David speaks with Ryan Hawk, whoโ€™s the host of "The Learning Leader Show," labeled as the most dynamic leadership podcast around, and author of some very popular books about management, leadership and excellence. And including Welcome to Management, which Forbes called one of the best leadership books of 2020.

They talked about:

๐Ÿ† The impact of great coaches

๐Ÿก Childhood and the importance of community

๐Ÿš€ The role of ambition in personal success

๐Ÿ’ผ The importance of work ethic

๐Ÿ”„ Transitioning from sports to business to podcasting

๐ŸŽจ The art of interviewing and learning from others

๐ŸŽ™ Listen in your favourite podcast player

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Podcast App smart link to listen, download, and subscribe to The Knowledge with David Elikwu. Click to listen! The Knowledge with David Elikwu by David Elikwu has 29 episodes listed in the Self-Improvement category. Podcast links by Plink.

๐ŸŽง Listen on Spotify:

๐Ÿ“น Watch on Youtube:

๐Ÿ‘ค Connect with Ryan:

Twitter: @RyanHawk12

Website: The Learning Leader Show | https://learningleader.com/about/

Books: Welcome to Management | https://a.co/d/0mK853F

The Score That Matters | https://a.co/d/bNRZJmz

The Pursuit of Excellence | https://a.co/d/d5m4paA

๐Ÿ“„ Show notes:

0:00 | Intro

00:11 | Moving to Centerville, Ohio and the Impact of Coaches

01:25 | Reflections on Childhood and the Importance of Community

01:44 | Lessons from High School Football and the Influence of Coaches

03:02 | The Role of Ambition and Expectations in Personal Growth

07:47 | The Journey to College Football and Competing with Ben Roethlisberger

08:24 | The Importance of Resilience and Work Ethic in Sports

09:14 | Reflections on Career and the Impact of Competition

11:19 | The Transition from Sports to Podcasting

14:40 | The Art of Interviewing and Learning from Others

41:45 | The Pursuit of Excellence and Continuous Improvement

๐Ÿ—ฃ Mentioned in the show:

Bob Gregg | https://learningleader.com/kirkherbstreit444/

Ron Ullery | https://learningleader.com/ulleryhawk325/

Kirk Herbstreit | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirk_Herbstreit

Ben Roethlisberger | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Roethlisberger

Canadian Football League | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Football_League

The Arena league | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Arena_League

David Perell | https://perell.com/

Scott Galloway | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Galloway_(professor)

Brook Cupps | https://www.linkedin.com/in/brook-cupps-23864457

William Ury | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ury

Tim Ferris | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Ferriss

Dan Patrick | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Patrick_(sportscaster)

Keith Olbermann | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Olbermann

James Clear | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Clear

Atomic Habits | https://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Habits-Proven-Build-Break/dp/0735211299

Charlie Munger | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Munger

Full episode transcript below

๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿพโ€๐Ÿ’ป About David Elikwu:

David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.

๐Ÿฃ Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge

๐ŸŒ Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com

๐Ÿ“ฝ๏ธ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/davidelikwu

๐Ÿ“ธ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delikwu/

๐Ÿ•บ TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@delikwu

๐ŸŽ™๏ธ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge

๐Ÿ“– EBook: https://delikwu.gumroad.com/l/manual

My Online Course

๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Decision Hacker: http://www.decisionhacker.io/

Decision Hacker will help you hack your default patterns and become an intentional architect of your life. Youโ€™ll learn everything you need to transform your decisions, your habits, and your outcomes.

The Knowledge

๐Ÿ“ฉ Newsletter: https://theknowledge.io

The Knowledge is a weekly newsletter for people who want to get more out of life. It's full of insights from psychology, philosophy, productivity, and business, all designed to make you more productive, creative, and decisive.

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๐ŸŽž๏ธ Descript: https://bit.ly/descript-de

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๐Ÿ“œFull transcript:

[00:00:00] Ryan Hawk: I think just like as a football player, you need coaches, you need other people. Whatever you do in life you'll be better if you surround yourself with others who can help you.

The podcast is hard because there aren't a lot of people who have done it for nine plus years in the way that I do it. There's just not a lot of people out there.

And I think good leaders have some of that productive paranoia where the better it goes, it's almost the harder they push.

I fully expected to win the job. I also think it is good to go compete against the best in the world.

[00:00:36] David Elikwu: This week I'm sharing part of my conversation with Ryan Hawk, who's the host of The Learning Leader Show, which is a podcast I personally have been listening to for years. I would highly recommend it.

And Ryan's also the author of some very popular books about management, leadership and excellence. And including Welcome to Management, which I think Forbes called one of the best leadership books of 2020.

And so in this episode, you're going to hear Ryan and I talking about his incredibly interesting journey, what it was like growing up in a family of leaders and athletes.

His younger brother played in the NFL for a number of years, and Ryan was on that same track himself, but he just happened to be in the exact same recruiting class as one Ben Roethlisberger, one of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time. And so you can imagine just how difficult that must have been. But Ryan went on from there and still managed to have such incredible career.

And so you'll hear us talking about the influence of coaches on your success. We talk about childhood and the importance of community. We talk about the role of ambition in your personal success and the importance of work ethic and how to go about crafting a spirit of excellence in everything that you do. And then we talked about Ryan's transition from sports to business and being a manager, working his way up in corporate America.

And finally, I got a lot of inside baseball, and you're going to hear me asking a lot of personal questions to Ryan, for myself about the art of interviewing and how to learn from your conversations with others. So I think all in all, this was an incredible episode.

You can get the full show notes, the transcript and read my newsletter at theknowledge.io and you can find Ryan online on Twitter @ryanhawk12. And his website is the learning leader show and his three incredible books, welcome to management, the score that matters and the pursuit of excellence. I'll leave all the links in the description below.

