63 / Unlock Your Inner Genius

Hosted by Sean Flaherty and Matt Bush




Shawn Livermore

Product Perfect

Shawn Livermore is the author of the Amazon best-selling business non-fiction book, Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius. The book teaches anyone how to think, speak, and create like some of the brightest tech founders in the world. It dispels the myth of the tech genius, then, in an unexpected and very satisfying twist, it reveals how to become the myth yourself. He currently runs Product Perfect, a software consultancy, in Southern California.

Attaining so-called “genius status” – Mozart, Steve Jobs, Einstein spring to mind – seems untouchable to us mere mortals. Or is it. As product people, we have more genius within us than we give ourselves credit for.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Matt are joined by Shawn Livermore. The author of Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius and software architect/consultant with more than 20 years’ experience in our space, Shawn shares strategies the rest of us non-Mensa’s can use to create successful products.

Our best ideas often come to us in seemingly mundane moments, like on our morning commute or while taking a shower, Shawn explains. During these times of “mindless activity,” our minds are free to harness the latent creativity that exists just beneath the surface of our normal, everyday activities. Innovation often comes to us as a “progressive daily trickle,” and by structuring it, anyone can come up with genius ideas, he adds.

Genius may well be within our grasp, but we also need to give ourselves permission to fail. Thomas Edison once famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times; I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” It’s all about perspective, right?

Like Edison, even icons in the tech industry have stumbled through some not-so-great product ideas. But by documenting our thought processes and sharing them, we signal to others that we are thinkers who are highly capable.

Shawn’s words to the wise: “Never underestimate a nerd with a good story.”

Tune in to the whole episode to catch more of Shawn’s stories and tap into his genius.

Sean [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to the Product Momentum Podcast. This is a podcast intended to entertain, educate, celebrate, and give a little back to the product leadership community.

Matt [00:00:32] Hey, Sean, awesome conversation with Shawn Livermore. A quote I grabbed from the conversation: “never underestimate a nerd with a story,” and man, Shawn is a fantastic storyteller.

Sean [00:00:44] Yeah, he’s really good at it. He’s got a demeanor and a way of expressing ideas that’s rare and unique and powerful and he’s got some really good tips for product leaders. I’m excited about this interview.

Matt [00:00:56] Yeah, me too. I think it’s going to be a really cool chat and I think a lot of good nuggets that our listeners will be able to pull out and really apply almost immediately.

Sean [00:01:05] Yeah, let’s get after it.

Matt [00:01:06] Let’s do it.

Sean [00:01:10] Well, hello and welcome to the podcast. Today we have Shawn Livermore. He snuck into the tech industry 20 years ago as a software engineer, a consultant, and a tech startup founder. Somehow, this man has managed to raise venture capital investment six different times. Today he runs a consultancy in Southern California. What attracted me to have him on the podcast was his Amazon business best-selling book, Average Joe: Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius. It dispels the myth of the Silicon Valley tech genius and provides some frameworks that I found absolutely fascinating. Welcome to the show, Shawn. How are you doing?

Shawn [00:01:42] I’m doing great, Sean. Thanks. Thanks, Matt. Good to see you guys.

Sean [00:01:46] Awesome. What’s got you excited lately? What have you learned about building great products lately that has you thinking?

Shawn [00:01:51] Right, products. Every day I work with clients that all want the same thing. They want beautiful products. They want the software to be sexy. They want it just like Coinbase, just like fill in the blank, right, Facebook or whatever the product is that they’re in love with. And it spans the gaps of the entire product ecosystem of what they’re used to, what they love. There’s literally no two clients that say the same product at the end of the day.

Shawn [00:02:17] And I’ve learned that what I believe is a beautiful product and what I believe meets their needs quite well may not be what they are looking for. And so it’s very subjective in nature. You know, absolutely, there are some objective beauty marks that you’ll see in products out there, right, guys? I mean, the way that you frame the software, it is, in and of itself, it’s its own art and its own science. But staring at the material, you know, getting what the client has given to us and printing it all out, putting it on the board, working through it, digesting it, processing through it, looking for those North Star markers that you can line up and find calibration with the client, not for the client, but with the client, bringing them along on the journey, trying to get them to see through a different lens. That’s part of the art. You know, it’s collaborative, and if it’s not collaborative, you might not have a great result. You really have to do some blood transfusion to really get in their head and really understand what they’re looking for, right. So there’s some of the random things I’ve been dealing with lately.

