tony and sumith
tony and sumith
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Why I seek leadership from the bloody cat

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About the episode
When Jason met Alex he got a shiver: "Oh my God, she looks so intimidating and so commanding". Then Alex laughed and it became a legendary show, full of podcast chemistry. The kind of stuff that makes you want to come back to it again and again.

This podcast will make you reflect, it's definitely going to make you laugh and you'll probably end up wishing you could go for a beer with him. But it will also inspire a belief that the better part of life really can come from fulfilment through work, if you're willing to jump in at the deep end – and kick out the people you don't like working with. Just ask the cat.

"For me personally, because I'm a creative right-brain thinker, I would say that you will become a far better leader if you show your person. There's no defense, there's no sort of agenda, there's no ulterior motive, there's no complex psychological puzzle. There's enough bullshit in life that people have."
— Jason
"I don't have the $3 million yacht, I drive a golf, a small golf. Success for me is about having the right people in the right place to support you in what you're trying to do."
— Jason
Guest on this episode:
"An incredible guy" with a great beard – that's Jason Pollard, the humbly talented, fallible, and wickedly funny Co-Founder of Public Design Group. Secretly believing he's more of a creative than a leader, he was willing to pursue mad ideas like cleaning shop windows with a bit of vinegar and scruffy old newspaper (even if his dad said it was never going to work). Now he's found his creative place, one part of an imaginative machine that comes together to create amazing things.
TRANSCRIPT
Alex:
Hi everyone, it is my absolute pleasure today to be here with Jason Pollard who is the co founder of Public Design Group. Now I'm going to let Jason tell us a bit more about what he does. But Jason, we were just talking just before this and I'm like, "How am I going to introduce you?" And if you're able, just talk about how we met. And so we've probably met, I don't know four years ago, three-ish. So back in my old life at Bendigo bank, I remember I was having a tame ladyship day. We were at the top level of a pub, I think in somewhere funky like that in Melbourne. And one of my team at that time said, "I've met this really amazing God, talking about at the time how we can reinvent our brunches, and the customer experience in a whole heap of really cool stuff. I think it'd be great to come and talk to us." And Jason, that's where you and I met.

Jason:
Yes.

Alex:
And I think we've both found each other pretty interesting along the way. And even you know, you're still doing some very cool stuff with the bank, which I'd love to kind of explore a bit. But as you see obviously I'm not at the bank, but here we are now doing a podcast together in very funky Fitzroy in Melbourne. So give us a bit of a background about yourself. What's the Jason Pollard, the five minute add.

Jason:
Thank you, Alex. Yes. Well, I have to start by saying, I remember the day that I met you as well because I came into the reception of that pub downstairs. It was a meeting with the bank people. And there was this window on the first floor and I looked through the window and I saw you presenting to this room of people and I'd heard about you as well, just like you'd heard about me, I'd heard about you. And I looked up and this just shiver of a chill went through my body because you just look so intimidating and so commanding. And now I know you quite well.

Alex:
Not intimidating at all.

Jason:
We were just having breakfast for an hour and a half together, having a wonderful
conversation.

Alex:
Absolutely, yup.

Jason:
And I remember that feeling and I thought, Oh my God, she looks horrible, she looks so scary. She looks like…

Alex:
It's a bank, right?

Jason:
Absolutely. You put anyone in a room full of bankers, I'm used to it now. And it just so happens that particular room of bankers is probably the best move I ever made because now we work with Bendigo on a daily basis and they're incredibly, they're wonderful client. And when you compare that to all the other banks, it's just we have found a needle in a haystack.

Alex:
Yeah, amazing.

Jason:
So my story, I don't know if it's particularly inspiring because we were talking earlier about energy and flow and what you feel is right. And I've never really had a grand master plan for my life. Other than I followed a girl who is now my wife and given me four beautiful kids and that's probably my biggest success and she wants to live in Australia So I happened to be here. I was reasonably good at drawing a space when I was a kid and that's what led me into design. The big thing for me was the college that I went to. I met my business partner at college, so we were 18 and 19 and he was just one of those blokes that was in the background, but he was fun. We did a lot of bike riding together, we shared a lot of interests together. Left college. And then four years later, I bumped into him on because I was here with my girlfriend who is now my wife. I've told you that already. And I was literally about to get on the bus and this hand tapped me on the back of the shoulder and I turned around and I'm like, "Dan, what the hell are you doing here?" And he goes, "I'm asking you the same question. I haven't seen you for four years." And I said, "Well, I'm here to work. I've just sort of landed." And he said, "Well, that's funny you say that because I'm going home in two weeks." So anyway, we do what you do at that age. We went out and go blind drunk and swap stories. And the long and short of it was that he was working for a designer over here.

He had been for a year and was going back to England and he said, "Come and meet my boss." So I did that next week and got a job straight away. So I worked here for a year, fell in love with the country, my wife and I said or girlfriend or something, "We've got to come back here one day." So we went back to England and I got a great job in a design agency. I got back in touch with Dan. I said, "How are you going?" And he said, "Oh, I've just been laid off." And I said, "Okay, don't worry, I can ..." So I spoke to my bosses and I said, "I've got mate Dan, who I used to be at college with, can you employ him?" And they said, "Of course we can." So he came in and got a job on, I don't know, £15,000 more than I was earning. And I'm like, "That was not supposed to happen!!" But the reason why it did happen it's because he was so bloody good at what he did. And all along, I've never been afraid to admit that he is probably the best creative. And part of my whole struggling in this whole development was I wanted to be in that path. I really desperately wanted to be as good as him at creativity. And I never have been. And it's only later in life when I've been able to let go off that ego where I've realised that actually he's my greatest asset in business.


