their boldness in a remarkably short time.
This is my conversation with Fred Joyal where we unpack boldness. Fred is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Superbold: From Under-Confident to Charismatic in 90 days. He also co-founded the most successful dentist referral service in the US, 1-800-DENTIST.
Bold people are the ones who make a difference in the world. Living boldly is the difference between love and loneliness, success and failure, regret and fulfillment. And the best thing, anyone can learn it. We start the conversation by understanding the difference between being confident and being bold.
This is the The Culture of Leadership podcast. I’m Brendan Rogers. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Fred.
Fred: Two very different things, actually. Confidence is how you feel about yourself. Boldness is what you do in action. One is a feeling and one is there's a course of action. We'll get into this certainly, but most people think, in order to be bold, I have to be confident and it's actually the other way around.
Bold action is where you build your confidence. Bold people don't feel confident many times, but they act anyway. They say why not? Let's see what happens and they try something and something unexpectedly good happens, or they learn something, or they fail and they say, wow, I need to get better at this but it was kind of interesting to try anyway.
This is another theme we'll hit, is that bold people would rather try and fail than not try. Whereas most people are so afraid to fail, they don't try, which guarantees failure in an essence by not doing it at all. There's a good contrast and you all actually can build your confidence by bold action and that's really how I approach it.
I'm teaching bold actions so that people move into their discomfort zone, which is where they're not as confident, and then they get stronger and stronger so that they're bold when it matters, because that's what happens. A lot of times we feel pretty confident, we feel pretty bold until something important comes up.
We really want to meet somebody. We really need to speak up about something. We need to stand up for something. We need to quit our job, quit our marriage, or start a business. Those things where you have to step up and a lot of times that window is open for minutes or even seconds, and if you don't seize it, it's gone forever. All you get is regret.
Brendan: When did you realize that being bold leads to confidence as opposed to the other way around? The reason I ask that is because I was very much of the opinion and thinking that having confidence enables you to be bold.
Fred: I think it's because I had to teach myself to be bold because I wasn't. I was incredibly under confident and I grew up very shy, missed all sorts of opportunities, missed relationships, missed adventure, missed promotions, and missed learning and growth because of it. It made me angry.
That was kind of what prompted me to start working on it and so I said, why are these bold people like this? Are they born this way? Why don't they feel fear and rejection like I do? I just started emulating them even though I was really uncomfortable and I was really awkward and clumsy at it until I wasn't.
I got a little better. I got a little better socially. I got a little more out there and daring. What happened is I was rewarded for it over and over again in ways that I thought was going to be really scary. One, if it didn't go well, it just wasn't that bad that it didn't go well because I decided not to worry about what people think. I decided not to be embarrassed.
What a lot of people don't realize is embarrassment is a choice. You can choose to not be embarrassed about something that people will be embarrassed for you, and you go I don't know why you're embarrassed for me. I'm not embarrassed. You can choose that.
Probably in your life, you can think of times where you were embarrassed and you look back now and say I didn't have to be embarrassed. It was funny because now when I tell people about it, they laugh so it's actually a good story.
Obviously, I'm going in several directions here, but it was that exploration of boldness and realizing that I was building my confidence by being bold even when I didn't feel comfortable. I was totally in my discomfort zone and I just started to say, why not? Instead of listening to the voice in my head that would say, they're going to laugh at you. You're going to be embarrassed. You're going to fail. The tapes that we all so effectively play for ourselves whenever we want to step out of our comfort zone.
Brendan: Fred, when you started 1-800-DENTIST back in the 80s, did you do that off the back of boldness or did you do that off the back of confidence?
Fred: Let's call it naivete, more accurately. I was young, dumb enough, and naive enough to think I could pull off starting a business. What I have learned is if you learned the path you don't want to go down and my partner and I both didn't want to be employees. We didn't want to work for somebody else. We said look, we're either going to figure out how to solve this by starting a business or we're going to realize we are not capable of it and we're going to go to work for somebody like we've already done.
We had each other and complimentary skills and a lot of trust with each other. We just kept going at it every day and eventually, the other thing about growth is when you don't give yourself a way out, you have to figure things out. When you borrow money from your family and you sign personally on a lease that goes on for five years, whether the business does or not, every day you have to figure it out and go through the twists and turns, hiring the wrong people, mismanaging your money, not listening to the marketplace.
You learn all of those things along the way because you have to, and you get better at leading people because all your problems are going to come from people. All your benefits are going to come from people—from the relationships with your customers or your vendors. I have a vendor or two that basically saved my business because we had such a good relationship. That's what can happen when you enter the arena and just hope there's a sword in that scabbard when you walk into the middle of the arena and just start swinging.
Brendan: Your book is called Superbold. What's the difference between being bold and being super bold?
