Top 10 Elon Musk Productivity Secrets for Insane Success..Guest Article by Dan Silvestre

I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future over the summer. It’s a fantastic read and a detailed account of the ups and downs of one of the biggest visionaries of our time.
It also gives you a sneak peek into Musk’s work ethic and productivity secrets he uses to run multiple companies.
Now, Elon Musk is smarter than an average individual with enormous ambition and drive. But I think that us–mere mortals–can incorporate some of his productivity secrets into our daily lives.
Here are the top 10 productivity secrets of Elon Musk and how you can apply them:

#1 Start the Day with Critical Work

As the CEO of three companies — Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink — Elon Musk has a lot of things to stay on top on a day to day basis.
That’s why he starts his day with his most critical work. For Musk, this means dealing with important emails that he needs to address in order to unblock other people’s work and progress. He typically starts the day at 7 a.m. and replies to critical emails for at least half an hour. Musk is careful to filter anything that is not deemed critical, focusing on only the most important items.

In his own words at the USC Commencement Speech:
“Focus on signal over noise. Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t actually make things better.”
Apply This Productivity Secret: Find your most important task (MIT) for the day and tackle it first. Your MIT should be the one thing that creates the most impact on your work.

For example:
My most important task is writing awesome content. That’s why I always start the day by sitting down and writing. I won’t move on to the next task before writing at least 1000 words. What’s your most important task? Use the 80/20 rule to help you figure it out and get in the habit of doing it before moving to anything else.

#2 Use Feedback Loops

Musk has a very tight schedule, often working at different locations on any given day. That’s why he’s constantly trying to optimize his time.While admitting he hadn’t read any books on time management, Musk shared some insightful advice on how to become better:
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” Musk incorporates not only his own feedback but also of others: he urges entrepreneurs to seek preferably negative feedback. While it might be hurtful at first, you normally end up getting a lot more out of it. He also focuses on hiring the best people in any field that can provide consistent and truthful feedback. Shortening the feedback loops lead to increased efficiency, faster implementation, and a better-finished product.

Apply This Productivity Secret
The great thing about this particular Elon Musk productivity secret is that it works for both your professional and personal life.
Gather your team and solicit feedback about a particular product, feature, management style, business process, or anything that you are currently trying to improve. “Don’t tell me what you like, tell me what you don’t like.” You can do the same exercise with friends. And while the negative feedback may be wrong, you know they are simply trying to help you and it’s well-intentioned.

#3 Reason from First Principles

A first principle is a basic assumption that can’t be deduced from any other proposition. It’s the only sure thing in a complex problem.
Musk reasons from first principles, rather than by analogy (such as previous experiences). This way you build your reasoning from the ground up: “You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that and then see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work. And it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past. It’s harder to think that way, though.”
Here’s an example of first principles reasoning, from Musk himself: “What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.” Instead of buying a rocket for millions of dollars, Musk decided to purchase the raw materials for cheap and build the rockets himself in his own company. And SpaceX was born.

Apply This Productivity Secret
Reasoning from first principles forces you to think differently. First Principles are about getting to the root cause of the problem. You have to break down the problem into its basic elements. There are three main steps to apply this thinking framework: Identify and define current assumptions: when faced with a problem, write down your current assumptions about it. Break it down into the fundamental principles: find the most basic truths or elements of the problem. Is Musk’s words: “Boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say ‘okay, what are we sure is true’…and then reason up from there.” Create new solutions: if you deconstructed the problem following the first two steps, you are now ready to create new solutions from scratch. If you want a deeper look into Musk’s mind and reasoning by first principles, read one of my all-time favorite articles: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce.

#4 Use Asynchronous Communication

The first productivity hack gave you a slight hint for this one: Musk prefers to communicate on his own terms. That means defaulting to email and texts, both asynchronous ways of communication. In his own words: “I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.” He also makes himself hard to reach for people outside his company by using an obscure email address. This lets him focus on actual work for his companies.

Apply This Productivity Secret
Progress comes from being focused and performing Deep Work. This means living as asynchronously as possible and with minimal interruptions from coworkers. Here are three solutions to start working on your terms (in order of difficulty): Turn off notifications: shut all notifications down on your phone, computer, and any other gadgets you use. If it’s truly important, people will call
Decline meetings: don’t agree to a meeting unless there is a clear agenda and you know the expected outcome; if possible, use email instead. Work remotely: a noisy office means distractions, whereas working from home is done in silence. If that’s not a possibility, ask for a private office. Minimize distractions in your daily life in order to make progress in meaningful work.