Alex:
Oh, wow.

Jason:
And what we've now done is we've now got to this place where there's this really beautiful symbiosis where we've learned to respect and support each other's core skills. So I'm out the front developing the business, talking, doing the strategy. And then as we get to the end of the strategy, I'm handing over to him and he comes back with these incredible creations. And that is so motivating to know that you are part of a machine that when those two components come together and create something amazing. So in terms of leadership that kind of button is handed over. See, I lead the front end and then I give him the button and he leads from then on.


Alex:
Amazing. So many things that we are going to come back to, Oh, so much to talk about. So what did you want to do? When you were a kid, what did you want to be? Did you have, like you said, you didn't really have a life plan. Totally resonates with me, but was there something that you are really passionate about?


Jason:
I remember cleaning a friend's mother's windows in her house once. And she showed me how to clean windows with vinegar and newspaper. And I thought that was such a brilliant idea that I could start a business, employing people to collect old newspapers and use vinegar to clean windows. And I really thought that was my future for about six months. And then I just had this whole thing where I used to present my father with these ideas. "I've got it dad. I know I'm going to be, I'm going to do this, I'm going to that." And I just remember him saying Dan you must think about this. The problem with that is, and time and time again, I kind of felt like I was being knocked back. And I remember that even to this day. That's when my son comes to me and he says, "Dad, I got a new brand now." I go good, let's do it. Because he has to, and I have to see him do it. And of course it's going to fail, but that's fine, because he'll work it out. So I suppose that whole kind of qualifying thing in the relationship that I have with my dad something that I'm now not replicating with my son. I want him to be more entrepreneurial. I want him to have those experiences and to think, I can do anything. But it's probably got to be the right thing and I'm the person that needs to work out what that is.


Alex:
So Jason again, you and I, we just did have a fantastic breakfast and we talked about, my pleasure and we have such a wide ranging conversation. And just when you're talking about, you want your son to or yours kids to be more entrepreneurial, what does that mean to you? Because we were just, one of the many things we talked about was this kind of, I don't know if conundrum is the right word, but you've got the bigger corporate, and this is a bit of a generalisation, but I've been there myself where, gosh, it'd be awesome if we had more entrepreneurialism and if I can get that out in our people, in our big corporate or it'd be great if our staff just treated the business a bit more like their own. And idealistically we'll of course, that's a great

Idea. But then we were talking about the challenges of how does that happen, It'd be bureaucratic hierarchical organisation. But so, what is the essence of being entrepreneurial if you like, when you say that's what you want of your kids and you are encouraging. What is that? Is it seeing opportunity in crazy things? Is it just trying stuff and failing and learning and going like, what is the essence of that please?

Jason:
Okay. Wow, that's a big question.

Alex:
Sorry.

Jason:
Hang on. It's quarter to 10 in the morning. I'll see what I can do. So I think, yeah, this is probably, I mean using my son as a reference, that's how I feel about the whole future generation really. It's not just about my son. And I think that the key thing for me is that I don't want anybody to be stuck in a role where they think that's it, and it's a job. Because so much of the better part of life can come from fulfillment through work and the people that you meet in the way that you do things. And for me it goes back to that sort of instinctive got feeling that this is a good thing to be doing. And I'm following the energy and I'm moving on. And if you can become self aware and you can feel that in yourself, you've been guided by something and you should be following it to give yourself permission to follow that and not to think, well, I couldn't possibly do that. That's all it is. It's not about saying I need to be the next Bill Gates, it's because we never will be. I know particularly as he would want to be, he's a wonderful man, but there are all kinds of heaps of other baggage that come with that.But really it's just to have that personal sovereignty to be able to say, you know what, I've got a great job, but that's really interesting. I'm actually going to follow that path, no matter where it goes. And the reason why it's relevant to my son is because he's got so much opportunity. He's got no mortgage, and the worst possible thing for this generation coming up now would be for them to get through their twenties and thirties and to not have that opportunity. And the older you get, the harder it gets to change course as you personally know yourself.

Alex:
Absolutely yeah. And there's a whole lot of baggage that goes through that as well. So our listeners, over those of you listening. So we've got everyone, Jason from emerging leaders who are literally about to step into a career, whatever that means and aren't really sure. We've got people who've just got that first team leader role or that first leadership role in a kind of one ring wall. What are the nuggets of gold?

We've got really seasoned, experienced simulators who are listening. So we've got a real gamut. So how do you...because it's one thing to say, trust your God and trust intuition and follow that path. But that's really challenging for a lot of people, either

to, I think back to themselves or to feel like they can do that not knowing what the two year plan is. I guess talk about that. Like what do you think about that? If you've got some, let's say some newer leaders coming in, the start of a journey and I feel like the only way forward is they're in a job and they've got to get the next job.