Fred: Being super bold means you can summon your boldness in the most important situations. You can always summon it whether you are confident or not, you are going to step up, you're going to speak up, you're going to take action, you're going to try something especially when it matters. When it's really important, you are not going to hesitate because hesitation is the opportunity killer.
When you're super bold, you never hesitate. You see that person you want to meet, a really successful business person you've always wanted to meet or somebody as a potential mate, and you walk right across the room and start talking to them. You have and behave like a normal person and have a normal conversation because you've built your boldness muscles so that your mouth works, your brain works, your creativity works, and you project what is essentially charisma.
That's all charisma really is. You are always acting like you belong wherever you are. Sometimes you don't even feel like you belong there, but you act like you belong there anyway, and people treat you that way. People are drawn to people who are comfortable wherever they are and whatever the situation.
That's what super boldness is, you're getting all the way to charismatic, not in some show off way or life of the party kind of way, but you don't stop yourself. You are never the one hesitating and talking yourself out of something. You're the one that says, I'm going in. I'm stepping up.
Brendan: Fred, you may have seen my daughter's charismatic cat has just joined us, Alfie, as well. Did you notice him?
Fred: I saw the tail pass by.
Brendan: He's definitely superbold, this one mate.
Fred: They feel they should be involved in every podcast. My cat is the same way.
Brenda: I've got sick of just locking him up and stuff and just let him, let him flow, let him be part of the atmosphere, I guess.
When did you make this transition? Because I know from your book and what you referred to, you haven't always been bold and super bold. When did this become important for you? When did you realize this is harming my future or the future I want for me?
Fred: I think it was upon reflection of this buildup of missed opportunities playing over what I could have said if I had only spoken up and who I could have met. There were just two or three times. One was a relationship that if I had just spoken up could have been an amazing relationship or could have been a lifelong mate. It had that potential, but I didn't speak up. Then years later, she said I was really interested, but he never made a move.
I've had great relationships. I've had fabulous love in my life. It wasn't that it was never going to happen again. It's that hearing that she was interested and all I had to do was speak up and I missed out on however long or however great that relationship was going to be. There was nothing because of it and it that nodded me enough to say, alright, this cannot continue.
That becomes the impetus to say, I have to fix this. I have to change this. I'm not going to define myself as an introvert or shy. There are times when I feel shy. There's times when I feel introverted, but I don't have to behave that way because those things are behaviors.
When people define themselves as shy, I said you're building a cage and you're the one who has the key to the door. You're locking yourself and nobody's building this cage for you, but they'll reinforce it if you're like yeah, I'm shy.
I don't dance. Every child dances and then all of a sudden between 10 and 14 years old, three quarters of them can't dance anymore because they've told themselves I'm not good at it. Guess what? Plenty of people who are dancing are not good at it and they don't care. Plenty of people doing karaoke can't sing. They don't care because they're having fun.
Guess who's having a better life? The person who stops themselves because they go I don't have my own karaoke song, I haven't rehearsed it or practiced it, I'm not a great singer. Or the person who's got all their friends cheering them on even though they suck at the microphone—they're just horrible—but they're having so much fun that the whole audience is having fun too. Which path do you want to go? It's a choice. I'm choosing to be uncomfortable until I'm comfortable and to never miss another opportunity again when it matters.
Brendan: I think there's so many examples in life when it's like referring to I'm shy as you're referred to or maybe the problem is that if I say I'm shy, that's the first part of the problem because as you referred to it, you're making that cage. Although if you hear my singing voice mate, I definitely can't sing. I'm not sure I will ever be able to sing, even if I tell myself I can sing.
Is becoming bold and becoming superbold that easy? Just telling yourself that you're going to be more bold. You're going to be super bold.
Fred: That's the beginning of it. The way I designed the book starts with changing your mindset and having key insights and understanding how you can build your boldness muscle. Then it's a series of exercises in the book so that when it doesn't matter, you're busy building your muscle, your boldness muscle, day by day, action by action so that it becomes your default mode.
You say, I am just going to talk to people in an elevator. I am just going to walk up and have this conversation with these three people who are talking to each other. I'm just going to go up and introduce myself. I see Richard Branson, I'm going to walk over and talk to him.
Whatever it is, I'm going to do those things. I'm going to be the one who acts rather than the one who regrets, but it starts gradually. One of the principles in the book is dosage, controlling the intensity of the experience so that you don't crawl back into your shell and stay there for the next five years. You build it up very gradually with the exercises so that when something big comes along, you say I know what to do. I know how to tap into my boldness, even though I'm not confident about this.
That man or that woman that you want to meet, you're going to say, I'm going to force myself to walk across the room because then I'll be standing in front of her and I'll have to come up with something. Because you build your boldness muscles, you're relaxed and energized at the same time, and you can come up with something and it doesn't have to be brilliant. You just have to act like you should be talking to that person and they respond accordingly because you know how to behave like a normal person. You're in control of this field around you that is radiating I belong here.