And if you love this episode please do share it with a friend and don't forget to leave a review wherever you listen to podcast because it helps us tremendously to find other listeners just like you.

[00:02:36] David Elikwu: So where I thought might actually be useful to start is, you know, I spent some time, like I mentioned, I've listened to your podcast for a while. I've read some of your books and heard you speaking in quite a few places.

I would be interested to go back to when you were four or five, your parents moved to Centerville, Ohio. Because they had seen this great coach, Bob Greg, who'd done a good job of raising some quarterbacks at the time. You had the offensive coordinator as well, who was a Ron Algae. And you've explained in the past, like the impact that they had on you.

But I'm really interested in like, the moment that you moved out. You're actually really young, you probably might not have a strong sense of exactly what's going on, but your parents seem to have this plan around, this is exactly why we're moving there.

And I'd love to know from your perspective how that might have shaped your ambition or your expectations or how you started to see your life and, and what you wanted to go on to do as well.

[00:03:29] Ryan Hawk: At that age or now looking back?

[00:03:31] David Elikwu: More so at that age.

[00:03:33] Ryan Hawk: Well, I mean.

[00:03:33] David Elikwu: Age, and as you were, as you were then coming up. And, because I can only imagine as you then start going to high school, as you then start playing football, you might have in the back of your head, Hey, my parents have this dream or this vision of, of something that they want me to be able to do.

[00:03:47] Ryan Hawk: You know, wasn't that deep of a thinker or even that reflective growing up. Like, I'm like most kids, you know, you just kind of go out and play that day and you play whatever sport it happens, like whatever season it is. Football, baseball, basketball, swimming, whatever, golf, tennis, ping pong. So like I didn't really think a lot about it until much later when I reflect back about how lucky we were for living.

One in just an awesome community, a really great place for a family to grow up regardless of the football coaches or a top tier school, a big school. So it got us used to a wide variety of people. And then yeah, you mentioned Coach Bob Gregg and, and Ron Ellery, who are two of the most important people in my life, as far as the impact they had on me of teaching me to work, teach me about resilience, teach me about the importance of preparation. All of that I learned end of the starting in the spring of my eighth grade year, going into my freshman year of high school. and without them you know, who knows what happens. I have no idea.

But I personally needed people in my life who thought more of me than I thought of myself who thought that I could accomplish and do more than I thought I could do and they pushed, and pushed and pushed and pushed to get that out of me. And I think that's what I'm most grateful for about growing up where I grew up, is the fact that I had people who cared and loved for me enough to be really hard on me to push me. Because the easier path is just to say, oh, yeah, man, you're good, you're good, you're all good. Just kind of, kind of let me go. And if that, if that would've happened, then, you know, no college scholarship, no college football, at least not at a high level. And then who knows what else, like the butterfly effect of, of all that.

So yeah, man, I'm super grateful. I'm trying to, you know, do the same as a parent myself of put my children in positions where they can develop grit and resilience and work ethic and being a good teammate and hopefully being surrounded by really good people that will push them. You know, that's, that's really what we're trying to do.

But my parents, you know, I don't know if they were like these big orchestrators, they saw a good football coach, they saw a good community, good schools, and we moved here. It wasn't like a, obviously they've deserve credit for everything, but I don't know if they could have envisioned it going as well as it did.

[00:05:54] David Elikwu: Okay, so it wasn't like is it King, king William this, the William Sister's dad that, that

[00:05:59] Ryan Hawk: Oh, no, King Richard. Like, no. I mean, you know, that dude's crazy and hey, it worked out. It worked out good for them.

I think, you know, there's a great quarterback named Kirk Herb Street who played at Centerville and he's now the number one voice of college football and ESPN, works for Amazon in the NFL. Kirk was a great player at Centerville and was a national player of the year, went to Ohio State and the rest is history with his story.

And so, that helped too, that he happened to be there when we moved. And it was in the news and my parents saw like, oh, well this must be a really good program. This decade of domination was happening as Kirk was there. And so it was cool that we got a chance to add to that.

[00:06:32] David Elikwu: The two coaches that you mentioned, what do you think that they saw in you at the time, especially considering that you mentioned it wasn't necessarily something that you saw for yourself? So I think sometimes you see a prodigious talent that is obviously extremely excellent, and of course you're gonna push this kid to go as hard as possible and to push the boundaries.

But for you, if, if you weren't seeing that, then maybe it wasn't extremely obvious on the surface. So what was it that they saw that they wanted to pull out of you?

[00:06:57] Ryan Hawk: I think they saw, I mean, it was very coachable. It's one thing I've been brought up to be very coachable, listen to teachers, respect them, do what they say. And so one very coachable, I was willing to work and still am and I think I learned that mostly from them. So I would basically do whatever they'd tell me to do. And then I had some natural ability that they thought I had a much higher ceiling than I had, than I thought I had at least.

I was a pretty good player growing up in all the sports I played. One of the better players, but not like a world class athlete or anything like that. I think they, they thought, well, I could, let me squeeze every ounce out of this kid. And I think he'll do it. I think he'll listen. I think he'll work and have a good attitude about it, and that was true. And so they like a lot of guys at Centerville, I think that's what great coaches do is they maximize, they get every ounce of potential out of you. That's what great leaders do in business and in life, and great coaches do in sports. And so I think they thought, well, there's a high potential for this kid, we gotta push him to get everything out of him. And, and fortunately, you know, it it turned out to, to be super helpful for me.

[00:07:56] David Elikwu: One more question I'd ask you about them just 'cause I'm, I'm quite interested, I heard you mention at one point that you didn't always enjoy the relationship that you, you had with them, they pushed you quite hard.