Jason:
Yeah. Okay. Process. Yes, you need a bit more structure around this in terms of it's not just the permission or freedom to be able to do that, but guidance for these people to save. These are practical tools or steps to be able to do that. And arguably, I am a leader in some ways, but I never set out to be. I certainly influence people, and I certainly have learned a lot from doing that. And for me it's all about that personal relationship that in order for somebody to believe you and in order for somebody to have conviction, they need to know you as a person. So for me breaking down the whole corporateness of everything around us is the most important thing. So take the example of us, you were very intimidating one of us, so even now I know you absolutely not.

And the real value, because all of our valves are now open in this conversation relationship that then it's flowing. So I would say that for people who are thinking about becoming leaders, they're never going to lead anybody properly, emotionally, fully, unless they can get to know that person and allow that person to get to know them. And all of the best leaders you hear about like the book, Let My People Surf, which was by Yvon Chouinard, who's the guy who started Patagonia. That's an incredible book on leadership.

Alex:
That is an incredible book.

Jason:
And that Let My People Surf is a euphemism, sorry it's a metaphor for allowing your employees to be themselves and to do what they do. And it is a beautiful story, but that is a really good example of how the personality of this man has influenced people and allowed people and given them the confidence. So I think there are all kinds of different methods of leadership. But for me personally, because I'm a creative right-brain thinker, I would say that you will become a far better leader if you show your person, if you rail. There's no defense, there's no sort of agenda, there's no ulterior motive, there's no complex psychological puzzle. It'd be we'll have to work out. There's no sort of mystery. It's straight forward. There's enough bullshit in life that people have.

Alex:
Oh, I love this. I think a lot, had gone straight to that, the hobby, because lot we've talked about. So this we've done quite a few of our podcasts so far and the theme is around leadership. But that is such a big thing, right?

Jason:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Alex:
And the thing that I'm loving is that we've got so many different people, personalities, pathways, experience, journeys, but when you come down to it, these things that are coming out, some wise leadership heads that bicycle at the end of the day, the role of the later define how you like, but it's not doing the do.

Jason:
No, it's not.

Alex:
It's not. And I bring this up every time because I know the reality, especially of corporate life, is that it's very easy as a later that you save what's come before you and we can talk about what's good and bad examples of leadership. But you see what's come before you and you kind of mimic that behavior, especially when you're young. And a lot of corporate is, well I've got to get to the meetings and I'm the only one who can answer the question and I've got to have all the answers. And that's the pressure of being a leader and cheat on the boss. I can be vulnerable because then people won't think I know what I'm doing. This is always internal talk track that goes on in your head. But when you actually speak to people with more experience, that's not the gig. That is not the gig. And you have to show vulnerability because that's when people, you build trust and you build respect. So it's so resonates with me. So do you think, reflecting back on all the different things that you've done, so actually we didn't get back to you. So when did you shift from working for this designer and getting this design group and getting your friend a job for $15,000 more money than you? What a great night. What was the journey from that working for someone else so then starting your own business together?

Jason:
So here is the thing. That step, that one step, that thing that is so hard to wake up one morning and say, "Today we're going to do it." Because in doing that you've got to let go of something else, and that something else is invariably a well paid job stability, all of those other things. But the fact that you're comfortable, and again this is really, you can align it with creativity because good creative people find something amazing and then they destroy it and then move on to the next thing and the next thing and then say, "My propensity to always seek to improve and always seek to do better and to get somewhere better." And in that nature, I had always wanted to do this, but I never had quite the opportunity. The opportunity didn't present itself to me to say, this is the day that you're going to do it. Actually what happened, was these suits came in from Singapore and said, "You guys need to be doing this, this, and this by Christmas." And a number they're hell no, because we were actually part of a big agency in Australia to start off with. That's how I started working with him. And we said, look, this isn't going to work at all. And they shut down the studio at lunchtime. I said, that's it, you're all done.

That afternoon, we said, "Okay. So we're going to do it now because this has been pub talk for the last two years. What are we going to call our business?" And we had a very quick conversation more, it's kind of, we're not designing for brands or for a product, we're designing for customers, so that the public. Let's call ourselves public design group.

And yep, bang, registered it that afternoon. We then talked to our employees and said, "Look, that non-compete clause, you're not going to do retail, can we just take the clients?" Yeah, of course she can, ripped it up. So we phoned every client, and we said, look we're going

to change the name of our business. Is that a problem? And they said, "Of course it's not. We don't care. You are often not the big kind of institutions." You say It all happened very organically. And it felt so easy once it started, everything fell in place. But the decision of we are going to resign from our jobs and start would never have happened. I wish I could say I had the strength to, but we were forced into it. But having got there, you've made the decision yourself, my hearts off to you. You're full of courage, but I kind of like, I was waiting for the sign. And then there was, you've lost your job going there.

Alex:
It's interesting isn't it? Because I think that there is always, there's two things for me that I think of when you're saying that is one, there's always something, or a series of somethings that even if you're not aware are leading to a point.


Jason:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Alex:
So whether it's, right where you've lost your job. But for me, I'll literally go to the Palmer. I was completely burned out and my husband's going. This is no good. You're not goginated like you need to make a decision. For me? And I was that, as you said, it was a personal decision around, gosh, leaving corporate was such a massive decision.

