Episode 37 - 5x Thinking


Jen: Hey Peter.

Peter: Hey Jen.

Jen: I wanted to talk about a Slack message that you sent me a couple of days ago.

Peter: I knew, I knew you going to say this. Please, which Slack message was that, Jen?

Jen: Well, I'm going to do a dramatic reading of it for everyone, and then we can unpack it.

Peter: I can't remember what I said. I hope it wasn't expletives.

Jen: No, no, no, not at all. Okay. Peter, I can't, I'm not even going to attempt the Australian accent, okay, so just - listeners, pretend like I have an Australian accent, and that I'm six foot seven: "Noodling on this question today: What does 5X look like for my and our work? It's scary as hell, but I'm finding it a fun way to break open the frame," to which I respond, "Tell me more about what you mean by 5X, in terms of revenue? Downloads? Followers? Episodes? All of the above?" to which you replied, "Started as 5X revenue, and quickly became all of the above as I realized they're not mutually exclusive. 5X downloads, 5X projects with Jen, 5X reveal, 5X one-on-one coaching, 5X speaking. So I guess, ultimately, 5X impact," to which I said, "This sounds like an episode to me."

Peter: To which I say, "This is The Long and The Short Of It."

I was having some fun that day, as you can tell by my excited Slack messages.

Jen: I just loved the question though, because as soon as I read it, I brought it into a class I was teaching that day and ask them the question too, and we had so much fun ping-pong and brainstorming about it. Can you, sort of, give us the overview of where your brain was at when you had that idea?

Peter: Yeah, so the original, the question I stole - so I stole this from many people who talk about 10X. So like, Elon Musk, for example, he talks about if doing, if innovating on a product or a service, it's not worth your time unless it gives a ten times improvement on something. Otherwise, it's not innovative at all. It should be at least 10X. And so that has become very popular in startup circles. And this idea of 10X thinking has been something that I've thought about a lot when brainstorming, of like, "Well, what if it was 10X?" Like, just do the thought experiment of, "What if you did, what if you had this drink bottle here that I'm holding, what does 10X look like? Like, what does ten times the volume of water look like?" And then you're all, "that's stupid," and it's like, "Yeah, but just try the hat on. Just try that thought experiment on." So the other day, as it approaches the end of - well, it was, it's approaching the end of our financial year in Australia, basically, so I was doing my books (super boring task), and I was like, "How do I make this interesting?" This is how it's born. And I was like, "What would 10X look like?" And then I went, "Actually, that's too crazy. What about 5X? Let me just get my head around 5X. Cause 10X feels a little bit absurd." And so I was like, "What does 5X look like?" So, like I said, it started as like, a revenue point of view is, "This is the revenue of the last financial year. What does 5X like that look like?" And I went crazy, and started writing down a bunch of different things, and like I said to you, that led to other things streaming out of that, as I realized it was all correlated. So that is the genesis, I guess, of where this came from.

Jen: Yeah. I loved the question, because perhaps my own journey with how to answer it was a little different than yours, where I immediately said, "Oh, I could do that tomorrow if I wanted to. It's just that I would have to change my 'who's it for.'"

Peter: Right.

Jen: Which really, sort of, knocked the wind out of me. I was like, "Oh, that's interesting. I'm very, very devoted to the people I'm serving, and I could very easily generate 5X the revenue if I was willing to walk away from the people I care about and just focus on the people who would buy what I'm selling." But that's so uninteresting to me. So then I started thinking about how do you, instead of changing your "Who's it for?" think about deepening your relationship to the current "Who's it for?" to make it more expansive and more inclusive. And to your point in the Slack message, ultimately, you know, we all need money to live, so money's fine, but I've never been motivated by revenue. I'm definitely motivated by feelings and impact. Like, I want to feel good at the end of the day, and I want to get to experience those "Aha!" moments with people. And like, that is really what makes it worth it for me, too. So how could I have more of those? You know, Doctor Jervais, Michael Jervais, who hosts the Finding Mastery podcast, he says he measures his success by how many times the hair on the back of his neck stands up in a day.

Peter: Ooh, I like that.