Was there any particular moment that kind of caused the transition from, 'cause I think sometimes this, these things were only able to see in retrospect, just like you were saying, maybe with your parents, right?

Sometimes you feel like someone's being hard on you at the time and then you look back later on and you say, oh wow, actually this was massively helpful in preparing me. Was that something that only came to you later on or was that something at the time there was a bit of a mindset shift where like, okay, this is actually.

[00:08:29] Ryan Hawk: Yeah, probably after, I would just, you know, I just wasn't mature enough to realize that as a 16, 17, 18-year-old kid, I started playing for them when I was 14. So I wasn't really mature enough to fully grasp and understand that, and so I think like a lot of people, well.

For those people who care for you and love you and are willing to tell you the truth and push a lot and push very hard, sometimes over the line. In the moment you hate, you hate some of the things that they do. They never like were abusive or anything like that. They certainly, we got chewed out and yelled at and cussed at in front of all my friends and my teammates, you know, that's, that's a good thing to get used to where every Saturday morning, regardless of how I played on Friday nights, when we're watching the film of that game, I knew what was coming. They were gonna find any flaw possible and it was gonna be pointed out not just about me, but about my teammates, especially the better players on the team. They were gonna hear it the most. And the better we played, the more they got on us on Saturday.

I learned later that was for good reason. They never wanted us to be complacent. They never wanted us to feel like, oh, we're good. We got this we can kind of chill out. They were fighting against that constantly because we played so well and one by so much, that was a constant fear of theirs. And I think good leaders have some of that productive paranoia where the better it goes, it's almost the harder they push.

You know, I've tried to subscribe to that same model in my life, now I have to do it more for myself, but I'm older and more mature that I've learned how to do that. So it's almost like the better it goes, the harder you should, you should be on yourself and push and, you know, who knows what opportunities you'll create for yourself.

And in that case it was winning games and creating great memories with your teammates. So, so just, I'm just super grateful for all of those lessons I learned from them.

[00:10:14] David Elikwu: And you've touched on this idea of, I guess both competitiveness and also confidence. I'm interested to know where you are, where you were on the spectrum of both of those things? Particularly now, so you had these great coaches, it pays off, you get a scholarship to go to to Miami, but you happen to be in the same class as Ben Roethlisberger, Big Ben. And this is another one where it's quite obvious in retrospect, okay, this guy goes on to be an incredible NFL quarterback, so you could look back and say, okay, of course, of course he would've won that spot over me.

But I'm wondering, at the time, was it like, did it feel like a, a big gap between the two of you? Did it feel like you were just as much in it and you felt like you had a chance to fight for that spot?

[00:10:56] Ryan Hawk: Oh yeah. I mean, a hundred percent I wouldn't have gone if I didn't think I could. I mean, I stayed for two full years, and this is a long time, every day for two years. Think about that, that's 700 days worth of competition.

So I fully expected to win the job. I also think it is good to go compete against the best in the world. Which, you know, I didn't know that at the time that he was, but I knew he was really good. He was very highly taught to recruit. He got recruited by the biggest schools in the country and decided to go to a smaller school like Miami. But yeah, I think that's healthy, I think it's great to go through it, especially as a young arrogant kid to get beat down a little bit.

And you look up and you see every day that this guy's, four inches taller than you. He is got a stronger arm than you, and yet he's, he's still pretty much just as athletic as you are. The only area where I probably did better than him was in the weight room. But on the practice field, it was a battle every day. It definitely made me better. I'm also very grateful for that. A lot of friends of mine say, man, that was so unlucky. If you, if any other quarterback comes, you know, that's your job and you get to play on that offense and who knows what happens. And it just, that's not how the world works.

I look back on those years now really fondly to say, how many people in the world get a chance to be side by side with one of the greatest to ever do something for two years? How many people get to do that? It is a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of people in the world. And so I got a chance to do that and, and I'm forever grateful and certainly lost the job. But battled hard for two years and I think that will, that's made me a lot better.

'Cause what it's also taught me was whoever gives the team or gives the client, in this case, whoever makes them better, whoever provides the most value to the team. Whoever gives them a better chance to win, that person gets the job. So think about that's how I approach every single interaction with clients, every single interaction, speaking on stage, doing a podcast, writing books. If I'm not adding enough value, I don't deserve it. You should fire me immediately. I don't do any long-term contracts. I don't do any, I don't lock people in anything. I give invoices for my keynote speeches after the speeches, even if I, I pay my own dime to fly there, to go up on stage, to do the thing. If I didn't provide enough value, I couldn't take your money. So I take the same approach because I learned very early that other person proved to everybody here, the team, the coaches, all the players, the whole, the president of the school. That guy gives us a better chance to succeed than you do. And that was just a fact. And what a great thing to learn, what a great thing to learn early in your life, because I've taken that everywhere I've gone to say, if I don't add enough value, I'm fired, I'm fired and I deserve to be. So not everybody gets to go through that.

And now I hated some of the moments at the time, obviously, 'cause I wanted that job badly. But now I wouldn't trade that for anything. I'm very grateful for having gone through that.

[00:13:55] David Elikwu: And I mean, just on that note in, in your book now, The Score That Matters. There's one part that talks about comparison, right? And, and sometimes comparison can be a negative thing. It can be a trapping thing, comparing yourself to others, measuring yourself up against others.

But I think maybe that there's a counterside to it where sometimes it can be useful measuring yourself up against, let's say, another player in the respects of, okay, seeing where are they strong and what are the things I can learn from them? Was there any of that that you did at the time where you were able to see, okay, you know, as much as you might say, okay, it feels like a fact that this person just contributes more value, but were there any particular things that even back then you could look at and say, okay, here is something I can see this other person doing that I could perhaps go away and learn. I know some of it might just be natural talent, but was there any of that pattern matching as well?