But I also knew that if I, and remember thinking so clearly it was around Christmas time and I remember thinking what if I get to 12 months to next Christmas and I'm still on the same rollercoaster. I would actually not being the best leader, I can be and not really being happy and being burnet, like all of this stuff. So I kind of did have a decision forced on me as well. But it's that being able to see the signs and listen to them and run me this. And I also love when you talk about, to do the next thing, you've got to let go of the last thing where you've got to let go of something else.


Jason:
Yep. But your theme of leadership it's stunning, at the bank you're a leader of teams of people. Now you're a leader of yourself. That's the difference, right?


Alex:
Yes.

Jason:
You have had to…

Alex:
And what a journey that is proving to be.

Jason:
Yeah, for sure. But when I think about that whole concept of, I don't know, to bea good leader of a team, now you need to have a great vision, and you need to be articulate. You need to get sort of Tony Robbins size set of chops on your head, and you can inspire people to do things to get things done. But when I think about leadership from a kind of slightly more anthropological perspective. If you go back in time, when I became a man, we became dominant species because we started coordinating together. So, is probably about a million and a half years ago when we first stood up right. And we were throwing rocks at animals and somebody said, "Hang on a minute, if we all throw rocks at the same time in the same animal, we will dominate that animal." So the person who worked out to communicate that to everybody else, that was the first leader in evolution, right?


Alex:
Yup.

Jason:
So, that's where it started, was the understanding of if we all work together and find out what we can do as a team, that we can get far more done than we can individually and that's why the human race dominates the thing. So if you look at it from that perspective, for the continual evolution of mankind, we need to breed more leaders. So is the role of the leader just to steer a group of people to get something done or is the role of a leader to inspire more leaders?

Alex:
100%. And it's one of those things where I think for our listeners, you would have heard that in some way, shape or form before, great leaders create more leaders and all this sort of thing. You just touched on self-leadership there. And this is my thing as well. You can't, I mean you learn from experience and stuff ups and things, you kind of look back and go, God, did I really do that, I probably didn't handle that

well. And these are all the things that build experience and wisdom. But if you can't lead yourself, and like you and I were talking about self- awareness and letting go of ego, and being vulnerable and what are the things that trigger you and not pretending that don't happen, but then being able to pull yourself back out of that. And I think unless until you can do that as a leader, how can you lead or inspire other humans? Because if you're in a bad place, and I quite decent, I think it's relevant to a lot of our listeners is that, there's a lot of stuff going on, isn't there? There's political, there's royal commission from financial services, there's stress, there's angst and a world stage as well. There's all this noise and stress intention and that's unfortunately probably the norm. But in all that, I get asked to talk quite a bit around how do we lead people through change? We've got a chat with change is happening. Can you come and do something for us around. How do we get through change, how do we get our staff to do more? Oh, yeah it's that. And the fact these that you've got to lead your people through actually having the energy. I think the emotional energy, the mental energy, but you've got to be in that place.

Jason:
I wonder if it's about packets of leadership, like for example, if you're in your life, you look at leadership at work and that's one incredible attribute to have and that's what you do and that's what makes you strong and that's what gives you success. But then maybe in other parts of your life, you're happy to be led and there's some comfort in being led. You are actually seeking leadership from other people. I would certainly say when I get home from work...


Alex:
You seek leadership from your wife?

Jason:
Why I seek leadership from the bloody cat, anyone do you know what I mean?


Alex:
Yeah. We can't be on all the time.


Jason:
100%. So I'm wondering if leadership is, if you look at your sort of energy flow through the day and you look at what your peak performing at work, that's where you're optimizing. That's where you're leading the whole kind of ecosystem at work. But when you're in another environment, say for example, on holiday and you just, we had a wonderful day earlier this year and I just remember just being so at peace with the whole thing and the kids are happy and we don't have breakfast and the son was there and the girls are playing the ukulele. And someone said, "What should we do today?" And I'm like, "No, don't ask me that." I just…


Alex:
You guys work it out.


Jason:
I was, of course. "Well, let's have a meeting, shall we?"


Alex:
I love that you're again talking about energy and for maybe this is where it starts and ends really. It's how you manage energy and the energy flow and you're not on all the time. So talk to me a bit about how do you manage your energy? Like what works for you with those? Like you were just saying those periods of intensity because you're out. You're traveling, you're speaking some really big businesses, you're in that process. Like how have you learned?


Jason:
It's so hard. So there is two paths of energy, my physical energy, I managed really easily. I did a lot of riding but I've meant to biking. That's a whole pocket but you probably you don't have to put this in the podcast, but I'll tell you because it's a funny, but my biggest kind of sport if you like, is riding my mountain bike and racing road bikes. And there's always that 20% of ride bikes that are elite and much younger than me and brilliant and I never get a jump. But the majority of road riders I can keep up with, I can draw off and I can overtake particularly uphill. And the shock and the surprise and the disgust that I got from these people seeing a guy on a mountain bike overtake them on their 10,000 bike with electronic gears he's like, "Morning." As I get past, I can hear this till the steam's coming. And for some reason I take great satisfaction. My analogy is I'm going rabbit hunting with a machine gun. So I guess like, it just feels so good. And occasionally you get some guy times when the guys made hats off to you. That's amazing. And I did mine. He goes, secretly and I…


Alex:
I will have one.