It's a powerful thing and anybody can do it. Anybody can learn it. If I can learn it, anybody can learn it. People who know me from my youth in high school and college will all say he's not the same, he's transformed himself. It's not a different me, it's just I am bringing my full self to every situation I want to.
That's what boldness really is. That's what super bold really is. You are not trying to get attention or anything like that. You're chasing your dreams and you want a full life with very few regrets. You are bringing your full self with the belief that if you don't, you're actually depriving other people of your full self. That you're being selfish by not letting them know you, meet you, and partake of you. They may or may not be interested, but the great thing is you don't have to care.
We live in this weird mindset that stops us where we need everybody to like us, which is not humanly possible or really necessary. It's kind of cumbersome when everybody likes you or everybody loves you. You can't go to the movies or out to dinner anymore.
As they say, fame's great for about a day and a half but you're just trying to find the place you want to be and the dreams you want to achieve and challenge yourself so that when your life ends, you say wow, I left it all on the mat. I'm broken and I wouldn't trade one minute of it.
We're in the game of life, but we don't know how long the coach is going to let us play. We are all pretending we've got another decade to get the stuff, or three decades, or six, and sometimes we got about 15 minutes. That's the reality that we're in denial about. I get to stuff, I say what needs to be said. I try things I want to try. I bring my full self to as many situations as I possibly can.
Brendan: What's the greatest thing, in your opinion, you've been able to achieve through the act of boldness?
Fred: I think the greatest thing was it shifted my focus from myself and thinking about myself so much to what's the contribution I can make to anyone that I encounter? I'll walk into that Starbucks and I'll get my coffee, I'll take a sip, and I'll go back to the barista and say, this is absolutely fantastic. You have made my day, and I have made their day by doing that.
We both got something out of it because they feel great because most people get complaints about what they didn't do right. I like to make somebody feel good about themselves. That's kind of my operative principle is how can I make somebody feel better about themselves.
Even as a leader, how can I make them feel like they can achieve more than they think they can and lift them up to that point, guide them to how they can become that. It starts with believing that there's more to them than they thought. That's what any good leader does. That's what any good manager does.
Brendan: I love that answer, Fred. Before you go too far into it, maybe there's a little bit of recapping here, but you started to go down that path. If we looked at boldness and being superbold from a leadership perspective, why should leaders care about this topic? Leaders could be business owners leading a team or middle managers leading a team in a big organization. There's lots of definitions of leaders. Why should they care about this?
Fred: I'll pick a couple of things that are so critical. It takes boldness to give feedback when it needs to be given at the moment it needs to be given. Not saying, I'll give the feedback in the annual review nine months from now because it feels more comfortable to put it off when actually what that person needs to know is that they are off course right now because they probably don't know. Most people who are doing their job think they're doing what they're supposed to be doing and if they're not doing it well, you want to say to them you're doing an average job.
Guess what? That's not acceptable. Nobody here is here for us to do average work. The business can't afford it. Let's talk about how we're going to elevate you. What does that need? What happens is you don't overcharge it because you're bold enough to say it when it needs to be said, rather than letting it build up in your mind until you finally yell at them and say, you're just completely incompetent and you're late all the time. By the way, you look funny. Eventually, you're off the rails. You're a lunatic.
I've had those bosses and so being able to give feedback boldly and—guess what the other side is—being able to accept feedback, take criticism. That takes boldness to say tell me where I'm off course. I'll do that at the end of this podcast with you. I'll say how could I have been a better guest? You're going to say, stop talking in really long stretches and let me get a word in edgewise. That's what I tend to do.
Brendan: It's an interview. I've said so many guests. It's an interview. Keep talking.
Fred: Those are the two things. It takes boldness to raise money. You got to stand in front of that room and present passionately like you are the one to make this happen. It's not going to be your slide deck, it's not going to be your financial projections. They know those are fiction. What investors do—and my personal coach loves this phrase, and I love it too—is bet on the jockey, not the horse. Okay, there's a million good ideas out there. There's a million business opportunities out there. Can you execute it? Can you do what it takes to make this business work or change it?
Listen to the marketplace enough to evolve it so that my investing in you returns tenfold. Are you that person? Are you that woman? Are you that man who is going to do what it takes? You can't hide and say, I'm not really that. I don't really present well in front of people. Too bad, you gotta do it. You have to get good at it.
It's not a genetic problem, it's a mindset problem, and you have to get better. I just recently interviewed this woman when she was 19 years old, she started doing a summer job, going door to door, selling the equivalent educational courses like encyclopedias. She did this for four summers in a row. She averaged 5000 doors a summer that she would knock on. At 19 years old, that takes a lot of gumption. That takes a lot of boldness.