#5 Master Communication

When Musk is not building rockets or revolutionizing the automobile industry, there’s one place you can always find him: on email. He joked on a conference: “I do a lot of emails — very good at email. That’s my core competency”. He is extremely clear, concise, and direct on his emails. As an example, read the email sent to his entire staff about the use of acronyms aptly called “Acronyms Seriously Suck”. He frequently emails his entire company with updates, how to communicate, company visions and mission, and being more productive at work.
“People work better then they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.” He is also a master at public speaking, converting complex concepts into easy to understand language using an authentic voice. Musk often uses the present tense when talking about visionary topics, a language trick that excites the listener into feeling the future is now.

Apply This Productivity Secret
According to a study of Carleton University, a third of the workweek of the “typical’’ knowledge worker is spent on email. That’s why mastering communication over email is an art form. You want to be succinct but also get your message across. In an email, every word counts. Here are some tips on how to master communication over email: Keep it short: don’t write ten sentences when two suffice. To practice, take an email you’ve already written in normal fashion and edit it down to half the words. Avoid squishy words: avoid writing “I feel”, “I’m not sure”, “perhaps”, using the passive voice, or any adverbs that waste time for both you and your recipient and create confusion and misunderstandings. Know what you want: think about the intended outcome of the email and outline it first in plain-spoken language. With practice, this outline IS your email. Bold the important: if you need a reply from a particular person on a thread with multiple people, put their name in bold with action items and timeline. Forwarding code of conduct: never forward along a massive email chain without a few bullet points as a quick summary at the top explaining why you’re sending it and action items you need from the other person

#6 Batch Tasks

Musk multi-tasks strategically. Whenever possible, he combines several tasks together in a productivity hack known as batching. For example, he answers emails while eating or having a meeting over lunch.
Here’s a quote from Elon on the subject:
“But what I find is I’m able to be with [my kids] and still be on email. I can be with them and still be working at the same time… If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get my job done.”
Another example is going through emails and invoices while on phone meeting or interviews.
Apply This Productivity Secret
Studies have confirmed that multi-tasking is normally less efficient than single-tasking. The brain needs time to adjust when navigating different tasks, also known as task switching. Switching makes you tired and unproductive, not the tasks themselves.
But if you batch similar tasks that call for similar mindsets you can efficiently work on multiple tasks without losing your workflow. In other words, your brain is focused on one type of task at a time.
Here are a couple of examples:
Outlining all your blog posts for the upcoming week in one sitting
Processing all emails, Slack, phone calls, and other communications at once
Updating several related worksheets at the same time
To find more activities you can stack, write down all your general activities for the day and week and identify the ones that can be batched together. Try the batch a couple of times and rearrange tasks if necessary.
To process batches even faster, use the Pomodoro Technique.

#7 Scheduling

Running three companies is no small feat, which means time is of the essence for Elon Musk. He is constantly trying to optimize his time using feedback loops. Like many other ultra-productive and successful people, he follows a very detailed and specific daily schedule. He breaks his calendar into five-minute slots and finding your way into one of those openings is tough work. He prioritizes engineering, design, and manufacturing, spending 80 percent of his time at work on those areas. “I don’t spend my time pontificating about high-concept things; I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems.” By splitting his day into 5-minute chunks, Musk manages to get more tasks scheduled into his work.

Apply This Productivity Secret
The most productive people work from their calendar instead of a to-do list. Calendars are finite and give you a better sense of time, making it easier to determine how much time you have to complete projects during your week. Breaking your days into small chunks and scheduling tasks on your calendar can boost your productivity. But you don’t have to use 5-minute chunks. I found that the most efficient way of organizing my work is to break the days into 30-minute slots. Find a timing that works best for you and your work.
And make sure that you schedule everything: checking email, calling clients, lunch, and meetings. Everything goes on your calendar.
Rip to-do lists and instead work from your calendar.