Jason:
... and I love that. And I'm not afraid to admit that, that's sort of fun. But my mental energy, I think that side of it, I have huge waves of lack of confidence. It's almost uncontrollable when I'm out there in the front line trying to get business development, I've had all these meetings and they've all gone really, really well, and then no one's calling me back and I can't get that decision. And someone's got an issue here suddenly that the house of cards starts to shake. And I'm a 50 year old man, for heaven's sake, even before I would've been in control of this by now. But literally my whole world starts to, I start to doubt everything. And then the phone call comes in, and the contract sign and suddenly, wow, I'm only back in the driver's seat, I am the master of my own. I'll do five of these today.


And I look in the mirror, and I see this gray beard, and I think Hello Wisdom. No one's getting near you, boy!! But it's funny, I feel like an eight year old boy, I'm out of control now. I know it doesn't seem like that, but inside he is topsy.


Alex:
And I don't reckon anyone's different.

Jason:
Really?

Alex:
Well, because it's amazing how we like also identify with, I talk to so many leaders and it's almost like the older you get in the more experienced and more senior in the whatever, it's like, well I can't, I shouldn't feel like this because now I'm ... But I think everyone has call it the lizard voice, call the debt. There's something in us. I just think it becomes, we get better at either being aware of what's happening and then being able to pull ourselves back out. So when you're in that Holy shit, no one's calling me. It's crickets. All of that. Like when you're in that, what do I do?

Jason:
I tend to my phone, then I say to him, mate, it's wobbling and we go for a walk. And we have this analogy, that the movie the Titanic or not even the movie, but you remember the story by the Titanic. As the ship's going down, there's an orchestra playing on the deck and they're just unremitting. They playing their instruments until the very, very last minute and they're all going to die. But there's this scene in the movie where they know they're going to die. And they think, well how would you spend your last two minutes living? We're now not doing this because we're being told to by the boss guy, because he's already dead, but we're doing it because we have loved the journey together.

And do you know what? We can die enjoying what we do now. When I turned, I had some my partner in times of strife, he goes, when the orchestra mate, it's fine. I don't care if he takes all of the stress out of it by saying, "Who gives A shit? No one's going to die. We've had a great journey. We can always start again." And he takes all of the tension away from me by saying to stop taking it so seriously. Stop taking yourself so seriously. It doesn't matter. And I come back from that coffee and I'm totally re-calibrated. So he's like a counselor. I might do it for him as well. That's why that punishing thing. You know what? I've spoken about my relationship with my father in the car earlier who is having my relationship with my wife's father and I know that there's a whole lot of fraud and stuff going on there. When I think about ... Oh God, you know what shit, this happens? I'm 50 years old. And my thoughts just disappear like that, it's gone.


Alex:
You were going to talk about...Let me grab it. It's behind your shoulder. Father-in-law, amazing.

Jason:
Yeah, I know. I do want to talk about him. I do definitely want to talk about him, but I also want you to talk about Dan and why that whole mentoring thing and that whole kind of, he helps me and I help him and why that is. So okay, I've got it. It's come back, you stole my lover.

So it's come back. The point being that my father said to me when I was young, he said, "Two pieces of advice I'll give you son. The first piece of advice I'll give you is don't ever work with your friends." And the second piece of advice, he wasn't that soft in majoring 80 years, this is how I remember his voice. "The second piece of advice I'll give you is don't ever go into partnership." And what I've done is I've actually gone into partnership with one of my best friends and it has unequivocally other than marrying my girlfriend, been the best decision I've ever made.

Alex:
Amazing.

Jason:
And that to me…

Alex:
What works about your partnership? Because you say plenty of things, of partnerships that don't work out because they don't have trust.

Jason:
Trust, trust, trust, trust. Life's a long thing. Well, I've known this man for three decades. He's had times of trouble in his life and I've supported him. I've had times of trouble in my life and he supported me. And it's that knowing that the other person's going to be there for you. And that I don't have to say Dan, mate, would you mind awfully if I took tomorrow afternoon off because I've got this thing at home where I blah blah blah. I just say Dan, I'm not in tomorrow. And he's like, cool. See you want to see if there's never any question. Absolutely never any question. We've got a bank account where either one of us could draw around the entire cash of the business and walk off. It's like that implicit trust has made everything that we do so much easier. And horror stories I hear, friends of mine who've been stiffed in business…

Alex:
Absolutely.

Jason:
... and it's just ... So when you talk about success, I don't have the $3 million yacht, I drive a golf, a small golf. It's a lovely car. But success for me is about having the right people in the right place to support you in what you're trying to do.

Alex:
Oh, incredible. And that is the essence of it, because you also talked earlier when you're talking about Dan, and Dan is amazing creative and you let go of your ego and because this endlessly fascinates me as well because in the context of just let's talk about teams and just see this energy when you get the right group of people together that have this foundation of shared vision, values and justice, I got your back, we talk like we know each other. You're all awesome at this. I'm also at that, like I was telling you this morning about Cam, who's one of the, obviously the co founders of Trampoline. But he and I, we joke a lot. We know our zones of genius. I talk about that all the time. Is that right? "Yes. Alex, you're zagging right now." And I'll go. So having that balance in that team where together or amongst the team, you're bigger than the sum of your parts. It's so incredible when you have that and you let go of the ego to go, you know what? I don't need to be the smartest person or the best. I know what I'm good at and I'll do it. But this is where I can compliment that. I like that. That's, I think when you start to really, amazing things become possible.