[00:14:38] Ryan Hawk: I mean, sure. I learned a lot quicker and better how to read defenses, how to understand wide receiver leverage. I learned how to like all the mechanics of footwork and drop backs and timing when it comes to throws as well as just, how to keep plays alive. I mean, Ben was known for that even as he aged in the NFL of keeping plays alive and scrambling. I don't how much you watched him play in the pros, but so many of the highlights in the Super Bowls that they won were probably due to the fact that he was able to shed a defender, keep a play alive, and have his eyes downfield, scramble to throw, not scramble to run. Like all those things, I got to watch that regularly, both in practice and in games.

And so to me again, it was just a treat. It was a treat to watch that, and I think it probably made me a better player as I went on in my career.

[00:15:25] David Elikwu: To be honest, okay, as you just mentioned it, it's probably worth noting. Part of the reason I'm super interested in this is one, 'cause I think it exposes some ideas about your, your mindset and how that's developed over time, but also because I love American football. I was playing, I played in university. It's not necessarily college, college level sports like it is in the US.

[00:15:43] Ryan Hawk: Yeah. So what's that like over there?

[00:15:45] David Elikwu: Yeah, it's a lot more developing. So I remember, okay, so this is slightly over 10 years ago now. The year that I started playing at my university was the first year that we had an American football team.

So there's other universities that had had football teams before that. But for our school, that was our first year. We had a coach that had played in our league. Funnily enough, I ended up playing for his adult team later on. And he's currently one of the great pitching coaches. So he coaches the national team at the moment, but at the time, it was still quite nascent in a way. And this is also the beginning of when the NFL was starting to come to Europe to play the games in London.

And so, a lot of that was just beginning. So that's when I first got into the NFL, that's when I first got into football.

And I think one of the things that has always stood out to me, so actually on a recent episode, I had someone who was on the coaching staff at a Ucon's championship team from a couple of years ago when they had Shabazz Napier, Kemba Walker, some of those guys.

And it's that, in American sports, there seems to be these aspects of, of leadership and development that are packaged with just the act of playing sports that I don't seem to see at the same level, let's say in other countries or in other geographies, because sometimes it can just be about, okay, here's the game, the game that you play, you might still treat it with the same amount of rigor in terms of, you know, you show up on time, you watch your game tape, you do all these things. But I think that additional package aspect of like the leadership development and the way people genuinely take people under their wing, they coach them, that personality development piece of it as well that I think we're still lacking a little.

[00:17:16] Ryan Hawk: Interesting. That's cool that you played, man. That's cool. that you got a chance to play over there. And did you say like, when you compare it to college football in the states, like how close is it?

[00:17:26] David Elikwu: for probably not that close,

[00:17:27] Ryan Hawk: No, it's

[00:17:28] David Elikwu: maybe a bit, a bit closer to a like a, a good high school.

[00:17:33] Ryan Hawk: All right. That's cool. What position do you play?

[00:17:35] David Elikwu: In fairness, part of that might just be like time under detention, because in the US like by the time you get to college, you've been playing for years and years, whereas in the UK that might be your very first year ever playing, and you are gonna be '

[00:17:48] Ryan Hawk: cause yeah, now we start playing in like first and second grade and so if you don't start playing until, well, well after that, that just, they're just sheer repetitions. And even wearing pads would feel weird if you just get started for the first time. Putting a helmet on would be, would be awkward. I remember those days. Even after we take like six months off between seasons, putting your gear back on, you're like, oh, this, I gotta get used to this again. Like I can't imagine if the first time was like in high school or college.

[00:18:11] David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. And funnily enough, when I first started playing, I'd been on the basketball team and so they were starting this American football team and they came up to me, they were looking around for people that they thought could probably play football, and they were like, Hey, you look like you could play. Why don't you come along to training? And that's, that's pretty much how I started. So I started at linebacker and then moved back to I was a cornerback and played some safety as well.

[00:18:32] Ryan Hawk: That's awesome. Very cool.

[00:18:33] David Elikwu: I mean, even the same way you were talking about Ben, like, I'm really interested to know for you on, on that part of your journey as well.

So going from there, you played in the Arena Football and then the Canadian Football League as well. It seems like okay, you are still fighting to keep the dream alive. I think you, you trained with some NFL teams around the time as well. Was there a particular moment for you where it might have hit that, okay, maybe this dream might not actually work out and like, at this point, are you still running on the hope of, am I still make it or is it mostly just the inertia of, I've been on this path for however many years, I've already committed myself to this sport, to playing this game, I'm just gonna keep doing what I've been doing.

[00:19:10] Ryan Hawk: Probably the second year in The Arena league I had gotten some NFL workouts. So like they bring guys in on Tuesdays most weeks during the season, and then they also do some off season stuff. I'd gotten a handful of those workouts.

And yeah, you talk about comparing yourself to other people. I mean, their guys are right there with you in line, throwing, running, everything. And I realized that there were guys much better than me that weren't getting picked up. And so you're like, all right, like these guys who are, it's obvious, like you could see it. Like, it's obvious that they're better players than I am, at least, you know, wearing shorts and t-shirts and running and just throwing without pads. They're definitely better players. They're not getting picked up. Like it's probably not gonna happen.

Again though, it's just so different, it's so much easier now to look back years later. I just didn't think as deeply, I wasn't as reflective, I wasn't as curious. I just kind of, showed up and did the workout or showed up and watched film and went to practice. Now, you know, you mature and you become much more reflective. I've interviewed 570 plus of the world's most thoughtful and engaging and impactful leaders. I was a much different person, I'm just grown so much.

