Podcast #14: Cultivating Appreciation with Tom Brady, Danny Meyer, & Scooter Braun
Capitalism harnesses our selfish desires to fuel the growth of society. It rightfully assumes that when freedom is combined with desire, individuals will obey their self-interest and work hard to improve their position.
While I’m a rabid capitalist, the system isn’t without flaws. When most of our focus is on growth, material goods, and financial returns, it’s inevitable that we’ll constantly lack fulfillment and emotional generosity. And that lack has powerful negative implications. Our endless desire for more must be counterbalanced by the cultivated appreciation of what we have, for without that appreciation, the personal fulfillment we all seek isn’t possible. Just think of the multitude of parents obsessed with their children’s future achievements rather than enjoying the pure bliss of their child every day.
This same lack of appreciation is a major barrier for both individuals and organizations looking to manifest their creative potential. Our capitalistic obsession with growth, material goods, and financial returns is in direct opposition to our ability to be emotionally generous and therefore manifest our full potential.
For a simple example of this, look no further than publicly traded companies. These organizations are slaves to growth, because their stock price (and therefore value) is based on future earnings. If they don’t hit their quarterly numbers, their stock goes down and the company is worth less. This often leads to companies making short-term decisions like cutting great people or killing development projects to achieve quarterly results. Does that make the company more likely to achieve greatness long term? Absolutely not.
The likelihood of realizing our potential increases tenfold when appreciation is cultivated, when we are emotionally generous. For example, Tom Brady has six Super Bowl rings and a legitimate claim to the title of greatest quarterback to ever play football, but Forbes recently called him “the biggest bargain in sports.” So what gives? Aren’t the two in complete opposition? While I have little concern for Tom’s overall financial situation, it’s notable that he earns less than almost a dozen other quarterbacks and could easily command significantly more. Why doesn’t he? Well, it seems Tom cares more about pursuing his potential—a/k/a winning Super Bowls—than he does his personal financial growth. Or, simply, he balances his selfish desire for more with a cultivated appreciation of what he already has—in this case his teammates. And that emotional generosity, along with one of the greatest coaches in football history, is what makes the New England Patriots perennial favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Lacking appreciation and emotional generosity is endemic to our society and the human condition. It leads us to believe that fulfilling our selfish desires will bring the fulfillment and success we crave. But only when we transcend this impulse and give meaning fully to others can we truly appreciate our gifts and manifest them to their greatest potential.
Appreciation Exercise #1: The Little Things
Take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine you have nothing.
Your family, friends, favorite shirt, television, dog, iPhone, even your ability to speak, taste, and hear are all gone.
Take a moment to think about the simple things: a hug, a kiss, a smile from someone special, a warm shower, a conversation with someone close to you, a sip of your morning coffee, listening to your favorite song.
How wonderful are each of these small moments?
Now, think of your life today, all the amazing people, things, and moments you enjoy every day. On a pad, list the ten things you are most thankful for. Take this list and tape it up on your bathroom mirror so you can look at it every day when you are brushing your teeth.
Shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.
When you experience life through this lens, it’s filled with appreciation. And when you cultivate your appreciation, you’ll experience magic every day.
The Right People
Creator’s Formula: Emotional Generosity
Danny Meyer is the spiritual leader of the hospitality business. Through his restaurants like Shake Shack and Gramercy Tavern, and books like Setting the Table, he has achieved incredible financial success and esteem. But Meyer’s contribution transcends hospitality. Since opening Union Square Cafe in 1985, he has been transformed into an evangelist of sorts. He preaches and teaches “enlightened hospitality”—the understanding and application of how the delivery of a product makes its recipient feel. Meyer understands that “good service,” the technical delivery of a product, has become an expectation; therefore culture and experience have become the true differentiators. As he puts it, “It’s all about how you make the customer feel.” Sound familiar? That sounds like emotional generosity to me.
The most important step in creating a hospitable culture is hiring the right people. Meyer calls these people “fifty-one percenters”— team members with a high hospitality quotient, whose skills are 49 percent technical and 51 percent emotional. You can teach someone a technical skill, but it’s much more difficult to teach them emotional skills. The core skills Meyer looks for are optimism and kindness, curiosity about learning, an exceptional work ethic, a high degree of empathy, and self-awareness and integrity.