Jason:
In the context of a small startup business where you are going on a journey where you're going to need support and trust. Absolutely. In the context of someone who's trying to be a corporate business leader, it's slightly different because you've...

Alex:
Okay, talk about that.

Jason:
Well, okay. So I would say that the business that we worked for or that I worked for in London Future Brand, this big organization had hundreds, thousands of people in it all doing what we do. So that's why I come and teach on brand and strategy. There was a leader there called Chris Narco, how can I describe him, we'd be in a meeting, right? And he would say to me, Oh, he'd be a group of us junior strategists or designers in the room. And he would explain something. We don't know, because we all kind of got it. And he'd gp and say, "Have you understood?" Yeah, we've understood. And then he'd say, so Jason, can you tell it back to us please? I'm like, "What'd you mean Chris?" And he said, "Well, can you illustrate your understanding of what we've just been talking about?" And I'm like, "I think you might heard what value could that possibly add to this room? We've all told you, we understand it, let's move on." And he said, "No, no, tell me." And so I give my rendition of what you just said. And then in front of everyone, he'd say, "No, that wasn't it." And then he explained it again and I would be going out humiliated in front of all of my peers.

Alex:
So that was his point?

Jason:
Well, no. So he would then say, "So do you now understand?" And I'd say yes, because I was probably listening at that time. And he said, "Okay, now tell it back to me." I'm like, "Fuck, I'm not getting out of this. I literally have to do this. And he's going to go again and again and again and again until I get it." So I gave it my rendition back and he said, "Nearly, but what you've not quite understood is this little bit here." And I go, "okay cool." So he'd say, Jason, for the third time. And he was getting me to present it by now in front of my ... All my peers were like, "Oh my God who is going to do it?"

Alex:
And thank God that's not me.

Jason:
He had done. He wasn't using me because he was victimising me or whatever. He was using that as a situation where he could actually train 12 people at the same time around one issue. And that one issue is when you've got time with the CEO, make sure you're listening, make sure you're processing, make sure you're understanding and don't ever walk out of that room without confirming it. And it was a stroke of genius because the other guy, the creative director of that business couldn't give a flying monkeys if we had understood why he was so inspiring on stage and he was brilliant and I emulate him even now. He was amazing.

A guy called David Davis. But David didn't care if I knew it or not but Chris did. And to me, I've taken that from Chris and I know with my junior staff, I'm not explaining it and I go, so do you understand that? Yeah. Cool. Okay. So can you tell me what you think I meant and then I'm like, "Why would I do that?" Well, because I'm asking you to, I need to know you've learned this and it's such a simple thing. But yeah, obviously I have a group of 12 people that did two at once. But yeah, it was a moment for me. Really interesting.

Alex:
Yeah. Wow.

Jason:
So a corporate leadership I think is a very different thing because Chris never said, let's go to the pub and get to know each other and all that stuff because you can't do that…

Alex:
Do you think you can't do that at the end of the dialogue? Or is that just what we ... And it's not as little amount of we going to the pub. But don't you think this is kind of the thing. If you're saying that amazing leadership and what you're telling and it's inspiring in a two minutes. But you know what guys in corporate you can. I know that's not what you're saying. But I think that's the challenge that a lot of our listeners will probably have is that I'm sure they'll be listened to this and going, "Wow, this is really interesting. I'm inspired." But now faced with my reality of corporate life...

Jason:
Yeah. So let me be very clear on the difference. So we're currently organising retail study with Alibaba to Shanghai next year and we're getting to know the leaders of Alibaba in Australia, in the region. And they're talking to us about this big event that happens in Shanghai every year. Basically it's the party, it's the office party and it started off in a pub, then it was in a large pub, then it was in that, that, that. And now it's in a stadium. They've got 120,000 people and it's televised because you can't fit everyone in the stadium. This is the size of the Alibaba. And Jack Ma, who's now not running it anymore…

Alex:
Absolutely, yup. That's right.

Jason:
... but he is still a sort of like a very senior role. He gets on stage and makes a complete house of himself in front of all those people, because that whole thing about self deprecating and I am vulnerable and I am fallible and I am accessible. That message can be mass produced for the audience, but no one really knows Jack. And that's what I mean is that…

Alex:
Gotcha.

Jason:
... you can't mass produce your personal relationship with anyone, but you can manufacture something that does two thirds of the job. And that's what I meant by corporate.

Alex:
Yeah, absolutely. So I think for people listening they are gosh, there's so much wisdom and insight in here, but it comes down. You've got to be true to you. You have to really, I guess, be very aware around how you react and what your role as a leader is, which used to actually create space for other people to step up and be leaders. And this is a thing, there's no cookie cutter approach to leadership I've had. You said, I think probably in the first sentence, something about, I never had this big design for my life, so it's been quite organic. And that's very much been my journey as well. I remember when I, say the signs of getting older, right? When you actually asked, come speak to a graduate, things about how you've got to where you got. And I remember one event and they will always, 22 year olds pinpoints waiting for me to tell them what the blueprint and how, what was the pathway to being an executive of a bank was…

Jason:
It's what's the hack?

