Reid Hoffman (@reidhoffman) is a co-founder of LinkedIn, investor at Greylock Partners, host of the podcast Masters of Scale, and co-author of the fully revised and updated bestseller The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.
What We Discuss with Reid Hoffman:
- Why you should think of your career as a startup — from the perspective of an entrepreneur rather than an employee.
- What it means to evoke a permanent beta mindset in which you treat every day like day one and commit your life to personal growth.
- Why it’s important to continually generate professional opportunities even if you’re happy where you are.
- Why you should ignore hacky influencers who tell you to “begin with the end in mind” when it comes to your career (and what you’re better off doing instead).
- The soft and hard assets you should be tracking to make yourself, as friend of the show Cal Newport has famously said, “so good they can’t ignore you.”
- And much more…
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If you want to peer inside the mind of someone who’s been through the startup game more than a few times, Reid Hoffman is your guy. He’s a co-founder of LinkedIn, investor at Greylock Partners, and co-author of several books, including Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies, Masters of Scale: Surprising Truths from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs, and the fully revised and updated bestseller The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. Appropriately enough, he’s also the host of the Masters of Scale podcast, which explores how the world’s most successful entrepreneurs take their companies from startup level to becoming household names.
But if you’re just trying to carve out a totally normal career for yourself in the working world, why should you care about advice from the perspective of a startup-savvy entrepreneur? Because there’s no such thing as a “totally normal” career anymore. On this episode, Reid rejoins us to discuss what you have to gain by approaching your career as a startup and adopting an entrepreneur’s point of view rather than that of an aspiring employee. Here, you’ll come to understand why adaptability is really the new stability that will ensure job security, and what you can do to become an indispensable asset rather than a disposable cog in the modern machinery of gainful employment. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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No Lie is a podcast that covers the most important and breaking political stories of the week, hosted by progressive commentator Brian Tyler Cohen. Listen here or wherever you find fine podcasts!
If you missed our two-part interview with Greylock’s Reid Hoffman, don’t panic! You can catch up by starting at episode 207: Reid Hoffman | Mastering Your Scale for the Unexpected Part One!
Thanks, Reid Hoffman!
If you enjoyed this session with Reid Hoffman, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Reid Hoffman at Twitter!
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Resources from This Episode:
- The Startup of You: Adapt, Take Risks, Grow Your Network, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha | Amazon
- Masters of Scale: Surprising Truths from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs by Reid Hoffman, June Cohen, and Deron Triff | Amazon
- Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh | Amazon
- The Masters of Scale Podcast
- Reid Hoffman | LinkedIn
- Reid Hoffman | Twitter
- From Idea to Iconic | Greylock
- Reid Hoffman | Surprising Entrepreneurial Truths | Jordan Harbinger
- Reid Hoffman | Mastering Your Scale for the Unexpected Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Reid Hoffman | Mastering Your Scale for the Unexpected Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Scott Adams | How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America | Jordan Harbinger
- Scott Adams | Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter | Jordan Harbinger
- Cal Newport | Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World | Jordan Harbinger
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport | Amazon
- Tyra Banks: The Power of Personal Brand | Masters of Scale
719: Reid Hoffman | Adaptability Is the New Stability
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Reid Hoffman: And so, yes, there's a part of it, we said, well, I just want stability. And it's like, well, but adaptability is the new stability. And so, this is the way that you need to do it. And trusting in large-scale mechanisms which might be volatile. We're living in volatile times, look around you. Having some ability to have that kind of knowing that you can rely upon yourself and you can rely upon your colleagues and friends and network. You can rely upon the way you've invested in your career. That gives you the adaptability that then gives you the basis by which you can be stable and safe.
[00:00:38] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional mafia enforcer, drug trafficker, neuroscientist, or hostage negotiator. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:03] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to do it. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like disinformation and cyber warfare, persuasion and influence, China and North Korea, scams and conspiracy debunks, technology and futurism, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:30] Today, some career advice from none other than the founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman. He's also a billionaire investor. That's probably worth mentioning. If you're retired, you can go ahead and skip this one. But before you do, share it with somebody else you know who's in the labor market, either at the onset or the middle of their career or in a position to share with others who are at that place in their career. Word of mouth is huge for us. And this information could very well be life-changing to somebody starting or in the middle of a career.
[00:01:57] In the past, the career escalator was pretty predictable. You just had to show up at work and you'd move up. This is no longer the case. It's getting harder for older people to retire, middle-aged people to ascend, and for young folks to join in. Global trade and tech replaces workers and radically changes careers and the required skills for jobs. Those who don't keep up are in some kind of trouble. The long-term packed between employers and employees, where you both stick around for each other for the long haul that is gone. Now, performance-based tours of duty, which are up for renegotiation by both sides every year or so, pretty much the norm.
[00:02:30] Again, this is a career-focused episode. So if that's not, you go to our playlists at jordanharbinger.com/start. You'll find some suggestions there for other episodes you can listen to, but if you're ready to take some elite-level career advice and gain an advantage, moving in up and around the corporate ladder, then stick with us here and enjoy this conversation with Reid Hoffman.
[00:02:53] The book's premise is that we should think of our careers as a startup, as an entrepreneur, and not as of labor. And that in itself is kind of unusual because usually, we're a cog in the machine. We're not actually reinventing the machine. I find that that's a unique perspective from any career book.
[00:03:10] Reid Hoffman: So I think part of the thing is with traditional careers colleges, other places want to do is, "Hey, you kind of choose your path. And the path is like a ladder or an escalator or something else. And you don't have to worry about it. You don't have to fret about it. You just get this natural kind of go-forward basis." And the thing is the world has massively changed. And not obviously, just because we have a Ukrainian conflict, not just because we have a pandemic, and not just because there's an explosion of different changes of technologies and therefore industries.
[00:03:40] The world has changed because now as opposed to a career escalator, it's much more like a career jungle gym. So even when you say, "Look, all I want to do is get some good stable jobs and I want to know what I'm good at. I want to get good at it. You still have to apply the entrepreneurial mindset. You still have to apply the, "I own my own career. I'm the owner of my own work life." Because even if you find an employer as well, I'd like to do the employer when you're 21 and you work with me until you're 65 or 70, like the industry may change in a way, even the employer doesn't actually anticipate.
[00:04:12] And so that's the reason why you have to approach it with a notion of being the owner, being the entrepreneur of your own life and career, and then like, okay, what does that mean? That's of course what the book is about.
[00:04:23] Jordan Harbinger: My dad was an auto worker. He retired after probably 30 years. I'd have to ask him. My mom was a public school teacher. That was a little bit more stable because public school teacher is almost, I mean it's government job adjacent. Really, it is kind of a government job in a way. Auto worker was very similar in Detroit, right? There was, you had a pension, you didn't have to worry about really saving. I mean we did. And he did thankfully, but a lot of guys, he's like, "No, we have got a pension. What am I worried about?" They weren't worried about getting fired because you didn't have to show up. You'd have to dance on the assembly line, naked and drunk before you'd be fired from Ford in the '80s, or it was like impossible.
[00:04:57] Then that all went away and people who worked at auto suppliers, their pensions evaporated because the supplier declared bankruptcy or something like that. And this is America. There's no government safety, not a real government safety net. If you've done nothing for yourself, there's just nothing for you. And being from Detroit, I've seen mass failure of even what little safety net we do have happened rapidly and on a mass scale. And it's just not pretty.
[00:05:21] Reid Hoffman: A hundred percent. And you know, by the way, I think, you know, personally, I'm supportive of how we as a society get a more general safety net because we're a wealthy enough society in order to have some of that. That's totally great. But nevertheless, even with that, don't rely upon that. And by the way, thinking of yourself as the entrepreneur of your own career, the startup of you is not just a way of surviving, but it's also a way of thriving. It's a way of having much more fun, more learning, more fulfilling, more meaningful, more exciting kind of workspace.
[00:05:53] And so, yes, there's a part of it. We said, well, I just want stability. And it's like, well, but adaptability is the new stability. And so, this is the way that you need to do it and trusting in large-scale mechanisms, which might be volatile. We're living in volatile times, look around you. There's volatility all over the place. Having some ability to have that kind of knowing that you can rely upon yourself and you can rely upon your colleagues and friends and network. You can rely upon the way you've invested in your career. That gives you the adaptability, that then gives you the basis by which you can be stable and safe.
[00:06:27] Jordan Harbinger: I like that theory or that piece of wisdom.
[00:06:29] For example, my original point with my dad working for Ford for 30 years was if Ford said, "Hey, we really need you in our Florida, something, something for the next couple years," you didn't go, "Well, I'm just going to work at GM then." You just went, you packed your crap and your family. And you went to Florida and then they moved you to Seattle and then they moved you to California and then they moved and he'd go on business.
[00:06:51] So we didn't move. But he went on business trips where he was gone. I want to say at least a month. And it's like, "Wow, dad's just gone." Now, can you even — I mean, you and I probably can't. I can't even imagine a business. It's like, "We're going to need you to leave for a few months." Maybe if you work in an oil company, you have to go to Saudi Arabia and you don't want to take your family, that's one thing. But very few companies in the United States are like, "We need you to move to New York for a year with your family." Because they know that people will go, "You know what I think of that? I'm going to work for the competition and taking a bunch of knowledge with me because I don't feel like uprooting my family all the time." And you have that ability to do that now if you have done what we're going to talk about in here, which is create a network, skill stack, things like that.
[00:07:33] I've heard you recommend that people stay in permanent beta mindset. What does that mean?
[00:07:38] Reid Hoffman: What it means is that you're always learning. You never feel that yourself, your skills, your soft assets, your hard assets, that's never a finished product. You're in permanent beta. You're always as supposed to shipping the 1.0 version of Jordan or the 1.0 version of Reid, you're the 0.8 version and you're learning and iterating and adapting. That kind of permanent always be learning mindset, that "always be improving" mindset is part of where you get the adaptability, but also part of where you get some of the joy, discoverability, sometimes amazing opportunity.
[00:08:11] And so having that kind of "always be improving" mindset, like, you know, we get the end of the podcast say, "Hey, what could we have done better?" And you're always doing that. And that's part of how you improve yourself and improve your prospects.
[00:08:22] Jordan Harbinger: I think this is important because, you know, look, young people, especially in Silicon Valley, they're looking at them and they go, "Of course, always be learning." It's kind of a theorem that everybody lives by.