As Meyer explains it, “By putting your employees first, you have happier employees, which then leads to a higher HQ. A higher HQ leads to happy customers, which benefits all the stakeholders. The cycle is virtuous, not linear, because the stakeholders all impact each other.”
All businesses are dependent on people. That’s because great experiences only occur when one person connects with another, when someone is emotionally generous. When the person on the receiving end of the product or service leaves happier and more fulfilled, the transaction was a success. It’s precisely this emotional connection that increases positive sentiment and eventually grows into a successful brand or movement.
Doing this once is quite simple. Almost anyone, for example, can throw one really great dinner party. But when you multiply that one interaction by hundreds, thousands, or even millions, that’s where the problems begin. How can you possibly make all those connections meaningful and memorable? But organizations like Meyer’s Shake Shack manage to do it. Many believe this comes from training, but training is technical. Recruitment—the practice of finding new people to join an organization or support a cause—is truly the most important step in the process. When you empower the right people, emotionally generous people, they will make the right decisions. Or, as Danny Meyer says, “The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can’t train for. Either it’s there or it isn’t.”
Creator’s Formula: Emotional Generosity
I don’t think human beings were made to be worshipped. We are here to serve each other and that’s the only way we can keep our sanity. People who give back don’t go crazy. And people who just take and take and take and are worshipped and are just receiving, they lose their minds.
Scooter Braun is a talent manager and entrepreneur. While he is widely known for discovering Justin Bieber, he also manages Kanye West, Ariana Grande, the Black-Eyed Peas, The Knocks, and David
Guetta, among many others. Braun started as a party promoter in Atlanta when he was at Emory University. At the time, his goal was to be a billionaire. After about a month of being in business, he realized that “making five grand was really hard” and that being a billionaire was not reasonable. A day came when he was introduced to a successful older man with a wife, kids, a small boat, a nice
home. Braun asked the man how much he would have to earn over the years to enjoy a similar life. After the man offered an “extremely high but reasonable number,” Braun told himself, “I am going to work to my fifties or sixties” and reach this figure.
At the time, he was twenty years old.
Seven years later, Scooter Braun called his accountant and asked, “How much cash do I have right now after taxes?” The accountant did some checking and cited a figure already higher than the financial goal Braun had set at age twenty. He called his dad to share the good news, and the elder Braun offered congratulations. Then Scooter said, “But, Dad, here’s the problem. I thought when I got here I would be happy.”
Thankfully, as Braun put it, his dad gave him the “best advice in the world.” He told his son to hang up the phone, think about when he was last genuinely happy, and call him back. Driving at the time, Braun pulled over, thought about it for a while, then got back on the phone with his dad. “Okay, it’s going to sound crazy,” he began, before sharing times when he last felt genuinely happy: “Just sitting at night and hanging out with my [kids]; when I am playing ball, get hot on the court and hit a couple of threes in a row; when I go to a children’s hospital; when I am answering somebody randomly back on Facebook.” His dad’s response? The older Braun told his son now he was in a position to achieve real success, and went on to describe what this would be: “Success is the freedom to do the things that you actually love. So implement more of those things into your life and you will get happiness. And as you get more money you can implement more and more.”
This led Scooter Braun to the following conclusion: “[As] we get older we get in this place where we have to provide. And we got to go to a job every single day and that’s why we start to get broken down. Because we are taking more and more time away from what actually makes us happy. And then we get to a place where you made some money, and you’re continuing in the rat race, and you’re like, What the hell did I do this for? I want people to have the perspective that you can make a lot of money or not make a lot of money, but that doesn’t define your happiness. Your choice of balance in your life decides your happiness, your choice of how much you want to give to others, the choice of friends and family you want to spend time with. If you make the conscious decision, [you] can implement more of that in your life right now.”
You are here to serve a purpose beyond yourself. To discover what you excel at and enjoy and then apply your energy to help yourself and others live a more fulfilled existence. When you evolve your thoughts, intentions, and actions to discover your true self and apply this philosophy to be emotionally generous, your world will open up in ways you never could have imagined.