Sean [00:03:20] Blood transfusion, I love it. So when you say “with the client,” you know, you struck a chord with me. So in the product business, right, we’re all about generating ideas. That’s what we do. And sometimes those idea cycles get stuck. And one of the things from your book that stuck out to me is a framework that you formulated around “nibbles of synthesis” to try to increase creative flow. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Shawn [00:03:43] Yeah. So Nibbles of Synthesis is a part of chapters two and three where we talk about creativity, you know, backing up just a bit to look at the whole space from 10000 feet. You know, in the tech industry, you have creative processes, right? You have the work of the computer science professional meets the artists and the creative type to bring forth, out of the ether, my creation to the rest of the earthlings, you know, and lo and behold, look at what I’ve created. And in that moment, in that striking epiphany, euphoric moment of creativity, we lose ourselves because we are caught up in this whirlwind of dopamine and whatever.

Shawn [00:04:22] And then comes a binary test: “am I or am I not a tech genius?” Right. So this exclusivity that is so poisonous for the tech industry has taken root. And so the point of the book and all the research behind it, we spent 18 months, a team of researchers, myself, and three others, along with Dr. Jesse Rissman, Ph.D., out of UCLA, a neuroscience professor who is just phenomenal and masterful at his craft in terms of what the brain really is doing. He studies a lot of memory and creativity and is just a wealth of knowledge. And I feel like I got a master’s degree in neuroscience working with him.

Shawn [00:04:56] But we have created together this framework because we looking for a framework that, quote, anyone, and I mean anyone, your grandma, your kids, your brother, your uncle, your aunt, your kooky family member, whoever it is, they can sit down and use a framework to create a product or create and go through their ideation cycles and plot out all their creative expression and funnel that through a system and come out the other side and pitch to an investor and flip the switch, right, and spark the moment.

Shawn [00:05:25] And so there wasn’t really anything out there that, quote, anyone could adopt. And so we decided to create something and we created what we call the Slow Create Framework. And the Slow Create Framework allows you to use three devices: a canvas, a pipeline, and a triad. The canvas is like a business model canvas where you plot everything out. [It’s the] same idea, but it’s for product creation. If you go to slowcreate.com, it’ll redirect you to the book website and we’ll have a much more robust site for that soon. But it’s all free download PDFs, et cetera, and can see all these artifacts, print them, and use them. So the canvas is where you plot out all your patterns, your details, your secrets, all the creative expression that exists and kind of connecting the dots of, you know, “what was I thinking, what was I solving, what was I trying to butt my head against the proverbial wall? How do I get through this blockage?”.

Shawn [00:06:13] And that nibbles of synthesis as you walk down what we call the mindless work ladder, L-A-D-D-E-R, right. So you let go for the L, you become an antenna for the A, you have drift, daydream, and then you emerge and re-characterize. That’s the whole acronym. And so if you learn while you’re doing these what we call mindless work tasks like taking a shower, taking a long walk, folding laundry, anything that sort of drifts you off into la la land, these are the moments where your brain is naturally inclined to connect the dots for you, right. So 60 to 80 percent of the energy that our brains use happens in the default mode network, this background thread operation, right.

Shawn [00:06:51] And so as we harness that as product teams, we can find ourselves ideating 30, 40, 50 percent of our day while we’re working. Our brain can actually ideate while we’re walking, while we’re commuting, while we’re doing all these other activities, still resting, still recovering. But in a certain dimension, the way that you flip a switch, the way that you calibrate your thinking tied in with the canvas and the way that the Slow Create Framework lays everything out, we have found that it has sped up our ideation cycles. We being myself, Jesse and others who have used it, we found ourselves creating more output. And I really, truly believe that by walking down that ladder, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. It’s like once you realize the steps that you got there to the moment of, “oh, I think I know how to connect the dots now,” it’s really hard to go back once you’ve been there and done it a few times.

Shawn [00:07:40] So that’s kind of what we talk about in terms of getting unstuck and the nibbles of synthesis and, you know, breaking through creative barriers to systematically create, and that’s the key word is systematically. So it’s really phenomenal what this sort of one thing leads to another, you know, the combination of research for the book. But really the Trojan horse of the book is the Slow Create Framework and what it provides.