[00:08:31] I get a lot of emails in my inbox where people say, "You know, I don't need the networking stuff that you do because I'm in sales, and I know all this stuff," and I'm thinking, "That's funny because when I teach this to MI6 guys and gals, or the Central Intelligence Agency, or the FBI behavioral analysis unit, they don't go, "Dude, we know this stuff." They go, "Wow, we're going to get one percent better at catching spies or doing this thing that we do." And I'm like, so these people whose lives depend on networking, they're loving this stuff, but the person who's been at a job for eight months is like, "Look, Jordan, I'm good here. I don't need your drills and exercises." And I always find that so interesting, because it really does show a difference in mindset versus a real difference in knowledge or experience.
[00:09:15] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. And if you ever really feel that you've stopped learning, start thinking of yourself as a dinosaur. Just exactly, as you've said, you can always learn. I mean, here I am 55, done a bunch of entrepreneurship companies, done a bunch of investing, I'm still asking myself the question — how do I invest better? How do I entrepreneur better? How do I found companies better? What's going on in the technology landscape? What things do I need to know that I don't know yet? Because by doing that, A, I find it fun but, B, the world's changing and you're adapting with the world.
[00:09:43] Jordan Harbinger: It would be shocking to me if an investor didn't try to learn about Bitcoin, even if they think it's a bunch of absolute crap. Like, look at Ray Dalio, right? He's an older guy, super sharp. And he's learning all kinds of things. Warren Buffett is another good example, right? These guys are always just devouring stuff. And even if I disagree with some of their thoughts on blockchain technology, you got to hand it to them.
[00:10:05] My dad, he'd probably go, "I've never even seen a Bitcoin," right? He would never, he doesn't know, and he doesn't care. And it's just a different mindset. And that's one of the reasons why guys like you and them are so successful.
[00:10:16] Common advice is follow your dreams or follow your passion, whatever it is. I know you agree with me that this is horrible advice, but I want to hear why.
[00:10:24] Reid Hoffman: So the presumption, which is kind of the old school, '70s — what colors your parachute?
[00:10:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:29] Reid Hoffman: You know, kind of college advice, et cetera, is that all that really matters is what's inside you. What you find a passion about? It's like, well, doesn't the world matter? Doesn't let the landscape of opportunity matter? Doesn't what competition looks like? Doesn't let the career path and the economic results might be like? Don't all those things matter? You don't discover those by like sitting in meditation and going, "Eureka. I've discovered my passion." So you have to bring all of those things in and obviously, we simplify it to thinking about like, well, okay, what are your passions, but what is also the market realities and what is your competitive edge in terms of how do you play this to be able to think about it, as opposed to, you know, 15 variables to only think about three, but if you're not thinking about those ways, you're bound to get super unhappy.
[00:11:14] Because for example, he said, "Well, I discovered my passion and I'm going to be an artist." And you're like, "Well, but actually, you're going to be an artist. And lots of other people are going to be artists and there's no economics in it. And after five or 10 years, you're going to feel like lost in the desert and you're going to be super unhappy."
[00:11:27] And if you said, "Well, actually, in fact, well, 80 percent of this is actually in fact, I'm going to be a really great graphic designer. That's going to be working in the ad industry." Well, all of a sudden it's like, "Oh, well actually, in fact, I'm not quite as passionate about all the art stuff. I have to do some stuff on the sides, but I'm applying these skills and I am differentially good at them. I'm playing this pattern by which then I have a career in economics in the life and I can afford my vacations and I can afford my house and I can get married and you know, all of that kind of stuff," and that's the intersection.
[00:11:56] Now, you say, well, maybe graphic designer in the ad industry, the competition is too much and maybe it should be something else. Maybe you should be in the tech industry. Maybe you should be in the financial industry. You know, all of these different ways of doing it. That's why you bring all these things together. And if you just simply go, "What's my passion?" you're flying blind, and flying blind can be very, very dangerous.
[00:12:16] Now, of course, if you say, "Well, passion doesn't matter at all." It's like, no, no, it's your life.
[00:12:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:21] Reid Hoffman: You got to enjoy. You got to feel like what you're doing matters and that you enjoy doing some of it. So it's a factor, just not the only factor.
[00:12:28] Jordan Harbinger: The same advice as it kind of dovetails with, like, what did they say? Begin with the end in mind, or decide where you want to be in 10 years, and then work backwards. But when I think about where I was 10 years ago, or even 15, because I'm 42, maybe some of the people this applies to are in their 20s or even in their 30s, although I would argue that it applies to everyone, but most of the people who are going to see the heaviest weight on this are going to be in their 20s and 30s.
[00:12:49] If you'd asked me when I'd started in law in 2007 where I wanted to be in 10 years, I would've said, "Well, I don't know. Maybe I'm still a lawyer. And if so, I'm a partner at a law firm in Wall Street," and it's like, I look at that guy and I go, "What are you talking about? You'd be miserable by now if you even got there." More likely I would be definitely doing anything but that I think at that point. You don't know what the end is so you can't really begin with the end in mind, because if you start working backwards from something that you realize a few years in, you're not really interested in, well, great. You just laid a ton of groundwork for something that you might not have done.
[00:13:21] There's nothing wrong with building or learning skills that you don't end up using for the purpose you originally acquired them for, fine. Maybe you learn Chinese because you thought you were going to work in China and you ended at Taiwan. Okay, fine. But if you decide you're going to be a partner at a law firm and you start learning a whole bunch of skills specific to that, you could have learned a whole bunch of other skills and ended up somewhere where you're actually happier and then stacked those skills. But we see this advice in some form everywhere.
[00:13:45] It's probably the top advice we see in here from, well, one, bullsh*t influencers online and, two, college commencement speeches. It's really disappointing, Reid, because those people should — well, the influencers, they don't know better, but the commencement speech people, it's like Mark Cuban will go up there. And I don't mean to throw shade at him because he's a good example of somebody who gives speeches, not somebody with bad advice. But he'll say it, and everyone goes, "Oh, well, Mark Cuban said it," and it's like, no, anybody, don't listen to that. He doesn't mean it. It just sounds good because he has 12 minutes. That's it. It's not really advice.
[00:14:17] Reid Hoffman: No, exactly. And that's part of the reason why competitive differentiation is a key thing. Now, most of us don't need to be unique amongst the seven billion people in the world. Matter of fact, very few people are, but depending on which game you're playing, what degree of competitive differentiation do you need? And to be successful, you need some. Now, sometimes you say, look, I'm just going to be a really good barista. My differentiation is I actually am here. And I'm a really good person who happens to be here, right? And that can be fine for that period of time in terms of what you're doing, but then it can give you like, well, if you're going to say, okay, well, I'm going to figure out how to do investing — well, a lot of people like to be successful investing because the rewards are magnificent.
[00:14:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:57] Reid Hoffman: You know, huge in terms of remuneration. And so then you're like, well, okay, now I have to really have an edge. And what is my edge? The general view is if you can't state your edge — it's a little bit like the poker table. If you can't state why you have a differentiated edge, you're the sucker at the table.
[00:15:12] Jordan Harbinger: That makes a lot of sense. I think you're right. You can differentiate yourself by, there's probably a few factors here, geography, right? If you've made coffee in Italy in 1960, you probably were one of very many people who could make a good cappuccino or an espresso in Italy. But if you went to Ethiopia and you did that in 1960, there were probably only a handful, or maybe in the '50s, there were only a handful of cafes. Most of them didn't have the right equipment. You could have been the guy that every ex-pat goes to get a decent cup of coffee in this whole area. And you're well connected and you're rich and famous. And at the end of the day, you just made coffee. You just happen to be in the right place at the right time. So I understand what you're saying about investment, especially when you're talking about rewards being astronomically high and kind of obviously so the competition gets more strict.
[00:15:57] In your book, you mentioned that Cal Newport says, and I'm paraphrasing here, "What combination of abilities do you possess that are both rare and valuable and thus impossible for the market to ignore?" And that's your ticket. And I think that's from his book, So Good They Can't Ignore You. Is that where that's from?
[00:16:13] Reid Hoffman: A hundred percent, exactly where it is. And it's great advice. And then, of course, you figured out relative to your competition, relative to the market demands, relative to what the market treats as valuable. Now, valuable could be money but value could also be autonomy, fame, prestige, you know, a bunch of different things that matter to people. That's the coinage, which you in competing for valuable things, then you need the competitive differentiation for that.
[00:16:37] Jordan Harbinger: There are two types of assets that you talk about in the book that, and so we'll track those here — soft and hard. Soft are things you can't trade directly for money. Hard is what property cash in the bank. And possibly a lack of debt, student loans or home equity, or whatever it is.
[00:16:52] Reid Hoffman: Yes, exactly.
[00:16:53] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk about those because I think everybody knows that money is an asset, right? Or maybe cash in the bank, sure. Lack of debt is an interesting one because most people don't think about what they owe to somebody else. But if you have a lot of debt, you limit your freedom. Soft assets though, almost overlooked by most people, your brand, your network skills, things like that.
[00:17:12] Reid Hoffman: And almost always the more valuable thing over time, right?
[00:17:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:17:16] Reid Hoffman: So people will say, "Look, I'll save." And by the way, it's great to save money, but it's like, "I'll save $10 a week." And you're like, okay, saving $10 a week, you end up in 10 weeks, you up with a hundred dollars and that could be valuable. But if, for example, what you said is, I said, "Well, actually, in fact, what I'm going to do is I'm going to take an interesting person out to coffee once per week." Maybe in one of those 10 weeks, someone says, "Oh, well, there's this interesting job opportunity over here that could be really transformative into your career. Or, you know, this new thing Bitcoin just came on and people are buying it for $10 a coin," because Bitcoin was once upon a time, $10 a coin. And then you go next week, "I'll buy one Bitcoin," which then, of course, today is $20,000.
[00:17:56] And so the soft assets are your skills, your knowledge, the people you know, the alliances that you have as you go out in the world, and those can be amazingly valuable in serendipitous ways. And so investing in those can be great. It's a little bit like you say, well, that person went and learned how to do coding of webpages for four weeks. Well, then all of a sudden they were on job for the tech industry and they started doing coding webpages. Then they ended up with a more senior position. Then, they got a job at a startup and then their stock options were worth something. That kind of thing all comes from a set of soft assets.