Alex:
It's what's a hack. And just tell me, so I need to be two years and a year in that and then kind of what's the formula for leadership? And if you tell me then I will assiduously follow that. And I remember this thought in my head going, you guys are going to be so disappointed in what I'm about to tell you or just so underwhelmed because my answer was there's no formula and I didn't really have a blueprint. But what I've realised and I think God and I sometimes to get perspective, you need distance and space and hindsight's a beautiful thing.

When I was, I guess growing up in my career, I would say, well I never really did anything or it just kind of happened, but of course things just happen. Like I always got tapped on the shoulder for role. So clearly people were saying there's something in me that I hadn't seen. But the thing that I did, and this is actually one of my first leaders and mentors actually said to me years later, he said, "Yes, you always have a crack and take type the opportunity." So you'd always have a go at something.

And that was one of, I guess try to, I didn't realize I was doing it at the time. So that's what I say to younger leaders now is that there's no formula, but there are things that high performing people do, whether they're athletes or musicians or corporate leaders. Like there are things that people do. So what do you reckon that people do that kind of set apart from the others? Just think it's, say they take a leap of faith, grab an opportunity with both hands. What's your perspective on that?

Jason:
Okay. So I'm going to talk about my father. He is a remarkable man and a leader of many different organizations and groups of people. And Testament to that was, I was at a banking conference once in Sydney and I knew that Standard Chartered Bank were at this conference. And so I went up and I said hello to the table is about 15 of them. And I said, my father-in-law's name and I said, I'm his son-in-law. And about five people sit up at once, and came over and shook my hand and like had their hands on my shoulders and all that. And then I realized they were crying and he'd been the longest serving board member of this bank in Hong Kong for over 13 years. And he'd recently left and said, thanks very much, goodbye to you. And this is a clear demonstration of his leadership was that these people, they wanted to touch me because I was related to him. Do you know what I mean?

Alex:
Yup.

Jason:
And that for me was like, "This is incredible, this whole kind of ..." And I said, so what was so good about his leadership? Did he give you good direction? Did he give you his wisdom and his advice? And they said, "No, he just ask questions. That's all he ever did. Because he asked questions, so he didn't tell you to do anything? "No, he just got us to think." And of course what he was doing was he was telling them what to do, but he didn't tell them. He just got them to consider the things that he thought maybe they hadn't considered. And what that did was that allowed them to come to that conclusion of belief that it was their decision. So they were fully empowered to act on it. So that for me is great leadership. It's not saying do this and everything's going to be fine. It's actually empowering people to own the outcome because you've just guided them and nurtured them along the way by asking the right questions. And to this day, I just ... He's just so inspiring.

Alex:
My head is just going a million miles an hour. I love that because it actually takes a lot of patience for a leader to do what you've just described. To have the patients of, I know where we're going to end up. I kind of know from experience, but I'm not just going to go the shortcut because they know, like you said, you're actually letting people think for themselves and feel like it's their idea. And then with that comes this amazing cultural impact clearly.

Jason:
Where he was teaching them how to make decisions...

Alex:
Absolutely.

Jason:
And that's the other thing though one of these drunken summer afternoon, he was halfway through my uber with me and we were beginning to talk on that level where you can with your wife's dad about the meaning of life and all that kind of stuff and I said like, "What's the most important thing? Big question." And he immediately said, "To pass it on to the next generation." And to me that I'd still to this day it's like, "Wow, okay, that's cool. That's good." And that's about the whole continual evolution of mankind and to understand that our role here isn't just to make progress, to make sure that the people behind us, that knowing how to make progress as well, which is what he was doing in that banks.

Alex:
Yeah, you wrote that big and it kind of taps into that yet to that point you're like, I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I'd love for you to tell us a bit more about from your business perspective because you bring this philosophy and this ethos and this passion and for humanity and every single that we talk about, but you bring that to your day to day business where you guys are not dust, and I'm using air quotes, "A design company." That's so far down the path of what you do.

Okay. Right. Thanks. What was the question again? Okay. So I've been in business with Dan now for 16 years. And what happens is you do a bunch of projects, and you get a theme, and you get this other thing, and you get a way of talking. In my industry it's very kind of typical that there will be a buzzword. Like it was customer centricity for a while and then it was Omni channel.

Alex:
That was one of my favourite.

Jason:
We can't quite kill it yet, but we try and take it as an absolute pie.


Alex:
And what does it even mean better?

Jason:
Well, that wasn't a proper question was it? Because we've only got an hour. So the role is priceless and worst possible thing is to ... I do a lot of keynote speaking, and it's like to get up on stage and say the same stuff that everyone else is talking about. And what's been delightful in the last couple of years is that the way we've done with Bendigo bank and a couple of other clients has made our narrative completely different. So this afternoon I'm talking at a conference. The guy who's on stage before me is the creative director of one of our competitors. I know what he's going to say. I could almost write the script for what he's going to say because I know the kind of work they're doing and that's fine. I'm going to get up on stage and say, I'm not going to talk to you about any of those things. I'm going to talk to you about something else. I'm going to talk to you about humanity and purpose and brand and the other things now that we are talking about, having been on this journey with Bendigo bank. And the way it's affected my day to day life is, I literally wake up 10 minutes before my alarm goes off in the morning and I spring out of bed. And it took me a while to work out why it was happening. And it's because the net result of us working with the bank means that we are supporting communities around Australia, regional, rural, Metro, whatever. But we are building infrastructure back into those communities because that's the purpose of the bank. And when I think about that versus some of the large corporate telcos that we work with and the way that they are demeaning and crew and Bob Barrack, sometimes in meeting situations. I look at these people and I think my God, if I had a gun. And yet when we're now working with people who are compassionate and who have a real belief in what they're doing. And to me it's meaningful and it really adds purpose to my day, to the point where we've now fired or walked away from all of the clients that we don't like working with and..