#8 Embrace Stretch Goals

Perhaps one of Musk’s most notorious character traits is his tendency to set incredibly ambitious deadlines for his companies’ projects. He uses stretch goals as a way to change perception: “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”
Here’s a story from a former SpaceX executive: “It’s like he has everyone working on this car that is meant to get from Los Angeles to New York on one tank of gas. They will work on the car for a year and test all of its parts. Then, when they set off for New York after that year, all the vice presidents think privately that the car will be lucky to get to Las Vegas. What ends up happening is that the car gets to New Mexico — twice as far as they ever expected — and Elon is still mad. He gets twice as much as anyone else out of people.” (emphasis mine). The last sentence illustrates the power of stretch goals. Even in the face of failure, your goal was so outrageous, so impossible to achieve, that you celebrate the small achievements you made because you expected that nothing would come out of it. The initial plan of Tesla was to start shipping the Roadster in 2006. The company pushed that deadline back several times until the car actually became available in 2008. Even though they released its car almost two years after the deadline, Tesla delivered the first completely battery-powered electric car. In his own words: “I say something, and then it usually happens. Maybe not on schedule, but it usually happens.” Musk’s stretch goals have given us a world where one of the best cars you can buy is electric, and where we finally have reusable rockets: “When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars, people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?’ That was a huge bet he made, and it worked.”
Setting goals that maintain the status quo doesn’t get you reusable rockets.

Apply This Productivity Secret
The intention of setting stretch goals is to push yourself outside the comfort zone. Growth doesn’t happen when you keep doing what you’ve already done in the past. It comes from failing while trying to make progress. If you aim to achieve five great things and only succeed at two of them, you are outperforming all the people who never tried in the first place. Stretch goals demand more quantity and quality of work and forces you to innovate more often than ordinary goals. And in the pursuit of it, you grow your skills to where they need to be in order to get it done. At first, you won’t know how ambitious your stretch goals should be. Using trial and error, understand how much past your limits you should push. But the most important thing is to start trying and then adjust as you go.
Next time you are making plans for work, take a few extra minutes to include a stretch goal. Try to push yourself to perform 50% better than your normal goal requires. Go big and see if you can surprise yourself with incredible performance. Using this strategy is the first step towards smashing goals and reaching targets you didn’t even think were possible!

#9 Develop a Growth Mindset

In 2004, Musk called a supplier to get the price of an electromechanical actuator. The supplier quoted $120,000. Reasoning from first principles, Musk broke down the components needed and asked Steve Davis, now SpaceX’s director of advanced projects, to build one from scratch for under $5,000. Davis spent nine months designing and building the actuator for $3,900, which flew to space inside the Falcon 1 rocket. Elon Musk is never satisfied with where he is now. His companies have had enormous achievements, but Musk knows that there’s always room for improvement — in every area. There’s always a better, faster, or cheaper way to do things:
“You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”
This is what is called a growth mindset, an important skill that separates successful people from everyone else. When you have a growth mindset, you know you can learn anything if you put enough effort into it. And if you fail, you approach the problem from a different angle until you find a solution that works. You iterate until you get it right. In Musk’s words: “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” The opposite is known as a fixed mindset, where the status quo is rarely challenged. Things will always be the way they are because “that’s how we do things around here”. Preconceived notions are taken as universal truths, instead of being questioned. Thus, people stagnate. On the other hand, developing a growth-oriented mindset brings progress to both our personal and professional lives. And even if you manage small gains each day are small, they compound over time. A 1% gain every day compounds to almost 38% increase over a year.

Apply This Productivity Secret
Growth comes from tackling difficult problems, questions, and challenges. In order to succeed, you need to train the brain to look at failures and struggles as progress, as getting closer to the solution. Here’s how you can start developing a growth mindset:
Continual learning: expand your knowledge with books, learn from your personal challenges, and from others; loading your brain with fresh knowledge enables it to come up with new ideas and solutions that add value to your job and life. Be persistent: shift your perspective to look at failures as minor setbacks and learning experiences in the great scheme of things; adapt and iterate your ideas so you can be successful on the next try. Live for challenges: if you have two choices, choose the harder; look at challenges as an opportunity to expand your skills and grow.Embrace failure: at some point in life, everybody fails; learn from failures by understanding what went wrong and how it can be improved and use that experience in the next try. Open to feedback: effective and timely feedback on areas to improve is a critical component of success; be more open to receiving feedback, even the non-constructive one
Celebrate others: “no man is an island”, so start supporting other people successes because they won’t dampen yours; when it’s your time to shine, they will celebrate with you.

#10 Develop a Wide Knowledge Base

According to his brother, Musk used to read 2 books a day at his early age. In other words: he devoured knowledge. This led to a wide understanding of many sciences, such as physics, math, engineering, and computer science. One of my favorite quotes is about how he describes knowledge: “It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
Even when running his companies, Musk constantly tries to learn from the people around him that have more knowledge on a specific topic. Here’s a passage from the book: “He would trap an engineer in the SpaceX factory and set to work grilling him about a type of valve or specialized material. “I thought at first that he was challenging me to see if I knew my stuff,” said Kevin Brogan, one of the early engineers. “Then I realized he was trying to learn things. He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know.”
Over the years, Musk developed T-shaped skills: a lot of knowledge in one particular field and a substantial amount of knowledge in many other disciplines and topics. This allowed him to be world-class in one field (business) but also use his broad knowledge to innovate, find different solutions, be more creative, and collaborate with experts in other fields effectively.