[00:18:32] And the most often one that people do because, you know, solo book careers is part of the reason why we say in Start-Up of You, that you was both singular and plural and you should think of his life as a team sport. So it's I to the We and because it's like, everyone goes well, "Okay. So I'm going to learn Python," and you're like, okay, learning Python is great. It's a soft skill. By the way, don't forget meeting other people. Don't forget who are my friends who are like really active and thinking about this in the same way. Well, we could be trading tips and knowledge and opportunity with each other and get into some really interesting things. And those are also soft assets.
[00:19:04] Jordan Harbinger: The idea that hard and soft assets can combine to form a little Voltron here makes sense too, right? Because if you don't save any money and you can't manage to take a job that maybe pays less, maybe you leave Microsoft and you join a start-up and you take a 30, 80 percent, who knows? Pay cut. Then you get those stock options. Maybe you really believe in what they're doing, or they're going to teach you a bunch of skills and invest in you a bunch. Whereas maybe you're just doing something at Microsoft that you've been doing for a while. And you kind of getting salty on it. You can't afford to do that if you've got no runway. So I think that's pretty smart to combine all of these. I know it's easy to say, like save money, but really what we're talking about mostly is maybe pay off your debt because you don't know when the current gravy train is going to stop and you need that freedom or that flexibility to make a jump.
[00:19:49] I love that you say go all-in on soft assets because I do think that those are overlooked a lot of the time. If I had to put this on a chart, I would say soft assets are growing a lot through college, right? Whereas you have no money, but then as soon as you get into your job, I notice a lot of people, they sort of stop making connections outside the office. They stop making friends outside the office. They stop learning skills that have nothing to do with their job. And you start to almost calcify if I can use that term.
[00:20:15] Reid Hoffman: A hundred percent. And by the way, in terms of the soft assets, which school of all sorts is a great way to get. I came back from Oxford. I was like, okay, I don't want to be an academic. How do I figure out how to join industry? I went to the career center, I read books about it. The thing that actually ultimately really worked, like I could have short-circuited months of work on this and delay as I just started calling my friends going, "Hey, look, I think actually, in fact, creating software with a focus on this new, online revolutions coming, it could be really great. Who do you know, that might be working on an interesting project that maybe I could go and figure out how to work there?" And so eventually like a really good friend of mine, his roommate, who I knew lightly said, "Oh, well, we're working on this stuff at Apple. And, you know, look, you don't really have the right skill set, so you'd have to start as a contractor. So you would have no job security, of course. Not that there's a ton of job security in the world generally anyway, but you'd have to do that and you'd have to learn some skills really fast, but if you're willing to do that, sure." I was like, "Great. I'll go down Apple." And you know, I had some terrifying weekends, because they're like, "Oh, you need to use Photoshop in order how to do this." And I'm like, "What's Photoshop? And they're like, "Oh, here's a book. Here's a CD-ROM." Most people on this podcast won't know what a CD-ROM is.
[00:21:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. it's like 50/50.
[00:21:22] Reid Hoffman: Go figure it out.
[00:21:23] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man, and Photoshop has a lot of little buttons on it, man. That was a full summer for me as a kid downloading a bootleg copy of Photoshop, learning how to make — I won't say fake IDs, but you in theory could have totally made fake IDs using Photoshop back in the '90s, but I would never do that.
[00:21:40] Reid Hoffman: One could have.
[00:21:41] Jordan Harbinger: One could have, yes. Someone who is not me could have done so, even when they give you the dummies book that you can't search, you just have to manually flip through and find things using the index. Oh my gosh.
[00:21:50] Reid Hoffman: Like when I look back, I should have. Just immediately, when I landed, boots back on the ground, got back from the UK, I should have just started calling people and saying, "Hey, I'm here."
[00:21:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:59] Reid Hoffman: Right. "I'm looking at stuff like this" or just, "What do you know that's really interesting?" Because, you know, part of what happens is it wasn't Stefan who knew something. He was working at Mckinsey, but it was his college roommate, Jesse, who was working at Apple. And great, let's go make that work and being willing to be a little adventuresome and try things out.
[00:22:17] That's why internships can be valuable, all kinds of things. And like, for example, one of the things, when I look back on my career, it's like probably I should have begged my way in the Netscape because it was the center action. Like thinking about going to where the action is, where the network is being centered and things are evolving, like better to be a janitor there than a product manager at a product that doesn't matter and is going in a different direction because you can iterate through and make those soft connections and learn what you should be thinking about and what the world is moving towards.
[00:22:48] And that's the thing, the world is not static. The world is changing faster and faster. It used to be that the industries would change roughly at a human lifetime or more, and our career lifetime. And now, they're changing within decades. So, you know, industries changed. Just look at how much the industry has changed in the last 10 or 20 years. And you know, most people's careers are 40, 50 years. Well, that's multiple industry changes in that time.
[00:23:12] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point. And I know someone's going to say, "Hey, what's wrong with being a janitor?" Actually, I don't think you were being facetious, right? It really is better to be close to the action. And frankly, there's probably a lot of multimillionaire janitors who got stock options, cleaning desks off at Mozilla in 1994, and went, "Huh—"
[00:23:29] Reid Hoffman: Yeah.
[00:23:29] Jordan Harbinger: "—I wonder if this retirement thing they gave me is ever going to pop off," and it's like, oh yes, I'm done working, and so are my grandkids.
[00:23:36] Reid Hoffman: Exactly.
[00:23:37] Jordan Harbinger: So it is true about getting close to the action.
[00:23:40] Another misconception that people have is they try to hyper-specialize where they go, "Okay. I'm going to be really, really, really, really good at this programming language or this particular bit of tech." But the mistake they make is they do that at the exclusion of everything else, right? No network, poor social skills potentially. No skills to stack alongside it, no sales skills, whatever it might be. And that can work for a short period of time, but you're really not very bulletproof. Because as soon as the winds change and they go, "You know what? We don't need COBOL anymore because AI can write it. You just need to know Python to do it." Now, you're at the bottom learning Python to program the AI to write the language that you used to be really good at and now you're screwed.
[00:24:21] Reid Hoffman: Yep, exactly. And that's part of the being in permanent beta. Like learn, learn, learn, learn new things. And the skill stacking is, you know, generally speaking, you know, people say, "Well, I should be like the Olympic gold medalist. I should be the top person." It's actually, in fact, that's super hard. It's very difficult, very difficult to win Wimbleton.
[00:24:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:24:36] Reid Hoffman: Like there's a bunch of dedication, but even amongst that dedication, there's a bunch of luck and fortune that comes into it. It's much easier to say, hey, I'm a combination of, I know technical skills and I know writing. Where can I put those two things together? In ways that suddenly by being top 10 percent in each, not top one, much easier. Then all of a sudden I can be spectacular and really useful in a Venture community. Or I could be really useful in influencing, leading within an industry. I could be joining interesting AI companies because I need people to be talking about like, what is this transformation coming, and how do you know other companies, other industries, other individuals use it for bettering their lives versus feeling vaguely alienated by it?
[00:25:14] And so all of those kinds of things are when you combine a set of interesting skills, all of a sudden you can get highly unique, very differentiated, very fun, and very rewarding careers.
[00:25:29] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Reid Hoffman. We'll be right back.
[00:25:34] This episode is sponsored in part by Zelle. This weekend, we played an escape game. It was epic, so good, up in San Francisco. We've done over 200 escape rooms, me and Jen, because we're big nerds and palace escape room is top of our list of best escape rooms played, one of our favorite things to do, but of course, it can all add up. Escape games can be pricey sometimes like 50, 60 bucks a person. So worth it, depending on your level of geek, anyway. Jen is always planning and booking the next rooms and our friends use Zelle to chip in for their share. It makes it really easy and fast to sort of split these up. When anyone sends you money or you need to get paid back, always ask for Zelle. With Zelle, the money goes straight into your bank account and it works even if the sender bank's somewhere different than you do in the United States. What's great is you don't have to download another banking app, set up everything. It's probably already in your banking app. Always double-check that the sender has your correct US mobile number or email address. So the money goes to the right place, straight into your bank account. Look for Zelle in your banking app today.
[00:26:28] This episode is also sponsored by GoodRx. Yeah, prices are rising on just about everything. So save where you can like on prescriptions. Did you know that prescription prices vary from one pharmacy to the next? I had no idea. I thought that stuff was just kind of standardized or whatever. Sometimes it varies by as much as a hundred bucks. I really had no idea. With GoodRx, you can compare prescription prices at local pharmacies, which can save you up to 80 percent. It works for new prescriptions and it works for refills. Even if you have insurance, GoodRx can actually beat your prescription copay price a lot of the time. And the best part is it's free to use GoodRx. There's no catch. Actually, one of you, listeners, wrote in saying, you're a pharmacist and you don't like GoodRx. And that got my attention. So I dug deeper and I found out that primarily it's because their pharmacy doesn't make as much money, which is like, okay, I'm sorry, but that's kind of the point for us saving. We save money, the user here, and it is a bummer for the pharmacy, but it's kind of a zero-sum game when you're talking about spending money. There's no reason why you shouldn't check GoodRx every time you get your prescriptions. I use it. I've told all my family and friends about this as well. And I love getting messages from you about how much you've saved.
[00:27:32] Jen Harbinger: So for simple, smart savings on your prescriptions this summer, check GoodRx. Go to goodrx.com/jordan. That's goodrx.com/jordan. GoodRx is not insurance but can be used instead of insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 2021, GoodRx users saved 81 percent on retail prescription prices.
[00:27:49] Jordan Harbinger: If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great folks for the show, it is because of my network. It's a lot of the same stuff that Reid is talking about here. I made a course that made it into Reid's book. You can get that course for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The course is about improving your networking and your connection skills, doing it in a non-gross way, either for career or personal reasons. Again, free at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests you hear on the show already subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:28:19] Now back to Reid Hoffman.
[00:28:23] This is something that Scott Adams has talked about on our show years ago, episode 273, and I think maybe 546, I don't know if he coined the term skill stacking, but his example was he originated Dilbert, right? So it's a popular [cartoon], but he's like, "I'm not the best artist drawing-wise in the world. And I'm also not the best humorist in the world." And there was a couple of other things that he wasn't the best at, but he was in the 90th percentile, 80th percentile, but that's made for a multimillion-dollar career as a cartoonist.