Alex:
And it's not a great place to be.


Jason:
... it did damage our business for a few months, but now we're back in. We're doing even better. But it's all part of reaching that place where you've had a bad expression, personal sovereignty. I feel so happy and confident with where I am and where my business is now in life that I don't wish for anything else other than to continue and preserve it the way it is and to enjoy it for as long as I can.

Alex:
Incredible.

Jason:
And the whole humanity is very much a part.


Alex:
I think we could have a series of just things he could unpack from like hour after hour, but we don't have the luxury of that. You need to get you okay notes. So you've got such a fantastic conversation. So maybe that's a good last reflection. So it's that original what would you tell your 30 yourself or your 25 year old self around. Is there any wisdom that now at 50 literally being this amazing place, what's the advice you'd give the younger self?

Jason:
My 30 year old self would grow a bit and be grey, because everyone...

Alex:
...see him, Jason's a silver fox and he carries it very well.

Jason:
Because, everybody listens when you've got a great beard!

So to me I would say the whole kind of thing about becoming complete as a person and becoming happy and confident in your life and in your work is all to do with, it's a bit like, blazing analogic, it's like a muscle. Okay. The way the muscle works is when

we work the muscle hard, we damage the muscle, we tear it and it repairs itself and it becomes stronger. And that's what enables us to do more exercise or better things in the future. Don't think of it as a physical thing, without being too easy to talk about it. It is your mind, it's your spirit, it's your confidence. You can't grow it unless you tear it.

Alex:
Oh wow.

Jason:
So get in there and jump in at the deep end and make mistakes and go wrong and have failures. I know you've heard all this stuff before, but I'm actually giving you the reason why those things are good because you will repair them and in repairing them you become better and more resilient.

Alex:
And that's where confidence comes from. You've got to go through the fire.

Jason:
100%.


Alex:
Yeah, I agree.


Jason:
In many ways you gave the analogy of the sort of the 20 year olds were wanting to write down the formula. That it's so true, but you can't possibly tell them it's going to be okay. I remember my pay as my parents are like, "Don't worry." What do you mean? Don't worry. You spend your time and life worrying and then you get to this thing where it's like the rocket coming out of the atmosphere and suddenly it's silent and you're floating and all the burning fuel and the noise and the shaking and it all stopped and you're there and you're like, "Oh, I'm here." That's what I feel like now.


Alex:
And I think if there's a single thing you want, there's no formula. Everyone has their own journey. You can't give someone all the answers. But I think what you've said is so important is that, and it's not new hates people talk about it, but it's when you're feeling uncomfortable and when you think you're going to file. And we prevent ourselves from doing so many things by that fear of fives in the what if. And once you get to the other side of the what if like, like you said, no one's going to die. Who cares? Like, okay. What happens? You get to the other side and it's not that scary first time anymore and you learn something and you do the next one. So I think that is, if you guys listening, I think these episodes you're going to need to reflect on it. Come back to at least and again and reflect on it because there's a lot of stuff here. I'm going to let you go, but the last thing, meditation, tell me about your recent meditation journey.


Jason:
Okay. All right. I've got a bunch of friends that have been into meditation and they've always said to me, you should meditate. Be careful of meditation because some people who meditate go far too far and they destroy their lives. They become obsessive about it. I've got friends who've literally, are divorced and living on the river Ganges, building temples with their life savings because they think they have found a portal into another universe. It's scary how far meditation can go wrong if you allow it to. That's just a caution we think. But if you can do a portion of that, if you can get into meditation in a way and I'd say my, I've been very, very cynical about it my whole life.

I've just finished reading the trilogy of the Yuval Harari books. So Sapiens, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. If you only read three more books in your life, read those books, it will change the way you see the world and the future. Amazing guy. At the end of the third book, his conclusion on what we should all do in terms of being self-aware and in terms of being more applicable to the future is to meditate. And I'm like really? "Is this so? Is this where it was going? This is the longest why you've persuaded someone to meditation? So I did a bit of research and found Sam Harris Waking Up the app. It's great because it's like little pockets and I'm only three days into it. And Alex is starting to say something...


Alex:
You were saying and I've made a note, I'm going to have a look to it.


Jason:
Yeah. The other thing I do is I listen to Thom Yorke's new song, Dawn Chorus on Anima, his album. Get a good set of headphones. Sit down in the middle of the day, close your eyes, and listen to Dawn chorus. And I promise you everything will set itself. It's like two in the afternoon. It's like you've just woken up, had your first cup of coffee, you're fresh, you're ready for the day. And it literally took four minutes and he's a genius. He's so inspiring. Anyway, listen, thank you for having me.

Alex:
Thank you.

Jason:
I've really enjoyed this.

Alex:
I feel like we could talk for hours, but I'm going to let you go. So thank you for joining us, Jason. So many lessons with them and entertaining stories as always. So thanks very much.

Jason:
Thank you. Okay. See you.


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