What happened is she built her boldness muscle so much the rejection eventually doesn't mean anything. After a thousand doors slam in your face, it's hard to take it personally, especially since you're selling on top of it, because somebody lets you in. The reward loop is there, and she understood the ratio. She said I'm going to knock on 100, 10 people are going to let me in, 3 people are going to buy from me so I just got to knock on a hundred more doors and not get mad at the people who slammed the door, not get depressed, and not get bumped out.
She built her boldness muscle at 19 and now at 32, she's this huge international sales advisor and coach to corporations and she's an amazing woman on top of it. Just saying I'm going to be bold enough to do this, even though I'm sure the first hundred doors and the first hundred doors slams were pretty painful.
If you're going to try to get as many customers to make your business really successful, you got to be bold enough to dial the phone, or knock on the door, or walk up to people, whatever that is. If you need customers, you gotta be bold enough to ask for the money. We know there's plenty of sales people that aren't really salespeople, they're conversationalists because they can get right up to the point where they gotta ask for the money and they're done for it. They got nothing. A salesperson gets the money and it takes boldness to know that you're not always going to get the money, but you have to ask for it or you're going to get a lot less of the money.
Brendan: You mentioned feedback, a very hot and fantastic topic around the leadership circles, there's no doubt. Thanks for mentioning it. Can we do an exercise, Fred? Can we use that lens of feedback, which if we talk about constructive feedback, let's say, which is probably the thing that requires more boldness for leaders, can we use that lens and can you help me learn to be more bold through the lens of feedback? Can we talk through that?
Fred: There are steps to building your boldness muscle. The first step is preparation. The second step is relaxing. If you're giving feedback, you want to be prepared to give that feedback, which means you may have to rehearse that with somebody else. You say I need to talk to Edwin. He keeps overpromising and because of it, we keep under delivering because we can't deliver what he promises in his pitch, but he's doing a lot of sales.
I have to sit down with him and I don't want to discourage him from selling because he's really good at it. He really goes for it, but he can't control his over-promising. I'm going to sit there with it could be my personal assistant or it could be my partner or whatever, I'm going to say, let me run through how I'm going to talk to Edwin about this.
Then step two is relaxing. When you relax yourself, you don't overcharge the situation. Just like waiting builds up the pressure. Now you go to Edwin and be like if you do this once more, you're fired. You don't want to fire Edwin. You just feel like saying that, but Edwin hears very few things make a person sell less than threats. There’s so many managers that don't understand this.
You want to motivate salespeople. It's not all stick in, no carrot. It's to put the stick down and give them guidance and give them insight. My brother has always been really good at this. He's been a sales coach for a long time. He was always good at giving candid feedback that was never overcharged and you could see the people receive it because of the way he did it.
When you're prepared, when you're relaxed, and you've got the verbiage down, and then you're listening to that person and you may find out why Edwin does that because that's really what you're almost rehearsing. You're going to say I'm listening to the recordings of your pitches and you do a great job. The problem is you're selling something slightly different than what we offer. Because you're doing such a good job of selling and you've got so many things that are so strong, I need to understand why you feel the need to over promise in the product. Can you help me see that?
That's a whole different feedback session because he's going to say, do I do that? You say here's an example, we're not open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We close on all the holidays and from 2:00 PM to 4:00 AM, we don't answer the phone. I guess that's true.
It's very hard to meet that expectation with the customer so the customer gets discouraged. Do you see how the customer has expected one thing because you told them they were going to get it and now they're disappointed. Whereas if you just told them what they were going to get, they would be satisfied. They would probably be overjoyed. You gave them more expectations than we can satisfy.
Let's try this month to just sell what we have and then we'll see where we are next month because I got a certain number of customer service calls and I'd like to see them reduced down to 10% of what they are based on what you're selling. What do you think about that? After that, you're fired.
Brendan: In relation to that, you developed this PRIDE model and that's what you're taking us through. Where are the whereabouts of your PRIDE model at the moment?
Fred: The PRIDE method is how you build your boldness muscle. I t's an acronym: preparation, relaxing, insight, dosage, which I mentioned already, and everyday action. You're going to build your boldness muscle every day because that's how you get better. The things that you get to do every day in one form or another, whether it's your marriage, your job, or whatever where you're deliberately trying to get better on a daily basis, or eat better, or exercise more.
What you get to every day aggregates. What you think you might get to disintegrates because it's a heck of a lot easier to not get to stuff than it is to get to stuff. If you say I'm going to do it every day, then you don't have to figure out whether you're going to do it or not. You say, I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it full. I'm going to smile at five people every day, or I'm going to say hi to five people every day, or I'm going to compliment a stranger every day.
If I haven't done it before I go to bed, then I got to get up and now I got to go walk into a grocery store and pay somebody a compliment so I can come back and go to bed. I emphasize every day.