Sean [00:08:03] Yeah, that’s one of the biggest things that I got out of it for sure.

Matt [00:08:06] Yeah, same here. I think when I was looking through the website, looking through all of the videos and everything like that, the idea of gathering your ideas and kind of formulating those ideas subconsciously or unconsciously was just really fascinating to me. I think it was just a really cool thing to go into. I know personally, I do it a lot, you know, driving someplace and all of a sudden, “hey, what about this idea?” Now, the problem that I tend to run into a lot, and I think a lot of listeners probably do as well, is when you do get stuck in kind of like that analysis paralysis type deal. Like you go in and you have all of these ideas and you start to see them through, but then you just kind of get jammed up. And I know you touched on it in some of the videos and whatnot, but I’m wondering if you’ve got any additional tips. Like what tips or tricks do you use in order to get unstuck?

Shawn [00:08:53] Yeah, so for each of your major ideas, you can plot it out into a canvas and then each of those canvases, as you get them on your wall and you’re like, “OK, let me see, what am I solving today?” And you look at your wall and people walk by and go, “What’s all that?” You say, “oh, I’m working through my creative process.” They’re like, “Wow, that’s interesting.” Instead of 20 papers on the wall, you can condense them all into what we call a pipeline. And so you can see at a glance: patterns, detail, secrets, the nibbles and then the inflection points and the outcome from left to right. You just read it going down each one of the challenges or the ideation areas that you’re working on.

Shawn [00:09:23] The beauty of the pipeline is you can fold it up, put it in your pocket, or do what I do. I have a digital version on my phone. I take a picture of it, you know, I’m popping my phone out, look at my photos app, and I’m just kind of remembering, “what were the ten things I’m solving?” Right, what are the 11 or 12 or 15 life, personal, career, long-term, short-term, right. And this flips artistry on its head and it becomes more of a science, doesn’t it? Because the whole great person with something more as part of the book, you know, this great man theory Thomas Carlyle put together in 1840, that really segment’s out the royalty from the rest of the peasants, right. And you are or you are not, right. And well, that’s not cool, right? We don’t like that. We want to be inclusive in all things. And that includes the tech industry as well, right. So looking at our art versus science, let’s lean toward science, right, and let’s force our brain… It’s truly like you’re getting the horse to water, right, but you’re doing more than that. You’re kind of leading that horse’s mouth right up to the water. It’s like, your brain can’t help but solve the problem while you’re living your life.

Shawn [00:10:22] So to answer the question, the tips on getting unstuck is to document it in this systematic, patterned way and then force your eyes to read it, force your brain to think about it, and then let go. And as the day goes on, it’s loaded into active memory, right. And so it’s readily available. You’ll be surprised the connective synapses and the power of that mental energy. And we’re not the only ones who have practiced this. You know, you see professors walking the campus and their heads are down and they got books in their arms and they’re just like thinking, right. We’ve all got that proverbial professor inside of us.

Shawn [00:10:54] One of my clients said, “it seems like you’re really consternating over there what are you doing? You know, you’re walking through with your head down. Why don’t you you stand up straight, you need to read this one book about standing up straight.” I’m like, “no, I’m solving, don’t you see I’m taking your company from here to here?” And he started laughing. “OK, keep doing that, keep doing that.” Right.

Sean [00:11:11] Yeah, it’s like Archimedes in the bathtub. He wasn’t planning on discovering the formula for buoyancy.

Shawn [00:11:16] Oh, yes. The famous story. It’s actually a ruse. It was proven to be incorrect that, I’m not really quoting it properly, but they went back on Mythbusters and I think they tried to, you know, reenact it. So it was pretty funny to see them, and other people have looked at that. But, you know, there is an interesting caveat here is that the Mozart letter, this famous letter that really, truly defined genius. We talked about it in the research, but it’s this letter from Mozart that was proven one hundred years later to be a fraud by Otto von, but he says, you know, “after a good meal or in a bathtub,” or whatever, you know, “I’m walking, I’ve gone outside and it’s clear air and I’m taking in the moonlight and I feel relaxed and calm and it’s at that moment that the symphony enters my mind and it rarely differs on paper from what I experience in my mind.”.