Apply This Productivity Secret
Let’s start with a practical example: you want to be healthy. In order to be healthy, practicing just one sport isn’t going to cut it. You need to know a whole lot of skills: you need to learn the basics of a good diet, how to develop muscle, flexibility, different cardio, condition, etc. While you have deep knowledge in a particular field — the sport — , you also developed broad knowledge in many other areas which are the basis on being healthy. This is the T-shaped skills approach. Let’s look at someone who works in Marketing or Growth: deep knowledge in acquisition channels such as PPC, SEO, and viral loops, while also having broad knowledge over other topics such as statistics, some programming, design principles, and copywriting. Here’s how you can develop T-shaped skills in your area:
Draw a T and list the main skills, secondary skills, and base knowledge. If it helps, model a successful person in your field and their range of expertise. Now see where you stand in each of those areas. Improve your deep expertise by reading books, taking courses, reading about your industry, and learning from other people. Continually reevaluate yourself in the areas and adjust your learning to become T-shaped.

#11 BONUS: Showering
One of the most upvoted questions on the 2015 Reddit AMA with Musk was: “What daily habit do you believe has the largest positive impact on your life?” To which Musk simply replied: “Showering.”In another interview, Musk admitted the shower is where he normally comes up with the best ideas: “This sounds really cliche, but like, the shower is probably like the most… wake up, go shower in the morning and I think so what’s really happened is things have percolated in the subconscious and it’s not really occurring in the shower but you’re kinda getting the results from last night’s you know, computation, basically.” (emphasis mine). I think that’s the lesson in productivity from showering: your brain has been working all night for you, trying to come up with solutions in the background. It takes a few minutes to turn “on” and that can happen during the shower, helping you see challenges with more clarity.
It also provides you with quiet time to think right after refreshing your brain. You can use it to plan the day ahead or think about solutions for problems you might face during the day ahead, for example.
“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.”
Stay blessed, and stay inspired!

So, You Want to Get in on the Podcasting Boom. Here Are 3 Things to Consider First:.guest article by Michelle Manafy reprinted from Inc.

Apparently, this podcasting thing has really caught on. All kidding aside, there are now more than 750,000 podcasts on the market and podcast fans populate about half of the households in America. And podcasting is even more popular in Australia, Sweden, Spain, and South Korea. It is a global phenomenon driven by smartphones and a desire for a steady stream of information and entertainment.

Needless to say, marketers have taken notice. The spend on podcast advertising was over $479 million dollars last year and expected to exceed a billion dollars by 2021 in the U.S. alone. It isn’t just the appeal of a booming new market that is attracting these ad dollars. In an age of banner blindness and ad blocking, marketers are enthusiastic to find a platform with engaged audiences that stay tuned in, even during the commercial breaks. In today’s distracted culture, it is hard to balk at a medium in which a full 70% of people say they listen while doing nothing else.

The medium attracts men and women in almost equal numbers and an almost even number of adults aged 18–54. Though the podcast audience is still mostly white, the numbers are climbing across ethnic groups. People are listening to learn, be entertained, stay up to date, relax, and feel inspired.

Unlike its audio predecessor, radio, podcasts offer unrivaled intimacy. Often a headphones-on experience, a podcast isn’t background noise, skimmable, or swipable. Podcasts provide the kind of lean-in experience that actually harkens back to radio’s early days, when families would gather around and listen to breaking news or serialized entertainment with rapt attention.

Three keys to effective podcast marketing

So, if you are considering jumping into podcasting to deliver your marketing messages, here are some key considerations:

1. A natural fit

While podcast advertising can be dynamically inserted, many podcast ads are still done the old-fashioned way, with the podcast host reading ad copy. This may sound old-timey and potentially lacking in the hyper-targeted bells and whistles that marketers have come to rely on. However, here’s the thing: It works. While all advertising benefits from a solid contextual fit, this type of podcast ad benefits from its tightly woven integration into the programming that surrounds it. In fact, the tighter the weave, the more effective the advertisement.