Brendan: Sorry, Fred, is that where you recommend some people start? You talk through the lens of feedback, which can be a challenging topic for leaders, particularly newish leaders or even experienced leaders. Doing some of those little things like complimenting people in a coffee shop or whatever that is, is that where you recommend people start to build their boldness muscle?
Fred: Yeah, because you're practicing when it doesn't matter. Your preparation is you see somebody in a coffee shop and go I'm going to compliment their glasses. I'm going to take a few deep breaths to relax myself if I'm feeling anxious about talking to a stranger and I'm just going to say, those are great glasses.
That is something really important in terms of meeting people. I talk about a lot of these things in the book as well. You don't have any agenda. You're not out to get anything except to make that person feel better about themselves. You have no gain in mind and people sense that.
That's what makes you so approachable and so able to approach. You don't approach with an agenda like you're networking, or you're building contacts, or you're looking for customers or whatever. You're just looking to connect. You're looking to make an active kindness and active generosity and walk away.
When you start with what I call the drive-by compliment, you say those are great looking glasses. I just wanted to tell you. I don't know where you got them, but they really match your face and then you're gone. They're just wow, that person just couldn't resist telling me how great I looked and they get to savor that. You get to say, I did it. I did a drive-by and it worked. I walked around sprinkling my fairy dust and it worked.
What happens is you just get comfortable expressing yourself. As a leader, the easiest way to be able to give feedback is if you've gotten really good at expressing appreciation on a day-to-day basis. Now you've laid a foundation of appreciation with your team. You can come in and say I think you're great and I think you do amazing work, but you're consistently 15 minutes late, and I really need to understand why. You know that at a certain point we're missing leads that you need to get to because you just can't seem to get here on time. What's going on?
You've got this whole layer of appreciation that you are standing on. There's too many bosses where they only speak to somebody when it's something negative to tell somebody. The person thinks I'm just a screw up here. I'm one second away from being fired because that's what it feels like. Why are they there? If you're ready to fire them at any moment?
There's another thing. It takes boldness to fire somebody who doesn't belong there. Doesn't matter if it's your brother-in-law. You have to fire people sooner. This is when it takes boldness to do it.
Brendan: It seems like you’ve fired your brother in law.
Fred: I've fired a lot of friends over the years because I'm dumb enough to hire them. Fortunately, my brother was my greatest employee and very much the yin to my yang and I've been blessed to have him in there, but that doesn't always go that way. Most of the time it doesn't go that way.
I've had to step up many times and eventually, here's the other thing—and this is just a leadership lesson from running a business for 30 years—when you let that person go 100% of the time in my career, it was worse than you thought. They were doing more damage than you knew, 100% of the time. The tumor ran deeper than you thought. You knew they didn't belong there, but you didn't know how badly they didn't belong there. You didn't know how much damage they were doing.
Again, I'm going to hesitate. Maybe I'm going to give them one more chance because it doesn't feel good to fire people. Nobody enjoys firing—there's probably somebody who does—but the job is not about feeling good, it's about respecting all your employees and saying it's not fair to everybody else to keep this person here and expect them to do A player's work when he's doing D minus work and still gets to stay here. They slide down the Bs and Cs because it's like why am I working so hard if he doesn't?
You're not being fair to that person who sucks at what they do. You say, look, how long are you going to let them suck at what they do? He's like, you need to know now that you're not good at this job and you need to go figure out how to be better at a job, but not here.
Brendan: That leadership lesson you've just shared is absolutely so important and fantastic in relation to boldness. I'm going to get you to say it again as succinctly as you can. What is Fred Joyal's number one leadership lesson in running a business for 30 years, not just any business, a very, very successful 1-800-DENTIST business.
Fred: Be bold enough to let that person go as soon as you believe they don't belong there. Speak up, step up, and pull the trigger because it's actually worse than you're perceiving and you won't know that until they're gone. What's going to happen over and over again is you are going to learn that it was worse. What's going to happen is you're going to regain the respect of the rest of the team because you didn't tolerate that person being there. It's affecting how they respect you when you let that person stay and underperform.
Brendan: Thank you Fred. Let's indulge ourselves a little bit. I reckon there aren't too many people in the world that haven't got this feeling of, I saw this famous person, I wish I just went up and spoke to them. Let's use that lens because it's something that a leader or not you can probably relate to. I know I can.
I'm there. I'm waiting to meet Richard Branson. I know you play chess and all those sorts of things with Richard Branson, but I've never met Richard Branson. Let's say that I'm there and I see him. How do I quickly run through the PRIDE method to get me to get in front of him and have a chat?
Fred: You're going to prepare what you're going to say and all that matters is you're not trying to impress him with how clever you are, or how funny you are, or how experienced you are. You're just going to come up and say something relevant that he would react to that isn't necessarily brilliant or funny, but it's not hey, can we get a selfie together? I'm a big fan of yours, because he gets that.