[00:28:51] And I would say when I started this show or even now, right? I'm not the funniest podcaster. I'm not the most technically savvy podcaster. I'm certainly not the most intelligent podcaster, but if you take, okay, I can study a book and get really good notes out of it and I can broadcast fairly well and I can keep people entertained to a certain degree, okay. And then take a little bit of marketing skills and put those in there. And it's like, all right, this guy's got a decent career. Whereas, if I was hyper-specializing as a finance attorney, I mean, maybe I should just become a janitor at Mozilla because I probably would've been better at that anyway.
[00:29:22] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. And that combination is where a lot of magic can. And so, you know, skill stacking, I don't know if Scott Adams invented the term, but I do think that it was kind of it's that combination. And by the way, it's also what gives you more fun. Because as opposed to going, well, I have to be the absolute best screw-in of screws of semiconductor chips. Like, oh god, like maybe somebody really, really, really likes to do that, but it's much better to have a set of things that give you a broader palette for where you can navigate to.
[00:29:51] Jordan Harbinger: I think also generalists, or I don't know, is generalists, even the right word? Probably not, but somebody who uses a skill stack, they often have more to offer their network. And we'll talk about that in a little bit, but they hit more than one target for being valuable. So if you know sales, you know marketing, you know web design, you know online content, you'll have an easier time being in a room with a variety of people, unless you're at these semiconductors screw or international convention, then you're a rockstar, but everywhere else it's like, who, what is this? This guy's an alien. So you do really need to be able to relate to different people using those skills as well. And of course, you want more than one key in this economy, especially.
[00:30:29] You mentioned that there's different seasons of your life that are better for learning versus earning. Can you speak to that a little bit?
[00:30:36] Reid Hoffman: Well, and it may be different for different folks, but generally speaking, learning early is the thing that will unlock opportunities, will unlock much more remunerative job paths, industry connections, and so forth. So you want to focus while you also want to always be learning. You want to extra invest in learning. That's part of the reason why, for example, frequently, go to school, go to an interesting university, or someplace where you're going to pick up skills and a network. And too often people are like, well, really like my first job out of college, I'll take the one that's offering me $70,000 versus the one that's offering me $60,000 or the one that's offering me a $100,000 versus the one that's offering me $92,000.
[00:31:13] And you're like, that's not the really the most relevant variable because the really most relevant variable is what do you think you're going to be doing at five years and at eight years? And what is that job going to look like? Because if the one that starts paying you $100,000 a year in five years is 130. And the one that started paying you $70,000 a year in five years is 300, right? It's an entirely different thing. And so you want to focus a lot on that's a little bit of the comment that I was making about like going and being a janitor or anything, you know, an assistant, you know, technical assistant, whatever at a central company like Netscape or Mozilla versus like, oh, I'm going to go get a little bit more money, but it'll be a backwater. It's not going anywhere. And that's part of like the seasons of it.
[00:31:56] Now, obviously at various points, I said, well, I'd like to get married now. I'd like to start having kids. I need money for that. I need to pay off the debt because you know, paying off debt is actually enormously freeing in a variety of ways. And so you say, all right, well focusing on — and it doesn't necessarily use only one then only the other, but I tune it up some because I go, okay, no, no, this is the time to, to actually be really good at making a bunch of money, but always be thinking about what that compounding long term. Will that change the game in what your opportunity set could be? Make sure you're thinking about that all the way through your career.
[00:32:29] Jordan Harbinger: I think also to your point when you're young, even if you have student loans unless they're absolutely crippling on the monthly amounts, you have less responsibility most of the time, right? You don't have any kids, probably you're not married. You don't have somebody really counting on you.
[00:32:42] I maybe should just speak for myself. When I first got out of school, I had a lot of debt and I probably owed like 168,000, which now college students are like, "I'd kill for only $168,000 worth of debt." Because I went to law school, so it was expensive, and I graduated in 2006 or so. But I remember joining the finance firm or the law firm I was with and then the economy tanked. And it was like, you know, I'm doing this podcast, I've got this coaching company. It's fun. I like it. I can afford to pay my loans if I can live like a college student, which was just a couple of years ago. Where I was doing that. It's fine. I can split an apartment with four or five dudes and just lie to the landlord and make it look like there's only one or two of us here. No problem. I mean, I'm used to this, right? Day-old pizza, no problem. I've lived on that stuff. So you can do that for a while and you can afford to take a bigger risk.
[00:33:31] Or maybe a more modern example would be, look, if IBM wants to hire you for 100,000 like you said, but Dropbox is in the market and they're going to pay you 70, but they might IPO. Well, okay. You're learning a whole bunch of new stuff about the cloud, whatever that is right in 1999 or whatever, 2007, but also you're on a rocket ship. You're employee number 20. If you're at IBM you're employee number 20,000, maybe, you know? I don't know how big the company is.
[00:33:57] Reid Hoffman: It's 200,000.
[00:33:58] Jordan Harbinger: 200,000. Yeah.
[00:33:59] Reid Hoffman: Yeah.
[00:33:59] Jordan Harbinger: So, yeah, there's multiple zeros behind you. This is some kind of opportunity, but it's really easy to say, "But I owe all this money. I should just make as much as I can and manage that." And it's easier said than done when you're in that position, but you're right. If you game out the long-term possibilities, sometimes it really does make way more sense to learn versus earn, especially early in the game.
[00:34:21] Reid Hoffman: Actually, almost always. Really that's part of learning, investing in soft assets. It's almost always less tangible but more valuable. It's that great opportunity that you possibly get to that can be transformative. Like I said, this is part of my own learning. I went to the career center and I studied job listings and I looked at my CV and I said, well, maybe I need to write these, read these books. And I was like, well, actually, in fact, the most useful thing is soft assets. Calling a bunch of people and sure, I didn't know anybody out of the people I was calling. I said, "Oh, I have an opportunity right here." And I didn't know that Stefan would say, "No, no, talk to Jesse. He's doing something interesting." And Apple, "You know, what they're doing with eWorld sounds like it could be interesting for the kinds of things you're thinking about. Go talk to him." That is the entire industrial path of my move from academia in the industry in one phone call.
[00:35:11] Jordan Harbinger: We talked about skills a little bit as well. What about specializing in a new and rare skill? You know, we said we don't want to specialize too much or hyper-specialized, but man, what if you knew marketing on social media in 2012? That would've been a very rare and useful niche skill. Now, of course, it's nothing. Now, it's AI and machine learning on the blockchain, something, something.
[00:35:31] Reid Hoffman: Yeah, exactly, something, something, something.
[00:35:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:33] Reid Hoffman: But exactly right. And part of it, by the way, what's useful at your network is recognizing when. Oh my god, the time is now. This is a huge opportunity and I should go into it. So I like, "Oh, I have understood influencer marketing with social media and it's just starting. And I can go do that." I mean, it's like, for example, part of how Ashton Kutcher branched out beyond not just being a great actor with an awesome Hollywood career, but also a really interesting technology investor and venture funds because he was like, "Oh, I'm going to be the first person with a million followers on Twitter and I'm going to be using that to be in the tech industry. And part of what I'm going to do is I'm going to be investing." Because people say, "Hey, will you invest in us?" because then you can talk about it and promote it. And it's like, "Great. I'll do that." And you know, he had good judgment in investing. That's skill stacking, putting those things together, he got picked because he could help these companies tangibly, rise out of the noise, and kind of being recognized as the interesting new product or service that they are.
[00:36:27] And so that, you know, kind of thing is the kind of thing we're recognizing an opportunity. And then, you know, 10X-ing down, going all the way down. And sometimes a specialized skill like marketing in the beginning of social media or machine learning right now is applied to, you know, language or coding or other kinds of problems, those are the kinds of things that, where the breakout opportunities can be there and you can be ready for them, but you have to be able to recognize them. You have to be able to see them. The seeing is usually through the lens of your colleagues, your friends. By the way, people frequently go, "Well, network is like the two people I know at work, right?" You're like, no, no, no, like you got to favorite aunt or uncle that favorite aunt or uncle knows people, or you got that buddy that you used to go carousing with back in your sophomore year, right? You're still talking to — you know, that's the breadth of a network is if people that you like and they like you and you trust each other. Sometimes that's very surprising where all the help can come from.
[00:37:24] Jordan Harbinger: One of the little exercises in our Six-Minute Networking course. It's a free course we have on our website at jordanharbinger.com/course. Everyone's heard me bump it a million times, but one of the exercises in there is to make a list of the 10 people you would call or write to if you got laid off tomorrow. And then reach out to them now when you're not begging for a job because you're about to be homeless, right? Because if you have an agenda, it's a different call. And the other drill I recommend people do just now is go to the bottom of your phone texts, where all those old, old, old threads are, skip the exes, but then catch up with five or so people at the bottom there. Just send them a text. What are they up to? What you're doing? Don't ask them for anything other than purely a social catch-up. I do that every day with one or two people. I find opportunities just come out of the woodwork. "Oh, hey, Jordan, I'm going into a meeting, but actually we need a keynote speaker. Do you do speaking? I noticed you're doing this podcasting thing. It seems really interesting." So I get speaking gigs. I get consulting from it. And then months later, some of those same people will still write me and go, "Hey, you know, right off the back of our previous conversation, I was wondering if you knew anyone who did X and I can introduce them." And it really does reactivate these people who I would, frankly, never would've heard from again in my entire life, most likely.
[00:38:33] Reid Hoffman: Those are great networking tips because part of the thing is life's a team sport.
[00:38:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:38] Reid Hoffman: Be active with your team as you're going through it. And part of like, who are the 10 people you'd call if you're laid off, well, this is part of my team. Go be with your team before you're laid off. Not just because of the agenda point, which is a great point that you make.
[00:38:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:38:50] Reid Hoffman: But because whoa, that's interesting. That could be something I'd learn or something I would do. Or like, for example, how do you elevate within your current job? Well, you learn something that's really interesting that your group doesn't know, your manager doesn't know, your executive doesn't know. You bring back and say, "Hey, we should really be thinking about like mobile is going to totally change the world or social media is going to totally change the world or AI is going to change the way language and images are working following way," and people go, "Oh, that's really great." You're important because you're out looking at the world about how we should be navigating and you brought something really good in. That's a way that even in your current role, your current job, your current group, people go, "We appreciate you. You are important here."