Thus, not only should the podcast itself be selected for its ability to reach your desired audience, marketers must create messaging with the same care as the podcast producer. In fact, the latter may well be willing to help with your creative. If so: listen. This is not a question of campaign supremacy. Rather, this is a situation in which the marketing message that fits most naturally into the context of the podcast itself will be best received by the audience — and most effective.

2. Effective as one, two, three

Most podcasts offer three spots for host-read or pre-recorded advertising: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. It is well-documented that brand recall is higher when consumers are exposed to advertising multiple times (particularly across different channels). For podcasts, campaign effectiveness improves if a brand appears in more than one ad within a given podcast.

Given the medium, this approach offers marketers a distinct storytelling opportunity. Start by conceiving of your creative within the context of a specific topic, or the general subject matter, of a particular podcast series. Remember that a natural integration is essential to maximize the impact of podcast marketing. Then, take this a step further by creating a narrative of your own that creates its own storytelling tension with a satisfying payoff in the end.

3. Integrate to do great

It might be tempting to look at the vast podcast audience and try to carve some of it out all for yourself. However, the podcast ecosystem’s vast reach poses its own challenges. Most people discover podcasts through social media and word of mouth. So, if you boast a large following and network already, you have a shot at do-it-yourself podcasts. However, you’ll still have to tackle compelling content creation and mastering podcast production, of course.

Given that the most effective podcast advertising aligns with a production’s subject matter, partnering with an established podcast producer on a branded podcast or series is an option well-worth considering. While this is not an inexpensive marketing solution, it packages in production and promotional costs. If the alignment is tight enough, audiences won’t bat an eye at that brought-to-you-by message. A professional production partner knows audiences (and how to attract and satisfy them). A good branded series can capitalize on a current trend and feature advertising that his a shorter lifespan or cover an evergreen topic and be discoverable — and enjoyable — for a long time to come.

The payoff

More than half of podcast listeners say that they are somewhat or much more likely to consider a brand they learned about in a podcast ad. Brand recall studies are typically quite high for podcast advertising. In fact, podcast advertising has been found to increase key metrics like awareness, ad recall, affinity, recommendation and purchase intent. This is a lean in medium where consumers are not prone to ad skipping. Unfortunately, marketers have taken some misguided paths with digital marketing. With podcasts, we can apply many lessons learned and create a message that makes the most of the medium.

Podcasting provides an opportunity to reach audiences of all types in the context of content they are excited to consume. And unlike much of the distracted viewing or swift swiping in digital, podcasts provide attentive audiences. Now deliver a message that’s well-worth listening to.

Update From Davos: Exceprts From Boston Consulting’s New Leadership Agenda for the Private Equity Industry


Content Summary

  • Private equity could grow by five times over the next decade.
  • Big firms will get bigger and smaller firms will specialize.
  • Firms will need to align with environment, social and governance expectations.