So at the time though, it's like I can't put my current brain mindset into the body of me at 24 or 25. I was just too early of a version, I didn't think like that, I just showed up and played. And now I probably would, I probably would be worse because I'd think too much. It's almost better.

I talked to my brother about this recently who played at Ohio State and you know, they play in front of a hundred and whatever, 5,000 every week. And he had never really gone to a game before he played there and now he goes to games, he's like, oh my God, this is a really big deal. Like, God, there's gotta be so much pressure on these kids. And I'm like, well, yeah, you did it. And he goes, yeah, but I didn't think there was this much, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I just kind of went out and played.

And in a way being naive and not really thinking about that so you can focus on just playing probably frees you up to be better. And I think that's the same thing. There's like good and bad to not being as thoughtful and to not being as deep into it. You just kind of go out and play versus now where there's like so much thought put into it.

And I feel the pressure for those kids, but I didn't necessarily feel that pressure when I was there, 'cause I was just, I was just kind of letting it rip when I play.

[00:22:13] David Elikwu: Yeah I completely get that. And it's funny, I was speaking to a friend of mine, a friend of mine's in the league now, so he was from the UK funnily enough, so he's younger than me, but we both played for the same adult team but obviously not at the same time. And so he plays for the, the Jags now, number 35. I think it was just his, his rookie season.

And I was asking him when he was back earlier this year, you know, what's it like? Like how much of a, how big of a difference is it playing in an NFL stadium? Playing on that kind of stage. And for him it was just like, I mean, you're just playing. It doesn't, well at least to him it didn't seem to, to feel like it as massive a difference.

And I guess you are right. I think it's almost better to be in that zone and not to be super self-aware of the context that you are in. And when you have that, then you're able to perform at your best. I can imagine.

[00:22:58] Ryan Hawk: Yeah, I think there is something to even now, like giving a speech or like any of these live events, you over prepare. So that when the time comes, you can just let it go. Like you got it here, but then when it come, a big interview, a big speech, whatever, you don't want to be too scripted or too robotic. And so I think the over preparation now, puts me in a better position to just let it go once it's game time for whatever that particular game is.

I don't know. I mean, you interview people, you do stuff like this. How do you feel about when you show up for big moments, big interviews, whatever it may be when it comes to preparation, like letting it flow versus being too scripted and robotic?

[00:23:38] David Elikwu: I think you actually make a really great point. I think very often before some big conversations speaking to you or speaking to some other people that I really respect, like I already knew and had tremendous respect for this person beforehand. You can feel maybe there's like a bit of nerves or there's a bit of like before you start, but that's why you do the practice, right? That's why you prepare, that's why you've got notes.

A lot of the time I'll have like five, six pages of notes beforehand that I've, I've really spent the time, so then by the time you're having the conversation, things seem to flow a lot smoother.

Although, one caveat that I will say is that I have noticed, and this might be the one slight difference between doing something like this and playing football, I think football. Because, especially playing corner anyway, and I can imagine it's probably the same in any position. Everything happens in the moment, like all you have is the moment right now, if you lose concentration for a second, the play is kind of done. Like you are standing against wide receivers, they're incredibly fast. You actually can't really afford to think about too much else because by the time you get into your own head, you're gonna lose. And if you lose one rep, you're probably gonna lose the next five reps after that. And then you are, you're gonna have a tough climb.

Whereas with this, funnily enough, there have been some times where even if I do get inside my own head a bit, I don't know if it's because of the reps or because of the preparation or whatever.

More often than not when I look back at the tape afterwards, I come across a lot better than I thought I sounded at the time.

[00:24:59] Ryan Hawk: That's good.

[00:24:59] David Elikwu: I feel like I'm stumbling over my words, things like that.

[00:25:03] Ryan Hawk: Yeah, how many have you done?

[00:25:04] David Elikwu: This will probably be something like almost 80 episodes.

[00:25:08] Ryan Hawk: Nice.

[00:25:08] David Elikwu: So still a long way from where you are, but

[00:25:11] Ryan Hawk: how do you, how do you feel at 1 versus 80? Like how, what type of growth, like how different do you feel, where are you at from then to now?

[00:25:19] David Elikwu: Yeah. It's made a big difference, I would say. And I think as you get more, I don't necessarily always feel like, oh, I'm super seasoned at this, but, and I can only imagine how much further I have to go as I do more reps. But definitely thinking about like, okay, the first 20 that you do, it's very early, like you're still trying to figure out exactly what this looks like, you're just having some of these conversations. And it's interesting, what I've noticed actually is that sometimes it doesn't feel like big step shifts, it feels like you make a small incremental change that, then seems to have some massive impact.

Like when I was thinking about earlier is even my lighting probably the first, I don't know 30, 40 or so episodes. My lighting was really bad, I was using a GoPro camera and, but funny enough, some of the lighting was like I didn't go out and buy a ton of new stuff, but just learning how to better use the equipment that I already had, you make some small changes, suddenly has a big impact and, and I think similarly, you know, the format is still pretty much the same.

It's still me speaking to someone on the other side of a camera, but the better fidelity you get at knowing, okay, I think having some inner piece of, I'm having a conversation, I'm not trying to make it sound super scripted. We wanna have fun with it, we want to make things flow, then you have a better sense of how things are going.

[00:26:31] Ryan Hawk: That's cool. The neat thing about a podcast is you can like literally hear yourself improving as you go, as you get another rep, another rep, another rep. And not only, and there's so many other benefits to it too, but it is neat to listen back and cringe at your previous self to see how far you've come. And I, I do that every once in a while. And I think that's, that's good literally hearing growth not many people get to do that. So in a way that's a big, that's one of the many positives of, of having a podcast.