Shawn [00:12:04] And everyone thought, well, gosh, that is the perfect representation of how smart this guy is, right. And then you have people like Einstein listening to Mozart while he’s coming up with the theory of general relativity and special relativity. And then we hear Einstein as we do our work and we’re thinking that we’re passing the genious. No, it’s all hogwash. The truth is, is that Mozart iterated. Yes, he was brilliant. Yes, he’s amazing. And yet he had access. Talk about privilege. The guy had a whole family and all the resources and certainly there was talent, certainly, you know, they marveled. His priest mentor at eight years old basically gave up and said, “I can’t even play piano anymore because this eight-year-old is killing it.” So the guy is amazing. But he iterated. And his wife, Mozart’s wife, later collected the scraps of all of his crossing things out and all this. And Einstein iterated as well.

Shawn [00:12:53] So all of us, you know, abandoning our code commits and scratching up our business ideas and throwing them in the trash, you know, and disqualification of the self-talk and all that. Yeah, you really got to let yourself off the hook a little bit. Even the great ones, they’re failing all the time. You know, Steve Jobs famously failed on a lot of things. In fact, he was telling people emphatically, “I do not want to install iPhone apps on the iPhone; if they install it on the iPhone, it’s a security risk and they could blow this thing up.” And they convinced him to back off. He wanted to do like these Web apps where you’d like, have you ever had one of those crappy apps where you like tap on it and it’s really an embedded website and you’re like, “this sucks, right, why is it taking so long?” You know, that’s what Steve Jobs wanted, the genius of Steve Jobs, now, I’m not saying he wasn’t awesome and he didn’t do amazing things, but I think we’re way too hard on ourselves and we just venerate these iconoclast tech leaders to this status that is unreachable, right.

Sean [00:13:49] For sure.

Shawn [00:13:49] But the truth of the matter and really the way things happen is more systematic, pragmatic, and funded. That last word, you know, they actually had people paying their bills while they were creating things, right. And that’s a big deal. Not everybody has that.

Sean [00:14:03] So here’s what I like a lot about a framework like this. Scientists have known for a while that innovation doesn’t, you know, it’s hard to plan it. Kenneth O’Stanley, he’s an A.I., researcher, PhD, he wrote the book Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned. He’s actually trying to use A.I. to be creative, to create things that didn’t exist before. And they’ve done it and it’s interesting, but you’re not going to get any real genius that way. It’s the pattern recognition that’s important. And the pattern recognition is what happens in those in-between cycles, that 60 to 80 percent of the time that you’re talking about, you know, where your brain’s actually processing the stuff. And Daniel Goleman, he’s the guy at Harvard who basically came up with emotional intelligence…

Shawn [00:14:41] Oh, yeah.

Sean [00:14:42] …doing FMRI studies in the brain to try to figure out these different things. He wrote the book Focus. I think he coined the term open awareness, which is where innovation really comes from. So what I believe is as leaders, it’s our job to set the right goals and have the right conversations so that people are doing exactly what you said. And I like your framework. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen somebody create a systematic way to think about, how are we going to purposely cause and allow for the slow, authentic creative process to actually occur? Thank you for that contribution.

Shawn [00:15:12] It’s been fun to work through it. I find it fascinating that we search for the wizard, the sorcerer, the prodigy, the great man with something more, the great woman with something more, when in fact it’s more of a process than a person. So anyone can pick up the process. Not anyone can be the person. But when you apply a process to a person, it becomes an additive career, you know, where you can flatten the layers of all the years of all your hard work in one sweeping motion on the whiteboard and showcase a thought. But it does take systematic, creative cycles, you know, and that’s why we get up every day and we go to work. And I’m not here to talk about hype and hustle and let’s do productivity hacks, you know, 4 am, yeah. Who here is getting up at 4:00? Not me. Man, I’m sleeping until eight and getting my coffee in me and trying to get eight hours sleep every night hopefully and doing what I can to survive myself. But I think there’s no point in beating your body into the ground, you know, especially when that’s not really effective long-term, right. Not sustainable.

Sean [00:16:10] Yeah.