That may actually happen because he's a generous enough person that he'll take a selfie with you, but you didn't meet Richard Branson. You didn't have an interaction with Sir Richard. You took a picture and you are pretending to your friends that you met Richard Branson.
What you can do is you go up and say I just want to let you know that I was so inspired about you going into outer space because I've always been terrified of the idea of that. As much as I would love to, it just scares the heck out of me. To see you do that as a civilian just inspires me and I just want to thank you for that.
You know what he's going to say? Oh man, I was scared. I was terrified. It was a spaceship. I didn't tell you. I've been in planes. I've been in hot air balloons. That's been dangerous enough, but a spaceship? He's going to be candid with you about that because first of all, you were prepared. You knew what you wanted to talk about and you expressed what you had for him, which was admiration, but you didn't gush about it.
You didn't come from a place of need. I need you to acknowledge me. I need you to take a picture with me. I need you to be impressed with me. No, you made a choice of gratitude. You want to connect with him by the impact he's had on your life in some way and you can do that with anybody.
I have done it with so many people. They're afraid I can't go talk to him or I can't go talk to her. She's too famous, she's too this, or she's too that. I said if you go over with your camera, it's not going to go that well. The worst thing I said, just as an aside, is if you recognize an actor but you can't remember their name, do not go up to them and say, you're that guy that was in that movie with that other guy. I can't remember your name. What's your name? They want to say, here's my name. My name is get out of my face. I see people do it all the time.
If you can't remember their name, start getting your phone out, and try to figure out who they are, otherwise let it go. It's not about collecting selfies anyway. It's about collecting moments. I talk about when people say carpe diem. I say Carpe momentum. That's the rich life is when you seize the moments, those precious little moments in life.
When you see an older woman struggling on a stairway and you walk up and say, would you like to take my arm? When you see somebody who's clearly dressed really wildly, but they have a really glum look on their face, you say it's so exciting to see the way you dress. You've made my day.
To be able to be generous and to be more concerned about the impact you can have on somebody else than on what you can gain for yourself, that's when life gets rich. That's when life gets fulfilling. It took me a long time to learn that, but I'm glad I did because that's how I moved through the world.
Brendan: It reminds me of that wonderful saying, be more interested than interesting when you meet people. I think the question I would ask Sir Richard off the back of this conversation is what made you so bold to achieve the things you've achieved? I'd love to hear his answer.
Fred: He would say I would probably define myself as an introvert, but I had to get the business rolling. I had to do something. I did a crazy thing. I rode the tank through Times Square when I launched Virgin Records. I bungee jumped off of the side of the Palms Hotel and stuff.
It takes boldness to say, I'm going to start an airline or I'm going to buy an island. What happened is he's done it enough that he doesn't buy into I'm shy, or I'm an introvert. He says, I think I'm going to try it and it's probably going to work. I had this conversation with him and I said what was the biggest miss for you? I said you had a lot of wins.
He says, launching the Cola business, Virgin Cola. He said I just didn't understand the business and these big brands, Coke and Pepsi, just leveled me. He said they just took all the shelf space and it was game over. He says I just didn't belong in the business. To hear a billionaire be humble is an interesting conversation.
Brendan: I bet. One of the points you'd mentioned in some of the preparation we were having before chatting today was what bold people know that most people don't know. What is that?
Fred: That's the PRIDE method. The insights are two key insights. Most of the time, nothing bad happens, unless you decide to label it that way just like embarrassment. You don't have to be embarrassed. It can be funny. You can laugh along with people. You can say it humanizes us to do stupid things.
I'll give you an example of nothing bad happening unless you label it that way. Then I want to get to the other point, but my favorite story is about a friend of mine who's a speaker. She's a really good public speaker, very dynamic. She walks onto stage with it and she's got 500 to 600 people in the room.
Ten minutes into her speech and she snaps a high heel off her shoe. There's silence except for some women gasping because that's horrifying to a woman to have that happen anywhere, but on stage in front of 500 people? She looks down, kicks off her shoes, and says I guess I need to start spending more than $30 on shoes. The whole place just busts out laughing because they're so anxious for her and suddenly she's not embarrassed. She's not upset. She's making a joke about this. She owns them from that moment on because she's human.
She went oh, that went about as bad as it could go, except I'm not going to treat it like it's a bad thing. It's a funny thing. That ability to say nothing bad is going to happen unless I decide to label it that way.
I walk up to Richard Branson and he says, look, I'm really busy. I'm waiting for somebody right now. I don't have time to talk. Nothing bad happened. He's having an important meeting and he doesn't know me. I don't have to label that as bad. I label that as normal. He didn't have time for a complete stranger at that moment.