[00:27:01] David Elikwu: Yeah. I mean, to connect those two dots, I'd love to ask you. Is there, do you have any other process of review or like how do you think about, so the analogy that I always think of just on the topic of football is game tape. When we used to play, you would watch game tape, not just of the games, but of practice.

And the coaches were right there at the time you were practicing, and they would give you the tips live. But then also then being able to watch it back and then suddenly, and it's now not just you getting individual feedback, they're playing this, we're all sitting in this auditorium, they're playing this in front of everyone. Can you see how okay, David should have dropped his right leg back and, and turned his hips to drop back with this wide receiver on this play here. Something like that.

And maybe similarly, the way that you approach your craft now, whether it's with your writing, whether it's with speaking, whether it's interviewing and having the podcast, are there any of those lessons that you feel transfer in the way that you review the work that you do?

[00:27:54] Ryan Hawk: The podcast is hard because there aren't a lot of people who have done it for nine plus years in the way that I do it. There's just, there's just not a lot of people out there.

Anyone though who is regularly interviewing people, I will ask for feedback. Especially like I look for people that I admire the way that they approached. In fact, I was just DMing back and forth to David Perel this morning who has a great podcast called How I Write, and I've had on my show years ago. And we were just talking about how to formulate questions as you go, how much to script, how much not how much follow up questions.

And so like, we'll have good ongoing dialogue when it comes to the craft and the art of speaking with people and interviewing them and being a good conversationalist. Listening back to myself, I'm often too long-winded and need to tighten up. And so I get annoyed or upset with myself when I hear that, I ask for help from other people. I really get a lot of help when it comes to writing. I've hired, gosh, so many people who I admire the way in which they write.

And one key person in my life that a former prosecutor for he was that for more than a decade. And he is helped me with all my books and, and a number of pieces of my writing because he is very persuasive and he knows how to make an argument like a prosecutor would need to make. And so if I really want to try to be more persuasive and make an argument, I'm seeking his help in a big way.

So I think just like as a football player, you need coaches, you need other people. Whatever you do in life you'll be better if you have, if you surround yourself with others who can help you, who can, Scott Galloway could say, you can't see the label from inside the bottle. So you gotta have other people that can see it and say it to you and give you feedback, and that's important to have, as I write about my most recent book with Brook Cupps. You know, that, that foxhole, those foxhole friends, that group around you that will tell you the truth to say, Hey, what were you thinking here? Have you thought about doing it this way? Maybe you should change this or what were you doing? I love, love those people in my life that are willing to provide that feedback for me.

[00:29:58] David Elikwu: Sure. That makes a lot of sense. How do you prepare for your interviews like you've spoken with, and first of all, just by virtue of the number of years that you've done it, you've spoken to a ton of people, but also the way that you approach it, like I have known as a listener, there's a high degree of preparation, specificity like, I guess there's a few parts of it.

One is the balance of how much you prepare versus maybe wanting to be surprised by things and asking things that you don't know the answer to. But then also how do you find the balance of being in the moment and having the conversation with the person that's on the other side versus thinking about the listener and actually being aware that there's a part of the conversation that's also performative and you wanna maximize the value for someone that's not inside the conversation.

[00:30:41] Ryan Hawk: That was really well said. There is a little bit of a performance and I think if somebody says there's not, they're probably lying.

For the most part, I understand that element. It's like sitting here, but I'm also at the same time trying to follow what I'm most genuinely curious about. And I think that's, that resonates really well with listeners. Even if I say like, this is truly only a question for me. It's really not. I mean, I found that when I say that and I do it, 'cause it's like in the moment that people like that they really seem to resonate. Like even if I think it's just for me, it's like about building my business or whatever.

But when it comes to prep. I'm of the believer that I don't think you can be too prepared. I don't necessarily script questions, but I have a full outline of ideas and specific areas where we might go. And then I will form the questions based off of a bunch of bullet points, like header topic about this part of their life, okay, ideas are, are bullet pointed. Another potential area of their life or an area of expertise, bullet points there.

And so I'll try to maybe write them in on my notes in an order that might make sense. But you know, when you're having a conversation, you never know. When you go out to lunch, you don't follow a script for the most part, you have ideas and you have thoughts. And so I try to be overly prepared, I don't memorize the outline, but I know it really well so that I almost never have to look at it. I do take handwritten notes too. I like handwriting notes, it helps me like retain the information and learn it. And sometimes that also leads to follow up questions, but I think the most important part is just to be very present in the conversation with that person to really deeply connect with that person and then to really listen all the way to the end of their answers so that the follow-up question can arise out of their answer.

And so I'll say to them, Hey, I want this to feel, before we record. I want this to feel like two people going out to lunch, becoming friends, I'll say that intentionally. The cool part is there will be a lot of people sitting in the seats surrounding us listening to what we're saying, and I'm not really thinking about them too much. Maybe a little bit, but I'm mostly thinking about me and you becoming friends. And I will probably ask the majority of the questions given the nature of how podcasts work. But you're welcome to ask any too. And I don't necessarily know what I'm going to ask because I found the best questions are typically follow up, and those are based upon me being a good listener of what you say. And they'll go, oh, okay, cool. This will be fun, you know, and then, and then boom, we hit record and we rock and roll.

And so that's kind of like, the whole how the process. But when it comes to how the outline gets created, reading their books, watching their TED talks, watching everything on YouTube, reading every article written about them, and then the outline is created.