Matt [00:16:11] I think as you were going through and I was looking through the framework and everything, I’ll kind of echo what Sean had said in terms of just having that process of how to think. Because I find myself, and it was funny, the visuals that you had as you were talking through kind of how the framework is set up and the funnel and everything. I’ve gone through and I’m guilty of it all the time. I have legal pads all over the place and just take notes of all sorts of different things and it’s just chaos in a lot of different areas. So I want to try to formulate that a little bit more into kind of a cohesive, more systematic way of thinking. It’s fascinating to me. I think it’s just a really cool way of thinking.

Shawn [00:16:49] Thanks.

Matt [00:16:49] Yeah, absolutely.

Shawn [00:16:50] I think you’re right. We don’t spend enough time thinking about thinking, you know, we’re so quick to put together products and run fast and break things. And, you know, if you’re not shipping code every day, then you’re failing. You know, it’s too long. You know, there’s this chatter versus chunky. And I do think there’s a time for both. But, you know, the product team and the creative juices of the programmer who’s quiet in the back have not been tapped into, and our technology industry is so guilty of this. We are so easy targets for this, right. Like, of course it resonates because we’re all thinkers, right? We’re all left-brainers. When it comes to social environments, we’re totally inadequate and inept. We can’t put words together to save our lives. In fact, I had to dedicate a whole chapter or two of the book to how to talk, you know, how to get nerds to cross over the chasm to become speakers, right.

Shawn [00:17:37] And so I open the book with the quote that I threw together. It’s a quote that I feel really good about, that came out of my brain unless someone else said it first, but I haven’t found it online anywhere. But, “never underestimate a nerd with a good story” is the quote. And I think it’s just so true. But, Matt, even if the outcome of your productivity thought cycles where your mental cycle is getting through that Slow Create framework, the canvas then the pipeline then the triad, learn how to culminate that up into inflections, even if that didn’t net instant results for you, putting it on the wall and having people ask you, “what’s that,” right. And they point to it and say, “what are you doing; what is all this?” You know, instantly you’ve shifted the power in the room to, “well, these are my mental cycles.” “What?” So, you know, they earmark you as some smart guy in the back coming up with ingenious endeavors. And they should probably include you in their new product meetings and let you run the project instead of the other guy.

Matt [00:18:33] I love that line of thought. And you kind of touched on something that I wanted to change into and just kind of pull on a little bit more in the concept of inflections. So I know within the framework you describe four of them: technology, adaptation, regulatory, and belief. But I’m wondering if you could expand on those, kind of what we can do with them.

Shawn [00:18:52] Oh, totally. So venture capitalist Mike Maples, a co-founder over at Floodgate, he’s a brilliant man, and over time, he had basically put together four kind of boxes, four quadrants of inflections that most startups fall into, or most companies when they innovate, they lean on one of these. And those four, as you said, are technology, adoption, regulatory, and belief. And so an example of each one: technology, you know, when GPS chips became more accurate, where instead of three or four or five feet, accuracy was down to like, you know, a foot or two, that actually made a big deal. That was a technology inflection. And now we know that when you’re walking around with your phone with Google Maps, you can do certain things you couldn’t do before. And they know when the person’s at the register versus still at the front of the store and things like that. These actually generate all sorts of interesting next-big-thing type conversations and the venture community really digs their teeth into that and so do a lot of founders who can leverage it.

Shawn [00:19:52] The next one is adoption. Adoption is where you believe that there will be an adoption curve where, you know, today not a lot of people riding around in electric scooters, but ten years from now, that will be exponentially higher, especially in developing countries like India, where they’re already sort of doing that but it has a person driving them on a bike, right. So move that person into a different career or have them be tuning up their bicycles or tuning up their electric scooters instead of driving people around with their legs. These are adoption inflections and they will invest money in correlation to that adoption.

Shawn [00:20:26] Regulatory: in the wake of COVID, you know, we have cross-state online health, right. So you can you do the Teladoc-type stuff and get help without going to the doctor. Well, you know, in the future, that might pave the way for new regulation and new legislation that will eliminate the state-by-state kind of silo that we have today in the United States and beyond.

Shawn [00:20:46] And then the last one is belief. These long-held beliefs, these things where people will not budge. A great one about that is the sharing economy. So if you would have asked someone in 1995, “would you allow someone to come sleep in your bed for one hundred and fifty dollars a night?” They’d say, “are you out of your mind; that’s disgusting.” Right. Now, they say, not only are they OK with it, they have restructured their retirement portfolio around having three or four Airbnbs, you know, and really focusing their whole career on it. And most people are willing to not only sleep in someone else’s bed, but they have them sleep in their bed. Crazy. That’s a belief inflection and the sharing economy of driving cars and sleeping in beds and what else, you know, look around your house and see what else should be shared next, right.