[00:39:29] Jordan Harbinger: The more inputs you have from smart, creative people, the better your output tends to be. So I'll be sitting around kind of killing time waiting for somebody. And I'm at the bottom of my texts, like that drill I just mentioned, and someone will say, "Oh yeah, I'm starting an ad agency that only does advertising for companies that are bringing manufacturing back to the United States." And I was like, what a random niche that is. But then we started talking about semiconductors and PPE, you know, masks and things like that. And I actually ended up with a client who sponsored the show because they have a card where you get cash back for spending on things that are manufactured in the United States. And then he ended up getting an intro to someone else who ended up introducing him to, I think it was How I Built This podcast, which is huge, did a profile on his PPE company.
[00:40:13] I was like, you're welcome for that. You know, I didn't see that coming, but that worked out really, really well for my friend, because that's a pretty big show to get profiled on in the business community. So this kind of serendipitous stuff happens all the time, but kind of only if you have those wires firing, which they will do, even when you're asleep, as long as you're working the network.
[00:40:33] You mentioned AI, we joked about blockchain and things like that. What do you think are rare but useful skills today besides AI?
[00:40:40] Reid Hoffman: One thing that's also very important, which we haven't mentioned. So I'll quickly mention it, which is the timeless and essential skills. So it's really good to be able to collaborate well. It's really good to be able to make decisions well. Basic communications are useful across and other things. So it's really important to have is kind of basic essential go-through-anything kinds of skills. So that's one thing, but then the next thing is when you get to these specialized skills, it tends to be like, where is the world about to change, where there's going to be a huge demand for this talent? So AI is obviously one. Over the last five to eight years, there's a whole bunch of things within crypto, because crypto has been interesting as kind of reinventing, you know, what is the identity or value or money layer for the Internet.
[00:41:21] I actually think that some of the stuff that's happening right now is like various forms of synthetic biology. Like if you think about like, well, okay, we've just been living through this pandemic, which is going to continue in various ways and we're going to have new pandemics. That's part of what's going to happen with mRNA and how do you do that. All of a sudden, people go, oh, that's a really important skill.
[00:41:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:41] Reid Hoffman: And part of it is you're looking for where you are and you go, oh, that one right close to me is something that's about to be in massive demand. And then part of that massive demand, you know, I can work at interesting places, create interesting companies, create interesting startups, create interesting products. And that's like really key. And that was part of like, for example, all the way back to the beginning of my industry career is I thought, oh, this online and — we didn't even call it Internet then, even though I'd had exposure to the Internet, the online revolution was about to happen.
[00:42:10] And you know, probably many of the listeners of this podcast will say, "And cyberspace was about to happen." And I'm like, "What cyberspace?"
[00:42:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:42:18] Reid Hoffman: Right. So, you know, now because it's going all to the Internet, but recognizing that early and heading towards it is what then creates a sea of opportunity, not just one but a sea. You know, I think other kinds of specialized skills are like, well, how do you think mobile's going to evolve in various ways? What are going to be the kinds of services that are going to be on top of that? I think it may be a little early for AR VR, but obviously, Facebook is betting the farm on this with renaming it Meta. So there's a stack, but AI is a co-founder to company inflection in it because I think that's going to be huge. Just released a whole bunch of NFTs off DALL-E, which is an image generator because you know, that's another area with a Web3, I think is going to be and NFTs, I think are going to be persistent in various ways. So when you identify the areas, there's a set of skills around them. That can be really key.
[00:43:07] Jordan Harbinger: Synthetic biology, you mentioned. We've had some folks on the show like Amy Webb and Jane McGonigal. And I've heard a show where somebody said you could store pretty much all the data in the known universe or at least the planet earth and more in a shoebox if you stored it on DNA, which I thought was really interesting. Because apparently, you can store terabytes and terabytes, whatever's bigger than that, on pieces of DNA that are basically invisible in terms of size and they're stable.
[00:43:34] Reid Hoffman: The whole world of computing is coming to synthetic biology, like gene drives and encryption and information storage. And there's definitely a massive amount of information within DNA. Now, it's probably not all the information of the universe.
[00:43:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I thought that was a hyperbolic subject line. Don't we have an infinite number of things?
[00:43:50] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[00:43:50] Jordan Harbinger: How can you store an infinite number of things in a finite space?
[00:43:52] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[00:43:53] Jordan Harbinger: But I didn't want to argue with somebody who's an obvious genius. That's never a good move for me.
[00:43:57] Reid Hoffman: But the point is a ton of information can be stored there. As we get to more macro levels in the university say, well, okay, we've got seven billion people on planet. What's everyone's names? A bunch of biographical information, well, all that's pretty easily storable in a compact form with DNA, and so on. And it just, when you begin to get to the, all of the quantum states, about like how light is moving around the universe. Like, no, that doesn't fit in a shoebox of DNA.
[00:44:22] Jordan Harbinger: I thought about that. Like weather patterns, no way. Not possible.
[00:44:26] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. But the point is never less the same, which is, it is a new computing paradigm. Like I've seen things that are like, oh, well, how do you—? Like there have been earlier stories written about like nanobots and it's like, well, what if you had DNA nanobots that were there where when you go, "Oh, I just caught this disease," and what you do is they print you a little pill. You take the pill and it's unlocking all the DNA genetic nanobots in your bloodstream and go, "Oh, we're fighting this disease for you now." You just essentially sent the control in through the biological mechanism. And that's what a universal vaccine for all kinds of things now looks like. All this stuff is now line of sight visible. It may take a while, but people have a pretty good sense about how to try to build it.
[00:45:11] Jordan Harbinger: That's synbio stuff, both terrifying because we could 3D print essentially or DNA-print crazy diseases and things like that. But also you could have a global pandemic that gets printed by a bad person. And then good people say, "All right, everybody, go to your local pharmacy. We're printing out bespoke medication that's a vaccine for this particular thing. You're all going to be vaccinated probably within 48 hours. This things infection incubation period is two weeks. We're all fine. Just show up at some point and take the thing." That to me is incredible or cancer cells. Sure. No problem. We have nanobots that you're going to be ingesting that are going to find every last one of these things [Newcomb] and then shut down, run out of a battery, and be excreted in less than 48, 72 hours.
[00:45:54] And it's going to just be, "I can't believe people died of this back in 2025 is unbelievable. What sort of barbarians were you where you didn't have this sort of technology?" And so the companies where you see these things that like you said, are line of sight visible 6G, you know, faster, this speedier, that better synbio tech with this, those are the places where it seems like that's where you want to study, right? That's where you want to go. The low-hanging fruit is electric cars instead of gas-powered cars, right? The higher reaching, you know, if you're 12 right now, go for the synbio. You've got all the time in the world to get there.
[00:46:31] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. And generally, it's go with where the tide is going, go with where the wave is going, go where the network is going, go where the future is going. Now, sometimes you can say, "Well, I don't think anyone's recognized this is where the future's going. Yet, I'm going to go there and be contrarian," right? That can be really spectacular. Very rarely, very few individuals create their own wave. Mostly, it's the wave is going there, you know, for example, my recognition that the consumer Internet is going to be this huge on ongoing compounding thing. So I just went there and I stayed with that wave, you know, my entire career, but that's the thing that you're looking for. And that's why your friends are like a network of sensors. It gave you intelligence and perspective about how to do that. Obviously, you read the Internet and all the rest, but you do all that as a way of coming that judgment of like, which way is the wave going and how do I surf that wave.
[00:47:21] Jordan Harbinger: How do we know if a skill we're learning is something that is going to be useful in the future? I mean, I know it's impossible to definitively say as much, but how do we know if we're on time or we're way too early? And the example I think that you mentioned in the book is everyone thought we'd be riding around on Segway scooters by now. And how do we know if we're inventing the Segway? Which people are like, "What's that?" They're going to Google it and be like, "I've never seen this." Or are we inventing Uber in terms of the skills we learn and want to deploy in our career?
[00:47:50] Reid Hoffman: So part of the reason to always be learning and always be flexible is you're going to sometimes try things and they won't be right. And you're going to have to pivot. You're going to have to adjust. So you go, "Ooh, I think everyone's going to be—" I think we're going to have a whole universe of everyone having their own Segway. And that's how they're going to future mobility is going to be, "Oh, wait. It's too expensive. It's $10,000. It doesn't give people the kind of range and oh, look, Uber is the right thing." You pivot that. You recognize I've got this thesis, I'm trying it, but oh, this isn't working. I pivot. Don't try to have your strategy guaranteed on being a hundred percent right because that's dangerous.
[00:48:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:48:22] Reid Hoffman: You know it could be foolish in all kinds of ways. Then the next thing is to say, well, if you begin to realize this is where the Internet is happening, like if you were like, "Ooh, the Internet is happening." Then a whole bunch of people moved to Silicon Valley, started working at Internet companies, started saying, "Okay, here's how I bring my skill stacking to get a really interesting job in an interesting Internet company," and say, for example, in the mid-'90s to 2000, Yahoo was the most interesting Internet company.
[00:48:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:48:49] Reid Hoffman: Not the most interesting now, but that's okay because you go, okay, it's not the one forever. It's the one that really amplifies you. All kinds of interesting entrepreneurs and VCs and other kinds of things came out of Yahoo. And you're like, "Okay, that's one of the central places where the wave of the Internet, I'm going to go work there. I'm going to go get a job there." Google is another one, you know, where that one is still continuing.
[00:49:10] And in the early days, like, well, those people run to really good technologies who understand search, but it's like, no, no, this has now generated a business model that's funding, massive innovation in multiple industries. Oh, that's really interesting. I'll go, going to go do that. And then ad infinitum, Microsoft and Apple and Amazon, and obviously interesting startups. And so that question about which skills do you know? Well, is there a trend already going in that direction? For example, if you looked at the last five years and people say, "Well, I'm going to really invest in virtual reality and augmented reality." It's like, well, the trend wasn't really there. Yes, there was a lot of people who were going, "Oh, it's now here. And this is going to be awesome." Whereas if you invested in large language models and AI, it would be like, "Oh, yeah, we've one-tenth of the people we want. And we're desperately looking to build the products and services of the future using this." And so then, there's huge demand.
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Reid Hoffman. We'll be right back.