People who tweet a lot, that's super helpful, right? Maybe I'll use a tweet as a jumping off point. People who are really good descriptive writers who tell great stories in their books, I will say, okay, it is February 20th, 1973, the phone rang, it's 10 o'clock at night. What happened next, right? I just did that with William Ury. It was an awesome opener too, and he was like super excited. He got into the story and like, boom, we're off and running. So like sometimes I will set up a scene from a time in their life earlier, and then I'll stop halfway into the scene. Now I know the scene, but I don't fully know what they're going to say next as far as like what they learned or how they're feeling about it.

Because I know from writing books, sometimes you write it, and You don't get it published for like a year and a half or two years later. So maybe what you think about it or how it went and your key learnings, it might be different from what I read. So I'm curious to like get us off and running and to get them going back into a cool moment similar to what you did with Coach Elery and Coach Gregg and then away we go.

And that's just so much fun for me, man. Like I love hearing those cool stories. I love going back to like pivotal moments, inflection points in their lives and then seeing where that takes us. But that's where I think prep can really help because it can help tee up a really great story that will be entertaining and fun for you to hear as well as then pull out, pull on the threads of the lessons learned from those stories.

[00:34:45] David Elikwu: I wanna ask a question that's slightly selfish to a bit more for me than for the listeners, but just to dive into this a bit more, just because it's genuinely something you would be one of the best people that I could ever ask.

I am interested to know how you think about your format and structure and how you balance just what you were saying, being able to ask follow up questions, being able to perhaps make notes or things like that because I notice you, like me, we stand up when I'm doing the podcast and if I was to compare to let's say Tim Ferris.

Tim Ferris is really excellent at being able to ask follow up questions, being able to make strong notes of what the guests are saying. But it's because he makes a lot of notes and I'm a big note taker. I have a notebook. And sometimes like under, under the camera, I will be writing things down. But it's a bit hard to do that.

And so simply because of the fact that I am standing up when I do these, I don't get to make as many notes and keep in mind all the various tracks. You know, someone might have said something and there's three things that I'd love to pick up on or come back to. And you don't really get to hold onto all of them if you're trying to balance everything in your mind. So maybe you pick one and then if you remember another one later, you can come back to it.

So I'd love to know, yeah. How do you think about balancing that? Because like you say, you might have an outline of, here are the things that I want to talk about, but you can't script it in the same way, especially if you're trying to have a dynamic conversation.

[00:36:04] Ryan Hawk: Well, when I say I wanted to feel like two people going out to lunch, becoming friends, I really mean that and I take that literally. So if we were going out to lunch becoming friends, I would ask the questions that I'm most curious about based on what they're saying. So I just don't know what those are gonna be. I can't script or predict what they're going to say, and so I don't know how I'm going to respond, it's all about being a really good active listener. That's why I go to take an improv classes and speak with improv coaches and teachers because they're some of the best listeners. They teach you really how to listen really well.

So I would say, if I hear an interesting idea, thought or story that I wanna follow up on that will always trump my notes or my outline, or maybe it relates to those notes anyway, because the notes and outline is, is usually a lot, it's robust. It's enough for us to speak for 5, 6, 7, 8 hours. So we never get to anywhere near what's all in my notes just because I would rather have too much than not enough so that, that it's there, that if I have to and I'm kind of stuck, I can go there. I don't, that doesn't really ever happen anymore. But to me following up on something interesting they've said, will always beat everything else.

[00:37:15] David Elikwu: Okay, sure. And I know you are really great at asking for feedback and being a conversationalist. I'd love to know, I guess just from all the podcasts that you've done, like I've heard you, for example, in a, in a previous podcast, you're speaking to a sportscaster and you'll ask for, for feedback based on his interview style and how he's able to get

[00:37:33] Ryan Hawk: Dan Patrick one, are you referring to that?

[00:37:35] David Elikwu: Yes. Yeah. Like, so I, I'd love to know from your perspective. One of two things, so one, either directly from the people that you've spoken with, some of the biggest lessons that you've learned about how to have great conversations with people, either as genuine conversations or more like interviews. But then also is there anything that you've learned just as a byproduct of having done it so many times that you've learned for yourself?

So it wasn't necessarily someone directly told you, but you just internalized this lesson of, Hey, these are really important.

[00:38:02] Ryan Hawk: The Dan Patrick gave a lot of advice during that conversation though, which was great. It was cool. He's one of my heroes, you know, legend. He's actually from the same, same area where I'm from. And now he's one of the greatest ever on sports center on ESPN here in the States.

Well, I grew up on Sports Center and so I watched it every day and it was him and Keith Olbermann and, and it was the big show. And so literally I watched him every single day of my childhood growing up. So to have your, like a childhood hero of yours giving you direct advice, it was cool.

The one issue with it is, Dan does like 12 to 15 minute interviews with professional athletes. A lot of them don't necessarily want to do the show or they're really scared or nervous to say something that could get them in trouble versus me where I do hour to hour and 30 minute conversations where the people definitely want to be there. They're not doing it just for fun, they're doing it 'cause like they wanna have a conversation, they've opted in, in some cases they've asked me to do it.

So his advice was, you know, ask very short to the point questions and shut up and do that for the full 12 minute interview. Well, I don't have 12 minute interviews ever. And I sometimes do the ask, answer, ask, which is you will surface the question and then you will share a little bit more about it, maybe even slightly answer it some, and then you will ask the same question again. And I have a very specific reason that I do that, I'm very intentional.