Shawn [00:21:32] So these inflections actually are possible to get to. Maple’s really had a good diatribe he goes on about who can really figure these inflections out. If we could get the people who knew all this stuff, these future seers, you know, people who see the future, you know, we should invest in those guys. And that’s literally what the venture capital community does. They look for seers. Now, how do you know if you’re a seer? Well, you have to pretend like you went into a time machine and you went to the future and you looked around and you saw everything and you went back in and you came back home and you were able to speak intelligently about what you saw. And how do you have evidence? You can’t bring anything back with you in the time machine, but it’s the way that you have fitted your career around your site. OK, now think about that for a little bit. They look for evidence in the founder, which this ties into raising money and how you pitch and how you think about every day and going into work and putting on your work mantra and getting in there and checking your email and doing what it is you do, burning your calories, right.

Shawn [00:22:29] How do you spend your time? Is it based on what you’ve seen in your time machine or is it based on the burden, the mortgage, right. Sometimes it’s both, isn’t it? Because we all have a family, or a lot of us, right. We have a family. Or if you’re looking to have a family or move forward into getting a house or whatever, there is a certain amount of shackles that you will feel around your ankle. And how do you work within your own friendly walled garden toward that future site? That’s very difficult to do, but those who can do that can raise money, can build a business, can really leverage the inflection. And it is a tool. It is absolutely a tool. Is it hype and hustle? No, it is site. It is evidence. There are times like the Segway where they invested, all the smart money went after Segway, and they bombed. No one is driving Segways around the street. I have not seen one unless you’re at Disneyland or something, right.

Sean [00:23:22] Or police in like wealthy areas.

Shawn [00:23:24] Totally.

Sean [00:23:25] Well, this is this has been awesome. I have a couple more questions for you and then we’ll wrap up. But really, thank you for your contributions to our industry, the product leadership industry. I think the stuff will live and contribute for years to come. So thank you, Shawn. How do you define innovation?

Shawn [00:23:39] How do I define innovation? I would define it as the progressive daily trickle. You know, it’s little c, right? So big C creativity, the a-ha moment, is overrated. You can almost disprove it. It’s almost a binary test, right.

Sean [00:23:56] It certainly happens, but most of us aren’t going to get to experience that. Most of us are in the incremental innovation business and they matter, they add up.

Shawn [00:24:04] Even the guy who invented Polaroid, you know, he was working on a pouch-based system for his camera idea for many years and he abandoned it many times. And he had actually nibbled around the edges of greatness so many times in his creative endeavors until his daughter, who I think was, I think seven or something at the time, said, “Daddy, why can’t I print the picture now? I want to see it now.” Right. If you have kids out there who say things like this, of course, it’s hilarious. Right. And he looks at her and goes, “well you can’t, sweetheart, because it’s got to go through a machine and then…” “No, but daddy, I want to see it now.”.

Shawn [00:24:38] And so this consumer raw moment drove the innovation, right. And the trickle turned into a stream and he stopped. He literally stopped his tracks, canceled all his appointments, told his wife, “I need time, leave me alone, take the kids, go, go, go.” And he got all of his drawings out that he carried around him, just like Leonardo da Vinci carried around the Mona Lisa for ten years and pulled it out in little cities and do a little stroke on the hair, a little stroke in the eyes and rolled it all up and stick it back with him. And we carry our Mona Lisa’s around, don’t we? Right. So like Lane, L-A-N-E was his last name. He pulls out his sketches. He calls his buddy over and they work on it and they come up with a model that is a pouch-based configuration, but it’s not riddled down and burdened with all the things that he was worried about in the past, it was invoking a whole new paradigm of how that piece of film would get developed in a rapid succession after it printed it out.