Jen: It's like, how many of those chill-inducing moments do I get? And I, I can really relate to that. So I'm wondering, how could I generate five times more of those and serve five times as many people in my "Who's it for?" category? That was really interesting to me, and forced me to think outside the box about maybe some strategies for digital offerings that would allow me to connect with more people. So I love this question. It got me feeling very creative.

Peter: Yeah, I love it too. I love this because, I like, I agree with everything you said is - and I think most people that listen to this podcast are, like, we're not motivated to actually five times our revenue. It's more about, in doing that, what you realize is, like, I think that realization you had is, "Oh, I could do that tomorrow, but I choose not to." And that, on its own, is like an unbelievably amazing and empowering insight. And, and I think the, the other, on the other side of that is, "I choose not to, and so I can't necessarily complain about not having enough money." Like, if there is a story that people have of like, "Oh, if I was earning, you know, an extra five times what I earned now, then I'd be happy." And it's like, well, what does that look like? What if you chose to, to actually do that and put the, the empowerment and yourself to come up with ideas and ways that you could make that happen, because chances are you, you could make that happen, and there's a lot of - again, to bring it back to like, in the startup world - is if you can go from like, zero, earning zero dollars to earning a hundred dollars, it's then easier to go from a hundred dollars to a thousand dollars. Like, that first, that first zero to a hundred is so much eas- so much harder than the a hundred to a thousand, so the 10X once you're moving, or the 5X once you're moving isn't actually as difficult as people make it out to be. But I agree with you - like, this is not necessarily about revenue. This is about 5X ideas, 5X impact, 5X the chills on the back of your neck - I really like that as a, as a measure of success. I might steal that.

Jen: I know. It's so great.

Peter: That was where I started to have a lot of fun with it too, of like, "Oh, all of a sudden this went from me doing my books to this becoming an awesome creative exercise," which is why I excitedly pinged you on Slack.

Jen: Something you just said about how much harder it is to go from zero to one hundred than from one hundred to a thousand, it feels like, that is the basic law of physics. It's like, the inertia involved with starting at zero - it's like, it takes a lot to get something that's not moving moving, but once you're moving, you can pick up the momentum. So, I feel like that is a really important mindset shift. When you're starting something and it feels like such a heavy lift that it's because you're starting from zero and it takes while to pick up momentum. I think that would be helpful, I know for me, to think about some of the new things I want to explore, and trusting that once it gets itself underway, it can pick up speed. The other thing I wanted to call out - I think that this was something I heard Seth Goden say during the altMBA but I can't remember if that's when I heard him say it - but essentially, it was like, if you had to charge people ten times what you're currently charging them now, how would you show up differently? What would you change? And that was the other thing that this 5X exercise made me think about, is like, if I didn't increase the number of people I was serving, but the way I was serving them, by five times, what would that look like? Like, how could I show up in more service than I currently am? And that was also very exciting, because it sort of forced me to plumb the depths of what I want to share.

Peter: Yeah, I love, I totally love that frame as well, because I think it helps, it helps one breakout of this idea of, "I need more customers. I need more clients. I need more appointments in my calendar, or more meetings with my clients. I need more, more, more, then I'll be happy, then I'll be satisfied, then I'll, then I'll get what I want to get." And it's like, well what if you couldn't have that? But you could have this idea of 10X, the, the charge, like, you had to charge 10X or 5X what you are charging now. How would you show up differently? Rather than waiting for this outcome before you then change who you are, what if you started to act as if you were that person right now? And that, I think it's less about getting attached to this idea of, "I'm going to 10X everything," or, "I'm going to 5X everything," but more just about, by going through that process, you just open your mind up to it. Just like, a couple of things here and there that you might not have thought about. So, tell me about how you use this in your class the other day before you -