Guess what? Do you have time for strangers 24 hours a day? I don't think so. Why do you take it on? Why would you feel bad about it? That's part of it.
The other big insight is people are not thinking about you anywhere near as much as you think they are. They're thinking about themselves. Think about what you are doing all the time. You're walking around judging people without any information. Oh, that guy's too tall. He's going to have a heart attack. Tall people, their hearts don't last long. That guy should never wear that suit. That person needs to lose weight.
We walk around with all of this stuff and that's what people are doing to us, except they don't know us, so we don't worry about it. All you have to do is stop worrying. The younger you can learn to stop worrying about what strangers think about you, the broader and more wonderful your life will become because for bold people, there's a half a dozen people whose opinions really matter to them. The rest is incidental whether they care or not.
When I'm public speaking, when I'm doing a keynote, I care about what the audience thinks about me, but I know that 10% of them are going to think I'm an idiot. They're going to say he's full of himself, he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's a show off, he's an idiot, and 10% of them are going to think I'm the most brilliant person that they've ever heard speak. Both of those groups are pretty much right in the way I look at it. Either way, I'm not going to worry about it.
I'm going to worry about the rest of them that I'm making a contribution to and that's all I'm worrying about. I can't worry about everybody's opinion. It takes too much energy and there's no way to persuade them.
Somebody's political belief, have you ever convinced anybody to think differently about politics? It's like, why put the energy into it? Why worry about what they think? Why even have a judgment about it? Who knows where it came from? But they're not moving often so talk about something fun.
Brendan: Yeah, absolutely. Both great points. Thank you for sharing. What's your hope for leaders in taking up the super bold mantle? What do you hope to achieve?
Fred: I want them to see that the primary role of being a leader is to uplift the people that are doing the work in their business. If you do that, then the business will succeed to whatever level it possibly can. To say how do I make them feel better about themselves? Want to get better and be open to criticism? The way you make them open to feedback is you be open to feedback. You are comfortable admitting you are wrong.
The worst kind of leader is the one looking for somebody to blame when everything goes wrong or anything goes wrong. The first part of the meeting is whose fault is this? That's not leadership. That's the opposite. You have to be bold enough to say I let it happen. I hired him, I gave him permission, I gave him free reign to do that. We tried this project and it didn't go right. I'm accepting responsibility for the choices that I made that led to that.
All of a sudden, the whole room has to say if he's going to admit he's wrong, if he's going to take responsibility, then that's what I have to do. It's axiomatic. You have to lead by example, but a lot of people don't. It's like you're going to do what you do and I'm going to behave the way I'm going to behave.
Those things don't necessarily intersect. Don't go by what I do, go by what I'm telling you to do. That's not what happens. Every business either thrives or fails by what's going on at the top. Look at all of these businesses. We're looking at this, this massive crypto collapse right now. This is one guy whose total lack of integrity created a whole company with a total lack of integrity. Because they had clear permission to do it.
It's like I know the law says we can't lend a subdivision $100 million, but it needs it right now so we're going to do it regardless of the law. That kind of stuff. It always comes from the top.
Brendan: Yeah, it's something fresh in my head at the moment, mate. I've started watching FIFA Uncovered on Netflix and I think I'm going to have to snip this bit out and send it off to [...] because he didn't take a lot of responsibility for anything.
Fred: That's the whole thing. When a leader's trying to dodge responsibility and blame somebody else, it was probably Ronald Reagan, but I can't remember. He basically said the worst kind of leader is the one who takes credit for everything that goes right and gives out blame for everything that goes wrong.
It wasn't Reagan, Reagan said something else he said, which is also very interesting and another great leadership principle is, it's amazing what someone can accomplish when they don't need the credit for it.
Brendan: I love that.
Fred: When the business succeeds and you could say, look at what you guys accomplished, instead of immediately jumping on the table with a champagne and be like look at me, look at this business I created. We did $20 million this year, whatever the heck it is.
The more it's not about you, the more the business thrives. I think that my business, my partner and I, we ran a business where the number one priority was we wanted a great place to go to work every day. The second priority was that everybody has to win. The employees, the customers, whoever we were serving. Then the third was we had to be profitable. We had to make money, but money never moved up past the first two.
That's what happens with a lot of businesses. We can fudge the integrity here or we can underpay these people, or we can lay 10,000 people off. The number of public companies that have a board meeting and at Christmas time lay 10,000 people off so that they can bonus the executive suite and the shareholders with a dividend, that's appalling behavior. It's like you're digging your own grave spiritually, in my mind, when you do that because you suddenly decided to worship money. I'm digressing seriously away from Superbold here, but I feel very strongly about it.
Brendan: I think when I mentioned FIFA Uncovered, it got you on that diatribe, you started to go down that path. I apologize, Fred.
Fred: You wound me up on that one.