The modern private equity (PE) industry has come a long way from the junk bond and leveraged buyout days that characterized its early formation. In 1980, only a handful of firms existed, none of them household names, and private placements were little understood. Since then, the industry has grown exponentially, becoming a $4 trillion sector globally in the space of four decades.
Have you read?
While impressive, this growth could pale in comparison to what the next 10 years might bring. Not only is there massive headroom – PE currently represents less than 5% of total global assets under management (AuM) and less than 2% of total investable capital – several factors could give the industry a sky-high bounce.
The first is the unprecedented rate at which the industry is accumulating capital. AuM is growing at two times the rate of the rest of the market. Second, as fund sizes swell, PE’s influence is stretching across nearly every major sector of the economy. “Mega funds,” each with more than $10 billion in AuM, and some with twice that amount, are becoming a fixture of the PE environment.
Third, business and investor sentiment is shifting in favour of private placements as short-term earnings pressure, share price volatility and governance challenges sour some companies and backers on the public markets. Finally, the near-term economic outlook, though a bane for some, could be a boon for PE. With underperforming companies forced to devote attention and resources to shoring up balance sheets, well-positioned PE firms and portfolio companies can take advantage of the slack to advance their market position, embrace new investments, and fast-track business and operating model improvements.
But while the growth potential over the next ten years is significant, PE is going to have to work a lot harder than before to capture it.
If AuM swells by five times in the space of 10 years, as our analyses suggest it might, existing PE models will come under enormous pressure. Boosting returns amid ongoing economic, geopolitical and market uncertainty will require leaders to think, plan and invest in new ways – with a focus on value, an emphasis on digitization, and a commitment to evolving their internal and portfolio company organizational models.
The rising tide will not lift all boats. We’re likely to see greater bifurcation between huge funds and niche specialists. Big firms will get bigger and smaller firms will specialize. Organizational models will be pulled between the need to achieve scale on the one hand and diversification on the other. In the meantime, technology continues to advance. If time is money, earning it will require firms and portfolio companies to catch up with digital leaders and acquire advanced tools and capabilities.
Given the speed of change, it will no longer be enough to improve by increments. Firms must pull multiple transformation levers in parallel – within their own organizations and across their portfolio companies. They will need to think deeply and more creatively about how to attract and retain the skills needed – and more fundamentally about who they want to be. Are they content with becoming “boring asset managers” or can they capture and scale the smart, competitive energy that defined their early success and in ways that align with rising environment, social and governance (ESG) expectations? We believe the answer is yes for those willing to embrace the following imperatives.
1. Create a differentiated go-to-market strategy
With mega funds, large sovereign wealth and pension funds, and select PE funds allocating landscape-shifting sums of capital, the gap between large players and the rest of the field will widen. The same strategies that worked over the past decade will not work going forward. Large funds will need deeper diversification, not just across industries, but also across geographies and asset classes. Smaller firms will need to resist attempting to service the entire value chain and instead look to dominate high-growth niches.
2. Design the firm of the future
As funds get larger and investment more diverse, PE will require expertise from multiple domains. Cross-deal-team integration around assets that have complementary characteristics will be crucial. Organizations also need to manage the tension between longer holding periods and near-term value creation. That balancing act requires building out the processes and culture to enable fail fast and learn quickly environments, while continuing to back transformational capabilities within their firm and across their portfolio companies.
3. Achieve digital transformation at scale
To help targets incubate new products and services, achieve competitive cost performance, and fine-tune their commercial strategies, firms must aggressively implement digital capabilities. PE leaders are uniquely positioned to pinpoint high-value opportunities. What they must now do is scale these insights across their targets – tapping advances such as machine learning, natural language processing, and process automation – to gain needed reach and dexterity.
4. Embrace the business imperative of diversity
The next 10 years will see a war for talent as big firms scale and smaller ones diversify. The ambitious, can-do culture that attracted the sharpest minds over the last two decades will go stale unless firms find a way to rejuvenate and redefine it for a new generation. Leaders need to manage their growth carefully lest they lose the cultural “mojo” that attracted so many bright, young people to the industry. They must also think creatively and develop career paths to build the firm’s digital competencies and provide the innovation edge needed. Building teams that feature greater diversity in terms of background and expertise will be crucial.
5. Optimize for social and business value
As a direct and indirect employer of millions of workers globally, firms need to embrace their role as holistic value creators and as industry stalwarts. Good corporate stewardship will be essential. Greenwashing remains an ongoing investor concern. To demonstrate credibility, managers need to make a concerted push to incorporate ESG metrics into their investment methodologies and demonstrate the financial value that comes from this approach.
Leaders that embrace the imperatives outlined here can turn PE into a force for good, with virtually no limit to how much they can grow.

My Semester With the Snowflakes At 52, I was accepted to Yale as a freshman. The students I met there surprised me.


In May of 2019, I was accepted to the Eli Whitney student program at Yale University. At 52, I am the oldest freshman in the class of 2023. Before I was accepted, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had seen the infamous YouTube video of students screaming at a faculty member. I had seen the news stories regarding the admissions scandal and that Yale was included in that unfortunate business. I had also heard the students at Yale referred to as “snowflakes” in various social media dumpsters and occasionally I’d seen references to Ivy League students as snowflakes in a few news sources.

I should give a bit of background information. I was an unimpressive and difficult student in public schools. I joined the military at 17 and spent close to 26 years in the US Navy. I was assigned for 22 of those years to Naval Special Warfare Commands. I went through SEAL training twice, quit the first time and barely made it the second time. I did multiple deployments and was wounded in combat in 2009 on a mission to rescue an American hostage.

Every single day I went to work with much better humans than myself. I was brought to a higher level of existence because the standards were high and one needed to earn their slot, their membership in the unit. This wasn’t a one-time deal. Every time you showed up for work, you needed to prove your worth.

The vetting process is difficult and the percentage of those who try out for special operations units and make it through the screening is very low.

In an odd parallel, I feel, in spite of my short time here, the same about Yale.