Some of the questions are really thought provoking and hard for the person to immediately have a good answer. So I will surface the question, I will then fill a little bit of space to help my guest think of a great story or a great answer, and then I will ask the question again. In journalism class or interviewing 1 0 1, they would tell you not to do this. The reason why I break that rule and intentionally break it, it's not a nerves thing. I intentionally break it, is because I care more about the guest sharing an awesome story, anecdote, or idea that will make me better, that will make the listener better, that will be more entertaining. I'm not trying to gotcha for anybody. I want the best of the best. And so I want to give them every opportunity to share their best stuff. And yes, there are some people who just have it, like you could ask short questions the whole time and just not explain anything and they got it. But the overwhelming majority of people, even really smart people, they need a little bit of time. And if we have to, I can even edit it after the fact where if we, if I double ask, but I usually leave it in because I do it on purpose. Knowing that professional interviewers will say, you shouldn't do that. But then I talk with them and explain why I do it, that it's not a nerves thing, or it's not, I'm not thinking about it. It's a very intentional thing to help my guest give their best. I tell them I wanna shine a bright light on your best ideas and best stories to help me and the person listening.

So all of it is done with great intention. It is not haphazardly, ask, answer, ask. It is done on purpose to try to help them share their best stuff for both me as well as the listener.

[00:41:13] David Elikwu: And how has that journey evolved over the years and years? I think eight, nine years that you've done this? Because I can think of a few types of examples.

For example, like even the way that I schedule, scheduling with you or scheduling with other people, I'm very cognizant that, especially because, you know, I've only been doing this for a few years, it's still quite a young podcast. I can't demand people's time in the same way that there's some podcasts you go on, you know the guests are clearing three, four hours plus out of their day to appear on this thing. A lot of the time maybe it's in person, like there's gonna be a photo shoot, there's a whole thing around it. And so there's some liberties maybe you feel like you can't take.

And for example you know, you and I didn't have a specific pre-call that was separate from our conversation now, and that's because I recognize that sometimes people are really busy. They don't have a tremendous amount of time to have a whole separate, you know, make time twice. And so, those are some of the constraints that I imagine.

I'd be interested to know how that's evolved for you over time. Did you still have the same level of conviction in the way that you approach things earlier on, or has some of that just come as a consequence of having done it over time?

[00:42:15] Ryan Hawk: I think the repetition just make you more comfortable. The repetitions provide evidence for yourself that you've done something meaningful and useful for people. I mean, the numbers don't really lie. My whole business is built off the back of the podcast. Every single consulting client and keynote speaking gig and book deal, that's all come off the back of the podcast. And so there are signals out there that prove that what you're doing is helpful for other people that, as I said before, that adds value to people's lives, just like I learned in college where the other person added more value.

So there are some reminders daily that this is helping really thoughtful, intelligent people be better as leaders.

So that's evidence for myself that we're on the right track and to, to kind of keep going, to keep growing, to keep improving, to keep getting better.

And I think the more conversations you have with thoughtful, wise people who are giving you like, their best stuff, I mean, just think about that I mean, I make this promise to every client I work with and I tell them, this is not an arrogant thing. I say the good thing about what we have going on, 'cause we're gonna probably work together for a few years or more, is today's the worst I'm ever gonna be. Today's the worst I'm ever going to be. I have three podcasts scheduled this week with people who are far brighter, far wiser than me, that have a set of life experiences that are amazing, that I can't wait to learn from. And I guarantee you, after I do those three interviews and have those three conversations, I will be much better than I am right now.

And again, another benefit of having a podcast like you have is the fact that, you can make that promise and it should be true. Because you are speaking with people that hopefully you know, that you're really curious about, that you're gonna learn from them. You could implement what you're learning from them, and then also you can share what you're learning from them with the other people, your clients, the people you're trying to help. So I tell them that the good thing is it's worst I'm ever gonna be and I know that's a fact.

So I'm trying hard just to kind of keep the trajectory going, like, like this, this upward trajectory to get better and better and better. And part of that is just having conversations with these really impressive people that have high character and have achieved some great things and have helped a lot of people. Having those conversations just, I think helps you just get better and better and better as you go.

[00:44:31] David Elikwu: Yeah, and I think a big part of the spirit behind that is this idea of excellence, right? And I've heard you describe it as, it's the process of compounding, getting better every single day and the results that that drives in the end. And I think the key to that you spoke with James Clear is, one of the things that always stands out to me from Atomic Habits is the 1% better idea. And I think that is one of the things that I think can be easy for people to skip past or to, to underrate.

But just this idea that actually it's not that you have to get a whole step function better overnight, but if you can just get 1% better, if you can find one small tweak, you can make one small improvement with each rep that you have, the better that you can get over time.

[00:45:09] Ryan Hawk: Yeah, it's exactly right. Like the simple prompt that Charlie Munger came up with, what did I do today to be a little bit wiser going to bed than I was when I woke up? I don't have to be a lot, but what did you do?

And so that's a prompt I asked myself at the end of the day, like, what did I do today to be a little bit wiser now that I'm going to bed than I was when I woke up? And if you can stack those days where you're, you can answer on the affirmative or you can answer specifically, I did this, this, and this, and you stack those days, day after day after day.

Yeah, watch the compound effect take place. It's, it's amazing what can happen. I think the problem is if you're not intentional about going to bed a little bit wiser than you were when you woke up or going to bed a little bit in better shape than you were when you woke up, whatever it may be, that's when you can run into problems. But I think the James Clears of the world and people like that they're very thoughtful and intentional people and they strive to go to bed a little bit wiser. They when going to bed and then when they woke up, and if you do that day after day after day, you look back a year from now, you're in a much better position. You've probably created a lot of cool opportunities for yourself because of that intentionality behind getting better every day. And who knows, who knows who you're gonna meet, what opportunities will come your way.

But I have, I would place my bet if I'm gonna bet on people, on those who are asking themselves those questions and intentionally doing the work to be a little bit better each day.

[00:46:30] David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time. 

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