Brendan: You made some fantastic points. The thing that I find fascinating around some of these things that you're talking about and sharing is that they're not being talked about enough. They're sort of being dusted under the carpet and how can we help solve things? How can people change behavior and impact things if it's just being sort of pushed under the rug? It doesn't help at all in so many areas, to be honest. What's the one thing that's helped you become this more confident leader?
Fred: It's that realizing that amazing unexpected things happen when you are bold. Amazing moments, amazing experiences, amazing impact that you may have on somebody. It doesn't have to be grandiose. Your boldness goal could be the best mom you could possibly be, or the best advisor you can be, or the best politician, or whatever.
You don't have to make a huge contribution to the world. You could say I am a plumber and I want to be the best plumber I can be so that when people talk about me, they say, I was glad I had him on the crew and I'm glad he did the work. Bold enough to chase your dreams and being the best you can be at whatever level. It doesn't mean you're going to be a world beater, or a billionaire, or famous, or any of those things.
It was when I realized that these amazing things would happen that I couldn't plan when I was bold. That's why I say whatever you're doing in life, there's bold action where you can have an impact on people because you decided to speak up.
You could be a waiter and say I served this meal to them and they're not really eating that steak. I can go up to them and say, I noticed you're picking at the steak. Is everything all right? They say no, it's fine. You say let me bring the steak back. Is there something else I can get you?
Instead of saying, it's the chef's problem, the chef cooked it wrong. I don't want to venture into this problem. Instead, you're bold enough to say I'm not comfortable with you not finishing your meal. You're not hungry. Would you like something else? It's my job to feed you. I really want you to be satisfied.
If you decided you didn't want steak, maybe we can figure something out. I'll mash potatoes. To say I am going to step forward and the thing may be that the person says, you know what? I'm sitting here eating steak and I had made the decision a week ago to be a vegetarian, and here I am already violating it.
You say wow, that's interesting. We have an excellent vegetarian meal that I can replace that with and you can forgive yourself. Think of how in the simplest situation, that becomes this amazing unexpected interaction because you are bold enough to step up, to speak up, and there will be times in your life where it will matter significantly either to yourself or to other people that you speak up, that you step up, that you approach that person.
The person who could have a profound impact on your life or that you could have a profound impact on their life is out there waiting for you to venture out of your comfort zone and do something and say something.
Brendan: It seems like a great place to finish, mate. It's almost like that act of boldness generates honest and genuine conversations. People are being more honest and genuine around things, which is absolutely fantastic and fundamental to what we're about on creating confident leaders and The Culture of Leadership podcast.
There was one thing I was a little bit, I wouldn't say anxious, but a little bit worried about before coming on with you today. That was geez, I talk about creating confident leaders. I started to think, well, confidence leads to boldness. Maybe I should be creating bold leaders. I was so happy when you said early up on the top of the show, how boldness leads to confidence. That made me far more relaxed. I'm happy with what we're talking about at The Cultural Leadership Podcast and creating confident leaders.
Mate, I really appreciate you and what you've shared with us today. You did some maths before and the 10% and 10% at the top and bottom. I definitely feel you're in that 80%. You've given enormous value today and had a great conversation. It's been fascinating for me learning more about bold and being super bold. I certainly will take up more of that mantle more often because it's something that we all need to do.
Thanks for being a fantastic guest all the way from New York City on the Cultural Leadership Podcast.
Fred: Thank you, Brendan. It's been a blast. I appreciate it.
Brendan: Thank you mate.
Before this interview, had you ever considered whether confidence leads to boldness? Or whether boldness leads to confidence? I know I hadn’t. Given The Culture of Leadership is all about having conversations to create confident leaders, I’m glad the right answer was boldness leads to confidence. Confidence is a feeling you have when you complete an act of boldness. Boldness can be learnt. Use the PRIDE Method - Preparation, Relax, Insight, Dosage, Every Day action to help you. What will you do to practice boldness?
These are my 3 key takeaways from my conversation with Fred. My first key takeaway, leaders practice being bold. This could be giving feedback or asking for feedback. It could be making tough decisions or speaking up in a meeting to disagree with another person. Being bold will build your confidence and ultimately your impact in the world. This is why the best leaders practice being bold.
My second key takeaway, leaders make others feel good. Use your boldness to compliment a stranger or buy someone a coffee. Use a random act of kindness to really connect with another person. It’s also another great way to practice being bold and to make others feel good.
My third key takeaway, leaders take action with bad employees. They know a bad employee is doing more damage in the organization than what the leader actually sees. By keeping bad employees, you are disrespecting all the other good employees. Leaders are bold enough to take action with a bad employee and move them on.
In summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders practice being bold, leaders make others feel good, and leaders take action with bad employees.
What were your key takeaways? Let me know at thecultureofleadership.com on YouTube or via our socials. Thanks for joining me. Remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.