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[00:51:05] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by No Lie podcast. If you've been on YouTube or Facebook, you've probably seen a video from Brian Tyler Cohen. He's racked up more than a billion views in just a few years. Wow, it's a lot. Brian also hosts one of the country's top-ranked political podcasts called No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen. He breaks down the biggest story of the week and interviews the biggest names in politics. He's even interviewed President Biden. Plus he spoke with Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Katie Porter, Jamie Raskin, Pete Buttigieg, Jen Psaki, and plenty more big names. Mostly on that side of the aisle. You kind of get where this is going. Check out No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen and see why he has more than two million subscribers across all platforms. It's a political podcast that cuts right to the point with no fluff, focuses on issues that you care about, and is the top destination for our leaders in the House, Senate, and the White House, the current one. Anyway, that's No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen, available anywhere you listen to podcasts.
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[00:52:14] Now for the rest of my conversation with Reid Hoffman.
[00:52:19] It's always tricky, right? Because we're sort of looking at the crystal ball and that doesn't always come out on top. I do like your emphasis on practicals though. I think in the book you'd said something along the lines of markets that don't exist at all, don't care how smart and brilliant and talented and skilled you are. You still have to have the rubber meets the road of market realities at some level.
[00:52:40] Reid Hoffman: Yep. And you can take a hypothesis like in venture industry, the ideal thing is to invest in something where you look like you're crazy at day one.
[00:52:47] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:48] Reid Hoffman: And then at year one to three, plus one to three years, it looks obvious. Those are the sweet spot, massive investments. And you can make that kind of judgment and career. But if you say, "Okay, well, I'm going to try that risk. I do day zero." In year one, everyone's like, "Nope, that's so crazy." In year two, everyone's still, "That's cool but crazy and that's very nice." Ah, time to pivot. So it doesn't mean you can't do it, but the market reality is ultimately what plays us out. And it's not that the idea sounds great it's that people are responding to it where there's a wave happening in society happening in consumer demand or in market demand. And that's the thing that you're trying to get to. And how you're navigating your work life.
[00:53:24] Jordan Harbinger: I love the idea of something looking crazy, and then obvious. I remember when I first saw Uber because it was just for black cars and I thought, I do see those guys sitting outside my law firm, not doing anything. This is a pretty good move. And everyone else said, "How much demand could there possibly be for empty cars?" And I said, "Well, you know, they can expand this to any cars, not just these guys sitting outside skyscrapers in Manhattan." And if I were smart, I would've found out who the hell was running that and then be like, "Take my money."
[00:53:49] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[00:53:49] Jordan Harbinger: And maybe they wouldn't have, but if they did, we'd be having this conversation on my yacht.
[00:53:53] Reid Hoffman: Exactly.
[00:53:53] Jordan Harbinger: Although I didn't, you also say Uber wasn't going anywhere. I mean, I think I'm in good company, right? You turned them down at some point too, right?
[00:53:59] Reid Hoffman: I didn't invest but not because I didn't, it was other mechanical reasons.
[00:54:03] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:54:04] Reid Hoffman: I actually always thought that they would be a valuable company. Just kind of a question of what's the culture of the company.
[00:54:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:10] Reid Hoffman: So I was worried about the things that were like, oh, it's too hyper-aggressive.
[00:54:14] Jordan Harbinger: Got it.
[00:54:14] Reid Hoffman: It may be bad for its drivers. It may be bad for its policies around, you know, harassment in the workplace and that kind of thing.
[00:54:21] Jordan Harbinger: That must have been so obvious even back then, not that you don't spot things well, but I'm saying that company came to you a long time ago, and if you saw it then, then people who were there for that long have no excuse to not know what's going on, but that's a different podcast, I think.
[00:54:35] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. Well, by the way, this is actually one of the things, but it relates to actually an important part of advice here, which is one, what's the culture of a company? If you're going to go work there, is the culture help you thrive, help you learn, build strong connections with people around you? And so part of what I always look at in investments is how great is the culture of the company.
[00:54:51] So like for example, part of the reason I was an enthusiastic leader of the Series A investment in Airbnb was because I was like, oh, Brian and Joe and Nate, they're creating a great culture. They really care about this stuff, and that really matters as part of it. Now, the subtle part of that, that people frequently too often mistake when they're thinking about the early phases of their career like they've just graduated, you know, high school, college, maybe it's their second job, actually, in fact, choosing a manager who you're working for, where that manager you form a good rapport, that manager respects you, cares about you, et cetera. That's a real amplifier in our career. You go, okay. Well, I could go to great company X where the manager just does like paying attention, doesn't give a sh*t. I can go to call it 80 percent great company Y but I'm going to have a really tight relationship with manager. That can be super helpful because that manager can recommend you to other jobs. Make sure you get a bunch of opportunities. You're stretching. You had the opportunity to do really interesting things. And that was also really important about it. So choosing your manager can be very important. And, by the way, that's obviously correlated with the company culture.
[00:55:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That goes back to learning versus earning, right? I'm thinking of my wife, she went to a community college for two years and then she transferred to UCLA and she's like, "It's not even close. Community college, the professors cared. They knew our names. They taught us things. UCLA was like this giant auditorium where I'm watching a TED Talk from a chair and then I've got to go do a bunch of stuff. And if I don't understand, I'm basically just out of luck, and then maybe a graduate student instructor can possibly answer some questions during office hours." It would be like getting a job as a writer for a mid-size newspaper in a mid-size town, in the middle of America, versus going into the New York Times as an intern. You're going to get a lot more attention and fostering and hands-on care with a newspaper that thinks maybe she'll be here for a while versus an internship in a giant building where they say, "Oh yeah, this is class number 87 of interns. Don't bother learning their names. They're going to be gone by September.
[00:56:46] Reid Hoffman: And they're going to make you some coffee. That's all we care about.
[00:56:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. But it's usually bad. So just go to Starbucks.
[00:56:50] Reid Hoffman: Yeah, exactly.
[00:56:51] Jordan Harbinger: I've also heard you say pick an industry, not a job.
[00:56:54] Reid Hoffman: Yeah.
[00:56:54] Jordan Harbinger: What do you mean by that? That's actually probably a really good idea for people starting out, especially.
[00:57:00] Reid Hoffman: Because again, it's go with the tidal wave, go with the tide, where it's going. And that's a little bit of like, as opposed to going working in some random job, go be a janitor at Netscape during the birth of the Internet. If you go, "Well, this is an industry that's really going to go." Like for example, say, well, I'm going to go into tech industry of a wide variety. I'm going to go into the AI part of it. Or I'm going to go into the, even the graphics, design and art part of it with Figma or any variety of them can all work. He said, "No, no, what I'm actually going to go is I'm going to go into retail banking." Well, retail banking is not dead, but like all the growth, even in banking is going to be online services. It's going to be on mobile, et cetera. It's not going to be that, "Hey, but I became the regional manager of Wells Fargo or Bank of America." And it's like, yeah, that's just not really going anywhere.
[00:57:48] Now, maybe if you said competitive differentiation, that's the place where I could do that other people can't. And that was the one that works for me. Great. But generally speaking, when you're like looking at which industries will be 2X-ing in size, which ones will be presenting all kinds of new opportunities, which ones will be thriving companies 10 years from now. If you are in those industries, you have a wealth of possibilities, options, opportunities, economic increase, stability. All of that comes from picking an industry. So you go, well, I could go be a product manager on a really interesting, but decaying camera line, or I could go be a technical assistant in a smartphone company where the smartphones are completely eating the photography industry. Oh, I'll go be the technical assistant there and I'll work my way up from it because that will be the industry that's transforming everything.
[00:58:40] Jordan Harbinger: Lots of people ask me what I would do if I had to start from scratch again. And I've told them some variation of this and I was really happy to see this in your book because there's not many shortcuts, but this is one of those things where I think might qualify as a shortcut. And it's being close to the crown, right? Being the right-hand man or woman to the leaders of a company where maybe you can work your way up from the bottom of the chain, like you say, technical assistant, or even just being in the room as the guy painting a mural or the janitor at Netscape, right? that example.
[00:59:09] But if you can say, "Hey, it's my first year out of college. Let me book your flights. I'll go with you to every meeting. I have nothing else to do because I'm not married. I don't have kids. I can travel with you in your car. I can pick you up in your car. I can go on your plane. I can stay at a place for a month and just entertain myself and take notes in your meetings. That type of assistant job puts you just right in all the action. You're in the meetings. You know how every element of this business runs. That's the closest thing I can think of to a shortcut. And you mentioned that there was somebody that did this, that you knew, and I'm wondering how people get those kinds of jobs in the first place. Because it would be very tough to come in and say, "I want to be the assistant to the CEO." That's like calm down.
[00:59:51] Reid Hoffman: It's almost always through references of trust.
[00:59:53] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:59:54] Reid Hoffman: So for example, Matt Cohler, who is a general partner at benchmark. He started that way. He got a great job as being an analyst at McKinsey. He had learned Chinese from earlier things and was doing this, but yet he knew somebody that I knew and he said, "Matt is just the bomb. He is super smart. He's flexible. He's hardworking. He's ambitious. And he understands how to play the wing person job, the lieutenant job." So I met him and we spent some time and he was like, "Great. I don't really believe this whole LinkedIn thing as much as you do, but you seem to be a really good person to be working with, and this will be great." And Lee Hower was another person who's now a VC. Actually, there seems to be a pattern here but is now a VC in the East Coast at NextView. And it's like, actually, in fact, when it's a close personal reference because one of the things that really matters is trust of work ethic, trust of integrity, trust of learning curve, trust of the ability to make good judgment. Like, for example, it's very important to say, "Oh, I don't know this. I'm not handling this well. What do I do?" Great. Okay. Fine. Like as opposed to like blowing yourself up, identifying it early.
[01:00:59] And so, those folks are platinum for these senior executives for people like me, but it's almost always on a reference. And part of it is you need to have, which like Matt and Lee and other folks have, you need to have the ability to submerge your ego for a number of years, because you're like, "Whoa, but I'm just being the assistant job. I'm not doing the, 'I'm the VP,' or you need to have these three people working for me. I'm going to play this job just totally excellently." And by the way, that's part of the trust going both ways. When Matt came to me and said, "Hey, I've got this offer from Facebook. What do you think I should do?" And I was like, "You should take it."