After receiving my acceptance email and returning to consciousness, I decided to move to Connecticut and do my best in this new environment. Many people have asked me why I want to attend college at 52, and why at an Ivy League institution like Yale? I could have easily stayed in Virginia and attended a community college close to my home. Well, based on my upbringing in the military, I associated a difficult vetting process with quality and opportunity. I was correct in that guess. More importantly, I simply want to be a better human being. I feel like getting a world-class education at an amazing institution like Yale will help me reach that goal. Are there other places to get a great education? Of course, but I chose Yale.

Who Deserves a Fancy College Education? I Probably Didn’t. The ultimate status symbol isn’t getting into a fancy school, but taking it for granted.

My first class of the semester was absolutely terrifying. I don’t know if it was for the kids in my class, but it damn sure was for me. It was a literature seminar with the amazing Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature, Professor David Quint. He is an amazing human in that he has dedicated his life to literature, and he knows what he is talking about. The discussion was centered around the Iliad. I had read a bit of the Iliad in the middle part of my military career and decidedly didn’t get it. Listening to Professor Quint demonstrated exactly how much I didn’t “get it.” The other students looked like children to me. Hell, they are children, but when they speak, and some of them speak English as their second language, they sound like very well-spoken adults. My Navy issued graduate degree in cussing wasn’t going to help me out here. These young students had a good grasp of the literature and although they lacked much experience to bounce it off of, they were certainly “all in” on trying to figure out its underlying meaning.

At one point I said, “Hey, I’m just an old guy sitting here with a bunch of smart people, but I think….” And they all smiled, some of them nervously because I was essentially an alien. I was an old dude with tattoos all over his arms and a Dutch Shepherd service dog, brandishing a subdued American flag patch on her harness, sitting next to me. Professor Quint later approached me and said, “Hey, don’t downplay your intelligence. You are smart as well.”

I thought, I’ve got him fooled! Turns out I didn’t fool him at all when I turned in my first paper, but that is another story for another time.

After a few classes, I started to get to know some of my classmates. Each of them is a compelling human who, in spite of their youth, are quite serious about getting things done.

One young woman made a very big impact on me. She approached me after class one day and said, “I am really glad I can be here at Yale and be in class with you. My grandfather came to Yale and when WWII started, he left for the Navy and flew planes in the Pacific theater. After he came home, he came back to Yale, but he couldn’t finish. He locked himself in his room and drank and eventually had to leave, so I feel like I am helping him finish here at Yale and I’m doing it with a veteran, you.”

I was surprised and quite emotional. Exceptionally emotional. She went on: “I can send you a photo of him!” and I told her I would love one. That evening she sent me this photo of her grandfather.

I used to read stories about men like him and they are heroes to me. Clearly her grandfather is a hero to her as well, and she is going to make him quite proud. This connection with a WWII vet through his amazing granddaughter is a gift. One of many I receive on an almost daily basis in this amazing institution. I think it’s worth taking a moment here and acknowledging that this thing we now call “PTSD” has always been around. Some of us veterans escape it while others, like me and likely this gent in the airplane, felt the sting of it.

One day in another lit class, I brought up a book I’d read a long time ago called “Taxi Driver Wisdom” by Risa Mickenberg, Joanne Dugan and Brian Lee Hughes.

After that class a couple of the students approached me and explained that their dads were cabbies when they first came to the United States, and that their fathers had told them that the things they sometimes heard from people in their cabs were amazing.

Think about that for a second. These students are first generation Americans. Their fathers immigrated to this country and started out by being taxi drivers. Now, their children are attending Yale University. I’m a patriotic man and those are the stories that help me understand how, in spite of the seemingly endless stream of negativity surrounding it, the American Dream is still alive and kicking. It makes my heart sing every time I see those kids.

Let me address this “snowflake” thing. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “snowflake” is a “term for someone that thinks they are unique and special, but really are not. It gained popularity after the movie Fight Club from the quote ‘You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.’ ”

I hear the term occasionally from buddies of mine who I love. They say things like, “How are things up there with the liberal snowflakes?”

Let me assure you, I have not met one kid who fits that description. None of the kids I’ve met seem to think that they are “special” any more than any other 18–22-year-old. These kids work their asses off. I have asked a couple of them to help me with my writing. One young woman volunteered to help me by proof-reading my “prose” and, for the record, I believe she will be the President someday. I recently listened while one of my closer pals, a kid from Portland, Oregon, talked to me about the beauty of this insane mathematics problem set he is working on. There is a young man in our group who grew up in Alaska working on fishing boats from a young age and who plays the cello. There is an exceptional young woman from Chicago who wrote a piece for the Yale Daily News expressing the importance of public demonstrations in light of a recent police shooting. She and I are polar opposites. I am the “patriarchy” at first glance, and she is a young black woman who is keen on public protests. Not the type of soul I generally find myself in conversation with. We come from different worlds and yet we both read classic works with open hearts and minds.