Shawn [00:25:28] And so this innovation, at the behest of his impatient daughter, came to fruition and the moment they unveiled it to the press, they printed out a picture. It was like an 11 by 17 or an 8 by 10 or something. It was of his head and they put it next to his real head and the crowd just gasps like, wow, this is dark magic, right. The point I’m making with that is there was but there kind of wasn’t an a-ha moment, right? The big C was actually just if you really looked at the big C moment of creativity under the microscope, there was actually a whole bunch of little tiny c’s in there. I think we all have to remember that one thing leads to another, that the gain of yesterday will be the plateau of today and the gain of today will be the plateau of tomorrow. And we continue to step up that staircase of innovation.

Matt [00:26:09] I like that thought and I like that answer in terms of innovation. So like the trickle effect and continuing to climb those stairs, I think that’s awesome as well as I didn’t know the story of Polaroid, so that was new for me, so…

Shawn [00:26:21] There’s so many good stories out there, man. So many good ones.

Matt [00:26:24] I don’t doubt it one bit. Last question for you, though. Aside from your own book, Average Joe, awesome to be able to read into and learn about the framework and everything. But aside from your own book, what would you suggest to any of our listeners in terms of reading?

Shawn [00:26:38] Oh, there’s so much good stuff out there. Gosh, I’d have to get you a list. You know, I think, get into studies. Get out of the book, get into studies. Get into controlled experiments. I think controlled experiments, they’re undervalued because when you go to write a book, that’s what you’re looking for anyway. You’re looking for the data, the science, the experiments. What can you say, “well the control group did this, but the test group did that, oh, therefore, we deduce that this must be the point we’re trying to make,” et cetera. But when you get the raw material, it’s powerful.

Shawn [00:27:05] And I would get in conversation with people, you know, showing up at online forums where you can ask some key questions that lead you to the epiphanies that you’re looking for that help you get from knocking on the door to nibbles of synthesis yourself. Because sometimes you got to bring other people into your inner thoughts, right. We have like this echo chamber happening and it’s this mental torture. For those of us who care about creative cycles and we care about building products and really crushing it for whether it’s your career or your startup or your future, bring other people, other voices, into that echo chamber and allow that to ruminate.

Shawn [00:27:42] It’s kind of like the idea of secrets. You know, how do you find a secret? Peter Thiel, you know, he talks about this thing, this contrarian question of what is that one thing you know to be true, which is hard to prove, but that very few others will agree with you about. Right. And that Zero to One book that he wrote, that’s a great one if you want one: Zero to One by Peter Thiel. But that is the contrarian question, that is that hard-to-answer question that allows you to culminate years, decades even, of research into that thesis that you have, becoming a seer and being able to prove or not prove, hard to prove, maybe prove, and play it out into a startup or into a business endeavor.

Shawn [00:28:18] But coming back to secrets, you know, it’s really hard to find truffles. But if you know the guy in France who owns the pigs that can sniff them out, you can find some truffles, right. And this idea of building a business or having a fulcrum by which your startup can be innovative is paramount. So you have to be able to get to that point as an innovator where the secrets are oozing out of your pores. And how do you do that? Well, you got to be in the clay. Ten thousand pots are the hardest and then it gets easier, the guy said, right. So the engagement, coming back out of that rabbit hole to the point I was trying to make, is this idea of secrets and that we all have access to them. We talk about exclusivity, right. But we all really do have expertize in something. And if you don’t have expertize in something, you should probably recalibrate your career to gain expertize in something. Right. Something that interests you, something you’re excited about so that your brain fires up and your energy fills your body when you dig into it and then let the systematic application of processes be connected to the energy. It’s like plugging into the wall, right, and the blender runs, you know, and something works and your mind and body are connected, your calibration is set and then you’re ready. And so then it’s about practicing the science on a daily basis. So that’s kind of a sort of a nutshell of bringing home kind of what the book and the research in the last couple of years have laid out in front of my plate that I’ve been digging into daily.

Shawn [00:29:36] Awesome. Well, thank you, Shawn. It’s been a pleasure. You are quite the ultimate storyteller, as evidenced by your book. So highly recommend to the audience to read the book, Average Joe, best-selling Amazon in the business category, Be the Silicon Valley Tech Genius. So thanks again for joining us and for your contributions to the industry.

Shawn [00:29:55] Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Sean. Good to be here.

Matt [00:29:57] Thanks, Shawn.

Paul [00:30:03] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get. So please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world, just like you’re doing. Thanks, everyone. We’ll see you next episode.


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