[01:01:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:01:39] Reid Hoffman: Right. It wasn't like, "You should keep working for me for the next X years." Of course, it's what is in my interest. But part of it is we have this alliance. I was like, "No, no, no. You've already got a bunch of stock from LinkedIn. You've already bought a bunch of learning. And Facebook is this really interesting rocket ship. You should go there. And, you know, let's continue to work together and be friends and do a whole bunch of things, but, you know, I had to go hire somebody else." But that's the kind of thing where it's, again, lifetime relationships doing these things, and that's the depth of trust you want on both sides.
[01:02:08] Jordan Harbinger: So the guy has stock in LinkedIn and Facebook. That's pre-IPO?
[01:02:12] Reid Hoffman: Pre-Series A, in both LinkedIn and Facebook.
[01:02:15] Jordan Harbinger: No wonder he's a VC. He just wrote a check to himself. And that was the fact. There you go. Good for him.
[01:02:20] Reid Hoffman: Exactly.
[01:02:20] Jordan Harbinger: One concept I've never heard before, other than your book, is ABZ planning. You know, I got plan A, I've got plan B. What's plan Z? It sounds like a very unfortunate occurrence.
[01:02:31] Reid Hoffman: Well, by the way, every chapter in the book is advice that I give entrepreneurs of companies like Airbnb and PayPal and Facebook and everything else. And they're distilled to individuals in their life and career. ABZ planning is a flexible planning network. So you go, "Okay, I have a strategy. I have a plan A. This is how it's going to work. This is what my investment thesis is. This is the way I'm going to put these tactics together in order to accomplish this really interesting result." Now the frequent mistake is like, they go, "Oh, and what's your plan B?"
[01:02:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:02:57] Reid Hoffman: And it's like a plan B is usually mistake. It's plans B. It's like, "Well, if this part of plan A isn't working out, here's something we could change. We could change the goal a little bit. We could change the way we're doing it. We could change the following configuration of things." So you have multiple sets of plans B that are off your strategy and off your investment thesis for plan A. All of that is very useful, flexible, adaptive planning.
[01:03:17] But one of the things you also need to figure out is what happens if you're just on the wrong path. It's not going to work. Your company's not going to work. Your theory, that it was going to be virtual worlds all the time in 1993, which is one of the times where I first saw virtual worlds, you know, that's 30 years ago. And you know, now we're doing virtual worlds again. Maybe it'll be the time is now, but you know, how does that play out? And you go, this isn't working. Well, one of the things that allows you to take risks is to have a plan Z, which is really understand when it's a bridge to nowhere, it's not working, and how do you reset to getting another plan A? Like, what's the thing you can do?
[01:03:52] Like for example, my plan Z, when I started my first company, was to say, well, I called my dad and said, "Look, you got to spare guest room still. I know you generally don't want me living with you, but I'm going to go really try to make the startup work. And if it doesn't work, I'm probably going to need to live rent-free for a number of months while I have a job and I'm working back up off my debt and paying back up some, you know, getting some savings. Is it okay if I do that, given that I'm trying to do something that could be really big and valuable," and he said, "Yep, that's fine." And so I had a plan Z, which is move back in with my dad, get a job in the tech industry. And by having that, that allowed me to go to the edge in my risk, you know, to literally spend months with no salary, burning expenses, trying to build the company because it was okay, I've got a play to do that. And having a plan Z is reassuring, rational, and allows you to take higher risks.
[01:04:43] Jordan Harbinger: It's a privilege to have that kind of position, but also I think people can plan for that sort of situation as well. It sounds like what we talked about earlier with maybe making sure you don't rack up a ton of debt if you can avoid it or deferring the debt that you do have, or instead of spending on something that's really nice for yourself in your 20s, you build yourself a little runway because now you've got an opportunity and you want to lean into it. It helps if you don't have 30 grand in credit card debt at 21 percent APR.
[01:05:09] Reid Hoffman: Exactly.
[01:05:10] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of people make pivots in their career. I've noticed that a lot of people think of pivoting as throwing a dart or a bowl of spaghetti on the wall and just going towards whatever happens to stick. And that's not really what pivoting is supposed to be, right?
[01:05:24] Reid Hoffman: No pivoting is again strategic, right? So like for example, the plan A and the plans B, those are pivots. And then part of macro pivots, like to a totally new plan A, possibly through a plan Z is, all right, my investment thesis isn't working. So like when I start a company, when I invest in company, I have a list of things that say, this is what I think the world's going to be. This is why I think this product service is going to be amazing. This is why I think we can pull it off. This is how I can measure whether or not I'm on it. Now, as you get into the world, you adjust your investment thesis. You go, oh, I was wrong about that. Oh, I was wrong about that. Oh, I was maybe a little bit more right about them than I thought. I'm going to pivot more towards that.
[01:05:59] Now, sometimes the macro thesis is wrong. Like, so for example, when I did my first company, SocialNet, I'll just create a really good space by which people could use anonymous profiles to find each other, not just for dating, but for also roommates and also for sports activity, and also for work networking. And it's like, okay, my problem was, it's a universe of temporary engagement from anonymous profiles, which of course, can still work in Tinder and other kinds of things. But it was like the real mistake of the design was not being real name and not being a lifetime. And that's part of how LinkedIn comes about. Because I go, okay, that was a mistake I need to change from that.
[01:06:36] So you realize what your mistakes are, what you're learning about, what works, what the world needs, what other people need, what of the entrepreneurial game looks like, how do you create an initial product, how do you create a deeper product. And you say, okay, now I'm going to try that in a different way. And those are the kinds of things that lead to pivots. Now, surprising big pivots are, I think Sony electronics started as a hot water bottle manufacturer.
[01:07:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:07:00] Reid Hoffman: And eventually got to an electronics giant. So it can be big, huge shifts for companies as well as individuals.
[01:07:07] Jordan Harbinger: I like your suggestion to set aside one day a month, or if you can, one day a week. And as you mentioned before, the coffee meetings with four or five people in an industry that you want to get to know, whether that's your industry or a totally different industry, doesn't really matter. And then that one day a week or a month, you work on your plan Z, even if it's just sort of laying the foundation for it, or maybe that means the money you make from that hustle goes towards your in case, I need to live in a sleeping bag, you know, fund on someone's basement. I really do appreciate the fact that you get a lot of freedom from lowering debt and making sure you have appropriate runway. There's a lot of people that I think had really great ideas, but they just couldn't get them off the ground because they had a ton of credit card debt, student debt, or they just had unfortunate circumstances. They had crappy parents that were kicking them out all over the place and they were moving around so much. They couldn't even hold down a regular job, let alone get their company off the ground despite the idea and the talent being in place.
[01:08:04] Reid Hoffman: The ability to take smart risks is really important. And you need to put yourself in the position. And some of us are lucky. Like I was very lucky that my dad could support it. But otherwise, you have to work towards that and you have to be able to take the smart risk you can because that's usually one of the places where you can have a huge, competitive advantage. Too often people just try to avoid risk versus taking the smart risk.
[01:08:22] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk for a bit about the benefits of having an online brand, even if you work in a regular career where it seems like that might not matter. Because I think people who want to be influencers or some kind it's self explanatory, but how do we go about building this in a way that's appropriate while under the umbrella of an employer? I think a lot of people are afraid. They're practically afraid to update their LinkedIn profile because they're like, "I don't want my employer to think I'm trying to outshine him or her or move out of the company." So they just kind of vanish. And when they get laid off, they update their resume and start from scratch.
[01:08:55] Reid Hoffman: Again, generally speaking employers want you not to be as discoverable because that allows them to have you as a lower-priced asset. And so there's this, all this impression of like, oh, you know, we're going to think of you as disloyal if you update your LinkedIn profile. Whereas if you say, hey, look, I'm updating my LinkedIn profile because it makes me more capable in the world. Interesting opportunities may come in for our company or our group. I may learn interesting things through it. I'm creating this because part of the thing is the people who are being native to the Internet, making connections to people, learning things, understanding what the future looks like, understanding what the changes, the technology look like, those people are highly desirable. And by the way, I'm one of those people. And that's part of the reason why I update my online brand. I might do a podcast. I might fill in my LinkedIn profile. I might do these things. And those things are actually in fact, very helpful. Not just to me, but to any effort or group that I may be working with or working alongside. By the way, if you don't want me to be modern and current with the Internet going to where the world is going, maybe this isn't the place I should be working.
[01:10:02] The second book, The Alliance, you're looking for this alliance where it's a great mutual benefit. And that's part of the reason. And one of the things that people frequently mistake in the updating your online profiles, like, oh, it's so much work. It's like, well, sure. If you're going to just create an amazing podcast like yours, Jordan, it's going to take a huge amount of work as you know. But like for example, updating your LinkedIn profile, it takes you about 10 minutes. You're like, you know, maybe even five, maybe 15, if you're putting extra work into it. And then all of a sudden you're discoverable in interesting ways. Maybe actually in fact, adding some things where it's like, oh, I've got this hobby of creating art in DALL-E with open AI. Great. I'll do a little bit of that. Put that in the LinkedIn profile, put that somewhere else as a way of doing it. And those kinds of things can then suddenly bear a lot of fruit because one of the things that people don't realize as part of the Internet age is not just you searching for information on other people but there is billions of people who are searching.
[01:10:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:10:55] Reid Hoffman: So being findable by the right person, that could be that right opportunity for you, for your company, for something interesting. That's huge. And more people are searching possibly for you than you're searching for other people.
[01:11:08] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point. One caveat to this, I would say, be careful about using company time to start a podcast about your industry or your company, or pretty much anything like that. I've heard, I've had people email me and say, "Hey, I was doing a podcast for my tire, whatever company. And then it started to become about business. And I started to get all these connections. And now I'm leaving in the company says that it's their podcast because I did it from the conference room during the company working hours." And I was like, oh, they're probably right. You need to negotiate that IP on your way out and you might have to give up severance or whatever it is, or some kind of other things that you were going to get in order to take that IP. And even then they might not agree. So you have to be kind of careful. The other, of course, downside is if you're doing something that looks like it's only for your benefit on company time, they might consider it time theft. Like, "Hey, we don't pay you to create YouTube videos that promote yourself as an expert in this area. We pay you to help customers with our product and nothing else." So you got to be a little careful with that.
[01:12:08] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. It's very good to get clean on that. You're totally right. Get clean on that. And either the company could support you, in which case, by the way, maybe they do own it and so forth. Or the company says, uh, that's on your own time. You're like, great. And then I own it.
