Before there were influencers, there were evangelists, people who helped to spread the good news about a brand. And while today’s influencers are brands unto themselves, evangelists put the message of the brand they’re preaching about ahead of their own message.
Most of the time. Because every once in a while, an evangelist has a story to tell about himself that’s so good that he becomes the brand. That’s the case with Guy Kawasaki and his recently published book “Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life.” Kawasaki, a youthful 65, was one of the Apple employees responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984, and he made his bones as an Apple evangelist, popularizing the concept of evangelism in marketing. He has also worked for venture capital firms, has written and published 15 books and is an executive fellow at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Kawasaki is an engaging, practiced speaker, with a warm, funny patter he delivers with traces of his native Hawaii in his voice. He’s a relentless name dropper, but what’s the point of spreading the good news if you can’t mention your friends?
Chops caught up with Kawasaki last Thursday in Toronto, where he spoke with 300 or so Klick employees in the third installment of the agency’s guest speaker program, the Klick IDX Authors Series. Kawasaki presented 11 of the main lessons he’s learned in a rich life that has taken him from an immigrant neighborhood in Honolulu to the boardrooms of Silicon Valley.
And while the lessons don’t all deal with creativity, the topic of this column, the way he presents them certainly offers a unique perspective on how to evangelize with creativity.
Here they are, Guy Kawasaki’s Top 11 Life Lessons:
1. Change a Losing Game
Kawasaki, a second-generation American, started his list by thanking his grandfather for leaving Japan, where there was no economic opportunity, and moving to Hawaii, where he and his family found plenty of work, eventually leading, however indirectly, to Kawasaki’s role at Apple.
2. Get Educated
Kawasaki mentioned his sixth-grade teacher, Trudy Aikau, who told his parents that young Guy showed so much promise that the public schools in Hawaii didn’t have the resources to help him realize his gifts and that he’d need to eventually attend a private school. He found his way from Oahu to Stanford. “One person, one boss, one teacher, can change a life,” Kawasaki said. “I learned the most from the toughest people I worked for or were taught by.” And here he mentions Steve Jobs.
3. Get Motivated Any Way You Can
“Don’t worry about what motivates you,” he said. “Just get motivated.” Kawasaki told the Klick crowd that it would be great if everyone could be like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela; the world would certainly be a better place if all our motivations were so noble. But the fire in Kawasaki’s belly came from a more personal place. “I got robbed when I was a kid,” he said. “I was at a bus stop and I got mugged. I said to myself after that, I’m gonna study so I never have to live in a place where I can get robbed.” A second motivator: driving his college roommate’s mother’s Ferrari. “That ride changed my life,” he said.
4. Get In Any Way You Can
It doesn’t matter how you get the job; it matters what you do once you have the job. “I was a psychology major at Stanford,” Kawasaki said. “Because that was the easiest major. I had no tech background. I got a job at Apple because my roommate helped me get it. Just get in and kick ass.”
5. Don’t Look for Problems
“You’ll find enough problems that will smack you in the head as you go through life,” he said. He offered a great example of how he was approached by a woman outside his San Francisco home one morning as he was trimming some plants. “Do you do lawns, too?” she asked. Kawasaki instantly got his back up, thinking, “Oh, just because I’m a Japanese guy trimming bushes, she thinks I’m a gardener.” It irritated him to no end. When Kawasaki recounted the story to his father, his dad said, “You know, not too long ago, all the gardeners really were Japanese. So give her a break.” Kawasaki’s advice: Don’t play the victim: take the high road instead.
6. Grind It Out: Success takes work
Here Kawasaki showed an image of a sweatshirt worn by the original Macintosh crew. It read: 90 Hours a Week and Loving It.
7. Remember Your Friends
And not just because you’ll meet them on the way back down the ladder. Kawasaki told the audience that he had given Marc Benioff, one of the founders of Salesforce, his first job as an intern at Apple. When it came time to help friends and even his own son get interviews at Salesforce, Kawasaki was able to arrange the meetings with a single email to Benioff. “Be nice to the intern,” Kawasaki said.
8. Touch Gold
“Remember to look for good stuff,” Kawasaki reminded the crowd. “It’s not that everything I touch turns to gold. It’s that if it’s gold, I touch it. Pick your clients this way.”
9. Continue to Learn
Kawasaki said that learning truly begins once your formal education is over. “I learned to play hockey at age 44 and started surfing when I was 61,” he said. “They were both things my kids were doing and I wanted to be able to share them.” In addition to learning how to do a couple of fun activities, Kawasaki also built a bridge between himself and his kids.
10. Do What It Takes
“Life isn’t fair,” he said, telling the story of how he met Richard Branson in a conference speakers’ green room. Branson asked Kawasaki if he flew on Virgin Atlantic, Branson’s airline. “I’m a global services member on United,” Kawasaki said he told Branson. “I can’t give that up.” At which point Branson dropped to his knees and started shining Kawasaki’s shoes while pitching the glories of his airline. Kawasaki switched.
11. Go High and to the Right
Here Kawasaki showed a grid made up of two axes, with value on the X axis and uniqueness on the Y. Items that have greater value and uniqueness are high and to the right; low-value commodities are low and to the left.
Kawasaki answered questions from the audience after his presentation, when he offered what I thought was his most valuable lesson, especially for people in the creative space: “Never expect someone to do something you wouldn’t,” he said.