Working for one world-famous tech unicorn could be considered a lifetime achievement. Working for two means you’re probably doing something right. Guy Kawasaki is currently the Chief Evangelist for graphic design platform Canva, a role he also once held at Apple. In addition, Guy has served as a Wikimedia Foundation trustee, written 15 business books, and currently hosts the podcast Remarkable People.
In this episode of Spend Culture Stories — which includes a special live Q&A — Guy explains why everyone should be an evangelist for their company (including CFOs), the mistakes that cost him $2.5 billion, and what kind of tech organizations he supports.
Guy Kawasaki of Canva
💡 Key quote: “Evangelism comes from a Greek word meaning ‘bringing the good news,’ so what an evangelist does is bring the good news. So the news you bring has to be good, which means that the product has to be good — it’s very difficult to evangelize crap.”
Guy is full of advice, but one thing he can’t quite explain is how he got so good at picking winning organizations. He says that it’s gut instinct — but a very particular gut.
“I have a gut that has been in business since 1979, so one would hope that a reasonably intelligent person has developed some pattern recognition,” he says.
“Or, in the famous metaphor of Malcolm Gladwell, you do something for 10,000 hours and then you can make a decision that may appear to be an off-the-cuff instant response, but is really the result of 30 or 40 years.”
One thing he does look out for in the technology he backs is whether it levels the playing field.
“I’m into the democratization of anything,” Guy says. “With Canva, it’s design; with Macintosh, it was computers. I like it when it’s not a technology that’s reserved for rich people, or powerful people, or people working in large organizations.”
Gut instinct or a honed eye for detail, Guy has plenty to say about succeeding in tech, making mistakes, and how to know you’ve made it.
Top takeaways from this week’s conversation
Everyone should be an evangelist for the organization they work for 🎤
Rightly or wrongly, finance professionals are not typically known for standing on soapboxes to shout about their products. But Guy says that everyone in an organization should feel as invested in its product as the people who are explicitly paid to sing its praises.
“My theory is that yes, there are people who are evangelists and they evangelize, that’s their job,” he says. “But everyone in the organization should be evangelistic — not evangelical, that’s a very different thing. Even the CFO should believe that his or her product is good news and is making lives better. Susan Barnes, who was the CFO of the Macintosh division, was just as evangelistic about Macintosh as any of us.”
Having imposter syndrome might actually be a good thing 🎭
Like all men, or so he claims, Guy does not suffer from imposter syndrome. “I can’t think of an instance where a man ever said to me, ‘I don’t think I deserve this raise. I don’t think I deserve this funding,’” he says. He thinks it’s something women are more likely to experience.
However, Guy also makes the point that questioning whether you really deserve recognition might actually indicate that you’re the kind of conscientious person who has earned their seat at the table.
“I would make the case that the people who do not have imposter syndrome are probably the ones who don’t deserve those rewards. I could say that the thought that you may be an imposter is a sign of intelligence — it’s not a sign of stupidity.”
Guy does have some advice for women who want to get past it: “Just fake it ‘til you make it. All the men are faking it, so you fake it, too.”
Here’s how to tell if you’re truly passionate about something 🏄♂️
Based on a conversation with self-help author Mark Manson, Guy has been thinking a lot about the process of finding out what you’re passionate about.
He and Mark have decided that the difference between being interested in something and passionate about it is deliberate action: applying yourself to that thing for a long time.
“The acid test for passion is, would you do it even though it wasn’t lucrative? Would you do it even if you’re not that good at it?” Guy says. For him, that’s surfing, which he does every day… but not well. “Surfing is the only thing that I love that I’m not good at, because it’s easy to love something you’re good at. It’s hard to love something that you’re not good at. That’s the test.”
Spend culture highlights
Guy’s Golden Touch💡
[3:32] “I’ve been very fortunate twice: once to be affiliated with the Macintosh division — to help make Macintosh successful — and currently with Canva. I call this ‘Guy’s Golden Touch,’ which is not that whatever Guy touches turns to gold: Guy’s Golden Touch is whatever is gold, Guy touches.”
The $2.5 billion mistakes of Guy’s career 💡
[4:36] “I left Apple twice. After the second time, Steve Jobs offered me another job, and I turned him down. Also, Michael Moritz from Sequoia Capital asked me if I wanted to interview for the CEO position of Yahoo, and I turned down the interview. What if I had said yes, how much money does that involve? I say $2.5 billion roughly. It adds up to real money after a while.”
Selling good products is easy, coming up with good products is hard 💡
[7:25] “Just because you want something to be successful and you say you’re an evangelist for it, that’s not the hard part. The hard part is to be affiliated with or have created something great. If it’s great enough, it doesn’t matter what your title is — it could be sales, marketer, evangelist, schleper. It doesn’t really matter if the product is great. What I’m trying to hammer into everybody is: focus on the product — that’s the hard part.”
Money can’t make you remarkable 💡
[24:48] “My podcast is called Remarkable People. It’s not called ‘Rich People,’ and it’s not called ‘Famous People.’ If the CEO of Goldman Sachs wanted to be on it, probably not — I want remarkable people. I have had a person who was smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border and now works for Adobe — she’s now worth $1 billion dollars. She doesn’t have 25 million followers. But I think her story and what she accomplished is remarkable.”
Passing the mic to an underrepresented group 💡
[28:57] “On my Clubhouse, I only let women ask questions. Women have been silenced for so long, I thought I would do my little bit to ensure that women had the podium and the mic and their voices would be heard.”
How to know you’ve made it 💡
[33:57] “The main element for success is that I can say no almost anytime I want now; I don’t have to do anything. Two years ago, I got an email from the woman who runs TEDx of Palo Alto, and she asked me if I would be interested in moderating a session with Jane Goodall. My head was exploding. But I already had a speech booked. We were still pretty far in advance, so I basically told the organization, ‘I’m backing out.’ I’m telling this story because I was in a position in life where I could say, ‘I don’t want that money, I would rather be onstage with Jane Goodall’ — and that to me, is the point where you can say you are free: you’re not working for the man anymore.”
[15:28] “The number one piece of advice for an entrepreneur is: it’s only about three or four things in your life.”
[19:54] “Guy Kawasaki became Guy Kawasaki mostly by pursuing stuff that just interested him. Some of it became passions, and I worked my ass off. That’s it. That’s my ‘secret formula.’”
[20:48] “I’m a simple guy, I can’t do five-step things. My limit is three.”
[53:50] “My experience is that bad times create great companies, and great times create shit companies. I’m not saying you should intentionally look for a bad time. But don’t be dissuaded by it being a bad time.”
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