[01:12:18] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:12:19] Reid Hoffman: Maybe I'll do it on my lunch break. And then maybe even get a, "Hey, look, this is some benefit to the company, but it's time. You're not paying me. Do you mind if I use the conference room," and they drop you an email saying, "No, no, it's fine. You use the conference room while you're doing this because we get some benefit from it, even though it's not paid time." And they're like, "Great," but being clear about it upfront is very helpful.
[01:12:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Get that in writing. Don't just ask him if you can use the conference room, because then when you're in your court case about that your million dollar podcast, they're going to say, "That's our conference room," you know, exhibit A.
[01:12:45] Last or almost last, you advise to never be all sizzle and no stick. And I love this because there is nothing but smoke and mirrors online sometimes. You know, there's a joke and I'm sure you've seen this meme where it says, reality, the guy's unemployed, lives with his parents, or something like that. And it says, but LinkedIn it's like blockchain relationship experts—
[01:13:05] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[01:13:05] Jordan Harbinger: —senior VP. You've seen this meme?
[01:13:07] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[01:13:07] Jordan Harbinger: The reason that's funny is because so many people are doing that.
[01:13:10] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. And also it can lead you in very bad directions and people might buy into the sizzle and then all of a sudden feel very burned. And you know, part of what you want is you want something where he says, look, chick, you're selling to what you can do, but you're selling to what you can do. You know, to some degree, if you're just all sales, then like for example, as you find a VC, who's invested in an entrepreneur is doing that, then they feel burned. Like, well, you thought you said you could do all these things you can't do all of them. You don't have the experience. Someone hires you. As an employer, as a contractor, same thing. So what you want to do is you want to say, "Look, I have really good capabilities. I can bat well, but you know, look, I also, of course, describe how amazing it can be if I'm batting for you."
[01:13:50] Jordan Harbinger: I really like that you gave an example of George Clooney being proactive and being bold, reaching out to people before interviews and things like that. And nobody does this. Let's end on this sort of fun-ish note.
[01:14:02] Reid Hoffman: Well, let me parallel just from George Clooney to another fun one that I had on the Masters of Scale podcast, Tyra Banks.
[01:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay.
[01:14:09] Reid Hoffman: Part of how she became a supermodel was not just because she is amazing and smart and beautiful and all the rest. What she did is she approached super modeling as a job. So when she was out in Paris, she'd look at like, "Oh, I'm about to go do a photoshoot with someone like this. They like this kind of style." And before she got in, she would change into that style. She'd change your hair, she'd change your clothes. And she'd show up already. And so what happened is she became a huge favorite of all of these designers, such that she became the most booked fashion model, right? And then, of course, well, she's the one who's gorgeous across all of these things. And of course, she's gorgeous, but she was strategic in it.
[01:14:46] And by the way, of course, similar things, what we did in the book, you know, describing George Clooney, which is, you know, being proactive about it, learning about what the requirements are doing, that building a relationship, you know, being in advance, that kind of thing is super important. And it's a little bit like look, what's the best way to find a job is already have relationships with a number of people who would be very interested in hiring you and working with you, right? As opposed to the, "Oh, I see a job description here. I'm going to send in my LinkedIn profile along with the other 2000 people." Be a little proactive to what you're doing and sure, it's some extra work, some wasted work, but then once you get to the next job, part of it, it's much more magical.
[01:15:26] Jordan Harbinger: Well, Reid, you're the Tyra Banks of Silicon Valley, and I'm grateful to have you back on the show. Thank you so much for doing this.
[01:15:33] Reid Hoffman: Jordan, always a pleasure.
[01:15:35] Jordan Harbinger: And remember, people, I'm going to have a lot more practicals in the show close. So stay tuned for that coming right up.
[01:15:41] If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into here's a trailer for another episode with Reid Hoffman. He drops by the show to discuss how we can tell when we're informing our intuition with the best available data or if we're just procrastinating to avoid making important decisions, and "why never give up" is terrible advice and how to separate our winning instincts from our losing idea.
[01:16:04] Reid Hoffman: A piece of advice I most often give entrepreneurs is don't just work on the product, work on your go-to-market. It's a huge world. It's eight billion people, right? How do you stand out against eight billion people? Actually, in fact, that's kind of challenging.
[01:16:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's a good point. Are we at eight already?
[01:16:18] Reid Hoffman: Yes.
[01:16:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[01:16:19] Reid Hoffman: Yeah. They go, "Oh, I build this thing in a corner. No one sees it," and maybe the best thing ever, but no one sees it, so it's never used. That's the problem on the entrepreneurship side.
[01:16:27] So network, one key component. Another one which is you plan A, you have plans B, which is how to think about like, "Well, if A is not working out, maybe B will work or maybe B will be a different path" or, you know, that kind of thing. And then you have a Z plan, which is, it's not working out at all. What's my lifeboat plan? I'm going to road to a different set of plan A and plan B's. There's always luck. There's always timing.
[01:16:49] The game is not so much, can I be one of the heroes that's written about in the next hundred years, but the game is, can I do something that, where I started from, I can make something interesting?
[01:17:02] You're playing your own game. Yes, your passion's important, but you should be paying attention to market realities. You should say, "Well, what are the opportunities look like? What does competition look like? What's the best match for me to what the opportunity landscape looks like?" You could always say, well, more data is. The test is what's the minimum set of data that you would actually, in fact, make this decision on.
[01:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: We need to separate our winning intuition or instincts from our losing ideas.
[01:17:30] Reid Hoffman: More often than not greater than 50 percent of the time, you're going to have to give up on that idea. Everyone loves to tell these narratives of, well, when I was two, I knew what I was going to do when I was 40.
[01:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it sounds good.
[01:17:42] Reid Hoffman: Yeah, and it was a straight line that was kind of smooth sailing. The wind was at our backs. It was kind of unproblematic. It's always fiction.
[01:17:51] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Reid Hoffman in a two-part mashup that includes cameos by the founder of Spotify, the CEO of Yahoo, and more, check out episode 207 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:18:03] Love this kind of practical conversation from people that actually know what they're talking about.
[01:18:08] It's important to remember that career inflection points and unforeseen changes, those are now a foregone conclusion. They're inevitable. The best thing we can do to prepare for these are to shore up our soft assets, especially our network. And of course, also have some hard assets to fall back on just in case. If you've been listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show for a while, you know that my network was one of the most important determining factors in the success of the show early on, in the success of the business over the long term, especially after leaving my past show, my previous show, and my previous business. It really was and continues to be the best insurance policy that money could never buy.
[01:18:45] In your career, it's not just other people competing with you that you need to worry about. It's also that the rules of the game are constantly changing. People whose careers petered out, they think they're playing chess, which is a closed system with static rules. This is not the case with your career. The landscape is much more open. The rules are much more open and flexible. So a lot of the practicals here are very, very important.
[01:19:07] The stuff in Six-Minute Networking, of course, but also some of the practicals in the book, such as in the next week, set up a coffee meeting for somebody who used to be in your industry, but pivoted to another line of work. Deconstruct what they did and how they got there. Was that a good move? How did they know that the time was right to make a move? Write down that exercise, do that this week. You'll thank me later.
[01:19:29] Reid also says it's better to invest in the low end and the high end, but not the middle of your knowledge base. What does that mean? Don't work to just get in the middle of the pack on most skills. If you've got low skill in an area shore up that weakness. Like if you don't know anything about something, get to decent competency, sort of low middle. If you have a high level of skill in another area, then get world-class at it.
[01:19:52] I could spend a lot of time farting around in the middle on certain skills and that would've gotten me relatively nowhere but instead, I choose to shore up things where I'm really weak and focus on what I am actually really good at that has made for a top, let's say, one percentile in podcasting and media, and there are outsized rewards at the top. Being in the middle is less useful because you're not much better than somebody with newbie skills and you're certainly not world-class. So moving around the middle area of competence in any skill, it just doesn't do as much for us.
[01:20:23] And on that note, make a plan to learn one more useful skill this year. That's transferable to what you do now in your career in some way. Maybe it's a foreign language. Maybe it's some programming or coding skills. Who knows? Give yourself a year to make some headway in that skill and set up a calendar note to evaluate that progress in 12 months from now.
[01:20:42] Also, hey, if anyone wants to learn Mandarin, I'm happy to refer you to my teachers. Just email me for that. They take new students all the time. It's been great for me. I've been studying for a while and yeah, I can speak Mandarin. Now, go figure. You put in the hours over time and it actually works. You can learn just about anything.
[01:20:57] Also last but not least, it's important to continually generate professional opportunities even if you're happy where you are. I hear this all the time. People say, "Oh, I don't need a network. I'm happy where I'm at. I don't need to do this. I'm happy where I am now." You just never know what kind of opportunity will come your way, either right now or in the future, due to these connections, due to these professional opportunities that you're generating. Two, it keeps opportunity, muscle memory fresh. So you are constantly good at it. You're never going to get rusty. If one day you do decide you need the skill to generate opportunities and/or go somewhere else. You've got backup plans. And three, you never know when you're going to have to pivot to plan B or plan Z because it happens sometimes quite unexpectedly. And the last thing you want to do is be caught off guard, then have to figure all this out, and then execute on it.
[01:21:43] I get this question in my email inbox all the time. "I didn't dig the well before I was thirsty. And now I'm thirsty. What do I do?" Well, you start over like everybody else. This is the thing. There are no shortcuts here to this particular set of skills. Continually generate professional opportunities even if you think, "This is a family business, I don't need it." "I'm never going to quit being a teacher," whatever it is, those excuses don't hold water. People who make those excuses end up in hot water. And if you're applying for a job through the front door and sending a resume to HR, you're doing something wrong that at the very least should be your last resort.
[01:22:17] There's a lot more in the book about assessing risk, making connections. The book has a lot of overlap again with our Six-Minute Networking course, which I was glad to see. Looks like their researcher actually found the course and was able to incorporate much of it, which is a nice compliment. And you can find that same course at jordanharbinger.com/course. Learn to dig the well before you're thirsty, folks. I can't say it enough.
[01:22:38] Big thank you to Reid Hoffman. Links to all things Reid will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Books at jordanharbinger.com/books. Use our website links if you buy books from guests, please. It does help support the show. Every little bit helps. Transcripts are in the show notes. Videos are up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deal. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram or connect with me right there on LinkedIn, which Reid himself founded.
[01:23:07] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody at the beginning or middle of their career, share this episode with them. I personally say that the greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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