We recently met with a prominent writer from a think tank who is researching the state of the humanities in the university setting. There were four of us students: two young men, the young woman from Chicago, and me, the old guy. As the younger students started to express their thoughts, the young woman (truly a unicorn of a human) used the word “safe space” and it hit me forcefully. I come from a place where when I hear that term, I roll my eyes into the back of my vacant skull and laugh from the bottom of my potbelly. This time, I was literally in shock. It hit me that what I thought a “safe space” meant, was not accurate. This young woman, the one who used the phrase, isn’t scared of anything. She is a life-force of goodness and strength. She doesn’t need anyone to provide a comfortable environment for her. What she meant by “safe space” was that she was happy to be in an environment where difficult subjects can be discussed openly, without the risk of disrespect or harsh judgment. This works both ways. What I mean is, this young woman was comfortable, in this university setting, wrestling with things like the Aristotelian idea of some humans being born as “natural slaves.” She was quite comfortable in that space. The question was, how comfortable was the 52-year-old white guy in that discussion? Did it make me uncomfortable? Yes. I’m grateful for the discomfort. Thinking about things I don’t understand or have, for most of my life, written off, is a good thing.

Being uncomfortable is KEY in this world of ours. Not altogether different from the world of special operations, where the work needs to be done, regardless of weather or personal feelings. The climate in this educational institution is one where most students understand that there HAS to be a place where people can assault ideas openly and discuss them vigorously and respectfully in order to improve the state of humanity. I’ll call that a “safe space” and I’m glad those places exist.

Here in the “Directed Studies” program, instead of “tuning in” to our favorite self-confirming “news” source, we are given a timeless text with heavy ideas and then we throw them out on the floor and discuss them with people who have, as I mentioned earlier, made these works and their meaning, their vocation.

In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a group of people who will very likely respectfully disagree with them. I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for agreement from those who “follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for one’s words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.

On Veteran’s Day, there was a great scene on Cross Campus. A bunch of American flags had been placed there and I stopped on my morning walk to class and took photos of my dog in front of them and sent them to my friends. Later at some point during the day, a young student placed a glove with red paint on it on one of the flags as she wanted to demonstrate her displeasure with something…I’m not quite sure what.

That same afternoon, some of my fellow students from “Directed Studies,” after a lecture, gave me this:

It is a card thanking me for my service to our nation. I was humbled and amazed.

These hardworking kids are very kind and thoughtful. A far cry from the picture that is often painted of them.

One of my professors, a Professor of Philosophy, told me once “a good leader is a bridge builder.” Professor David Charles is a man who has been teaching bright young people, and some slow and old ones like me, the most difficult subject for me, at Oxford and now Yale. He’s been doing this for over 30 years. He is extremely humble and very kind, in addition to being brilliant. I’m motivated by his words and I want to build bridges and lead, in some small way, a new conversation where we stop pointing out the perceived differences in each other, or this group vs that group, and start pointing out similarities. We don’t need more condescending friction in humanity. We need less. One step in the direction of less societal friction is to seek commonalities. Another step, and one that is sorely needed, is respect.

Now before you think I’m preaching, please know that I come from a place where I was distinctly the opposite of this ideal. I looked for reasons to disregard the opinions of those I didn’t respect. I discounted the ideas of people I felt like hadn’t earned the right to share what was in their mind. Particularly when it came to national security issues, I felt that if you hadn’t taken a gun into combat, I didn’t give a damn what your opinion was.

I’d like to count this as my first brick in attempting to build a bridge between the people here at Yale and those like me before I arrived here. We need everyone who gives a damn about this American experiment to contribute and make it succeed. We humans have much more in common than we have different. Thanks Yale, for helping me to become an aspiring bridge-builder at the age of 52.

In our welcome speech at the beginning of this semester, with all of us Freshman sitting in Woolsey Hall, me sitting next to another veteran, one who’d served in the 82nd Airborne, President Salovey said:

“There is so much we do not know. Let us embrace, together, our humility — our willingness to admit what we have yet to discover. After all, if you knew all the answers, you would not need Yale. And if humanity knew all the answers, the world would not need Yale.”

Now back to that bridge. I need to figure out how to actually build one. Good thing I’ve found a place where I can get help. If this place is peopled by “snowflakes” I’m proudly one of them. I’m a snowflake with a purple heart.