Jen: Well, I posed this to a group of artists: "What does it look like to 5X what you're doing?" So for some of them, it became about how many projects they were actually working on within any given timeframe. For some of them it was about the quality of collaborators, like, "How could I 5X the quality of collaborators I'm working with?" And for a lot of them it was, "How do I show up in my own career as a freelancer?" Like, "How do I 5X my business self? When I'm an artist who owns their own business, which is essentially what I'm putting out in the world as a freelancer, I own me. How do I 5X how I'm running that business?" And, uh, it was fascinating. I mean, for some people it was sort of triggering, like, "Oh my gosh, the thought of that is overwhelming. That feels like standing at the bottom of Mount Everest, and looking up and being like, 'Oh, I, you know, I accidentally showed up in a tank top and shorts, and I'm going to climb this gigantic mountain. Oh, and PS, no oxygen.'" And for some people it was like, "Get me to the top of the mountain; I have everything I need to go." So I, I thought it was so interesting to see the wide variety of responses to this. The, the other thing that it got me thinking about was how to look for the things that bring you happiness, like these abstract concepts of, like, being happy. And if you were a person who experienced five times the happiness on a daily basis, what would you be doing differently in your life? Or if you were someone who is experiencing five times the love, how would you be showing up differently within your relationships, with your everyday interactions? And I think this is a really meaningful lens to put on your life on a macro level, but also on a micro level. So I just, this felt so Shepherd-ian to me, this was like, this is one of those Pete Shepherd exercises that just doesn't stop giving because you can apply it to everything.

Peter: Yeah. It's, it's interesting that, that five times the happiness, just to pick up on that real quick, is, this is almost where it ended up for me, of like, what are the projects that I love working on? What are the projects that make me happy? What are the collaborations that fuel me? And what if I put five times more energy into those, then, and then dropped away the others? That was kind of where I landed, and that was why I think I said to you of like, "What if you and I did, like, five times the Pete and Jen projects, five times the one-on-one coaching," all of that, like, "speaking in an altMBA and those projects that I'm working on, how does, how do I show up as 5X in those environments?" And that was where I started to get excited, not, not about focusing on increasing revenue, or whatever.

Jen: The thing that just popped into my head was philanthropic giving.

Peter: Ooh.

Jen: So, I'm, I'm trying to, I'm trying to wrap my brain around what it would take for me to 5X my philanthropy. It would mean I would need more coming in to put more going out, and I, I feel like there's some way to generate internal goodwill around seeking to increase your revenue, if you know where you're going to put it when it comes in. Like, just having this flash in my mind of, "Ooh, I can increase my donations to the Human Rights Campaign, or to some of these other organizations that are supporting causes I really believe in." It's like, well, then I would have to find a way to provide more value, so I could generate more revenue, so I could give more away. And that feels like a very virtuous cycle that I could get behind.

Peter: Yeah. And it, yeah, because it's not revenue for revenue's sake. It's not so that you can buy a fancy new car, which is very material. It's like, no, it's so that I can have the impact I want to have through philanthropy. That is a very generous Jen Waldman thing to do. I like that. The other thing, I think this, like this, just pulling on this thread is why I think this is so interesting, is 5X or 10X is, like, marginal improvements, actually not that difficult of like, "Oh, I just need to increase by five percent or ten percent. Like, if I just do a 10% better job, that's like, I just keep doing what I'm doing, but a little bit better." The thing about 5X or 10X that makes you, it makes you realize something, like it's a drastic improvement, so you need to come up with a drastic idea, or like, something absurd that you would never have thought about if you said, "Oh, I just need to increase things by five percent or ten percent." And so those, like, drastic, crazy, audacious ideas may or may not, but may lead you down a certain path that helps you see something that perhaps you didn't see before.

Jen: You mean like, what a periscope does? Like a human, six foot seven periscope? Yeah, what it ultimately, it seems to me, it's sort of similar to the way you and I have talked in the past about setting goals. It's like, the goal itself isn't the point; it's the setting of the goal that matters, in this case, whether or not you achieve 5X, who cares? It's like, it forces you to think outside the box, to be creative, to be innovative, to challenge convention, to try things that are crazy and audacious and definitely never been done before. So I'm stoked about applying this in as many different places as I can, especially if I'm feeling stuck in something. I feel like this could be a great creativity jumpstarter, to just ask in the moment, like, "What if I had to 5X this right now? How would I do it?"

Peter: That is The Long and The Short Of It.